Carl didn’t know the code. The timer was ticking, the bomb was going to blow, but he had no idea how to shut the thing off.
He looked around. Tools had spilled out of his box across the floor. In the near dark he had tried to grope around for the right one. Something was needed to cut the wire to the bomb. A blade maybe, or a pair of scissors. Nothing. He couldn’t find a single tool within reach that was designed with a sharp edge.
Outside, a crowd waited. The game was about the begin. The stands were full. It was too late to get them all out. Too late to call the cops. The bomb was set to detonate within minutes and he didn’t know the code to shut it down.
Carl eyed the keypad from an angle, shining his flashlight closely at it, hoping somehow he might see fingerprints on the keys left behind by the man who had keyed it to start in the first place. Was that moisture he saw evaporating from the remains of a human touch, like a wisp of smoke from a dying fire? The light was playing tricks on him. He looked directly at the bulb, pointing the light right in his face. He shook the flashlight and looked at it again. His eyes dilated and he blinked a dozen times.
His mind drifted away for moment. Maybe he was trying to escape what was about to happen. He thought back to his childhood and a time when he’d stayed up late in the night. George had told him if he sat alone in the center of the woods on the darkest night of the year, they would come. They would find him and share their deepest secrets with him. He could be the smartest man in the world, owner of the knowledge of all the distant stars. He could travel through time.
And they did come, in a way. Someone came, at least. A man arrived out of nowhere, walking alone in the dark. The man had on a long trench coat and a dark hat and his face was mostly covered by his glasses and his scarf. He spoke and when he did the sound of his voice came out in whispers.
“What. Do. You. Want?” the man asked.
“I want the knowledge of a million galaxies,” Carl replied. “I want to travel into the future.”
“I can’t give you that.”
“Why not?” he demanded. “This is the darkest night of the year! I waited for you by myself. I’m freezing my ass off!”
“Who told you to come here?”
“George. He said he’d met you before. He said it would be safe.”
“George is a fool! He lied to you. Now go home before you freeze to death.”
Carl turned to go, vowing to get back at George tomorrow.
“Wait!” the man said. “In case you ever need it, I can tell you one thing. The code. It’s 926.”
Carl never did get back at George. But he did try to remember the code. He knew some day it would solve everything. It would be the key to his future.
In a flash the keypad in front of him came back into focus. He knew the code. It was that easy. He typed it in, 9-2-6. That was the secret to a million galaxies dispersed throughout the universe. He had remembered it with seconds to spare.
The bomb blew up a moment later and his atoms were spread evenly across the wall. From there, with the passing of the explosion, his atoms traveled farther and farther apart, and eventually, they crossed the universe. They were sucked into a black hole and spit back out again. Protons became electrons and electrons become protons. And in this simple way, he traveled through time.
The featured image accompanying this piece, entitled ‘Greens and Blues’, has been used with the permission of artist, Jama M Jama.
Jama M Jama is a student from the UK who specializes in water colour painting, drawing and photography. His work largely consists of urban and rural landscape painting with with elements of collage. He has created work for other artists in the form of album covers and short story illustrations, but mostly paints for fun. A lot of his inspiration is derived from architecture, photography and film cinematography.