by Séo V-K
Five days left to live. My boss has reduced the daily salary by 4 hours, which gives me 22 hours per day. At this rate, my time remaining will dwindle down to 0. I’ve got to do something. Get a new job? No, that would take too much effort and with only 2 days left to live… I don’t think I can manage that. I wish I could go back in time, three years ago, when everybody could live freely, and were not pressured by time. I used to think that, in the future, there would be flying cars, spaceships, and futuristic eco-friendly buildings. Humans even tried sending ships to the newly found wormhole. Instead, society evolved into what I would call a disaster.
The Kams, a powerful military police force, infused a time chip in everybody’s heart. This chip, which was connected to a hand watch, would display the time you have left to live. When the counter goes down, the chip explodes, and you die. The only way to save yourself is to be given more time by the Kams, which would only happen after a long day of work. Because of how important this time was, humans abandoned money and started using time as their currency. My daily salary used to be 26 hours a day, which would give me 2 more hours to live every day. A profit, some would say, but using 18h of that precious time every day, manufacturing more watches for the higher class isn’t so great. Now that my boss greedily took four hours from me, I will be losing 2 hours every day. Something has to be done.
MISTAKES WERE MADE
I decided to skip work that day. I just couldn’t bear another day of banging cryo metal sheets and breathing all the toxic powder, knowing that I was going to die soon. I got out of my bunker and headed left, instead of going right to the factory. The road was silent. Not a single soul in sight. The sky here is cyan gray. The bunkers are bigger, and there are a bunch of crymo3infused hover bikes. The rich quarter. Slowly, people began opening their bunker doors and strolling out. Every single one of them looked at me with an awkward eye, wondering what a poor citizen was doing in a rich quarter. I looked around me. There are 500 feet skyscrapers all over the place, slowly reaching for the sky, like if they were in a competition. In the middle was the most praised building in the city: The Eternal Timekeeper, usually known as the Etk. It was a 1270 feet (387.1 m) tall tower, made of pure Anemite Alloy1, with a 55 feet (16.76 meters) diameter clock at the top. It was the Kams’ headquarters, and it was the most secure place on the planet. If there was a way, a way to stop this society, it was here. Suddenly, I heard a high-pitched whistle. I tried running and looked to my left, but it was already too late. The Kams had spotted me.
The Etk was run by the CEO of the Kams (who is also the richest human in the city, possessing 3502 years) If used correctly, it could bend time, an achievement no one thought could have been accomplished. The Etk was powered by a Submission core4, which had to be changed every 40 years. As a result, there were many unpowered Submission cores lying around the tower, since the Kams didn’t know how to repower one. If only I could find a way to repower them… But thinking about something is easier said than done. The Kams were getting closer, and I was running to who knows where, with my head up in the clouds. I ran as fast as I could until I hit a dead end. I saw an opening to my left, and thought I could go straight for it. Instead, I fell into a manhole and dove into a pitch black wall.
My eyelids slowly opened, and I saw two men, clad in a metallic white suit, staring down at me.
“Look at what you’ve driven yourself into, trying to escape the Kams. Don’t poor idiots like you know to stay away?”
I tried saying something, but wasn’t able to. I opened and shut my mouth. No sound whatsoever. I took a peek around the room. The walls were pewter gray, and the ceiling was covered in a light gray silky substance. The door was blocked by a set of cerulean lasers, buzzing like a hive of bees.
“Don’t try talking, you can’t. You hit your head and right arm on an iron shaft. It’s a miracle you’re still alive.”
“Has he experienced any amnesia?”
“No, he will just be unable to speak and use his right arm for two months.” Unable to say anything, I looked out of the gray tinted window. The view was amazing, you could see everything, the houses, the scooters, the people… The thought suddenly hit me. I knew exactly where I was. The Kams had transported me to the medical cell in the Eternal Timekeeper.
