The Breakthrough

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about a scientist.... view prompt


Science Fiction

A beaker of blue liquid bubbled as it sat on the counter; a flask of red liquid spewed out smoke every few minutes. Tubes and vials lined one whole wall of Tyan’s laboratory. All those who visited were impressed. It was all for show. He had rigged up an air tube to make the blue liquid bubble and a smoke generator created the effect for the red liquid. He needed the donations. He wanted people to believe he was on the verge of a breakthrough. He wasn’t. The donations kept rolling in, however. He hadn’t asked for them. His ex-lab assistant had set up his profile on a donation site. He couldn’t afford the lab assistant anymore so he had to let her go.

“I have faith in you. You are on the verge of something great,” the lab assistant said on her last day. She stopped in from time to time but go away sad as he hadn’t done anything noteworthy between visits.

Tyan put the photo of his deceased wife back up on the mantle. He only had one photo of her. Their marriage lasted only a month before the car crash. He set the picture on the nightstand when he went to bed and put it on the mantle when he woke up.

If only I had told her to stay home that day. If only I had gone with her, I would have avoided that out-of-control semi. If only. He knew it was a waste of time to dwell in the past. He wasn’t one to waste time, but he allowed these thoughts into his head every time he moved the picture. What if I can fix it?

Typing his notes on the computer, he stopped for the knock on the door. Opening, he saw a man with dark hair and a baseball cap with the Boise Horned Owls insignia on it. “Am I too late?”

Scratching his red hair. “Too late for what?”

The man entered the room and looked at the notes on the computer. “Oh, good. I made it in time.”

“Who are you and why are you here?”

“I’m George. I’m here to observe. I can’t say anything more. Go ahead with what you’re doing. Don’t mind me.”

Tyan glared at him for a minute, then sighing, went back to his computer. A few minutes later, another knock came on the door. Tyan stood up to answer it. Five more people walked in the door uninvited.

“What is going on here?” Tyan demanded.

“We just want to watch. Please don’t mind us.”

Tyan looked over the invaders. They all had t-shirts on and jeans. Three men two women. One had a notebook and a pen. “What are you observing?”

“You, of course,” the blonde curly-haired woman said.

“Your work,” another one said.

The woman leaned over to George and whispered just loud enough for Tyan’s acute hearing to pick up. “The Boise Horned Owls don’t exist yet.”

George took off his cap and set it on his lap. “Oops,” he whispered back.

“Go ahead and work,” the man with the pen and notebook said. He kept checking his watch.

Scowling, Tyan sat back down. He began typing again. When he entered the first part of an equation P=…” the whole group leaned forward. The man with the pen checked his watch again and poised to write something down.

Tyan stood up. “I can’t work with all of you staring at me. Get out!”

George held up something nearly microscopic. “Do you mind if I leave a camera then, just so we can get all the circumstances right?”

The curly-haired woman snarled. “George, you’re not supposed to bring that technology back to this time.” She scanned the room. Everyone glared at her. “Um, er, back to this time of day.”

Tyan pointed towards the door. “All of you, out. And take your cameras with you.”

Several of them hung their heads as they marched out of the room.

Tyan paced around the room for a minute. P equals what? What’s so important about P equals? What was I going to type anyway?  Frustrated that he couldn’t remember, he read over what he had typed so far.

Another knock on the door drew him out of his thoughts. He opened up to see George standing there. His Boise Horned Owls hat was now a Boston Red Sox hat. “Please don’t kick me out. The others are gone and not coming back. I’ve waited my whole life for this moment. Please.”

Something in the man’s eyes melted Tyan’s heart. “Okay, come in, but I want you to be as quiet as a church mouse.”

“Okay.” George sat back down in the chair next to Tyan’s computer.

Sitting back down, Tyan looked at the equation. “P equals what?”

“M,” George prompted.

“That’s it!” He typed P=MD313/5.

George pulled back his sleeve. He typed something into a wrist keyboard, then stood up. “I’m so happy. You have made my entire life complete. Thank you for letting me share this moment.” He whistled as he walked out the door. The others stood in the hall.

“Did you get the time?” the man with the notebook asked.

“Were you able to watch him type it in?” the curly-haired woman asked.

“I have it. I have every detail. I watched as…” The door closed behind him.

Tyan looked through his notes. I wonder what just happened. What does P=MD313/5 mean? He had remembered the equation when George prompted him, but he couldn’t remember the context. He sat back down at the computer and read over everything he had written. It made no sense. Standing up, he walked into the bedroom. There on the floor were several notes. He would write down inspirations that he would get during the night so he would have them when he got out of bed in the morning. The more sleepless the night, the more notes he would have. He hadn’t slept a night through since his wife’s accident. Most nights were two or three notes, this morning found five notes on the floor. He picked them up. The one on top read, P=MD313/5.

The solution to the time travel theorem. 

March 11, 2022 21:17

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Sharon Hancock
02:04 Mar 22, 2022

So suspenseful I’m eager to read more! I like the way you added subtle hints about time travel while also downplaying his success. Great job! I really enjoyed it😻


Clark Graham
19:47 Mar 22, 2022

Thank you!


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Lavonne H.
04:39 Mar 20, 2022

Wellllllll???? Does Tyan time travel back to prevent his wife's death? I was involved in your story from the beginning and would love to read a sequel sometime. Nicely done. Yours in writing, Lavonne


Clark Graham
12:10 Mar 20, 2022

Thank you!


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Michał Przywara
15:46 Mar 19, 2022

I liked it! The little screw ups, like bringing back a cap for a team that doesn't exist yet, were a nice touch. And I could feel the constant interruptions making Tyan lose his train of thought. I think you presented his mental state well, going from worried/sad, through confused and irritated.


Clark Graham
12:10 Mar 20, 2022

Thank you!


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Unknown User
22:04 Mar 23, 2022

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