Friday, May 17, 2019

A Short Story

I had an interesting dream last night, bordering on a nightmare. When I woke up, I decided it would make a good science-fiction short story. So here it is. 

All In A Day's Work

Nineteen year old Gary Winstead arrived at the auto garage at 7:30 a.m., as he always did, to get ready for the day's work of fixing cars. He had just graduated from Pierpoint High School a couple of weeks earlier, and he was looking forward to working another summer for Charlie Clarkson, the auto mechanic who had, over the past few years, taught him a lot of about cars, car engines, and everything else a good mechanic needs to know.

Was Gary going to college in the fall? He was already making pretty good money with his car repair work and doing a few other jobs around the neighborhood, so he was in no hurry to leave his hometown to go off to college for four years. His girlfriend Mandy would agree with that.

He unlocked the tool cabinet and got the parts trays out and cleaned them. He cleaned and shook out the blankets they would drape over the car fenders to prevent scratches while leaning over into the engine.

Gary went over to the car that was first on the list of that day's work schedule and noticed that a small piece of paper had been tucked under the driver's side windshield wiper. Gary lifted the wiper, pulled out the note and unfolded it.

In his own handwriting, the note read: Do not trust your future self. Take the money if you need it, but don't do what he says. Your other future self.

Gary looked at the note, stared off into space for a moment, then just shrugged it off as something truly bizarre and put the crumpled up note in his pocket.

A minute later, after opening the big garage door and turning on the "open" sign in the office window, Gary turned around and saw himself standing in the shadows, holding a briefcase.

It was definitely himself, but looked somewhat older. Gary blinked. He walked a few steps closer to his future self,  but remained wary.

"Hey, thought I'd help you out a little. I know this is a tough time for you, a lot of decisions to make, stuff like that," the older Gary told the younger Gary. The older Gary put the briefcase up on the workbench between the grease gun and the set of wrenches. He opened the briefcase, and the younger Gary could see it was full of money.

"One million dollars, a gift from your future self. Yours to enjoy. All you have to do is have the contents of this jar chemically analyzed and patented. It's a new kind of fuel. Amazing breakthrough. Made of bio-degradable ingredients, but a better fuel than anything before. And you invented it, or you will invent it. Just take the jar, analyze it, get it patented, and you're good to go. Here's a copy of the chemical formula, all written out." The older Gary smiled, patted the side of the briefcase and placed the glass jar full of green fluid on the workbench.

Then he faded into thin air. The younger Gary was left with the jar and one million dollars in cash sitting on the workbench.

He turned and went into the office and began making a pot of coffee, the strong kind that Charlie liked to have as soon as he comes in.

As soon as he finished with the coffee pot, Gary went back to the workbench to look at the briefcase full of money and the jar of green fluid. There was a small piece of paper folded up, lying next to it.

He picked up the paper, unfolded it, and read the note, again in his own hand-writing.

"Do not do this. Destroy the jar and the stuff in it. It is extremely toxic to the environment. It can cause massive amounts of damage to every living thing on the planet, screws around with DNA viability. Enjoy the cash, though, while you can."

Gary put the note down on the workbench. He stared at the jar. He stared at the money. Then he sat down and wondered what he should do, particularly how he should get rid of the stuff in the jar.

A moment later, there was a sparkle in the air behind him, and there he was again, his older self, holding another briefcase. He looked older than before, and perhaps a bit more haggard, but he was smiling weakly.

"What a morning this has been... for both of us," he said. "Okay, here's the deal. I brought you another briefcase full of money, another million dollars."

He put it on the workbench next to the first one.

"And you need to know there may be some question as to the safety of the stuff in the jar, some environmental issues. I am working on getting those fixed. For now all you need to know is that you will make a lot of money with this new kind of fuel, and I mean a lot of money. So don't worry. Get it patented and as soon as I can work out a better formula I will get it to you."

Then the older Gary once again vanished.

The younger Gary started at the new briefcase, opened it up, and found inside another million dollars in cash.

He took a long deep breath, thinking it might be best if he just took the money and poured the fluid down the drain. He closed the briefcase, and saw that a new piece of paper had appeared behind it. He reached over, picked it up, and unfolded it. It read: "Don't do it."

The note was in his own handwriting. He looked at the two briefcases and the jar. Then he picked up the jar, went over to the sink, and poured the fluid in the jar down the drain.

He put the empty glass jar down on the counter. Almost immediately, a new piece of paper appeared next to the sink. Gary picked It up, unfolded it and read it.

“You idiot. We are doomed. When I said don’t do it, I was telling you not to pour it down the drain. Now it’s gone down the sewer, into the river, into the oceans and around the world. Everything is lost.”

Gary stared at the note. Then he stared at the two briefcases full of money. Perhaps he and Mandy should take some kind of trip together. From the front of the garage came a yell, “Morning!” It was Charlie. He had arrived and was already pouring himself a cup of coffee.

Gary picked up the two briefcases and carried them out to his car, putting them in the trunk, out of view. As he was walking back to the garage, he noticed a piece of paper, folded up and stuck under his windshield wiper. He got it and read it. It said: “All is good.”

“Hey, what the hell!” came a yell from the garage. It was Charlie’s voice. Gary ran into the garage and saw Charlie standing in front of the sink. The entire sink bowl and pipes under the sink had been removed and were gone. The glass jar was also gone.

The rest of the day went relatively well. At the end of the day, Charlie asked Gary what he had decided about college.

“Well, I think I might study physics, or chemistry, or quantum mechanics as it relates to time travel,” Gary said.

Charlie looked at him. “Well, that narrows it down,” he said.