Extras - Timely Persuasion


“Paradox Lost” Short Story

Chapter 1: Carter.

  Thirteen.  Nineteen.  Twenty-one.  Twenty-three.  Fifty-nine.  All five numbers were present on the screen staring down at him, making his day just that much worse.  Carter looked at the filled out but not yet handed in Keno slip in his hand, then looked back at the screen, and then back at the ticket.  They matched.  Carter was already having a bad day, and making things 'that much worse' was more than bad enough.

Every Wednesday for the last six months he played those same numbers on five keno drawings at five dollars a game.  Throwing away $25 a week for a chance at greatness, but he never got them all.  Sometimes three, occasionally four, mostly none.  He’d never even seen them on screen together before.  But there they were, grinning down and mocking him.  The funny thing was he'd never noticed the significance of them until now.

He still had time to kill before it was time to bowl, but he didn't care.  Although deep down he knew that any combination of numbers had the same odds of coming up in each and every drawing, he also knew that these five wouldn't come up again anytime soon.  Some may call it the gambler's fallacy, but the gambler was a pretty smart guy.  It was time to fold 'em, time to walk away, and almost time to run.  Carter finished his beer and picked up his ball.

The door hadn't even closed behind him when he had the sudden realization he had to go back.  No, something was drawing him back.  He needed to take one last look at that keno screen.  It was like a disease without any cure.  No cure, that is, except riding it out.  He turned around and re-entered the bar.  That's when he met the man.

Carter sat back down at his stool and ordered another beer.  He glanced up at the keno screen, hoping to see his numbers but knowing better.  (Or knowing he wouldn’t see them but hoping better?)  Either way, they weren't there.  He crumpled the ticket and flicked it across the bar.

"Play 'em," a voice said.

He turned, and saw the man next to him take a long sip on his drink.  Carter pretended not to hear him.

"Alright.  Your loss," said the man.

"Excuse me?" Carter replied.  He didn’t like it when strangers butted in on matters that didn’t concern them, even if the matter was something as trivial as a keno ticket.

"Your numbers.  This is your game."

"I think I'm about done.  They're not coming up twice.  And how would you know what numbers I'd play?"

The man took another long sip and smiled.  "Thirteen, nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-three, fifty-nine.  They all come up this time.  If you're feeling greedy you'd add thirty-one, thirty-two, and twelve.  But you never do.  Now would be a good time.  This time you can't go wrong."

He was right.  Those were his numbers.  And when he felt greedy he always thought about adding the inverse of the same.  And he always chickened out, thinking that a greedy gambler was a losing gambler.  But how had this man he'd never seen before known his routine?  Carter pondered all of this quickly, as it spooked him a bit.  He managed to blow it off and respond.

"If it's such a sure thing, why don't you play it?"

"That's not allowed.  And it's your lucky day, not mine.  My lucky day has come and gone."

"What do you mean ‘it's not allowed?’"

"Too late now.  Here they come."

The man turned away and focused on the keno screen.  Carter also watched.  The first five numbers to come up were all his.  At first he was excited, then he actually found himself rooting against his own numbers.  He couldn't let this guy be right.  He was just some spook getting his kicks by screwing with someone.  But he had picked them all. He really had to get out of here now.  But before he went, he had one last question.

"How'd you know that?  It’s fixed, isn’t it?  The game is fixed.”

The man smiled.  "No, it's not fixed."

"Then how?"

The man stood up.

"Easy," he said, pausing to drink down his last swallow.  "I'm from the future."

With that, he put down his glass and left.

Chapter 2: Let the Man Go Through.

  The man stepped outside, lit a cigarette, and turned back towards the door.  He stood just to the side of it, waiting to pounce.  As if on cue, Carter rushed out and looked around.  The man leaped out and blindsided him.  As they fell, they seemed to blink out of existence, then quickly back in again.  It was so brief one would barely have noticed.  Carter certainly didn't.  He had too many questions.

