The problems for Jetson started around the mid 1900s. He’d taken off like a shot straight out of the year 3500. God bless his owner for having such a hell of an arm. Jetson had bounded flawlessly through the debris of 3000, the socialist secret-less utopia of 2800, and even skipped across the surface of the oil-covered oceans of 2500.
The damn 1900s however, were full of people who had no idea what they were doing. They stumbled between philosophies and religions like they were hemming and hawing at a buffet. It was a century full of explosions both literal and figurative, and either of them could’ve distracted Jetson. The real problem with running through time was not getting distracted by the sad sights.
Jetson’s collar was what let the dog do it all in the first place. It was a brilliant invention, circa 3356, but the dogs had been among the last ones allowed to access it. Naturally the humans who invented it took the first go, gleefully skipping through all time periods forward and back. The only rule was that you couldn’t go to the ultimate beginning or the ultimate end. Obviously some had tried, but they’d never returned.
They’d brought back all sorts of things from further into the future. They brought walls you could simply walk through but that still kept out the rain and snow. They brought floating lights that were only active exactly when you wanted them to be. They brought baubles, like the one on Jetson’s collar, that could make any animal as smart as a man.
Even though Jetson had tried various human activities with his new mind and all its little carbonation-like pops, he found he still favored the old hobbies with his owner. Jetson had written a few award-winning symphonies, and one play that was currently on stage in fourteen different years, but the only thing that fulfilled him emotionally was fetch.
His owner had understood, probably because he was perfect. He knew every dog, smart or dumb, thought that of their owner, but his really was. After all he’d picked up Jetson as a Labrador pup, orphaned between timelines, and took him home to raise him. Not only that, his throws were perfect.
The stick they used was a lovely composite creation of futuristic flexible ores that would not damage Jetson’s teeth when he bit down on it. It was coated in something expensive, his owner only bought the best, that made the stick taste like the finest cured meats from three different ages. When Jetson was running back, never quite as fun as running out, he could lick the stick and taste dry aged ham from the vikings, roast Chinese duck that had hung in a window for god knows how long, and shark, aged in the Earth with strong chemicals for years while prehistoric men forgot about it.
Jetson tried to stay focused on what the stick looked like: something like a glow stick with lots of swirling colors. A traditional knobby appearance might’ve been an enhancement, but then any old dog across any old age might chase it if it flew by.
His owner’s throw was perfect, and the stick was perfect, but Jetson wasn’t. He screwed up, bounding through time after the stick, when he passed through a Russian facility and saw the dog he knew to be Laika. Laika was going to be killed, sent in to space for no particular reason in dog terms. It was just one of those things about the 1900s: they hadn’t figured out not to experiment on animals yet.
Jetson knew the dog was dead, but it didn’t stop him from feeling for his fellow canine. It distracted him just enough that he stumbled. He fell out of that year and landed in the middle of a swamp in 1931. Somewhere, in the mud, there was a perfectly inconvenient stone that cracked the time device on Jetson’s collar. The Labrador panicked, hopping around in the mud and trying to look down enough to view the damage.
He whined. He could hear temporal energy leaking out of it, but what was he to do? Fetching was a spiritual journey. Once you started you couldn’t go back. It was like burning an unfinished novel. His owner would be so disappointed if he lost the stick. Jetson stared in the general direction it had been thrown across space-time. At the moment all he could see was a knot in a gnarly curled tree, but he knew it was still flying.
Jetson ran, abandoning 1931. His steps were sloppy now, the rupture of the device had him barreling through time imprecisely. When he expected meadows he got trenches that needed daring leaps over helmeted heads and barbed wire. Something that should have been a tropical beach in 1745 turned out to be a broiled Mexican desert in 1616. Jetson’s leg got scraped by a defensive lizard he ran by, and he didn’t even catch the year.
It wasn’t his best fetch, but it needed to be done. He ran and ran, quickly approaching prehistory, where the only records were the moist emotions visible in the eyes of the mammoths. They trumpeted in surprise as the Labrador rocketed through their ice age and between their knees. He was cold, and surely he would carry that could in his bones even further back, but he did not stop.
He couldn’t disappoint his owner. Not even once. The last time he’d come close, when he couldn’t quite hold it and dribbled on the threshold between the porch and the lawn, he’d gotten half of a stern look. It was torture. It was fire and ruin. Jetson would not let it happen again, even if he had to die and fossilize with his teeth wrapped around the stick.
There was another hiccup, even as he limped and careened through the flickering past. There were other dogs following similar paths. They looked at each other, none of them slowing down. Jetson once again wished he had blinders; why did horses get all the great fancy gear? These others were here because their perfect owners had thrown the same stick.
They were so far in the past now, and, with the situation worsened by his struggling device, Jetson was seeing other versions from other dimensions: a flaming hell hound, a quadrupedal robot, and, worst of all, a Pomeranian. They wanted his stick, but it was his.
They were awfully close to the beginning: a ball of bouncing light in a sea of rippling blackness. It was fine. Jetson trusted his owner; he never would’ve thrown the stick all the way back. The other dogs’ trust was incomplete. They peeled away one by one, giving up on their stick. Not Jetson. His mind and body warped as he approached the edge of beginning.
There was the stick, laying on its side, inches from incomprehension. Jetson picked it up triumphantly. Even there he could still smell and taste the smoky meats. Bliss, but not quite the kind he would feel when he saw his owner’s smile. His device flickered more aggressively now, its damage irritated by its proximity to a time extreme.
Jetson turned tail, the first turned tail in time, and ran back. He spared no glances for anyone’s ancestors. After all he’d seen, he still just wanted the blinders. He still wanted reality to be just him, his owner, and the stick. Jetson landed back in 3500. He stood proudly, and dropped the stick before his owner, who was enjoying a nice breakfast of eggs, toast, and that confounding coffee stuff. He picked up the stick, shook it to remove the drool of his most loyal friend, and held it up in the air.
“Again?” he asked. Jetson barked. Now he could throw it into the future. His device was sure to be fixed by then. Jetson barked again, and every dog in every year heard it.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by whiskeyroger369 during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!