Another Flash Fiction challenge.  Once more, credit goes to Chuck Wendig’s blog for this one.  The challenge was to write a flash fiction story involving time travel.  My entry was a little odd, sort of a weird mix of Italo Calvino and the kind of hard-boiled show about time-travelling cops that might have aired in the 1980s.

Hit the jump to read my entry.

 

I’m looking at you through a layer of cold fogged glass and omniluminescent air.  I’m smoking a cigarette (Al-Murad, a turkish brand discontinued in the 1940s), my partner is leafing through a 1970s car-porn mag and giggling at the inefficiency of the vehicles advertised within.

I’m smoking because I’m bored, but also because I’m curious, as I always am when you guys show up.  One night the tube’s empty, the next you’re inside, a popsicle.  When I was younger I used to really try and figure out how you guys got here.  I even stayed up a whole week cranked up on coffee and amphetamines just waiting for one of you guys to pop in.  My theory was aliens.

Instead you just appeared, frozen, no fanfare, no portals crackling with alien energy.  No, you were just there, locked in what I thought was a look of somber resignation, and it was as if you had always been there and I had just been too stupid to notice.

So I stopped caring about answers, stopped caring about the why’s and what-if’s.  There were rumors, of course, that this was an experiment from up-high, like when the American CIA used to dose each other with LSD for kicks.  These sorts of rumors are apocryphal at best, pure conjecture at worst, so they aren’t really worth digging too deeply.

Now I’m getting a message, a little tick in my neck that tells me it’s time, that I’m to report for my orders.  I wave my hand and my partner throws the magazine away with a perfunctory toss.  We’ve got a job to do.

So we gear up, full power suit, guns, stunners, implanted knowledge of the time period you’re living in, and, above all else, the package.  We err on the side of caution when it comes to these things.  Then, in full gear, we stand before the HQ chiefs.  They give us our orders in peremptory tones, “deliver the package, extricate yourselves from the period, minimum collateral“, yes, yes, I get it.  Just send us back and let us do our jobs.

So they send us back, back through a moiling tear in the fabric of space-time, where we are reformed and shat out onto grimy pavement.  Some years are good, almost a vacation in their palpable sense of time and place, all warm and fuzzy.  This isn’t one of those years.

The zeitgeist is a miasmic apathy that oozes from the throngs of destitute youths and the constant reminders plastered on buildings and billboards that they live in an age of technological decadence.  I shudder. We move quickly. Remember, at this point in time you’re not a popsicle slowly melting in headquarters, you’re just some nobody plugging away at a work at home desk job while some sword-and-sorcery movie on the TV enacts a play-by-play of the Campbellian hero cycle.

So when my partner and I burst through your door, I wouldn’t hesitate to call us the most interesting thing you’ve ever seen in your life.  Sure, we’re covered in technology that would make us gods in this time, but we’ve also got the most eclectic set of paraphernalia you’ve ever seen.  I’ve got a peace sign patch on my shoulder signed by Mama Cas and Jimi Hendrix, a piece of pennant cloth from William the Bastard’s campaign in England tied around my thigh, a shard of the blade that killed Rahm Dahlia after the Diet of Jupiter hangs from a cord around my neck.

You open your mouth to protest, at least, that’s what I think you’re doing.  In all honesty, I have no idea what you’re saying, as I never bothered to install the language software for this era.  I already know too many dead languages as it is, I don’t want one more competing for room in an increasingly cramped mental space.

Of course, I’m not here to take you to HQ, or even to tell you anything about who I am or why I’m here.  Wordlessly, I pull out the package.  It’s a watch.  So quaint, so…archaic.  I give it to you, and my partner explains how to us it.  It’s quite simple, you can go anywhere.  Birth of Christ?  Done.  Death of the Dinosaurs?  Easy.  Some dingy little shit hole where your favorite band played their first, best gig?  Cake.

So then, why would we do this?  Why would we give you the tools to muck about with the path of time’s arrow?   Like I said, that’s information a world away from my own understanding.  I just complete the orders I was given.  Maybe there’s another force, ignorant of us as we are of them, stopping you, righting the time stream.  Perhaps they are our future selves, righting the wrongs of actions committed at the behest of the mad chrono-augurs who are kept in the HQ depths.

But then again, maybe we are the great enablers.  We hold the power of chronokinesis, and I give it freely to you.  There is one rumor that I dare give the barest sliver of credence to, that every one of you I bestow with the power of time has a destiny.  Maybe you will be a king, or father a king, or set the world on its path to inevitable destruction, or maybe even found the Headquarters I serve.

So of course, looking around at your apartment, with your bills piling on the table and fading Rush 2112 poster on the wall, the music from your TV swells in an epic, operatic chorus just as the hero receives the gift from the goddess (Part 5 of the cycle?  I can never remember.).  Then you click the button and disappear.  A moment later, my partner and I do the same, rushing back to HQ in a flurry of temporal energy.

We fill out our report and go back to lounging.  You’re there, in your tube, as you’ve always been.

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