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Cosmic countdown


100 seconds.

That’s all you could have.

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

The principle drawback is that you just don’t know if that is your timeline.

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

Altering timelines takes three seconds. The opposite factor you would 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 one among 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 suppose so, as a result of the timelines are infinite. However, 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 have got 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 overlook 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 entire seconds. You’re all the way down to twenty-three potential timeline financial savings.

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

Attempting to image your spouse’s freckle sample loses you one other second. What number of is that now? You have a look at your timepiece and one other two tick away. You may’t hold observe of the seconds. It is best to have finished this as a countdown, not ranging from a random time. Though you didn’t actually have a selection when the slipstream machine malfunctioned. You want you understood timeline modifications 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 an excellent run.

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

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

The following timeline hits you want an area brick. You may’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 have a look at your timepiece, solely to seek out it’s lacking. Your heartbeat races, a lot faster than 100 beats per minute; you gained’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 if you happen to don’t keep up to the mark. You have got solely 100 seconds; now is just not the time to let issues collapse.

Above is darkish, just a few dots twinkling, obscured by flashing greens, blues and purples. You gasp. You may’t imagine it. You’re again on Earth. No one’s been on Earth in …

The Northern Lights look identical to they did once you have been a child, the final time you noticed them earlier than you needed to depart.

You have a look at your arms 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-proof blanket. Scattered throughout it are your children, 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 kind? 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 prime 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 any person fastened the slipstream malfunctions? Are all of the yous throughout all of the timelines not doomed? Who fastened it? How? It actually wasn’t you; you’ve scarcely made an indent. You’re no huge timeline saviour. You saved what number of? 4, 5? Was doing all your finest someway lastly ok?

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

You retain the rely going to your self, numbering the color modifications 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 ends up in exactly carrying out 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 occurring round them. And as to what occurs after that? Properly, that’s as much as the reader’s creativeness.

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