I was working in my shop as a Chemist when a woman walked in with a gun and shot me.
My bulletproof lab coat deflected the six.44 Magnum shots, but it still felt like getting pummeled. Bullets ricocheted, breaking beakers, vials, and other glassware. I winced, verified my body was not Swiss cheese with a glance, then gawked at my assailant. She was young, maybe in her twenties which meant she was born into the apocalypse. She wore a black tank top with black polymer pants and a clear visor with a digital display over her eyes.
I heard the gun’s hammer striking the empty chamber with a click, click, click that seemed like punctuations to the woman’s screaming. Since I deal with these assassination attempts at least twice a week, I recognized her as a novice, not a Scientist like me.
“Die, World-ender!” the woman shouted, then threw the empty gun at my head.
“Hey!” I shouted and ducked as the handgun flew past me. She then ran at me with a knife. I guess I wouldn’t be making any sales today after all. I extended my hand, palm up, toward the woman and said, “Aeris.”
The oxygen and nitrogen gas molecules in the air were beckoned by my will to concentrate and expand in an instance. The shop's interior shook as a wind flowed from my hand with hurricane force. Vials and bottles rattled, a few more breaking on the concrete floor. Tables pushed to the sides of the room from the gale. The charging woman covered her face with her arm as debris and dust whirled in a vortex around her. The wind’s force stopped her charge by pelting her with billions and billions of molecules. She strained to push toward me, but her foot slipped and fell to the floor. She tumbled as the wind pushed her to the shop’s exit, but she held onto the door frame.
“I’ll stop you from doing it! I’ll save the world!” she screamed as her grip slipped. I redirected the wind to the shop’s metal security door with a flick of my wrist. The wind caught the door and slammed it shut with a clang, and I replied, “Yeah, well, take a number.”
My name is Dr. Henry Ion Fischer, and I destroyed the world. Well, not technically me. My future self will be the one to destroy everything, you know when I go back to the past to do it. What I mean is that I am destined to go back in time and destroy the world. Nothing can stop that. If something could stop me from going back in time and destroying the world, then the apocalyptic world I live in now wouldn’t exist. Confusing? See, this is the reason people keep trying to kill me. No matter how publicized it is, people still didn’t get it; they can’t kill me. It’s not like I’m immortal or something. I can die, just not yet. And why?
Because you can’t bend time; time bends you.
Let me start from the beginning, er, maybe present is a better descriptor.
I have traveled from the pre-apocalyptic year of 2025 to the post-apocalyptic year of 2049. In this future, the population has been decimated, governments have been obliterated, survivors live in cities run by gangs, and it is perpetually night. Blocking the sun was what I did, er, will do, to destroy the world.
It’s an odd feeling to know what you haven’t done yet. I didn’t know how I filled the sky with clouds so black that sunlight couldn’t break through them, but I assume it has to do with my abilities as a Chemist, a type of Scientist. Scientists live long lives and have extraordinary powers related to our discipline. We call the ability our nous, and sometimes the power feels like an actual noose more than a gift. I don’t know why I destroy the world. I’m not an evil Scientist. If anything, I am an apathetic Scientist, or maybe an aloof Scientist, but not an evil-doer bent on world destruction.
When I first arrived from my jump in time to 2049, I had a bit of a freak-out month. I’ve since resigned myself to my fate as World-ender. How I came to be thrust into the future is a story for another time but suffice it to say that a Physicist specializing in time travel launched me into the future to materialize in the dark, dilapidated streets of future Boston. I was jumped by fanatic body augmenters, but a group calling themselves the Remnants rescued me. The Remnants escorted me back to their base at Fenway Park but didn’t tell me I destroyed the world.
In 2025, I had a friend named Melody Kenzie, and we often worked together on her cases as a private detective, especially when she suspected a Scientist was involved. However, in the future, I found myself in now, Melody was the leader of the Remnants. It was Melody who told me I was the cause of the world being destroyed. She said I died when it happened, and I heard loss in her voice that implied we had something more than friendship when I returned to 2025. Melody said she never knew I went to the future and back until 2030, right before the apocalypse.
I was relieved to know I would eventually make it back to my time, but as I saw the devastation of this future, I became fatalistic. I contemplated suicide in hasty thoughts meant to preserve the world I once knew instead of this futuristic hellscape. When I told Melody, she put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. No shot was fired. She then turned the gun away from me and fired again. The deafening shot jolted me with the realization that I wouldn’t be able to stop the world from ending. I was the World-ender. That’s when she told me, “You can’t bend time; time bends you.”
