Time Travel Conspiracy.
Beep beep. Jhon held the scope close to his right eye. He waited with bated breaths for a half-dead person to fly out the exit… and was shocked to the bone when an actual naked living person, crawled out of the machine.
Dr. Winterfield was a genius, but a very, very evil man.
This would be Jhon’s fifth year working for the world-renowned scientist; a scientist who was deemed to have discovered time travel. Dr. Winterfield’s research had finally gained weight in the science world, receiving numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize and uncountable non-profit funding.
Dr. Winterfield had successfully created a portal for time travel. He revealed in a presentation to the American government, five years ago, that his time machine could move anyone and anything from the present to the past. Although this presentation was enough to make Winterfield a billionaire in corporate funding, his time travel claim was yet to be proven adequately.
Fifty-nine people had walked through Winterfield’s time machine. Not a single person had ever returned.
And it wasn’t due to the time machine’s furnace-like structure or Winterfield’s miscalculations, it was the timing—the precision of the whole construct. A national inquiry was made, and no one was any closer to the solving of this mystery. No one really cared much, because all fifty-nine people had been volunteers to this great project. Each person had signed an affidavit stating their willingness to risk their lives for the idea of time travel.
Winterfield defended his machine time and time again—the irony—and for someone, seventy-five years of age; two decades of interplanetary travel experience; and also a retired Martian, anyone doubting Winterfield was seen as stupid and unaccomplished. It was this public vote of confidence that sealed the American government’s backing. Winterfield was now a non-profit oligarch.
He was swimming in billions of currency.
But as with anything involving the government, there were plenty of shady occurrences behind the scenes that never made the news. Jhon’s involvement was one of the many secrets surrounding the time machine conspiracy. In fact, his work was the most important of all.
Jhon’s work was dangerous but simple. He received a 6-month paycheck of a quarter of a million dollars wired to his offshore account for fulfilling his routine role in the franchise.
He carried out the kill.
Today was like any other day for Jhon; a regular day at work. He hunkered down among the twigs, six feet up a mahogany tree. It was snowy December and today, he was very keen on not freezing.
Winterfield was at it again; a new client had volunteered to try out his new time machine modifications; and the scientist had already made the arrangements. Jhon, as he always was when a time travel demonstration took place, was here for the cleanup.
Jhon’s timepiece never failed him in this regard. He had performed this task numerous times. He pointed his sniper rifle at a particular spot, waited for the time to clock 6 pm before letting fly. He always got the job. His timely execution was never in question.
Fifteen minutes to 6.
He always got the nerves. Work like this always got people paranoid; and Jhon took a prescription to deal with the nightmares. Six years in the marines couldn’t even compare to this gruesome task. Jhon was a certified killer. He took no pride in his work and often said to himself that if he ever got caught, he would ask for the death sentence.
Fifty kills, all clean headshots—veteran sharpshooters weren’t even this good.
He thought about Winterfield; of the man’s genius creation: a time machine created from little nautical devices. Winterfield had solved the time conspiracy by understanding the true navigation of planetary waters; the one element that was present on every celestial body, including the moon.
For some reason, Winterfield’s experiment failed miserably—with no conceivable reason in place.
Before Jhon fully got involved in the project, he had been one of the presidential bodyguards assigned to Winterfield at that time. The American government needed oversight on their investment, and they had sent in Jhon to oversee the entire operation. Who knew the mission would be this gory?
Politicians are evil, Jhon realized and this was proof.
In September 2037, on a bright early morning, Winterfield tested his time machine experiment on his first human test subject, an 18-year-old dropout and crack addict with no living family whatsoever. The kid had been a stray hen in a cage of wolves, promised the world but getting devoured in the end.
On that fateful day, the vice president; the minister of defence; and the CIA director all attended the event in Winterfield’s laboratory in the hills of Silicon Valley. Jhon had been responsible for strapping the teenage test subject to a cushion chair that was to be pushed into the time machine, which looked like a standing tub with a hollow dark space for a bottom.
After pushing the chair into the machine, Jhon placed some wires on the kid’s head, hands and feet. Afterward, Winterfield reset the control panel and pulled a lever on the side of the machine which controlled the date of travel. The lever had an array of centuries but truly, the machine only sent people one day in the future. After the lever was pulled, the machine lit up beautifully and a blue energy force circled round the kid.
