Just a Minute
Mark. J. Kevlock
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
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
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
As soon as I am
gone, the other me will climb into the chamber... and become who I am.
I exist now in this
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.
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
It shouldn’t take
Just a minute.
Mark Joseph Kevlock,
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,
Freedom Fiction, Friday Flash Fiction,
Hardboiled, Once Upon a Time, The Bitter
Oleander, The Rose & Thorn,
365 Tomorrows, ThugLit,
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.