Thursday, November 14, 2019

Microstory 1234: Ruby Nelson

It was no surprise to anyone when Ruby Nelson decided to become a librarian. She loved books, to be sure, but more than that, she loved organization. But even more than that, she needed organization. She liked grocery store shelves and kitchen hooks for the same reason. Her favorite sport was baseball, not because of anything special about the game itself, but because every player had a role. They stayed in their respective areas, and didn’t share responsibilities, and she found that comforting. Ruby was the seventh of eleven siblings, who were each named after their month’s birthstone. How did their parents pull off such a feat? How did they only ever birth one child per month, without doubling up even once? Because Ruby’s father was a choosing one. He could manipulate future probabilities. When they wanted a son named Garnet, they conceived him in the prior April, but that alone didn’t guarantee a January baby, so he coaxed the timeline to give them what he wanted. Why did he do this? Well, because it was one of the better uses of his time power that he could think of, because his gift came with a major downside. At least, that’s how he perceived it; it’s not really clear whether this was a downside, or just an unrelated and coincidental aspect of his personality. He had an urge to do bad things with probability. He could, for instance, calculate the chances that the businessman fumbling with his paperwork would drop it all on the floor of the subway station, and get hit by the train in his attempt to retrieve them. Nelson couldn’t help but want to force the reality where the businessman died to happen, when he could just as easily protect this stranger. Nelson didn’t really want these kinds of things to occur, but there was something about him that gave him bad thoughts. The best way he could come up with to avoid succumbing to these impulses was to use his power in healthy or innocuous ways. Controlling the births of his own children was a surprisingly powerful enough way to quell his need to let people get hurt. As long as he did this about every two years, everything would be fine, and everyone would be safe. Unfortunately, his trick only lasted him twenty years before his luck finally ran out. His wife experienced menopause, and was never able to have an October baby. So there would be no Opal—none in the family, that is—and Nelson would have to come up with a new plan. Sadly, he was never able to, and after relapsing once by being responsible for the death of everyone in his neighbor’s house, Nelson felt that he had no choice but to commit suicide.

Ruby was the only apparent child of his to have been born with her own time power. This wasn’t particularly astonishing, though, since time power heredity has never been proven to exist. She had the ability to find anyone or anything in time or space. This seemed to come with its own side effects. Ruby—her words; no one else’s—was going crazy. Every time she used her ability to help a client find something they had lost, she felt a little less like herself, and a little more like the darker side of her father. She was seeing things that weren’t there, including the faces of past clients. Objects from all over the world would call out to her. She stopped believing that she could trust anyone around her, including her family. She knew she had to stop, but her supernatural addiction was not any easier to overcome than her father’s. Her best course of action was to never use her ability, and the best way to do that, was to stay organized. She surrounded herself with the Dewey Decimal System, and submerged herself in a world that didn’t require special powers at all. She didn’t need to reach out to the timestream to find a book on big cats. All she needed to do was look for it in the library’s card catalogue, like any normal person would. Of course, since time travel was real, it was hard to explain to some people that she was no longer working as a finder. No matter how many times she said it, there was always someone who had heard about how she was when she was younger, and not about how she had changed. Still, she focused on her new job, and didn’t relapse once...until she had to. She was living in Springfield, Kansas when the city was being swallowed up by a destructive portal. It took her awhile to realize what was happening, because she had deliberately severed her connection to the timestream, but when she did, she knew she had to do something to help. After saving the one other person she knew of who could see what was really going on, she broke her vows, and reconnected to spacetime. Knowledge, to her, was vastly important, and if anyone ended up surviving the terrible trip to the rogue planet, she thought they might need a safe place to learn. They would fall into savagery if they lost all memory of life in civilized society. She connected herself to every single book in that library when the portal came for it, and the future Durune were better for it. Like the high school, which was at the time, accommodating several people who were immune, the Library didn’t survive on its own merits. It was only because Ruby was in it when it happened. But even that wasn’t enough to protect everyone else. The library remained intact on Durus, but in a spatio-temporal pocket dimension. For every one hour that passed in the Library, a year passed for everyone on the outside, and most of them were unaware that the Library existed. Ruby barely lasted a week under these conditions before she relapsed like her father, and killed everyone inside, along with herself.

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