Melody’s demeanor differed from the hotheaded seeker of justice from the past. She was now much harder, militarily shouting commands and keeping what she knew about me close to her chest. While I remembered conversations Melody had with me just a few months ago, for her, our friendship had been buried under years of strife.
Like I said, after that, it was a hard month. I drank a lot. I slept even more. I explored the expansive area in and around Fenway Park. People lived in hovels and slums, barely surviving on the resources gathered from scouting. My shop was one of several in the market district, and people traded necessities there. A few Scientists were in Fenway, and they used their abilities to help keep everyone’s head above water. In my time, Scientists were to remain hidden, but now they were society's leaders, caretakers, and soldiers.
Within a few days of arriving, everyone knew who I was. Some Remnants started calling me World-ender when the assassination attempts began. Melody had to put up signs telling people how they couldn’t kill me and shouldn’t try.
There was a banging on the door to my shop, and my reminiscence ceased. I shouted, “Go away. I’m closed for today due to excessive attempts on my life. Thanks, please come again.”
I heard a key turn in the metal security door. There was only one person that had the key. Melody Kenzie walked through the door and closed it behind her. She saw the smashed vials on the floor, and her eyes met mine.
“Typical day?” she asked.
“For this dystopia, yeah, it’s about the average day I expected,” I replied. I grabbed a dustpan and broom from the back of the shop and swept the broken glass from the floor.
Melody walked around the broken glass and said, “At least it wasn’t a Scientist this time.”
“Yeah, I guess being shot at is better than having another Chemist hurl fireballs at me, or my mind attacked by a Psychologist trying to make me kill myself, or being thrown into a portal by a Physicist to who knows what place. Oh, and remember that Biologist who could turn into that werewolf-lizardman creature that almost clawed my face off?
“Yeah, but I got there before he could,” Melody said.
“And I’m thankful for that, of course,” I said, “and thankful for you helping me set up my apothecary shop. You pulled me out of a bad place when I first got here. Despite some Remnants trying to kill me, I enjoy synthesizing medicine for them. Makes me feel like I’m alleviating the pain I’ve caused or will cause. At least it gives me something to do besides drink myself to death, er, well, you know what I mean.”
Melody said, “Henry, you know you don’t have to stay here.”
“It’s not like it’s safer anywhere else,” I said. “The only place left with a shred of normalcy is the society you have made here. It’s bleak, but I can still see hope when I look for it. Because of you, there are businesses, children can play, people still fall in love, and—”
I stopped myself short of saying more. I loved Melody once, in the past. Maybe I still did love her. I locked eyes with her and felt my heart skip as I saw her push a strand of red hair over her shoulder, and she adjusted her form-fitting body armor. Melody was a Scientist, a Chaotician who could see through the chaos and use her nous to predict a few minutes into the future with incredible detail and accuracy.
I shook my head and broke my gaze into her eyes. If I still loved her, it was the Melody I remembered from the past, not this one. How could I love anyone without loving myself?
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“There’s a mission—”
She paused there, already anticipating my interruption. “Let me stop you right there,” I said. “I don’t go on away missions. I tried my hand as a scout before you helped me establish my shop and most of the away missions were like I was some Red Shirt in Star Trek. There was always one crazed Remnant that lost their shit and tried to fight me, kill me, or just make the whole journey a pain in my ass.”
“It’s not like they can kill you,” she replied.
“Uh, yeah, but it still hurts,” I said. “Sure, I can’t die, but I can be maimed, beaten, and put in a coma. So basically, as long as I’m still capable of destroying the world, anything can happen to me.”
“It’s just pain,” Melody said under her breath. I didn’t reply, and we stood silent except for the broom's swish and glass clinking in the dustpan. I glanced at Melody to see her back was to me, and she was standing tall and straight. Then, after a while, she said, “What if I said this was ‘the’ mission.”
I jerked my head toward Melody, but her back was still turned. I gathered myself, anxious about what she meant, but calmly placed the dustpan on a table.
I said, “Do you mean—”
“Yes,” she said, interrupting me.
Stupid nous always telling Melody what I would say. She turned to me, her hands behind her back, and stood to attention. “We all have our part to play in this future. As the leader of the Remnants, I command you to join this mission. We depart tomorrow morning.”
