Hindsight

📅 Published on August 18, 2020

“Hindsight”

Written by Brian Martinez
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 17 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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I was just fifteen years old when I learned monsters were real.

That day, a Tuesday, I recall, I was a little later than usual coming home from school, on account of joining the Science Club. I’d just recently watched Donnie Darko for the first time, and had become enthralled with the idea of time travel. As I walked home, backpack weighing me down, I realized I was going to miss the start of my favorite documentary series, and had to do something drastic if I intended to change that.

There was a shortcut that ran through one of the yards in the neighborhood, but I rarely used it for fear of being caught. The old man who lived there was generally belligerent, and if he caught anyone cutting through his property he’d yell and chase them away, threatening to get his gun. No one had actually seen his gun, mind you, but no one wanted to, either. Perhaps I was feeling brave, or the thought of missing my favorite show was too much, but that day I decided the time I’d save was worth the risk.

After jumping the old fence, I made my way along the side of the house and into the backyard. I cursed myself for wearing my Triforce hat and orange vest, as high visibility an outfit as one could find. I was about halfway across the yard when I heard a loud splash behind me, like someone jumping off a high board. I vaguely remembered the old man having an above ground pool which he likely never used, letting the water fester and bloom. The idea of old man Williams splashing around in that fetid water was both ridiculous and disgusting.

And yet, something was in the pool. I watched the dirty water roil and churn, waves of it flowing over the sides. It looked as if an animal were drowning, and I stood frozen to the spot, not knowing whether I should run away from a place I shouldn’t have been in the first place, or run forward and help it. Time seemed to be rushing forward anxiously, the late-day sun arcing toward the horizon.

The sight of the writhing thing that clawed its way out of the pool changed me forever. One look at its twisted formation of limbs and bones and organ, familiar things twisted into new designs, murdered my innocence in an instant. Its grotesque face, with bloodshot eyes nearly popping out of its broken skull, fixed on me in one, chilling instant.

And then it was chasing me, bones popping and cracking, shuffling and rearranging its hideous form. And it screamed, too, screamed a single sound at me, a word like, “Nha!” The voice bloody and raw, the word sounding as if it had been turned inside out.

My legs, heavy with the flow of cortisol and adrenaline, forgot how to work properly. I only ran a few feet before I got tangled in myself, tripping and falling to the cold ground, dirt and grass catching me, backpack crushing me as time seemed to slow down. I fumbled from my stomach and flipped over onto my back to see the monster bearing down on me, a maneuver that felt as if it took a month to achieve in the new flow of time.

I prayed for the monster to be gone, a prayer that went unanswered. The creature was still stumbling and crunching after me, each moment twisting it into new and increasingly painful configurations. Each anguished step it took slowed down the seconds even further, until it was nearly on top of me and I swore time was going to stop altogether. It only gave me more time to stare at its disgusting form, to take in the tragic details of its painful existence.

And then, it was gone. Like a blink it vanished from above me, nothing left but a wisp of black ash carried off by the breeze. It took me a minute to gather myself and stand, but when I did I noticed the sun was lower, moving toward the damp chill of night.

“Hey!” Someone shouted, and I jumped, afraid the monster was back. But it was old man Williams, standing in the back door of his house. I ran from that place so fast I didn’t even hear his threats. I was so happy to be alive, I took my punishment for coming home late with a hidden smile.

* * * * * *

It took two years to see another monster.

So much had changed in that time, from the divorce of my parents to the loss of most of my friends. I’d been politely asked to drop out of the Science Club, following my third attempt to recruit my fellow students in risky experiments. One of them, involving lasers and a gas-powered generator, nearly blinded my former friend Paul in one eye. Over time my experiments became one person jobs, either because no one wanted to risk getting hurt by being around me, or because their parents forbade it.

High school graduation was a strangely emotional time for my fellow students, a reaction I never quite understood. They were either sad to be leaving each other or excited to be moving on, and sometimes both at the same time. I saw it for the necessary step it was. I’d been accepted to Stanford, and other than looking forward to using its state-of-the-art Laboratory for Advanced Materials, I knew that one place was the same as any other.

The only brief sadness I allowed myself that day was when I learned my father wouldn’t be attending the ceremony. My mother assured me it had to do with a delayed flight on his return from a business trip, but a quick search of his flight information told me the truth. The plane had arrived on time. He simply didn’t want to attend.

As I sat through the valedictorian’s mind-numbing speech, the afternoon sun baking us in our dark red graduation gowns, I recalled the Principal’s speech to me as we sat in her office, explaining why I hadn’t been chosen to be valedictorian despite my higher grade average. She nervously explained the other student’s various accomplishments, including everything from event planning to community outreach, and I sat patiently through it all. She was relieved when I told her it meant nothing to me, that my parents either didn’t know or didn’t care.

After the ceremony it took me fifteen minutes to find my mother in the crowd. She was wrapped up in a conversation with one of the gym teachers, and she seemed surprised to see me, as if she’d forgotten why she’d come in the first place. I told her I needed to use the bathroom. She wasted no time returning to her conversation with a man who hadn’t said three words to me in four years.

