Short Shorts

Often a story when written needs to be offered freely to everyone.

The following story was conceived after reading an article on Einstein spacetime.

The Time Trap

When Armond made the light-condensing chamber, he had no idea that it would facilitate time travel. He made a device the size of a Jell-O box, to gather light from lenses placed above one side. His purpose was to study the quantum effects of light waves versus particles. He discovered that his polyhedral chamber distorted spacetime geodesics in a way not explained by the usual metrics.

By testing the motion of the light waves, he saw that the isofrequency of geodesic shared the three orbital frequencies, Ωrˆ and Ωθ, and Ωφ, associated with Einstein’s equations; however, Ωφ differed from the usual metric. Because of the odd metric, he termed Ωrˆ and Ωθ liberation frequencies associated with radial and longitudinal wave periods, while he termed Ωφˆ the Mobius frequency. He found that Ωφ hopped through the black-strings of the geodesics as mediated by the liberation frequencies. He had found a natural way to bend time.

The liberation waves mediated Ωφ to move time-wise backward and forward on a black-string within a geodesic. All of this to say that he invented time travel on a quantum scale.

Being a genius, it didn’t take Armond long to move his time machine from the quantum regime to world-lines that defined spacetime and the arrow of time. He expanded the chamber to the size of a shoebox and added microprocessors to regulate the two liberation Omegas in a way to realize an exact hopping time of the Mobius frequency, which he then controlled with a quantum computer. As a result, the “Machine” as the press called it, now had one continuous stream of time, an arrow, that could be pointed either forward or backward.

# # # # #

Monday, February 29, 2044, 10:00 a.m.

Two women, Jill and Constantine, and one man, Paul, sat in straight-back chairs in a triangle facing each other inside an anechoic chamber. The Machine had been placed in the center.

“How are you people doing?” said the chief operator over a radio.

“I’m good.”

“Okay, sir,” whispered Constantine giving a thumb’s up.

“Ready to blast to the past,” said Paul with a tremor in his voice.

Armond said, “We’re going to transport you back one hour. Please, when you see yourself do not interact with him or her. Understood? Nod, please.”

Each nodded. None knew where they would wind up, but if in the anechoic chamber, there was no escaping their double. They had been in the chamber for two hours.

“We’re energizing the computational systems,” said the chief operator. Several lights flickered and glowed green on the instrument near their feet. “Please, ready yourselves for the light flash.”

Each pulled the cobalt goggles down over his or her eyes.

Technician Cassidy said, “Confirmed, sir. All go,” and stepped away from the window after closing the blackout shade.

“Armond, it’s up to you to give the order,” said the chief operator, Op One.

“Let it rip,” said the scientist in a lighthearted manner. He smiled and turned to stare at the chamber. He didn’t know if the anechoic chamber would travel with them or not. He hoped not, his equations had indicated it would stay, but like Einstein’s theory, the equations weren’t perfect.

Cassidy pressed the red button. A brief thunk with a short after ring sounded, and then nothing.

“They’re gone, sir,” said Op One. “The anechoic chamber didn’t move.”

“Well done. Let’s all get coffee.”

“Sir, what about bringing them back?”

“Op One, do you see the device in the anechoic chamber?”

“I do.”

“Do you see Jill, Constantine, and Paul?”

“No, I don’t.”

“We have an enigma. They went somewhere, but their means of returning stayed here.”

“We’ll never see them again?”

“Not necessarily.” Armond was now standing by the lab exit with his hand on the knob.

“But…” said Cassidy as he paled.

“But what, young man? They’re fine. They will live out their lives, except one hour behind ours. Think of what they’ll contribute to the science of time travel.”

“I don’t understand, Dr. Armond,” said Op One, Armond’s star doctoral candidate.

“They will figure out how to return to the present.”

Cassidy lunged at the professor. “You bastard! You knew all along there would be no way back!”

“Contrair, young man,” he said, shoving the younger student back. “I worked out quite carefully how to return. One of them should have taken the device. They knew that.”

# # # # #

Monday, February 29, 2048, Morning (four years later)

“Jill, what have you found so far?”

“Not much, Paul.” She began crying. “Where is Constantine?”

“We’ll find her. I promise.”

