Monday, March 19, 2012

Working the Late Shift

He watched as a subgalactic whaleshark breached the dark matter veil. It twirled in the vacuum of space as it emerged, flinging subatomic particles off of its five-dimensional dorsal fin. As it dove back out of the timestream, the chronal splash tore millions of black holes in the reality pool, which dissipated immediately before they began.

The watchman yawned.

It wasn't exactly a rare occurrence to see that species out there. The Andromeda XIV Cosmic Observatory was stationed on the moon of a gas giant that orbited right off of their migration axis, and the watchman had been working the night shift long enough that the local cosmofauna no longer held his attention as it used to. He straightened the back of his chair so that he was sitting upright, and with a click on his control panel, he hovered to the edge of the observation dome, where the central computer was located. He began to recite his observations to the monitors, detailing the whaleshark and the time and location of sighting. He then sighed, lifted his glasses from his face, and rubbed his forehead with his fingers in an attempt to rid himself of his boredom-induced headache. He returned his chair to the center of the room once more, laid back, and stared out the observation dome once again.

There was a flash of brilliant blue light and a sound like a band-aid being torn off. The watchman sat back up casually and looked to his left.

"Hello Ajax," the watchman said to the man that was now standing in the observation dome next to him. He wore a white jumpsuit with plated armor over it. He held a strange looking gun, which he looked down at, and then clicked a dial a few notches counter-clockwise before holstering it.

"Are you really so jaded," Ajax said, "that seeing yourself from the future doesn't amaze you?"

"Maybe if you'd stop visiting so often it would be more exciting," the watchman said.

Ajax sighed. "Isn't it about time for your break?"

Annoyed, the watchman glared at him and then entered a code on his control panel. The screens in the observation deck turned off and the door opened with a hiss of compressed air. The watchman stood up and walked out, and Ajax followed.

"What do you want this time?" the watchman groaned as they entered the cafeteria.

"I want to change you, same as I always have," Ajax said as they took a seat in the deserted room. "I want you to see how important this is. I want you to turn out better than I did."

"Well, considering that you're me," the watchman said with a roll of his eyes, "I don't think that you're going to have much luck with that. I'm going to turn out to be you."

"You sure about that? I wouldn't claim to know a lot about time travel, considering it hasn't been invented yet."

The watchman took a cup of coffee from the android waitress and sipped it in silence.

"So are you going to collect on your promise you made?" the watchman asked.


"So you're going to kill me. Because I wouldn't 'cheer up.'"

"Yes I am," Ajax said as he pulled out his gun. He clicked the dial clockwise a few notches. "Unless you can be persuaded."

"Persuaded of what? That this job doesn't suck? That my life isn't meaningless and repetitive?"

"The job is what you make of it. And life is a precious thing."

"I don't need to be lectured by myself," the watchman said.

"Apparently you do. I never forgot that whaleshark you saw today," Ajax pleaded. "That was a beautiful thing. To not find joy in that is to waste what you've been given."

"So you're going to kill me for it? And won't this kill you too?"

"Not growing is the same thing as being dead." Ajax lifted the gun and pointed it at the watchman's forehead.

"And stop thinking you understand time travel."

Ajax pulled the trigger and the watchman erupted in a flash of cerulean radiation. Ajax stood up calmly, picked up his coffee, and walked toward the cafeteria exit. He stopped as he reached the door and pulled his gun out its holster, then tossed it into a garbage can. The door slid open with a hiss and he entered the observation dome. He sat down in his chair and punched in a code on the control panel and the screens came back on. As the chair hovered back to the center of the room, Ajax reclined and looked up out of the dome.

As he watched, a dark nebula tarantula emerged from its hiding place behind a cloud of gamma photons to devour the cometbird that it had caught in its bosonic web.

"I love this job," said the watchman.

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