The Eight Minute Guarantee
He lived in the part of America where Euclidian geometry fails. There isn't enough perimeter for the landmass it contains. The weather is likewise irregular there, not in a way that's good conversation. Nowhere near the coast, as the roads run. He never ate a crab. The forests are muscled with hardwood trees of fairytale size. Any of them can take a full speed hit from a furniture truck and not lose a leaf. They often do. Redhaired poison ivy has its own bark. Politicians and bureaucrats ride horseback on steep hayfields and copperheads and foxes are everywhere. It's hard to keep a chicken alive. The police have no job description. Nobody does except for Dave, who owns the feed store. The rest, they show up to work sometimes and they do what they think.
He was married to a dentist back then, a hot one. She was drilling somebody when he decided to dig the pond. He had a low spot where the rain wanted to go anyway, in the pasture with the women goats. Petunia, Nadine, Betty Two Toe, Pearl and The Gibnut. For five days he moved between the trackhoe and the loader, a hole so deep the dogs wouldn't go in it. Something less than natural about the way sunlight never struck the center. Water should've come up to meet him. It did not. Rain should've stayed cold and still in there but it didn't even get muddy in a downpour. Brandywine clay drains like cheesecloth, Dave told him. You can sell it.
He unearthed the box at twenty-two feet. It was and remains the only normal thing he's ever found in Maryland, entirely unremarkable. Inside the box was a book, that's all. Ting had not been his name before. We don't know what his name was. Now he is Ting, and on the cover of the book, black letters cut into the leather, Ting. The dedication reads, You wrote this. You may want to put it back where you found it.
He knew it was a dramatic understatement. He knew because it's how his head works. Some people see a flag, Come and Take It, and they think, Never imagined doing so before, but yeah, thanks. He knew because he knew how he would respond to a dire warning along the same lines and he knew because he wrote it. He knew.
Whom are we talking about here? Go read something on psychopaths. Anything on social media will work. Typie folks are generally correct.
The book had no smell. That's the reason the pond is only twenty-two feet deep. Everything smells. Ice smells. Ting stopped digging and started reading.
Eight minutes, it said, is how far you can travel back in time. From here. Eight minutes almost exactly. Precisely, it is the time it takes for sunlight to reach the Earth, expressed in ridiculous digits and also dependent upon the accuracy of a clock, the most accurate of which is a theoretical light clock that also depends on, well, you get it. Easier to round off to eight minutes.
Forty-two years, it said, was the time it took to creep back here and bury the thing, eight minutes at a time. Prior to that, or however your mind deals with the past participle of the predictive tense, nine years to write the thing. Not that it's a tome. Fairly brief, considering. But the subject matter is airily dense. It's raking leaves of story in a shifty wind and noticing, often, that critical understanding rode upon the one that got away. Go find it, yeah, but nobody's watching the pile.
You'll try first, it said, to not drop that rib roast in the patio gravel. Something similar. It doesn't aspire to determinism, in any way familiar to Ting. He doesn't sell, doesn't convince, because the prize is knowing he influenced someone who was evidently influenceable by someone who's not very good at it. Ting sows discontent. He's always been the guy questioning your purchase, generally after the return window closed and the seal between the panes broke and clouded with droplets that somehow never move. It's one way to be. Doesn't lend itself, relationally.
Hang on, it says. Rein it in, hoss. You just blew the deadline to undiscover this. There is a present, but you're not in it. Nothing to do with you or anyone else. It's a tub o' balls, like at Chuck E Cheese. Each ball measuring eight minutes across. All of them, eight minutes of extraordinarily recent past. Someone's past, somewhere. You're inside a ball because that's the only place there is to be, inhabiting everything that just was. The present moment, the infinite presents, are where the balls touch. They are location only and have no time for anything to stand upon. Worry about the future once you understand it's not there, ever. It doesn't appear somehow. It is not.
The previous eight minutes is the only guarantee that reality ever offered. Nothing's changed, past you digging that fucking hole, it said.
Lots of stuff you can do here, it said. Lots you will do. You shall. It's math. I can tell you the part that sucks the most is crime fighting. Positioning yourself where something disgusting is likely to happen, waiting for it to happen, jumping back eightish minutes, stabbing that guy. It doesn't feel good.
Spend some time at the horse track. Not much time. Pretty soon you need to start working on tandem jumps, which are uniquely disorienting. It's 150 jumps to get back to yesterday's burnt bacon and runny eggs. Put the onions in last. That's if you lose a mere 2 seconds between, one breath. So get going. There's a boring and strangely believable "index" because we can't figure out what else to call it. Some YouTube videos to watch. You'll figure it out.
There are no more days like the rest. From this point, it said, you live. Relative to nothing.