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Buy You a Mockingbird

One of Eric James Stone's earliest memories is of an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. Thanks to his father's collection of old science fiction, Eric grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Eric has attended Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp and the Odyssey Writing Workshop. A Writers of the Future winner, his stories have appeared in Year's Best SF 15, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and the Blood Lite anthologies, among other venues. Eric is also an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Eric lives in Utah. His website is www.ericjamesstone.com.

It's time for bed.
Yes, I'll tell you a story. But then you have to be a good girl for Mommy and go to sleep. Promise?
Once upon a time there was a woman who worked in a lab. Yes, like me. And she had a little girl just like you. Now, one day the woman used a machine in her lab and it took her a hundred years into the future. Yes, a hundred years is a long time.
What did the lady find in the future? There was nothing... There was nothing bad there. Nobody was sad in the future. Nobody was poor. Nobody hurt anybody else. Nobody was sick. Nobody did anything bad.
You're right, that does sound like a happy place. But the lady wasn't happy in the future. She was all lonely. She wanted to see her little girl again.
Yes, she loved her little girl. So the lady came back from the future. That's when she found out the machine in the lab had created an irreparable quantum tear in the spacetime--had made a rip in the world that was spreading and would soon tear everything apart.
Did the lady fix the rip? Of course she did. She just took her needle and thread and sewed it back up. Then she went home to her little girl and they lived happily for a hundred years and met the lady again when she appeared in the future. And everybody in the whole world was happy.
That's the end of the story. Now it's time to go to sleep.
No, you don't have to go to school tomorrow. You don't have to go to school ever again. Tomorrow you can play with your friends and watch TV and eat ice cream and all the candy you want. And we'll go to the toy store and buy all the Disney princesses.
Sweet dreams, my baby. Remember Mommy loves you and will never ever let anything bad happen to you.
That sound outside is just the wind. Don't worry, Mommy will stay here and hold you until it's all gone.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Author Comments

I wrote this story for a flash-fiction writing contest with other members of CodexWriters.com. We each had to write a story of no more than 750 words in a weekend--each weekend for five weeks. This story was my entry for week two. It was loosely based on the following prompt: "You've been transported 100 years into the future. You have 24 hours to experience and learn as much as you can, but you can't take anything back with you except knowledge. What would you focus on?" That led me to think about what might happen if someone went into the future and there wasn't anything there. What if the time travel itself were responsible for destroying the future? Because it was flash fiction, I decided to experiment with style, and the idea of presenting just the mother's side of a conversation as she is telling a story to her child clicked for me. The title "Buy You a Mockingbird" was meant to evoke the lies parents tell their children in order to make them feel better.

- Eric James Stone
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