BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Jeffrey G. Roberts
I stand looking into my open grave. Except it isn’t in the beautiful white sandy beach I find myself on, but above me – some 5000 feet. Like a wound in the sky, I stare at it; it stares back at me – eternal, immortal, frozen in time. The old phrase, ‘what happens when an immovable object meets an irresistible force’ always intrigued me. No more. Now I know. I know – because I caused this. Not God, not the devil, not malevolent nations. Me.
I could warn all the girls on my private island. I could tell my servants and staff to run. I could email everyone on the face of the Earth, to take cover – doomsday is upon us! But what would be the point? They couldn’t hear me anyway. And they never will. For an eternity. The only one that can hear me, the only one I can talk to – is my own reflection. The Earth is silent – except for me.
No, God didn’t cause this, though some might disagree. But he sure as hell is punishing me for it. The ultimate punishment. I’ve run it over and over in my head a million times as I lie on my bed at night, and stare out at the silent stars; at a world made mute by my arrogance. And I wake up the next morning to the birds, frozen in mid-flight. And I have no more answers than I did the night before. Or a thousand soul-searching nights before that. I’m in hell! And I made it, all by myself. Could I have changed anything? Sure. I could have decided to be a decent human being, instead of the son-of-a-bitch I turned into. And now I’m paying the price for it. Oh dear God, please let me go back to the beginning!
“Mr. Bingston, would you be so kind as to input this data on subjects 6-15 into the mainframe?”
“Of course, Dr. McFarland,” the senior technician answered, as he walked up to his superior.
“We’re paid to work here at D.A.R.P.A., Mr. Bingston,” he said sarcastically. “Not to eat. Your last break was three minutes over. Besides, I think you could afford to forego a few donut breaks,” he added, mocking Charles Bingston, as he patted the technician’s stomach.
“Of course, Dr. McFarland.” ‘You royal pain in the ass,’ he thought bitterly. He despised the man; his arrogance, his conceit, and his constant belittling of him, as a sort of indentured servant. ‘I didn’t get straight A’s in college to be treated like a slave. I swear, McFarland, one more sarcastic remark, one more insult…’ Charles Bingston could feel his muscles tightening and his teeth clench, as he began inputting the data. ‘Isn’t there some obscure law in this state against murder? Pity.’
There were 50 scientists & technicians working on this secret “black” research program at D.A.R.P.A., but for some inexplicable reason Dr. Ross McFarland seemed to focus his animosity and sarcasm on Charles Bingston. Charles had no idea why – and he didn’t care. He just wanted it to stop. And if it didn’t, he had the germ of a plan to make it stop – and discredit McFarland at the same time.
Unfortunately, he could air his bitterness to no one. This particular D.A.R.P.A. “black” program was so radical, so revolutionary, and so secret, that it was absolutely forbidden to discuss what went on here. To anyone. To do so would result in the most dire of consequences.
Once every six months the top brass from the Pentagon would review all relevant black projects in question; to assess their progress, to see how many untraceable billions might have to be further pumped into them, and to determine their relevance in strategic military operations. Bright and early on a Wednesday morning, they came. There were 12 of them, with so much “fruit salad” on their chests, and “scrambled eggs” on their hats, it looked like a buffet. Dr. McFarland had gathered his scientists and technicians together, just before their arrival. It was supposed to be a pep talk, but as was his style, it was more of a dressing down – and he was looking right at Charles Bingston, with an accusatory stare. “Just keep your mouths shut and don’t say a word, unless they address you directly. And if one of them does, direct the question to me. Is that understood?” All nodded affirmatively. “Bingston, get me a cup of coffee. I missed my breakfast. Chop-chop!”
“Yes sir.” ‘Glad to, Dr. McFarland. Will that be one lump of cyanide or two?’
It was a lab quite unlike anything the Pentagon had ever seen before. They suspected something truly strange was going on here. ‘This isn’t science,’ one Lieutenant thought. ‘This looks more like “para-science”!’
