They sold us the time machine with promises that we would see the dead again. We bought the vision, and we bought the machines. They got very, very rich. But they never told us the real price we'd pay.
You can go back, can see. But you can't touch. That girlfriend who climbed into the car with the drunk fratboy, you can't save her.1 No one can save her. No one can save anyone. With this amazing technology, we can do nothing more than watch the same mistakes, feel the same losses, take the same hits, feel the same pain.
We were never meant to be our brother's guardian, our lover's angel. We were given one body, one will, and never told how to use it. This was no accident.
And the universe knows this.2 That's why the Creature comes after you. Because being forced to simply watch isn't enough; you need to be pursued through time by this slavering thing that comes to you in the silence between moments, whispering in its wet, sibilant voice:
Time devours. So do I.
You push the button and you jump like you're getting somewhere, but the Creature is with you every time you stop to breathe. Every time you stop to see, to wish, to dream of a change. Chasing you down though the years.3
So you unplug the cables from temples and spine, you sit there sweating with the tears in your eyes and the monster is gone, the past is gone, and you're left with nothing but this filthy disgusting world and your little pod acrid with panic and regret. You stagger out past the empty Reception area into the too-bright sun and you stand on the curb watching the autocars zip past, everyone with somewhere to go except you, the computer's been your world for so long now that there's nothing for you out here anymore. So you go back in. 4
And reception isn't empty anymore. The slab of meat with his three-day stubble is back and he's standing there, arms crossed in his black tee-shirt, squinting at you like you owe him something. And you do.
We have a problem? he demands and you want to say no, but he's too big and too angry so you squeak some excuse and try to wriggle past.
You aren't holding up your end, he grunts. You want to protest that the machine doesn't give you people's brains, just their physical world, and they change their PINs and passwords all the time anyway, what does Donny expect. But the fist bunched in your shirt is the size of your head and so you say you're working it, promise the big score soon.
He grunts at you again and gives you a shake5, and then you're back in your pod, where you can escape the now for the then as long as you never stop moving.1
1 time travel: 64 words
2 existentialism: 71 words
3 creature horror, 88 words
4 cyberpunk, 99 words
5 mobster, 147 words
1 time travel redux, 23 words
This from a reddit /r/writingprompts prompt, where we were challenged to blend five genres into one story. I broke the prompt a little (too many words in the mobster section), but I kinda like what came out of it anyway.