science fiction by Laura Eno
“How bad are you hurt?” They waited, crouched behind some metallic thing that Eddie called a ‘dumpster’. The smell made Tom want to puke.
“My arm feels like it’s on fire. I think the bullet’s still in there too.”
“Bullet? As in ‘metal projectile’? Geez, Eddie. You said we couldn’t get hurt. That’s the only reason why I took this hare-brained trip with you. Why’d you think that robbing a bank would be fun in the first place?”
He’d been on a few adventures before with Eddie. They’d climbed Mount Kilimanjaro just last month, throwing snowballs at each other once they’d reached the top. So, when Eddie suggested going to 20th century New York to rob a bank, Tom thought it might be fun.
“Shh…they’re coming back.”
Eddie’s voice wheezed with pain, his breath rapid and shallow as they watched the cops run down the alley searching for them.
“Come on, before they turn back again. We’ve got to find a better hiding place.” Tom helped Eddie to his feet.
They picked their way through debris that seemed permanently attached to the concrete, checking every doorway they came to. Finally, one opened for them. The cool shadows were a welcome change from the sultry heat outside. No one seemed to be home.
“So how do we get out of this scenario, Eddie?”
“I’m not sure. I think the program has to run to the end.”
“You’re not sure? Didn’t you read the instructions that came with the machine?”
“I glanced at them when I first got it, but that was six months ago.”
Tom threw his friend a disgusted look. “I thought you said you couldn’t get hurt with this Time Game machine, so how’d you get shot?”
“I turned off the safety,” Eddie admitted. “I thought it’d make the experience more realistic.”
“What?” Tom noticed Eddie’s face turn the same shade of red as his hair. Small consolation.
“Well, remember the time we went diving in the coral reefs? You ran out of oxygen and the whole program froze until you changed your tanks? It was kind of disruptive, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, it was, but I lived to complain about the glitch. That’s why the machine has a safety! Oh, never mind about that right now. You’re the history buff. What do you know about this place that might help us get back home?”
Eddie shrugged, wincing as the movement shot pain through his arm. Tom watched the blood drip onto the floor.
“We’ve got to get you some help before you bleed to death. Do you remember how this program ends, or did you even read it all the way through?”
“I read it. I think we’re supposed to meet a stranger or something like that. Okay, I only glanced at it. I’m sorry. Next time I’ll read the whole thing, all right?”
“If there’s a next time, I’m doing the picking – like Australia in the good old 23th century.” Tom sat on the floor, contemplating what their next move should be.
The door swung open, spilling light into the room. A massive shadow quickly replaced it.
“Good evening, gentlemen. I believe you’re waiting to meet a stranger?”
Eddie could only gape at the large man, but Tom managed to find his voice. “How did you know that?”
“Simple. I represent the company that wrote the program ‘20th Century Bank Heist’.”
“But surely you don’t track each time it’s played,” Eddie stammered.
“No, of course not. However, we are alerted each time it’s played with the safety off. Personally, I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t read the alternate endings, always included with the game, I assure you.”
As the stranger’s eyes began to glow, Tom suddenly realized that bullets were the least of their worries.
Copyright October 2009 by Laura Eno
Laura Eno lives in Florida. She blogs about writing at A Shift in Dimensions.