Thursday, April 5, 2018

Microstory 814: Timebomb

I wake up again, and cough up the water. This is my upteenth try, but I know if I can run fast enough, I can get there in time. I just have to get past this psychotic terrorist. Whenever I try to fight him, I waste precious time that I could be using to get to the boat. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose, but no matter the outcome, the boat always explodes. My only way to save it is to just ignore him. I race through the water as fast as my stomach—which is being held back by the water—will take me. I’m at the point where I can start edging towards the right, and catch the current. Then it gets shallow enough for me to hop over the surface. I’ve learned a thing or two since my first attempt. Everything in my environment is trying to keep me from reaching to my goal, but I’m determined to make it this time. I’m dead anyway, I keep telling myself. But if I can change history for the better, the researchers who sent me back in time promise to provide for my family, and me, if I manage to survive this time ‘round. How they’ll even know that I’ve fixed the timeline for them is something I should have thought about before I signed my brain away to them in the name of science. I’m almost to the boat; farther than I’ve ever gotten, when the bomb goes off, and I’m sent back yet again. I don’t know what else to do. Of course my first thought was to get out of the water, and run through the woods, but it’s far too thick. The river is the fastest way, as illogical as it sounds for someone moving on foot. It’s deep and wide, though, so there is an infinite number of routes to take. I just have to find the perfect one. The scientists didn’t say anything about a limit to the number of times I can try this.

This time, though, the boat explodes when I’ve barely made it past the terrorist, which is several minutes earlier than it usually does. Somehow I’m changing how things turn out, even without seemingly doing anything. I go back for another try, and this time the bomb goes off at the normal time it usually does, but I still don’t get there fast enough. I do touch the stern with one finger, though, so that’s progress. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the scientists were. Maybe this is physically impossible. Why me, too? There’s gotta be someone else around here who can get to the bomb faster, and defuse it. Maybe there was, but I’m the only one who agreed to the potentially lethal procedure. The time solution they injected me with caused the most pain my body has experienced, and I relive those moments every time I wake up for another attempt. I’m getting used to it, though, and if I can figure out the secret to this, it’ll surely be worth it. I must be missing something. In my rush to go as fast as possible, I never thought to stop and take a look around. There could be a better way if I just had a new perspective. So this time, as soon as I’m sent back to my body in the past, I start running in the opposite direction. Upriver seems like a counterintuitive decision, but it’s really the only thing I haven’t tried yet, and as luck would have it, it’s the right one. After some careful searching, I realize a group of frat boys have left their small motorboat loosely nestled in some brush while they play polo. It took me too long to get here, though, so there’s not enough time, but the brush on the bank is a lot thinner here. I can use that.

The next time the explosion resets the clock, I race up the bank, and upriver, expertly jumping into the boat, and getting it started, like it isn’t my first time. The frat boys start yelling at me, but they don’t seem all that perturbed about it. I speed down the river, which I know so well by now that there’s no risk of running aground. I make it go as fast as possible, point it at the right direction, and let it run into the riverboat, jumping onto the deck at the perfect moment. It does some damage, to both vessels, but that’s nothing compared to what happens when my time runs out. I run down the steps, having long memorized the layout, and deep into the bowels. There. The bomb’s there. But it’s not alone. I tense up, and prepare for another fight, but somehow I don’t think this guy’s a terrorist. He’s dressed like a captain afterall. “You’re new,” he says to me with surprised. Damn, I’m still not quite there in time. The bomb goes off, but for the last time. It has to be. I don’t think my heart can go through this even once more. I start running again, relishing in the idea of the terrorist who had escaped what he had done, and stumbled onto me, wondering why the hell I suddenly stopped fighting him. I get to the motorboat even faster during this attempt. The captain nods when he sees me this time. “You’re back. I hope you know what you’re doing.” I do. I know exactly how to defuse this bomb, as I’ve done it hundreds of times as practice. With seconds to spare, I cut the circuits, and end this nightmare. “You remember me?” I ask. “You’re from the future too?” He smiles and replies, “yes. Thank God you finally showed up, though. Humans can only jump back to one moment so many times, so this was our last chance.”

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