Bea Cannon's story 'A Moment in Time' was the second place winner in December's short fiction Contest.
A Moment in Time by Bea Cannon
Gerald Lansing’s job was making sure all parts were to specs. Unable to get one piece to calibrate, he looked up the original calculations and found an error, or at least an anomaly. He made a print-out and went to Prof. Willard, the head of the project who’d made the computations.
“Sir, there’s something I think you should take a look at,” he said pointing to the suspected problem. “I’m not getting the specified results. Perhaps someone has made a change?”
“What? Let me see,” said Prof. Willard. He took the paper.
He scrutinized the figures, crumpled the page and handed it back, frowning. “I don’t see a problem, and nothing has been changed. Look, you’re not supposed to be going over these figures. You’re just a technician. This type of math is too complicated for you to properly comprehend. Just do your job and leave the temporal calculations to those of us who’re experts.” He stalked off.
Gerald sighed. He’d felt he had to say something, but the professor saw him as only a pair of hands, a servant expected to do exactly as told. He knew going to any others in the lab would do no good: they never questioned Prof. Willard. He shrugged, tossed the balled paper into a nearby can, and went back to work trying to set the experimental temporal shifter as specified, finally getting it to more or less agree with the schematics.
The big day arrived. Gerald’s qualms were allayed by the preliminary trials. They had gone well. The temporal shifter worked perfectly, first going back several minutes, then a day, and finally to the previous month. The lab animals returned unharmed, and the head tech who’d volunteered to do the last test came back satisfied. He’d landed exactly where he was supposed to on the desired date.
Prof. Willard entered the cubicle and settled himself at the console. The place and time was set for an uninhabited, open plain in the western United States two hundred years ago. He started up and watched his instruments. When the counter stopped, he opened the door, stepping out - and realized something was wrong.
He stared at the landscape, horrified. Rushing toward him through what appeared to be tall palm trees was a horde of different kinds of dinosaurs. He dove back in and hit the return switch. Nothing happened. The vehicle shook as the animals thundered past on either side. The sounds diminished and he reopened the door. A very small animal, the size of a chicken scurried by.
It was hot, the sky a fiery orange. He looked up and the air was streaked with flashes of light as the rocks kicked up by the giant meteorite strike fell back to Earth. The destruction that helped wipe out eighty percent of all surface life sixty-five million years ago fell around him.
The last thing he saw was a palm tree silhouetted in front of a huge ball of fire coming straight at him.