Black Petals Issue #84 Summer, 2018

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Goodbye to Nowhere Land-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Just a Minute-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
Nobody Should Be in 1610 Maple-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Fiction by A.M. Stickel, Chapter 1
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Fiction by A.M. Stickel, Chapter 2
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Fiction by A.M. Stickel, Chapter 3
Prey-Poems by Michael Keshigian
Asunder-Poems by Mike Rose

steampunktimemachine.jpg

Just a Minute

 

By Mark. J. Kevlock

 

Odd infinite item

 

 

 

With just a minute too late to prevent Armageddon, a savior appears in the time chamber.

That savior is me.

I read in his expression what he wants me to do.

But I will be too late.

Just a minute too late.

I stand in the midst of chaos, one minute after the launch. It has all been a mistake—an error that will put an end to civilization as we know it. The computers told us that our enemy nation had launched their full arsenal of missiles against us. The computers lied. We quickly discovered our mistake. But only after we had launched a full retaliatory strike against them.

Just a minute ago.

We have begun the Final War to wipe out our race. And I stand the only man capable of preventing it.

With my time machine.

Heralded at first as the greatest scientific breakthrough in history, my accomplishment soon disappointed many of its enthusiastic supporters, when they discovered that my invention could only send a person back one minute into the past. And, of course, defying all human logic, that person, in each case, appeared before us one moment before they’d actually been sent.

 

Then there were two of them. And we’d never figured out what to do with the extra copy…except put them back in the machine, to maintain at least some semblance of sanity.

All of these previous experiments allowed me to understand, then, exactly what was occurring in my laboratory bunker (when my future-self materialized in the time chamber).

I, he, we—were attempting to save the world.

He had jumped back one minute, and needed to jump back just a minute more. Then he could warn the generals that the enemy’s supposed missile launch was merely a computer lie.

 

Except that the time machine took a minute to calibrate itself. By the time I sent him back, another minute will have passed. He—I—will merely return to this same spot, unable to gain the necessary linear ground to make up that extra minute.

He knows this already because he is me.

I read in his expression the trap we have fallen into. I press the button. And he is gone. I quickly climb into the chamber. I will send myself back just a minute in time. But now another moment has passed. I will meet myself again. And again I will be too late.

Just a minute too late.

 

Inside the time chamber I watch the world—the occupants of this room, at least—move backward, until they have reversed themselves a single minute. Then they begin to move forward again, toward their oblivion. 

I see myself struggling to reset the controls as quickly as possible.

But that same moment always passes.

As soon as I am gone, the other me will climb into the chamber... and become who I am.

I exist now in this single moment.

The world is depending on me. How can I give up?

 

I travel back and see myself. Then I sit and wait. Then I do it again. I wouldn’t be here if the other me didn’t climb into the chamber, to keep the cycle going. I realize, too, that I can never climb back out. Perhaps my calculations are slightly in error. Perhaps the time chamber’s re-calibration interval isn’t precisely sixty seconds. Perhaps it's fifty-nine. Then I would gain a second with each leap. After sixty of them, I would get where I was going.

Perhaps I can still save the world.

In just a minute.

Perhaps my calculations are off by a smaller interval, even an infinitesimal number—a hundredth of a second, a thousandth? Perhaps a hundred trips, or a thousand, is what it will take, to get back in time...perhaps a million.

 

How long can my sanity hold out—as I watch him send me over and over again, to the same place, in hopes of achieving a different result?

If I open the door and climb out, the world is doomed. I don’t want to die. Even if I never succeed, I’ll remain safe here, living in this moment. At least I’ll be alive. At least there’ll be a chance.

 

I decide to wait a while, think this through, and consider my options.

Time has given me that.

It shouldn’t take long.

Just a minute.

 

The End





Mark Joseph Kevlock, dippedinforever@aol.com, of Nanticoke, PA, wrote BP #84’s “Just a Minute” (+ BP #83’s “Inmates’ Asylum”, “Ryan and the Monsters” for BP #47, “Which Way I Fly” for BP #45, and “When a Terrible Beauty Is Scorned” for BP #42). Published for over 25 years, his fiction and poetry have appeared in, among others: AlienSkin, Allegory, Black Sheep, Byline, Cezanne’s Carrot, Clean Sheets, Freedom Fiction, Friday Flash Fiction, Hardboiled, Once Upon a Time, The Bitter Oleander, The Rose & Thorn, 365 Tomorrows, ThugLit, Toasted Cheese, and Wild Violet (where he was privileged to have served as judge of their 2007 fiction contest). He has also written for DC Comics (FLASH 80-PAGE GIANT #2), and counts among his favorite authors Robert B. Parker, J.M. DeMatteis, Anne Rice, Frank Miller, and Ray Bradbury.




 

 


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