Fiction Science Fiction Mystery

The good thing about being a janitor at a military base is that nobody pays any attention to you. You are just like a wallflower, but wall flowers have ears, especially when there are top secret meetings. So, when project butterfly effect is up for discussion, I linger longer than necessary in the back round of the office cleaning. I had heard whispers of the Butterfly Effect project. Supposedly, there was a device that allowed you to travel back in time.

“I have approved the project Butterfly Effect. We are ready for human trials.” One of the General’s stated.

There were a few gasps and whispers among the cabinet members. I can’t believe that the device is ready. It had all just been theory after theory and failed experiments. I had stolen the papers from their findings and failures and tried to make sense of it. I am was an engineer, but they discredited me when I had a mental breakdown at my old company and let’s just say getting this janitor's job is a miracle.

At first, I thought if I could go back and stop myself from flipping out at my work, then I would be better off. But if I could go back that far and change just that minor detail of my life, why not go back and change my whole life? Save my parents. If I save my mom’s life, then I save my dad’s life. And why stop there? I then could save those of other beloved family and friends. Be strong from the beginning and spare myself from being bullied. Even focus on earlier career opportunities.

But with all the scientists’ findings and experiments and my own, neither was ready for human testing. So how in the hell did this General say they were ready? Did I miss something?! Or was he getting pressure from higher up? Or did he just not give a shit to what could happen? I edged myself closer to the group, hoping to see the plans of this so-called success.

“How?” one secretary asked with skepticism.

“We have perfected the formula by, well to be honest, by sheer mistake.” The General said, paging to the page with equations.

Everyone else quickly paged to the same page on their documents. I continued cleaning and polishing while looking over their shoulders at the equation. And there it was, as simple as the General had said. Pure mistake. Swap the Y with ¥. I stayed a little longer than not to be obvious, but inside I couldn’t wait until I got home and correct my formula so that can build the device.

“There are reputations to time travel.” A woman spoke up from a dark corner.

I froze. How did I not see her? Had she been in this dark corner the whole time? Everyone too stops and stares at her with awe and annoyance.

“And who are you?!” The General demanded.

“Leslie Kerr. Deputy Secretary of CIA.” She said, taking the General’s folder from him.

“CIA? “He asked in confusion. “Why are you here?”

“To make sure this doesn’t end up in the wrong hands and to make sure no one interferes in changing the past. It could lead to catastrophic outcomes, or it could lead to nothing. But truth be told, no one will truly know the devastation of this technology.” She stated, waving her hand.

The General scoffed and was about to argue when armed soldiers and others with empty boxes poured into the office. They started packing up the files. There were shrieks and shouting coming from outside and inside this office.

“What is the meaning of this?!” The General roared in anger.

 “I order you to stop!” He commanded, but the soldiers did not obey his orders.

“Such technology should not exist, General. This project is to be shut down and everything even remotely referring to the Project Butterfly Effect is to be destroyed.” She stated, ripping up the file in her hand.

The General spluttered as a soldier shoved a folded paper into his hands. His face paled as he read the document. Leslie smirked and nodded. The soldiers pointed their guns at the scientists and other staff members. That’s my cue, I thought, grabbing a file off the table during all the chaos.

I stashed the file into my janitor cart under a trash bag filled with toilet rubbish and pushed it out with the crowd. I’m stopped by a solider and my heart sat in my throat as he roughly searched my cart. He pulled his nose up in disgust when he stuck his hand in the toilet bag. He nodded for me to pass. I let out a breath and pushed my cart with shaky limbs out of the building.

I rode the bus to my apartment, clutching the file hidden under my clothes. I rushed up to my crummy, tiny apartment, slammed the door shut and locked it with the dead bolt. Sliding down to the ground, I took out the file and opened it up.

I spent a week locked up reading and correcting and building the time travel device. Finally, I tightened the last bolt. It was in a hexagon shape the size of a saucer. I held it up to the light to examine it with awe and apprehension.

I must have stared at the device for probably a few hours or days just going over all the concerns that the CIA lady had mentioned and those of the scientists and Generals. But then I ran over everything good that could happen. Without a second thought, I pushed myself up and snatched the device up, set the date, and pushed the button.

The room spun, making everything blurry, making me dizzy and nauseous. Several seconds later, the room stopped spinning. I fell down on a soft surface a bed. I gripped the edges of the matrass trying to not vomit.


“Mommy?” I whispered, feeling my stomach drop.

Did I just hear my mother’s voice? A voice I haven’t heard in 20 years because she died from breast cancer.

“What are you doing?” She called out.

