Uncle Tom's Time Traveling Cabin

Uncle Tom's Time Traveling Cabin

A Story by Johnzo

I think the most interesting aspects of this story are implied, either by questions asked, or by the information *not* given. If you like thought-provoking Sci-Fi, hopefully you like this!



Time is fluid.  More like an analog wave, rather than a digital switch.  When disturbances interrupt time’s flow, they ripple out in all directions, but the effect is not instantaneous.  In essence, time takes time to settle and account for its new stimuli.  


Time always strives for balance.  When historical events are altered from outside the natural flow of time, time will begin moving to account for these variances.  The rate of speed in which time will balance and correct itself is inversely proportionate to the probability of the timeline being adjusted back to its original state.  This is because time will usually make the least disruptive resolution to return to normalcy.  In most cases, the removal of the disturbance is the least disturbing course of action.  


In cases where secondary forces outside time attempt to remove or further alter known disturbances, the result is chaos.  There have been no predictive models found suitable to account for such timeline modifications.  It is recommended to avoid such attempts.


-From “Pondering Time” by T. R. Fellows



Glen sat back in his desk chair stretching his shoulders.  He worked at Cabin Advanced Research labs, and had been at it for what felt like several hours too many by that point.  He was finally thinking about wrapping it up for the day.  It was pitch dark outside already, and everyone else had gone home long before.  He looked around the place that he and his co-workers all colloquially called “The Cabin”, though in reality it was quite a cutting-edge, high-tech facility.  It was full of some of the world’s fastest super computers, experimental power sources and at least a half-dozen unfinished prototypes of devices that would make even a seasoned science fiction veteran do a double take.  


The ceiling’s fluorescent lights were off, but in the shadows Glen could still see a few computer monitors left on, and a wide variety of metal and glass bits reflecting the minimal artificial light here and there.  His own monitor was of course still on, with the unrelenting text cursor still blinking away at a taunting pace.  


“I guess I could call it a night.”  He said, reaching up and turning off his monitor.  Knowing that if he gave in to the cursor’s prodding, he might never get out of there at all.  As he pushed on the desk to wheel his chair back, he noticed a blinking red light on his phone.  A little red number one was flashing next to the voicemail button.  He puzzled for a moment because he had checked his phone earlier, and hadn’t been away from his desk in hours.  He knew he hadn’t missed a call.  


All the same, he leaned over and pressed the button; the automated voice began speaking, “You have one new message, playing message one.”


“Hey there Glen!  It’s your Uncle Tom, sorry I missed you.”  The recording started.  


Glen knew he didn’t have an Uncle Tom, it was probably a wrong number.  But the man had used his name, which still meant it could’ve been a wrong number for a different Glen, but seemed unlikely.  He listened on.  


“Listen, I just had a great idea for the proposal we’ve been writing.  I think this will finally give us the details we need to convince the directors to fund the project.  This will be big!  Anyway, I thought I might catch you at the office.  I know you’re usually there late.  Make sure to rest up; I think we’ll be busy the next couple weeks.  G’night.”


“That’s weird.”  Glen spoke aloud in response to the odd message.  Whoever the person was had some things right.  Anyone at Cabin Research had to do a lot of convincing for the board of directors to approve funding on any project.  But Glen knew that he didn’t even have a proposal in the works yet.  Besides that fact, he didn’t know of any Tom in the entire company, let alone a relative.  He shrugged it off and stood up from his desk.  


Glen left the building and headed to his car out front in the parking lot.  As he reached the driver side door his cell phone rang.  He took the phone out of his pocket, got in the car and answered it.  


“Hi Mom.”  


“Hi Glenny, you’re not still at work are you?”  His mother answered on the other end.  Though he was in his mid-twenties, and she was nearly sixty, she still always called him “Glenny.”  


“No, I’m actually on my way home now.”


“You know you really shouldn’t overwork yourself.  Especially at your age, how are you ever going to meet a nice Mrs. Scientist?”  She said.  Mr. Scientist was actually a nickname Glen’s dad had given him, it had become a bit of a family joke.


