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In Praise of my Assassin
About the Author: Robert Lopresti is the author of 70+ short stories and the winner of Derringer and Black Orchid Novella Awards. His most recent novel, GREENFELLAS, is a comic caper about the Mafia trying to save the environment. He blogs at SleuthSayers and Little Big Crimes.

I’m sorry to be so much trouble. Please tell the ambulance attendants I apologize for all the blood. They did a great job.

Yes, Nurse. The doctor already told me. I understand. You’ll never find a donor in time for all those damaged organs. That’s the thing about being Type O Negative. Universal donor, they call it. The blood bank emails me every six weeks, like clockwork. I’ve given over a hundred pints, I’m proud to say.

But no more.

Family? Yes, I have three wonderful children. The contact information is on my phone. That picture was taken at Anna’s high school graduation. She got a full-ride scholarship to West Tech.

No, they don’t look much like me. All foster kids I was lucky enough to adopt. I have been so lucky …  Special needs kids, they called them. They’re special, all right.

Yes, do phone them. They won’t be able to get here before, well, in time. But it’s important that they come to comfort each other. Tell them they’ve been the best thing in my life. Tell them …

I’m sorry, Officer. I hope you haven’t been waiting long. I was out of it for a while, wasn’t I?

Yes, I do know who attacked me. I mean, I didn’t know him, but he introduced himself before he started stabbing. Quite a story he told. No, he wasn’t a burglar. He was a time traveler.

Literally? I suppose not. He was trying to be, but it didn’t work out …

Don’t call the nurse. I’m fine. Well, I’m dying, but other than that. 

Please, don’t ask questions. Just let me explain.

His name is Sam. Nine years ago I broke into his house, tied up all the members of his family and killed his wife and son. 

No, this isn’t a confession. I didn’t do that. It was someone with my name and face, and, I suppose fingerprints. Would the prints be the same? I don’t know. But it wasn’t exactly me.

Sam was a physicist. He spent the next five years building a time machine so he could go back in the past and keep me from destroying his family.

But it turned out the machine didn’t work the way he thought. Turns out you can’t really go back in time. He tried explaining why, but it went right over my head. I’m a painter, not a physicist.

When he stepped out of the machine it was exactly the same moment he went in. But he was in a different universe, a parallel world, he called it. He said it took him days to realize it, since everything seemed the same. Then he saw a news program that mentioned the vice president, and it was not the one in his world. Strange, isn’t it? 

Once he had found enough differences to convince himself it was true, he went looking for his family. Maybe they were still alive in this world! Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?

But they weren’t. I had killed them there, too. And, he had died in the attack. It must have been so weird for him to read that, don’t you think?

Of course, he started visiting other universes. Hoping to find one where his family was still alive.

Each one was a little more different than the one he had started in. I remember one of the differences: he had never heard of Google until six trips ago. In his world the big search engine was called Altavista.

Alta …  look, could you call the nurse? This pain medicine isn’t doing enough. I’m going to need more to get through this. I need …  I’m sorry to be so much trouble.

Crazy? No, I don’t think Sam was crazy. But he was in a lot of pain. Imagine getting out of your machine again and again, hoping that in this world your wife and son are still alive, and then going to the web and reading about their deaths all over again. And sometimes about your own death as well.

That would make anyone a little desperate, wouldn’t it?

No, I don’t think he was that kind of crazy, making things up. I’m sure he was telling the truth. I’m not explaining it well enough. All that jargon went right past me.

Where was I? Oh. Four trips ago he finally came to a universe where he couldn’t find any reports about the brutal attack on his family. Just imagine how excited he must have been.

But then came the real heartbreaker. It turned out that in that universe all three of them—Sam, his wife, and son—died in a car crash five years ago. 


This story appears in our JUN 2020 Issue
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Reader Discussion

What a thinker! Yay!
By Susan R

Good story, Rob. Time travel stories, with all their attendant paradoxes and mechanisms, have always been a favorite. Thanks!
By Larry Chavis

I really enjoyed your story. Loved the time travel aspect.
By Ruth M McCarty

Thanks for sharing this story. I could read ones like this all day long.
By John Coombs

Big fan of time travel stories and this one is ten times better than the one that just won a Nebula.
By Donald J. Bingle

Wow - terrific story, Robert. I'm going to get hold of your book Greenfellas and read it. The premise sounds really interesting. By the way, I'm an author too. My latest book is a short story collection called "Radha's Revenge & Other Stories". It's garnered very good reviews from readers on Amazon.
By Gopal Ramanan

Great story as usual!
By Larry Keeton

Quite enjoyed this!
By June Lorraine Roberts

Even find yourself in between two or more mirrors? You see infinite versions of yourself. They are all identical to you. You can see both what is in front of you, and what is behind. You stretch out ad infinitum. If you look long enough, you can lose sight of which was the original you. And you notice each is subtly different. Your wonderful story takes us in between those mirrors.
By Catherine Peacock

Great story. Nice twist.
By K. Gall

Thanks for all the kind words, friends. Glad you enjoyed it. Gopal, I hope you enjoy Greenfellas. Best of luck with your book!
By Robert Lopresti

That was a fun twisty story, Rob. I enjoyed it.
By Travis Richardson

A captivating story. I truly enjoyed aspect of time travel and jumping dimensions. Bravo!
By Tina Jude

Fun read, kept my attention from the start. Time travel stories are always a favorite, and you did this short one very well. Nicely done!
By Jason O.

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