Discrepancy: A Short Story
“You just happened to arrest him right after we returned,” I said as I watched the director pace back and forth slowly in front of the closed door. “Don’t you find that odd?”
Director Miller stopped and turned toward me.
“We suspected for some time that he had done it.” Miller folded his arms across his chest. “We weren’t sure until after both of you started your assignment.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me!” I was furious. I had been in the interogation room for who knows how long. I so desperately wanted to talk to Hank. I so desperately wanted to go home. Something was seriously wrong and no one wanted to see it.
“And if we would have told you, would you have completed your mission effectively?” The director sat down again in the chair across from me. I leaned over the table and looked directlly into Miller’s eyes.
“Then why didn’t you pull him and pair me with someone else?” The director leaned slightly back in his chair and shook his head. Apparently he was just as angry.
“We weren’t sure at the time. We didn’t want to tip him off,” the director said slowly and sternly as he looked off to his right. I suspected he didn’t want to look at me anymore. “If you had known would you have gone on the mission?” Miller turned and now he leaned over the table and looked directly at me. “And if you had gone on the mission, knowing what he had done, would you have acted the same toward him? We couldn’t risk him becoming suspicious. You know the consequences if he would have fled while on mission. It would have been disasterous.”
“He didn’t kill her. This is a discrepancy.”
“No it isn’t!” the director exploded. He quickly got up, shoving the chair violently into the table. “He killed her and that is the end of it.”
“I am sorry. I can’t change the way I feel about this. Something is wrong.” The director calmed down. He turned his back for a moment and then sat back down in the chair.
“I am sorry too. But did you ever meet her?”
“Did he ever talk about her?” the director said, cutting me off.
“And did he say anything positive?”
“No.” I didn’t like where this was going. I knew Hank’s divorce had been messy. Yes, he didn’t like her, but I still couldn’t accept the fact that he had killed her.
“Did he ever mention that he had seen her since they broke up?”
“No,” I said. I felt defeated. I knew I wasn’t going to convince the director that this was a discrepancy. “Can I talk to Hank?” I asked knowing that he was somewhere in the building in another interogation room.
“Okay, but I want you to see the crime photos first.”
“Alright.” Miller got up and quickly left the room. For what seemed an agonizing few minutes, the director finally returned holding a manila folder. He closed the door behind him and before he even sat down, he threw the folder on the table where it slid right into my hands. I opened it while the director sat back back in the chair.
In that moment I had unsealed a horrible nightmare. I felt tears well up in my eyes, as my stomach heaved. I was looking into pure evil.
The photos showed Hank’s wife bound upright in one of the kitchen chairs. She had been beaten and stabbed repeatedly. From what I could tell, her torture had been prolonged and drawn out. Whoever did this was not human. They could not have been. I closed the folder and slowly pushed it back. I didn’t want it near me anymore.
“No, he didn’t do this,” I said as I shook my head. “Hank could not have done this to her.” I was still disturbed by the photos. “He had to have been a suspect initially back then. So why now, after so many years?”
“He was a suspect. He had always been a suspect. It wasn’t until recently that new evidence put the spotlight back on him.” The director leaned back in the chair and remained quiet for a few moments while he looked down at the floor. When he finally spoke, it was in a near whisper. “He had an alibi which included a surveillance video at the restaurant that he was supposed to be at. Apparently he knew the restaurant owner. The time stamp on the video was altered. He had a few other friends that were also covering for him.
“Damnit,” I said as I now found myself doubting Hank’s innocence. I didn’t know his past that well because he was 29 years older than me. Even though he was my friend he was more like a father and a mentor. I had learned so much working with him. “It is uncanny that this pops up right when we returned and you know that in our line of work there are no coincidences.”
“I know how you feel and I know how this might look from your perspective. Maybe this is a discrepancy, but you have to give me more, other than your gut feeling.”
“I understand,” I said as I planted my forehead in both my hands. For a moment I stared blankly at the scratched worn gray table top. “I have nothing,” I whispered as I looked back up at the director. I thought about everything that had been said and seen. Murder that was so evil. Alibis. Doctored video. A restaurant owner that lied. Hank was a cop back then, during that time. Were his fellow officers covering for him? Still, why was this happening now? I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we had caused it. All of this began after we went back in time.
