“Don’t you remember?”
The clock read 11:33 a.m.
“Truthfully, I’ve noticed some discrepancies as of late. Now, before you go off thinking that I’m crazy, others have claimed to have similar experiences. I know for a fact that Kit Kat was Kit-Kat, with a hyphen in the middle, a few years ago. Same thing goes for the name of those bears from the children’s books, Mona Lisa’s smile, and the actual death date of that Mandela guy from Africa,” the man said as he fidgeted with his watch.
The room they shared was cold compared to the temperature outside proven by the thick condensation on the window pane that made up one-fourth of the concrete cube. Hearing claims such as this before, Dr. Crane knew it was best to tread lightly.
“Interesting. Have you been experiencing loss or regaining of memory in any other form or fashion recently?”
“Umm, well the thing is… Yes. Between you and I,” he chuckled, “I can’t even remember how I got here this morning. I just remember you and a few of the security officials meeting me right as I walked into the lobby.”
“Why do you think that is?” She asked with narrowing eyes.
The man ignored her question being distracted by the figure moving outside the window. He pinched his temple and rubbed around his right eye. Dr. Crane closed her notebook to regain his attention. He strained in remembrance so hard it seemed agonizing. After a few moments of silence, he smiled and snapped a finger.
“This key card,” he said as he pulled it out of his pocket. Dr. Crane’s eyes widened at the sight of it. She pushed a button under the table as she looked directly into the camera behind them. She dragged it across the table with the care one gives a newborn. A door opened behind them and a member of the security team approached them carefully with a wooden box.
Dr. Crane rapped her polished nails on top of the box.
“What’s in there?” the man asked.
“I’m afraid I must come clean about a few matters before I reveal that. Does the name Abbadon ring a bell to you?”
The man’s eyes grew from calm to turbulent like the tossing of the sea. He slammed his fist on the table.
“Don’t speak that name. To me or anyone else. It’s evil. He is evil.”
The man was shaking from either anxiety or anger, he honestly didn’t know anymore.
“Why is that name evil?”
The man shook his head and looked away. He sucked his teeth before looking back at her.
“Don’t you remember what he did, Dr. Crane?”
Dr. Crane flipped the latch on the box but didn’t open it.
“Don’t you mean what you did?”
“What are you trying to say? That I ripped opened the fabric of reality? That I schemed to alter the past for a different outcome in the future?”
“You always told me that you would start small to see if the general public would notice. Change the names of food products, like Kit Kats. Death dates like Nelson Mandela’s. Change that Darth Vader quote. Manipulate the spelling of ‘Berenstein.’ Unimportant, trivial things.”
The man’s head pounded at the sound of this.
“I did? No. No, I wouldn’t.”
“Well, you did, doctor. You did,” she said with a harsh tone unbecoming of a woman of her profession, “and you might have started small but you graduated to the most heinous of atrocities imaginable. Erasing religions, sciences, an entire race of people. My husband, my children. You bastard.”
She wiped a tear as she stood up and walked to the window pane. With the wipe of her sleeve, she revealed not the exterior of a building but the interior of a tunnel. The inner wall of the world’s largest particle accelerator.
“Josephine, I swear, I had no intention of causing you so much grief.”
She spun to find her former colleague in tears.
“So you’re getting memories back, Rob? Do you remember the part where you erased millions of untold lives?
“It was just a by-product,” said the cerebrally rejuvenated Dr. Roberts, “Abbadon played my passion for my studies against me, it was all his plan.”
“You expect me to believe that some demon mentioned once in the book of Revelation ripped through our reality to give you an equation to do that? One that you and you alone just happened to contact when you activated this machine? You’re sick and irredeemable.”
She opened the box and withdrew a pistol. The clock read 11:43 a.m.
“No, stop. Wait. Please, let me fix this. We have the best scientist from all over the globe. We can work up an equation to erase me from history or the event horizon that conjured that demon.”
Dr. Crane cocked back the gun’s lever.
“We did that, Rob. This is our sixty-fifth attempt to do so. The machine won’t operate properly when we go back to the day you created singularity. We’ve tried changing your parents, your name, even your major, but the song remains the same. We’re stuck in an infinite loop and we will be until we figure out what variable needs to change to be rid of you. This time I went with a smaller variable: taking your key card.”
“Jo, please. I’m a physicist, not a murderer. Neither are you.”
Dr. Crane began to squeeze the trigger but a realization caused her to relax her trembling finger. Roberts was right: neither of them was a murderer. At least not in the current state of events. He committed acts of genocide that made Hitler look like a choir boy, but this occurred three months in the future in what they considered the original timeline. She also became a murderer in dozens of adjacent timelines, Roberts being the victim each time. The result of her realization conjured goosebumps across her entire body, but she felt it was the only way. If it didn’t work, she presumed she’d be in the same boat as Rob: right back where they started.
The gun was turned away from Rob. The trigger was pulled. A bullet lodged in the frontal lobe above Dr. Crane’s right eye. She fell dead backward in a pool of blood just as Rob had done several times since the beginning of this thirty-six-hour conundrum.
“No, Josephine, no!”
Roberts cried this out as he scrambled over the table toward her. He rocked her and sobbed as the security officials rushed into to see the horrifying new result before gazing longingly at the ticking clock stuck on 11:44 a.m. Rob didn’t care what they tried doing to him, he was going back to fix this. Cold sweat beads formed on all foreheads present until finally, the clock changed.