For the Greater Good

Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash

Trinity grabbed the white box. She felt the dog slide to the side. 

“Thank you.” She managed a huge smile. She held the box closer to her chest, but the dog’s whining only got louder as she reached her car. Only when Trinity placed the box on the seat next to her and opened it did he close his mouth and look up at her with irresistible eyes. The woman at the shelter said she found him wandering on the streets alone, perfectly groomed except for a bald spot on the back. The shelter determined it was no disease. It was weird, the woman had said, but she had seen worse cases. Trinity assumed he had been abused and abandoned very recently. Why would anyone raise a dog for over a decade and decide to stop, she did not know. 

By the time she was home, unloading the box, she had come up with a name for the chihuahua: Soba, Japanese for buckwheat, for no particular reason other than it was the most unique one she could find on the Internet’s endless list of male dog names. 

She carefully picked up the box and carried it to her living room. As soon as it was open, Soba darted out and ran in circles until he suddenly plopped down and started staring at Trinity again. He really liked to stare. 

He was still staring at her when she poured his food onto his new bowl. She tentatively pushed it towards him, not really knowing how he would react, as she had never adopted a dog before. Soba sniffed the bowl once, then plunged his nose into the food. Trinity sighed in relief. 

She stared at the blank screen of her wall-mounted TV as Soba noisily dug through his food. It took her quite a while before she realized that she could no longer hear anything. It was silent, too much so. She spun around. The bowl was half-empty, and Soba was nowhere to be seen. 

She checked every corner of the house once, then twice. No Soba. 

She thought this only happened in movies. Tears filled her eyes as she mechanically printed out dozens of lost dog posters, a huge photo of Soba at the shelter plastered across the white sheets of paper. She headed outside. For the next few hours, she walked from tree to tree and taped the posters onto every single one she could see. Obnoxious, yes. But if anything happened to Soba, it would be her fault, and hers only. 

The sun rose higher, and Trinity regretted having left the house in long sleeves. Drenched in sweat, she collapsed to the ground, crumpled up the last few posters in her hands and sat down on the bare pavement, her head in her hands. 

Something nudged her feet. 

She sniffed, then looked up. It was a dog. A white, long-haired chihuahua, just like Soba, except this one was a baby, no more than five months old, and it was missing an eye. It was far too grotesque to have resulted from surgery — the amount of blood around its hollow socket was enough as proof. She covered her mouth with her hands. She didn’t want to throw up, not in front of the baby.  

She cautiously petted the dog with her left hand. It did not bark once. Instead, its tail wagged furiously, a response unexpected from such a skittish dog. She looked closer. To her shock, he had exactly four light-brown spots on his left side, and one on his right. Just like Soba.

So this was Soba. It had to be. Except somehow, he was a decade younger. 

Either this was a nightmare, or he had traveled through time and hurt himself in the process. Does time travel do that? she wondered. Was it even real? 

Before Trinity could investigate further, Soba turned around and started running across the street. She tried to stop him, but he was too fast. He was running away again — or as she realized, leading her towards somewhere. After a while, he slowed down a bit to let her catch up with him. 

It was like running a marathon. They passed dozens of blocks. Trinity felt like dying, and Soba wasn’t even fazed.  

They came to a stop in front of a glass building. Ominous, tall, and blue, yet so lifeless. But it wasn’t just because there were less people than there should be. It was something else, something that she couldn’t place a finger on. 

Soba whined. He refused to go in any further. 

“You want me to go inside?” 

He simply stared at her with his one good eye. 

Trinity stepped inside — no one was at the front desk. No stairs either, as far as she could see, but there was a set of elevators, as clean and spotless as if they had been built yesterday. They probably were. 

One of the elevators arrived with a ding. She stepped inside. Sleek metal, ordinary buttons, a mirror. Nothing too fancy — where to go, though? She randomly pressed 3, to which there was no response. She repeated the same for 1 and 2… the only working button, as she figured out, was 5. 

The elevator shot up. 

The doors opened. 