Jhon remembered the incident like someone would a traumatic accident during adolescence. Redmond disappeared into the machine, leaving nothing behind but a wheelchair.
With the rats and pigs, the time machine had worked differently. Every test subject had a tracker tag. Whenever a test subject disappeared, the tracker would signify that the subject had indeed left the present timeline. This wasn’t the case for Winterfield’s first human test subject who disappeared off the face of the Earth entirely.
For a moment, the experiment was deemed as a failure, but only for a day. Because the next day, Winterfield summoned all three officials—Jhon included—to his backyard where a half burnt half-alive unintelligible crackhead kid lay flailing in the snow.
A failed experiment; Winterfield’s first human test subject was Jhon’s first kill of the time travel conspiracy. A conspiracy cooked up by all in attendance that the time machine subjects had indeed crossed timelines. The government took the stand, formulated reports, and told the press that Winterfield’s time travel machine was undergoing constructive modifications and would soon be a commercial success.
This was a blatant lie, because fifty-nine human test subjects later, Winterfield was no closer to solving the time conspiracy than he was when he started. Jhon did his duty anyway: making sure every test subject never made it back from their time travel.
Two minutes to six…
At first, Jhon was happy to kill half burnt human beings whose bodies had been ripped apart by the sheer force of time travel. However, as time passed, the killings suddenly turned political. Public figures who threatened the government was encouraged to try the time travel machine. Out of the 59 test subjects murdered, Jhon recognized a good deal of them to be notable persons in the public. Sometimes politicians, senators, journalists, news reporters; the country’s secretary herself who had spoken against Winterfield’s secret dealings had been thrown into this devious time machine and left to die.
Jhon was now at a point of no return. He knew too much. As such, there was only one thing he could do to preserve his life; and that was to finish the job.
Sixty seconds to six.
Jhon remembered getting drunk the night before; very early round the same time. He had no recollection of what happened throughout yesterday, but something told him it was pretty significant. When Jhon explained his queer memory loss to Winterfield this morning at 5, the professor only patted him on the back, saying sadly that ‘time messes with us all’.
Winterfield’s statement confused Jhon a lot, and so he just downright ignored the whole incident and focused on work.
Ten seconds to six.
His wristwatch would beep any second. He looked over at the entrance to a tunnel set in the forest floor below. Very soon, a half-burnt corpse would jump out of the tunnel—the exit door to the time machine—and fall into the snow in desperate need of oxygen.
Jhon held the scope close to his right eye. He waited with bated breaths for a half dead person to fly out the exit… and was shocked to the bone when an actual naked living person, crawled out of the machine.
Usually, a gunshot reverberated through the whole arena, but Jhon could not bring himself to kill such an alive and well-looking being. So he climbed down the tree and hurried down the hill.
Jhon wished he hadn’t called out to the stranger because when he did, the 60th test subject turned slowly and looked at him curiously. John’s heart almost skipped a beat. He stopped in his tracks to find himself staring at a perfect replica of himself. The stranger in question found this even more amusing, with his mouth gaping as wide as his butt cheeks.
What the hell?
Jhon instantly grabbed his rifle and shot at the intruder. But he was either too slow or the intruder was too quick because soon after, they were both embroiled in a hot chase.
His command was futile because the more he chased this imposter, the further away the imposter ventured away from the scene. I’m losing him.
A few more steps and his target would escape the premises. Jhon couldn’t risk that. He was in too deep to let Winterfield’s secrets be exposed now. And why should they; this living human was a testament to the fact that Winterfield’s time machine worked. He had to catch the imposter, by any means necessary; dead or alive.
“This is your last chance, Stop!” Jhon said as he watched the imposter approach a giant brick at the far end of Winterfield’s vast residence.
But the imposter wasn’t stopping, so Jhon ducked to his knees, pressed his rifle scope to his right eye and held firm his aim.
The naked intruder ran in zigzags, like veteran military personnel would when trying to evade fire. This wasn’t a civilian; this was a trained soldier—was it any wonder that the imposter resembled Jhon?
