Flash Fiction Challenge: Tempus Fugit

Photo by K.S. Brooks

This is Spencer. He looks like a common tortoise. In a sense he is that, but he is also something more.

Spencer is not from here. His shell contains an element not known to the science of our world.

It is temporium, a highly radioactive substance so powerful, that it disrupts the space-time continuum.

Time accelerates in close proximity to Spencer. That is why Tommy LeBeck’s parents didn’t recognize the old man who came to their door, asking if he could keep the turtle. Tommy was only six years old when he went out to play a few hours ago.

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms.

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Tempus Fugit”

  1. Spencer had little time to reverse the effects that his shell had on the earth-boy, Tommy who’d entered the transport zone. Strange, given that Spencer traveled the universe through time. Organic lifeforms couldn’t survive the faster-than-light speeds needed to zip about the stars, but a Chinese proverb—if you sit in one place long enough, the whole world will pass you by—had inadvertently given birth to interstellar travel. They discovered that unshielded temporium formed a hole in time. From there, navigation only took a simple fifteen exabyte algorithm to calculate where in time your current position would cross over your destination.
    The only danger was the vortex of time-flux that surrounded every time-hole. Ordinarily, the e-m shield engaged three nano-seconds after the temporal shift, but a slight variance delayed the shield’s activation by 27.394 milliseconds allowing Tommy to age over seventy-five years instead of the normal three days.
    Spencer pushed off, running with all his strength. Three feet later, he slumped to his shell, exhausted.
    “What shall I do?”
    Voices came from the neighboring house.
    “Go away, you crazy old man!”
    An old man stumbled down the steps, tears staining both cheeks. It was the boy. Tommy ran toward Spencer.
    “Now for the hard part,” Spencer pushed off with his left legs, flipping himself onto his back to reverse the time flow. He opened the shield for 27.394 milliseconds.
    Six years old again, Tommy smiled as he squatted down and turned Spencer over onto his feet.

  2. “You say you’re Tommy?” The mother stared at the feeble man perched on the edge of the sofa cushion.
    “Yeah, Mom.”
    “You’re not a six-year-old boy. Tommy is six.”
    Tommy looked at his hands. The turtle crawled on the floor in front of him. “I was six. But then I went into the woods behind the house and found this turtle. I don’t know what happened.”
    The father approached. “What have you done with our son, you sick geezer?”
    “Dad, I’m Tommy, can’t you believe me?”
    He shook his head. “I see an old man who could be a child abductor. Where is my son?!”
    “You don’t believe me?” Tommy rubbed his wrinkly hands. Despite being summer, he was feeling cold.
    “No,” he replied.
    “Then ask me something only Tommy would know.”
    His parents regarded each other for a few tense moments. Finally, the mother spoke up. “What color is your favorite stuffed animal?”
    Tommy waved his hand. “Easy, it’s Flynn, my dark brown teddy bear with gold and black eyes…You gave him to me for Christmas two years ago.”
    They stared slack-jawed at Tommy. How could this be?
    “You can’t be Tommy, you just can’t be!” The mother got up and started walking a small circle on the rug. As she passed the turtle, she felt odd. She stopped and got closer. “What on earth…?”
    “Oh, God!” The father clasped his hands to his face. His beautiful wife was now twenty years older. “Get away from that thing!”

  3. The lights of the police cars and EMT vans flashed through the neighborhood, centered at the LeBeck home.

    Detective Donovan scrutinized the old man. “You claim you’re Tommy LeBeck.”

    The old man smiled half-heartedly. “Yes I’m here to complete the cycle.” He peered over to the turtle which was sitting calmly in a terrarium nearby.

    Donovan raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean by that?”

    Old Tommy looked up. “This is a very important day. For me and for the world.”

    “Please…please,” Mrs. LeBeck asked from the couch. “Tell me what you did with Tommy. Where is my son?” Her voice rose to a shriek.

    The screen of the back door slammed and young Tommy LeBeck ran into the room. “Hey Mom! Look at all the cops outside!”

    Mrs. LeBeck broke down at the sight of her son. “Oh, my God! Tommy! You’re okay!”

    Young Tommy happened to glance over and saw the new turtle in the terrarium. “Oh wow! Look at him! Just what I wanted!” He reached into the glass and touched the turtle’s shell.

