A Fold in TIme
Part 2 of 2
by Bryan Aiello
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Other stories by Bryan Aiello
Max wakes up and is ten years older. He is nearing sixty. He sleeps on a thin mattress with a worn, fitted sheet and a single wool blanket. The lights are on. The lights are always on. It doesn’t bother him. The sounds of bars clanging and ringing alarms and squeaky wheels and moaning men and heels clicking against linoleum never end. He ignores them. He tunes all the inconvenience off.
He rubs his eyes with long, pale fingers.
Waking up leads to his favorite thing every day.
He stands and shuffles over to the sink. Depresses a silver button and a small fount of water dribbles out. He sticks his free hand under it and collects a palm full of water, then rubs his hands together.
He dries them on a towel.
He unrolls a small white towel on the cold cement floor, turns to a small desk and picks up a small, plastic-bound book. He holds it to his lips and whispers, “I seek refuge in God.”
He opens the book from the right and whispers again, “In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. Indeed, adversity has touched me, and you are the Most Merciful of the Merciful. You have given me gifts for humanity and now I suffer.”
He kneels and bows his head to the ground. He closes his eyes and his mind leaves his body and begins a journey.
He turns and sees himself on the floor in the tiny beige cell. He moves through the floor, he sees other prisoners in orange. Men of many races who he has stopped and studied. Faces he knows, but they are not interesting. Some are horrible creatures. Evil. Some benign, none innocent, all guilty of something. Even himself. He counts himself guilty of hubris of stretching beyond his place. How dare he attempt to fix humanity. That was his sin. He should have left it alone to be doomed. All animals are capable of hurting each other, of pulling triggers, of being scared, of desire, of greed. He can do better than prison and soars beyond it. Beyond the brown plains with mountains to the West and prairie to the East. Every day, he explodes out of the prison and he soars into the sky. Past clouds into the deep blue sky, beyond North America, sucking greedily at the power his mind conjured for them. Then he sees the crisp Atlantic and Pacific oceans of white-capped water. They look so clean; he can imagine no horrible islands of plastic. No choking seagulls. No dying populations of fish. Maybe his money does what he had wished it would do. Maybe it does nothing. Maybe it makes things worse. He breaks through the atmosphere as if it weren’t a limitation. As if it didn’t protect billions of people from the vacuum of space, and he soars, so happy. He soars until the planet of his birth is a small marble, then a pebble, then a blue dot, then a nothing. Each a beautiful thing. He soars and soars until he is encased in black and there is no light. There are no stars, no planets, no comets, no movement.
Nothing but joy.
And he basks.
He fills himself with all the joy and love he wants.
There is an end.
But only when he is so filled with satisfaction that he can handle going back, his eyes pop open and his food is ready on the floor of his cell, waiting for him.
Breakfast is the same every day, eggs that at one point were poured as powder from a carton and mixed with water, not-so-toasted toast, margarine that is probably still frozen when it is smeared, an orange that always seems to be past its prime and might be considered just shy of alcohol, and an empty cup to be filled with water from the sink. He doesn’t mind. He is past caring. He has had the best of the best in his life. He thanks God for what he has been given and picks up his tray to enjoy his breakfast. He sits on his bed and takes a spork full of eggs and enjoys every morsel.
Max looks up, and the normal figure of a riot-geared guard that stands watch at his cage always looking, always facing in is replaced with the agent in charge of the investigation.
Max smiles but says nothing. They only want certain words that he does not have.
Max wipes away a bit of egg from his long stringy beard, and his eyes fall to the floor like a beaten dog. He knows the man as Agent Bruno. He was there the day he was brought in. But he knows no other details, other than in ten years, the agent has gotten older
Time has passed.
Time, the great curse.
Max looks up and raises an eyebrow.
“How did it get there?”
Max lays the tray on the mattress and climbs to his feet with a grunt of disappointment. If nothing else, he wants an answer also. He wants, needs to know. Not for freedom. His past life is gone. He knows that. Whatever this is, a dream, nightmare a reality, it’s his and he doesn’t want anything to take it away, maybe underneath this reality is something worse and he couldn’t stand to find that out. All he can do is shrug his shoulders as he turns to place his hands near the open Judas hatch so Agent Bruno can cuff him, place his head in the black bag and take him again to the interrogation room.
Max is eighty-three years old and dying.
“He has stage three colon cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, cataracts and severe depression,” the prison doctor says. He looks like a kid, save for the rapidly diminishing head of sandy blond hair and the exhausted, pained look on his face.
Agent Bruno killed himself twenty-two years ago. The new agent in charge of the investigation is a female. She is boxy, like a softball catcher. She is curt. She dresses poorly in cheap, grey suits.
“Just don’t know what they expect me to get out of this guy.”
‘Don’t get attached Agent, umm, Agent. He doesn’t have much longer.”
The officials at the ADX Florence were told the death penalty waited for anyone on duty if he went missing. He has never been out of sight of a guard.
He is back from God and loves the way she smells like ivory soap, dandruff shampoo and mint toothpaste, a woman. He has forgotten women.
“Yes, my love?”
“How did it get there?”
