By Ken Bergman
Jack saw it through the open gate and rushed into the hangar. The echo of his footsteps sounded long-winded as he ran towards the wooden table, placed in the corner. He looked behind as the green Army jeep bounced up from the slope, charging towards the building. The armed soldiers would swarm into the building soon, making it impossible for him to make it back in one go. The roaring sound of the jeep came closer. The red digits on the microwave changed as he turned the knob. Would 10 seconds do? The jeep had stopped, and he heard harsh voices. 5 seconds must be enough, he thought, and pressed the button. He didn’t look back as the sound of boots filled the air. Jack stared at the countdown.
…5—The first time he used it, he had just stood there trying to wrap his head around what happened.
…4—It wasn’t until after a few tries that he used it to gather information. First it was just the results of the local games—who could blame him? As he got bolder, he started to gather information about the stock market and current events.
…3—That made him into a modern version of King Midas. It was then he discovered that the government had a special task force.
…2—Apparently, messing around with time and space for personal gain wasn’t approved. Who could have known? Since then, Jack had been playing cat and mouse with them through the last century.
…1—Everything turned bright white, as if he was standing before a house-sized flash.
The field was large and filled with knee-high crops. The sun was warm and the air felt as if a thunderstorm had cleansed it, moments ago. The air filled his lungs, and he felt how it powered up his body and mind—it was riveting. The sun stood high and he shielded his eyes to scan the vicinity. They had never been this close to catching him, forcing him to go under 19 minutes for the first time. Either they’d got luckier locating him, or it had taken him longer to find it after each run. Finding it could be a small challenge, and it would hide in the most peculiar of places, like in the women’s locker room. Standing around there for 19 minutes turned out to be a true challenge.
First it had been a dark smudge, dancing in the heat, on the horizon. As he got closer, it grew and became more detailed, until he stood before a white stone house, similar to a sugar cube. A dog, looking like a wrinkled rag over a pair of sticks, looked surprised at him. Behind the house he could see small dots moving on the opposite field. The farmers, he assumed, and walked into the house.
A strange mix of animals and spices nipped his nose as he entered. The room was large and sparse, with a thick blanket covering an opening, leading to the back. There was a tall wooden cabinet against one wall, with a smaller one beside it. A clay carafe stood on a table together with a stack of plates. In one corner, he saw rolls of blankets against the wall. He walked up to the cabinet and opened it. There were primitive tools, clay pots and other things he didn’t recognize, but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t under the rolls of blankets, either.
He pulled the blanket away and peered inside the smaller backroom and saw the origin of the smell. Two goats were standing there, bleating quietly, trying to avoid his gaze, as if he wasn’t there. Just he was about to turn around, he saw it, hiding in the small pile of hay behind the goats.
Jack pushed his way between the goats and kneeled, brushing the dry crops from it. Something was odd, and it took him a couple of heartbeats before he knew what it was. The display was dark. He turned the knob around, and it was still pitch black. He turned it around and pulled the cord until he held the socket in his damp, shaking palm. Jack dropped it to the ground and stood up, embracing his head as if a gigantic headache had come over him. Then he slumped down against the wall and began to laugh. Like a hushed giggle at first, but soon it grew until it flooded out of him like a raging torrent. With tears running down his cheeks, he realized that they had finally managed to trap him. For good.