art by Shothot Designs
by Will Arthur
Mike pushed through the door, closing it carefully behind him. It was cold outside.
"Evening, Joe," he said.
The bar was nearly empty, and silent but for the tinny voices of a pair of broadcasters calling the hockey game. Mike glanced over for the score; the few patrons studiously avoided his eyes.
For a moment, Mike just sat. He was tired; tired of cleaning up other people's screwups. Tired of unraveling their twists, tangles, and snags. Tired of Timeguard.
He nodded at Joe. Joe grimaced, but poured out a small glass of whiskey and slid it across the bar. Bushmills--the good stuff.
One shot was all he needed. He was a professional. Smoke drifted across the bar, stinging his eyes, and Mike blinked as he patted his sidearm into position in its holster.
Mike leaned back, reached for his gun again, and looked down the bar at the man he'd come to find.
"Well," said the man. "I guess that's it, then."
"A Timeguard always gets his man."
"I suppose the only way out is to kill you. It's too bad--you remind me of me, in a way."
"Only one of us has a gun." Mike gestured at his sidearm.
"True. So, you making a move or not?" The man cocked an eyebrow.
"Not. For the moment, anyway." Mike frowned. "The time here is messed up good. Could go around several loops. Maybe in different directions."
"Yep," the man said. "Palindromic time snag. Not much fun when you're stuck in it. It feels like going properly backwards. Except things are happening differently. It's like being pushed through a--"
"Damn it," said Mike. "Not again."