Evan Is Allowed To See Hank
“Do you want to see Hank now?” The director got up out of his chair and opened the door. He gestered with his right hand. Slowly I rose. I walked around the table and went out the door. The director followed. Together we walked down the hall and didn’t say a word to each other. For some reason I thought of Hank’s daughter Emily and his grandchildren. Quickly I did the math in my head. Emily was six years older than me, so she had to have been four years old when her mother was murdered. I met her and knew her from past holidays at Hank's house. He was very proud of her and always talked about her and his two grandsons. I wondered how the murder had affected her.
We walked some fifty feet down the hall and hung a right, where we entered the area where the other interogation rooms were. Again, the director gestered toward one of the far rooms at the end of the hall. When I entered I gasped. Hank was in his mid fifties but he was still tough. He was a bull dog, short and stocky and muscular, with a square face and a square jaw, with only thinning gray hair belying his age. But on first sight he looked defeated. He had blood shot eyes that looked blank and empty. His hands were chained to eye bolts that protruded from the table.
When I fully entered the room I was caught slightly off guard by the two uniformed security officers flanking Hank. I had been so focused on Hank’s disheveled appearance that I had not noticed them at first. I stopped dead, looking at the officers. Hank slowly looked up. For what seemed a long time, he simply looked through me until slowly his eyes widened slightly and his jaw dropped.
“Evan, you are here,” Hank said in a shaky voice. He seemed like he was about to cry. I turned around to face the director who was still standing in the doorway.
“Do they have to be here?” The director knodded yes. “Oh, come on,” I blurted out. I was upset. I pointed at Hank, noticing for the first time that they had also chained his ankles. “He is not going anywhere,” I yelled, feeling like I was about to cry too.
“Okay, you guys, leave the room,” the director said as he backed out into the hallway. The officers quckly left. I sat down in the chair across from Hank. Finally he began to cry.
“Hank, don’t worry, we are going to fix this,” I said trying to reassure him.
“I didn’t do this. I did not kill her,” Hank said as he regained his composure. “She shouldn’t even be dead.”
“Evan, this is a discrepancy,” he said. “You have to convince them.”
“I have already been talking to the director,” I said. I was hesitant before I responded. Hank looked stunned. Suddenly he exploded in anger. He pounded his fists on the table despite being restrained. He tried to get out of his chair but fell back nearly falling on the floor.
“Damnit, even you don’t believe me,” he yelled. Sweat began to bead on his forehead. “Why?”
“Hank, I believe you, but there is no evidence. We have to think of something, find some event that will prove that this was not supposed to happen,” I said. I felt bad that I hadn’t convinced the director before that something was wrong. I felt bad that I had let Hank down. But for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about his daughter.
“Evan, I am sorry,” Hank said as he calmed himself. “It is not your job.” He shook his head. “I am so tired. I haven’t slept at all.”
“You are my partner. We are supposed to look out for each.” I got up out of the chair and circled the table until I was standing to Hank’s left. “Have they allowed you to talk to your family, such as your daughter and your grandchildren?”
“No,” Hank responded. He began to cry again. “They haven’t let me talk to anyone on the outside.” He sobbed uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to say.
“We should be allowed to have personal infomation on our discrepancy chips.” Suddenly Hank tried to regain his composure. He looked up toward me, perplexed, then his eyes widened in terror.
“They may be gone.” He put his head down on the table. “No, no, no.”
“Hank, please, don’t go there,” I said as I leaned over and put my hand on his left shoulder. “But I have to ask you a question. “When we were on mission, did you have your pictures?” Desperately I was hoping that he did take them. He loved his grandchildren. He loved his daughter. But mission protocol dictated no personal affects. I was hoping that Hank had broken the rules. Quickly his head popped up.
“I did have them with me. They are on my phone which they took from me immediately when we returned.”
“That’s it!” I exclaimed as I patted Hank on the back. “Your pictures might be the evidence that will prove that something is wrong. We are going to fix this.” I was excited.
“Just don’t tell me what happened to my daughter, please,” Hank said as he looked up at me.
