Sturgeon and the Dawn of Time
by Stephen Howard
When it all began, was anyone caught in the explosion?
I should be able to tell you shortly.
Everything that ever was, has been, and is yet to be. And so it goes. Time is not subject to bureaucracy, which is why it is always on time. So long as you’re certain, then you’re always on time. It tends to bend itself around you, I’ve found. I am Sturgeon, Sturgeon Pickering. I have a pot of tea, a fold-up table, a red and white striped deck chair, and a wonderful view. I appear to be resting on a nebula. A chromatic concoction, its wispy lavender blurs into indistinct blues and greens, punctured with bright spots. And it’s all dazzling beneath me. Whether I should be sat here isn’t my business. I am 83 years’ old. Or I was. It’s hard to keep up and a lot has happened to me in order to get here, probably too much to go into detail. But I can remember when it started. The way it would always have started, nearly 14 billion years from where I am right now.
In the lab, late at night, surrounded by diagrams on discarded scraps of paper, Wilkins showed me his final theory. Numbers and symbols performed an elegant dance, possibly to Twist and Shout, across the board as he inputted data into his little laptop in a frenzy of equation forming. Time isn’t linear, he declared. It is changeable, slippery, flexible. And it can be shifted around you! Well, what do you think of that?
I can’t remember what I said to Wilkins. Would I have said anything different if he’d shown me his machine’s designs after the moment happening right now? One could argue he did, of course. Travelling as I have, taking this pilgrimage through the patchwork quilt of time, seems to leave a mark on one’s memory. Wilkins warned it was to do with the human body being susceptible to our own concept of time. Not that of the universe. So it can struggle to adjust. I remember this because I wrote it on the back of a receipt that I slipped into my jacket pocket.
Sipping my tea, sitting comfortably, I look ahead at a blank vista. Below me, the nebula fades to black. Nothingness. It’s just me, my red striped deck chair and my pot of tea resting upon my little fold-up table. I take a quick look at my watch.
And then there came a pop. And then something like the sound of fizz escaping a cola bottle when you first open it. Except this one had a lot more fizz.
Before my eyes it all burst forth. Everything that will be. The moment in which everything is just potential passed and everything simply was. And then I saw it all before me. My parents’ joy at my birth, my first day at school, college, work, the day I met my wife, the day our daughter was born, the day my mother died, and not long after when my father died, the birth of my grandson, the premature death of my daughter, my divorce, my illness, my death, and beyond. And so it goes.
The nebula has returned beneath me. Its colours are much the same as before. I knew this to be so.
I could see now I could not have prevented my mother’s death, nor my daughter’s, and felt relief. But then I considered how, though I hadn’t been responsible for the bad things in my life, I hadn’t been responsible for the good either. I felt oddly empty.
Slowly, my tea went cold. So it goes.
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Stephen Howard is a 27 year old writer from Manchester. He self-published his first novel, Beyond Misty Mountain, in 2013. Stephen also had his flash story, “Non-human Animals”, published in The Flash Fiction Press. Stephen works in marketing and is currently studying for a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. One day he hopes to quit his real job and just write stories.