Discover more from A Ghost in the Machine
A Psuedoscience Fiction Story
In which a Time Traveler realizes his calculations were a little off . . .
“The time machine definitely works,” said Dr. Chop Suey. “The plate of spaghetti, the stuffed dog, and the real dog with one of the interns attached to its jaws, all of them have disappeared into the past.”
“But how do you know they reappeared in the past?” asked Dr. Spock. “Or anywhere else, for that matter? They may have simply disintegrated without a trace. How do we know it’s a time machine and not a vaporizer?”
“There is only one way to find out,” replied Chop Suey. “One of us goes.”
“Yeah, but how will we get back to tell the others that it works?” asked Spock.
Chop Suey thought about this for a moment. “Okay, we start off by going back in time 15 seconds. If that works, we go back further next time.”
Spock nodded. “Sounds good. Which one of us should do it first?”
“It is very dangerous, so I will bravely go first,” said Chop Suey.
Spock gasped. “And be the first person to time travel to the past? No, I should do it. After all, I am the lead researcher on this project.”
“Let’s play rock-paper-scissors for it,” said Chop Suey.
“Okay,” agreed Spock.
The two men held up their hands like Kung-Fu masters. They stared solemnly and glared at each other, as if they were about to fight.
“On three,” said Spock.
“Very well,” replied Chop Suey. “On three.”
The men chanted in unison: “One, two, three — rock, paper, scissors, SHOOT!” Spock slammed a closed fist onto his open palm, while Chop Suey held out two fingers like a pair of scissors.
“Ha!” exclaimed Spock. “I beat you!”
“Best two out of three?” begged Chop Suey.
Spock shook his head. “No way. I’m going on that machine first.”
Chop Suey hung his head and said, “Very well. You will be the first human to time travel to the past.”
The time machine looked like a small porta-potty, made from metal instead of plastic and painted bright red. Next to the door was a small keypad and screen. Spock punched in the desired date and time. 30 June 2030; 14:15:05 CDT.
“In case you do not reappear, it has been nice working with you,” said Chop Suey.
“On second thought, maybe you should be the first person to travel back in time,” replied Spock. “After all, it was your tweak that got it to finally work for the first time.”
Chop Suey bowed graciously and said, “I accept.” He began to open the the time machine door but paused for a moment before closing it again. “Actually, it would be presumptuous of me to go ahead of you, since you are the senior researcher on this project. My sense of duty and ritual propriety will not allow me to take this honor away from you, sir.”
“Thank you, Chop,” replied Spock. “However, as the lead researcher, I hereby delegate this assignment to you.”
Chop Suey smiled and clapped his coworker on the back. “And after being delegated this task, I assign it to you to perform.”
“That’s not how it works!” retorted Spock.
“You’re not scared, are you?” asked Chop Suey.
“Of course not!” cried Spock.
“No, you’re scared!” insisted Chop Suey, who began pantomiming a chicken scratching on the ground, clucking and going “bawk bawk!”
Spock’s face reddened quickly. He frowned and said, “Very well. If you are too scared to go, then I will go. I am brave, unlike you.”
Chop Suey suddenly froze in place and glowered at Spock. “I am not scared,” he said slowly. “I have seen combat as a PLA infantryman in the battle for Taiwanese dependence.”
Spock’s jaw dropped. “You’re a Chinese spy?”
Chop Suey shook his head. “No, I did not see combat as a PLA infantryman. I was a cook in the army. I defected as soon as the war started — no, I am kidding. I make joke. I was never in PLA. Not as cook, not as infantryman, and definitely not as spy! I have never been to China in my life!”
“But you speak with an accent!” retorted Spock.
“It is because I watch so many Bruce Lee movies when I was a child,” replied Chop Suey. “I grew up in Kansas.”
“Very well,” said Spock. “I will let you travel back in time first, but do not take any secrets back to the Chinese Communist Party.”
“I am traveling back only 15 seconds,” said Chop Suey. “How would I take any secrets to China in that time.”
“Well, it’s more like four minutes now,” replied Spock. “Let me readjust the time settings.”
“You sure you don’t want to go?” asked Chop Suey, with a beseeching smile.
“Well, this is my chance to get in the history books as the first man to travel back in time,” said Spock. “Okay, I will go.”
“On second thought, maybe I should accept your assignment and go myself,” said Chop Suey.
“No way!” shouted Spock. “I beat you fair and square in the rock-paper-scissors game!”
Chop Suey bowed graciously and motioned for Spock to enter the time machine. Just before entering, Spock made a final adjustment to the settings and climbed aboard. No sooner had the door closed than a second Dr. Spock appeared next to Chop Suey.
“What are you waiting for?” asked the second Spock. “Press ‘Go!’”
“Is that really me?” asked the first Spock, from inside the time machine.
Chop Suey snapped out of a daze and dutifully pressed the blinking green “Go!” tab on the screen. He then opened the door and found the chamber empty. He whirled around and held up his hand to high-five Spock.
“What was it like?” asked Chop Suey.
“It’s hard to explain,” replied Spock. “For a moment, it was like being in a jet that’s taking off, but a million times stronger. But that was just for a moment. Then it was like floating in a cloud, and finally I was back in this room.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Chop Suey. “Can I go now?”
“After me,” said Spock. “I want to go back, but really go back several decades! I will go back 40 years and use my knowledge to bet on big sporting events and buy the right stocks. Not only will I be in the history books as the first time traveler, but I will be one of the world’s richest men. I will never have to work in a lab again!”
“Excellent idea,” replied Chop Suey. “I will do the same thing. They will find the video camera footage from the lab and realize what happened to us. We will both be famous, and then we will be rich!”
“See you in the past!” exclaimed Spock. “I am going back to this exact spot, 40 years earlier. 1990, here I come!” He punched in the desired date and time on the screen. He and Chop Suey shook hands, and Spock bounded happily back inside the time machine.
Chop Suey waited for the door to close before pressing “Go!” on the screen.
Suddenly, Dr. Spock found himself at the exact same spot, forty years earlier. Unfortunately, the Earth was not there. Nothing was. The entire Milky Way Galaxy was a few light years away and would not reach Spock’s present location for some time. He had only the briefest of moments to realize his mistake before losing consciousness. As his thoughts faded to darkness, he was comforted slightly by the realization that Chop Suey would be there any moment to share his fate, and they would both be famous back home in the distant future. The camera footage from the lab would no doubt go viral on social media.
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