“Just dropped a toy.” I replied, looking around the room.


It took me a second to realize my voice sounded different. I glanced down at my hands and almost screamed. I clamped my small hands over my mouth. My 9-year-old self is what I am in right now.

It worked! I time travelled back to the past! I’m in my younger self but my mind, brain, my maturity and knowledge are still the same as my 35-year-old mind. I stared around my room. It’s exactly the same as I remember.

Red box bed with a matching dressing table and bedside table with my colorful teddy bear lamp. My bed had its red duvet on with white hearts and white curtains with flowers on them. And my grey carpet with different colored lines.

I slowly off slid the bed and edged myself towards my door and peaked around the corner. My room was the first on the left in the tiny passageway. And there she was, sitting on the couch in her usual spot, back towards me.

“Mommy.” I breathed, staring at her watching TV.

By the looks of it, it was one of her shows, Neighbors. I took careful steps on the wooden block floors. One of dogs sat up. Jessie. I almost choked on seeing the Rottweiler cross. She laid down again. Zeus, our other Rottweiler also sat up then laid down again. With the dogs having sat, my mother turned around.

I clutched the dining room chair to keep myself stable as she looked at me, smiling. She looked so healthy and happy. I walked over to her on shaky legs and sat next to her with disbelief and teary eyes. My mom looked at me with concern.

“Fay? Are you ok monkeyface?” She asked, touching my hair.

I pulled my concerned mother into an unexpected hug. She gasped a bit but hugged me back, telling me everything was ok while stroking my hair. I hugged her even tighter.

“I love you so much, mommy.”

“I love you too Snoopy.”

I pulled out of the hug and truly looked into my mom’s kind, green eyes.

“Mommy. Please listen to me carefully.” I pleaded, taking her soft, warm hands into my icy hands.

My hands and feet are always cold.

“Fay, what is it? You’re scaring me.”

“You need to go to a proper doctor.”


“Mommy. That soccer ball you feel under your arm. It’s not a pulled muscle.”

She looked at me in shock.

“These doctors don’t know what they are talking about. You need to see a specialist. Ask them to refer you.” I pleaded, squeezing her tightly.

Before she could say anything, the room spun so quickly and before I know it, I’m sitting in a classroom. I clutched my desk, trying not to fall over and vomit. I looked down at my workbook and saw the date. How did I end up two years in the future? I didn’t set the device and I defiantly would not have set it for me to go to school.

This is the day that my bullies take teasing me to a whole new level, which ends up getting me into trouble and causing my parents a significant amount of stress. I looked around at everyone that was sitting at my table and how they were taking things out of my pencil case. I clenched my fists, biting down on my jaws. If I was truly going to get into trouble today, then I will make it a reason for my parents to be proud of me, for standing up for myself and it might even end these 7 years of teasing.

I slammed my pencil case’s lid down hard on Leah’s fingers, that were still in there. She screamed out in pain, but I didn’t stop there; I stood up, grabbing Shay’s pencil case and hit Leah as hard as I could in the face, breaking her nose before I launched myself at the rest of the group. Throwing punches and ramming the desks against them, pinning them against the wall still in their chairs. Eventually, I’m pulled away from my onslaught. The entire class gawked at me in horror.

“Fay! What have you done?” My teacher scolded.

“They have bullied, teased and picked on me for years. All you teachers have ever done is turn a blind eye to their behavior. I’m tired of being subjected to this bullshit of cruelty. I’m done being gullible and kind only to get picked on and for you not to do anything about it. Instead of punishment, you rewarded them just because they suck up and are teachers’ pets. Well, no more. Let one of you do anything to me ever again and I will beat the living shit out of you!” I spat angrily.

I was about to grab my school bag when the room spun again, making me dizzy. When the spinning stops, I was in a barn on the dance floor with Eugene. I remember this night, there was a school dance at the barn that was across the little dirt road from my house. Eugene had asked me to dance with him the whole night. Leah and Shay had been pests the whole time by grabbing my handbag and throwing it across the floor or grabbing it out of my hands.

But there’s something different about this? Leah and Shay are standing alone in a corner and have not even glanced in my direction. My beating them up must have changed the future. They’re not bothering me. If that’s changed, then I must have changed my mom’s future. I had a sudden urge to go home and check on her. The dance finished, and I said goodbye and left quickly and walked across the little dirt road to my house.

Strange everything is dark? I’m sure my parents left the back light on for me and why aren’t the dogs barking? After opening the gate, I entered the dark yard and made my way to the back door. I tried opening it, but it’s locked. Still no dogs barked when I knocked and called out to mommy and daddy.

