The Incremental Time Traveler

By David Accampo

Jude’s ability was — in the larger scheme of the universe — rather unimpressive. And yet, he took pride in his ability, as he felt it was something that was solely his, to grow and shape.Jude didn’t tell anyone of his ability. They wouldn’t understand. “Time travel,” they would say, “Bah.”

The way it worked was this: by closing his eyes very firmly, so that he could see nothing at all, Jude could travel into the future. He couldn’t travel very far, of course. A short blink could only get him one, maybe two seconds into the future. But as he became a teenager, Jude realized that longer blinks, with a great deal of concentration, could move him three, sometimes even five seconds into the future. It was at this juncture that he decided two things:

One: he should continue to train and hone this unique power.

Two: he should not abuse this power.

The latter principle came not from his parents, who cared nothing for moral dilemmas (they were cat burglars by profession, Jude would later discover when the police arrived at his doorstep on Christmas Eve while Jude was trying to stay awake for Santa Claus’ imminent arrival — an arrival that never happened and was, in fact, cruelly reversed as the uniformed officers seized his existing toys as evidence and even ate the cookies that Jude had personally baked for the truant Saint Nick). But while his parents had failed to prepare him for this ethical dilemma, Jude had found the answers he sought in the comic books that he read so lovingly. In these magazines, men with powers learned to use them justly and only in appropriate situations. The men who chose not to do so wore dark colors and sinister masks. They often shouted, raising their fists in the air. Jude appreciated this worldview, as he had never suspected his parents of being cat burglars — simply fond of black clothing and expensive paintings and jewelry that seemed to come into the house and quickly disappear.

These colorful comic book stories served him well until adulthood, when he found himself in plots far more complicated than those in which Clark Kent had become embroiled.

His first girlfriend in college slept with his roommate because she “just got high and things happened.” Jude didn’t understand this, but he didn’t like it either. He blinked for a long time, and when he opened his eyes, his girlfriend had left the room. He was still in college, but it seemed different now. His jump in time had given him a new perspective.

Later, when he was fired because his department at the software company was downsized, Jude made his longest jump yet. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, five whole minutes had passed by. And in this strange future, the old maze of cubicles didn’t seem as familiar or as important as it had once been. It was much easier to leave.

His wife left him when his unemployment ran out.  Jude went to sleep and a whole day passed. He realized that he no longer loved Emma; the future was wide open.

And on he went, closing his eyes and letting the days pass him by, moving forward into a distant future where he could start all over again.

This happened when, some four and half days into the future, he met a woman named Sarah at the Laundromat. She was folding pink blouses. She appeared to have at least six of them. Future fashion. Pink was in, it appeared. She wore her blonde hair pulled loosely back. She caught his gaze and smiled. Her front tooth was chipped, but her smile was very warm and he liked the deep angular folds it created in her cheeks. He thought she was a work of art. It made him bold.

“I’ve come a long way to find you,‚” he said, a pair of dirty khakis balled in his fist. She laughed.

“What’s that from?” she asked.

“What?‚” said Jude.

“That’s from a movie, isn’t it?” she said.Jude didn’t answer. He didn’t know how. He paused for a moment, lowering the pants.

“My name’s Jude,‚” he said finally.

“Sarah‚” said Sarah, “Nice to meet you, Jude.”

When he didn’t answer she stopped folding her laundry and looked at him, biting her lower lip quizzically. “What is it, Jude? Is something wrong?” she asked.

Jude trembled as he smiled, “No, it’s nothing‚ It’s just… I’m… trying not to blink.”

“Why not?” She said, breaking into a high-pitched flutter of a laugh.

“I just really don’t want to miss this moment. I feel it might be important,” said Jude.

“Now that‚” she said as she returned to her laundry, “is definitely from a movie. Something…I can’t think of what. But it’ll come to me.”

Jude let her think on it for a while.

Leave a Reply