The broom dropped from my hands and clattered to the floor. I wasn’t sure if I was glad or terrified to be going back to my time, but for the first time in a while, I felt excited.
“I accept,” I said, suddenly surprising myself.
She looked at me and shook her head. “You don’t have to accept. You don’t have a choice. Time bends you.” Melody turned on her heel and exited the shop before I could say another word.
The following day, I heard a knock on the shop door. I rose from the cot in the back room of the shop where I slept and said, “Hello?”
“Officer McCreedy here to escort you to the launchpad, Dr. Fisher,” said a scruffy voice from the other side of the door.
I cautiously opened the door. I recognized McCreedy as one of Melody’s lieutenants, but I didn’t know much about him.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
I nodded. McCreedy then escorted me to the launchpad atop a platform on Fenway. Word must have spread because everyone came out of their homes as I walked the streets to watch me. A few people heckled me, and a group of kids threw garbage at me, but fortunately, no one tried to kill me. When we reached the launchpad, I saw Melody in the cockpit of an airlift, a vehicle like a helicopter but with no rotors and flies using magnetic levitation.
“Hey, so now that we are all here, does someone feel like telling me what we are doing?” I asked Melody and the four officers on the launchpad.
No one said anything, but then Melody spoke from the cockpit, “Remnant scouts found an anomaly outside the city. We’ve been analyzing it for a couple weeks and determined the origin to be from the past. 2025 to be exact.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” she said, and then, “Ready for takeoff?”
Her team gave the affirmative then we were in the air. Seeing the destruction of Boston from above was like swallowing a stone. A city I loved was in ruin. I thought of the other cities around the world that shared the same fate because what I did, er, will do.
When the airlift landed, the officers jumped out and scouted the area with their rifles held at the ready. I stayed in the cockpit with Melody until we heard the all-clear.
“The anomaly is this way,” Melody said, walking into the forest, the officers following her. We walked a while before reaching a glowing two-dimensional, circular portal. I froze. The portal’s center was black, and the edges ringed with blue. It looked exactly like the portal the Physicist forced me into last year.
“At least I won’t have to worry about my tensing anymore,” I murmured. Then louder, I asked, “So what do I do now?”
The officers shuffled their feet. They seemed anxious too.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Melody said, drifting off as she spoke.
“Well, how about I just don’t go into it!” I said. “If I don’t go into it, the world doesn’t end.”
“And then you wouldn’t be here to say that,” Melody explained warily. “Just like you can’t die until you destroy the world, you can’t stop yourself from going through this portal.”
“Then tie me to a tree or something. Nope, not going to do this. Living in this hellish future is one thing, but there’s no way I’m going into the portal to willingly destroy Earth.”
“Then we’ll make you,” Melody said and eyed me. She was serious.
With a nod, two officers grabbed me by the arms while the other two put their rifles to my head.
“Whoa! Back-off!” I shouted as they pushed me closer to the portal. “I’m warning you,” I said.
“Throw him in!” Melody shouted, and the officers forced me forward.
Most of the last year was spent wishing I was in the past again. Now, with it so close, I couldn’t do it. Not if it meant things would end like this.
I reached for my nous, and black clouds stirred above me, sucking down to ground level until no light could be seen. My nous flared, and molecules consisting of the air pushed a spherical wave of pressure around me, knocking back the officers holding my arms and clearing the blackness. One of the rifles went off, and the bullet sliced my cheek as it went by me. All four officers were on the ground around me, and I said, “Now, how about we just talk calmly about this?”
“Officer down!” McCreedy shouted, and I spun to see that the stray bullet had caught Melody between the eyes. Blood oozed from the bullet hole in her forehead.
“No!” I shouted. Even though Melody was going to force me through the portal, I still felt our friendship of the past. The love I had for her back then and now.
“Why didn’t she move?” an officer asked. “She knew that would happen, right? Her nous lets her see a few minutes in the future.”
Then it hit me. The world's weight crushed me, and I felt myself take a step forward. Then I took another step. And another.
Melody did know. She hadn’t told me much about how the apocalypse happened. It made sense now, though. She would have gone back to the past with me if she could, even if it was just to look up at a blue sky together. Maybe she hadn’t told me about when I returned from the future because those were happier times for us. Perhaps she was trying to give me what she had already experienced. But at what cost? The world? No, it was because we can’t bend time; time bends you. So, we might as well make the best of it.
I stepped forward into the portal and returned to 2025 to become the fated World-ender.