I Planned for This

So here’s the challenge: for my T&C class everyone was given a short story, and instructed to write the ending. The real ending had been cut off. So we’ll bring our endings in and put them in a pile (along with the real ending) and read them aloud, and then we’ll try to figure out which is the real ending. So I’m going to do the same here. I’ll paste the story, minus the end, and then I’ll put my ending and the real ending in the comments. So take a guess at which is the real ending, or post your own ending. If you’re going to post your own ending, write it before reading the others and make it between 150 and 300 words (also– make sure that you’re not logged in and you don’t put anything in the “username” field so that your post is anonymous). Lets see where this goes:

I Planned For This
By M. Stanley Bubien

“I planned for this!” I cried toward the locked door. My words echoed off the metal—four inches thick and secured to cement walls—the reverberation masking my wavering inflection.

“You can’t stay in there forever!” a voice cracked through the wall-speaker. Jones it was, head of security, flanked, no doubt, by a contingent of badged police officers. “You’re only making it worse,” he cried. So cliche, this Jones, like playing cops-and-robbers in a ’50s B-movie.

“Sorry, but you’ll have to do it the hard way.” A perfectly in-character, premeditated response that—premeditation, my forte. Typically.

I frowned and clenched my fist at my temples.

“We have a warrant.”

I grinned, but only briefly. “Back to work,” I mumbled. Double-checking my lock algorithm, I calculated about an hour of decryption before Jones succeeded “the hard way.” I grasped the wrench, a clumsy instrument, especially for our Device, but time—ah, the irony!—often required such sacrifices.

A patch of red?

My hand convulsed, and the wrench clattered upon the tiling. Merton’s task this, I realized (irony upon irony!), bending to retrieve the tool—shining as if brand new, the bloodstain having been an illusion.

Jones switched tactics. “We know you did it!” he blared.

What could I expect? As a young man, I had mapped out our television B-movie schedule every Sunday. The “Sci-Fi” films tempted us into the science that eventually became our time machine—Merton and I, best friends, always analyzing the feasibility of even the most inane premise. Ours the noblest of endeavors: the search for knowledge, for ultimate truth.

“Brilliant deduction on your part,” I mouthed to Jones as I applied the wrench. Though a delicate operation, my awkward grasp required both hands for steadiness.

“And how feasible is God?”

I froze. Merton?

Yes, yes, I breathed, of course, a memory.

“Look,” Merton had continued, “we weigh the probability of things like UFOs, ghosts, time travel.” He flicked the black locks from his eyes for emphasis. “It’s Sunday! And we haven’t once considered God.”

The catalyst!

“To prove God,” I replied, “We would need to go back, visit some Biblical era.” But which one? And how? The first question, we answered in a week. The second, well, that required meticulous planning.

“Here,” I presented Merton with the sheet. “Four years, mathematics focus. Four more, physics.”

“We’ll need biology,” Merton stated, returning our coursework schedule, which I revised appropriately. Time travel is most serious—and exceedingly difficult—business, but we pursued my curriculum precisely.

Precisely, that is, until one week ago.

“I give up,” Merton had said in customarily simple—though somewhat matured—terms.

“Let me try,” I misinterpreted, relieving Merton of his wrench and brushing him aside to gain access to the Device.

“No, no.” He intervened. “It won’t work. I’ve been going over our figures. We’ve at least three bad assumptions.”

“That’s all?” I asked facetiously. “Without my notebook, I can still cite more unprovable postulates than we have fingers and toes.”

“I’m not talking unprovable. I mean dead wrong!”

I stood slack, the shining, crescent-shaped metal dangling from my fingers. “We concisely projected the outcome.”

He drew his palm over his lips. “Well, the board members disagree.”

“You went to the board?” I blurted.

“Tomorrow. I wanted to tell you first.”

“But they’ve never believed! They’ll cancel the project!”

“Yep.” Not one to mince words, he.

“You can’t!” I cried. “We’re so close!”

Merton shook his head and refused conversation, even as I pressed him. He met each protest with silence, which enraged me further—to the point of hefting the solid, icy form and swinging—

It was all so damnably unexpected.

“You killed him!” boomed Jones’ voice again from the intercom. I lowered the wrench, overcome by the bitterly irrational thought that a director stood nearby, poised beside his cameraman, motivating us by barking the names of false emotions through a bullhorn.

“You must be close now,” I replied, and considered mixing in a bit of the crazed laughter that mad scientists have become so famous for, but there is such a thing as too cliche.

Instead, I began the sequence of toggles to engage the Device—an awkward term that. But considering the full title from our PhD Thesis read “Modulating Temporal Field Displacement Device,” I never begrudged the truncation. Another of Merton’s ideas.

The final switch snapped off as I threw it. Damn him! I needed to stop with such thoughts. The hair on my arm stood on-end. “Damn—” I cut off mid-sentence, for it was not Merton’s specter, but the Field itself producing this anomaly.

