Sometimes it all goes wrong in the worst way possible. Various events combine to create a positive feedback loop. Each unforeseen failure exacerbating the previous catastrophe.
It was probably unwise for Jerry Montcrief to leave the time machine running. Although in his defense it took days to get the thing started, and he planned to continue his research the next morning. It was probably worse to place the three-ton machine atop an anti-grav sled for easy maneuvering. Who could ever have expected that Nicks the chimpanzee would get loose during evening and shove the whole device out an unexpectedly open window? Who would imagine the strong winds of a thunderstorm would then blow the operating time-machine straight into the nearby zoo?
All these things could’ve been overcome. Montcrief’s research never involved sending anything back in time more than a few days. A working time machine was brand new, of course, and he proceeded carefully. It’s perhaps not his fault that the machine was easily capable of sending animals back 65 million years. It was his fault, however, that he could control the machine from his PC at home.
Consequently, it’s rather amazing that his cat, Mimzy, decided cavorting on the keyboard was rather fun at this very moment. And what amount of horrible luck would it take for a mere tortoiseshell cat to accidentally reprogram the time machine? Of course, if things weren’t already bad, this reprogramming sent random zoo animals back roughly 64 million years.
It was a critical time, 600,000 years after the dinosaurs died off suddenly. Earth had healed and could once again support large animals. Many ecological niches stood open, waiting for some creature to evolve and fill a role. At this critical point, life could have evolved in many different directions. The seeds of future sentience could have been planted in any living animal. It was in this critical point, when Montcrief’s machine began sending modern animals and their associated bacteria, back in time.
Jerry awoke at 11:00PM to loud music blasting from his PC. He and his wife had slumbered after making love. As both lay scattered across the bed, David Bowie sang, “Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes.” Jerry wondered why the PC was suddenly playing music. He turned to his wife, and recoiled in shock. Her long ears flopped back on her rabbit head. “Mmmm. That was wonderful, darling,” Jasmine cooed.
He sat up suddenly and slapped his face. Nope. This was no dream. Reality had changed.
“Sweetheart. You know how sex makes me ravenous,” said Jasmine. Her triangular Mantis head leaned towards him. He launched himself away from her. All in a rush, he realized what was happening. He raced to his PC, and soon his worst fears were confirmed. The time machine was sending anything nearby it back in time every few minutes. The current dominant species being replaced from Human to another animal each time. Jerry wondered at the cause until he saw Mimzy sleeping on his handkerchief beside the computer. That cat would die…but later.
He couldn’t fix this from the PC. He had to get to the lab, quick. Now, as a jaguar-headed sentient, the quickest route was climbing down the fire escape. Why use the elevator when your climbing skills are so good? The neighbor’s dog, Pooper, growled as he passed. Jerry always liked banging on his doghouse, coming and going from home. It was so easy to get the dachshund excited. Such a pitiful little animal. Idly, he wondered why the dog hadn’t changed.
He got waylaid on the way to the taxi stand. The smell of tuna at the local fish market was overwhelming for him and all the other jaguar-headed clientele. It was strange seeing jaguars walking around in Armani suits and pencil skirts.
When he arrived at the lab, he had to pay extra for his fare. As a sentient goat, he couldn’t help chewing on the upholstery…just a little.
At the lab, he finally corrected Mimzy’s ad lib programming. He performed his own programming and reversed all the accidental sendings into the distant past. The zoo’s animals returned, roughly, to where they belonged.
He returned home on the train, as a human, surrounded by other humans. Normalcy had been restored. Walking past the neighbors, he felt so good, he couldn’t help banging on Pooper’s doghouse, and walked on.
Pooper now stood seven feet tall. He glared at Jerry down his yard-long Terror Bird’s beak. Tonight, Pooper was getting revenge!
I’ve written about Terror Birds often, but for those unfamiliar: Terror Birds evolved after the dinosaurs died out, filling their niche as top predator. Some species (e.g., “Phorusrhacinae”) stood as tall as 10 feet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phorusrhacidae
The Cretaceous Extinction (KT event) wiped out the last of the large dinosaurs 65 million years ago. I’m guessing that at 64.4 million years ago, enough vegetation grew to support large animals once more. Dinosaurs didn’t actually fail. Many animals under 25 pounds survived the meteor strike and that included small, Theropod dinosaurs. You probably see the ancestors of dinosaurs every day. They flit around in the trees. Some of them taste very good. We call them, “Chickens.” In the years after the great dinosaurs died, many ecological niches were empty. Mammals stood up and dominated the Earth, and that led to US. Things might have gone differently…with a little accidental tampering. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretaceous%E2%80%93Paleogene_extinction_event
This week at the Grammar Ghoul: we now have multiple weekly challenges. The Mutant 750 is the 750 word challenge. The word prompt is: Handkerchief. The media prompt is a video of David Bowie’s song, “Changes.” With a lyric like “Time may change me. But I can’t trace time,” I knew a time machine would be involved. I just didn’t know how else to proceed. When backed into a corner, my stories get bizarre. I started drinking rum & coke, and things just went strange from there. I hope you enjoyed the story. Look here for more stories answering the challenge: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-16/