“Trust me, I won’t. By the time we correct this discrepancy you won’t even know any of this has happened.”
“Good,” Hank could barely talk. He began to weep again. “This has been a nightmare. I can’t wait till it is over and I can then wake up.”
“You won’t even remember the nightmare.” I turned and headed toward the door.
“Evan,” Hank said before I could leave the room.
“Yes Hank,” I said as I turned back around.
How The Discrepancy Chip Works
President. Vice president. Secretary of state. Speaker of the house. When were they elected? When were they appointed? Other politicians. Actors. Industrialists. How did they become famous or well known? When did they become famous or well known? Major events throughout history. Wars. Pandemics. Birth of nations. Birth of religions. When did they occur? Who was involved?
These events, people, and dates, the entire known history of the human race was recorded on our discrepancy chips. I chose to have mine placed in my left calf. When we would come back from missions we would be debriefed which included comparing our own discrepancy chips with the master discrepancy file located on the facility servers. If there was a discrepancy between the master files and our own chips then somehow we had made a mistake, somehow we had altered the past.
I knocked on the director’s office door. He answered, his voice muffled through the large thick oak door.
“Come on in.” I opened the door and entered. Director Miller’s office was large and spacious, with white walls, and a beige carpet. In the middle of the room sat a dark brown oak desk that faced the door. An office of this caliber was only meant for someone in Miller’s position but it also fit his stature and his ability as a director. Miller was a tall slim african american with a fully shaved head and no beard. He had initiated the program and its polices and after more than five years there had never been a discrepancy. Until now.
“How is it going Evan,” the director said as he stood up holding his tie to his chest with his left hand. “Please, sit.” The director had two dark oak chairs with beige cushions in front of his desk. I quickly pulled the right chair slightly away from the desk and sat down. Miller sat back down in his own chair as he again adjusted his tie.
“Sir, I have the evidence that you asked for,” I said, but before I could show it to him I first had to ask him a few questions. “Do you know Hank’s daughter, Emily?”
“No, I don’t know her,” the director answered. He seemed perplexed.
“Do you know where she lives now?”
“Sir, please bear with me, can you check her background.” Miller hesitated for a moment. For awhile he simply stared at me squinting his eyes and biting his lower lip.
“Okay.” He turned to the computer on his desk. “Paula, can you please give me any information that you have on Emily Haase. Please don’t answer verbally. Send the information to my monitor only.”
“Yes, sir,” Paula answered, her voice drifting across the room from nowhere and from everywhere. Sometimes she could be disconcerting as if she were standing right next to you talking right in your ear. In less than a moment she answered. “Agnus has the information that you requested.”
“Thank you Paula,” the director said as he analyzed the information on the monitor. I found it odd how we could thank a computer but found it even more odd that we could program them to be just as polite as well. “Emily Haase was raised by her mother’s grand parents after her mother’s death. She went to school at Standford. Eventually got a law degree. Passed the bar and became an assistant prosecutor for the city of San Francisco. Some of her comments shows that she pursued this career because of her mother’s murder. Also, because of what happened to her mother, she left New York. To many bad memories. Too much pain.” The director hesitated as he continued to look at what was on the monitor. “Too bad, not married. No children.”
“Sir, all of that information is incorrect. Emily has two sons.”
“What?” the director asked, surprised, as he quickly looked up.
“Emily never left New York. She went to Columbia University and actually got a doctorate degree in physics. You were even considering giving her a job offer.” The director looked stunned. He stared at me for what seemed a long time.
“Evan, what is your proof?” Miller finally asked. Obviously I had been waiting for this question. I knew he wasn’t going to like my answer.
“Hank took his phone with him,” I blurted out as I braced for the director’s response. He quickly sprang from his chair.
“He what,” the director yelled. Clearly he was upset. He paced behind his own chair a few times, his hand on his forehead. Finally he stopped and turned toward me. “Of all things.” He shook his head. “He didn’t have that thing turned on, did he?” Before I could answer he continured, rambling on. “A phone nearly 30 years ahead of any technology of that time. How could he? Did he take his phone with him on all his missions? What would have happened if he had dropped it, say during Lincoln’s assassination, or at the battle of Trafalgar? What would have happened if someone in Truman’s administration had found it?”
