Fiction Science Fiction Teens & Young Adult

It turns out the way to travel through time was sitting in front of us all along. In the same way as water is a liquid that suddenly bursts into boiling steam; humans just needed the right jolt in their quantum energy to reach the tipping point. The one where time flows like water. And the Trinidad Moruga Pepper at a scorching 2 million Scoville units does just the trick.

Not that I understand the science, and right now, I’m a bit preoccupied with my older brother Mike glaring at me like a maniac over the family dining table.

“I hope you stepped on something wet in your socks,” he says. 

He takes a nibble of the bright red, wrinkly pepper he’s holding out with a fork.

A disgusting cold clammy wetness makes its presence felt in the bottom of my sock. I’m going to have to dry it off with a hair dryer. I pull my foot as close to my nose as I can and take a sniff. Luckily, it’s just water. 

Mike is smirking. 

I’m already plotting revenge. But, I need to think of something actionable.

While I’m thinking of ideas, Dad says goodbye. He’s going fishing on Lake Michigan with his buddies for the afternoon. “Take me with you next time?” I ask. Sure thing, he says. He took Mike last time. He’s the fun one in this family, Mom is all about rules and homework. We’ve heard the story a million times of how they met at a taquería in a food market in Mexico City. Mom must have been different back then.

I look at my brother and announce, “I hope you lose one out of every pair of socks in the laundry.”

Mike bursts out laughing. “That’s already happened.” He’s looking at me as if I’m a moron. When I look down at his socks, they don’t match. He’s better than me at creative insults, and going back to the past to make them happen.

Mom says we have a 'rivalry'. I’d say we simply hate each other. Being stuck in the same house with someone as competitive as Mike really gets on my nerves.

While he’s taking a bite of the tuna salad sandwich mom served us for lunch, I keep plotting. He can’t expect me to just roll over and give up.

“I wish you stepped on a Lego on the way to the table.” I take a nibble of pepper.

First my tongue catches fire, and then my mind explodes from the shock of 2 million Scovilles. I imagine myself ten minutes ago, sprinkling Lego pieces, black colored ones only, on the path between Mike’s door and the kitchen table. 

When I look down at Mike’s feet, one sock is off, and he's rubbing the sole of his foot. Score!

“I hope your mobile phone is always out of battery,” he says, and takes a larger bite of chili this time. 

I glance down and see that despite charging my mobile all morning, it’s only at 19%. I wonder how he accomplished that because the things we wish for don’t magically happen by themselves. We need to take action, and make them happen using a previous version of ourselves. It’s a lot of work.

“I hope every can of soda you've opened was already shaken up,” I say, this being an idea I've been saving up for a time like this. A big project, I take a sizable bite of the fiery hot chili. Like a shadow, I lurk just out of sight from Mike on every day of his childhood. Each time he asks someone for a soda, I rush to the refrigerator to shake up all the cans before he gets it. The days turn into months, which turn into years, of me doing nothing but lurking and shaking up cans of soda, until he finally stops asking for soda, and I can return back to the future.

I’m sitting at the kitchen table in front of mom’s tuna fish sandwich. The amount of time we spend in the past doesn’t affect the present. Only a second has passed, I take a look at my brother. He looks really upset at having missed out on years of carbonated beverage enjoyment.

Our contest of time travel misdemeanors goes back and forth:

“I hope that whenever you really craved something in the fridge, when you open the door you find someone else already ate it.”

“I hope that every time you played a sniper in a video game, when you had your shot lined up perfectly, somebody killed you right before you could pull the trigger”

“I hope you accidentally hit ‘reply all’ every time you were sending an embarrassing email.”

“I hope when you opened the Star Wars Lego set when you were 7 years old, it was missing one piece.”

“That was you?!” Mike shouts.

Mom yells from the kitchen, “Can you two just find a way to get along with each other? You are brothers!”

“Yes, mom.” “Yes, mom.”

Mike mumbles his next I-hope-you insult. “I hope you got stuck in traffic with bad diarrhea and needed to sneeze hard, bud.”

I don’t know how he did it, but yesterday was terrible.

The most embarrassing day in my life. I’ve never shat myself before, and in dad’s car. I need to put a stop to this and teach him a lesson.

