1024 Words

I Planned For This

M. Stanley Bubien

"I planned for this!" I cried toward the locked door. My words echoed off the metal---four inches thick and secured to cement walls---the reverberation masking my wavering inflection.

"You can't stay in there forever!" a voice cracked through the wall-speaker. Jones it was, head of security, flanked, no doubt, by a contingent of badged police officers. "You're only making it worse," he cried. So cliche, this Jones, like playing cops-and-robbers in a '50s B-movie.

"Sorry, but you'll have to do it the hard way." A perfectly in-character, premeditated response that---premeditation, my forte. Typically.

I frowned and clenched my fist at my temples.

"We have a warrant."

I grinned, but only briefly. "Back to work," I mumbled. Double-checking my lock algorithm, I calculated about an hour of decryption before Jones succeeded "the hard way." I grasped the wrench, a clumsy instrument, especially for our Device, but time---ah, the irony!---often required such sacrifices.

A patch of red?

My hand convulsed, and the wrench clattered upon the tiling. Merton's task this, I realized (irony upon irony!), bending to retrieve the tool---shining as if brand new, the bloodstain having been an illusion.

Jones switched tactics. "We know you did it!" he blared.

What could I expect? As a young man, I had mapped out our television B-movie schedule every Sunday. The "Sci-Fi" films tempted us into the science that eventually became our time machine---Merton and I, best friends, always analyzing the feasibility of even the most inane premise. Ours the noblest of endeavors: the search for knowledge, for ultimate truth.

"Brilliant deduction on your part," I mouthed to Jones as I applied the wrench. Though a delicate operation, my awkward grasp required both hands for steadiness.

"And how feasible is God?"

I froze. Merton?

Yes, yes, I breathed, of course, a memory.

"Look," Merton had continued, "we weigh the probability of things like UFOs, ghosts, time travel." He flicked the black locks from his eyes for emphasis. "It's Sunday! And we haven't once considered God."

The catalyst!

"To prove God," I replied, "We would need to go back, visit some Biblical era." But which one? And how? The first question, we answered in a week. The second, well, that required meticulous planning.

"Here," I presented Merton with the sheet. "Four years, mathematics focus. Four more, physics."

"We'll need biology," Merton stated, returning our coursework schedule, which I revised appropriately. Time travel is most serious---and exceedingly difficult---business, but we pursued my curriculum precisely.

Precisely, that is, until one week ago.

"I give up," Merton had said in customarily simple---though somewhat matured---terms.

"Let me try," I misinterpreted, relieving Merton of his wrench and brushing him aside to gain access to the Device.

"No, no." He intervened. "It won't work. I've been going over our figures. We've at least three bad assumptions."

"That's all?" I asked facetiously. "Without my notebook, I can still cite more unprovable postulates than we have fingers and toes."

"I'm not talking unprovable. I mean dead wrong!"

I stood slack, the shining, crescent-shaped metal dangling from my fingers. "We concisely projected the outcome."

He drew his palm over his lips. "Well, the board members disagree."

"You went to the board?" I blurted.

"Tomorrow. I wanted to tell you first."

"But they've never believed! They'll cancel the project!"

"Yep." Not one to mince words, he.

"You can't!" I cried. "We're so close!"

Merton shook his head and refused conversation, even as I pressed him. He met each protest with silence, which enraged me further---to the point of hefting the solid, icy form and swinging---

It was all so damnably unexpected.

"You killed him!" boomed Jones' voice again from the intercom. I lowered the wrench, overcome by the bitterly irrational thought that a director stood nearby, poised beside his cameraman, motivating us by barking the names of false emotions through a bullhorn.

"You must be close now," I replied, and considered mixing in a bit of the crazed laughter that mad scientists have become so famous for, but there is such a thing as too cliche.

Instead, I began the sequence of toggles to engage the Device---an awkward term that. But considering the full title from our PhD Thesis read "Modulating Temporal Field Displacement Device," I never begrudged the truncation. Another of Merton's ideas.

The final switch snapped off as I threw it. Damn him! I needed to stop with such thoughts. The hair on my arm stood on-end. "Damn---" I cut off mid-sentence, for it was not Merton's specter, but the Field itself producing this anomaly.

Working? And upon the first try!

"You couldn't stop me!" I cried toward the intercom and leapt headlong into the Field.

I must admit, I expected something terribly dramatic as I passed through. Not so. At one moment, I stood within the sterile walls of our laboratory and the next, my shoes threw up dust as I sought footing upon an ancient Israeli hillside.

My design neared fruition! Gaining my bearings, I charged the true prize, residing at the hilltop. I scantly noticed the be-robed and be-tuniced figures I passed, though I have no doubt they stared at my bizarrely futuristic attire.

I crested the hill and halted. There, suspended directly before me: O Knowledge! O Truth most divine!

Three bodies---dead or near death I could not surmise---stretched and hung against intersecting wooden beams. And the centermost---the proof, the answer to mankind's universal question!

Strange, though, what the mind fixes upon in such moments. For it was their hair, the dark locks that all three shared in common, which my gaze attended.

And instead of cheers of victory, I harkened the moans of expiring souls mingled with women weeping, their faces buried in the putrid soil surrounding the centermost cross. Not the sweet smell of success I caught, but in wisps so thick that they were almost visible, the stench of urine and feces mixed with that of decaying flesh.

And in horror---oh, the horror!---I felt the chill of the implement I still mistakenly held---the wrench I'd used to carry out Merton's demise.

Copyright ©2004 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


March, 2004
Issue #87

1024 Words