“Sir, I don’t know if he took it with him on all the missions but he did state that he did not have it turned on during the last one.”
“I don’t want to hear anymore,” the director said as he slowly sat back down in his chair holding his tie toward his chest. I pulled the phone out of my pocket and turned it on. I pulled up Hank’s photos, going to one particular one that I knew would get Miller’s attention.
“Sir, take a look at this photo,” I said as I thrusted the phone toward him. The director took a close look. His jaw dropped.
“What tha,” He was shocked and he should have been. The picture that he was looking at showed Hank, his daughter, his son-in-law, his two grandsons and myself sitting around a picnic table. But the real shocker, the director was also in the photo along with his wife and their eleven year old son. “Oh, there is something wrong here. Where and when did this take place?”
“It was taken at Hank’s house. It was a July 4th barbacue last year.” I pulled the phone back. “Do you want to see more photos?”
“No,” the director said, resigned to the fact that there was now proof that a discrepancy had occurred.
“Hank never talked about his ex,” I said solemnly. “Yes, he didn’t like her. But as you can see, he loved his daughter and his grandchilden. He considered his son-in-law the son he never had.”
“From your own discrepancy chips, history in general has not been altered. Protocol dictates we don’t have to do any…”
“What?” I interrupted. “You can’t give up on Hank. How could you?”
“I never said that I was going to follow protocol,” the director said angrily.
“Thank you sir,” I said with a sigh. It was a relief to know that this was now going to be fixed, that Hank’s life would be returned to normal.
“Then let me go, sir,” I said as I leaned forward.
“Something is going on here,” the director said, seeming not to listen to my volunteering for the mission to help Hank. Slowly he rose from his chair. The quantum effect doesn’t explain why this happened or does it? There is just something that we are not seeing.” The director stood behind his chair, his hands on the chair back. “Maybe Reynolds wasn’t entirely correct.”
Doctor Reynolds is the lead staff physicist who came up with the theory on how a person could meet his younger self. He based it on the quantum mechanics principle that no two particles can occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. Yes, humans are not particles but we are unique. It is personality that drives the real difference between us with our own unique brains and unique electrical brain patterns. He speculated, not that we could meet ourselves, on the contrary, we couldn’t. No matter how hard we would try, we could never meet ourselves. It would simply spell out as coincidence. It was actually a bizarre theory. Say you were a creature of habit. Say you came home every day at 4PM. Suddenly one day a friend you haven’t talked to in over ten years calls you and wants to go out to dinner. Or suddenly a strange traffic accident takes place that prevents you from getting home on time. Or suddenly power goes out at work and you get out early. Reynolds said that anytime these coincidences take place that disrupt your normal life pattern, it could be that your older self is trying to meet you.
“Evan, I sent you because you are our youngest agent,” the director said. He looked upset. “But Hank is one of our oldest. I should never have sent him.”
“Sir, Are you absolutely sure Hank committed the murder? Maybe he didn’t do it affer all.”
“Sorry Evan, everything points to him. If he didn’t do it and it was someone else than we have no working theory why history was changed,” the director said as he stood up straight and put his hands on his hips. “Then we would have to completely ban near history trips.”
The director was probably correct on this view. All previous missions had taken place during a time, far enough back, before the birth of any of our agents. But our last mission was the first and only exception involving only Hank since the trip took place two years before I was born. We got the go ahead because we just couldn’t pass up the analysis of that particular point in history. It was called the Wilson Riots which was a result of skyrocketing food prices that were brought about after three years of massive crop failures world wide. It initially started as a peaceful demonstration in New York’s Central Park but turned ugly after only a few hours. The rumor over the years was that John Wilson had planned to turn it into a violent confrontation days before the demonstration. He was a suspect but he was never formally charged. However, having the riot named after himself hurt his reputation to such a degree that Wilson sued the city, and the police. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, they came from all over the country in defense of Wilson saying that he was wrongly implicated. They were so convinced of his innocence, that they even held a massive rally in his name in Central Park exactly a year after the riot.
