The Discovery – A Sci-Fi Short Story
Thomas could not stop the disgusted look from creeping onto his face. It was a shame that his time was being wasted on this kind of nonsense when he could be home working on his scientific ventures. At least the four beers that he was able to take down before leaving the house made things slightly more tolerable.
His daughter, Cassidy, stood up on stage in her oversized honeybee costume, rocking back and forth on her heels excitedly. She had been chattering endlessly for the last two months about her big role in the grade 3 production of The Bee and Me, the original play written by her teacher, the failed Broadway playwright.
Cassidy waved out to the crowd and Thomas motioned to wave back until he noticed who she was actually waving to. Thomas’ ex-wife and husband waved back gleefully at his daughter. They sat several rows in front of Thomas, who sat in row 20, seat 11, which was the furthest seat from the stage in the entire gymnasium. He had been placed there by the school Principal, a bitter little man who Thomas had not gotten along with in high school.
At least I can sleep back here without anyone noticing, he thought.
Thomas’ mind wandered as he looked around the gymnasium. He caught the eye of one of his neighbours, George, a few rows away. George smiled and rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner, suggesting he was just as bored as Thomas was. Thomas smiled and nodded back.
When the play finished, Thomas took Cassidy home and put her to bed. He thought about heading downstairs to work in his basement, or as Cassidy liked to call it, his “mad scientist laboratory”. However, a case of beer in the kitchen caught his attention and he decided to work on that instead.
Work the next day was completely intolerable. Walking through the doors of Trust Tech with a massive hangover was nothing new for Thomas, though his migraine today seemed particularly bad. His team was in meetings all day with several of the companies interested in providing funding to Trust Tech. Thomas hated these “meeting” days; he just wanted to go to the lab and pretend work like he always did.
Thomas worked in the Experimental Sciences Department at Trust Tech. The current project that his team was focused on had to do with establishing basic machinery designs and practical studies for the warping of spacetime, or more simply, time travel.
The team that Thomas was part of, like every other team in the world, was not even close to developing any “practical studies” related to time travel. The Williamson Studies ten years prior, during which Dr. Stephen Williamson claimed to have sent an apple forward in time by a full three minutes, had triggered a worldwide race between numerous large companies attempting to be the first to develop a time travel machine. Thomas argued that the Samson and Davies Trials, which involved sending the consciousness forward in time, were much more realistic and practical, but he was overruled consistently because everyone was obsessed with the decay patterns on a damn Red Delicious.
Once Thomas knew that he was never going to be able to push his own theories on the team and the company, he simply began stealing research materials from work and started his own projects at home based on the Samson and Davies studies. These involved altering the chemical composition of the brain, and Thomas had no reservations about experimenting on himself.
When Thomas got home after work, he guzzled down four beers. He generally had a tough enough time holding himself together for eight hours at work without drinking, and the compulsion increased on irritating days like “meeting” days.
Thomas sat staring at his laptop. A momentary rush of anger boiled inside him as he looked through his sloppy, disorganized notes. He knew this carelessness would negate any potential breakthroughs, but he’d never improved this aspect of his work. His internal rage was interrupted when he heard footsteps upstairs in Cassidy’s room.
“Cass?!” He yelled up to her room. Today was his wife’s day to look after her.
He made his way upstairs and looked into Cassidy’s room. She was in front of her mirror, trying to pull her bee costume up over her shoulders unsuccessfully.
“Cass, what are you doing? How long have you been up here?” Thomas asked, annoyed.
“I came here right after school. We have to get going! We’re gonna be late” Cassidy yelled, her eyes welling with tears.
“Late for what?” Thomas asked.
“Dad, don’t try to be funny! The play is tonight and we’re gonna be late so help!” Cassidy was crying now.
Thomas hated to see his daughter cry so he helped her get the costume up and over her shoulders.
“Well what was last night, then?” Thomas asked. “Was that a rehearsal or something?”
“What are you talking about, dad? Let’s go, please!” Cassidy ran past him and down the stairs, slipped her shoes on, and was out to the car before Thomas could figure out his next line of questioning.
He sighed and plodded out the door behind her.
Thomas had experienced déjà vu before, but never like this. He was seated by Principal Dickhead in row 20, seat 11, just like before. He watched his daughter wave at his ex-wife and her husband from the stage, right in the middle of that terrible song, just like before. He fixed his gaze on the side of his neighbour George’s head for several moments until, right on cue, George turned and rolled his eyes and smiled at Thomas.
Thomas went pale. Was this some terrible recurring nightmare where he had to watch his daughter’s appalling school play again and again? Or did this have something to do with his work in the mad scientist laboratory? He searched his brain for answers. What had he done last night before going to the play? He knew one of the side effects of the experiments conducted in the Samson and Davies study was confusion and temporary memory loss, and he hadn’t done himself any favours with all of the alcohol. Had his experiment worked and he hadn’t even realized it? It made sense. If he did actually travel forward in time, all of the theories indicated that he would not actually be cognizant of it and would move back into his own timeline almost seamlessly.
He jumped up from his seat, the cheap plastic chair dropped to the floor behind him. He bolted out of the gymnasium, jumped in his car and screamed in the parking lot. His wife would make sure Cassidy got home alright.
It looked like a bomb had gone off in the lab; papers strewn everywhere, beakers tipped over and broken, and empty beer bottles scattered everywhere. Thomas sat on a chair in the middle of the room, dumbstruck. It had worked, Thomas realized, but he was going to have no way of re-creating what he had done. He had succeeded and made one of the most significant scientific breakthrough in history, and there was no evidence that it had ever happened.
Scanning the room, the reason for his failure was plain to see. The alcohol had consumed his life and ruined him. He looked over at the four cases sitting unopened in the corner of his basement. It had to go.
Thomas ripped open the first case with vigor and pulled out a bottle. He walked over to the sink and put his hand around the cap to open it up. He stopped. His hands shook. What was holding him back? He wanted to get rid of this demon, but something in the back of his mind stopped him. He stood over the sink for several minutes, his hand resting on the cap, refusing to turn it.
Finally, his brain brought an answer forward to him. The beer was not the problem, it was the answer! What element did he have in his successful experiment that Samson and Davies did not have in their failed trials? Alcohol. There must be something in the alcohol that worked with the other chemicals to activate them.
He opened the beer and, rather than pouring it down the sink, poured it down his throat frantically, spilling much of it down the front of his shirt in this hysterical act. He slammed the empty bottle down on the table and reached for another.
As he sat down in his demolished lab, he tried to remember some of the words to the final song in The Bee and Me. Luckily the song had an infuriatingly catchy and memorable melody. One day, he would sing that melody to Cassidy when she was angry with him for missing the big finale.