Short Story, podcast, Time Thief, These Fantastic Worlds, Jake Jackson

Micro-fiction 022 – Time Thief (Echoes series)

The time thief, strapped to the chair by his torturers, had time jumped so many times  his body was spent, his mind trapped in a drug addled frenzy of desperation…

Echoes | Time Thief

The year was 2080. In the half light, Zed felt the restraints on each limb, and the pain in his near-broken back as it was forced against the operating chair. The space, a small barn, was dank and filthy, it’s timbered ceiling half-ripped open and the windows boarded with light leaking in to tease Zed with its glimpses of a real world. He had been shackled for weeks, and they had made him time jump, again and again. His body had lost control of itself, he was starving, shaking and finally, had given up asking them to kill him. But he knew they were not finished, and would force him to go back once more. This time though, he had nothing else to lose.

“Wake him up.” A gravelled voice shouted from outside.

The response was hesitant. “But he’s not strong enough to go yet.”

“Then he’s no use to us any more.” A third voice, drawled, and spat loudly.

“We have to go tonight. It’s the big one, the last one, then we can all get out of here.” First voice ground out.

“I’m telling you, he can’t do it, his body is too weak.”

“Look when I ‘hired’ you, I didn’t expect any scruples to get in the way.”

“We’re wasting our time, just get rid of him and the doctor. We’ll have to find another one.” The drawling voice sounded more calculating. “Hey, what about that nice sister of yours, perhaps we should see if she can do it. She’s waiting in the farm with our guys. I’m sure they’ll find out if she has any ‘special abilities’.” The laughter snaked under the door.

“No, no, she doesn’t have the ability.” The doctor’s voice was terrified. He was silent for a moment. “I’ll double the dose.” He spoke quietly.

“Oh, but you said that wasn’t possible.” The voice laughed.

“It will be the last time. He won’t survive it.” The doctor again.

“It really is the big one, let’s get on with it then.”

The door swung open and rattled against the wall. In the exhaustion of his murky eyelids Zed saw the tall man duck inside the room, brushing his suit down. The man that followed, with his sleeves rolled up, and a medical bag in hand, kept his eyes to the floor. The other man directly behind him held a simple street issue laser gun loosely by his side.

“Oh look, I can see his eyes move. Can’t be all bad then.” The tall man leaned back and grabbed the doctor, “so get on and do your job.” The door closed, with the tall man and his protection stationed by the door.

The doctor approached the chair. He seemed to have difficulty breathing. He half turned but the man with the laser motioned impatiently catching one of the streams of light in its barrel.

The doctor grasped the arm of his patient, and muttered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean this to happen. I just made the discovery, then they took my sister, and now all this.” He looked helplessly at Zed, hoping for forgiveness, absolution perhaps. Instead he saw the eyes of a tortured and hollow man.

“Just get on with it Doc. You’ll get your money, and your sister back, as long as we get what we need.”

***

Zed remembered the first time they had strapped him to the chair. Lurking in the outer colony they had found him under a ruined bridge, slumped against bloody walls. The raid had targeted the Sensates, those who were known to travel through time, outcasts even amongst those at the very edge of existence. Originally four of them had been dragged to this place, injected with instruction sets that gave co-ordinates and objectives, each one dispatched to the vaults of the most prestigious banks of the world, in the past. They stole gold bullion and land registry documents,andranything that would blackmail a government official.

But each of the others had died. The strain of constant time travel, sucking the energy of the body, especially on the longer trips back, had crushed them, reducing their bodies to husks, the heads shrinking into their shoulders, translucent skin revealing yellowed skulls. He remembered the screams as each fellow Sensate had succumbed, over the last three weeks. And now Zed was the only one left, and every day they sent him back, he became more feeble.

On his return he would describe the location of the latest ill-gotten, miserable prize. He had become an expert in finding hidden places, usually in sewers or foundations of new buildings, so they could be discovered in 2080. And they made him return by forcing him to kill, the only way to release enough psychic energy for the time travel. It was the final act in each task, the killing of a guard, or bank clerk, some petty official trying to stop the theft. The murder would force him to escape back to his own time, to hide in the swelling mound of regret that passed for his conscience.

But this was the last job. He heard that much as soon as they had walked in.

The doctor leaned over him, exhaling his excruciating shame. The drug was injected into the crook of the arm. It was the second time today, and this time, twice the dose.