Trinity squinted — blinding lights greeted her along with rows and rows of cages. Cages of dogs inside. She had never seen a room this big. It seemed as if it was the only thing occupying the fifth floor — her hands gingerly slipped past a cage, then two… these dogs were not healthy. A tear ran down her cheek as a beagle cowered away from her as far as it could inside the impossibly small space, howling in pain. I’m sorry. Her hands reached another. A Rottweiler. Its front leg was missing, almost as if it was cut clean by a butcher’s knife. I will get you out of here. They were test subjects, and Soba was one of them. Because a group of scientists were too scared to travel through time themselves, they put these dogs through it, with severe consequences to follow. They were probably to be discarded after an experiment or two. Soba was lucky to only have had his fur missing the first time. He wasn’t so lucky the next. 

Her legs trembled. She closed her eyes shut. She had to do something. For Soba. For every single life about to be wasted. A glass of jar dropped to the floor somewhere in the room, breaking into pieces. She forced her eyes back open. She tiptoed across the passage made by the cages, turning right, then left, towards the source of the sound. Soon she reached an open area. A table stood in the middle, and a poodle lay on it. 

She was not alone. 

A man with shortly trimmed hair dyed orange and a lab coat on stood with his back turned to her as he filled a syringe with a substance she just knew was illegal. He raised his hand, about to inject the dog, but Trinity was faster — her hands reached into the Swiss army knife in her pocket and stabbed the man’s hand as hard as she could. 

The man screamed and dropped the syringe. The poodle yelped, jumping off the table. As he fell to the ground, Trinity scrambled towards the syringe and grabbed it — what would she do, what would I do, she thought in panic, but the man was already on his feet, his hands reaching for Trinity. She looked once at the syringe and instinctively stabbed herself with it. 

Her feet left the ground and she was pulled out of gravity, into black nothingness, a white spot in the middle growing bigger and bigger until she found herself yanked back into reality. Into the future. 

She felt a hand on her shoulder. 

“Ms. Hansen!”

Trinity pulled herself up. 

“I’m fine…” she mumbled. Her voice sounded much deeper. More mature. Her eyes opened. It was the same white table, surrounded by the same cages, but this time there were five or six people around it with the same lab coats the man with the syringe had on. A dead bulldog with an ear missing lay on the table. Everyone ignored it, but expectantly looked at Trinity instead. She simply gave them a blank stare back. 

She was older. The older version of Trinity Hansen knew these people, knew this experiment, led this experiment, by the looks of it. No. No. She took a step back. 

“I —“ 

“Ms. Hansen,” an eager young voice said. Trinity looked up. “Like I asked before, how were you able to capture so many dogs this season?”

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It’s Always Too Late

Photo by Eugene Triguba on Unsplash

“Aleena,” said Yvonne, supporting her friend, who had more glasses of alcohol in her system than what was clearly recommended. “Are you sure you don’t need to call a taxi?”

“Yvonne, I’m fine. Look at me. Look at me.” Aleena glared at her through her bloodshot eyes. She thrust her keys towards the vague direction of her mom’s Honda. The car beeped twice in response. “See? Everything is alright.” 

Aleena yanked herself off Yvonne’s arms and stumbled her way to her car. After a few attempts, the door swung open and she eased herself in. Yvonne rushed towards her, hands helplessly waving in front of the car window, but Aleena was neither in the mood nor condition to give her notice. An unknown singer introduced her new single through the speakers as the car came to life, and it made its way onto the road, the only light pouring from its headlights. 

The car picked up speed as Aleena pressed down harder on the accelerator. She rested her head on the steering wheel, her hair tumbling down her arms. Her car sped straight towards a seemingly empty crosswalk— or so she thought through her half-closed eyes. It was only when the Honda slammed into the unknowing toddler with a sickening sound that her eyes snapped open and she raised her head to see what she had done. A short silence was followed by her piercing scream, the kind that would be mistaken by no one. 

Aleena’s eyes jerked open as she realized that she had gone to sleep with the wrapper from yesterday’s dinner still in her hand. Without hesitation, she threw it into the bin in the corner. Perfect. The bin shook slightly. She whistled. 

