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The City's Gratitude

Meg Candelaria is an ex-New Yorker currently living in Philadelphia with her family, two neurotic dogs, and an apparently immortal gingko tree.

***Warning! This story may be triggering for some readers.***
"Let me see if I've got this straight," said the police officer to the scruffy looking man in front of her. "You're from the future and it's very important you talk to the mayor right now about a horrible threat that we have to avert."
They gave her all the crazy ones. The guys thought it was hilarious to watch her try to deal with men who claimed to be from Mars, people with ghosts in their apartments, and little old ladies who said they were sea monsters.
"Look, I know how it sounds," the man said. "But it's really, really important! Honestly! This is such a great opportunity to stop a terrible disaster before it starts! Don't you see? It's not just the city, it's the whole country! History will literally be changed if only I can just warn--"
"Yes, you mentioned," the police officer interrupted. "It's very important that you see the mayor and probably the president because you and only you can stop this threat."
Dammit, there was no excuse for this sort of thing. She was good at her job. She could calm an angry drunk, intimidate a gang member or a Wall Street mogul at need, comfort a witness, and, if it came to that, outshoot two out of three of her colleagues. There was no need to stick her in the station, dealing with the crazies instead of letting her out on the street where she could do some good.
She took a deep breath and tried to concentrate on what the man was saying. "You're not judging me by my clothes, are you? I can't help that I was out for a jog wearing my gym clothes and not carrying any money or ID when I got sucked through a time portal. If I'd known, I would have put on a suit and grabbed my cell."
Okay, he'd somehow managed to make a halfway reasonable point. No one wore their best clothes to jog. She'd give him that one. But surely men in the future didn't run around with scruffy beards and hair sticking out in every direction. They got shaved every morning by their robot butlers using laser razors or something.
Suddenly he launched himself from his chair and grabbed her, shouting, "You've got to believe me! The fate of the world depends on it! Really! If the--"
"That's quite enough of that," she said, pulling herself out of his grip and pinning him to the wall in a single fluid movement. She kept up with her exercises, not like some of her beer-bellied colleagues who were out there getting the exciting assignments, solving murders, making the city safe, and winning promotions, not stuck back at the station listening to crazies babble. A sudden gasp from the man reminded her how important it was that a police officer never lose control. She relaxed her grip and marched him out of the interrogation room into the main station.
Her luck was in. Just as she entered the room, so did two fellow officers back from patrol. They could run the taxi service.
"Involuntary psych hold for this one," she told them. "I'll call ahead to Bellevue, you get him there."
"On it," the first replied.
"NO!" the man shouted as he was pulled out the door. "YOU CAN"T DO THIS!"
The officer shook her head. She stepped outside. Maybe a breath of fresh air--or what passed for it in downtown New York--would clear her head.
She watched the downtown traffic go by for a bit. A phrase she hadn't really paid attention to earlier floated through her mind. What in the world could he have met by "grab my cell"? What cell? A prison cell? The cell of a plant? She shook her head. Neither of those made any sense. She must not have understood him correctly. Or he was just babbling.
Eventually the noise of construction nearby drove her back inside. They claimed to be building the tallest building in the world. Times two. Well, they were making enough noise for it.
She wondered what the world saving thing that the man had wanted to tell the mayor and the president was. Perhaps it was to tell some public benefactor how to knock down those butt-ugly buildings going up on Greenwich most efficiently. Yeah, whoever did that would certainly have the city's gratitude.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 18th, 2017

Author Comments

My inspiration for this story was actually my partner's beard. I looked at it and thought about how fashions in men's facial hair have changed over time and the rest of the story followed naturally from that thought. --Meg Candelaria We've seen quite a lot of time travel science fiction over the years. For me, much of the best of it touches on the tragedy of how difficult it is--yes, even in fiction--to change the past. If there were any moment we would have wanted to change in my adult lifetime,... --Jonathan

- Meg Candelaria
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