The year is 3020 and time travel is an execution method.
A few years back, it was a hopeful science experiment. “Humanity’s next great breakthrough,” said World Union’s propagandists. It earned them a few willing volunteers. A couple hundred if I remember right, but after humanity’s next great breakthrough turned its volunteers into charred corpses, WU couldn’t find a soul patriotic enough to step into a pod.
So these bastards used it to kill “criminals” or, better said, revolutionaries like me.
I wish I kept quiet. If I hadn’t written those papers. If I’d just stayed an obedient citizen…
My feet felt heavy as my handlers led me to my pod. My heart beat rattled my body and I couldn’t find the strength to walk anymore. Hands yanked me from the ground and tossed me into my pod. They strapped my arms to my seat and, when I was secured, pressed a button that lowered the pod’s door. It made a hiss as it sealed me in.
A priest stood outside and prayed for me, but I couldn’t hear him. Not over my loud breathing. Not over my heartbeat, now thundering in my ears.
The machine whirled to life when he disappeared from view. I felt it attack my body first, pulling me apart atom by atom, then it went for my mind and crushed it.
The year is 1985; I live in London with my wife, and I’m the first human to survive a time jump.
There was nothing like it. Their first kiss. The way they’d fallen in love. The loneliness that existed before and the salvation he brought. She could see a life with him: a house, a little dog, and maybe a child.
She dragged her knife against rigid metal, grating its edge to a sharp point. Well, she thought, turning to her victim subdued in the kitchen chair. His new girlfriend is welcomed to my leftovers.
I still tasted the last of the toothpaste. The minty feeling reminding me I’d have to replenish both bathrooms if there was anything left between bills and food. Hell, my family might have to go a week with rancid breath. That ought to be fun.
I shifted in my recliner. A torn, ragged thing I found at a thrift store that’s now even more fucked up since crossing my threshold. My kids—did I school them today? — have picked at the old fabric until stuffing jutted out like skin through ripped jeans.
I made a last futile attempt at comfortability, then settled in, ignoring the serrated leather cutting into my flabby thighs.
I fixed on my reading glasses and snapped open my magazine. For a moment I brood over not buying one of those tablet things that Renee has when I had the money, but soon think better of it. She could barely go two taps without Big Brother trying to sell her some shit she looked at two days ago.
But… I’d take the ads any day.
It’s better than this unexplainable dread that fills me as I leaf through the streaky magazine paper. Every page detailing how the world is falling apart. Hell, how it might even die before my own little shits come of age. I let the pages slip between my thumbs, fast forwarding through all the bullshit.
“Sorry, but we don’t deliver out there,” the woman on the other end said.
“Because,” she stammered. “The neighborhood.”
Our call crackled with silence.
I stared out the tattered screen mesh that shielded my doorway from the neighborhood. My eyes met an abandoned home, probably housing squatters, across the way. An old air conditioning unit oozed black goop and white spray paint adorned the sunbaked fence out front.
Why would anyone want to come here? Not even the neighborhood’s inhabitants wanted to be here.
The sun boiled his sweat. Air was like a thick mass in his lungs and if it weren’t for its necessity, he would’ve expelled it like a lump of mucus. Tendrils of heat wafted from the ground and tickled his exposed, cut legs. Everything around him was alight except for a distinct shadow.
He focused on the clank of his pickaxe as he drove it into stone.
The shadow shifted as if aware that he’d taken notice. “Have you thought of my preposition? I can give you whatever you desire,” it said as it had for the last twenty years.
Has it really been twenty years?
The pickaxe droned on–clank clank clank–pieces of sediments tumbling to the ground.
“Warm bed, not the rock,” it continued. “Your enemies to take your place. All you need do is say you’re mine and I’ll free you from here.”
The pickaxe stopped mid swing. Twenty years toiling. Twenty listening to the shadow’s promises.
It takes a special person to be the failure of one’s lineage. To not only be the disappoint of ones current family, but also that of one’s distant ancestors.
Gregor would have to face all of them at the arcanum. He’ll have to stand there and let their digitalized minds know that the business they’d erected in the late 3000s and carried for a century, was going to die.
The particle wall to his office hummed to life as his robot assistant rolled in. The whirl of its inner parts were deafening. “They’re waiting for you sir,” it said.
The lights haven’t been on for weeks. A hot meal and central heating were privileges we couldn’t afford. We considered our small TV, sitting on top of a box labeled “shoes” in our empty living room, an exotic item.
It stared blank faced at the two of us.
His body protected me from the cold. Rough carpet rubbed against my exposed skin. We were a tangled mess of heat and pleasure under a single, tattered blanket.
Outside the wind screamed and rain pelted the roof as if upset we could find joy—delicious joy—in a time meant to break us. A time we’re supposed to want more.
She closed her eyes and watched her thoughts shoot across the blackness of her mind, but the music stood in their path like a slab of concrete. They shattered against it, exploding into shiny bits and fading as if never there.