It was the middle of the
night. Another miserable night of failure and recriminations for a wasted life.
Who was I? A nobody trying to do the impossible and failing repeatedly. Isn’t
that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and
expecting a different result? Well maybe I wasn’t doing exactly the same thing
but my results were sure consistent—failure. Time travel wasn’t going to
happen, at least not in my basement.
This last experiment not only failed but fried half my components. I had no
more money to rebuild. I was already in debt to everyone I knew. It was time to
get drunk and then... I slipped the pistol into my pocket for later. After I
had a few drinks to bolster my courage. The gun felt heavy and foreign in my
pocket. Oddly reassuring. Maybe I couldn’t travel to the future but I could
certainly blow a hole in my present.
I walked into town until I found a bar that was still open. The place was
mostly empty. I took a seat at the bar a stool away from an oddly dressed
fellow. He was wearing a white suit and a shirt of some curious fabric that
changed color as he moved and the light hit it at odd angles. I ordered a drink
and looked around my eyes drawn to that iridescent shirt.
The stranger caught me staring and turned to face me, “What're you looking at,
buddy?” He slurred.
“I was just admiring your shirt,” I said. “I’ve never seen the like.”
He shrugged but continued staring at me. “What?” I asked.
“I know you,” he said.
“I doubt it.” I downed my drink and ordered another.
“No, I know your face. I just can’t place it. Gimme a minute. I’m good at
I looked straight ahead not wanting to encourage him. My profile must have
triggered his memory because he snapped his fingers and said, “You’re Richard
Breakwater. Am I right?”
I nodded in the affirmative for indeed I was indeed Dr. Richard Breakwater,
failed physicist, reduced to teaching high school physics in this nowhere town
and doing time travel research in my basement. How could anyone know my name? I
was the poster boy for obscurity. Even my own mother had forgotten me.
I held out my hand to the stranger. “Richard Breakwater, how d'you do? Do I
know you? I don’t think we ever met.”
“You wouldn’t know me,” he said, “we never met. Let me buy you a drink.” He
signaled the bartender for another round and introduced himself as Wycliff
Bombiss. We toasted to odd coincidences. Now I’d heard the name Wycliff Bombiss
before, everyone in this part of the world knew of the wealthy industrialist
and investor who had amassed a fortune estimated in the many billions.
“Not the Wycliff Bombiss,” I said half joking because the Bombiss whose picture
I’d seen a thousand times looked nothing like my drinking companion.
“You’re thinking of my great great grandfather Wycliff Bombiss the first. I’m
the fifth freaking idiot to bear that name.” This was clearly impossible since
the Bombiss I knew from the papers was not even married let alone a
I let the whole thing slide. My companion, whatever his name, had been drinking
heavily, was obviously delusional. Also he was buying. I wasn’t going to argue
with him about it. So I changed the subject and asked, “So how do you know me?”
“From your picture,” he said, “I recognize your face, it’s everywhere.”
“My picture?” I was incredulous. “What picture? And what do you mean
“I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about it,” he said. “Rules, you know.
Stupid rules but rules none the less.”
This left me totally baffled. “What rules are you talking about?” Now I was
convinced my drinking partner was completely unhinged.
He moved over and sat alongside me. “Can you keep a secret, Dick?” He whispered
into my ear. He reeked of bourbon. His shirt twinkled six shades of blue.
“Absolutely,” I whispered back.
“You’re probably not going to believe me anyway. At least that’s what they tell
us. Most people don’t. I don’t think they anticipated anyone running into you
personally. This is so weird.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I was losing patience with Wycliff’s
“Tell me what year this is again, I keep forgetting.”
“It’s November 27th 2020. The last of a rotten year.” I downed my drink and
ordered another round for us both. My troubles came flooding back with a rush
of grief and pain. I patted the gun in my pocket to reassure myself that I had
a way out if I needed it. But right now I wanted answers to this mystery. “So
tell me again, where did you see my picture?”
“2020,” He said, “Well that explains it then. You haven’t invented it yet.”
