Idiot! Dismas mentally chided himself. How could he have been so incredibly ignorant? So blind? He would pay the ultimate price for his oversight; that much was instantly clear. The machine had worked perfectly, as near as he could tell, though there was little to provide him with actual proof beyond his current location. But the fact that he was here and not where he started was indicator enough. His suit would sustain him for a short time, far shorter than the meager supply of oxygen in the helmet would last. He could already feel the cold beginning to creep in. Time, it turned out, was only one of the factors that needed consideration. He had a thousand objects he could have sent first, yet he had been so sure of himself. So foolishly certain that his machine would work he decided to send himself. And it did work, flawlessly.
Ten seconds. . .It had seemed so trivial when he had set the digital dial. Only ten seconds into the future with nearly 30 clocks and a roomful of cameras to record the event. He expected they were still recording that spot he had disappeared from, the clocks patiently ticking away the seconds for a return that would not happen. If only he had taken one, now painfully obvious, thing into account. His mind sought desperately how to overcome the problem despite the fact that he would never be able to relay it to anyone. The machine had pushed him forward in time by ten seconds but had left him in exactly the same spot. The same fixed spot in the universe. . .Earth had moved on without him.
The Earth moved at almost 19 miles each second around the Sun. Was that coming or going? Did it really matter? Rotation added another variable in addition to the wobble on the axis. What was the movement of the solar system in relation to the galaxy? He didnï¿½t know offhand. What about movement of the galaxy? Could that be accounted for? Was there even a stable point of reference? Feasibility of a solution was dwindling. His legs and arms were becoming numb.
The cold forced the calculations from his mind. There was no point. Why waste his last seconds on something so futile? His mind flashed back over his life, lingering at certain points. He thought of growing up, fishing with his father. Of meeting his wife for the first time. Their wedding. The birth of their son. His mind drifted to the amount of time he had spent with that accursed machine. Like a thief it had stolen entire months away from his family. No. . . Lying to himself didn't make sense anymore. No more excuses. The machine was not the thief. It had merely accepted the time given it. He was the thief; stealing from his family to give to the machine.
As he watched the darkened globe of Earth drift slowly in front of him, tears formed in his eyes. He could barely feel his body anymore. The end would not be physically painful, but emotionally it was tearing him apart. He needed forgiveness from so many. But he could not seek it, nor did he deserve it. His mind lingered on the final time he had been dragged to church by his wife years before. Funny that he should remember that, especially now. The pastor had called them all thieves. Stealing from God. Stealing the glory and honor due to Him. Stealing the time owed him. Dismas had scoffed at the notion back then, but now the idea of stealing time made perfect sense. Had he done anything right? Had he done any good? Was he even capable of it? Hopelessness seemed to suffocate him more than the cold ever could.
A faint flicker of hope reached through the darkness to tug at his mind. The sermon hadn't ended there. Despite his best efforts to forget the entire experience many years ago it had remained stubbornly lodged in his mind to be recalled in this moment of desperation. The pastor had continued on. He had talked about another thief. One who had been condemned to die a painful death. One who had humbly sought and found forgiveness in the last moments of his life. A debt far too large to repay, and no time to even try, was forgiven in an instant. Dismas choked up, the tears freezing on his face. He was that thief. But could the same forgiveness be extended to him? As the cold embraced him, he offered up a simple prayer. His eyes blankly stared at the Earth, looming ever closer, as his mind faded into darkness.
Dismas' body accelerated toward Earth, gravity refusing to give up its prize to the emptiness of space. As it tumbled, the silver suit began to glow brightly in the night sky. A shimmering trail stretched behind as it streaked through the sky. Then, in the blink of an eye the body was gone, the glowing trail slowly fading from view. In the cold, dark silence that replaced it, unheard by mortal ears, angels were celebrating.
So this story originated from my distaste for how Hollywood tends to butcher anything to do with time travel. They use it as a convenience, only mentioning potential issues when it furthers their plot and ignoring them at all other times (often using such issues as a crux in the story). I was thinking about making a longer story using more 'realistic' time travel when this one sort of popped into my mind.
I had originally intended to only write a story that involved what I see as one of the primary issues with time travel: destination location (not time). Why does the traveler always end up on earth? Does gravity somehow hold the traveler in it's grip while traveling through time? Anyway, the whole spiritual message in this story was never intended to be there. It kind of just flowed out as I was typing. It was almost uncanny how the message of stealing time from his family worked right into stealing time from God and then into the thief on the cross (no, I don't remember a sermon on this). I'll just credit God with that, unless you think the whole idea was terrible - then it was my idea entirely.
While this story leaves a lot of questions (i.e. what about the machine? How about his family? Was he working alone? etc.) I think I managed to convey the message I wanted to get across (and then some).
In case you were wondering, I did pick Dismas' name with intent. Look it up if you are curious.