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Magic Arrow

by Chance Dibben

      The time traveler will always land in the volcano. Her death will be as instant as her transmission to the past. The scientists will remain gravely unaware of their miscalculations.

           As a kid, she dreamed of space. Pinned bugs to boards. Took apart computers. This was her escape. This was her talent. She was born into a rough family outside Akron. Her father died when she was nine in a hunting accident, her mother a manic-depressive. She had to grow up fast and perhaps grew up too fast. This might explain the drugs and crime, but it would be irresponsible to draw her arc in bold, clean lines.

           When they offered her a deal, she took it without hesitation or consideration of the consequences. This was her chance to be a part of history, to pin a bug to a board, to be the bug looked at for the rest of, ahem, time.

          The scientists will always run her through a bevy of tests and feats of strength. Her curiosity and aptitude will always separate her from the other candidates. She will always become family with them, falling in love with a lanky gray-haired particle physicist. They will always slowly fall in love and keep it hidden because it breaks protocol. He will always give her his father's war watch. She will always enter the portal with a secret smile, her fingers crossed. She will always land in the volcano.

           Perhaps you think she can be saved. Perhaps you can fix the scientists' equations or steer her away from a short period of crime. You want to break her father's car so he can't go on the hunting trip or have him bend down to scratch his leg just before the bullet is fired. You want the mother to keep her job or find a better one with health insurance. I'm sorry. The father will always be shot by his friend, a heavy mosquito tickling his trigger finger. The mother will always feel a growing storm in her head. The time traveler will always land in the volcano. She will always poke the dead caterpillar writhing with ants. She will always swallow too much pool water and get a nosebleed. She will always have ice cream in the car with her mother and father, swarmed with feelings of security. She will always be cradled as a baby, leaving the hospital, her whole life ahead of her.

Author's Note

Last year I began writing flash pieces by starting with the craziest or strangest sentence I could think of in the moment and then fleshing out a mini-story. This one came out of the opening line, “the time traveler will always land in the volcano,” which seemed like such a bonkers way to start a story. On the one hand, it has a little bit of dark humor to it. On the other, it’s got sadness to it.

Chance Dibben is a writer, photographer, and performer living in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in Split Lip, Reality Beach, Horsethief, Yes Poetry, as well as others.

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