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Professor When: Chapter 1

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June 7, 2020 A.D

Primary Dimension, Quadrant 1.

……….

Taking a knee upon landing, dunes of sand enclose me in every direction. My coat slowly flutters down creating ripples around me.  My timer starts now, I’ll only have an hour to return the time-slip to his dimension and thus undo any damage to this planet. Looking around in confusion I wonder if the new logistics drone is faulty because this looks nothing like New York City.

“Interspatial Station to Professor When have you reached safely?”

Never taking my eyes of the foreign terrain, I press the button on my communicator to open transmission.

“I’m whole and animated, but, this looks nothing like New York.”

“ Your coordinates appear to be correct.”

“ The whole place is done and dusted.”

Rolling my head back I discover a new dilemma.

“ The sun is about to blow.”

“ It wouldn’t be your first solar flare-out.”

“ No, but those things sting and it’ll be harder to look for him the dark.”

“There’s nothing to be done, sixty million souls are at risk and you’-“

“ Yeah, I’m the only one who can do the job.”

“ You understand, so proceed with the mission.”

“ How about a raise?”

The transmission ends in a faint hum and I slowly raise myself upright. Spinning on my heel my eyes wander over the homologous landscape.

“Now,” I softly whisper “where’s my little time slip?”

“Wh- What’s a time slip?”

Whipping around I see a living skeleton. His sunken eyes are the most startling shade of blue, and from the few strands of hair that still clings to his scalp, I can tell he used to be a blonde.   There’s a price to pay for destroying a world and he seems to be paying it fully. Raising my hands slowly in front of me I approach him.

“A time-slip is a person who fell through a dimensional schism from their world in their time, to a similar world in a similar time.”

My boots brush against his toes and I cautiously touch his shoulder.

“ What’s your name?”

“ Benjamin Rolough.”

Bingo, he’s my target.

“Benjamin, do you want to go home?”

“ Ashes to ashes. They are all ashes!”

He bows backward and shrieks loudly.

“ Ashes to ashes!”

Cackling, he falls against my chest and I feel his bones press against me.  Cupping his shoulders firmly I start to pull him into the second quadrant, back to his world.  A white-hot- pain strikes at my back, pushing me forward and leaving me staggering under it. Benjamin wriggles free and starts running up the nearest sand-dune.  Muttering, some unpleasant words under my breath I follow him.  Time is not on my side. Twenties minutes remain before the pull to return to my own time and dimension will attack will forcing me to leave this world decimated forever. Worse, I conclude the pain I felt earlier must’ve been the sun’s last solar flare, meaning any second now it’ll implode. Worry seethes in my gut, I can survive that but Benjamin won’t.

“Benjamin! I need to take you home, you’ll die here!”

The dunes are hard to traverse both of us stumbling and releasing clouds of dust in our wake: his last one ending up in my mouth. I try to avoid thinking about who I might’ve just inhaled as I double- over coughing. Stiffening at the keening whine of the dying sun, I lunge for him as the world goes dark.

Too close, that was far too close. Dimensions seamlessly lie on top of each other so t people in different dimensions can stand beside each other and never know they weren’t alone. The exceptions to this are time-slips and a Professor. Half-lidded, I watch Benjamin awake beside me in his dimension.

“Are you okay Benjamin?”

“No, I feel like I’ve been slugged, and- who are you?”

Turning over I extend a hand into his dimension.

“ I’m Professor When.”

Tentatively he grasps my hand and then starts shaking it with tears in his eyes.

“ You saved me.”

“ You and 60 million other people.”

It’s an incredible thing watching a planet reanimate. Dust moves to form buildings, cars, animals, plants, and people. Studiously avoid looking at the pile of dust I had coughed out which I’m pretty sure just turned into a tea-cup poodle, I message the station that my mission is complete.  Time- remains suspended for one more moment, life is frozen in the way it was before it ended, and then it continues. People laugh, move and breathe, car-horns honk, and the little teacup-poodle is grasped in a crushing embrace by a little girl with pig-tails. Unaware that it ever ended their lives continue.

“ That’s why I love my job.”

 

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