Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Support DSF with a donation:
small-go-arrowdonate
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private

Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






art by Shothot Designs

Palindrome

Will Arthur is a writer, amateur comedian, and though he'll deny it, accountant. He claims to be descended from King Arthur, usually at the top of his voice after a few Guinnesses. Perhaps someday he will have a website.
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."
Palindromic snag. Hell. He could already see how this was going to go. Of all the types of time snags Mike had seen since joining Timeguard--recursive, crablike, anagrammatic--palindromic was the worst. It was so damned confusing. And too often, the only way out was to shoot the guy who'd started the snag. He was licensed to do it, but it still made him uncomfortable--while would-be time travelers were idiots, it was hard not to feel sorry for them. There was always something tragic they wanted to reverse, never realizing that the past couldn't be changed, that trying could only lead to endless thickets of time snags. He sighed. And then the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He recognized that feeling.
"Damn it," said the man. "Not again."
"Yep," Mike 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--"
"Knot. For the moment, anyway." The man frowned. "The time here is messed up good. Could go around several loops. Maybe in different directions."
"True. So, you making a move or not?" Mike cocked an eyebrow.
"Only one of us has a gun." The man gestured at Mike's sidearm.
"I suppose the only way out is to kill you. It's too bad--you remind me of me, in a way."
"A Timeguard always gets his man."
"Well," said Mike. "I guess that's it, then."
Mike leaned back, reached for his gun again, and looked down the bar at the man he'd come to find.
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.
He nodded at Joe. Joe grimaced, but poured out a small glass of whiskey and slid it across the bar. Bushmills--the good stuff.
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.
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.
"Evening, Joe," he said.
Mike pushed through the door, closing it carefully behind him. It was cold outside.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010


Context is everything. This story owes a lot to Hofstadter's wonderful and mind-bending "Godel, Escher, Bach," which sparked the idea behind it--can a story be the same forward and backward, and still move? The answer is: yes. Or no. Depends on the context.

- William Arthur

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.9 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us