Just a Peek!- a Flash Fiction Tale

credit © zir.com

“Happy tenth anniversary, darling.” Angie kisses her husband. “I’m finally ready to show you the results of my last ten years of tinkering.” She leads him into the garage.

“So that’s what you’ve been doing for a decade?” Artie laughs. “Tinkering?”

“Well, yes. My time machine prototype was already up and running before I even met you. I had already sent particles into the future via quantum entanglement. But the day we married, I vowed to myself that within ten years, I would develop a time machine capable of sending a person into the future and back, and actually operate it. And now I’ve reached my goal.”

“You mean you’ve gone to the future?” Artie gasps.

“Not yet. But I will. Today. At twelve after two today, it will be exactly ten years since we were married. I checked my watch after the justice of the peace pronounced us wife and husband.”  Angie unlocks the minilab and leads Artie inside. “I’m keeping my vow. Besides, I can’t stand the suspense.” She whips the sheet off a large box.

“This is your time machine? The TARDIS from Dr. Who?”

“An uncanny resemblance, don’t you think? I disguised it as a TARDIS in case somebody accidentally got a look at it. They’d think I was a loon and not bother with it.”

“Angie, I really think you should turn this over to the lab and let them test it safely.”

“Are you kidding? If word of this leaks out, the government will swoop in so fast our heads will spin. And who knows what evil they’d use it for.”

“Then I think you should try it on an inanimate object first. Like a rock or something.”

“If I did that, how would I know whether it worked? I wouldn’t be in the machine to see it.”

“There’s no video recording system?”

“Today’s video technology is unstable at the energy frequency needed to travel into the future and back. Besides, I have no idea whether the future’s light spectrum will be compatible with my video equipment. Global dimming may have substantially lessened the photo-required albedo by then.”

“But how about trying it on a squirrel or a chipmunk first?  At least then you’d know whether this thing was . . um, lethal.”

“Artie, you know I’m against animal testing. This is my experiment, and my responsibility. Not the responsibility of a squirrel or a chipmunk.”

“Then let me go.” Artie takes Angie in his arms. “I know I can’t convince you to not use the machine, but as your husband, please let me be the first guinea pig. I trust your scientific genius, but this machine is untested. I can’t bear the thought of something-”

“No, no, no.” Angie pulls away. “My experiment, my responsibility. Trust me, this is sound science backed by decades of research. All the formulas are proven. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t one hundred percent sure it was safe. I just want to take a five-second peek at the future. Just to see what it’s like fifty years from now. I won’t do anything to cause any paradoxes in time. I won’t even be getting out of the machine. Now help me roll it out into the carport. I don’t want any contaminants in the minilab if something from the future unexpectedly sticks to the outside of the machine.”

The couple push the box out the door.

“You’ll be teleporting yourself like on Star Trek, right?”

“Right.”

“All your molecules will be destroyed and then recreated. So will you still be you when you come back?”

“I’ll simplify this much as I can. My time machine basically works with three components- two detectors, which measure points and execute corresponding code in the space-time continuum, and a unit- the machine itself plus its cargo. A detector measures the unit and generates code describing it in the space-time continuum. Then, at a pre-determined point in the future, in the same spatial position, the other detector receives the code and executes it, thereby reconstructing the unit. So yes, it’s teleportation in time.” Angie opens the machine door and climbs in. “It’s nearly ten after two. Gotta go take my peek. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”

“Just a peek?”

“Just a peek!”

Angie shuts the door. The machine rumbles and whirs. It emits a single flash. Angie opens the door. “It works.”

“You made it! Hallelujah!” So what did you see? Hover cars?”

“No.”

“Jet packs?”

“No.”

“Flux capacitors?”

“No. Well, actually, there might have been all those things. I just couldn’t tell. It was all too jumbled.”

“Er . . jumbled?”

“It was horrible. I saw what looked like thousands of time machines- who knows, there might have been millions or billions of them. They were all appearing and disappearing over and over again. There was no interplex, just machines. They were phase-entangling with each other. My time machine technology must’ve been leaked to the public somehow.”

“How awful!” Artie takes Angie’s hand and helps her out of the machine.

“Before I fully phased into the future time, I saw what was happening and aborted the mission. I was lucky to make it back alive, and in a non-phase tangled state.”

They embrace.

“But how do you know it was your time machine that was leaked? Maybe some other scientist built a time machine and made it public.”

“No. It was my machine. They all looked like a TARDIS.”

“Can we fix this? What if we destroy the machine? Can we alter the future?”