MUTE, BUT CONSCIOUS
After recovering in the medical cell, The medical Kam agent threw me into a cell. I landed on the floor, and heard the screeching of the metal door closing. I checked my time watch, but realized in horror that the screen was broken. Must have hit something when I fell in the manhole. This was awful. I didn’t know how long I was unconscious. Had it been a day? Two days? What if I was living my last hour here? The cell was covered in a dark gray metal sheet, similar to crymo metal. There would be no way of breaking it, and there seemed to be no windows. I then looked at the door, it was probably my only option. The door was different to the walls. If it was crymo metal, it would be almost impossible to move. It must be something lighter, but still rock hard. After 2 years, working in a watch factory, I knew how to differentiate different types of metal. The only metal I could think of, that was harder than diamond, but lighter than Crymo metal, was modified Halicite5. I immediately tried the rubbing test. To my surprise, I couldn’t move my right arm. That’s what the medics were talking about… I decided to glue my ear to the door, and waited for the hum. Instead, I heard mumbling sounds. Must be guards outside. I took the opportunity to listen to them.
I couldn’t quite decipher what they were saying, although I could guess the words I didn’t hear. For the following 20 minutes, I listened, listened, and came up with this:
-You can submit the Crymo ore at the garage
-Actually, it is near the ground.
-Really? I never thought they’d hide them there
-Me neither. Two more to go..
The first sentence didn’t make sense. Why would they want to hide Crymo ore? It barely had any value if not compressed.. I reviewed the indigo traces I made on the door (by rubbing letters on it) What does “Two more to go” even mean? Two more of what? I tried thinking of a way to decipher the first sentence, when the door opened.
The Kam agent dragged me across countless hallways, banging my head on the corners. Finally, he threw me into a pitch black room and closed the door behind him.
“Hey, it’s alright, I’m not an enemy.”
The lights flicked on, and I could see a man, wearing a Kam suit, staring down at me. I stayed silent. I wanted to ask him so many questions, but I couldn’t. “Not talkative, I see.”
The man looked around, as if he thought someone else was in the room. “I’m an undercover spy. I was tasked to get you out of the Etk alive. The name’s Hilt. Coppy Hilt.”
Hilt took off his Kam suit and gave it to me. “Here, put this on. You’ll be less noticeable. Go to the 1st floor, go to the first yellow door, and turn to the left.” He then immediately left, and left me alone. I painfully put the suit on with one arm, and trotted out of the door.
The hallways were all white, with buzzing blue lamps on the ceiling. I followed Hilt’s instructions. I took the elevator down to the first floor and entered the yellow door.
On the door was a sign, which said: “Stockroom”. I entered the stockroom. It was pitch white, and the only thing I could see was the door. Suddenly, a weapon rack came flying by and nearly hit me in the head. The rack contained so many weapons! There were rifles, swords, daggers, axes, snipers, baguettes, pistols, rocket launchers and more! I looked behind me, but the door was gone. Instead, two new doors appeared. A red one and a blue one. The red one to my left, and the blue one to my right. Once again, I followed Hilt’s instructions, and headed to the red door. Before leaving, I quickly grabbed a pistol, and opened the door. In the room was a big bunker. A bunker filled with hundreds of broken up pieces of machinery. This was it. These were the Submission Cores. That was what the Kams were talking about! Submit ores? What was I even thinking about? I might have had some brain damage…
Suddenly something hit me. All of this time, time was ticking. I didn’t have my watch, so I couldn’t see how much time I had left. I had to find a watch, and quickly. I stormed out of the stockroom and looked to my sides. A Kam agent was running towards me. I knocked him out and took his time watch. After strapping it on, I realized, aghast, that the timer said 1:32:42. I had an hour and a half left.
THE WRONG DOOR
[01:32:20] I quickly raced back into the room with the Submission cores. I had thought of a plan. The Etk was the center of time, the bender of time. It would keep time running eternally. But what if the Etk was stopped. What if time.. came to an end? The only thing capable of destroying Anemite was an overloaded Submission core. To do that, a charged Submission core had to be electro-charged. Bringing one of them would be hell, especially if they were unpowered. There was an active Submission core at the top of the Etk, but blowing that one up would require much force, and would be too dangerous.
I raced my shadow to the top of the tower. To my surprise, it was unlocked, as if someone had recently come in…
[01:14:32] I gingerly put my foot in the room, as if there would be an explosion. I looked around, there were gears, turbines, wires, servers, and a bunch of other mechanical things I didn’t know. In the middle was the Submission core, shining bright. Suddenly, something hit my head, and, for the second time, dove in a pitch black wall.
