Anders staggers, disoriented; the box on his belt chimes, but his growling stomach takes precedence. He snatches a golden-skinned apple from the decrepit handcart, leaving a lump of pure silver behind. A new thread springs to life: the farmer will donate the nugget to the temple, trusting in piety and eternal rewards. A hundred years later it will be buried in the desert, part of a silver chain around the strangled neck of Pharaoh’s favorite concubine. The machine struggles to decode it; the box at his belt rings, calls for attention.
Anders shoves the apple into his mouth, rips, chews, licks his lips. Relief washes through him and he moves on. A step and the box flashes. He is no longer Anders but Andrea. A step, a flash, and she drops the core in Saxon England. Two hundred years later a grove will grow here. In Cromwell’s time a highwayman will be hung from one of the branches. The highwayman’s children will never be born.
She reels and the threads twist, bend, come undone. Cities are built and unbuilt, wars started, fought and forgotten to never have been. Another warning chime from the box at her belt, capacity overload. Calculations go unfinished; threads disappear from the matrix. She is lost.
An indicator fades from yellow to orange to red; the drain on the device is enormous. She frowns, takes a step and stretches out his hand, plunging it into the working heart of a nuclear reactor, showering him with a lethal amount of radiation. He staggers, shoves the broken piece of rod into the receptor, the flesh of her hands burning away. In the next step she is healed but heavily pregnant, the child bursting from her distended abdomen, spraying blood from a cesarean that never happened. He curses and clutches at his wound.
A step to the side and the wound is gone. The indicator shines green, fully charged, but the threads have come undone and he is lost again, and parched. He takes a step towards the river and she bends down to drink. The water is clear, fluid and cool. For a moment everything is right, in flow yet static. Something shines at the bottom of the stream. She sinks her hand in, pulls out a small lump of silver. He stands, feeling ravenous. The matrix is far from being completed, the threads twisting and unraveling with each action, but he is weak with hunger. He takes a step, spies a cart piled with golden-hued apples and feels his mouth water.
FILIP WILTGREN is a freelance writer and game designer based in Sweden. When not fighting windmills with words he tries to herd his children, make a living, conjure up a way to turn the world into a giant, happy pizza and/or get paid. Failing that he tries to take heart in never having gotten into politics.