Fridays For Future, Climate Strike Online, StoryADay May: Gross

This post is part of StoryADay May ( #StoryADay #StoryADayMay @storyadaymay #freeshortstory #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrikeOnline


It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

Stanley had been a tinkerer all his life, and his second tinker dream had always been a time machine. His first, of course, was a perpetual motion machine, although he couldn’t have said why.

Through research in science and fiction, he had constructed a machine in his work shed that turned out to actually work. He knew it worked because he tried it out himself, not expecting it to work, and it did.

One second, he was in his shed. The next second, he was in a bunker made of … he didn’t know what, but it was solid. There was nothing in the bunker but himself and the machine. There didn’t appear to be a door, but he finally located a keypad. He used the same passcode for everything, so he tried it on the keypad and a door slid open.

Outside, it was night, but a night like none Stanley had ever seen. The moon was full and bright, and the sky was a sea of stars. Street lights and house lights illuminated without glaring

His one-story house was now two stories, with a duplicate of his old shed next to the bunker. The shed door was locked with an old-fashioned padlock like the one on his shed back in his real time. He looked in a barred window and saw another time machine with a sign next to it that said Recreated Stanley Bismuth Time Machine – Photographs permitted – do not touch.

The house was locked with keypads, front and back, and his usual passcode didn’t work for either of them. He was about to peer through a window when he saw the sign next to the door: Stanley Bismuth House, with hours of operation.

“I’m famous?” he said aloud. Well, of course he would be famous, with a time machine and all. He wondered if people used time machine a lot here in the future.

A box on a pole at the front edge of the property caught his attention. It looked like –

Yes, it was a Little Free Library! He was delighted to find those were still around. Inside was a collection of books with his name on the spine: Practical Planet Care, Ten Solutions Whose Time Has Come, Here’s An Idea! and Why Time Travel Is A Bad Idea. He took one of each.

He would have liked to stay, but he seemed to be famous (the pictures on the backs of the books were of an older Stanley, wearing nicer clothes), and the Time Travel Is A Bad Idea book had him spooked, so he returned to his own time, locked the shed, and carried his future books up to his bedroom.

Most of them were full of ideas and even plans for technologies that could be implemented personally, locally, nationally, and globally to make the world a better place for everybody. They were written with gravitas but levity, a combination that surely appealed to the broadest possible range of readers.

The copyright date of Here’s An Idea! was only a few years into the future.

The next day, Stanley bought a newer, faster computer and got to work transcribing the book into a manuscript.

When that was done and he had submitted it to a literary agency, he stiffened his spine and picked up Why Time Travel Is A Bad Idea.

It was the story of how he had built the time machine and had gone into the future and had seen chaos and destruction. It told how, out of fear of how the machine might be misused, or that a neighborhood child thinking it was a joke or a homeless person looking for shelter might accidentally trigger a trip for themselves and be stuck in that horror, he had built a locked bunker around the machine and had never used it again.

That made sense to him, although it seemed to him it would be simpler just to break up the machine. He hadn’t, and he was curious to see, in the coming years, why.


His first book was a roaring success. He made pots of money, but donated nearly all of it to start-ups that implemented the technologies and philosophies his book had advocated.

His next book was Ten Solutions Whose Time Has Come, and it was equally popular. Things started to change for the better all over the world.

One day, a cousin Stanley had never liked invited himself to stay for a week.

Stanley had to leave him alone in the house while he went to the grocery, and came back to find him in the shed, the padlock dangling open. Stanley had forgotten that one of the reasons he disliked this cousin was that he was a petty thief.

“Stanley, you dog!” the cousin said when Stanley caught him. “This contraption works! You’ve been to the future and brought back future technology! And I bet you haven’t made more than a dime out of it, you soft sucker! Send me forward and let me at it! I’ll find out the winners of every sports event in the next ten years, and what stocks are going to take off, and all that! Come back and be a trillionaire in next to no time!”

“The future isn’t ours to strip mine,” Stanley said. “The future belongs to the people of the future, and we owe it to them to make it better, not to make ourselves rich.”

“You dummy.” The cousin sat in the time machine and said, “How does this thing work?”

“First, you have to put in my passcode.”

“How would I know your passcode, dummy?”

Stanley shielded the key pad and punched in the numbers. He set the target time to a year after the publication of Why Time Travel Is A Bad Idea and flipped a switch.

His obnoxious cousin disappeared.

Stanley broke the machine’s controls.

His pittance from the sale of his books would pay for a sturdy bunker, his cousin didn’t know the passcode to get out, and the machine’s controls were broken even if the cousin hadn’t been too eager to steal from the future to ask how to work them for his return journey.

Someone must have opened the bunker at some point, since he hadn’t seen a body, although it was possible a skeleton had been somewhere he hadn’t glanced. So maybe the cousin had been released alive but hadn’t been able to come back and make use of his knowledge of the future. Or maybe he had died in the bunker and rotted and decayed like his selfish ideas deserved to decay.




We now return you to our regularly scheduled nonsense.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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