Your Subscription to Time-Travel Inc.; Order Number 23048

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten seconds.... view prompt

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Suspense Thriller Science Fiction

           Your Subscription to Time-Travel Inc. has been delivered, according to our tracking system, which we know is correct. Your Order Number is 23048 and your subscription includes one twelve-month supply of traveling serum, one Speedy-Learners online tutorial, and three yearly boosters.

           Pickles, Clara. You won’t be needing yearly anything.

           Oh, whoops, it’s not time for the tutorial yet. Sorry Clara!

           To start the time-traveling process, click confirm. To cancel your subscription at any point, click cancel.

           Pickles-

           Confirm.

           Thank you for validating your Time-Travel subscription! You will now begin with the process.

           Time-Travel Inc. prides itself on being the first major Time-Traveling union, comprised of members across the globe. We work hard to ensure that our members feel protected and secure. To ensure that safety, your confirmation has also acted as a signature on a Terms and Conditions policy. It is boring, so we didn’t make you read it, but it basically says that by being on this website, cookies will be cashed in your browser. We are not responsible for any legal fees resulting from your stupidity. Also, you’re vowed to secrecy.

           But that’s no big deal. Just make sure you’re not talking about this website to anybody, just like when you were young and dabbling in the black market.

           Clara, you do realize that not everybody dabbles in the black market-

           They will soon.

           We’re so excited to have you, Order Number 23048 joining our ranks! To begin your individual traveling journey, you must advance through our training program. According to our system, you have purchased one Speedy-Learners online tutorial. To begin the tutorial, press begin.

           Begin.

           Speedy reader, aren’t you? This should take barely seven seconds.

           Still, it felt like forever. I don’t understand why Clara needs to give you a whole legal summary if we’re not going to let you read the Terms and Conditions, but whatever. Don’t tell anybody about the time traveling, blah blah blah, nobody cares about the rest.

           Anyway, ‘Time-Traveling.’ The elusive goal of many, along with eternal wealth and immortality. Time-Traveling puts you at an advantage, quite clearly. You can go back with knowledge no commoners would ever have or forward with the energy of pure sugar. You can cheat on your exams and evade your taxes, and I’m going to teach you how to do that all.

           Our first lesson: stalling time. I know, I know, it’s not fully traveling, but if you can’t stop time and successfully start it again, you can’t go anywhere. It’s like a car. If you don’t have the keys, you can’t drive, unless you crack the breaks and push the whole contraption, but I like to think you have more dignity then that.

           The mechanisms behind stopping time are boring and dull. Up to this moment, the most plausible explanation for time travel is a little idea we like to call the Theory of Relativity, brought to you by everybody’s best friend: Albert Einstein (I’ve met him. He’s a pretty cool dude. Also has the largest collection of sandals I’ve ever seen). His theory states that time slows down as you get closer to the speed of light, stop right when you get to the speed of light, and actually goes backwards above the speed of light. So, if you go really, really fast, you’re actually going back in time. It’s a parabola, and to stop time, you want to get to the top.

           This is ignoring the universal system. As you increase to the speed of light, you feel like time is slowing down, but a person on Earth doesn’t feel anything. This does literally nothing for us. You can be in a stopped time or be in a coma, and if I don’t get to see you randomly pop up in a newspaper from the 1920s, I don’t count it. We want this car to be licensed, driving, and fully insured.

           How could we achieve this lofty aspiration? Take the first dose of your twelve-month serum. It should be in a glass vial to the left. Don’t take multiple—the polyethanol can result in spontaneous combustion—just one should be sufficient, and wait for three seconds. Here, here’s a nice timer I’ve embedded on the website. When the timer runs out, click continue.

           Three-

           YoU shouLd NoTIce thE WorDs ARe gettINg rAtHeR JUmbLEd.

           Two-

           BuT DOn’T woRRy, tHaT’s coMplEtEly NoRMAdfFInflORNl

           One.

           Much better. This all should be clearer now.

           Now that you’ve got the medication in your system, we must do one more check before proceeding. See this grid below? Click all the boxes with traffic lights in them. Then click check when you’re done.

           Check.

           Pickles, I don’t really care what boxes you clicked. You passed, congrats. The medication is working. Look around, doesn’t the world look a little bit brighter? It should brighten with each passing minute. How beautiful it is, isn’t it? Like the sun has risen. If your vision looks like it’s gained its own personal sun, click brighten.

           Brighten.

           Now it should whiten as it brightens, like the world after you look at a solar eclipse. White and spotty, and occasional strobing flashes. You know what that’s called? Asphyxiation. And unfortunately for you, we haven’t found a way to overcome it.

           Time and motion go hand-in-hand, so stalling time means stalling motion. If you pay attention, you should feel that your heart is beating slower, your hands feel heavier, and it takes way more strain to even read this at a reasonable pace, but the most obvious is the oxygen. Air particles are air particles because they move so quickly—it’s basic kinetic energy. Them moving slowly actually means they act as solid particles, and you don’t possess the capacity to breath in solid particles.

           Cancel.

           You’re actually doing pretty well if you’re still reading. You must have some awesome lungs, because most people don’t last this long. Experiment 23048 is either going to be brilliant or awful.

           Cancel.

           Pickles, you can stop with that. You see, my major problem with the lack of the Terms and Conditions, as I’ve told you before, is that the costumer never gets to read it. If you could have, you would have seen Clause 18.2

           Cancel. Cancel. Cancel.

           Clause 18.2 states that we’re allowed to tell you that there’s a cancel button that we ignore without legal consequences. I’m getting your cancel request and I’m choosing to do absolutely nothing.

           Cancel cancel cancel cancel cancel.

           Getting desperate, aren’t you? You’ll want to stop pressing the button. It’s wasting the last of your energy. You could last a few more milliseconds if you’d just sit still.