Zed felt the long rush of air pressing hallucinogens onto his bloodstream. He waited for it to overwhelm him, it took much longer than usual and suddenly he lurched upwards, his back buckling, his lungs grasping at the air. A thousand voices screamed at him, the swirl of instructions delivered with the drug, and the voices of those whose lives he lived in reverse.

He landed inside the safety deposit vault of the JP Morgan Chase bank in Manhattan, surrounded by the walls of strong boxes, each one labelled with the date of their contract, the latest being 1980. The heavy lead titanium door would be his only exit.

As always, he knew precisely which boxes to raid, and what to retrieve, but this was his last journey back, and he had planned his own exit over the last few visits across time. Four secure boxes yielded their contents. Deeds to be destroyed, documents to be altered to ensure that in his own time, the buildings and the land in New Jersey, all would be owned by a web of corporations which had been acquired slowly through the time jumps by a single holding company, making it the richest business in the world.

“It’s always about the money.” He coughed, part of his 1980s body seemed to understand the condition of his future self. “Well not for me.”

He heard a distant noise. A clattering on the other side of the huge door. At this point, previously, he would make himself ready to take the life of whoever was on the other side, and guarantee his return. But now, with so much of the drug in his body, and so much practise, he could time jump for his own purposes, so he leapt from the security vault, voices chasing after him, and burst through the air, to appear a few feet above the ground in a deserted farmyard, outbuildings quietly rattling in the wind that swept from barren fields to the west. But now he had a little more time, and had prepared the way over the last few visits.

He looked around, checked that nobody had noticed his arrival and was reassured by the dusty creak of a broken gate. He had stolen the Deeds to the land in one of his many visits, and knew this was where he would be held in 2080, so he had spent several of his journeys ensuring that no one else would buy or lease it over the following decades.

He hacked another cough from his chest, but picked himself up and strode over to the corner of the yard, lifted a metal flap to a coal shuttle, and retrieved a small package. Then he moved to the back of the main farmhouse, found the headstone of the family dog, lifted and pulled out another small packet. Several hiding places, each with similar parcels, and he raided them all, places he had kept hidden from the prying eyes of the decades and the decayed.

He raced across to the barn, and paused at the entrance, noticing that the door was less flimsy, the walls and ceiling less broken, but still essentially the same place he would endure in 2080. And so too was the chair in the middle, some sort of dentist’s chair, within which, in 100 years he would be tortured, forced to return back in time, to steal and slaughter, again and again

Swiftly he entered the barn. He sat on the floor, surrounded by the packets, and, his hands, shaking with the adrenaline of the drug and the time jumps, slowly assembled the contraption. He pressed at the wooden floorboards, pulled up the section near to the chair, and, facing the door, placed a pressure pad underneath, then replaced the timber. He picked up the remaining parcels and raced around the farm, pulling out the smaller contraptions, inserting packets into all the buildings.

“Now to return.” He almost laughed to himself. He had retrieved an old knife from the long disused kitchen of the main farmhouse, took a single regretful breath, and plunged it into his heart.

“Aaah!” Pain fused with triumph. He rushed back, the sound of a thousand voices recompiling in his head, but this time, when he flicked his eyes open, still trapped in the chair in 2080, with the hateful faces staring at him, he grinned back, blood spurting from his mouth, a red smear spreading across his chest.

“What the Hell?!” The tall man at the door, and the man with the gun rushed towards the doctor who had already leaned down to press his palm against Zed’s forehead. As they reached the chair they stepped on the pressure pad placed some 100 years before and triggered the device. A massive explosion tore them all apart, and sent shockwaves across the farm, triggering more explosions in every building of the not-so-abandoned farm.

***

Three vehicles of the New Jersey police department roared across the horizon and and ten minutes later, they hovered in the air, the retro boosters at the ready.

They found a devastated barn, and five buildings frozen in huge blocks of ice. They had been drawn to the scene by a quaintly handwritten letter posted just a few days earlier, and detailing a trail of thefts and fraud committed by the men now in the frozen buildings.

“Guess we’d better start there.” One of the policeman motioned to his colleague. They sauntered to the burned remains of the barn, at the middle of which the metal bones of a dentist’s chair were surrounded by the blasted remains of four men, only one of which seemed to be smiling at the point of its violent demise.

[end]

Text, image, audio © 2015 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to  Frances Bodiam and Elise Wells,  Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Letraset and Micron pigment ink pens,  Rotring pens and inks, Daler Rowney acrylic ink, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook app.

Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, published on Scribd, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, through this blog: These Fantastic worlds.

More next week… 

There are many other stories in this series, including:

Here’s a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts