General Fiction posted August 13, 2022

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Sometime despite your best efforts...

Too Late

by Wayne Fowler

“Hey! You there! Stop right there! And get out of that, that… barrel thing!”

The voice was from a uniformed soldier. The words were as cited, though not understood at the time. Understanding came much later as Ohmie related them to an interpreter for insertion in his memoirs.

“Sorry, gotta go!” Ohmie re-entered his barrel thing, escaping the rifle fire, but not entirely. His time machine took a fatal hit, leaking the precious schmaltzicus from the warp-continuum. It was all the more precious because Ohmie couldn’t replace it, since he didn’t build it, but found it.

A year earlier, Ohmie and his girl, May, were exploring an Alaskan glacier. Their plan was to hike across the Kenai Peninsula outside of Seward, and then call for a watercraft guide to pick them up on the coast. Ohmie saw May to the pick-up point but returned to the perfectly intact time machine they’d discovered inside a glacier crevice. If it didn’t work, or even if it did work, Ohmie would be at the rendezvous point the next day at the same time.

“So when did you go to?” May asked as she watched Ohmie devour her provisions of generic potted meat and bottled water.

“1864, I think. Couldn’t tell for sure ‘cause I stayed right there in the ice. Nearly packed solid. I couldn’t stay long, or I’d still be there.”

“What good is time travel in a glacier?” May asked.

“Gotta figure that thing out. The dashboard doesn’t have a single word, just pictures. Pictures I haven’t figured out.”

“So what are you going to do?” she asked.

“I made copies. I’ll have to think on it.”

“Well don’t go looking at any rocks to sit on around here, we’re going back to town until the answer comes to you.”

They did. 

It took Ohmie two days and one night of rock-sitting, sitting on a rock, his preferred mode of thinking.

“The reason the control panel has twenty-four spaces must be for location coordinates to follow after the time entry. I’d thought it was to allow for seconds, or some alien language that used space time with more digits.”

“So when did you go this time?” May asked, again watching Ohmie devour her offered potted meat and bottled water.

“1864 for sure. I found Abe and was able to cross the river. The stone I threw made the soldier shoot high. Then the army chased him off with rifle fire. They made Lincoln stay a little farther back after that.”

“The hole in his hat,” the girl deduced.

“Yeah. Historical fact. Kinda odd, me makin’ history."

“So, when did you go?” the girl asked the next day as she opened Ohmie’s potted meat can. She knew what they’d discussed, but you never knew about time machines. Sometimes they might be erratic and send him to sometime else.

“August 27, 1963,” he replied.

“Then you did it! I checked on my iPad. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech on August 28, 1963, and wasn’t assassinated until 1968!”

Ohmie’s head dropped, his chin bouncing off his chest. His saving the man from assassination was successful, but not. Just like with Abe.

“So, when did you go?” May asked as Ohmie finished the bottled water as he once again climbed from his machine the next week.

“July 11, 1804. I couldn’t stop the duel, just distracted Burr.”

“I’m sorry, Sweetheart. Wikipedia says he died at 2PM the next day.”

Ohmie slumped.

“So when did you go?” the girl asked as Ohmie popped a potted meat can lid.

“December 11, 1960. How’d I do?” he asked, his mouth full of blended meat products.

“Great!” she replied. JFK wasn’t assassinated for three more years.”

Ohmie clasped his head in his hands, the remainder of the potted meat popping from the can into his ear.

“So, when did you go?” May again asked as she rooted through her bag for a can of potted meat.

“I tried to get to June 28, 1914. I was a little late. Ferdinand was already shot. So I backed up an’ tried again. Like I have before. Only this time, the machine was shot pretty badly. I just barely sputtered back.”

“Is it bad?” May asked, handing him his can of generic potted meat.

“’Fraid so.” Ohmie looked into his potted meat can. "Unless I can substitute potted meat for schmaltzicus. The reservoir was blasted near the bottom.”

“Oh well,” May replied, commiserating. “History was winning out anyway.”

Ohmie smiled a grim, humorless smile. “You wouldn’t have a can of potted chicken or tuna, would you?”

Ohmie is derived from the parts of electricity: amps, volts, ohms, watts, and etc.
Schmaltzicus - time machine fuel
warp-continuum - another expression for time
Abraham Lincoln really did get a hole shot in his hat while observing and visiting front line troops near Washington DC
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