“General Butler,” McFarland began, “welcome to Project Tempus. The 28 men and women in these glass containers are the refuse of society, the dregs of the populace. I assure you, they won’t be missed,” he said curtly, referring to his tablet.
“Are they alive?” Gen. Butler asked.
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“Yes sir. But just barely. They are monitored 24/7, so that we may know the exact moment of their deaths. They are all terminal. But I assure you, they are in no pain.”
“What purpose will their deaths serve, Dr. McFarland?” the General’s aide inquired.
“Their purpose, ironically, will be to part the veil between this world and the next, and capture the energy between the two dimensions.”
There was an unsettling murmuring amongst the assembled brass.
“As you can see,” he continued, “there is a quantum computer atop each glass capsule. Surrounding the head of each capsule is a confined magnetic field. You see, there are seven energy fields in the human aura. It is postulated that the highest of these morphogenetic levels – the seventh – has to do with that frequency popularly known – as the soul. This frequency transcends normal time & space. We believe it is the key.”
“The key to what?” Gen. Butler asked nervously.
“To the afterlife, General!”
Now there was stunned silence.
‘I think I’m going to vomit,’ Charles thought.
“Do we plan an invasion of heaven? No, of course not,” McFarland continued. “That is wading into waters far too deep even for us. But consider this: everyone who has been through a near death experience, or NDE, as well as every verifiable psychic medium who has made contact with ‘the other side’, has remarked on the absence of time in that realm. The passage of time to an immortal is irrelevant. But just how does time cease once you cross over?” He walked over to one of the capsules containing a very old and very sickly man, looked down at his tablet, and tapped the magnetic field apparatus encircling his head. “The frequency of that 7th level, we believe, is the key all souls take with them, to initiate the cessation of time in that dimension – heaven, if you will. It is a particle we have dubbed the Tempus Particle. And this device, on each of the capsules, will capture it before it can sail off into that other plane of existence. We will then transfer it into a portable magnetic bottle for study.”
“Aren’t you worried that you’re playing God, Dr.?” the General’s aide asked.
“Someone has to, young man. Someone has to,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“Let’s assume you can isolate this Tempus Particle,” the General wondered, walking among the capsules of comatose and forgotten individuals, who now, even in death would have no peace. “Towards what end, Dr.?”
“Oh come now, General. You’re a military man. Think of the possibilities! Unleashing the Tempus Particle, in a controlled way, here on Earth, instead of in the afterlife? The ability to stop time? Why, you could freeze whole armies in their tracks, then kill them with impunity. These unfortunate souls,” he said, waving his arm about the giant facility, “will have given the ultimate scientific contribution, ensuring that their sacrifice will guarantee consistent victory for our forces in any engagement.” He then made a few taps on his tablet.
‘What does he have on that, that’s not on the main frame,’ Charles wondered. ‘I think I know. Yeah, consistent victory, while you condemn them to an eternity wandering the Earth in torment, you fat son-of-a-bitch!’ he thought.
Whatever bug McFarland had up his butt towards Bingston only intensified in the weeks to come. But it reached a head one day, when Charles handed him a wrong piece of equipment.
“What’s wrong with you, Bingston? Were you born stupid, or did you attain it in slow degrees over time? Hell, I could hire a trained monkey to do what you do!”
And that did it. It was the final straw. He would bring this little Hitler down, end his reign of abuse toward him and others, and put an end to the heartless, if not blasphemous, experiment known as Project Tempus.
Ross McFarland may have been a senior scientist at D.A.R.P.A., but Charles Bingston was one of the top engineering technicians in the country. He knew the schematics of the revolutionary portable magnetic bottle, inside and out. And, given enough time, he could fabricate one himself. Which is just what he proceeded to do; bit by bit, component by component. It took him six months, but now he was ready for phase I of his grand plan to rid the world of the malignancy of Project Tempus. And its reprehensible architect.
He had come to the lab one night on graveyard shift, ostensibly to catch up on some unfinished work, before McFarland found out. But he had allies here – for McFarland was universally despised.
“Evening, Mr. Bingston. Burning the midnight oil again?”
“It never ends, Jim. Some loose ends I’ve got to input – before Dr. McFarland finds out.”