But when we went back and carefully tracked Wilson during the few days before the demonstration we found out that he indeed did plan the riot with a few of his close friends, friends that managed to keep the secret. They planted explosive devices all over the park that were small enough so they barely hurt anyone but still caused panic among the crowd. Wilson in turn blamed the police and the panic and anger exploded in unrest.
All of our agents, with the exception of myself, were alive at the time but the director chose Hank, even though he was the oldest, because of his past police experience. Experience that was invaluable in tracking Wilson without him being aware.
“I want to send you back but I am having reservations. You will be back there with your slightly younger self,” the director said as he paced the floor behind his desk chair “I don’t want a repeat. I don’t want you to become another Hank. I don’t want to make this worse.”
“Sir, I know Hank better than anyone. You know you have to send me back.” The director sighed.
“You’re right,” he said, resigned to the fact that I was the only real choice to solve this. “Get a good nights sleep. You go tomorrow.”
Evan Goes Back To Save Hank
Ripples in time. Errors in the timeline. Altered timelines. High probability that the present realiy is incorrect. I was always amused by these science fiction ideas where the characters of the story had this great technology that could detect that history had been altered. Or the even more proposterous idea where one of the characters somehow senses that the present reality is wrong. How could one reality be more right when compared to any other reality? How could any one person or any technology detect a problem in the timeline? The only way that this could happen is if the person or persons existed outside of time. Obviously these amusing stories are pure fiction because this is not how time travel works.
So how do we actually do it? We simply open a wormhole that only carries ourselves a short distance in space since all of our travels are here on earth. Of course we have to compensate for the rotation of the earth and its orbit around the sun and the sun’s orbit around the center of the galaxy. Otherwise we could be dropped in the vacuum of space. The actual time travel itself comes about by moving one of the mouths of the the wormhole during transit, which in all cases is the outgoing mouth. Moving the wormhole mouth not only creates time travel it also allows the traveler to set down in a location of choice, far from people and far from crowds. This ability is definitly an asset since it would be unwise, for example, to appear out of no where among a group of people, say in Salam Massachusetts during the witch trials.
So how do we actually do it? We carry the time machine with us. There is no massive machine at the facility flinging us through the wormhole or pulling us back. Recent success at miniaturizing a fusion reactor, turning it into a solid state device, allows us to carry the entire time apparatus in a backpack. A special body suit is also necessary which actually is very comfortable, as it is worn under our regular clothes, and well designed allowing the wearer to accomodate the call of nature.
As I sat crouched behind the bushes 28 years in the past, I thought about Hank and his wife. Hank was 27 years old during the Wilson riots. He also went through his messy divorce that year. He never did talk about her, even during the barbacues we had together with his daughter and his son-in-law and his grandchildren. He truly did not like her, and from what little I did know, the marriage only lasted five years.
As I waited in the dark in the backyard of Elizabeth’s beautiful suburban home in Mt Vernon. I wondered how I was going to confront Hank when he would arrive. According to what was known about the murder, Hank entered the house roughly around dawn. I first thought about using a mask but then I thought, why? History had already been changed. I should not even be here. So I decided not to use a mask. I had no reservation telling Hank who I was, as long as I prevented the murder. These events of history had already been altered and there was no going back. Once history is changed, it is permanent.
As I sat on the damp lawn, I began to knod off, falling asleep. Just as I closed my eyes and my head bobbed forward, I heard a rustling noise at the back fence. As I popped my head back up and turned, I noticed someone tumbling over the back fench roughly only 20 feet away from here, where I was sitting. Quickly I stood up. The darkness began to fade as the sun struggled to rise behind the treeline. The person next to the fence suddenly looked at me. I stared back stunned. I never could imagine seeing Hank that young. He was slim with a head full of thick brown hair with no sign of grey. For a moment he stood there, frozen probably as stunned I was. As he regained his composure, he slowly began to walk toward me. Gradually he put his right hand into the right pocket of his jeans and pulled out one end of his handcuffs, then slowly he put his hand behind his back. I knew what he was going for. I already had my hand in my right coat pocket, my fingers gripping the handle of the stun pistol so hard I couldn’t feel them anymore. My hand trembled as he approached.
