Our congratulations to Kevin Z. Garvey, winner of eSpec Books’ January Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.
Anton Kukal – Stellar Sacrifice
For those interested in submitting to this month’s contest details can be found at:
Kevin Z. Garvey
Time pilot Tommy Garfield looked at his black Casio G-shock watch. It was 10:15 pm on a Friday night. In just 45 minutes, he’d be taking his first official time-flight into the future. And when he landed, the world would be a much different place.
Tommy was standing out on his back porch, looking up at the night sky. It was a brilliant night, clear and bright with stars. Tommy gazed at the constellations, recognizing many of them from his cell phone’s Google Sky app.
The screen door behind him squeaked open. Mission Commander Bradley Garfield joined his son on the porch.
“Hi, Tommy. Ready for your first time flight?”
Tommy looked at his watch again. “T-minus 39 minutes,” he said. “And counting.”
Tommy and his dad surveyed the night sky.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Commander Garfield said. “So clear. So many stars. On a night like this you can see why our galaxy is called the Milky Way.”
“There’s the Big Dipper,” Tommy said, pointing toward Ursa Major.
“Well, enjoy it while you can. Because when you land in the future, not a single one of those stars is going to be visible. No constellations, no planets…nothing but one giant star blotting out everything else.”
Tommy nodded. “Shining so bright you can’t even stare at it without going blind.”
Commander Garfield smiled. “You’re not scared, are you?”
Tommy made a face. “I’m a time pilot, Dad.”
Garfield laughed. “That’s my boy.”
The kitchen smelled of fresh baked goodies.
Tommy and his dad sat at the table, eagerly anticipating dessert.
“Brownies!” Tommy exclaimed when he mom placed a tray of chocolatey goodness down in front of him.
“They’re big, so you only get one each,” she said. “And that’s an order.”
After Tommy and his dad devoured their treats, it was time to get serious. They looked at their watches.
“T-minus 7 minutes,” Tommy said. “And counting.”
“Let’s do this,” Commander Garfield said.
Tommy leaped off his chair and kissed his mom. Then he and Garfield raced upstairs, to where the time jet awaited.
Tommy went through his pre-flight time jump routine, which began with the brushing of his teeth. Afterwards, he went into his room, where the time jet was housed, changed into his time-flight suit and hopped aboard. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was now less than T-minus 1 minute and counting.
Mission Commander Garfield glanced at his own watch. “Ready for takeoff?” he asked.
“Ready, sir!” said Tommy, lying back, eyeing his watch. “T-minus fifteen seconds!”
“Give me the countdown.”
“T-minus ten seconds…nine…eight…”
“Ignition set,” Commander Garfield said. The lights went out. “All systems go.”
“Initiating time flight guidance systems.” A dim light illuminated the room. “Ready for takeoff.”
“…two…one…” A beeping sound from his watch told Tommy that zero hour had arrived. “Ignition!” he said.
“Blast off!” Commander Garfield said. “Prepare for sonic boom! See you in the future!”
Slam! Tommy jumped at the sound of the sonic boom. And then all was quiet. He was alone now, in his time-jet, hurtling through space and time. He closed his eyes, knowing that within minutes he would be entering a state of suspended animation, one that would last until his watch beeped again. And the future became the present.
Soon he felt himself drifting off…
Tommy’s watch beeped. His eyes popped open. Sunlight streamed through his bedroom window, proof that he was in the future.
He hopped off his time jet, changed into shorts and a t-shirt, washed his face, brushed his teeth, and went downstairs to the mission debriefing facility.
His mother and father were at the table, drinking coffee.
“Hey, Tommy,” his dad said. “How was the flight?”
Tommy grinned. “Mission accomplished.”
“Would you like some toast?” his mother asked.
“Can I have a brownie instead? Please?”
His mom made a face.
Tommy mom smiled. She went to the counter and came back with a brownie on a plate.
“Are you ready for the mission debriefing?” asked Commander Garfield.
Tommy bit into the brownie and held up a forefinger as he chewed. After a big swallow: “Ready!”
“Okay. First question is: How far into the future did you travel?”
Tommy looked at his watch. He’d taken off at 11 pm, and it was now 9 am. He counted in his head. “Ten hours,” he said.