“Invented what, god damn it.”
“Why time travel, of course, you ninny. In a few years you’ll be the most
famous man on the planet.” Here he made as if he were reading the headline from
an invisible banner. “Doctor Richard Breakwater, The man Who Invented
Time Travel. Oops. That was a little too loud. I shouldn’t be telling you this
but what’s the harm? I mean you’re going to invent it anyhow, aren’t you? Of
course you are so what difference does it make if I tell you.”
“Wait a second,” I stammered. “You’re telling me you’re from the future? That’s
quite a claim. Can you prove it?”
He slapped his pockets for his wallet and fumbled through his cards. He showed
me his driver’s license dated 2082. I pushed it away. “Anyone can make a phony
one of those,” I said sounding a lot more certain of that than I really was.
Part of me wanted to dismiss this whole conversation as a crazy prank but
another part was proud to know that in a few years I might actually succeed and
become a success. “Tell me what you know about me. What do they teach about me
“Well, lemme see. Geeze man, I don’t remember much. Never was a great student.
You found a way that’s all I know. My grandpa bought the company I remember.
That sort of makes me your boss doesn’t it?” This got him laughing hysterically.
“God if they catch us, we’re gonna be in so much trouble.”
“If who catches us?”
“Never mind. They don’t know where I am. This is a private trip. ‘Smy company I
want to take a trip into the past, it’s my business. I gotta pee, ‘scuse me.”
Wycliff got off the stool and almost fell on his face. He was way drunker than
me. I took him by the arm and we headed to the men’s room together. He was
laughing and I was trying to cajole a few relevant facts out of him.
“So I finally got my damn time machine to work?” I asked.
“No, man, no machines. Nano tubes. Like these here,” he plucked at his shirt.
“This is your time machine.”
I gasped. My head started reeling. Of course. I saw it all clearly. I’d been
barking up the wrong tree. I wasn’t going to get anywhere by manipulating
chronons. It was fabric. Filters. Expose the body to a stream of pure chronons.
I was heady with excitement. I needed to write things down. I needed to get
back to my lab. I needed to pee. We staggered to the back of the bar where the
signs indicated the lavatories were when two men entered the bar and looked
around. They were big, burly, broad shouldered men in dark suits. They had cop
written all over them. I heard Wycliff mutter “Oh shit. We’re in for it now.”
The men saw us and started in our direction. We had just enough time to lock
the men’s room door behind us before they reached us.
“Who are they?” I asked fearing the answer.
“Time cops,” Wycliff was frantic. “I can’t let them catch me. They’ll take my
shirt away. You got to help me,” he pleaded. The flimsy bathroom door flew open
and the first cop burst in. I drew my pistol from my pocket. I wasn’t sure what
I intended but things were happening too fast. I needed time to think. I wanted
a few more hints about my great invention. I wanted time to slow down.
The second cop entered the tiny room and I was pushed against the sink. Wycliff
sat on the toilet, blubbering, incomprehensible. I was distracted for a second,
that’s all it took. The first cop grabbed for my gun. We struggled. There was a
shot. I looked at my chest, it was covered in blood, my blood. I slumped
against the bathroom wall. The whole scene growing dim. I don’t know if it was
the loss of blood but Wycliff and the two cops grew more and more insubstantial
until they faded away completely.
When the ambulance arrived I was still alive but it was clear that I wasn’t
going to make it. I knew the secret to time travel. I saw it so clearly I could
taste it—the nano tube fabric, how elegant, how beautiful. I saw it but I had
also seen Wycliff and the time cops fade away and knew from my studies that by
them killing the inventor of time travel before he had a chance to invent it,
they had altered their history and their version of the future ceased to exist.
All over the world I suspected time travelers were winking out like so many
It was my last conscious thought before I died. Pretty funny when you think
micheledutcher - I think the thing I like best about the author’s stories is the grainy feel to them. Situations are never sugar coated which gives them a feeling as though this set of circumstances could really happen. He also doesn’t waste (more in forum)
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