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Mothers and Sons

George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in over 60 magazines and anthologies including Galaxy's Edge, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Dream Forge, On Spec, Grievous Angel, Helios Quarterly Magazine, Best Vegan SFF, and The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF. He lives in Athens, Greece, and when not writing stories he is, among many other things, an actor, a poet, and a father. He would like to be able to step out of time, so that he could write more, read more, travel more, play more computer games, and spend more time with cats. Links to his published works can be found in his blog, at georgenikolopoulos.wordpress.com.
Madame Delphine enters the cabin, sits down in the bucket seat and puts her hands on the controls.
I look at her with admiration. She's not much to the eye; a grey-haired little lady with circular glasses, a white three-piece suit, and the black gloves she never takes off. And yet -- I may be the brains behind the time travel machine, but she's the true hero of the Resistance. None of us would wish to be in her shoes; traveling back in time to kill her own son.
My research has proved that time travel is indeed possible--but you cannot move matter through time; only this thing we call life essence, and which those who came before us used to call spirit, or soul. This means you can only go back in time to inhabit your own body--taking it over, so to speak--which makes Madame Delphine practically the only candidate for the job in hand.
"Ready, Madame Delphine?" I ask.
We've been utterly unable to kill the monstrous dictator in the present, and it's quite clear it would be impossible to kill him at any point in time while he was an adult. He's much too powerful a mind bender for any of us to confront. We had to find someone to go back in time and kill him while he was still a child, unable to utilize the full extent of his powers. His mother is the only member of the Resistance who had been an adult so long ago--and, of course, she had easy access to the child.
A monstrous act, to kill a child; yet knowing what he'd grow up to become, the millions of lives that would be lost to his evil, how could we flinch?
Even as a child, however, she was unable to kill him. It was the hardest thing in the world, she said to me after the attempt, to bring yourself to kill your own child; but even though she knew that he was the embodiment of evil, she couldn't do it anyway because he didn't let her. The Butcher sensed the intrusion as soon as Madame Delphine took possession of her younger body, and he launched a full-scale mental attack; she was swaying at the top of the staircase, on the verge of jumping over the parapet to her death, when she finally managed to wrench her life essence free and return to our time. So she decided to make another attempt--to try to kill the monster while he was still in the womb.
"Always ready, Sonja," she says with a smile; but I can see how very tight and strained her smile is. I try to imagine what it's like to kill your son. Mine's five years old, and he's such a sweet little angel--but even if I knew he'd one day become a demon from hell, could I ever harm him? A shiver runs down my spine.
We're really fortunate that Madame Delphine is fully committed to our cause. Even though Jacques Leroux--the Butcher of Temoigne--is her own son, she disowned him and began to oppose him as soon as soon as he began to commit his atrocities.
The Butcher would show no mercy to his mother, nor to his father. Doctor Paul Leroux died under torture in his son's prison, while Madame Delphine barely escaped with her life through the sacrifice of some of the Resistance founders--my own father among them.
Madame Delphine activates the controls, setting the date and time for her trip. Her outline shimmers, the lights blink and then she's solid again. Everything always happens in a blink, in time travel; after the trip, the traveler returns to their physical body at the exact moment they left it.
There's a panel on the wall above my head, another one of my inventions. It senses the Butcher's life essence in the present time; if he ever dies, the color of the panel will change.
The panel remains red; Jacques Leroux is still alive.
Madame Delphine looks like she's been to hell and back. I go to her, take her hands in mine.
"Even unborn, he could bend my mind," she says. "I couldn't take the abortion medicine. I could feel his evil inside me, only this time he obviously didn't try to kill me."
Unexpectedly, her face lights up. "And so there's another way," she says.
She pulls her hands from mine and takes the controls again, before I can say anything. She vanishes. The lights blink. She's solid again; but her head's slumped to her chest.
I hear everyone in the room cheer; I turn and look behind me. The panel is now black.
I turn back to the cabin. I take Madame Delphine's pulse; she's dead. Her life essence hasn't returned, which can only mean that she died while in the past. Did he fight back, killing her just as she killed him?
Only now do I look at the controls, and then I realize. Madame Delphine went even further back in time; back to a time before her son was even conceived."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
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