“You are trespassing. You are under arrest. You have the right…”
“Hank, don’t do this,” I said as I slowly backed up. Hank stopped and looked intently at me, confused.
“How do you know me? I don’t know you,” Hank said. He had pulled his gun from his back pants but he didn’t point it at me. He only held it to his side the barrel pointing to the ground.
“I know what you are going to do. You came here to kill Elizabeth.” Hank stood there as shock washed over his face. In that brief moment I had my chance and I took it. Quickly I pulled the gun from my pocket and fired. The sonic pulse hit Hank and knocked him flat on his back. As he laid there dazed, I rushed over and grabbed his handcuffs. As fast as I could, I cuffed his hands behind his back. Next, taking one of the pairs that I had on me I then cuffed his feet together.
My plan was to put Hank in the backyard shed. Then, when our alternate selves had returned to the future, I would call the police, telling them where Hank was. Then, I would return home myself.
I sat down briefly as I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that I had managed to subdue Hank. I looked at the house as a few lights turned on upstairs. Elizabeth was awake. She was preparing to go to work. She had been alone this past night since she was unable to pick her daughter Emily up yesterday from her parents house because of the unrest from the Wilson riots. With dread I thought about Hank’s daughter. If she were home this morning, would Hank have killed her too?
Slowly Hank began to moan as he regained consciousness. He blinked his eyes a few times. Eventually his eyes focused. With his feet and hands bound he struggled to sit up.
“Nice weapon. When I get out of this, I am going to take it from you.”
“You are not going to take anything from me,” I responded. Hank’s statement actually made me angry but it also frightened me. I carefully examined the restraints, making sure that he wasn’t on the verge of getting out of them.
“Who are you? Oh, I really don’t care,” Hank said in an arrogant cavaliar manner. “You are going to be my excuse.” Hank was now talking in a whisper as he leaned as far as he could toward me. I found him incredibly irritating. I couldn’t fathom him ever being this way. “I am going to torture her and then I am going to kill her and I am going to enjoy it.” A big grin fomed on his face. “I am going to blame you. I am going to shoot you a few times, maybe in both your legs and and your shoulder. You will die slowly. I will watch you bleed out. I am going to enjoy that too.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. No, this couldn’t be Hank. Something was seriously wrong.
As he grinned at me, I looked back at him in horror. I wanted to cry. In that single moment everything began to crystallize. The realization of what was going on suddenly dawned on me and I knew deep down to the core of my being that what we had done was so very wrong. We never should have went back here in the first place and my returning was equally as wrong. The director was right, there was something more to Reynold’s notion of what happens when two particles or two people occupy the same quantum state. It went further than that, to a place involving the unseen, the nonphysical because it destroyed my faith in God, and my faith in the spiritual. No, it is not that I don’t believe anymore it is just with absolute certainty I now know that God exists, that evil exists. To me, it is now a fact.
It happened when I looked into Hank’s eyes. It was not what I saw, but the lack of what I saw. They say that the eyes are an extension of own minds, of our own brains. But more importantly, they are the windows to our soul. As I looked into the younger version of Hank’s eyes, to my dread, I saw nothing. They were completely empty. He was devoid of a soul.
The horror that hit me was that God only created one soul for each person. At any single moment in time, at any given moment in time, only one soul for any one person can exist. There can never be more than one. Each and every one is unique. For Hank, his soul was not here. It was fifteen miles away in Central Park.
As I sat there, jumbled thoughts raced through my mind. They seemed to tumble and trip over each other as I struggled to concentrate. What was going on with my alternate self back in Central Park? Would I change the course of history? Would I help Wilson? Would I hurt Hank or God forbid would I do something worse? Would I deny Emily of her father? I didn’t know completely what was happening. If you have no soul are you evil? Or does evil enter when there is no soul? The only thing that I did know was that something very wrong was occurring with my alternate self back in the city. Every fiber of my existence pointed to this fact because like Hank here, my other self was just as soulless. I cringed at the thought. I didn’t want to think about what horrors I could inflict on someone.
“Are you upset? Are you going to cry?” Hank said in a playful vicious tone. I looked over at him. I didn’t realize how intently he was watching me. The grin reappeared on his face and was now bigger than ever. He began to laugh hysterically.