“I wish you broke your arm falling down the stairs,” I say.

“Don’t you dare…”

I take a bite of chili. That was easy. A little push was all.

I can’t stop laughing when, back in the future, I see my brother Mike sitting there with his arm in a sling.

He looks at me and says, “I wish you broke your leg at the mini-golf course by tripping over a windmill.”

That was weirdly specific.

Suddenly, I lose my train of thought. There’s a blinding pain in my leg. It’s wrapped in a cast. On top of the fireplace, I see a row of 'get well soon' cards. On the table, there’s a brochure for wheelchairs, in case the bone, with multiple fractures, doesn’t heal.  

He’s ruined my life.

“I wish you were never born!” I shout.

“I wish you were never born!” he says.

I need to make a plan before I bite the chili. My parents got married six months before Mike was born, so it was an unwanted pregnancy, obvious, right? I will leave brochures about the risk of early pregnancy and packets of birth control in their mailbox. I need to be careful not to run over my own genesis, so just a little nudge in the timeline is what I need. Just a little delay, so mom and dad settle down a few months behind schedule and still conceive me a little while later. Calculating the timeline, I need to go back to the food market in Mexico City–

Suddenly, Mom rushes into the room. She sees both of us in casts with broken bones, and screams. “I wish you boys had the type of father who would stop you from arguing!” 

We are so wrapped up in plotting ways to erase each other, it takes us a moment to realize what Mom is thinking.

“Not Da~d!” We both shout.

Mom grabs a chili pepper from the jar and eats it.

December 11, 2023 01:29

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Tori Winterrose
14:18 Dec 18, 2023

Wonderful! I read the comments before reading the story, so I expected some type of build up and surprise ending. Knowing that didn't take away from my open-mouthed shock at the final sentence! Such an original story and really great writing.


11:09 Dec 19, 2023

Thanks so happy to hear you found it amusing!


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Helen A Smith
14:00 Dec 17, 2023

This is great Scott! You pick up the tension and competitiveness between two boys and ultimately turn it on its head. There’s some laugh-out lines here, but underneath an undercurrent of something more serious. Somewhere along the line, the parents lost track of things and stopped working together. Good ending.


15:32 Dec 17, 2023

Thanks for reading! Happy to hear the ending added some extra depth to this, I sort of worked backwards from that when i was writing.


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Michał Przywara
21:44 Dec 14, 2023

Catchy title for sure, original premise, and what starts silly turns into a crazy arms race. It dips right into hatred near the end - though it might be the heat-of-the-moment kind, the kind that you regret after you act. “I hope you got stuck in traffic with bad diarrhea and needed to sneeze hard” - oof :) But we never find out if the never-born gambit pays off or is forever regretted, as the story flips things around entirely at the end. Boys have strife because Dad isn't interested in fathering, but only in being “the fun one”, and the...


08:01 Dec 15, 2023

Thanks Michal, a bit simple but I liked the "snowball" element in writing this story. Just went on a wild tangent with another story at the last minute, https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/utzcy3/


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Erin Bell
10:52 Dec 11, 2023

Well that escalated!! Literally laugh out loud funny piece. I enjoyed the banter and great lengths each character went to. Will be laughing to myself later thinking of "the time travel misdemeanors."


09:25 Dec 15, 2023

Thanks, I've watched so many seasons of Umbrella Academy I thought there must be a misdemeanors court of time line violations!


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Philip Ebuluofor
08:10 Dec 11, 2023

Fine work. Do you believe mothers in real life harbor such thoughts?


09:24 Dec 15, 2023



Philip Ebuluofor
11:14 Dec 17, 2023



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Mary Bendickson
04:12 Dec 11, 2023

What a fun way to prove your point!


09:26 Dec 15, 2023

Thanks, yeah we always think technology will be used for something important, and then the internet became filled with facebook photos!


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Kailani B.
23:37 Dec 21, 2023

I think because I didn't have an antagonistic relationship with my siblings I can find this story more funny than alarming. But I can understand why the mother would retaliate like that. Thanks for the story!


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01:35 Dec 11, 2023

If someone invented time travel, does anyone really believe it would be put to good use?


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