“And what changes have taken place in that time period?”
Tommy thought about that for a moment. “Well, the stars are gone.”
Commander Garfield tilted his head from side to side. “Not gone exactly, but certainly out of sight. For now at least.”
“Until the sun goes down,” Tommy said, and took another bite of his brownie.
“And not only did you travel through time on your flight,” he told Tommy, “you also traveled through space as well. How far do you think you went?”
Tommy shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Take a guess.”
“A million miles?”
Commander Garfield chuckled. “That’s not a bad guess actually. But believe it or not, you traveled much further than that.”
Tommy’s eyes went wide. “Really?”
“Absolutely. Let’s break it down. Now, as you know, the Earth spins around on its own axis. That’s how day turns to night and night to day. How long does it take to complete one full rotation?”
“That’s easy,” Tommy said. “Twenty four hours.” He took another bite of his brownie.
“Correct,” his dad replied. “And since the Earth is so big, it has to be moving pretty darn fast to complete one full rotation in just twenty four hours.”
“Over 1000 miles per hour.”
“Exactly. But that’s nothing. Because in addition to rotating, the Earth is also revolving around the sun, which is why we have seasons.”
“It takes one year to go around the sun,” Tommy said.
“Correct again. Do you know how fast we’re moving?”
Tommy chewed thoughtfully on a piece of brownie, then shrugged.
His dad smiled. “67,000 miles per hour.”
“Wow!” Tommy said.
“But that’s nothing either,” Commander Garfield said. “Because the entire solar system is revolving around the center of the Milky Way. Care to guess how fast we’re moving in that direction?”
Tommy thought about that for a moment, but couldn’t come up with an answer.
“514,000 miles per hour,” Commander Garfield said.
Tommy’s eyes went wide. “That’s too fast!”
“But that’s nothing either.”
“There’s more?” Tommy said, and started laughing.
“There sure is,” replied Commander Garfield. “Because the galaxy is moving too. About as fast as the solar system: a half a million miles per hour.”
Tommy’s jaw dropped.
“That’s amazing,” his mom said.
“So every hour,” Commander Garfield said, “we move about a million miles through space. How many miles do we move in ten hours?”
Tommy calculated in his head. “Ten million miles!”
“Crazy, isn’t it?”
“It sure is!”
“But that’s not all,” Commander Garfield said. “There are plenty of other changes taking place as we fly into the future. Did you know that there are four babies born every second?”
Tommy shook his head. “There are?”
“Yep. And if you do the math, it turns out that, during your time flight, there were about 150,000 babies born.”
“That’s a lot of diapers,” Tommy’s mom said.
“That’s a lot of poopy diapers!” Tommy said.
Garfield laughed. “And that’s just people. Think of all the animals born, all the fish, insects…spiders.”
“I hate spiders!” Tommy said.
“Every second of every day,” Garfield went on, “enormous change takes place. And that’s just on Earth. Who knows what’s happening on other planets.”
“Sure. Scientists are finding Earth-like planets all over the universe now. And on some of those planets, there might even be intelligent creatures. Creatures like us, with hopes and dreams and laughter and tears…”
“And poopy diapers!” Tommy said.
His mom and dad laughed. “Exactly.”
The three of them fell silent for a few moments, contemplating what they’d just discussed.
“So,” Garfield said, breaking the spell. “Did you enjoy our little time pilot game?”
“I did,” Tommy said. “A lot.”
“What was your favorite part?”
Tommy didn’t hesitate. “The sonic boom!”
His dad laughed. “I slammed your bedroom door pretty hard, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did,” Tommy’s mom said with mock anger.
Garfield winked at his wife. “The good news is that real time travel doesn’t require a sonic boom.”
“I want to play it again,” Tommy said.
“Actually,” Garfield said, “you’re playing it right now. We’re all time pilots, Tommy. We’re all flying into the future, one second at a time. Pretty cool, huh?”
“That’s chill!” Tommy said, and popped the last of his brownie into his mouth.
His mom went to the refrigerator. “Here’s something else that’s chill,” she said, returning with an ice cold carton of milk.
“I’m glad there’s milk in the future!” Tommy said, draining his glass.
His parents laughed. Then the three of them, along with everyone else in the world, continued on with their journey into space-time.