Observation Time

Also available in ePub format.

"I think we're ready to begin. It is 4:07 PM, April 30th. With me are Drs. Francis, Morgenstern and Eddings. I am Dr. Jon Stockton. We are about to complete the experiment begun on April 2nd when the device was activated and Dr. Eddings decoded the message. We were actually ready to begin on April 1st but realized that April Fool's Day was probably not the best day to start."


"That was Dr. Eddings, by the way. In just a few minutes, I will encode the message and deactivate the device. Dr. Eddings will then tell us the message. The tricky part being that I have to encode the message without Dr. Eddings finding out what I am entering since I haven't actually decided what message to send. Really should have taken care of that, but there were just so many factors to keep in mind."


"Yes, but what event from the last twenty-nine days is really worthy of encoding? This began to trouble me more and more as Drs. Francis and Morgenstern know too well. Sorry, Peter, that I did not feel it appropriate to confide in you. Considering the circumstances."

"Of course."

"The issue being I should not encode an event of such historic import from the past twenty-nine days that it would cause you undue stress. Fortunately, world events worked in my favor."


"Or not. After all, what has happened in the past month worth noting? Since I do not know what Peter—Dr. Eddings—decoded, I could encode just about anything. The first stanza of Jabberwocky, for example. The problem then being how exactly to prove the message was encoded today."


"Yes, I have more-or-less decided the best course of action is to pick an event from this morning."


"But how could I know something unique enough would happen just this morning to encode? This has caused me no small amount of stress."


"Serendipitously, I have stumbled across an item in an obscure newspaper published just this morning that I am reasonably certain Dr. Eddings has not seen. Thank you, Internet."


"So, without further ado."


"I will now encode the message."

"Wait, stop!"

"We've been over this Dr. Eddings."

"I know. I cannot allow."

"You cannot tell me what you know."

"I know."

"It would invalidate the entire experiment."

"I know."

"You're lucky to even be in the room."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"It was clearly a mistake."

"You must listen to me."

"Dr. Eddings. I know what message I am about to encode. I fail to see how it could affect you so. Don't think I haven't noticed your behavior. It has very nearly compromised our research."

"Please, listen."

"Maybe man wasn't meant to know the future."

"It didn't happen!"

"Dr. Eddings!"

"The message—prediction—it didn't come true."

"You are about to compromise the experiment."

"Listen, the message."

"How could it have not come true? I read about it in this morning's paper! You are simply mistaken."

"That's not the message!"


"April 27th, 11:30 PM, Dr. Jon Stockton was struck and killed by a car as he left the lab! Driver and car have not been found!"

"You have invalidated the experiment! Set back months of research!"

"You're not dead!"

"Small comfort, I find! We'll have to start again."

"The device is still on."

"Yes, I still have to encode the message. Then, we start again. Refine our protocols. Understand what went wrong."

"Here's the message."

"Do not hand me that paper!"


"I shall encode the message as planned."


"What difference does it make? The experiment is invalid. I can send any message I like."

"Send this message. We'll have salvaged something."

"What, pray tell?"

"That the device works. That the message decoded was the message encoded."

"Proves nothing. You told me the message before I could encode it."

"At least it will be the same message. We will have preserved time."

"Don't be a fool."

"You said so yourself. We don't have to send a message about time. It could have been anything. Including a lie."

"But we would not have proven that time travel works."

"Time travel works if you send this message."

"Without proof."

"We shall get proof. Refine our protocols. Start again."

"We shall start again. There will be changes. I can assure you of that."

"Encode this message."


"This message, please. You'll destroy time."

"Thank you, Dr. Eddings. You may go."


"Your presence is no longer required. We can finish this without you. Thank you, for all that you have done."

"You cannot mean that."

"Destroy time?"


"Destroy time?"

"You'll break the past from the future. Splinter reality. If you don't send the message I received."

"We went over the math carefully."

"I know."

"Very carefully."

"I know."

"Before we began. We all did. You were there."

"This isn't math."

"Everything is math!"

"Not anymore."

"You broke time, Dr. Eddings."


"You splintered reality."

"Never. I never."

"When you told me the message."

"No, time was already broken. When I read the message. When you sent it."

"You're talking gibberish."

"The message you haven't sent yet that I've already read. Broke time. Will break time if you don't send it."


"Doesn't have to be true. Just has to be."

"Talking non-sense. What if the lab had lost power? No message sent?"

"My god."

"How do you know we didn't lose power? Middle of the night. Would facilities have told us? The system rebooting. Would we know?"

"We didn't think."

"The backup, too?"

"Wait, we would know. The system didn't reboot. Couldn't. We would know."

"I'm encoding the message as planned."


"Wait, stop! What are you!"


"Thank you, Jim. Sarah. Are you all right, Peter?"

"Kill us all."

"I'll take that as good enough for now."

"What will happen?"

"The message encoded. The device deactivated. We shall study the data. Refine the protocols. This will not happen again."

"Dear god, will we feel it?"

"Encoding the message."

"Time unraveling."

"There, it is done."

"Oh, god, you did it, didn't you? Destroyed time."

"Read the message."


"The message, what does it say?"

"I know what it says, you bastard."

"You know what it said. Or, to be more precise, what you told us it said. What does it say now?"

"Sick bastard."

"How do you know what I encoded? Maybe, I encoded your message. Maybe, I told you to break protocol and claim the message predicted my death."

"No, I see it in your eyes. That's not what you sent."

"How can you be sure?"

"It's not what I remember."

"Time is broken, as you said. The past severed from the future. What could the message possibly say now?"

"Will we feel it?"

"Shall I tell you what I sent back through time?"

"Don't care."

"Tomorrow, we shall begin reviewing the data. Salvage what we can. Start over fresh."

"We'll never know, will we? Time unraveling. Will we know? Feel it happen?"

"The message, Peter, what does it say?"

"I don't know."

"Read it. Be sure."


"Close the circle."


Observation Time – copyright © 2002 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
home | books | music | fiction | spoken word | comics | journal | news