The guard shuddered in mock disgust. “Oh, we sure wouldn’t want that, would we?”
Walking to the main clinic lab, the first thing he did, outside of the reach of the security cameras, was to initiate a continuous feedback loop. This way, any review of the past 24-hour shift would show no one in the clinic at this hour – which was as it should be.
He had devised a complex mathematical probability algorithm, which would predict, with 93.2% accuracy, which one of the 28 poor souls assembled here in their futuristic capsules, would expire first. His heart was pounding as the minutes ticked by. He prayed his equations were correct. He didn’t have long to wait.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he said quietly, stopping in front of one glass container. It held an elderly woman who looked to be in her 90’s. A red light was blinking atop the tube’s energy field apparatus, indicating she had just passed. Her Tempus Particle – her key to heaven – cruelly snatched from her soul and stored in a magnetic containment vessel. “I will find out who you were. You were not a number. You were a human being, with a family somewhere, hopes, and dreams. I swear, your sacrifice will guarantee this atrocity will end. I’ll find you all. I promise. Because I now know where he keeps your names. Like sick trophies. Again, forgive me, ma’am.” And he took out from his briefcase the magnetic bottle he had so carefully assembled over the past six months. He connected it to the containment field of subject # 523318, and with an eerie flash of light – stole a piece of God’s creation, as her Tempus Particle transferred into Charles’s bottle. At this point he suddenly became truly frightened for the first time – over the implications of what he had just done. Was he now no better than McFarland, he feared? But he shook the thought out of his head. There was work to be done. The particle glowed in the translucent bottle with a soft green eeriness. There were three sets of numbers on the bottle now. One showed the frequency of the 7th energy level – the Tempus Particle. The second was the frequency of the energy field in which we all live – Earth. And the third showed an energy frequency no human had ever seen, nor comprehended before – the frequency of the afterlife plane – heaven! Two were flashing wildly, trying to resonate with each other: the afterlife frequency and the old woman’s Tempus Particle frequency; her key to heaven. But for the first time in creation, they could not resonate, because the Tempus Particle was now trapped in our dimension. But slowly, inexorably, the numbers began to slow down, trying to match and resonate with Earth’s frequency. Within minutes, they did. The numbers for both the Earth plane and the Tempus Particle now matched! Heaven lost out this time. Could Charles Bingston use the power of the gods wisely? He was about to find out. His magnetic bottle was actually two magnetic fields in one container. The first field contained the Tempus Particle, and it was impenetrable. Nothing could escape it. The secondary field acted as a mirror, reflecting the particle’s energy into the world – but not the particle itself.
Now was the moment of truth. He depressed the secondary field emitter button. He began to feel dizzy for a few moments, then recovered. He prayed her particle was not sentient, as a white light began to permeate everything around him. He could not see, it was so bright. But soon the glow faded, and the world – stood still! Birds in mid-flight, airplanes, people, animals, everything froze in their places. And Charles walked out of the D.A.R.P.A. complex, passed frozen security guards, and graveyard shift employees. Once in his car, he pressed the primary field emitter button. And as the energy turned back on itself and retreated into the confines of the magnetic bottle – the world sprang back to life, none the worse for wear, and none the wiser.
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He knew what he had to do. And he knew where he had to go.
He could feel the rage building up in him as he approached the house. Mansions, Olympic-sized swimming pools, and BMW’s & Mercedes were in abundance. Charles Bingston had no inherent animosity towards the wealthy. But with Ross McFarland he made an exception. As far as he was concerned McFarland gained his upper class style of living on the backs of good researchers – and the souls of unfortunate citizens. His lack of remorse was as profound as his penchant for personal gain.
And there it was. A three-story Tudor mansion, with expansive grounds, gardens, and a new Mercedes and Audi in the circular driveway.