"Who are you?"

"A friend."

"Where'd you come from?"

"I already told you."

"Why me?"

"You look like a guy who deserves another chance."

Carter pondered this last statement, but he was pretty sure he saw what was coming.  His healthy obsession with time travel could only lead him to believe one thing:  this visitor from the future was giving him a proposition he couldn't refuse.  Details weren't necessary.  At least not until later.  He had been waiting all his life for this.

"Let's go.  Future, here I come."

The man looked at him with a bit of surprise, then smiled. 


"Nothing.  I forgot this part."

"What part?  You mean this has happened before?"


"C'mon man, what happens to me in the future?  Do I turn into an asshole or something?"

"It's not the future, it's the past.  And we're already here."

"But why did you come from the future?"

"You know I can't tell you that.  As far as you're concerned, the future doesn't exist.  It's up to you to write it.  Or re-write it in this case."

Carter smiled wide.  "You want me to put right what once went wrong?"

"Something like that."

"I could handle playing a little Sam Beckett.  What's my assignment, Al?"

"You control your own destiny.  It's just for you."

"So this isn't a secret mission?  A new calling?"

"If you had one chance to change one thing, what would it be?"

He didn't even have to think.  Young as he was, there was only one event he'd alter.  And not even for the betterment of himself or society.  Just to satisfy a burning what-if in his mind.  He had to find out about her.

Chapter 3: About a Girl.

  Once upon a time, Carter had met a girl.  Actually, he had met many girls over the course of his quarter century existence.  He wasn’t one of the always-have-a-girlfriend types, but he always seemed to have something cooking.  Unfortunately, his relationship with Julie never even reached the cooking stage.  More of a slow simmer.  And he had no one but himself to blame.

Julie was a waitress at Party Socks, a shady bar where Carter used to work.  It wasn’t quite as good as the job he held at the bowling alley, but probably one of his favorites none the less.  Party Socks was a strange place.  It was set up to look like a 1950’s diner, but it didn’t serve any food.  Just the usual liquor, beer, and wine of any townie dive.  The waiters all wore bowling gear, while the waitresses wore hoop skirts and rollerskates.  Not much logic there, but a pretty nifty place if you could get past that.

Over the course of the nine months he called Party Socks his employer Carter had become a pretty popular guy there.  Tony the owner thought he was the best worker in the history of the world.  It wasn’t so much because Carter was good, more so that everyone else was completely incompetent or at least gave that impression.  He had often asked Carter to stick around and help him run the place.  Carter always politely declined.  He was happy with his king of the peons status, and really didn’t care for Tony too much.  Tony once toyed with the idea of changing the name of the place to Tony Socks, an idea which Carter found to be quite fitting, since it was true that Tony sucked.

In any case, Julie and Carter became fast friends when she started her stint at the Socks late that summer.  They’d hang out late at night, get some drinks, vent some frustrations, and just be there for each other.  Rumors swirled around the Socks that they were a couple, but it never quite got that far.  Carter’s nice guy instinct ensured that.

The talk.  His downfall was always the talk.  Would he ever learn?  Talk is bad.  Talk is cheap.  Talk is stupid.  Actions speak louder than words.  If you want to know if she loves you so it’s in her kiss.  Shoop shoop.  So why didn’t he?

After work one night, Julie and Carter were hanging out and they exchanged the look.  A smarter man would have made a move, but Carter’s nice guy instinct kicked in.

“What’s going on with us?”

Julie laughed.  “Us?  What do you mean?”

“Everyone seems to want us to get together, so I was thinking maybe it was time to...”

“Awww, Carter.”

She gave him a hug.

“I like you a lot, but we’re friends and I wouldn’t want to lose that.  You know?”

Yeah, he knew.  She started dating Tony 2 weeks later.  Carter quit Party Socks and never saw her again.

Chapter 4:  Wrong Place at the Wrong Time