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A Troubling of Time

by on October 20, 2015

Margaret leaned back against the cold metal of the time machine, and waited for history to change. She had waited for decades now. She could wait a little more, she told herself. She kept telling herself that in the darkness of the underground chamber, lit only by the dim glow of the time machine’s atomic power cells. Things would change any moment now. Merrick, back in the past, would stop her younger self from destroying the world. The dead city above her would spring back to life. All the hardship of the past generation would be undone. History would be better.

The time machine hummed blithely on. Margaret wondered if she ought to try and pull Merrick back. She wasn’t entirely sure how; she had assumed that once he changed history, he wouldn’t need to come back. He might not even have been born. Margaret resolutely ignored all the paradoxes that created. She had known of superheroes, before, who messed with timelines on a daily basis. They complained of violent headaches from trying to keep everything straight. Margaret simply didn’t deal with it.

The machine kept going. Nothing changed. A tiny little animal began to scurry around in Margaret’s mind. It pointed out that the room was still abandoned, that the city above was still silent. It had sharp claws, and it went very fast. Margaret shoved it in the back crevices of her mind. At that moment, the concrete underneath her feet trembled ever so slightly, and she heard a distant boom. Margaret leaped up and dashed out of the underground room. The little animal fell quiet, waiting to see what would happen.

Margaret ran hard up the tunnels, and finally burst out into the sunlight. She looked up, and saw a white streak of cloud, ruler-straight, and she almost sobbed aloud. She hadn’t seen a contrail since before the world collapsed. Contrails meant planes. Planes meant civilization.

Then she heard the aircraft itself. Without warning it tore across the sky above her, engines screaming. She started to cheer….and then she saw the plane’s markings. She didn’t recognize them. They weren’t the familiar red-white-blue she had known. The little animal began to scurry around again.

A dull boom resounded in the distance. Then another. A clanking, metallic rumble filled the air, punctuated by the staccato drumbeat of marching boots. Margaret looked down the street. The creature in her mind snarled, and flourished its claws. Margaret fought it back. Things were better. They had to be. Merrick had saved the world-

Soldiers swung into view. They didn’t look at all friendly. A megaphone squealed. “Attention. By order of the Empress, this is a restricted zone. Civilians are not permitted in a restricted zone. You have five seconds to identify yourself and surrender peacefully.”

Margaret had no identification. No one she knew did, not for a generation. She raised her hands, knowing that she could blast these people away in an instant. A squadron of the soldiers neatly detached itself from the main group and closed in on her. “Identification, ma’am, right now,” one of them barked at her.

“I don’t have-” she began.

“Ma’am, you want to explain why you’re a civilian, without ID, in a restricted zone?”

The little animal snarled louder. Margaret furiously ignored it. “I’m not strictly a civilian. I didn’t use to be, anyway. My name is Margaret; you might have heard of me as Meg Atomic?”

A short, pregnant pause ensued. Finally, the leader spoke. “You said her name. No one says the Empress’s name. No one, ever. She burned a whole town because someone there said her name.”

“But that’s my….oh no.” The little animal snapped, its claws sinking deep. Despair flooded Margaret. History hadn’t gotten better. She had made it worse.

Previous stories in this serial can be found under the Megverse category.


From → 8. The Megverse

  1. Natalie DeYoung permalink

    Satisfying twist at the end!

  2. Meg is literally her own worst enemy. Hopefully Merrick saves the day!

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