The Nick of Time

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Nick always hated this time of year, but that was OK because Nick had a time machine.

Submitted: December 10, 2012

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Submitted: December 10, 2012

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Christ Mass. Even as an adult it sent a shiver down his spine. Christ Mass, a time for repentance, a time for respect, a time for sorrow. Nick shook his head, it was getting late and his mind was starting to wander. He had a lot of work to do, tomorrow was a big day, tomorrow he would test the time suit.

It was no coincidence that Nick had chosen the 25th of December to test his machine. Nick's machine was an affront to everything the OTC stood for and he couldn't think of a better way of saying "Screw You!" then to violate the very laws of Physics on their most important day.

By 8.00am he was already in the suit. He settled the butterflies in his stomach by finishing a glass of milk - his favourite. After a moment's pause he stood up, pressed the button and fell out of time.

Nick was a genius by anyones' standards with an unnatural aptitude for working with multi-dimensional problems. At university he came to understand that our perception of time is simply a shadow of a multidimensional field. This realisation was coupled with the reality that he was beyond his peers and professors, he dropped out. It took 3 years to finish the machine. 3 years of working in secret. 3 years of sleepless nights, unhealthy eating and personal neglect. By the time it was complete Nick was a state, morbidly obese with an ungainly beard, but his work was done.

Falling backwards, the world dimmed and blurred. His brain struggled to process the unphysical reality. He perceived a stream of colours as visual information from multiple moments arrived simultaneously - it was nauseating. Fortunately he didn't need to make sense of it all, his suit did all the work. He pressed another button and started hurtling sidewards a year at a time. The surface of history spun in front of his eyes, the motion sickness faded and a rainbow of colours washed over him. Coming out from a trance he had the shocking realization - the colours were fading, he was still falling! In a panic he pressed the button to return to the time event horizon.

He came too lying on a crowded street. A quick survey of the dense terraced houses and thick smog suggested that he had emerged around the Victorian era. With ease that surprised himself he sprung to his feet. The people around him remained motionless. Something was wrong. An examination of his suit controls revealed the problem - he wasn't back! Draining its batteries, competing with an unanticipated force, the machine had died anchoring him on the very edge of time.

Nick explored the town. Here on the cusp of time he could feel the air, the sun on his back, feel gravity pulling him down, even smell the local bakery but the experience was diluted, ethereal. Walking the back alleys put his life in perspective. The strict discipline that came with Christ Mass made him feel like he had suffered hardships, but here was true suffering. At the edge of town he found the worst of it; an orphanage. Most of the kids looked 3 missing meals from starvation. Nick remembered the bakery he past earlier.

He felt guilty taking bread from under the plump baker's nose but he couldn't shake the image of the starving children. Eight trips and several hours later he'd managed to supply most of the kids with loaves, rolls and pastries. He stole one last glance at the baker as he carried the bread-filled sacks out the door. The baker's mouth was formed into an "O", his expression one of shock. It was strange, Nick didn't remember seeing this before. The final visit to the orphanage confirmed it - the smallest glimmer of joy showed in the eyes of the kids Nick supplied first. Time wasn't frozen! It was just passing imperceivably slow.

The joy he saw in those children's faces elated him. This was the first time in Nick's life he had ever felt purpose, felt useful. He was especially gleeful that he could bring such joy on the day of Christ Mass, a traditional day of suffering for children.... Cogs whirred in his brain, his version of Christ Mass didn't exist yet! The OTC hadn't been formed! The OTC gained absolute power exploiting the misery of people during the hard winter months. It was ironic that the children in the orphanage would always associate this day with a happy memory. It was a shame, he thought, that every child couldn't feel this way about Christ Mass because then the OTC would never happen. But you couldn't possibly make every child on earth happy.Right?

It was evening by the time he finished. It had taken the whole Tunguskan forest, but he had finally made enough toys for all the children of the earth. His body within the suit remained in time stasis, but his hands and face had aged and his beard had turned to purest white. He set off with his first payload. It would likely be midnight before his work was done, he just hoped he would get to see those glimmers of joy once more before his time ran out. Either way, Christ Mass would have a different meaning for the world of the future than it did to Nick.

It was a magical night that night. Those lucky enough saw a flash of a huge smiling man with a perfect white beard and glowing redshifted suit. And if you listened carefully, you could even hear his Doppler shifted laughter resonating through the air.

"Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christ Mass!"


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