“We’ve spent four years looking.” She brushed angrily at her tears. “We know we went back exactly one hour to the second, even the microsecond. Why wasn’t Constantine with us?” She waved away the question. They had been over this hundreds if not thousands of times. They had filled light boards, chalkboards, computer memories, and napkins with equations, scenarios, and thoughts. Not one had panned out.

Paul shrugged and sat on a tree stump with his head in his hands. “There are no more alternatives. We’ve exhausted everything.”

She sat in the grass and watched students going to class or to other buildings. After several minutes she said, “While we’ve discussed an alternate reality and a multiverse, I think we have to revisit one or the other.”

“Where can we go with the notions? We’ve shown the physics is consistent, Einstein’s equations are consistent, and Armond’s theory right.”

She stared into space, the evening sky was beginning to show the first stars. Saturn popped into view slightly east. Then Jupiter farther east.

Paul also gazed at the heavens, and when the two planets blinked into view, he said, “Holy moly, Jill. Entanglement. That’s the answer!” He jumped to his feet, running toward the library.

“What on Earth do you mean?”

“She and we are entangled in some way. Constantine is with us, but away from us. She has a characteristic that is opposite one of ours. We have to determine what that trait is.”

“You mean like electrons? One spins clockwise, and its counterpart spins counterclockwise!”

“Precisely.” He slowed so she could catch up.

While continuing to work part-time at a Starbucks, they spent the next year proving their entanglement hypothesis.

Jill was now six-months pregnant with Paul’s child. They lived together in a flat a few blocks away from the university on the third floor. They had a view out of their living room window of a small lake with sailboats and paddleboards. 

“When we make that damn machine, I wonder whether it will transport you, me, and our baby back to 2044?”

“My God, please, pray that it does,” cried Jill.

He nodded and waited on a woman who wanted a coffee…no, a tea concoction with almost every additive that Starbucks had. When finally finished ordering, he stepped to Jill. “It will, hon, it will.” He took one of her hands in his and dried a tear running down her cheek. “We have to believe and make sure the machine will.”

“I know, but what if…”

“There is no what if. The time-machine does not hold what transpired in memory.”

She nodded and made the tea-drink the woman ordered, smiling, or frowning as she added each ingredient. “This will taste awful,” she whispered.

After work, they headed to the library. They had made progress, but one aspect of entanglement on a human scale still eluded them. Three hours later, they had filled six sheets of a notebook with equations and notes. They went home to eat dinner and talk.

Jill sat at the card table, thumbing through her summaries, reading them to Paul. 

Paul stood and ran his hand through his hair while squinting. “I got it, Hon. If e, the energy, is equal to the mass divided by the appropriate quantum number, then the spin is the opposite. On the other hand—”

“But how does any of this help?”

“It will eventually tell us which trait is the opposite.”

“That’s guessing. It could be she is nasty because I’m nice or has brown hair because I’m blonde,” said Jill.

“No, no. They can’t be psychological, or pieces of you, assuming it’s you.”

“Your male and she’s female?”

“We already were. It has to be something like, she’s invisible because we’re visible.”

Jill jumped as a thought haunted her. “Or she’s non-human with all the characteristics of a normal human?”

He dropped the pencil and stared at his fiancé. “You nailed it. She could be around the corner, and we’d never know.”

“If she’s not human, she’s probably dead.” Jill stood and rushed to the bathroom. Her stomach could not hold her meal down.

He ran after her. “She’s alive. She’s sentient. Whales are non-human and look at how they thrive. Constantine is a doer, a survivor. Think about how she always aced every test. She wasn’t the smartest in any class, but she made straight As.”

She held her head over the toilet. Paul pulled her hair back. She vomited and vomited. When she stopped, she sat on her heels and wept. “She and I were friends, not close, but now I love her.”

“You can tell her when we meet up.”

Jill nodded, and with his help, stood. “Let’s get to work.”

The next evening, when neither worked, they set out to find her. Believing Constantine could be almost human but with distinct differences, after all, once an electron, always an electron. So, once human, still a variant of human. Their premise eliminated cockroaches, rats, dogs, and so on. They were looking for something ugly and human-sized. She assuredly did not walk on two legs but would be mobile. She had to eat.

They searched Boston for the next ten nights. She could not go out during the day. The tenth night, they crept along the oceanfront near the three-mast ship Independence.

From a dark crevice in the seawall, a voice said, “Pst, Jill, Paul. Me. Constantine.”