[00:46:54] I opened my eyes, slowly. I could hear the gears moving and the steam fuming. A dark figure was on top of me, pointing a red laser right at my face. He was wearing a black mask and a purple hat.
“Why are you here? You should have died already.”
I looked up. That voice sounded familiar.
“I ordered you to go to the right door. The blue one. And of course, you went through the wrong door. What a moron. Look at all the trouble you’ve caused me. Eliminating you should have been a simple task. Guess I’ll have to do it myself.”
It was Hilt. Was he a Kam this whole time? Was this all, a- He shoved a piece of equipment through my mouth.
“There. You can speak now. Get it? We lied to you. You never had a concussion, never lost your voice. We took your voice away from you, so you could not talk back. And you fell for it. Now tell me. Why did you go to the red door?”
I paused, thinking. “I went to my left. But in that room, you didn’t have a sense of direction. Maybe the blue door was to your left, but since I had turned 180o, the red door was to my right.”
Hilt stood there, speechless. “Well, that won’t matter now, since you’re going to die.”
[00:24:06] I tried thinking. There was only one way to stop this. I had to blow up the current Submission core. I snatched the metal plank that had fallen on me and threw it on Hilt. In pain, he shot his pistol and ended up shooting a wire. I climbed up the machine and was face to face with the Submission core. I could already feel the heat deteriorating my insides, but I didn’t stop. Hilt was knocked out, so I had some time to spare. I had to find a combination to unlock the glass dome around the core. It was a three number combination. I tried random combinations. 423, 123, 928, 013, 007, 521. None of them worked. What could it be? Plank’s constant? Pi? I had no other choice than to try more random codes.
TIME IS OF ESSENCE
[00:15:12] Time’s ticking, only 15 minutes left. I had to get this combination right.
[00:12:07] I have to do this.
[00:10:58] If I don’t, everything I’ve done would have come to waste… [00:09:44] 015,014,013,012,011. Clink. The dome opened. Was eleven the answer this whole time? I slowly reached into the dome, but when I touched the core, the wires detached.
[00:09:11] The whole building shook, as if something had crashed in the building. I suddenly heard a voice behind me. I looked around. It was Hilt. “Don’t do that, you don’t know what you’re up against.”
I looked at him, right in the eye, silently.
“I said, don’t! Now come back here.”
I ignored him, snatching a cut wire and moving it towards the core, ready to overload it.
[00:03:01] We stood a while there, waiting for one of us to move. Though no one did.
“You don’t know the chaos you can cause, blowing that thing up.” I looked at the core, and then the wire.
[00:01:34] Hilt had a touch of worry in his voice. “You can always come back, no one’s going to get hurt.”
[00:00:48] He snatched a piece of metal on the ground, and threw it at me, injuring my left arm, which dropped the wire. The other wire was too far to reach with my left arm. I had to use my right one.
[00:00:25] I slowly reached for the wire
[00:00:22] “DON’T” I heard the man shouting
[00:00:19] I finally grabbed the wire
[00:00:16] “There’s a 99% chance you’re going to die. That the whole city is going to die.
[00:00:14] I stared at him, dead in the eye. “Never tell me the odds.” I threw the wire in the core.
[00:00:13] The core spun and let out a brutal explosion, throwing me into the sky. Everything was dim. Everything was slow. I was slowly floating out of the broken Etk. The debris was slowly coming to a stop. Seconds later, I, myself, stopped in the middle of the air. Unable to move, I just could get a glimpse at my watch. It read [00:00:11] and stayed that way for eternity.
What’s next? Time isn’t a thing anymore. All there is left is mindless beings, deaf and blind, floating in nothingness. Was it worth it after all? Was ending time the right thing to do? So many questions to be answered. Well, let me tell you this. Since time is stopping, light and sound will also be stopped, like when you’re going at light speed. We don’t have much time left. Time’s Ticking. Everything’s getting blurry, lighter… Let me tell you this, let me tell you what’s next
Why are you looking at this?
Since you’re here: Baguette
Since you’re here: Baguette
About the Author
Seo is a rising 9th grade student at the Lycée Français de SF, interested in programming, archery, art. He likes writing science fiction and fantasy.