    And disappeared. Along with the turtle.

    Old Tommy smiled, creasing his face with wrinkles. “It’s done.”

    Mrs. LeBeck was apoplectic, looking at the space Tommy once occupied.

    Donovan angrily grabbed the old man by the collar. “What just happened?”

    “I think you would call it a paradox today. I have a higher purpose to serve and I had to make sure I did.”

    The old man closed his eyes for the last time.

  4. The scream of horror pierced the security of my shell and nearly caused the decaying sack of flesh to drop me.

    “Vern, come quickly! It’s happened! We always said the government would poison us. You’re Tommy? My poor baby! Get inside real fast before they can hurt you any more.”

    The second step of my mission was accomplished. I was now inside the dwelling that would serve my purpose. The purpose of my people. A third sack of flesh entered the room. This one was substantial and would provide days of sustenance. His neck flesh jiggled and swayed as he bellowed. He was quite a specimen. My children would find him delicious.

    “Petunia, what on earth is wrong with our boy? Get him a hot shower fast!”

    I was deposited on the floor as the three carbon units ran from the room. The sound of rushing liquid reached me, interrupting my inventory of the square room. Did they actually think they could wash away the effects of radioactive decay? Was this species that inferior to my own advanced race? How could such illogical and unscientific organisms inhabit a planet so rich in resources?

    A large pile of ragged garments caught my eye. It rested in full sunlight. The heat from the sun would warm my children. Perfect. Tonight, the earth-dwellers would be dead. Only then would I release my children onto the soft folds of their birth nest. My mission was almost over. The unassuming will inherit the earth.

  5. Tommy LeBeck thought about the nature of time. He had been given enough time here in the sanitarium. His request to have a turtle named Spencer found and brought to him was taken as evidence against him. A judge had rule him incompetent and ordered his committal. Tommy was now a ward of the state. He passed the time reading all the books on time he could. He became most fascinated with the works of Albert Einstein, a man who insisted that time doesn’t exist. Tommy hoped dearly that every moment in history existed along side the present. Most of all he wished for his mom and dad to come visit him. He missed them terribly but could understand why they didn’t want to see an old man who showed up at their door on the very day their son went missing.

    Tommy was reading one of his books on time when the attendant tapped him on the shoulder and told him he had visitors. When he saw his parents he was cautious at first. The last time he saw them was awkward, to say the least. His mom was holding a small cardboard box. “What’s in the box?” he asked. His mother said, “His name is Spencer and he insists upon seeing you.” Tommy came closer to have a look as his mother opened the box. “I don’t understand,” Tommy began as his father reached in the box and withdrew the pistol.

  6. He never liked the term ‘common tortoise’. True or not, there was the sting of insult in the name. Whatever. Let them think he was common, he knew the truth. The little boy had known something, too. He had watched him. He lived in the hollow beneath the creek during daylight hours.

    He spent his days catching frogs and crayfish. He would catch the animals and place them in a large pickle jar to study them. His hands were gentle. He always put the animals back safely.

    He was a strange boy. He walked with a kind of hunch in his back. This was the result of the way the boy walked – always bent over, looking.

    When he’d found Spencer, he picked him up very gently and murmured something that sounded like words, but was more of a gentle hypnosis. The boy’s eyes widened as he realized something was happening. He didn’t know what until he saw his parents’ faces, pale, looking out into a dark, quiet street and caught a glimpse in his neighbor’s window. They looked small standing there..fragile. They stood with thing robes wrapped tight against the chill, looking for a boy who no longer existed.

  7. “Mum, look what I found! Can I keep him, can I?”

    The woman’s eyes widened as she glanced from the man’s wrinkled face down to the tortoise. “I think you have the wrong house. Do you live in the nursing home?”

    Tommy frowned. “Mum?”

    As the door slammed, Tommy noticed the strangely close proximity of his head to the top of the door frame and gasped. Backing away, he caught sight of his reflection in a window and tripped. “Ah!” he screeched, dropping the tortoise, which landed with the dexterity of a ballerina on the tips of his claws.

    “She didn’t recognise you,” said the reptile. “It’s my fault. I’m Spencer.”

    “Y-you t-talk!” stammered Tommy, who then clamped his mouth shut, shocked by the deepness of his own voice.

