Pieces of Time (4)
International Time Management Bureau (London Branch)
The room was full of workers, hunched over their complicated, nine-monitor computers, examining time constantly for disruptions. It was a rather tedious job, but that is why all employees were required to have passed an intense focus test, that consisted of strenuous tests that left people almost unable to function properly for at least a few hours. Well, if they failed, that is. If they were to succeed, they were pretty much okay.
The workers, who were called Watchers, were very intelligent, almost every single one holding a degree in some kind of study. One was Evan, a thirty-year-old father who'd been one of the best at his job for years. One of the nine monitors in front of him had a red exclamation mark in the middle of it, blinking with a sense of urgency. The Watcher tapped the screen and a message appeared.
Time Breach, it was headed. Evan had never seen that before. It caused a lump the size of a golf ball to rise in his throat. Evan then read the rest.
Unauthorized action has occurred in the time stream, rendering time itself unstable and may cause events of disastrous proportions. Two options were under the message. One was to see a list of the events in time that had been disturbed. The other was to see the possible solutions. Before he could choose one, he heard surprised gasps from everyone in the room. Alarms began to sound and everyone in the office seemed on the verge of panic. He didn't understand the message on his screen.
Evan knew what it meant, but he just didn't understand how it could have happened? In order for that to happen, someone would have had to do some very reckless time traveling and the only people allowed to travel through time were the Temporal Maintenance Unit. The TMU was an emergency unit on standby who would be used in the event something happened to where they'd need to go back in time and fix it. They'd only had to do so once ever, and that was twenty years ago.
His boss' yelling interrupted his thoughts. "Go home, everyone! Come back tomorrow and we'll have this figured out." Her demand sent a mild wave of calm throughout the room. People stopped, looked at her, and began gathering their things. On his way out, he stopped to talk to his boss. Her name was Lindsay Masters. She was a short, stocky woman with blonde hair and warm brown eyes. At the moment, they were full of worry.
"What's going on?" Evan demanded.
"A time crime," she responded. "The first one ever. Someone has gone through time, and has been doing things with technology we've never seen. Our crook has been, metaphorically, taking pieces of time and tossing them around to different parts of time. Events have been literally repeating themselves years later. It started with a kid from the States seeing a woman's murder replay itself. But it's escalated to the objects and people from random events being transported to different times. The kid was just seeing outlines of the past. Now, the past is actually coming to the present and lots of other crazy things have happened." Evan couldn't believe what he was hearing. No one in their right mind would do something like that. Throwing time off balance came with consequences.
"That's impossible," Evan said.
"Forty years ago, time travel seemed impossible," Lindsay reasoned.
"And," Evan began. "It's tech we've never seen, so does that mean it's someone from the future doing this?" Lindsay looked troubled.
"We think so," she responded. "We haven't checked yet, and we won't unless it is one hundred percent necessary. You know looking into the future can be just as dangerous as meddling by traveling." She was right. They were only allowed to monitor the past, because knowing what the future held could change your actions and prevent the original future from happening. Although the Bureau didn't like using the word, it was like changing your fate. If you knew your demise, would you take actions to prevent it? Whether the answer is yes or no, you will probably behave differently in little situations leading up to it. Whether you realized it or not, you could be changing something big. Every action resonates through time, so the Bureau tried not to interfere in any way. They didn't even look at the present. The most recent they went was two years behind the current year.
The idea of looking into the future had appealed to Evan, but he always resisted the temptation. If he were to do that, he'd lose his job.
"Just go home," Masters ordered. "We'll try to figure this out tomorrow." So the Watcher went home, his mind not leaving the topic. Evan pulled into his garage and went into his house. He went straight to his room and lay down on his bed. All of the thinking and pondering was giving him a headache. And Evan guessed it was a better time to sleep than any other. His wife was still at work and his kids didn't get out of school for another two hours.
Evan did not know how long he had been sleeping when he heard the noise. He sprang out of bed, all senses alert. He checked the clock on his bedside table. He had only been asleep for forty-five minutes. No one was home yet. But he knew he had heard front door open. The Watcher reached under his bed and grabbed a cricket bat.
