Back at it again with Disassembly Required, my current flash fiction series running through Wednesday Briefs, a weekly flash writing group. In this latest part, science happens, there is an explanation of recent story events, and someone takes one step forward and one step back.
Disassembly Required, part 5.
Or, at least a representative image of what scientists describe as time, as what a human brain perceives time as. Maybe it’s a clock, or a sun dial. Maybe it’s a piece of string that stretches forever, or an eternally long slinky. Maybe it’s even a blue police box, its light flashing as it fades out of vision.
Take those images of time and shake them until they disappear like so much magnetic fuzz on an Etch-A-Sketch. Imagine time as an amorphous blob that slides out of your hands the moment you think you’ve got a handle on it.
Imagine that this slippery object isn’t so slippery. Imagine that you can take this blob in your hands and, despite the laws of physics themselves, form it into something recognizable. That you can change any one aspect of it, thus changing the rest of its aspects.
Put the blob into a box with dials and levers and assorted controls that even a small child can figure out with relative ease. Plug it into a power source. Step back and watch your handiwork in motion.
This was what Beatriz had done. This was what Beatriz had brought to the conference, and what Allen was so angry about. In short, Beatriz had built a time machine.
And to think she’d thought it wouldn’t work.
Beatriz stood under a tree outside of Frank’s Dining, skillet in one hand, phone in the other, listening to the sound of distant thunder, not hearing Allen’s voice because she was still gone, and so was Beatriz’s car and, in a way, so was Beatriz.
She wasn’t there. She’d closed her eyes and was back in her quantum physics lecture hall, where the professor was saying something about Feynman and Wheeler, quantum reality, and space-time possibilities. The air was stagnant with floating particles of pencil shavings and bits of eraser blown off desks, and a low hum that was either the air conditioning not working or someone in the back seats snoring. She was tapping her pen against the binding of her notebook and thinking about other things.
What was she thinking about back then? She couldn’t remember. Maybe it was about the cute girl in the dark sweater in the front section who kept twirling her hair around her pencil. Or, maybe it was about the upcoming midterms. She mechanically wrote notes about sum-over-histories while doodling complex labyrinths in the margins.
She remembered the labyrinths, the talk about time and space and paths taken and not taken. It was the part about paths that did it. That was why she built the machine.
Beatriz opened her eyes. What path was she on? She was still in the back lot of Frank’s Dining, in the wrong time. Every step she could take would be perilous; any one of them could send the course of events completely off the rails.
The image of Allen being dragged from the back of the diner hit her like a semi. She staggered slightly but stood tall.
“Whatever I do, it’s already done,” she reasoned out loud. “I just hope that whatever that is was the right idea.”
She walked into the parking lot, determined to at least relocate the space where her car had been last seen. And that determined thought was the last one she had before hitting the bumper of an oncoming vehicle. She saw the front of a pick-up truck, the driver’s face, and a cast iron skillet fly across the blue sky before landing on the ground.
They didn’t even look upset about it, was Beatriz’s indignant thought before passing out.
Here are the other bloggers flashing this week: