Prompt: A history book sends its reader 1000 years into the future.
The library was restricted to anyone under the age of eighteen. It wasn’t just books that were kept there, but all sorts of anomalies. They called it a school because there many thins to learn there, but few people outside the facility understood what that really meant. The things you learned there could change you, even making you into a different person altogether.
Morgan wasn’t a student, because they didn’t call them students. She was an ‘intern’ and she was still three weeks away from being able to make sanctioned visits to the library. She’d already seen incredible things over in their zoology department, including animals that only existed while they were being pet. She was just coming from one of her petting shifts, where she’d stroked a very furry cat for two hours straight, when she crossed the library’s wooden doors with their fancy mechanical locks.
Her arm and fingers wore sore, and she stopped, leaning against the doors, to pluck the cream-colored hairs out from under her nails. She couldn’t hep but overhear someone shuffling around inside the library. She already had her suspicions as to their identity. Dr. Fuller was always in there, at strange hours no less.
She never liked the look on his face when he slipped inside. He was a bitter man most of the time, aging as well and as rapidly as a toadstool doused in vinegar. Yet he grinned as he slipped inside. He was doing something in there, and it wasn’t research. That was why Morgan didn’t need much of an excuse when she put her ear to the library door and heard a book drop to the floor.
The way she would explain it, there were only two possibilities: Dr. Fuller had either dropped and damaged something very delicate or he had a medical issue causing him to drop it. Either way, she was duty bound to go in and investigate.
Morgan had an emergency voice code that could get her into a few restricted areas, so she used it now, lips close to the lock. She whispered the word ‘ocelot’, and the door clicked open. She maneuvered inside and got her first full look at the shelves. There were a thousand volumes with strange spines, some metal, some antler, some cloth, and some that changed color.
She’d nearly forgotten about Dr. Fuller when her foot struck the object he’d dropped: a book. She snatched it off the ground and made sure to keep it open to his page. There was nothing out of the ordinary at first. It was as heavy as a book that size should be, it smelled old but not musty, and its paper was neat and free of stains.
The pages themselves were extraordinary. They held no pictures or text. What she saw was something like a video, but with a realistic smoothness that told her it couldn’t be divided into frames. She saw planes buzzing about each other, shooting what appeared to be harmless fireworks at their foes. The vehicles were an odd design, with curved connected wings like some kind of compressed rubber bracelet. She leaned in to investigate further, only to drop the book as well.
She had to drop it, because she needed to hang on. She was suddenly in one of those strange chrome planes, sitting behind a pilot. Their head was difficult to see because of their helmet and the wind whipping tears out of Morgan’s eyes. Whoever they were, their arm moved over their shoulder and handed Morgan her own round burgundy helmet. She quickly donned it, hearing a microphone crackle in one ear.
“So where are you from?” it asked her. Judging by the bobbing of the head in front of her, it was the pilot speaking.
“Uhh… Philadelphia…” Her hands naturally gripped the control sticks in front of her. An automatic seat belt shot across her chest and tightened. A firework exploded near one of their wings, a blast of purple and gold, and the pilot angled their craft down, mimicking a hit.
“I meant what year,” they said with a chuckle. “I guess this is your first time as a pre-enactor.” Morgan was too busy swallowing her fear to respond immediately. Their dive was awfully close to the choppy seas below. She saw the wreckage of a few similar crafts bobbing.
“2020,” she said, when they finally pulled out of it and the engine roared back into the fake dogfight. “I just looked at a book… a very strange book… and now I’m here. What’s a pre-enactor?”
“You ever seen civil was reenactments?” the pilot asked. Morgan nodded, before remembering they couldn’t turn and look at her. She voiced her confirmation. “Well, reverse it. This a pre-enactment of a war that will never happen, one thousand years in your future. We’ve done away with large-scale conflict, but people like to see predictions of what would have happened if we’d given in to our demons.”
“And I’m here… why?”
“People here don’t want to see any faces they recognize. This is going to be broadcast all over the world. So we pull people in from the past, give them a taste of both the excitement and the peace of the future. Inspire them. A little razzle dazzle. The only problem is this guy.” The pilot’s gloved hand popped up and pointed out one plane in particular.
Morgan couldn’t see who piloted it, so she tried to straighten the helmet’s goggles. That ended up zooming for her, and then she saw plainly. Dr. Fuller. So this was where he went. He wasn’t doing research; he was off gunning down future planes for fun. As it turned out, it was even more sinister than that.
“I think he’s been bringing stuff in,” the pilot accused. “Loading his guns with actual explosives! We had two accidental deaths last time.” Morgan nodded. She always knew there was something wrong with that man. He was the type to do this. She could already hear his defense. He wasn’t a murderer, because he killed people who hadn’t been born yet. Just another man sloping in death’s direction and lamenting the loss of the warrior youth he never had. He didn’t deserve to stalk through the stacks of forward and back, bastardizing and bloodying the timeline. A gentler hand was needed, right after the application of a firm one.
Morgan pulled on the controls, figuring out how to spin her cockpit around. She had control of the guns. She trained her eye on Fuller’s craft as the pilot brought them closer.
“We tried to ban him, but we don’t know how he keeps getting in here. I’ve taken matters into my own hands,” the pilot said. “You’ve got one round loaded with enough power to knock him out. We’re in a time-sensitive zone, so if he falls… Let’s just say it won’t be pretty for his past. You up to this 2020?”
“Absolutely,” she whispered, centering her sights on Fuller as he did a loop around the craft he clearly planned to attack next. There was a moment of hesitation, but she already had her excuse, the same as his. She pulled.
Krakoom! When Morgan took off her helmet she was back in the library, holding the book instead. The video on its page had gone inert. Apparently the pre-enactment was over. Something had changed. There was a new centerpiece among the stacks, an oddity that very much belonged in the facility.
It was the fossilized skeleton of a man, wearing modern clothing despite its listed age of thirteen million years. It still had its name tag. Dr. Fuller. Morgan looked down at her own clothes. She had a coat now, with a name tag of her own pinned on. Dr. Morgan. If only the rest of history had had it so easy.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by LaurenBrender 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!