Episode 58 of R B Wood’s Word Count Podcast took a bit of a diversion from its normal three word challenge, instead giving us the start of a sentence “I was enjoying the summer holiday when…”
After playing the ‘Pirate Rat Island’ episode fairly straight (as you can read here) I thought I’d go a little more out there for this episode. You can hear the result on R B Wood’s site, or if you’re more of a reader, you can find it below!
The Time Rigger’s Lament
I was enjoying the summer holiday when the first wave hit, great sticky globs of anti-time, that attached themselves to my moment, twisting and distorting it. Suddenly it was winter. Fall. Summer again. I was distraught. Confused. Relieved. And then I was someone else entirely.
I fell back to my training, concentrating on the mundane, the ice cream cone in my hand, I steadied the flavour, then the colour, let the smell of it fill my nostrils, felt fragile friable wafer alliterate on my fingers. One by one, I picked the anti-time from my moment and fed it back upon itself.
Darla looked worried. Had she been with me before? The anti-time was gone, but fragments and echoes of the other can linger afterwards.
It hardly mattered, this was a holiday, and she was beautiful. I grinned, and pulled her close, let her taste the moment upon my lips.
The beach was deserted, I had chosen it so, or so it had become, in time. Even the ice cream vendor had elected to move on, his part complete. So we walked in the sunset, Darla and I, clothed in the warmth of the dying day.
I reached for her, but she laughed, slipped between my hands, ran and dived instead into the sea. I threw down my ice cream and gave chase, just as the second wave hit.
This one was worse, thundering dioramas of other when, crashing against me.
Sunshine. Moonscape. Earthlight.
Pain. Love. Despair.
Fire. Cold. Void.
I feel cold metal and plastic in my hand, and I pull the trigger. A line of possibilities erupt from the chest of the Anachronism, and I snatch at one in which he dies. He slumps to the deck. I don’t stop to check the body; he won’t even be born for centuries.
The ship judders, and I topple sideways, tuck in my chin and roll. I half fall, half jump through the hatch to the bridge. I see bodies on the floor around me, it takes all my self-control not to look, but that is almost the first lesson. If you see people you know dead, their fate is sealed. If you don’t know, there are loop-holes.
I focus on the controls instead, gesture through the control field to bring up damage reports and threat assessments. The engine is phasing; the inevitability compensators are shot. Time and anti-time pulse through the ship. It will be destroyed a week ago if I haven’t prevented it.
I feel the next wave build, I feel its approach… it was minutes ago… it’s here… I have seconds before it arrives.
Something pierces my chest, rubies scatter across the console, my mouth fills with warm wet iron. In desperation, I cast myself forth.
I stretch across eternity. My death is the big bang, my birth, the universe’s heat death. Countless infinities of me spread between the two poles. I am time. I am its servant, its tool, its play-thing.
I am nothing.
I will be standing on a beach, with Darla pressed against me, she will carry the sea with her, her skin will be smooth and slick with it.
“Stay,” she will say, but even as she does, I will know I cannot.
This will be a moment I cast for myself, a moment stretched between life and death. But each stretch brings it closer to snapping. I will have to go back. Find a different path. The moment will be a trap, sweet and toxic.
I will tear myself away, I will have no choice.
The moment sours and fades.
Fire and smoke.
The sound of alarms.
Metal beneath my feet. Against my back. The ship forms around me once more.
This turn I am ready. As the Anachronism charges through the hatch again, my tachyon blaster is up and braced. I empty the clip, possibility becomes certainty, becomes history. No sudden comebacks for the Anachronism this cycle.
I ride the roll of the ship, head to the engine room, not the bridge. I know what’s wrong. I don’t know if I can fix it. Time stands askew, spiralling, swirling, rolling in and out of the universe. I have never seen it so far gone, not to remember anyway.
This is why I’m here though, I am the ship’s rigger. I set time to move us the way we want. All I have to do is to set time such that we move away from this.
I take a breath. Reach into the maelstrom.
I need to find it. I need to rig this to be different.
Modify time’s path.
“Your change, sir?”
The ice cream vendor was patiently holding out a handful of coins.
“Oh. Right. Yes. Thank you.”
“Sir? Are you okay? You look suddenly very sad.”
I looked out across the crowded beach, children running and screaming, discordant, contradicting music played from a dozen stereos. Hell on a holiday. But for all the people around, it still felt as though someone was missing.
“Sir? You looked to be having such a good time before?”
I looked back at him, confused. “I was enjoying the summer holiday? When?”