by Jake Christie

a story.

Even after he was reasonably sure that all of his cells had been reconstructed properly, Simon remained still for a long time. When he couldn't stand it any longer he relaxed his shoulders, took a deep breath, and looked around the chamber.

Everything seemed to be exactly the same as when he'd left. He bounced on his knees and found that gravity had remained constant. In the confines of the time travel chamber, nothing appeared to be different.

Simon was well aware of the “butterfly effect,” the idea that even a minute change, as small as the flap of a butterfly's wings, could have devastating cumulative effects given enough distance – or enough time. He had been careful to avoid doing anything in the past besides observe, but even doing nothing was not truly doing nothing. His breath, as much as he had tried to hold it, had added vapor to the air. His body displaced the space in which he'd appeared. His mass made the slightest, tiniest changes in the Earth's gravity. Given the time he'd traveled, things could be very different now indeed.

Satisfied that basic physics, at least, had not gone all cockeyed, he took a few steps to the door of the chamber.

“Stop,” said a voice over the intercom, which surprised Simon for many reasons, one of them being that he couldn't remember ever installing an intercom. “Do not touch that door.”

“Who's there?” said Simon.

“Time Police,” said the intercom, with such even matter-of-factness that Simon found it hard to doubt the claim. “You're in a lot of trouble, Simon.”

“What?” said Simon. He still hadn't moved, frozen halfway to the door. “I didn't do anything.”

“You traveled through time, Simon, Wouldn't you call that something?”

He hadn't thought of it that way.

“I didn't know that was against the law,” said Simon. He frowned, suddenly disappointed. “I thought I was the first person to time-travel.”

“You were,” said the Time Police, “but the very act of time travel necessitated, cosmically, the creation of the Time Police. The laws you broke didn't exist until you traveled through time – when you left, you weren't breaking the law, but at the same time you were. As soon as you time-jumped, the laws were created retroactively – or in the other direction, depending on which way you're looking.”

“This is very confusing,” said Simon.

“You created the world's first time machine,” said the Time Police. “You'll figure it out.”

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