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Ever wonder why a seemingly normal person totally loses it and becomes a terrorist? Read on dear friend…

Man of the Year


A.  A. Roberts

“Fuck Einstein.  Fuck the Theory of Relativity.  Fuck all of the little pinheads who’ve ever decided to play God.”

These are my thoughts as I stare numbly at my brand new Glock 40.  The words cycle over and over again in my head stoking the fires of my fury.  The bastards stole everything from me.  In the end I could give a shit about the stores, or the house, or the car, but they took my one true love from me.  They took my wife.

A bead of sweat trickles down my forehead tracing the weathered lines etched in my face.  I admit I’m nervous.  This is not who I am… who I was.  I’m not a Navy Seal, I’m a bookstore owner for Christ’s sake.  I’m not leaving this place alive.   I have nothing left to live for.  I just want to take as many of the bastards with me as I can. 


It started with little things… a misplaced set of keys, thinking it’s one day when it’s really another, fish gone missing in the aquarium… a hundred little events that the average person might write off to an aging memory.  The average person doesn’t live next to a DARPA research facility.

I opened my bookstore on the outskirts of town back in 1984. It was located in an old outbuilding that was part of an early 20th century mill complex.  The state had ponyed up some funds for a renovation, and I was the first one to move in.  Being first, I got a real sweet deal on the lease, and the town got its first bookstore.  They even installed a bus stop right in front of my shop.

I set my place up so you could actually sit down and read the book you just bought, enjoy a cup of coffee, a cookie or a brownie and just relax.  My wife Lisa supplied the to-die-for sweets, and the place was a hit the day it opened.  No one had ever done anything like that before.  The small state college on the other side of town had a bookstore, but it just stocked what the kids needed for classes.  They came to my place for escape.

Lisa and I were in heaven.  Our store had a homey feel to it, warm, secure and subsumed with a pervasive feeling of family.  The building I leased also came with a two bedroom apartment above the store.  We had two thousand square feet of renovated mill space with cathedral ceilings and original brickwork.  It was beautiful.  We decorated our abode together over the course of a year making it uniquely ours.  At night when it rained and the droplets bounced off the old metal roof Lisa would giggle and sing “Love Shack” to me. 

Then the suits bought the rest of the mill complex and handed it over to the pinheads who set up a research facility.  Oh, sure, they came into my store and were good customers.  They were an eclectic bunch of nerds and military types who tended to buy on either end of the literary spectrum.  They either picked up hardcore physics tomes or science fiction.  That should have tipped me off.

In 1985 India with the aid of the USSR, successfully invaded Pakistan, and the whole tone of the lab changed.  The Cold War went frigid and I suspect Reagan had ramped us up to DEFCON 1.  The world was teetering on the edge of judgment day, and the pinheads had a plan to do something about it.  Before they were just academics playing with new toys.  Now they were men on a mission.  I supposed their intentions were noble, but their crusade to fix things erased my life.

They brought in a collection of massive electronic equipment. I watched them install a power substation at the back of the building, and many a night the lights went dim as they went about their research.  Being curious I poked and prodded at them when they came into my store, but they would just smile and claim it was a national security issue.

My store’s rise to success seemed to be the inverse of the success of America’s foreign interests.  The shop became so successful that people were coming from all of the neighboring towns to visit.  The cash was rolling in and several investors took notice.  Two years after India absorbed Pakistan, reversing the split state that the British had forced on them, I opened up three new stores in the surrounding cities. 

Iraq and Iran never saw it coming.  They were so busy filling body bags in their own quest to annihilate each other that they never dreamed the USSR would pour down through Turkmenistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan.  A flood of armor, airpower and infantry crushed Iran in five days.  Imagine Saddam Hussein’s surprise when they didn’t stop at the border, and he lost his country in a magnificent display of shock and awe.  

Iraq was the second American ally in two years to be subsumed by socialist powers.  Reagan ranted and raved, but they USSR claimed their “pacification” of the two warring nations was for the good of their people.  There would be no more warring between Shia and Sunni… God did not exist in the Soviet state.

That whole communist dominos thing was playing out in the Middle East and the only card the US was willing to play was the threat of mutually assured destruction… but it was only a threat.  Reagan needed something drastic that wouldn’t render humanity extinct and guess where he played his cards… in my backyard.  That was the year they did their first test.

Both Lisa and I were home that night.  We heard a bang when some big piece of metallic equipment locked in place.   The generators at the back of the complex kicked in and made a whine like a banshee on steroids.  There was a flash of brilliant bright light and then it was done.  The generators spun down, and our world returned to a more peaceful state.

The next day seemed no different than any other except for my lack of sleep.  My keys weren’t where I left them, but as my wife would have pointed out that was nothing new.  Then Lisa claimed an entire batch of brownies had gone missing, and I discovered an order of history books that I know I had put on the shelves was gone.  We wrote it off to a twitchy memory and quickly forgot about the incident.

By 1990 the world had gotten to be a very, very dangerous place.  Bush, the father, was drowning in world events that he had no control over.  China absorbed Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia in lightening quick storm trooper operations and formed the SCC (Sino Communist Collective). 

The USSR and the SCC signed the Communist Cooperation Act and pooled each other’s economies to become the world’s foremost trading partners.  Gorbachev and Deng Xio Ping formulated their “new” brand of communism which opened up their markets to free trade with less central governmental control.  Their economies exploded as did India’s which subsequently became one of their trading partners.

Bush on the other hand, in is his zeal to protect our established interests abroad was dumping trillions of dollars into the military.   The US economy was turning to shit and in ’92 the  American people said to hell with Bush and elected Robert Dole… the new boss was the same as the old boss…

I guess people needed escape from the turbulent world around them.  Despite an economy that was in a constant state of recession, my stores remained successful.  Through it all Lisa and I stayed on in our little apartment above our first store… it was home.