    “It’s the Temporium in my shell. It disrupts the space-time continuum.”

    “Don’t get it,” mumbled the man, sucking his thumb. “I’m six.”

    “Actually you’re a bit older – sixty, to be exact. Sorry.”

    “Wanna go home!”

    Realising the boy-man was about to burst into tears, Spencer concentrated. Within seconds his eyes lit up. “I got you into this mess, so I’m going to help. You need to take me to the Time Creeper. He’s a snail. If anyone knows what to do, he will. If that fails we’ll need to find Ganara, but I’d rather not as she’s a big spider.”

    “They give me the heebie-jeebies,” squeaked Tommy.

    “Me, too,” replied Spencer. “Now let’s get going before you need a zimmer frame.”

  8. “Please can I keep him mom? He’s way cute…Mom? What’s wrong?”
    Ali frowned; her mouth formed a perfect o as she tried to grasp what the old man was saying.
    “Who are you? What..?” She glanced at Eddie raising her eyebrows, eyes pleading help me here?
    “Look fella, if this is some kind of joke it isn’t funny. Ali, go fetch Tommy, I’m worried about him.”
    Ali made to move but hesitated as the old guy grinned.
    ” Quit fooling’ you guys and come see the turtle.”
    He grabbed his father’s sleeve to urge him outside but Eddie roughly knocked his hand away and began shaking him.
    “Where’s my son freak? I swear if you’ve harmed him…”
    Tommy swayed, what was happening? Dizzy and confused his face blanched, an excruciating pain seized his chest and he struggled to breathe.
    He collapsed in a heap at his parent’s feet.

    Spenser watched the ensuing scene with a mixture of curiosity and regret. The Earth boy had caught him by surprise.
    There’d been no time to moderate the temporium flux, now he was dead. He drew the boy’s life force towards his alien shell and stored it.
    He’d made a fatal mistake with Tempus Fugit and his carelessness would see him brought before the High Ones.
    He hoped this new sample would assuage their anger.
    A short burst of purple light and he disappeared, the humans must never know the truth. Not yet.

  9. Kim stared at the old man who claimed to be her six year old son, Tommy. A wave of fear and fury surged inside her. What appeared to be a common tortoise wriggled in his hands a small grin on its face. How had the collective found her? She’d been so careful this time. The colored shapes on the tortoise’s shell spelled out its code name. Agent Spencer. Jill felt its radioactive temporium shell begin to affect her, twisting the space-time continuum and accelerating the aging process. At her present rate of time decay she would be dead in minutes and so would Tommy.

    She snatched the turtle from Tommy’s hand and raced for the kitchen, dragging him behind her. This time Kim was prepared. She threw the turtle into the rice batter then plopped it into the pot, watching the hot oil bubble up the sides. Spencer flailed in a desperate effort to escape the tortuous death. Finally he succumbed, floating motionless and crisp in the oil, mouth opened in a silent cry.

    Time spun backwards. Wrinkles faded from Tommy’s face. Silver hair darkened to brown. In moments he returned to his proper time form. Kim’s arthritis disappeared as well and the gray hair she had found this morning vanished.

    A self-satisfied grin spread across her face as the family sat down for dinner that night. She’d defeated the collective again. Nothing beat tempura turtle soup. And the temporium would protect them all from future space-time tampering.

  10. The sun rises. The sun sets. Then it rises and sets again, over and over…and over… Nothing knows better about time than me (well perhaps snail might know more).

    When Tommy entered the world for the first time, I was there. I was also there when he wobbled to take that first step, when he smiled receiving his fifth birthday’s present, a bicycle, and when he locked himself the whole day afraid of going to school because he had been bullied one too many.

    I watched how he broke the store window and had his bully arrested for it instead, how he intentionally picked the wrong answer to let Annie, the red hair girl, won the award. I knew that Richard was not supposed to be the boot camp leader, because I saw Tommy switched his engineered shoes with Richard’s before they went in a race. I also knew when Tommy created the time machine that he would use it to eliminate Hank because Annie had chosen Hank instead of him.

    That’s why it’s only logical that I merged the time machine with my shell, went back in time, and punished Tommy for what he had done, or rather, what he would have done.

    Tempus fugit. I know that phrase, but for me now, time cycles.

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