Les Maitres du temps

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Eight o'clock, ten o’clock, twelve o’clock, one. For time beyond reckoning, the scientist had worked on the Kraznikov Tube in his bedroom, and now it was complete. Taking a step back, he let out a long breath and steeled himself. The calculations resolved favorably, the core already whirring into action. The main edifice was constructed. He could step through any time. A large archway, Einstein-Rosen welded in cold, hard steel.

“Time in back go didn’t you? Because time in back go can’t you?

Dammit, what did it mean!?

Outside the window the New Year fireworks sparked and popped, and the Parisians danced and sang in the streets. The snow flecked in through the open blinds - soaking the thick carpet in a broad, dark patch - but he ignored it. Let them celebrate with their families. Soon he would be back with his. With Madeleine.

He opened his notepad and looked at the final page. It listed everything he needed. Clean water, his spectacles, some money, an umbrella – it had been raining that night – and a bulletproof vest. The bag was already packed, but would fate allow him to alter its course, or like a tributary would the changes he made just flow back into the main river of reality? There were only two possibilities: yes or no. And there was no answer to that question here. He simply had to try.

He glanced at the final note sketched out in shaking handwriting at the bottom of the page. No matter how he tried to ignore it, the message haunted him. The earliest version of his machine had allowed simple telegrams to go back and forward on what he called “The long vibrating possibility line of my fate.” The entanglement of the quantum states allowed the telegraph receiver to click out its message, and though the quality of the signal was clear, the content of the message was not.

Snapping the notepad shut, he swallowed through a hard knot in his throat, knuckles clenched till they turned white, hands shaking. He could ruminate on this meaningless message no longer! Forcing calm upon himself, Madeleine’s smile came to him. So peaceful, so gentle. So out of place in this ugly world.

The message meant nothing! If his machine could offer him no more than garbled nonsense, what use had this all been? He had to gamble everything on seeing her one last time, even if it meant his undoing. The war had taken her, and it had taken so much more too, but it didn’t have to be that way. His mind was made up and he knew what he must do. Still, there was a moment’s hesitation. Blast it, why would he send himself such a message!

“No more.” As he spoke the words aloud, he cast the last of his trepidation and doubt aside. To Hell with Grandfather Paradox! He pulled the lever. Stepped through the archway. Les Maîtres du temps. The clocked ticked backwards, backwards… wait… BACKWARDS!

Too late, he was gone.

Twelve o’clock, ten o’clock, eight o'clock, none.

About the Author: 
Thomas Welsh is an award winning author from Scotland. He was the winner of the Elbow Room prize for 'And Then I was Floating' and has been published in 'The 404 Ink Collection' and 'Leicester Writes'. His fantasy trilogy 'Metiks Fade' debuts in Spring 2018 by Owl Hollow Press.