I know they didn’t go out; they were home, so why is everything dark and where are the freaking dogs? I pulled open the metal door that separated the front and back yard and walked around to the front. I froze! The house is empty?! We never moved. We bought the house. And the school dance was long before I left to go live with my aunt and uncle in another town.

Hyperventilating, I looked over to the house across the road where my best friend lived and ran over to her house. I raced up to her door and banged on it. The door opened, and a shotgun greeted me. I screamed and raced out of her yard and back into mine. Everything spun again. This time, I was in a tent.

Panicked, I glanced around with my heart pumping loudly in my ears. I looked down at myself, feeling my face. I was older in my teens, but I don’t remember this tent or I thought looking out of the one window. I don’t remember this camp site I only went camping twice with my aunt and uncle and that was after my dad’s death.

Nothing looks right here. This is not a normal camping trip. With unsteady hands, I unzipped the door and poked my head out and gasped out in horror, dismay and shock. The site looked like a bloodbath, body parts, guts, limbs, and blood everywhere. What the hell is going on??!!

There was a noise nearby. Not taking any chances to meet the same fate as the rest of the people outside, I scurried back into my tent and yanked the zip closed, almost breaking it. My fingers fumbled around, trying to feel for the time travel device. Whatever creature was, it was now drawn to the rustling I was making in my tent and was now trying to get in. The gurgling noise was terrifying, and I cried trying to get the device set for my time. I had to know what has happened to my parents and the world. Just as I pushed the button, the creature ripped through the tent. I screamed. It was a rabid beast of rotting flesh with long claws on the edge of its hands and it had spikes on its back with no eyes or nose, only fangs and sharp teeth full of blood and rotting flesh.

A hand slapped over my mouth while everything was still spinning. I panicked and kicked and scratched at the hands that held me.

“Shut up. They’ll hear you.” The voice hissed.

I looked up at the person and saw my high school flame-boyfriend. I stared into his blue eyes, drawing in comfort from them as he kept them focused on the dangers ahead. Finally, he let go of me and I straightened up as he frowned.

I took stock of his appearance and saw that he had dark circles under his eyes. His hair was shaggy, not short–he always liked his hair short. His close were dirty and full of holes. And his shoes were all but falling apart from wear and tear.

“Angelo?” I asked in a hoarse whisper.

“Do I know you?” He asked, pulling his shotgun out and reloaded it.

“High school.” I answered, a little hurt.

“Lady, there haven’t been schools for the last 30 years. So, I don’t know where you come out with high school.” He said, glaring at me, finger ready on the trigger.

No school for 30 years? How?

“Did you come from the East? Through the Badlands?” He asked with somewhat concern.

“What?” I breathed, still confused by what was happening.

He scoffed before pulling out a binocular and peered through the lenses. I slowly looked around and realized there was something really wrong with this world. The sky was dark with polluted clouds; the air smelled bad, and it was cold. There were strange creatures roaming about the abandoned street ahead, sniffing the air, making horrid hisses and squawks. They looked more menacing than the creature back at the campsite.

What have I done? I need to go back and fix this. Go back and stop myself from building the device. I got to see my mother and hug her one last time. I wish I could see my father too, but now I realize what the CIA’s fear was, and they had every right to fear this technology. I entered the time of when I stole the plans and waited for everything to spin again.

I landed on the floor of my apartment again, but this time the building was half blown up and crumbling. I looked around with teary eyes, taking in the destruction. Again, I heard the squawks and screeches coming from outside. I’ve destroyed the world, I realized, pulling my legs up to my chin and cried. The creatures squawked louder and started ripping at the broken building, trying to find a way in. I closed my eyes, not caring anymore. I deserved this for thinking I was above the law of nature and God, to go back and change time. What a fool I am.

February 04, 2023 15:29

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Phineas Andrews
22:24 Feb 15, 2023

Cool story. You transitioned the story from janitor to school and then into this post-apocalyptic world well. It's fun going through such a dramatic change from start to end. :)


Nancy De Beer
06:02 Feb 17, 2023

thank you so much I'm glad you liked it


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Wendy Kaminski
14:26 Feb 12, 2023

Terrifying look at the unintended consequences of time travel, Nancy! This would make an excellent Twilight Zone episode, I can just see it. I liked how the character did what most of us would do: save loved ones, destroy bullies. And even though her actions in those regards were harmless, the travel itself caused the consequences, which was a fresh spin on a common fascination. Loved it - welcome to Reedsy!


Nancy De Beer
08:50 Feb 14, 2023

thank you so much I am glad to hear that your enjoyed it 🤗😁


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