He carefully made his way downstairs and into the living room. Evan saw that the front door was indeed open. He took a step toward it, and the next thing he knew, an arm from behind wrapped around his neck. His cricket bat clattered to the floor as his hands flew to the attacker's arm. When his attempt at prying the arm off failed, he shifted all of his weight forward and flipped his attacker over him. The intruder landed on his back with a thud. He was clutching his elbow and cursing. Before he could get up, Evan scrambled on top of him and pinned him down. And that was when he saw the face of the attacker.
Evan gasped to see a face that looked exactly like his. But the intruder had gray streaks in his hair and dark, sunken eyes that looked sad. "Are you-" Evan choked on his words. He couldn't believe this. It just didn't add up.
Evan, well, the other Evan, pushed Evan off of him and stood. "Yes," the older one said. "I am you." The present Evan couldn't help but notice that his voice was very somber, almost hopeless. Hopeless about what? He thought.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"I'm on a mission," the older one declared. "And I know you well enough to know you're going to ask, so I will tell you." The younger Evan felt kind of uncomfortable, because he had just opened his mouth to ask.
"I am the one who caused the time breach you found out about today. It was me. And my sole purpose of coming here was to cause more disturbances. I was thinking that if I was going to travel through time just to break time, why not pay myself a visit. But then you come down here with a bat. Sorry, but I didn't want a concussion. But I am you. I should've seen it coming." He let out an unsettling laugh that did not go with his dry tone.
"What?" the present Evan asked. "Did you say 'break time'? Why on Earth would you do that?" The older Evan sighed. The younger Evan thought to himself about how weird his future self was.
"It is a long story, so let me start from the beginning." He walked over to a couch and plopped down on it. The younger Evan sat on the couch across from him.
"Before I start, I ask that you do not interrupt."
"Here I go," Old Evan began. "You and I both know that the idea of looking into the future is one of the most tempting things we have ever heard of. And three years from now, you would have failed to resist and would have done it. You would have witnessed an extreme series of natural disasters of apocalyptic proportions that would have erased all life from Earth. And seeing those events… they shook me to the core. I couldn't stand by and let that day come. So I broke into a TMU headquarters and stole some advanced equipment.
That took precise planning and it took me three more years to plan that out. And by then, they had also created a device that could let you transport things other than yourself. So I took that as well. I began traveling through time and started causing these disturbances. And if I caused enough disturbances, the ripple effect would throw time off balance. It would then be forced to reset itself to prevent the cease of its existence. And time damage causes no physical pain. Things just pop out of existence."
Young Evan sat there, staring at his feet, letting this all sink in. His older self had a point, but it was still insane. He looked up to say that but the time traveler was already gone, off to causing more destruction throughout time. Evan sat alone, realizing that he had reset time.
As he sat there, staring at a picture on the wall. It showed him, his wife, and his two kids on a vacation. Then the picture changed. It was just one kid. Evan frowned. He noticed something in the picture had changed, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He only had one child. According to his memory, at least.
Then it made sense. His future self had broken time into pieces, and time istelf tried to fix it. Evan didn't remember how many kids he would've had if it didn't happen, but he knew that he wasn't supposed to have just one.
Time is a big mess now, Evan thought. When time resets, what will happen to the lost pieces of time? Evan looked at his hands, which were slowly growing transparent. Everything around him was now fading. The walls, the furniture, and the rest of Evan's body. Evan's memory was barely there anymore. He just sat there, repeating the last few words of his last thought.
"Pieces of time," he muttered, trying to hold on to those last few words as the world disappeared around him. "Pieces of time, pieces of time…"
Time had been reset.
A lone caveman sat in front of fire, mesmerized by its glow. He slowly reached a hand out to pet it. He yanked it out, shoving it in his mouth and whimpering. Why had the flame hurt him? He had created it. He didn't deserve that. The caveman would sit and learn to tame the flame through trial and error. And civilization would develop once more. Evan had done nothing but buy humanity a few more millennia. He had failed to realize that it would all happen, no matter what. Nothing was there to stop the world's fate from befalling it.