“I don’t—‘ he looks at her, into her green eyes, at her pockmarked face, at her flyaway frizzy, brown hair streaked with grey illuminated with a halo of light cast from the harsh halogen light above her head, lit with electricity from technology he made possible by harnessing the very thing he was out of: time.
Maximus Gilmoore died. He might as well have died forty years prior. He was a legend. His name was attached to everything. High Schools, bridges, roads. His face was on money worldwide until money stopped being a thing.
He was a hero who walked away from trillions of dollars.
Statues of the barefoot saint were erected in parks around the world.
When Maximus Gilmoore died in prison at 87 years old, his body was cremated and his ashes scattered over the Rocky Mountains. No one asked what his wishes were. They did not ask him many questions, just the one.
How did it get there?
How did it get there, Max? How did your Glock 18 get one hundred millenniums in the past?
Max never had an answer and he died saying the same thing.
And maybe God did know.
But God never told him.
Or anyone else.
And a decade passed since Max Gilmoore died.
And a century.
And two and three and four.
And one day, world governments stopped being a thing.
And the Glock was found in with the investigation report, marked top secret. And the world learned the tragic truth of Maximus Gilmoore dying in prison for the ludicrous idea of a time-traveling handgun.
And a world-famous historian was asked if he could do a thorough investigation of the whole situation and write a book by the curator of the Museum of North American Artifacts.
“I would be a fool to say no,” the historian responded and a day later, all of the files pertaining to the case were dropped on his front porch.
The book practically wrote itself during the Summer of 2453. The Historian villa was in Zikhron Ya’akov, in the old Haifa District in the hills overlooking the brilliant blue sea in the-the country historically called Israel.
His last sentence was a judgment. He called the imprisonment of Maximus Gilmoore the worst thing the old Empire of the United States had ever done and this one act should besmirch it throughout history forever.
He attached it to an email and sent it to his editor and took his wife out to celebrate drinks and dinner.
They left their ten-year-old child home alone.
The historian’s boy picked the lock on the writer’s safe, because locks made him curious, behind them were treasures and behind this lock, sitting on a stack of papers was the fully automatic Glock 18 fired half a dozen times.
He picked up the clip of ammunition that lay next to it and went outside to play, much like one would swing a sword. He loaded the weapon and aimed it at a clump of bushes, but before he could swing the physics happened and the Earth shook.
It was a diffusing of the Gulf of Suez Rift under the Manzala Rift near the Nile Delta. No big deal really. The boy in Israel never even felt it. The quake barely topped out at 5.1 magnitude, but at the Max power plant, it caused an event.
The engineers called it a brownout. A power hiccup. The first one ever, where the perpetual power machine Max Gilmoore invented is concerned.
The power output in the Egypt plant dipped slightly, but only for a moment and only during the quake and only when one of the crystals that collected mass from their solar input shook. The senior manager on duty took detailed notes afterward, which would start an investigation, which would lead to a slight improvement in crystal couplings.
But none of that will make any difference to the boy.
Whose family mourned him for decades.
Most likely, some things need to happen. The circle has to complete. The universe did not conspire with technology and fold over onto itself. It was forced to. Because that was the way things were meant to go.
The boy finds himself thrust into a torrential downpour. Painful drops of rain falling like stones from the sky.
A bright red sun rises from the horizon like a warning. And the Earth shakes, it looks like twenty suns. Buried by dense, grey clouds, the light diffuses like a lamp with a silk hanky over it.
This is not a 5.1 magnitude earthquake. It’s much worse. It feels like the world is ending.
The Earth shakes so hard, the boy feels as if his body is going to fall apart. He drops to his knees. Rocks cut into the flesh of his hands and feet.
He grits his teeth and waits to die.
Lightning crashes from above. The plains of tall grass wave harsh in the wind and he screams in fear at a violent crash of thunder that follows immediately.
He doesn’t hear the first ibex sprint by over the rain hitting the ground in loud plops or the second or the third, but when he stands and is surrounded by frightened animals running for their lives. He looks and sees a muddy wall of water slowly rolling behind him, maybe a hundred yards back, catching the land in a slow embrace. Dozens of animals sprint for their lives just ahead of it. Rabbits and rats, mice and a saber tooth tiger.
And he runs with them.
But legs work only as fast as they are built, so he tries to work smarter so he turns towards the hills hoping they are steep enough to save him.
He runs and runs and maybe it isn’t as far as he thought or maybe time works differently under stress, but he is there in the hills, but the water keeps coming, so he keeps climbing, and somehow he is in the dark.
He does not know?
The air is greasy with unwashed bodies, smoke and burned food.
He breathes hard and through the gloom of the cave, monsters glare back at the boy.
Monsters with tiny eyes and horrible rotting teeth and bony heads and long muscular arms. They reach for him and he involuntarily points the gun and it fires, because of engineering and physics. Bullets fly because the trigger is designed that way. And the monsters fall, five maybe six, until a bigger monster takes a bullet, then two and does not fall, and the boy dies in a crushing embrace, and the gun is dropped, and the wave finds them all, washing them to the back of the cave buried by mud to wait for Samuel Toddy to start the whole thing over again.