Fiction: Time and Again

An essay by an unnamed assistant, as provided by Stephen D. Rogers
Art by Errow Collins

First of all, it wasn’t my fault. And even if it were my fault, it was an accident. I never meant to bend time into a Mobius strip, and probably couldn’t have done that if I tried. Besides, what kind of idiot tries to manipulate the physics of cause and effect?

My kind of idiot.

Let’s just get this straight: it wasn’t my experiment, it wasn’t my theory, and it wasn’t my idea.

This human of mine, he gets these flashes of stupidity that he mistakes for brilliance, and unfortunately, he knows just enough science to follow through.

Who gets blamed for the mishaps? Right, me.

I’m always there–as if I had any choice–and so I’m automatically at fault.

You might think that perhaps my human would take some responsibility for errors. Ha! He takes the credit when things go well, and everything else is on me. That’s just how he is.

If I had any say in the matter, I’d be gone in a flash.

To be completely honest, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a mistake of this magnitude before now.

The laboratory is a mess. Things all over the place. Would it kill him to put something away for once?

But no, he just leaves the uncapped bottle of water next to the open control box, circuits exposed, nothing shielded. It’s as if he wanted me to knock the bottle over.

Before I begin, I just want you to understand that it’s not my fault. To make a long story short: I’ve got this shadow, this invisible manifestation, that I just can’t shake loose.

It’s a curse. The curse of the transparent assistant.

I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it is for me to accomplish important work when I’ve got this … thing … hovering. How could anyone in their right mind expect me to concentrate?

Quite simply, the situation is intolerable. Intolerable and yet I tolerate it. But why must I tolerate it?

I was a scientist. Scientists discover solutions. That’s what we do.

Black and white illustration of someone working on a piece of paper with a red clock superimposed over it.

First of all, it wasn’t my fault.

Then I got this brilliant idea. What if I jiggered time? What if I leapt backward or forward a few tiny milliseconds? That shock to the continuum might just be enough to break whatever bond connected me to my ghost, leaving me free to go about my work without interference.

I would use science to endow science, the first allowing the second, the second empowering the first, an infinite loop of enlightened development.

The thrill of expectation lifted the weight that had clouded my mind, enabling me to achieve one breakthrough after another until I defeated the tyranny of time.

Take that, you invisible fiend! Take that, you fraud!

And then that creature, calculating and vindictive, poured a bottle of water into the fragile mechanism that controlled my invention.

I watched everything I worked for go up in smoke.

First of all, it wasn’t my fault. And even if it were my fault, it was an accident. I never meant to bend time into a Mobius strip, and probably couldn’t have done that if I tried.

What does Rogers mean by “Made-up Languages”?  I speak three of them. Am I made up?  Definitely not.  Maybe I should write An Encyclopedia of Imaginary Writers.  Maybe I’ll do that.  Maybe I’ll do that and send him a copy, and then once I have his address, I’ll write an Atlas of Make-Believe Locations.

See how he likes that.  Hmph.

Stephen D. Rogers is the author of A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages and more than 800 shorter pieces.  His website,, includes a list of new and upcoming titles as well as other timely information.

Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards mashing the surreal with the familiar. They pay their time to developing worlds not quite like our own with their fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. They probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of their work can be found at

“Time and Again” is © 2019 Stephen D. Rogers
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Errow Collins

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