“Time to end your reign of terror, McFarland.” He held up the bottle, and with a blinding flash the Earth again went silent. Walking inside the palatial residence, he went straight to the master bedroom. And there he laid, fast asleep, his wife next to him. “Ah yes. Miranda,” he said with disdain. “The warlock’s familiar, I presume?” His tablet lay on the roll top desk. Charles picked it up, scrolled through it and, as he suspected, soon found what he was looking for. “Faceless no more. Real people. Real lives.” Then he found her. “You’re not # 523318, are you? No, you’re Emily Barkan. I’ll never forget you.” He copied the names, and then left. And as he drove away, the world awakened once more.
Several weeks later he resigned his position at D.A.R.P.A. and Project Tempus. He could have told Ross McFarland precisely what he thought of him, but dared not let his hatred of the man arouse undue suspicions. For truly, Charles Bingston was not yet done with his former boss.
A month later, following his carefully thought out timing, he sent an untraceable communication to the head of the Department of Justice, complete with the names of all the poor souls McFarland’s group had kidnapped, and the macabre details behind Project Tempus. No doubt the good doctor would not see the light of day for quite some time.
McFarland never did solve the puzzle of how subject # 523318 could have expired, without the monitors catching it, or how her Tempus Particle was not automatically captured. Somehow it, and her, sailed off into the next plane of existence. Yes, that must have been it. It nearly drove him out of his mind, probably contributing to a raging ulcer. Charles figured it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Wait until the D.O.J. guys come knocking on his door! He giggled at the thought, wishing he could be a fly on the wall. ‘Remember Ross: don’t drop the soap at Leavenworth,’ he thought. And began laughing harder.
In time he reveled in his victory. He had single-handedly brought down a boss that made Leona Helmsley look like Mr. Rogers.
But perhaps the old adage is true: an idle mind may very well be the devil’s playground. No man is wise enough or good enough to be trusted with unlimited power. And that is what faced Charles Bingston one cold, crisp afternoon, as he began tweaking and editing his resume. And as he sat in front of his computer he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, two things: his bank statement on the desk – and his briefcase on the floor. The former was the problem – the latter contained the solution.
“Are you out of your mind?” he said to himself. “Didn’t I just use the Tempus Particle to take down a monster? Now you expect me to use it to feather my own nest? Disgusting!” But he looked down at his bank statement – quickly dwindling. And as he gazed out the window, wracking his brain for answers, he spotted something down the street that did indeed provide an answer. And he recoiled in horror at the implications. Yet the more he thought about it, the horror subsided, eventually replaced with a rhetorical ‘Why not?’ For what he saw – was a bank. ‘Absolutely nobody would be harmed,’ he justified to himself. ‘The F.D.I.C. insures the bank, and its depositors. Miss Emily Barkan, we may just have one more date together.’
Did Charles Bingston know the phrase, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’? If he did he didn’t care right now. He had found a solution to one of his problems. And no one at all would be hurt. Where was the harm in that, he reasoned? His conscience was clear. Sadly, that might have been the most dangerous attribute of all.
By the time he had finished his spree, he had amassed a fortune. And to his word, not one soul was ever harmed. This emboldened him. And so began the gradual slide into hedonism. He fancied himself a god; a god who could stop time and walk the Earth a creator. No secrets could be kept from him; no guards could stop him. Indeed, he put his god-like power to good use, traveling the world, seeing the sights he once only dreamt of. And if he could steal governmental secrets from the intelligence services of various countries, and then anonymously blackmail them – all the better.
By now he’d outgrown the dingy home he had lived in for ten years. He bought himself a private island, and lived the life of a king. He had any woman he wanted – and he always wanted more; eventually growing tired of them in favor of some new plaything. He equated them with his vast wine cellar, filled with rare vintages; literally unobtainable. Except for him. His girls, like his wine, were his possessions. And true to his word, he walked the island a creator. “Here, I am God!” he boasted. And so he was.
One bright and beautiful morning on Bingston Island, he was strolling the white sandy beach of his own private empire. And as he waded through the turquoise surf, the fur on the hem of his custom-made royal robe trailed behind him in the water. Today was a good day to do what he loved most – surveying all that he saw, knowing it was all his.
