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The Cube

Jonathan Worlde is the fiction byline of Paul Grussendorf, who is an attorney representing refugees and a consultant to the UN Refugee Agency. Paul Grussendorf's legal memoir is My Trials: Inside America's Deportation Factories. (Available on Amazon).

Jonathan Worlde's neo-noir mystery novel Latex Monkey with Banana was winner of the Hollywood Discovery Award. Recent short fiction appears in the 2020 anthology Ghost Stories of Shepherdstown, in Cirque Journal, Ab Terra Voices, Everyday Fiction, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Sirens Call, and Stupefying Stories.

Paul is also a traditional country blues performer under the stage name Paul the Resonator, whose CD is Soul of a Man. (Available on Spotify, etc). He enjoys performing African-American blues for schoolchildren in Africa.

On the outskirts of town I came across The Palace of Green Porcelain, a derelict museum with a collapsing roof, where a Hungarian caretaker was liquidating items. Dappled emerald light played on the cracked tile floor, dried leaves scuttled in the corners.
I examined an old Selmer saxophone, a Victrola phonograph and a stuffed shark. Dejected that I hadn't found anything that excited me, I was leaving when I saw, near the lavatory, a sorry-looking machine with an old hand-written sign: Time Machine--Still Works. The heavy metal sphere stood as tall as my shoulders. Crouching to look inside, I could see it would be a tight fit. Being an inventor myself, I felt I should be able to make use of it somehow, even if only for spare parts.
"Does it really work?" I asked the man, who was playing a game of solitaire. He answered, with a bored tone,
"It works all right. I've been back to the Cretaceous Period, when giant reptiles ruled the world; and I've been forward in time another seventy million years, where, guess what?"
I had an inkling of where he was going with this. "More dinosaurs?"
"Exactly, although a bipedal mammal, I hesitate to call them humans, coexist. They live in mud hovels, largely trying to stay out of the way of the dinosaurs, while gathering moss and berries to mush into a muddy paste for consumption."
"Grotesque! They cook it?"
"At times, but the fire gives away their whereabouts to the dinosaurs. I barely made my escape when a pair of neo-T-Rexes attacked. "
"What about our cities? Industry? Electromagnetism?"
"All gone, as though they never existed--our labors here are for naught. We threw it all away on greed and pride. How many mansions, boats, and planes can a man consume? We burn and pillage our forests and foul our oceans for a quick dollar. I've seen where it's all going, and I don't want any part of it."
I walked around the sphere again. "How much do you want for it?"
"Make an offer. Everything has to go."
"It's intriguing."
"What you want to use it for?"
"I want to be there when we manage to reach the moon. Jules Verne makes it seem inevitable."
He chuckled. "You can have it cheap."
"I don't have much money--will you trade for it?"
"What do you have?"
"How about an invisibility cloak?"
"Don't need it."
"A ray gun that allows you to vaporize an opponent at fifty yards?" I knew it didn't work but it made an impressive flash.
"I'm not violent."
I had one other idea.
"How about this?"
"What is it?"
"It's just a trifle I've made in my spare time. You could probably patent it and make a fortune."
He chuckled. "Doubtful. What does it do?"
"It's like a puzzle. Let me show you. You just hold it in both hands, you scramble the six sides like this, and then you realign the sides so that each side is back to one solid color."
"Huh. Sounds simple enough."
I scrambled the cube and handed it to him.
"Here, give it a try."
He took it and began trying to solve the puzzle, turning the device a few times--"Well isn't that..."--trying again and getting more frustrated--"Well I'll be...."
While he was distracted I walked past him, stooped and stepped into the machine, sat on the padded seat and tried the On switch. To my surprise it powered right up. A brass plate affixed above the door read, Time Travel Machine designed by Erno Rubik.
Hearing the high-pitched whine of the engine, he turned as I pulled the hatch closed, absent-mindedly waved me off, and returned to his struggle with the cube.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

Author Comments

I had the master H.G. Wells in mind when I started this story, but then somehow Rubik made an appearance.

- Jonathan Worlde
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