The pinheads had been doing three or four tests a year, and every time we heard that fucking bang, something would go missing the next day.  Then in 1995 Lisa and I got really scared when our twin Mercedes disappeared.  They had been replaced by twin Cadillacs.   At first we thought it was some kind of joke until we saw that they were registered in our name.

That was when I began to realize these strange events were more than just a case of bad memory.  It turned out it wasn’t just the cars, but I was short two whole stores!  How the fuck could you lose a store?  Lisa and I poured through our books and to our confusion, it was as if the stores in Walnut Creek and Orlando had never existed.

We were scared and didn’t know what to do.  I hadn’t put two and two together yet, and it just didn’t occur to me that it might be the science experiments going on in my backyard.  Lisa insisted on flying out to Orlando to see with her own two eyes what had happened to our store.  It had been one of our biggest shops, and we had fond memories of visiting Disney World at its grand opening.

The day Lisa left Connors walked into my store and bought the book that gave me my epiphany.  Connors was the Project leader for all the secret work going on behind my store.  He was a pleasant enough guy, pretty unassuming, in his late sixties, whose plain features seemed permanently fixed in a noncommittal expression. 

We exchanged pleasantries as he checked out, and when I saw the title of the book I froze.

Symmetry, Causality, Mind” by Michael Leyton

The word “Causality” flashed like a red warning sign in my mind’s eye.  The pinheads had been coming into my store so often that there was another couple of words that I’d picked up from their private conversations… “temporal change”.

“Is anything wrong?”

I remember snapping out my reverie and thinking, “Is anything wrong?  I’m missing two stores and two cars what the fuck are you guys up to in my backyard?”

In retrospect I wish I had said that, but I was in a state of denial.  I apologized and bagged the book for him.  One simple little question might have saved all of our lives.

That week was their moon shot moment.   All the stupid little tests they’d done were in preparation for this one defining event. 

I actually saw him escorted into the DARPA facility.  Ten black limos pulled up.  One of the kids in the store motioned everyone over to the window where I joined them.  I’d never seen so many generals in one spot before.  They gathered around the middle limo and a fairly short guy got out.  He was a lot younger at that point.  He had a full head of blond hair, a taut wiry, muscular frame honed by years of practicing Judo and those piercing blue eyes.  There was no mistaking who he was. 

That night they started up their machine, and the next morning my life was ripped apart.  I woke up in a drab, dreary bachelor pad above a bookstore that had gone bankrupt the week before.  I didn’t realize any of this at first, but after going through my mail, the files on my computer and the internet I was able to figure out this new reality.

I walked around in a daze sure that I had gone insane.  My first thoughts were of Lisa, and I searched frantically for her.  Eventually I called her mother who obviously didn’t know who I was.  Mary and I had always had a good relationship, but it was apparent I was scaring her.  She wouldn’t give me Lisa’s phone number… I’m sure she thought I was a psycho.

I stumbled around in a walking coma for a week.  I felt totally disassociated from reality.  They don’t have a term for the state of depression I was in.  My world had simply vanished and along with it the love of my life.  My heart didn’t simply break it was torn apart.

The postman had shoved the Time magazine “Man of the Year” edition through the mail slot in the front door of the store the day before.  I looked down on it and saw those steely blue eyes staring back at me from a much older Vladimer Putin. 

A week ago when he was being escorted into the facility by a gaggle of generals he had been much younger, but there was no denying those eyes.  I tore through the magazine and poured over his life story and Russia’s recent history.  I remember screaming to no one, “THEY NEVER INVADED AFGHANISTAN!”

The red warning signs lit in my head again… causality… temporal change.  The answers were there, but there were also too many questions.  The questions needed to be answered.  That’s when I bought the Glock.

Conners was not a brave man.  He was a geek dressed up as a manager.  He lived alone in a large house a few miles from the facility so I had no problem conducting a thorough interrogation.

He admitted to me that they had indeed sent an agent back to alter events with their new toy.  He explained how only those that were sealed in the temporal bubble generated by their machine would have any conscious recollection of what had changed.  He surmised that the bubble must have been bigger than they had accounted for and had extended over my store.  I was blessed with the knowledge of change… or cursed.  Had Lisa been in the bubble with me and not in Orlando would we still have been together?

I screamed at Connors, “My wife is gone you mother fucker!  You stole my entire life!  You know what I had!  It is all gone!”

Connors was in tears as he pleaded, “I’m sorry about that, terribly sorry, but it was for the good of the nation!”

 “For the good of the Nation!?  Have you read about 9/11!?  Have you read about Iraq?  WMD’s?  How is this world any better? ”

 The pathetic little bastard whined, “We’re going to fix that too.  We’re going to send another agent back tonight… a Muslim!”

“Fix it!”  I spit at him. I stared at him for what seemed like an eternity trying to work things out in my head. 

“Fix it…  What happens if the machine is destroyed when it’s spun up?”

His look of fear was comical.  He hesitated to answer and I traced the sight of my Glock to his groin.

“It will all be gone!  It will be as if none of it ever existed!  The temporal environment spans all time so it would cease to exist in all timelines.”

Finally news that brought a smile…

 “I guess it’s all relative,” …and the gun went bang.


These fuckers played the “what if” scenario until it erased my life.  I’ve become something I never was… a psycho shaped by their causality.  As of this morning I’m a murderer.  In a few moments I’m going to become a temporal terrorist… the first and only in all of history.

The backpack at my feet contains 75 pounds of ANFO explosive and a dead man’s switch… that would be me.  I’m literally going to erase these fuckers like they erased my life.  Yes I’m bitter, but I guess in the end I am hopeful for one thing…  God bless America… enjoy your new timeline.