He stretched out on one of the many hammocks he had erected on his island, and dwelled on the pressing issues of the day – such as what should he have his chefs prepare for dinner, and which girls should he invite to the later soirée at the main estate. It was a good life. He put his drink down on a little table next to the hammock, and shut his eyes. The waves, the sea birds, the coconut palms, the girls – all his.
But within a minute he became annoyed. “What cloud dares block the sun on Bingston Island?” he said angrily. He opened his eyes, even as the wind began to pick up. And when he did, a feeling of incomprehensible horror washed over him, the likes of which neither he, nor any other human, had ever experienced before. For what he saw, still five miles in the sky, literally shredded his soul, as it blotted out the sun.
He jumped up, shrieking in abject terror. Could he make it back to the main house in time? He had to! He thought his heart would burst, his lungs would explode. He tripped and fell once on a rock, and shed his kingly robes in order to run faster. He was running in just his underwear now. Bloody and screaming, he made it to the house in record Olympic time. Tripping once more on the floor, he lunged for his briefcase. Barely stopping for a breath he thought he’d have a heart attack, as he exploded with it out of the house. Before he even got back to the beach he frantically took out the Tempus Particle magnetic bottle, pointed it at the sky – and pressed the button. The passage of time across the entire planet, as well as everything in its atmosphere – stopped dead. Including what was now 5000 feet overhead. The sky had turned blood red, the wind almost hurricane strength, and the ocean was threatening to destroy Bingston Island, should the passage of time resume. And what was causing this horror lay at the center of it all – now silent and malignant – and waiting. It was a meteor the size of Rhode Island! This would not just cause a titanic crater. This was a planet killer. The end of everything. The end of Earth. The end of Man.
Charles Bingston looked up at it, as it cast a blood red shadow across his face. He got down on his hands and knees and pounded his fists against the ground, tears streaming down his face. “No! No! No!” He shook his fist at Earth’s assassin. “This is my world! This is my island! But I’ve stopped you, you bastard from hell! Me! Charles Bingston! I am god here! I stopped you! You have no power over me! You have…” And he stopped in mid-sentence, and let out a shriek of terror that originated from the depths of his soul. He looked out at the ocean waves, now frozen, the birds stopped like air-borne statues, his staff and girlfriends fleeing in abject horror, eternally in the now. And not since God decided to destroy the world once, millennia ago, had any human faced the same horrific choice. Until now.
“I dared play God,” he whimpered. And this is His vengeance. I have my island and everything in it. All my people are here. And they’re mine – frozen for eternity! I am totally and completely alone!” He began to cry bitterly again. “No! No! I can’t die! Not like this! I can live on my island, the last man on Earth,” he lamented between tears. “Or push this little button on the magnetic bottle, and be vaporized along with the rest of humanity! Oh dear God, forgive my arrogance! What do I do? What do I do! Have mercy!”
And through his tears he noticed something, and wondered why he had never seen it before. It was a very large boulder on the edge of the beach. And somehow, someone had prophetically painted two words on it. And when Charles Bingston read them, he promptly went mad. The two words were – DECISIONS, DECISIONS.
Food for Thought
It is said power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And those that attempt to wear the mantle of God commit the ultimate in hubris. Do we have the right? No matter what the motives, nor how pure of heart we may be in wielding the power of the gods, it must always end in unmitigated horror. Mankind is not smart enough, nor wise enough, to play God. Will science eventually, in the decades to come, advance to levels so fearful, that the exercise of such technological power will be like forbidden fruit to all but the most pious? In W.W.I, we thought the invention of poison gas, the airplane, and tanks, would make war so horrible as to be impossible. And yet, it was tantalizing fruit for evil men. How will that question be put forth in the 22nd century and beyond? These are murky waters even I fear to tread, and will quietly slip away.
About the Author
Born in New York City,
Jeffrey G. Roberts has written numerous short stories, and has 2 novels available on Amazon – THE HEALER and CHERRIES IN WINTER. He writes in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and fantasy/comedy. He has a life-long interest in Mars, the truth about UFO’s, the paranormal, and aerospace. He is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, Arizona, and now resides in Tucson, Arizona. He blogs at atalespinner.weebly.com
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