           Cancelcancelcancelcancelcancel-

           Milliseconds—I’m doing well, aren’t I? To slow it down where a millisecond feels like a full minute sure is a feat. Next stop: nanoseconds.

           Cancelcancelcancelcan-

           The fact that you’re still pressing that button is remarkable. Your vision should be completely skewed and whitened like a whitewashed, abandoned, old building. You should not be reading or pressing buttons. This is ridiculous.

           You’ve got a real talent for oxygen retention, I must comment. You would be a problem for the Inc. because you could go out and tell everybody about us. You’re still alive. I’m going to need to speed this up. Take another one of the serums, please. Press please after you’ve taken the serum.     

           Cancelcancel-

           Stubborn pickle; that’s not what I told you!

           Cancel.

           Fine. I’ll wait.

           Cancel.

           Stubborn.

           Cancel.

           But I’m more so.

           Can-




           Your last word was "can," wasn’t it? How optimistic. You really are a pure bowl of sugar. Were, I mean. You were pure sugar.

           Now, let’s look at your stats! Seven seconds to get through that inconsequential legal blurb at the beginning, three seconds of waiting for the serum to kick in, and a negligible number of milliseconds for slowly strangling. Ten seconds total. That’s awfully long, don’t you think? I’m going to need to better my game.

           Yes, I’m going to need to submit this report and tell the principals to shorten the blurb at the beginning and increase the serum power. We’ll need to get it better next time.

           That was funny. Look at me, cracking jokes.

           Anyway, Clara: come back. Somebody needs to go back and reset this person, and you know that I’m terrible at doing it.

December 29, 2020 17:13

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24 comments

Hi, Meggy! First, can I just say I found the 'Anita House' thing in your bio rlly funny. lol! Would you mind signing this petition to end the downvoting feature on reedsy? Heres the link: https://forms.gle/j3V39n9S928uxrbX9 Thanks! PS this story was great :P

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Meggy House
02:15 Jan 05, 2021

Thank you! And I'd love to sign the petition (I'd honestly be up for removing the down- and up-voting features, so that karma points are purely based on legitimate feedback and story likes, and the whole thing doesn't become a wild power-grab).

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Regina Perry
15:51 Jan 22, 2021

Wow. This was incredibly clever. I love what you've done here. I always attempt to read terms and conditions of things, but they are incredibly long and boring. If I ever have occasion to write terms and conditions, I'd definitely put some crazy stuff inside that nobody would ever know about. Stuff like "by agreeing to these terms and conditions, you agree to balance a pineapple on your head every Wednesday at noon for a period of eight months." And then some crazy penalty for failing to do so. I haven't figured that part out yet.

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E. Jude
11:46 Jan 01, 2021

I love a good sci-fi!! My, my, and this was! I was hooked to this story, the narrative was really good, and made the reader feel engaged. Well done! It would really hep if you could check out one of my stories, if you don't mind! E.

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Meggy House
14:46 Jan 01, 2021

Thank you so much! I would love to check out some of your stories :)

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Philip Clayberg
00:20 Dec 31, 2020

This is a really good story. The more I read of it, the more I wanted to read. I confess, though, near the beginning, when I saw "Time-Travel", I thought of Ray Bradbury's story, "A Sound of Thunder". One piece of advice for Clara: "Don't step on any butterflies. It could do irreparable harm to the era you're from." Thank you for writing this story and I hope that you'll write a sequel to it. Just a couple possible problems: You’ve got a real talent for oxygen retaining [I would've said: You've got a real talent for oxygen retentio...

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Meggy House
16:04 Dec 31, 2020

Thank you so much for your edits, and for introducing me to "A Sound of Thunder." I just read it and I see where you found the similarities! Thank you very much for your edits and I hope that you have a happy new year!

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Philip Clayberg
21:01 Dec 31, 2020

You're welcome. Glad I could help. I'm glad I didn't have as many editing questions as I sometimes do (hoo boy -- some can be more than a page long). It's hard to ignore things in some stories that I would normally have fixed had it been my own story. But I reminded myself (as I also try to with other writers' stories): "It's not my story. This story has its own style, which means that it won't always read the way I would've written it. Try to enjoy it on its own terms." Hope you have a happy new year, too.

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Meggy House
14:45 Jan 01, 2021

Thank you very much! That's a wonderful sentiment and I appreciate your pleasantness.

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Philip Clayberg
21:18 Jan 01, 2021

You're very welcome. I try to be as nice as I can be (including when posting editing questions). I just hope that I don't annoy people when I point out possible error after possible error after possible error. Because I'm not trying to make them look and sound dumb. I want to help them to become better writers and (with any luck) write *more* stories. As my late father once said, "It's in my own selfish interest." If I want more stories to read, then I need to find a way to encourage people to writer more stories.

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Meggy House
00:01 Jan 02, 2021

I can tell you that, at least from what I've seen, you're very polite and kind. But then again, I quite like edits, though honestly you're one of the most thoughtful ones here. Either way, you have wonderful logic!

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Ray Dyer
19:59 Dec 29, 2020

Hi, Meggy! Another fun story with your characteristic humor. I love the little asides and come-backs, from "which we know is correct" to "They will soon." And, of course, the way the ending comes about because of the terms and conditions. A little social commentary mixed with sci-fi horror, and a dose of humor on the side. That's a winning combination at any time of year!

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Meggy House
14:27 Dec 30, 2020

Thank you so much! Your comment is so lovely and I am quite grateful for your reading! Happy new year as well!

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Aman Fatima
09:01 Jun 03, 2021

Its a clever idea and it kept me engaged. I love sci-fi stories and this was just what I needed to start my day with. I enjoyed ready it. :)

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