Short Fiction: “The Window”

Posted: February 17, 2010 in Erin Snyder, Short Fiction, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

[Short fiction submission today:  “The Window”, by most excellent Friend of Threat Quality, Erin Snyder.]

“The Window”

It should be noted that Julius was in no way looking for a formula for
time travel, nor investigating any of the Universe’s sordid secrets or
mysteries.  He was only researching notes for a novel he’d been
planning – one that wasn’t supposed to touch on the subject of time –
when he came across it accidentally, the way one stumbles across a
used bookstore or a particularly good café that’s set on a side
street, away from the flow of traffic.

In the interest of full disclosure, the book was going to be a work of
science fiction, but Julius intended it to be a reflection on the
vastness of space and bleakness of eternity, an epic spanning the
cosmos and touching the heavens.

But he never made it further than the metal folding chair in front of
his writing desk.  He’d been sitting, staring somewhat blankly at the
empty white document on his computer screen, when he suddenly felt a
sharp pain behind his eyes.  He grew dizzy and confused and felt
himself falling until his head collided with the mahogany desk he’d
found the prior fall at a yard sale.  It had cost him fourteen dollars
and five minutes of listening to its prior owner complain about the
weather and his children, who, contrary to convention, called home far
too often and wouldn’t stop pestering their poor father.

Now Julius lay spread like a starfish on the floor with a short red
gash on his forehead.  But, oddly, he seemed to find this funny and
started laughing as he stared at his ceiling.

Because, while his eyes were pointed at a light fixture above, his
gaze was elsewhere.  He stared through a woven quilt of geography, of
symbols and words, and looked through the foggy waters of time.  Oh,
he could see it all.

He could remember it.  The future had happened.  It had always
happened.  That was simply the way of it.  This was just one of the
things he now knew to be true.  There were dozens of other similar
factoids and new pieces of data crawling around the inside of head.

For example, he was now certain that nothing but information could
move through time, because time itself is information.  And it was
plainly obvious that only the mind can perceive beyond time, because
time exists only as it is perceived.  Likewise, the ability to look
through time was a technique, one he could now see because he’d
already invented it in the future.

“Why.  It’s so easy,” Julius gasped, his fingers clawing at the chair
beside him.  “Anyone could do it… they just… they need to know how.”
He pulled himself up into the chair and sat looking once more at his
monitor.  “It’s only a matter… a matter of telling them.”

He reached out for the keyboard, his finger quivering.  But his hands
began shaking, and those symbols that just before seemed clear as
pictures on TV now grew fuzzy around the edges.  And once more his
head throbbed.

“No,” he whispered, drawing his hand to his face.  His middle finger
rubbed his temple in a short, circular motion, and he shook his head.
Once more, the ideas in his head began to formulate and clarify.  They
were sharp as knives and crisp as apples.  But for how long?

He had to get them down, give them flesh and make them solid, before
they ran out on him for good.  He lunged at the keyboard again, and
again his head was overtaken in pain.  He fought it, tried to type
something, tried to get something down about the form or shape of
time, but, when he looked at the screen all it said was, “The Secret
of Time, by: Julius Kortel.”

He withdrew in shock, only to find the thoughts flowing back into his
mind.  It was the ebb of the sea; the tides, he realized.  The
knowledge found him when he was still, but departed when he went to
type.  “A notepad!” he exclaimed, grabbing one from a drawer.  He held
this close to him, between his eyes and the computer, and stared at
the blank page.  He could make out the lines and shapes already, just
waiting for him to draw them on.  He could see the words, almost a
mantra, waiting to be written, and he forced himself not to blink.  He
reached for a pen – still the concepts stayed with him – and flicked
off the cap.

He brought the point to the page and pressed it against the paper.  A
spot of black ink appeared at once.  But he had nothing to do with it,
nowhere to take it.  In a flash of pain and fire, it was gone.  He
hurled the notepad and pen against the wall and screamed.  Then he
pushed away from the computer and closed his eyes.

He could remember it all now; the future was a vivid memory.  He
recalled the space opera that kept falling apart, no matter how many
hours he poured into its construction, the attempts to revise and
rewrite, to rebuild the story from scratch and transform its content.
The attempt to incorporate time travel, but with a reasonable
explanation, and an idea he would stumble across and spend decades

Time was memory and memory was a window at night: when the light is
on, it becomes a mirror, showing only what’s behind the observer, but
turn it off and you can gaze forward.  But when that window had been
opened, it could be seen from the other side just as easily.

He could see it now; the paradox.  If he copied down what he’d
learned, he would never have the drive, the obsession, to learn it.
It was knowledge that hounded its discoverer through time.  By its
nature, it would always undo its own invention.

How many times, Julius mused, had it already been uncovered?  How many
writers or scientists or philosophers had come across this secret,
this loophole in the laws of reality, only to fall through?

There was no walking away: because as soon Julius tried, the visions
returned and filled his sight with memories of the future.  It was a
future that soon wouldn’t be, but it was before him for now.  He
pulled himself slowly back towards his computer, and the images and
memories stayed.

He touched the keys, but he no longer had any design to describe what
he’d found.  It was a good life he remembered.  Decades of more good
than bad.  He wished he could record that at least, but he knew he
could not.  So he closed his eyes and typed what he knew the laws
would permit.

When they found Julius a week later, dead from dehydration, they did
not find instructions or designs or a way to follow.  All they found
was a body, still sitting in front of his computer, where he’d written
a story of a man who’d found a window in time.

Erin Snyder is a writer living in New York City.  He recently
published For Love of Children, his first novel, with Threat Quality
Press.  You can find more of his writing at

  1. richie says:

    Great stuff Erin. Your book has been in my Amazon wish list for months waiting for the monies to find me. Maybe soon!

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