“I’ll have to try. I may not be able to alter the future I saw, as it’s already happened- in the future it’s happened, that is. But maybe I can bend and branch this present time line into an alternate reality by altering the past. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”

“You’re getting in that thing again? You were almost killed by it a minute ago!”

“But I’ll be traveling five minutes into the past, not fifty years into the future. We already know what happened five minutes ago. There’s no danger.” Angie climbs back into the machine and shuts the door. The machine rumbles and whirs. It emits a single flash.

Future Angie opens the door from the inside as past Angie opens door from the outside.

“What the-?”

“Angie, I’m you, five minutes from now, traveling to my past- your present. You mustn’t operate the machine. Dismantle it and destroy the notes!”

Artie backs up against the wall. “Angie, why are there two of you?”

“Yes! It works!” Past Angie says.

“Yes, it works, but now you must destroy it.”

“If I destroy it, how will you- I mean me, five minutes from now- get back to the future?”

“Crap. I didn’t think of that. Artie’s waiting for me. Stay right here, you two. I’ll be right back.” Future Angie climbs back into the machine and shuts the door. The machine rumbles, whirs, and flashes. She opens the door, reaches out, and grabs present Artie. “No time to explain, come with me!”

She pulls her husband into the machine. A rumble, whir, and flash, and she opens the door. Future Angie and Artie step out.

Past Artie rubs his eyes. “I’m starting to freak out. There are now two of each of us, Angie.”

“I’ll explain later,” Future Angie says. “You three just help me destroy the machine.”

The two couples tear into the machine with axes and hammers, and when the detectors splinter, Future Angie and Artie disappear, and the machine instantaneously regenerates.

Angie opens the machine door and climbs in. “It’s nearly ten after two. Gotta go take my peek. Don’t worry. I’ll be back in no time.”

“Just a peek?”

“Just a peek!”

*

Just Another Peek! (part 2)

*

Thanks to Flannery Alden at Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction prompt!

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12 Comments

  1. Sounds like the engineer who drowned in the shower after following the directions on the shampoo bottle: “Lather, rinse, repeat”. 🙂

    I love the idea of creating a time machine in the image of the TARDIS! Subtle brilliance. I’m going to disguise my next time machine as a TARDIS… Back in 5 minutes…

    Reply
  2. You capture perfectly some of the subtle problems with poking around in time. And Artie is so endearing – something about him feels like a warm hug to me. And who doesn’t love a story with the TARDIS in it!

    Reply
    • Thanks! As someone who can get lost from spinning around, writing about the weirdness of time travel was a challenge. So many potential loops, “what ifs,” and “then whats?”. lol And yeah, that Artie is a sweetheart, huh? 🙂

      Reply
  3. Gads, that was mind-bending…! But how wonderful, the Tardis actually works, and it regenerates! I like the point of the two future people disappearing and the present continuing as it already did…

    Reply
    • Thanks! And my mind is still bent. lol So many possiblities in time travel, with some possibilities contradicting each other. At some point you just have to make a choice. The TARDIS “regeneration”: The “person” who took the TARDIS into the past “disintegrated” because the TARDIS was destroyed. No TARDIS, no time travel. The “regeneration” was the original TARDIS in the original timeline. That time line started up again because the future person was removed, and her thus, her actions. Yeah, a weird loop there.

      Reply
  4. Another great tale from a great[ly] bent mind… *wink*

    I love this… absolutely love it! The technical part is brilliant… I especially like your explanation of the video equipment and global dimming… some very satisfying sci-fi here!

    Angie is a sassy, smart little thing… I love her!

    Reply
    • Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

      With this sci fi tale, like many of my others, I worked backward from “resulting actions” to “reasons for the actions.” It helps explain a lot.

      Yeah, Angie and Artie are a great couple! I plan to revisit them this year. Hopefully another time travel paradox will have popped them out of their loop by then.

      Reply
  5. I love this story and especially the characters. The way you explain how it’s all accomplished makes so much sense too. Apparently, what goes around, comes around…, and around, and around… Good thing they are a happy couple. They are going to be spending lots of ‘time’ together. Can anything shut down the loop they’re in? When you go calling on Angie and Artie again, please let me know. I have to find out where they next go to ‘take a peek’. Excellent job on this one!

    Reply
    • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the story and made sense of it. 🙂 I plan to revisit Angie and Artie with a near-future Flash Fiction Friday challenge, so if you’re a regular at the site, you’ll see my time travelers pop up again! All I have to do is figure out what will pop them out of the loop . .

      Reply
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