“You?” Samuel asked.
“Ever since that day in the clock shop, I’ve been haunted by you. Haunted by your foolish desire to fix what can never be fixed.”
“That was hours ago-”
He laughed. “For me it was nearly half a century. Fifty years of regret that I didn’t pull the trigger in time.”
“I could have ended this pain right then. I could have prevented this whole time shifting phenomenon. Paradox plain and simple. But the universe found a way to stay broken, to live on with injustice and cruelty and pain running rampant. It denied me my reset. The universe wants evil to win.”
He laughed to himself. “Heck, I took out Hitler at the age of two. Gave little Gustav diphtheria, but then his brother Adolf took his place. The Holocaust still happened, Gustav Hitler or no Gustav Hitler.
“It’s ironic really. Your death, yours and mom’s at the hands of a two-bit time thief set me on this path. Then your life kept me on it.”
“Who are you?” Samuel asked.
The Professor smiled a cold cruel smile. “I’m Cornelius Samuel Quinn. I’m your son.”
The realization hit Samuel like a backhand to the mouth. Hidden behind that beard were features Samuel recognized. Ones Samuel often saw in the mirror, but mixed with something else, someone else…Melinda.
“But…” Samuel said.
“There is too much suffering in this world. It ends today.” He reached for the knife.
“No!” Samuel shouted and shoved him hard away. “There may be pain, but there is beauty too. There is forgiveness and wonder and joy. Must these things die too?”
Cornelius got to his feet, and landed a punch to Samuel’s right temple taking him down like a sack of bricks.
Cornelius reached again for the knife, but Samuel grabbed his legs and knocked him to the ground. Cornelius rolled over and pounced on Samuel, quickly pinning him.
“Ha. You taught me that move, Dad.”
Samuel’s mind flailed for something, anything that might stop him. “What would your mother say? Would she want this?”
“She’s been dead for half a century.”
“What about your father? I’m here.” Samuel shouted.
Cornelius sneered. “You don’t even know me.” He popped Samuel’s shoulder out of socket. He stood as Samuel writhed in pain.
Cornelius slowly walked to the table in triumph. He picked up the knife. He played with it in his hand. He turned to face Samuel as he raised the knife to stab it in his own chest, to end the world as he knew it.
“This sacrifice I make,” Cornelius said, “is for all mankind.”
But as his eye fell upon his father, Samuel wasn’t where Cornelius had left him. Samuel had maneuvered in front of Cornelius. With the hand of his good arm, Samuel grabbed the knife and plunged it deep into his own heart. “Me too.”
Darkness reigned for a long time.
Samuel awoke from what seemed a dream when the bell above his shop door clanged. In stepped the most beautiful woman Samuel had ever seen.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m looking for Samuel Quinn.”
“I’m pleased to say you’ve found him.”
He looked down and saw the bits and pieces of his latest project—something he called the Tempus Subcinctus. He put his tools down. He pulled up the magnifying glass he’d attached to a leather band around his head. She was the first customer he’d ever had in his shop.
The lady undid her overcoat to reveal a machine similar to the one on the table, except hers was complete.
“My name is Melinda Jones. I need your help.”