Flash Fiction: The Paradox


Getting a late jump on a Wendig challenge, but finally got my story in mind. This week the challenge is time travel, in any way shape or form. So let’s do this.

The Paradox

DL Thurston

He looked up at the man who stepped into the room. The same man he saw in every mirror, and every photograph of himself, though now with a gun. “I suppose you know why I’m here.”

“I do.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The momentary sharp pain of the bullet tore his world apart.

***

He cleaned the gun for the third time, just the way the shop owner showed him how. He took it apart, polished and brushed every surface, oiled it, and slipped it all back together. Each time he had a little more confidence, not in the motions of cleaning, but in what he needed to do. Big science, the important things, always had its daredevils, flirting with death. Those willing to give all. Men strapped to rockets, knowing they could explode. Men setting across the oceans, knowing they might not come back. He loaded six bullets into their chambers, knowing he only needed one and some nerve. He was willing to die for the science he sought to give the world. He was willing to kill for it. So long as they were one in the same.

He held the camcorder at arm’s length, “With this, I intended to show that time travel is safe. That paradox is not an issue. I propose to go back to yesterday in an attempt to kill my past self. I will keep this running as a record.”

He pulled the device closer to him. Such a small thing, so simple when he finally worked out the principle. How had it taken so long for someone to understand that this was easy? He set the readout to the previous day, took a deep breath, and stepped back in time. Going back always left him dizzier than going forward, he sat a minute, then looked into the camcorder again. “I have successfully traveled one day into the past.” Proof. Damnit, he forgot to consider some sort of proof. Too late now.

He remembered the previous day. The splitting headache, needing to lie down. He’d arrived just before all that, so his past self would be in the living room, reading. He descended the stairs and stepped into the room.

“I suppose you know why I’m here.”

“I do.”

The man in the chair, himself from yesterday, closed his eyes. He found the resolve to pull the trigger. This was science, and history, and everything important. The gun fired, and the retort tore his world apart.

He stood in utter blackness. He also laid on the ground in a puddle of blood, quite dead. He looked at the gun, still smoking, and the camcorder, still rolling. Details of this place emerged. Around him was blackness, but at his feet were hundreds of identical camcorders to his. Hundreds of identical guns. No, not even identical. Hundreds of his camcorder and his gun. There was a noise in the distance, a great shuffling noise, a slurping noise. It was the noise of animalistic hunger coming from somewhere in the void.

He picked up one of the other camcorders, and flipped it open, hoping for some sort of information. He flipped out the screen, and let the memory play. There he was, hunkered down, whispering. “It’s called The Paradox,” he said on the small screen, “at least, that’s what one of my previous selves called it when I saw his video. I couldn’t kill it, not with bullets. It feasts on paradox. They make it stronger. Oh god, I’ve just made it worse.” The video abruptly ended. He dropped the older camcorder, and could now smell The Paradox, an acrid thing that burned at his nose. His instincts told him one thing, run. He was pumping his legs before he could make a conscious decision.

But he went nowhere. The void had no direction, no escape. No matter how hard he ran, he was still in that place, with his previous self and the pile of camcorders and guns. Behind him, ahead of him, all around him he saw bits of the beast slipping into and out of the void. He could make no sense of its corporeal body. He pulled the gun out, he had five shots left, he could make them count. He turned at a louder slurping behind him, saw a part of The Paradox slipping into and around his dead self. He emptied the bullets into it, but they would only pass through.

He dropped the gun. It joined the pile.

He hunkered down, and pulled out the camcorder, holding it close and whispering. “It’s called The Paradox,” perhaps if he was really trapped in this loop, his next self might figure out an answer. “At least, that’s what one of my previous selves called it when I saw his video. I couldn’t kill it, not with bullets. It feats on paradox. They make it stronger.” He stopped, and remembered a moment of dawning horror on the previous video. And he knew why. This was knowledge with no origin. There was no way he could have learned this without being told by the video. He was in the heart of a bootstrap loop, and perpetuating yet another paradox. His eyes widened as he felt hot breath.

“Oh god, I’ve just made it worse.”


If you’re a fan of flash fiction challenges, consider coming back here on October 27th for Flashathon, a full day flash fiction writing marathon. More information can be found here.

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