by Tony Bradshaw
forum: Paradox
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

......... ....... ..... ..  



           I stood mesmerized by the swirling void I had created. I had never visualised anything like what stood before me. The time portal looked much like a blackish whirlpool trailing into infinity. I knew once I stepped across the threshold, I could never return. My whole life since my only child's accidental death nearly thirty years ago had been focused on this moment. After the accident I managed to go on but the joy had left my life.

          Many months passed before I saw the possibility of an answer in the time equations I had been working through. I knew the solution had to be there. I only needed to find it.

          I slept only when I had to, ate only when my body demanded sustenance. I lived in those formulas, driven to return to that fateful day. I would build a time machine. I would change all that had happened, all that was happening now. I sacrificed everything to work the formulas. My wife left me after two years and I missed her very much, but I knew that when I succeeded, she would not know the anguish of losing a child. She would never experience the pain of watching me self-destruct. None of it would ever happen. My long suffering colleagues brought me food and left it outside the cottage door because I wouldn't let them in. I was gaunt to the extreme and my body was covered in scale and sores from lack of attention. I developed a ragged cough that tormented me constantly. My grey unwashed beard hung past my chest, but none of it mattered. Everything would change once I succeeded.

          The formulas swirled and coalesced in my mind forming constantly changing permutations. Then I saw it. The last piece of the puzzle slotted neatly into place. In the end, it had been so simple, so logical. I didn't know why I hadn't stumbled on it years ago.

          I spent the next eighteen months in hospital as my body slowly recovered from the excesses I had demanded of it. I spent the time designing the equipment and electronics necessary to make my time machine workable. It took another eight years to complete the designs and accumulate sufficient
funding to turn my obsession into a reality. The time didn't matter to me. I knew I'd get it back once my machine was complete.

          Now I stand, staring into the void. The time slice had been calculated and programmed. All I had to do was step into the portal. I had considered what I would do many times in the past and had decided to simply enter the front yard and take the brightly coloured ball so that Jamie couldn't chase it out onto the road.

I felt myself tumbling and grunted as my shoulder slammed into the ground. I looked around trying to get my bearings, realising immediately that something was wrong. My calculations hadn't been accurate. I had landed on the opposite side of the road and I watched horrified as the coloured ball rolled off the curbing and bounced into the path of the oncoming vehicle. I saw Jamie running across the footpath to fetch it, unaware of the danger and I leapt to my feet, determined to prevent history repeating itself.

          Sprinting toward my son, I scooped him under the arms and threw him as hard as I could toward the footpath, moments before the bonnet of the car smashed into my hip. My body lifted clear of the ground and I seemed to float. Agony tore at my senses as my face crashed into the top of the windscreen. I felt the bones shatter and the flesh tear from my cheek as the force catapulted me further into the sky. I hit the ground hard and rolled over and over.

          Blood flowed from my open wounds as I cracked open my eyes to see Jamie rising from the footpath where I had thrown him. Agonizing tendrils lanced through me as I lay on the warm bitumen.

I felt my old memories fading to be replaced with new remembered experiences. Jamie's high school graduation ceremony had been a cherished moment for both my wife and myself. He went on to get his law degree and I remembered how proud we were of him. We were thrilled when he informed us that Jill had accepted his marriage proposal and holding our newly born grandson, Carl, in my arms was a memory more amazing than I can describe. I knew I was dying but the memories I had of my life were worth any sacrifice.

          I'd had a fulfilling life, a life to be proud of. I remembered several colleagues and I had been working on the concept of time travel. We hadn't solved the puzzle yet but we were close to a breakthrough.

The pain vanished and my body was whole again. I watched helplessly as my son crumpled to the ground. His dead eyes stared at me over his bloodstained shirt. My precious memories faded to again be replaced by years of endless work and deprivation. Memories of the breakthrough and the building of the time machine filled my mind.

I screamed as I again felt my bones break and flesh tear from my face. I saw my son rise from the ground. New memories invaded my mind. Memories of my wife, son and grandson filtered through my stricken consciousness. Again the unsolved time equations intruded on my thoughts.

          The transition between life experiences moved faster and faster until my body squirmed in agony. I was locked into a time loop. Somewhere in my splintering mind, I knew the paradox would have to be resolved. Time must continue for all others, but not for me. My fate was sealed. An eternal sea of joy, anguish and pain consumed me, tearing my consciousness completely apart.

Doctor Donaldson felt disappointed that, in the twenty three years since the accident, he had never been able to help the John Doe lying on the hospital bed. He wiped the spittle from his patient's horribly disfigured face before rising from the chair. As he headed for the door, he heard a call over the PA requiring him to go to reception. Donaldson knew Paul Ryan must have gotten his phone message and would be waiting for him. On rounding the corner he was surprised to see Ryan's son, Jamie, holding the hand of a young boy.

          Squatting in front of the boy, he said, "Hello, little man, and what is your name?"

          "Carl," replied the boy shyly.

          "Can I see him, Doctor?" Ryan asked.

          Donaldson looked up at the grey haired man who had spoken. He saw clearly the sorrow deeply etched into Ryan's fixed expression.

          He nodded his head slowly before replying, "He hasn't much time."

          Ryan left his son and grandson in the reception area and walked with mixed emotions down the corridor toward the dying man. The suffering this anonymous man had endured for saving his son's life saddened him, but at the same time he was glad that it hadn't been Jamie lying in the middle of the road. Ryan had always been too afraid to imagine what his life would have been like if his only son had died in the street that day.

They said I wasted my life after my son's death but, if I had been able to, I know I would have disagreed.



copyright 2005 Tony Bradshaw.

Tony Bradshaw

You may read other works by Tony Bradshaw online at