Suddenly there was no time to waste; Jhon took two deep breaths and pulled the trigger.
The bullet hit this time striking the intruder somewhere close to the heart. In one fell swoop, the intruder collapsed. Without hesitation, Jhon ran towards his 60th-time travel murder victim, who lay face down in the dirt. He arrived to find the naked man still alive.
He turned him over.
He hadn’t believed it earlier, due to the fogginess in the air, but now it was as clear as the Ten Commandments on a tablet. This intruder was Jhon.
“What is this?” he asked, eyes wide open.
Jhon’s doppelganger clutched his bleeding chest where the bullet had struck him. Blood flowed freely into the snow. It was evident: the man was close to death.
“Jhon,” the doppelganger’s voice was faint as a whistle, his mind and soul fading into the other side of life. “You—are—end game.”
“WHAT?” Jhon crouched closer trying to hear the intruder’s final words.
“WE ARE WHAT!”
“…final test subject,” Jhon’s doppelganger said in a more sonorous tone, mustering his last energy. “Winterfield’s machine works—secrets of the experiment die with you. They are coming for us, Jhon...Ah!”
With death came silence and reflection.
Jhon looked at his past self with remorse. This man was him from a different time—from yesterday. It made perfect sense now why he could not remember the happenings of yesterday. Was he drugged?
Winterfield’s machine works.
Did Winterfield finally figure out the time travel conspiracy? How could he not know?
You are the end game…
What did that mean? Was he the final test experiment? Was Winterfield trying to protect his investments? Why would the government conspire to murder Jhon, a devout follower to the movement? It didn’t make sense.
He slugged his own corpse over his back and dragged it back uphill towards the mansion. Only one man could answer his question: Winterfield. He was very determined to get his answer.
Jhon didn’t get very far however before coming across Winterfield and his government troops in the woods. The scientist had a knowing look in his eyes when Jhon dumped his body’s corpse before the troops. He was surrounded by six armed men with nowhere left to go.
In exasperation, he asked Winterfield for an explanation. “What does it all mean?”
Winterfield, a bald headed man with large rimmed glasses shrugged. “It means you don’t exist anymore.”
Jhon looked at his past self-sprawled in a pool of blood next to him. All this while he thought Winterfield had conspired against him. But now, it became clear that this was his idea.
Yesterday’s happenings became clear to him now. Drunk at 5 am, he had approached Winterfield, teary-eyed and ashamed of himself. He was a murderer who had no future. He had wanted to end it all, and Winterfield was all too glad to help him. After all, the time machine was a death sentence.
No one forced the past Jhon into the time machine. He chose that fate. He was indeed his own end game. But God must have had other plans because for some reason the time machine had successfully tossed him back to the past in one piece.
Winterfield expressed his surprise at this occurrence. “To be honest Jhon, I thought you’d already be dead considering.... Oh, but maybe you already are.”
“What do you mean?”
Jhon immediately realized he didn’t need an answer. Because when he looked down at his arm, he saw his finger dissipating into sand. Before his very eyes, Jhon was fading away into nothingness.
Winterfield circled him ponderously. “As I suspected, you cannot kill your past self in the present and continue to live. I’m afraid, John, that you have indeed reached the end of your life.”
“No!” screamed John, whose left arm had totally faded into the air.
It can’t end this way, not now when the machine worked. He needed to understand why the machine worked on him and not the fifty-nine persons he had killed. He couldn’t die just yet; he needed to unravel the time travel conspiracy. If not, many more would die in his absence.
“Where are you going?”
Jhon pushed past Winterfield, ignoring his other disintegrating arm. He had to get back to the time machine.
I cannot die this way.
No one pursued him. They didn’t have to; he was already a dead man walking.
I have to make it.
He burst into the lab. By now, his left leg had started to disintegrate. He fell into a crawl and propelled himself towards the time machine.
Jhon had now lost all limbs. The machine was within touching distance but he could not grab a hold of it. Yet he crawled on his stomach towards it and into it. Winterfield had caught up with him now. The professor stood back and watched in silence. He knew Jhon’s efforts were futile and chose not to intervene.
“One more push, Jhon…” Jhon coughed to himself, “One more… One… Oh…”