Most times little things go unnoticed, but this time someone noticed. (~771 words.)
Tom Cromwell looked dead. Completely exhausted. His skinny fingers toiled over three keyboards, and six computer screens reflected eerily in his coke-bottle glasses. Other than a single bed, a chest of drawers, and the desk he was sitting at, there was no other furniture in the small warehouse.
He’d hocked all of it.
The unpainted concrete walls echoed every keystroke he made, and the outside world was silent, virtually non-existent.
Last chance, he thought, as he typed the final line of code. I’m out of time and money.
The police gave him twenty-four hours to move out and that was yesterday. His time-machine was worthless if it didn’t work. He looked at the white coffin-shaped pod and it hissed at him softly. Carbon-dioxide mist escaped the cooling-jacket overflows, drifting lazily downwards, rolling across the floor.
Here goes everything, he thought and took a deep breath, crossing his fingers for luck.
He knew he was stalling the inevitable out of sheer dread. If it doesn’t work, where will I go? Where will I sleep?
He exhaled slowly, steadied himself, and pressed the enter key on the master keyboard.
The lights went out: total inky blackness.
Slowly, his chin slumped to his chest, tears of failure welled up in his closed eyes. He sank to the floor with a pained sob, kneeling in the cold, lonely darkness.
His head shot up: eyes snapping wide open. He saw a dancing blue light emitted by the open hatch of the pod, reflecting off the ceiling and walls, swirling and shimmering.
A small golden-haired girl sat up in the pod and snapped her fingers; the warehouse lights came on.
Then, she leveled a pistol at him.
“Time to die, Dr. Cromwell,” she said and looked down at the rolling green numbers on the skin of her left arm. “In two minutes and fifteen seconds.”
He stood and walked towards the child with hesitant, unsure steps. “How did you get in there...? Who are you?”
“You don’t have much time, Doctor,” she said with a sorrowful smile. She glanced down at her arm. “Two minutes, to be precise.”
“And then you’ll shoot me?” he asked, looking at her across the top of his glasses.
“Just messin’ with you, Doc.” She giggled and tossed him the gun. “Take a seat.”
Cromwell stared down at his own body and the pistol in his hand. An icy ball of fear churned in the pit of his stomach; for somehow, he was now seated awkwardly in his chair in front of her.
How on earth did she do that? he thought.
“Compared to Creation, moving you and your chair is elementary. Child’s play in fact,” she said with a laugh.
Cromwell realized he couldn’t move; all he could do was stare.
“That’s a joke,” she said. “Get it? I do look like a child... child’s play...? Okay, never mind.”
He gaped in fear.
She tilted her tiny head to the side with a look of concern. “You look sick, Doc.”
Cromwell felt his horror evaporate, replaced by a sensation of warm, overwhelming well-being.
“Better?” she asked.
Yes, he thought.
“Good. Have you ever heard of the Butterfly Effect?”
“Good.” Her smile vanished. “Let me make myself perfectly clear. I can’t allow you to travel into the future. It would destroy the entire Universe because of feedback. Your little stunt would cause a minuscule ripple-loop in time, which would eventually grow and consume everything. Similar to the effect of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil setting off a tornado in Texas.”
“Yes. Feedback,” she said. “The future feeding back into the past, consuming itself endlessly, until there is nothing left. Think rock-band with a lousy sound-man.”
The Doctor heard a piercing, high-pitched squeal in his head.
It grew louder and louder.
He looked at her through his pained eyes and tried to speak, but the words froze in his throat.
Her head turned towards the front entrance. “They’ve been knocking for a while, Doc. Hope you didn’t pay too much for that door.”
It smashed back on its hinges with a huge crash. Hardwood splinters flew through the air. The lock landed near his feet.
Cromwell’s confused eyes turned towards the police officers; they drew their guns fast; their lips were moving, shouting something, faces intent. The gun in his hand rose towards them.
The high-pitched squeal in his head faded to a tranquil, serene peace. The golden-haired girl walked beside him, holding his hand with her tiny, warm hand.
She smiled up at him and said, “Didn’t hurt a bit, did it?”