Working? And upon the first try!

“You couldn’t stop me!” I cried toward the intercom and leapt headlong into the Field.

About Mark Egge

Transportation planner-adjacent data scientist by day. YIMBY Shoupista on a bicycle by night. Bozeman, MT. All opinions expressed here are my own.
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5 Responses to I Planned for This

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Would you destroy everything?” Everything, the entirely and astoundingly white. It pervaded all, save for my disembodied thoughts and the strong, implacable voice. “Once you proved me, what then?”

    “Then you would be mine, of course. That’s the game, isn’t? I find you. I prove you. And suddenly your cosmic hide-and-go-seek is over.” That’s what it all comes back to. The search for God: Mathematics. Physics. Biology. Art. B movies. A million different people looking. But Merton knew. And I know. I had this all planned out.

    “Good, but not good enough. You found me. You’re not the first. But to become you must destroy me. You know this. So destroy, or back to your hell!”

    For years, we’d planned. We searched. We analyzed. We labored. We loved. We learned. And after it all the unexpected happened. The greatest will in the world faltered. Destroy, or back to my hell. And so I’m damned.

    “You’ve brought this on yourself. We have no choice,” Jones said tiredly. I heard the sound of the bolts in the door turning. Jones had broken the encryption. The wrench, next to me, glistened with life’s redness. The same redness was on my hands. The floor’s hardness held me, just as it held Merton. My soul fell to the depths.

    “I planned for this” I whispered as I began to smile.

    Roll credits.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I must admit, I expected something terribly dramatic as I passed through. Not so. At one moment, I stood within the sterile walls of our laboratory and the next, my shoes threw up dust as I sought footing upon an ancient Israeli hillside.

    My design neared fruition! Gaining my bearings, I charged the true prize, residing at the hilltop. I scantly noticed the be-robed and be-tuniced figures I passed, though I have no doubt they stared at my bizarrely futuristic attire.

    I crested the hill and halted. There, suspended directly before me: O Knowledge! O Truth most divine!

    Three bodies—dead or near death I could not surmise—stretched and hung against intersecting wooden beams. And the centermost—the proof, the answer to mankind’s universal question!

    Strange, though, what the mind fixes upon in such moments. For it was their hair, the dark locks that all three shared in common, which my gaze attended.

    And instead of cheers of victory, I harkened the moans of expiring souls mingled with women weeping, their faces buried in the putrid soil surrounding the centermost cross. Not the sweet smell of success I caught, but in wisps so thick that they were almost visible, the stench of urine and feces mixed with that of decaying flesh.

    And in horror—oh, the horror!—I felt the chill of the implement I still mistakenly held—the wrench I’d used to carry out Merton’s demise.

  3. markegge says:

    More of Bubien’s short stories can be found here:

  4. Anonymous says:

    First there was nothing. Emptyness is devoid of feeling, thought, and life. Time follows no logical progression and life bounds from dentures to tricycles to first kisses. It is all the same.

    And then it hit- red, bleeding, beautiful- a heart implosion. Tears flowed like rivers never could, and I never wanted them to stop. Understanding was like a brick wall- hitting it hurt but as least this was reality. Damn the conscience! Why did I ever ask? God knows.

    Life is hard to live forever.

    We had built the Device for a reason, but I used it for a different one. What I found was all the same.

  5. Anonymous says:

    He lay on the floor exactly as I had left him. His hands grasped around what remained of his head, in a feeble attempt to save himself. Small chunks of pink floated in the red pool around his body. Red splatters covered the walls. I vomited.

    I walked over and ran my hand over the controls of the Device – wiping off the blood. I touched the Ion Defibulizer. This small box contained limitless power.

    “Well, it works” I said to him.

    “You should be exited for me.” I continued, “I’m going places”

    I picked up the cold wrench from the ground; wiping the gore off on my shirt, I began adjusting the Device. An adjustment here, an adjustment there, I was almost ready.

    “Where should I go first?” I asked.

    After the success of my first travel, I wanted to test the true powers of the Device. This would require the use of the Defibulizer.

    “Maybe I’ll go back and visit you someday,” I told him as the Field sizzled to life and I stepped forward, into pitch black.

    “Welcome” a muffled voice reverberated through the air.

    “Where am I?”

    “I doesn’t matter”, the voice replied, “you’re dead. The Device was flawed.”

    “How do you know?”

    “You don’t recognize me?” The voice laughed, a guttural sound. “Let me refresh your memory.”

    Blinding white light appeared, revealing the mangled, deformed body of Merton.

    “I’ve been waiting for you”, he gurgled, as I fell to the floor, searing pain racing through my body. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move, all I could do was scream.

    “I think you are going to enjoy this as much as I am” he cackled with glee as unbelievable pain coursed through my body.

    I hadn’t planned for this.