Originally posted in the thread "Scene Stealers: The Story Hook" and available here: http://writetodone.com/2012/08/17/scene-stealers-the-story-hook/# comment-83467
This is a small snippet of fiction written with two requirements:
- It must start with the sentence "I’ve been working here for over thirty years and have never seen anything like this."
- It must be no longer than 350 words.
The length requirement was amazingly hard for me to adhere to. Even accounting for the extremely tight word count while writing, I ended up having to trim out over half the original piece and stitch the rest back together, leading to a bit of choppiness.]
He sits forward, twisting his ballcap in his hands. His gaze flits around, refusing to settle on my face. He looks brutally tired.
“Could I go back and fix it?”
I stare at him. Once the timestream has been disrupted, the worst thing you can do is go back. I don’t even have to respond. He glaces at me for a moment and looks away again.
“I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry.”
“Why don’t you just tell me what happened.”
He draws a ragged breath, closes his eyes. Words gush out of him.
“I didn’t think much of it. I mean, who even checks lineage any more? I diverted that kid, just moved him to another town. He never met the girl, the whole line was just pinched off. The Dictator was never born. The war that would have taken place, the global dictatorship, none of it ever happened.”
“How did that change the timestream?”
“Suffering.” His voice is dead, defeated. “Without the global unification, a thousand tiny dictators sprang up and there was no citizenry strong enough to overthrow them.”
“And how has that affected the present?”
“I don’t know. So much changed…”
No mistake there. We’ll spend generations figuring out how badly he screwed up.
His eyes stop darting.
“What happens now?”
It’s my turn to not meet a gaze.
“The council believes we caught it early enough. They’re… going to burn your existence out of the timestream. We won’t be quite back where we were, but–”
I look up. His ballcap is on the floor. He’s sheet-white and swaying alarmingly.
“They can’t. You’d– they can’t!”
I walk over, putting my arm around his shoulders to steady him.
“The agents have already been sent. The mistake will be unmade. I’m sorry.”
“Who would do this? To me? To you?”
I pause. The agents will work quickly. I have to tell him.
“It was my recommendation, Dad.”