“Oh, you know me, always on the prowl.  I wouldn’t worry about it, Mom.”  


“Well, just make sure you make it to dinner on Saturday, it’s Dad’s birthday remember?”


“I remember.  I already got his gift ordered, just waiting for it to get shipped in.”  


“Oh!  I know he’ll be so excited.  Great, great!”  


Glen let a pause linger for a moment.  “Say Mom, did you or Dad ever have a brother Tom?”


“Huh?  Oh, no dear.  No of course not.  Though...”  The question seemed to stir an old memory that she hadn’t thought of in a long time.  


“What is it?”  


“Well, my parents always said that if they had a boy, they would have named him Thomas, but...  Well they never did, it’s just me and your Auntie Claire.”  The last sentence held an audible smile; she and her sister Claire were still very close.


“Oh.  Ok.”


“Why do you ask, dear?”


“No reason, just curious.  I’ll see you on Saturday, ok?”


He exchanged niceties with his mother and set down the phone.  Sorry, wrong number Tom.  He thought to himself while shaking his head.  He started the car and headed home.  


The next morning around nine o’clock, Glen was pulling back into that all too familiar parking space in front of Cabin Research.  He had mostly forgotten about the odd voicemail from the night before and slept fine that night, although not for very long.  Even after working so late, he always made sure to be exactly on time every morning.  He was one of the younger employees and was still trying to prove to everyone that he belonged in such an advanced facility.  He hadn’t had that first big break-through to really get noticed, but he had some ideas that he felt were very promising.  This was one of the reasons why he worked so late every night; he wanted to get something solid enough to impress the directors. 


As he came into the open office floor, he saw a few of the other employees hard at work in front of their computer screens.  Most of them didn’t bother to look up, they were too busy running scenarios, manipulating virtual models, and crunching some rather serious looking numbers.  Whiteboards with a rainbow of dry erase markers lined the walls around the room, except for the one side containing the windows facing the parking lot.  There was everything from geometric shapes, three dimensional mockup drawings, and a great deal of equations ranging from trigonometry, partial differential equations, and the quantum uncertainty principle.


As Glen passed the last window en route to his desk, he noticed a picture hanging on the wall.  He stopped and looked at it for a moment.  It was the employee photo from a couple years back, about a year before he had started working for Cabin.  He found he recognized everyone except for one man standing near the back of the group.  There wasn’t anything remarkable about the man, he was average height, slightly tan skin, about fifty years old, had short greying black hair and wore glasses with round lenses.  Glen turned to his nearest co-worker.  Steven was only senior to Glen by about six months.


“Hey Steve, do you know this guy in the back here?”


Steve set down his second greasy breakfast sandwich of the morning and got up to look at the picture.  He leaned in close to the picture with his chubby, round face and adjusted his glasses.  “Hmm, no I’ve never seen him before.”


Glen apologized for interrupting and went to sit down at his desk.  Even though they worked in a room with nearly ten other people, it was common to go a half-day at a time not talking to anyone.  Most people were so ingrained in their work that interruptions were highly frowned upon.  He sat down and began his work for the day.  He brought up the document he had been working on the previous night and starting reviewing his most recent changes.


It didn’t last long though, just a few minutes into the day he found himself utterly distracted.  Something about that man from the photo just would not leave his mind.  He leaned back and glanced over at the wall where the photo hung.  Then he had a simple thought.  I wonder if I can look up who that is?


He logged onto the company’s network and searched for a recent newsletter.  He found one from just six months previous, and as usual it contained the obligatory semi-annual employee photo.  In the front row, he saw himself next to Steven and a few of the other more recent hires.  In the back was the senior staff standing in front of a row of thick evergreen trees.  These outdoor pictures were always so awkward.  Sure, the people Glen worked with were brilliant, but they were far from the outdoorsy types.  There was always a wide variety of insecticide sprays, asthma inhalers and wide-brimmed hats to keep the more fair-skinned among them shaded. 