Both jerked to a halt and pointed their flashlights along the wall.

“The splintered beams to your right.”

 Their lights stopped on a monster undulating out of the seawall on pads that looked like those of an octopus.

Jill ran to Constantine and threw her arms around her. “Hi.” She gasped. “You smell horrible,” and backed away.

“Thanks. I needed that.” She laughed. “I know I do. What happened?”

Jill said, “The time machine generated a harmonic reality. The black-string you went along differed from the one Paul and I traveled. That’s the difference.”

“We wound up at the same time, different places yet close, but me in a monstrous form,” she said as she wilted.

“It took Paul and me a week to find each other.”

Paul stepped to her and kissed her slimy cheek. “It’s so good to find you, Constantine. We’ve been searching for five years.”

“I too, but you can understand my limitations.”

They sat on a narrow strip of sand since the tide was out. “Recently, we figured out that the difference between you and us is one of entanglement.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. I mean,” she stopped speaking and shuddered. “It such a simple explanation. I thought it was a problem with the machine. I mean, I know it was, but I would have never guessed it created more than one black-string.”

“The algorithms were supposed to assure there would be only one.” 

“And assure that the box traveled with us. I wore the locator pin. I still have it.” She held up an old tattered cloth purse. “I’ve been so focused on either finding you or getting back, I have been praying to it like a god.” She sagged and wiped her massive face with a flipper. She tried to straighten but broke down in tears.

“Well, we’re together, so now we have to create the box to return,” said Paul.

“Yeah, with me here and you wherever.”

Jill stood and walked to Constantine and sat taking a flipper. “You’ll move in with us. We live near the university. It will work. You can go out at night, and we’ll go out with you. We can make you a disguise,” Jill ended with an upbeat inflection.

The ugly woman laughed. “A disguise to make my flippers look like legs?”

Paul said, “Perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, but the three of us can do almost anything. Come on, let’s head to our house. Get your things.”

“My things? What in your human world would I need?” She gestured, swinging both arms wildly. “I eat fish heads and guts from the harbor market dump. I’m hairy, like Bigfoot, so I don’t need clothes. I’m a mess.” She stuck a hand in the air. “I’m alive and healthy, so lead on, you puny humans.”

As they walked to the apartment, they talked about how to reconstruct the time machine. It was going to be laborious. 

“So why haven’t you gone to Armond?” asked Constantine.

“He died from a massive coronary around three the next morning.”

“Ah, crap. Well, I guess in a way it’s good, or you’d be gone, and I’d be eating fish guts.”

“We vowed we would not leave without you.”

“Tell me. Have you run into yourselves?”

Both stutter-stepped and laughed. “So close many times.”

Jill said, “Paul came into the Starbucks one day where we work. We bailed out the back door and had to apologize profusely when we went back in.”

“What do we do now?”

“Revamp the time machine,” said Paul.

“Wow, that’s your plan?”

Jill wrinkled her forehead and squinted. “Pretty solid plan, huh?”

“Anything to have back my old body.”

# # # # #

Three months later, with Paul and Jill’s help, Constantine had adjusted to life in the apartment. With the birth of Antonio, the place was crowded. Jill worked full time to make ends meet. Paul and Constantine spent their days rebuilding the time machine. They improved various circuitry, the lasers, and found the quantum computer was so much hype. Their box, in fact, all the apparatus, was now the size of a matchbox. They tested the machine using rats that scurried around Boston. They could follow them as far as their destination but then lost track of them. They also sent clocks with the rats to verify the time of arrival to the nanosecond. There were still problems. The rats often died in transit or arrived with no tail or two heads.

“This is more like teleportation than time travel,” said Constantine one afternoon when a rat transited but “landed” with its feet where the tail belonged.

“Like the movie The Fly,” said Paul. “I believe what is wrong is we have more than one geodesic.”

Jill walked in at that moment. “I know exactly what the problem was.” She took off her coat and picked up Antonio. “Do you remember the lady that ordered the weird tea drink?”

“Yeah, the stringy-haired brunette with the bug eyes?”

“That one. She’s a graduate physics student. She came in today and ordered a horrible coffee concoction, so I asked her what’s up.”

