A Short Story
The fact that everything about the room screamed nerd really did nothing for Michael’s sense of self-worth, even though he was a science major. He walked into the comic book convention, passing a grown woman dressed as a cat of some sort, and headed to the nearest stand.
He’d never really enjoyed comic books, but a girl he fancied really seemed to enjoy them. He tried reading the stuff she liked, but it all tended to be Japanese and generally involved gay men who looked like flat-chested women who enjoyed tearing their shirts off. Knowing that this was definitely not the sort of reading material he wanted his parents to find tucked under his mattress, he’d decided to try something else out instead.
What he’d found was truly remarkable.
The story had been amazing, almost Tolkien-esque in its sheer immensity, and had appealed to him immediately. The art was beautifully meticulous, and the story was so detailed that each twenty-two page issue took him at least forty-five minutes to complete. But there was one problem...
He couldn’t find issue seven anywhere!
People had always told him – that is, comic book nerds had told him – that generally the hardest issues to find were issue two or, in more recent cases, issue three. Issue ones always sold out – everyone bought them for their sheer collectability – but more often than not people neglected the next few issues, so they always had lower print runs. For a long time that meant issue two were rare, but now people had picked up on this and started buying the second issues as well, it seemed that issue three was the new issue two. But in this case, issue seven? It was most likely because the first story arc finished in issue six, and many people thought it was the final issue as issue seven didn’t come out for five more months, but by the time I realised this, issue eight was already on the shelves...
I’m boring you, aren’t I?
Anyway, out of sheer desperation, Michael had turned up at a comic convention in the hope of finding that elusive comic book.
Surrounded by people dressed as Transformers, Ninja Turtles, and many other popular characters from last summer’s action packed movies, he approached a section of the convention hall manned by a skinny man in his forties, wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘There’s no place like 127.0.0.1 ‘ printed on the front. Michael didn’t get it.
The man stared at Michael, as if he was the retard for being in this place, then asked a simple question.
“Can I help you?”
Michael cleared his throat, “I’m looking for something,” he said.
“Aren’t we all?” the man replied, “You might want to be a little more specific, chum.”
“It’s a comic book,” Michael added.
The man looked left, then right, then stared at Michael. His stare said, ‘You’re an idiot’.
“It’s called ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’.” Michael explained.
“Oh,” the comic book guy grinned, “I imagine it’s issue seven you’ll be looking for.”
Michael furrowed his brow, “How did you know that?” he asked.
“It’s famous,” the comic book guy told, “don’t you know the story behind it?”
Michael shook his head.
“I thought everyone knew,” the man rolled his eyes, “well, what happened is, through some weird series of events, a vortex opened up in the very fabric of time itself, taking issue seven of ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’ and every single detail about it, and sent it hurtling into the future.”
Michael’s jaw fell open, “Seriously?” he asked.
The comic guy chuckled, “No, not seriously,” he said, “the guys who write it messed up, and there is no issue seven.”
“But the story doesn’t make sense without it,” Michael whined.
The comic guy shrugged, “Cry me a river, pal. What do you want me to do about it?”
Michael furrowed his brow, “Do you think they’ll ever publish it?” he asked.
“Maybe one day,” the man shrugged, “it happens sometimes. Remember how issue 20 of Spawn didn’t come out until after issue 25 back in the early days of Image?”
Michael stared blankly at the man, “What’s a Spawn?” he asked.
The comic book man turned away.
So now what was Michael to do? He couldn’t wait around, hoping that one day issue seven would magically appear in the shops. His personality wouldn’t allow it.
Luckily, he was something of a science wiz (convenient, huh?), so he headed home and started work on something that would hopefully help him out.
After several weeks of work, during which time issues eleven and twelve of ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’ had been released, Michael finally had it...
A Time Machine!
He was amazed at just how easy it had been to invent an actual working time machine. From what little he knew about time travel, it should have taken at least thirty years to finalize (at least, that’s what the Back To The Future trilogy had implied). It didn’t look like anything special; it wasn’t a Delorean, it didn’t look like Santa’s sleigh with a spinning wheel attached, and it definitely wasn’t a hot tub.
Michael’s time machine was a wrist watch.
How simple is that? He could just strap it on his wrist, set the time and date he wanted to travel to, and the watch would do the rest.
But to where should he travel?
By his estimate, a journey of just ten years into the future should land him in a time where he could find out when issue seven had finally been released. He began pressing buttons on the watch, changing the date on the digital display to 1st January, 2025.
Michael was plunged into darkness as the watch tore him out of his existing timeline and threw him into his apartment ten years in the future. He looked around, trying to adjust his eyes to the darkness, and peering around his living room.
Nothing had changed.
“It must not have worked properly,” he mumbled to himself, feeling his way around the room until he found a light switch. He flicked it on and looked at the wall clock. Maybe next time he should set a time, and not allow the watch to default to four zeroes - midnight. He twiddled with the watch, changing the default time to noon.
On further inspection of his flat, Michael spotted some small changes. His DVD collection had increased, and now included such unknown movies as Predator Versus Terminator, Toy Story 4, and something called Redezvous With Rama. Then a boxset he hadn’t seen before caught his eye...
It was called ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’!
“They made a TV series!” Michael said to himself, hoping beyond hope that it would include the episode that adapted issue seven.
A light came on in his bedroom, and Michael almost dropped the box set as he saw himself – albeit ten years older – walking into the living room in a pair of old man pyjamas.
“Oh,” the older Michael said, “Is that today?”
“Yes, I’m you,” older Michael finished younger Michael’s sentence, then looked at the box set he was holding.
“I wouldn’t bother with that,” he said, “as you can see, it only got one series. It was pretty lame.”
Younger Michael stared at his older self in disbelief, wondering when his hair had started to fall out, “So, what happened in issue seven?”
“Issue seven?” older Michael shook his head, “they never published an issue seven. They never published anything passed issue thirteen. It got cancelled when the creator got killed in a bus accident in early ’15 – not long after we invented time travel, actually.”
Younger Michael gaped in disbelief, “So why didn’t you go back in time and save him?” he asked.
“Because you can’t go back to your own time,” older Michael said.
Younger Michael looked confused, “But you’re me,” he said, “so if you’re here, then I must make it back.”
“Oh, we do,” older Michael explained, “but to 2016. For some reason the whole of 2015 gets locked out to us. Weird.”
“So there’s no issue seven?” younger Michael concluded, “and there never will be?”
“Sorry,” older Michael shrugged his shoulders, “I’ll see you then.”
“I’m not going back yet,” younger Michael said, “I might as well learn something about the future before I go back and make some money out of this.”
“You don’t stay much longer,” older Michael said.
“Why not,” younger Michael asked.
“Because, in the middle of your next sentence, you disappear, reappearing in 2016.”
Younger Michael laughed, “I really don’t think...”
And he vanished.
“Told you,” older Michael said.
Michael suddenly found himself in his flat in 2016, this time in the middle of the day. A year had passed in his flat, and it was only lucky he had all his bills set for direct debit. Grabbing a coat, he ran out of his flat and headed to the local comic book shop, hoping that he’d be able to get the last issue of ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’. He slammed into the shop door, running up to the counter, and smiling at the man behind it.
“Do you have the last issue of ‘The Borders of Time And Reason’?” he asked.
The comic shop man stared at him in disbelief, “Are you joking?” he asked, “Do you have any idea how much that thing goes for? It was the last thing the guy published before he got hit by that bus. It’s really famous. You really should have bought it when it came out. Were you living under a rock or something?”
“No,” Michael sighed to himself, “just in the future.”