Lorenzo Garcia. It was a name that she forgot during the day and replayed in her head when it got dark. She couldn’t help it. It was the name the mother shrieked out when she discovered her son lying on the cold asphalt. It was the name that her public defender mentioned more times than she liked. It also happened to be the result of her actions. A victim. A label. 

“No more visitors are allowed at this hour.” 

The officer’s demeanor was cut short when she noticed his wheelchair. She sighed. “All right. Sign your name here, and then you can follow me.” 

Her footsteps echoed across the empty hallway as she led him on a short trip to a lifeless steel door. Lorenzo confidently wheeled himself in where there was nothing but steel, more steel, and a petite and disheveled teenage girl in a chair, the blue streaks in her hair providing the only colors in the room. Her arms were still wrapped around her head when she looked up. 

“Who are you?” 

“My name is Lorenzo Garcia.” 

She, like the officer, stared— first at his wheelchair, then at his scarred face. Her expression changed briefly to that of realization. She took a sharp breath. Then, without warning, she kicked her chair behind her and rose from her seat. 

“No.” She shook her head. “No—”

“My name is Lorenzo,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard anything. “You may recognize me. Thirty years ago for me, and three months ago for you, you and I were involved in a rather regrettable car accident.” 

“You—” she pointed a trembling finger at him. “The person I ran over, he was a toddler.

“You could consider asking a different question, such as what I mean by thirty years.”

His statement was met with cold silence until the girl burst out laughing. Not taking her eyes off him, she slowly eased herself back into her chair. “You are actually suggesting,” she said, pausing as if she was holding back more laughter, “that you are from the future.

“How clever.” Lorenzo clasped his hands together and leaned forward. The girl flinched. “We are running out of time, Aleena, and quite literally at that. I am here to offer you your only way out. I am telling you that you and I can make sure that none of this, including this conversation, will ever happen in your future.” 

She smirked. “And how do you propose we do that?” 

He reached into the pocket attached to his wheelchair and produced two black capsule-like devices. He briefly fiddled with one in his hand, put it on the steel table, and delicately pushed it towards the girl, who now had her arms and legs crossed. 

“All you have to do,” he said, “is to make sure you keep hold of that while I do my own thing.” 

The girl didn’t move. The longer their silence went on, the faster the clock in the background seemed to tick. Finally, she gave the man one last glare and snatched the device from the table. 

“Remember,” he said, “I was on the right side of the road, just off the sidewalk, and the only thing you will have to do is to swerve left.” 

She frowned. “How do you remember all this? How many times have you been here?” 

He made no reply. 

“If we’re lucky, we’ll have enough time to go as far back as we can so that you will still have time to react,” he said. “We have only been given so much time. Ready?”

The girl hesitated, then nodded, her veins visible as she tightened her grip around the device. 

His fingers closed around a button on his. The girl closed her eyes, and so did he, as they were yanked from the cell and spiraled down, down nothingness—

Her eyes snapped open as she slammed her head onto the steering wheel. She glanced to her right. It took her a few seconds to recognize the man sitting next to her. She turned her attention back forwards, her face drenched with sweat, red from drinking two or three bottles— maybe even four. 

Aleena!” Lorenzo screamed in her ear.

Her headlights flooded the crosswalk in front of them. Lorenzo, the toddler, stood dangerously close, just off the sidewalk, like she had been told. Like her life depended on it, she held onto her steering wheel and made a wild left turn. 

A squeal from the toddler and an audible sigh from next to her meant that she had successfully, but narrowly missed him. She shrieked in celebration, madly honking her horn, over and over again. But her foot was still on the accelerator, and little Lorenzo giggled, waddling into the spotlight. 

She slammed on the brakes. 

The car made its last honk. 

And then there was silence. 

She did it. 

She did it again.

The car screeched, skidding aimlessly on the road, and it’s too late, she observed with panic, as the wheels groaned softly under the pressure. She wailed, tears running down her flushed face, and she looked to her right, searching for reassurance, or possibly confirmation, but Lorenzo was nowhere to be seen, and instead of him was an empty seat.