“She said that whenever she gets a remarkable grade on a complex assignment, she celebrates with some nasty drink. She only has to take a sip to satisfy her superstition. Anyway, I asked what the latest assignment was and, guess what? She said Armond time-travel.” Jill walked to the refrigerator, holding Antonio. She took out a bottle of mother’s milk and set it in the microwave. As the microwave counted down, she continued. “We talked about his theory and time travel. She told me the experimenters found the apparatus produced contra-time-like geodesics where the theory predicted none. His flaw in the theory was the failure to identify entanglement.”

“Terrific. We’re the product of a flawed theory and failed experiment,” said Constantine.

Paul said, “That implies that if we attempt to return, one or more of us will wind up like you did. Or worse.”

Both women sunk and shivered. They looked in each other’s eyes and nodded cautiously.

“What do we do?” said Constantine.

Jill said, “We enlist the help of Bug-eyes and make an apparatus that will send you back, making you whole. That is our only option.”

Bug-eyes came in a few days later to order a normal coffee. Her name was Julia. Jill talked with her at length about the three of them and how they came to be here. Julia wanted to meet the others, knowing what Constantine looked like.

A year past, while the four updated the theory to understand the entanglement component. They incorporated the latest theory into the device and continued testing it with rats. Their revisions worked. The furry mammals went out the other end both whole and at the time desired. The last experiment was to send two huge stray dogs back six years. One was sent on the normal black-string, and the other on the contra-string using the same frequency. One dog arrived appearing normal, while the other had similar characteristics to those of Constantine.

They had to bring them back one at a time since they were spatially separated. Their revised notion indicated the apparatus would replicate itself and therefore travel with each. It did. With one device attached to the odd dog, they energized after reversing the time component. The dog arrived looking like its old self.

Constantine was jubilant. “I can hardly wait to return to 2044, finish my doctorate, and live normally.”

“You do understand there is a slight probability you might wind up not being your old self?”

“It’s worth the risk. I can’t go out in public, can’t eat most of the foods you eat, and who would want me like this?” She patted the dog’s head. “I’ll take Arrow with me. We’ll be companions forever.”

When Julia calculated the Ωrˆ and Ωθ frequencies they would use for Constantine, she noticed what she considered an anomaly, namely the entangled component could not be calculated away. “Guys, since the entangled component will always be there, what came back with the dog from 2044?”

“Nothing. Why?”

“When I established the frequencies, I realized the apparatus replicated before commencing time travel. Something had to travel with the box. And where the hell is the box?”

Because the box was no larger than a pack of cigarettes, there was no point locating it or what traveled back with the dog. It was something—biological, inanimate, chemical—unknowable.

“Well, that kills that. Constantine, do you still want to journey?””

“I do. We’ve qualified and quantified the risks. You’ll be able to monitor me and bring me back if I turn out to be other than who I was.””

“Ture. Let’s do it, then.”

Their plan was to send Constantine, and then Julia would send Jill and Paul.

The next morning, at six a.m., the four walked to the park behind the flat with Antonio and the dog, and set up the apparatus. It was a beautiful setting. Ducks paddled and quacked on the pond. Fish jumped. The wind rustled the branches of the trees, and a light dusting of snow gave a gold sheen to the ground as the sun rose over the city. Although cold, the chill was not biting, it was invigorating.

Jill said, “Everything checks.”

Paul handed Constantine the box. “Hang onto it. The replicate will be somewhere else.”

Julia brought the dog to her. “Hold onto the dog’s collar. That way, he might travel with you instead of on his own. It’s worth a try.”

They didn’t need to count down from ten, but the countdown gave each a time to reflect on the past years of anxiety, wonder, bewilderment, and fear. Some of the time had been good. They found Constantine. Others not so with the realization that they had been trapped.


Julia touched the computer return key. Constantine and the dog vanished. 

A moment later, both appeared on the monitor. 


“You and the dog look normal. You made it. How do you feel?”

“Great. I’m looking at Armond walking into the lab.”

“We got you back a few minutes early. Don’t follow him.”

“What do I do?”

“Take the dog for a fifteen-minute walk. Then go say hello to Armond.”

She waved goodbye, and the image died.

Julia, Jill, and Paul stood in the park, gazing at each other, with thoughts about their success. They had corrected Armond’s failure, and Constantine turned out whole. They had a grasp on time travel. 

It would be a real money maker.

Jill turned to pick up Antonio. “Antonio, where are you?” She screamed, “Antonio!”

The End

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