Cosmic countdown


100 seconds.

That’s all you’ve got.

It takes just one to abort the colony ship’s self-destruct sequence. You can use the opposite ninety-nine to hug your spouse, your youngsters, your canine, one final time. You can attempt to hug your cat, however Whiskers has all the time hated hugs, so higher to squeeze the children tighter for an additional second.

The principle downside is that you simply don’t know if that is your timeline.

Positive, it’d be nice to save lots of your loved ones in another timeline, however they’re not those you’ve spent the previous 40 years with.

Altering timelines takes three seconds. The opposite factor you might do with these ninety-nine additional seconds can be to go to twenty-four different timelines, abort self-destruct sequences in every, and hope that considered one of them was your timeline.

And what if you from different timelines did the identical? What’s the maths on that? Would each timeline be saved? You don’t assume so, as a result of the timelines are infinite. Then again, if the timelines are infinite, then the yous are infinite. But when all of you solely have 100 seconds …

You don’t have time to do the maths. You may have solely ninety-nine seconds.

You hit abort; you’ve already misplaced one second, and are thereby now maxed out at twenty-four timelines to be saved.

The timeline slipstream shifts, half a second too slowly. In your haste and frustration at issues going awry, you neglect to have a look at your loved ones’s faces earlier than the change. You lose one other half second swearing to your self.

Within the subsequent timeline, the abort sequence is slower. You lose three complete seconds. You’re all the way down to twenty-three potential timeline financial savings.

This delay once more makes you neglect to look carefully at your loved ones, though you do steal the tiniest glimpse. Did your spouse all the time have a freckle above her proper eyebrow?

Making an attempt to image your spouse’s freckle sample loses you one other second. What number of is that now? You take a look at your timepiece and one other two tick away. You’ll be able to’t preserve monitor of the seconds. It’s best to have executed this as a countdown, not ranging from a random time. Though you didn’t actually have a selection when the slipstream system malfunctioned. You would like you understood timeline adjustments higher.

Wishing for understanding loses you at the least one other second or two. The abort sequence button is in the identical spot as a earlier timeline and it fortunately solely takes a second. You slipstream to a different timeline. That was run.

The following three timelines go easily — mastery, lastly. You’re pleased with your self.

You continue to haven’t checked out your loved ones, apart from noticing an errant spousal freckle. Or was it a mole?

The following timeline hits you want an area brick. You’ll be able to’t keep in mind if there actually are bricks in house. Slipstreaming with the malfunction appears to be damaging your reminiscences, or at the least altering them.

On this timeline, you’re not on a ship in any respect. What is that this place?

You take a look at your timepiece, solely to seek out it’s lacking. Your heartbeat races, a lot faster than 100 beats per minute; you received’t be capable of use it to rely.

You go searching, who is aware of what number of seconds elapsing. You’ve by no means been very environment friendly and also you’re falling again into your previous methods. You’ll by no means save your loved ones when you don’t keep up to the mark. You may have solely 100 seconds; now is just not the time to let issues collapse.

Above is darkish, a couple of dots twinkling, obscured by flashing greens, blues and purples. You gasp. You’ll be able to’t consider it. You’re again on Earth. No one’s been on Earth in …

The Northern Lights look similar to they did while you have been a child, the final time you noticed them earlier than you needed to go away.

You take a look at your palms once more; they’re as previous as you keep in mind. You haven’t gone again in time.

You shiver — it’s chilly out. You’re sporting a jacket and a hoodie, lengthy snow pants. On the bottom round you is a water-resistant blanket. Scattered throughout it are your youngsters, your spouse, your canine and a few snacks. Too chilly for Whiskers.

You blink. How lengthy does it take to blink? One-tenth of a second. You’ve misplaced no time for that. How lengthy does it take for tears to type? For them to freeze in your cheeks?

You shake your head. What concerning the different timelines?

Dread grabs at your abdomen, however one thing inside you makes it let go. You pull your spouse shut, the children nearer. The canine jumps on high of you, wags its tail.

“Thanks honey, that is actually nice,” says your spouse.

You smile; it feels heat regardless of the chilly.

You rely to your self.

One one thousand

Two one thousand

Has anyone mounted the slipstream malfunctions? Are all of the yous throughout all of the timelines not doomed? Who mounted it? How? It definitely wasn’t you; you’ve scarcely made an indent. You’re no large timeline saviour. You saved what number of? 4, 5? Was doing all of your finest someway lastly adequate?

Your smile falters, however just for a second. It’s too heat and nice, regardless of the chilly. Household, collectively, lastly. At house, on the Earth you had no enterprise leaving within the first place.

You retain the rely going to your self, numbering the color adjustments flashing above.

Ninety-eight.

Ninety-nine.

You surprise what comes after …

100.

The story behind the story

Jason P. Burnham reveals the inspiration behind Cosmic countdown.

This piece is deeply rooted within the pressures of parenthood and the fixed wrestle for steadiness between work, life, and perfection in each, of attempting to by no means miss a second, which leads to exactly engaging in the other. It’s a chunk whereby the protagonist lastly involves phrases with imperfection and slows down to only benefit from the life that’s taking place round them. And as to what occurs after that? Properly, that’s as much as the reader’s creativeness.

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