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Lost Between the Plates

Benjamin Abbott is a tattooed barista who knows his honey process from his naturals and dreams of writing full time. He's aware this makes him the most obvious sort of cliche, but he doesn't mind. He's autistic and non-binary, but is most comfortable with male pronouns. When he's not writing, he enjoys hiking up mountains in search of a good place to read. His Twitter handle is @allthebenjamins

I felt it that time. A surge as the plates shifted against each other like two lovers. It was a big jump, judging by the decor. Horrid paisley wallpaper in a thousand shades of mustard. I think that makes this the 1970s? Or is it the 1960s? I lose track. This isn't supposed to be my timeline. I'm not even born.
I've been chasing him for years and forever. Spinning through time and space without a sail. I found him in 2031, years before the reconstitution; he was happy, or at least he was smiling. There was a woman with him. She touched his arm, grinning wide; deep orange with wisps of red that swirled around her lips.
I didn't hate her, even though she was with him. I bit myself to stem the tears; tasted a single droplet of blood. It's supposed to taste like steel but it doesn't. It tastes of too much toothpaste, of absinthe.
Climbing out the window, my head spins. This isn't the twentieth century at all. I don't know where I am. Skyscrapers fit for their name. They tear through the clouds above, climbing impossibly high. They're not built from brick or iron or even glass. A frosted material... is that ice? It's cold enough to be ice. And the tendril sprouts rising from the ground, a deeper green I've never known. Thankfully, I'm only on the second floor. I drop, rolling as I land. For a baffling moment I spy two suns. But no. That other is the moon, huge and glowing. I frown, violent violet. Something's terribly wrong if--
Ah, 2022, Piccadilly Circus. I've been here before. Both as an eight-year-old girl and as a twenty-four-year-old time traveler. I briefly glance left and right, just in case another me is here. We don't want to disrupt the plates--not more than we have to. The arch-chancellor bellows black and sparks of red from one of the huge screens. Except she's young here, so young. Not arch-chancellor, yet. I'd forgotten what it was like, in the beginning. I watch her for a moment, captivated, awed. This is a flake of history.
I could find him here as a young boy, if I had the time, but I already feel the surge. Plates shift, something cracks. I close my eyes, anticipating. Slippage. I've been traveling too long without grounding. Am I addicted to the chase? To him?
On the floor, labored breathing. Fuck. Pain as my atoms forget they're part of a person and try to fling themselves around like children tearing through a ball pit. It's night. Somewhere temperate. The lack of light-pollution suggests I'm too far back, or... well, I suppose it could be then, yes. There wouldn't be any light pollution then.
I promise myself to return before it's too late. I need to ground myself soon or this whole ship will tear apart.
Wait. This is it. I'm in the street outside his house. The lights are off. Every one. Not a torch flashes, not a device screen glows. I set my face passive grey and approach below the view of his front windows. The timing is perfect. This is the start of the reconstitution. He'll be home. He may as well be waiting for me. If only he knew how I'd followed him. If only he knew how he'd imprinted on me. Whatever happens next, he'll forever be a part of me. There's no changing that now.
I push the window up. With no power, the lock's undone itself. The window is gracious, slides silently. Thank you window, co-conspirator. I slip inside, an intruder. I'm careful, even though my shoes aren't capable of tapping, my clothes were never taught to rustle. My heart stutters as if I'm steeling for my first kiss. Now that's an old memory, degraded and rebuilt. Much like my body, I suppose. I still cherish those old memories, despite their questionable fidelity. I know a part of them is true. And they're warm, bright like a picture book.
He's here. He's here. He's here.
Will I ever grasp this excitement? How will I remember this? In monochrome, with great lashes of color. A stripe of gold for my beating heart, jagged blue--my grit teeth, what will the release be when I finally have him? Blinding white. Snowblind. I see it now in partials, creeping at the edges of my vision; a heavenly vignette.
My eyes and heart and lips flutter when I see him, sitting in a straight-backed chair.
I say his name. Yes! To finally speak, to say anything is joy. But to say his name? Rapture.
His head tilts up, away from the book in his lap. A pale blue mask of surprise, but it falls away, a confused blink of yellow, then fractal. The color of possibilities and knowing.
'What?' he says densely. Then, 'How did you get here?'
My mouth opens in a monstrous smile. Yes. Now I'm snowblind and it's glorious. He didn't see me coming. It worked.
He leaps up, fists clenched as if those sacs of jelly and mineralized tissue could do anything to me. I blow soft, soothing, and he falls back into the chair. The first human to ever awaken their prescient mind. The most dangerous man in all of time. How do you stop a man who can see the future? How do you stop the machinations of a monster who knows all things? You come at him like a pack of lionesses. You come at him through time. You unground yourself and become a waterfall cascading through the plates. You jump without thought or reason. You become his shadow. You take years, but you mustn't take more than minutes. You slip in through his window when it's dark, slip in unseen in more ways than anyone has ever been unseen before or since.
He glares a rainbow of reds before it ends.
I shoot him through heart and head as the surge builds around me.
I'm snowblind.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, May 21st, 2021

Author Comments

A few years ago, I had the idea for a novel where the antagonist was a billionaire using precognitive abilities to dominate the world. Solving the problem of combating someone who can see the future was (and still is) fascinating to me. One day, while mentally outlining, an entirely new story revealed itself along with a new solution to that puzzle." Lost Between the Plates" was spun from that second solution. I loved the idea of scattering the timeline, confusing both future and past and immediately grabbed my laptop, writing this story in a colorful flurry.

- Benjamin Abbott
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