• Joshua Blaylock

James Newman Has a Problem

James Newman has a problem.


James’s daughter died when she was far too young – struck down in a crash that left him and his wife broken people. If only he hadn’t taken that left turn, gone down that street. He made a split-second decision, fueled by hunger, that forever changed the course of his life.

Driving down 5th street through some small town with his family, he decided to take a detour. Best chicken fried steak in the state, the sign said. Of course, they all said that, but he was hungry and wanted to test it out. The arrow below the text pointed left and said, THIS WAY.

They never made it to the restaurant. A couple of blocks down, they were hit by a car that ran a stop sign driving much too fast. His wife had only a minor concussion. He had a broken arm, a burn on his neck from his seatbelt and a few other scratches and bruises. But his daughter – sitting directly behind him, she took the full force of the hit.

He didn’t like to think about the details of the next few minutes. How it took him a long time to come back to reality. How, by the time his consciousness moved beyond himself to be cognizant of what else was going on in the car, his wife was wailing in a manner that, having experienced it first-hand, was still difficult to imagine.

The following weeks would be a haze of doctors, lawyers, coroners, reporters and relatives, all sapping away his remaining humanity. Soon there were friends, family, psychiatrists, support groups and an unhealthy dose of self-loathing, fighting, blaming and uncertainty. None of this would fix anything, though. Their daughter would still be gone, and regardless of how many times he told his wife, “if you hadn’t put the cooler behind your seat, she would have been sitting on the other side,” he knew it was entirely his fault.

But James Newman has a solution.

As a theoretical physicist, he’d already spent a decent amount of time studying up on theories of time travel, and now he would shift his focus entirely to it. It wasn’t a large shift, and it wasn’t difficult to sell. There were already some promising studies, and he had a considerable drive to see results.

Over the next 7 years, James redirected his pain into his work. He drove his team hard, but they all understood the stakes and had an equally strong drive to achieve this potentially historic goal.

Their first few successes were unclear. They attempted to send various items to the future, but, even though they disappeared, they never reappeared. Eventually, they sent a camera through to what they suspected would be around 3 seconds into the future to see if perhaps it was teleported. The signal was lost.

But 5 seconds later, it reconnected. The image displayed was above the clouds. The GPS showed that it was about 10 miles away. The clock on the camera image was 1.293 seconds behind. The time travel had worked, but they hadn’t accounted for the movement of the Earth during that period.

To the world, the discovery was a success, leading to a Nobel Prize for James and new research on ways to possibly use these new findings to travel through space by traveling to places where the Earth had been or would be in the future.

But to James, it seemed hopeless. He had discovered his goal, but traveling back 7 years would place him billions of miles away from Earth. He couldn’t stop now. He began working on solutions to somehow teleport the objects in space while pushing them through time.

Finally, two years after he received his Nobel Prize, James succeeded in sending an object 5 seconds into the future and less than a millimeter away from where it had started. He immediately booked a flight to Nevada.

His accuracy for one second may have been within a millimeter, but a second is a long way from nine years. He had a parachute in case he ended up too high, found a place where the land was as flat and barren as possible for miles around, and set up his equipment. If he was going to do this, the time was now. The sooner he left, the shorter he distance he would have to go back. He kissed a picture of his wife and daughter, flipped the switch, closed his eyes and hoped to God that he didn’t end up somewhere inside the Earth.

The sense of falling lasted for only a moment before he landed with a clank. He stumbled, rolled, fell again for a second and thudded onto the ground. When he finally was able to open his eyes and take in his surroundings, he was laying in the dirt in front of a gas station. Apparently, he had ended up inches above the roof. A quick look around made it clear that this place was long abandoned.

He headed inside to stash his parachute and the machine and checked his GPS. He had made sure to pack one that was old enough that it would work 9 years in the past. The GPS showed that he was about 17 miles east of where he had triggered the machine.

He headed to the road and started walking. He hoped that the time was right, the accuracy levels had become good enough that any variance was immeasurable in the short bursts that he had been testing.

After a while, a car drove past and stopped shortly in front of him. As he approached the car, the driver rolled down the window and offered him a ride.

He went around to the passenger side and got in. He asked the driver the date and time. He had been accurate enough. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since he had arrived, but it was currently about an hour after he had expected to. Now he just needed to make the trek across the country and figure out exactly how he planned to stop the accident.

He had packed a large amount of cash which he made sure was all dated more than 9 years ago. He used some of that to eat and some more to buy a cheap car in the town where he was dropped off. He made his way east and south, still trying to determine whether to try and prevent his family from taking their trip or maybe just find that truck and slash the tires to keep it off the road. That last one seemed like a winning option.

He was held up in New Mexico when his new car started smoking. The local shop was able to fix it, but it wasted half a day. He was cutting it close now. The only viable option would be to get to that town and stop that truck. Traffic, slow service, out of order pumps and a missed alarm put him in town with only a few minutes remaining before his younger self took that turn. The only option left to him was to prevent that.

He’d seen enough sci-fi movies to accept the possibility that seeing himself could be problematic. He didn’t want to get into all of that mess, so he had do this quick.

As he approached the sign, he noticed something he hadn’t realized before. The sign was actually 4-sided, with 3 of the sides having arrows and the 4th, from where he was approaching, saying TURN AROUND! The street was empty as he approached the sign to assess his options. The sign was surprisingly light. This would be much easier than he had expected.

He turned the sign around a couple of times then looked around again to make sure he was facing the correct direction. He moved to the correct side. He had parked up the street, so in order to prevent any chance of them seeing him he made sure to point the sign to the right. They wouldn’t find the place, but that truck would be long gone before they realized what had happened.

Having completed his goal, he ran back up to his car and waited until he saw their old car approach the intersection, turn on its blinker at the last second and turn right.

James Newman has a problem.

James’s wife died when their daughter was young – struck down in a crash that left him broken and his daughter motherless. If only he hadn’t taken that right turn, gone down that street. He made a split-second decision, fueled by hunger, that forever changed the course of his life.

Driving down 5th street through some small town with his family, he decided to take a detour. Best chicken fried steak in the state, the sign said. Of course, they all said that, but he was hungry and wanted to test it out. The arrow below the text pointed right and said, THIS WAY.

They never made it to the restaurant. A half mile down, they were hit by a drunk driver who had swerved into their lane. His daughter had only a minor concussion. He had a broken arm, a burn on his neck from his seatbelt and a few other scratches and bruises. But his wife – sitting in the front passenger seat when they each swerved to their left to miss each other, she took the full force of the hit.

But James Newman has a solution.

After years of research, James found a way to travel back in time and stop the accident. Unfortunately, he barely got there in time. But he knew exactly how to fix it. Now, he sits in his car and watches as their old car approaches the intersection, turns on its blinker at the last second and turns left.

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