As Glen looked over the photo, he noticed something surprising.  The unknown man was standing in the back row.  How could that be?  He looked over at Steven, who was wiping his crumb-ridden hands down his white lab coat.  If neither of us knows the guy, how could he be in the same picture with us? 


At that moment, Glen’s phone rang.  He was surprised to see “Director - Jack Haines X413” popup on the phone’s view screen.  He answered immediately, “Hello, this is Glen.”


“Morning Glen!  I got the proposal you sent in, it seems very impressive.  Very, very impressive, but the supporting materials are incomplete.  There was supposed to be a schematic, or some diagrams in the folder but I don’t see them.”


Glen was confused, but didn’t want to seem like he was caught off guard.  “Wh-  Which proposal?”


“Well, let’s see.  It’s in the stack of ones utilizing the new infinite concentration batteries as a power source.  Your name is on it, along with a Tom… Tom “R” something, I can’t quite make out the name, the ink is worn off.” 


Hearing that name made Glen’s spine run cold in a flash.  He sat there in silence with wide eyes for a moment.


“Did you collaborate with someone from another office?  I don’t know any Toms here.”  Jack was getting slightly annoyed, and Glen was picking up on it. 


“Could…  I come up and take a look?  Maybe-“  He paused for a second.  “-one of the papers fell out.”


“Yeah, sure Glen, sure.  Come on up.  I’ll tell Susan to let you right in.”  Susan was his receptionist and was rather protective of Jack’s time. 


“Ok, thanks.  I’ll be right there.”  Glen got up from his chair and walked by Steven’s desk.  Steven stared at Glen as he went by, going to Jack’s office for any reason was kind of a big deal. 


As Glen exited the room heading towards the elevator, the mail clerk came by rolling his cart.  He left a single page letter, not in an envelope, but trifold on Glen’s desk.  As the air-conditioning kicked on the breeze across Glen’s desk gently opened the letter, which read as follows. 




To my favorite nephew,


It seems we really have opened Pandora’s box this time, though if you are reading this there is still a chance.  


I know you are on the verge of something revolutionary, but I must beg you to cease work on your time-engine prototype.  It is just not possible to predict the impact of such technology.  The energy harnessed by the infinite concentration batteries cannot be throttled appropriately to avoid rapid expansion of the time folding envelope.  Do not pursue this project!  Under no circumstances should you even consider developing any such technology.  The results will be catastrophic, you need to trust me.  You always did trust me, I just hope some part of that memory remains. 


I’ve taken drastic steps to avoid the same mistakes we made together last time, but I also know how bright you are.  And that even without a mentor, you’ll be determined to advance your ideas.  You’ve never been one to give up; you’re a bit stubborn, really.  You get that from my big sister.  (Just don’t tell her I said that.)  But please remember my warning.  It is imperative. 


I’ve really enjoyed seeing you grow up into a fine young man and even more so enjoyed working with you here at “The Cabin” these past few years.  Well, I guess it hasn’t been quite that long for you has it?


I would have preferred to tell you this in person, but I’m afraid that’s not possible now.  I’ve tried a myriad of variations in time manipulation to avoid the event we encountered, but this is the last option.  I’m afraid one lifetime just isn’t worth the damage we caused.  My entire life is being erased for the safety of you all.  For your safety Glen.  


My only hope is that you receive this letter in time before the whole process starts again.  Otherwise, it’s all been in vain.  Take care Glen.  Enjoy your life to the fullest, that’s the most important thing.  


Your Uncle,

Thomas R. Fellows





© 2012 Johnzo

Author's Note

"2nd draft" version.

The story (like much time travel related fiction) is most fun to think about after the fact. What are the possibilities? What did happen? What could happen? Let me know if you found any interesting questions in the piece.

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Added on June 6, 2012
Last Updated on June 6, 2012
Tags: science fiction, time travel, short story



Bridgton, ME

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