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Fast Forward
About the Author: A five-time Derringer Award finalist, Williams's fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Black Mask, The Crime Writers’ Association Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour and elsewhere. William earned an MA in Novel Writing from the University of Manchester(UK) and was elected a Hawthornden Writing Fellow in Scotland in 2013. He is the author of the historical novel of the Baltic Republics, LENIN'S HAREM.

I am a time-jumper.

Whoa! Stay with me, friends. I don’t mean a time traveler or any such Doctor Who nonsense. This isn’t a science fiction story bound for Analog or Asimov’s. You’re in the right journal. Everything, I tell you is not only possible but absolute truth. All will be explained.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever wished to fast forward through the difficult times in life? To avoid the drudgery of an arduous task by skipping ahead on the calendar until it is completed? Or spare yourself pain after heartbreak or a loved one’s death by jumping in an instant to a day when the wounds have healed?

This is what I mean by “time-jumping.” I can do this. Have done it. Many times. Call me a coward but I often opt-out of the unpleasant moments in life. Doing so has never harmed me.

I first remember “fast forwarding” at five years of age when sentenced to stand twenty minutes with my face in the corner for some offense against our strict military family. Such incarcerations are death to a boisterous boy, and as I stared with undiluted hatred into the cracked corner plaster, a sensation previously unknown in my young life arrived without warning. A warmth along the spine, a tingling in the extremities, and a haze of indescribable color began to cloud my vision. I grew dizzy and fell against the wall. And then, somehow, it was over. My sight was clear, the penalty minutes evaporated, and Mother told me I was free again to play. To my surprise, and later, to my advantage, this experience repeated every time I was sentenced to the corner as punishment: the dizziness, the unknowable color, and time lost to instant freedom.

I soon learned to control the ability and broadened its application. Fast-forwarding was a useful tool for the dreary days of adolescence, speeding through boring school lectures, yard work, long trips to Grandma’s in Bristol. Of course, no one knew I was doing it. Time passed normally for the rest of the world and during these interludes I remained conscious to the eyes of outsiders, apparently functioning and acting as usual. In fact, during a “fast forward” I must enter a more focused state, for in most endeavors I remain substantially more successful during these times than otherwise. Take an exam myself and I might get a C or C+. Fast-forward through it and my alternate consciousness inevitably earned a solid A, often with distinction.

Upon reaching age thirty, however, when the signs of mortality find their first footholds, I became less keen to use up my life, to hand off the dreary hours to someone else no matter how capable. I viewed fast forwarding as destructive, an addiction, and vowed to savor every minute that remained.

This required new discipline. I endured sitting in traffic on I-95 in East Providence going into the city, doing taxes, or watching a “chick flick” to please a girlfriend. All things I would escape before. I was proud of my new endurance, viewed it as a form of maturity, even overdue penance. For nearly a year my more-focused alter ego lay buried beneath my subconscious, uncalled upon and unused. Ignored. Penned. Seething.

I almost forgot about him. Things went well enough in my one-man event-planning business, that there was no inkling to use his abilities. It didn’t last, however. In September of 2019, I was engaged by the esteemed Oswald Overvold to organize a gala exhibition at his Newport estate. The previous planner unexpectedly quit, leaving an enormous amount of work to be done at short notice. I drank copious amounts of coffee, downed handfuls of amphetamines, stayed awake two full days slogging through before my resolve failed.

Why suffer if one need not?

Just once more …

 So, on a warm Saturday morning, with a cup of steaming tea in my hands, I lay back on my balcony chair, listened to the honks and shouts from the busy Providence streets below and discarded my cares. I let the still-nameless color descend over my vision and jumped ahead to a day when the work was done, my bank account full, and life moved at a playful pace again.

I awoke on my living room couch, sweaty, sore and naked except for the bath towel wrapped about my waist. A glance at the date on the digital clock nearby told me it was two weeks to the minute since I started my jump. I reclosed my eyes, endured the usual brief headache after fast forwarding, breathed slowly, willed the pain to recede. Dreamed of all the work the other me had completed …

Soft lips clasped mine in a kiss.

This story appears in our JAN 2020 Issue
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Reader Discussion

Thanks for publishing my story!
By William Burton McCormick

I'm sure there will be more adventures to come with this 'J-duo'- looking forward to that. A great relationship! Fun to read!
By Susan R

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