Only a few people were walking around inside the school, mainly teachers gathering their things, or janitors preparing the building for summer break. The boy’s bathroom was empty, which I very much appreciated on account of my shy bladder. I picked out a urinal at the far end, hiked up my graduation gown, and prepared to unzip my dress pants.

My hair stood on end before I got the chance. Time slowed to a crawl as the toilet stall behind me came alive with the noise of something struggling inside, something with popping bones and twisting flesh.

“Tih!” it screamed in agony.

Before I knew it I was running again, running from the things that haunted me. With each step time moved faster and faster until it felt like a blur, a gushing river carrying me out of the bathroom and down the half-empty hallway, back to the beating sunlight, where the river slowed and returned to normal.

The crowd was gone. All my fellow students and their families, everyone had left and gone home, including, as I soon found out, my mother.

I walked the twelve blocks home looking over my shoulder, checking every shadow, every corner and swimming pool for twisting, deforming shapes. My mother and I didn’t speak about my disappearance, or much else for that matter.

* * * * * *

Each time I encountered one of the creatures, I became more sure of their effect on time. The closer they were to me, the slower time progressed. The further I ran, the more distance I put between them and myself, the faster the seconds moved, until eventually they returned to normal. This wasn’t some subjective experience based on my fear response but a legitimate phenomenon, corroborated by the time on my watch.

As if time itself were bending around the creatures.

For years I thought about nothing but the creatures and their strange influence on time. I became convinced they were either from another time or existed outside of it. And so I learned everything I could about time and one’s potential traversing of it. Black holes, wormholes, curved spacetime, infinite cylinders, I left nothing untouched. When most teenagers were in a parking lot drinking beer, I was in my room reading Carl Sagan. When they were arguing about whose football team was better, I was arguing about the Novikov Self-consistency Principle, or the Blinovitch Limitation Effect.

I breathed Einstein and devoured Hawking. Time spent in anyone else’s company was time wasted.

In Stanford I had my first breakthrough with a rudimentary Tachyonic antitelephone, though the machine melted before I could reproduce the results. The resulting fire got me expelled from the university outright, no matter how much I argued and pleaded for the sake of the research. It wasn’t the first time I’d been kicked out of an organization, and it wouldn’t be the last.

By the time I transferred to Caltech my father had died, leaving me a substantial college fund, which was helpful since my mother no longer wanted me at the house. I ended up staying in one of the dorm houses, not the best environment for study, though it did offer the advantage of being a five minute walk from the Math and Physics Hall.

My roommate- I didn’t catch his first name but everyone called him Eakins- was an Environmental Engineering student with an interest in both Oceanography and watching horror movies at high volumes late at night. One particular night, as he was blasting a Spanish language movie about a man with bloody bandages around his face, he told me I would probably like the movie if I paid attention to anything other than textbooks. He practically had to shout for me to hear what he was saying over the film.

I looked up from my textbook to tell him there was nothing worth knowing a movie could teach me, especially a horror movie. But just as I did, as I opened my mouth to speak, a face appeared inches in front of my own.

It wasn’t just mutated, but in fact still mutating. Like a puzzle box it shifted and snapped, the mouth contorted into an impossible angle, an angle that let out a single sound. A pained, gurgling, “Nreht!”

I screamed, and the sound slowed down in pitch and length until I could hear and feel each reverberation of my vocal cords. A moment later the disfiguring face disappeared. Blinked out of existence, like it had never been there. My scream modulated back to normal pitch, and I found myself screaming directly at my horrified roommate.

Eakins stared at me. “What the hell is your problem?” he asked.

My heart thundered adrenaline through my veins. Eyes dilated and sweat beading on my face, I stared back at him. “I don’t think it’s a problem,” I replied after a moment. “I think it’s a puzzle.”

* * * * * *

Just before I was kicked out of my third and final university, this time from MIT for disruptive outbursts, a classmate stopped me after class and told me she’d very much enjoyed my argument with our Particle Physics professor.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I told her flatly.

“I think he knows what he’s talking about,” she said, “but not as much as you do.”

She smiled, and suddenly I realized she was very pretty. Beautiful, even. I offered to walk her to her next class, which she accepted. She told me her name was Yvette, and as we walked we discussed some light quantum theory, at her suggestion. “Energy disperses, objects equilibrate,” she said, “because of how elementary particles become intertwined when they interact.”

“Entanglement,” I replied.

“Exactly. When two particles interact they can no longer be described by their own pure states. They almost become as one.”

“Like two people talking,” I pointed out.

“Or even kissing.”

As suddenly as I’d realized she was beautiful, that was how quickly I realized what she’d done. She’d baited me into speaking about entanglement so she could flirt with me. She was clever, and cunning, and I knew in that moment, as we stood smiling at each other in front of the library, that she would be the one I would marry.

I asked her for her phone number, the way I’d heard people do. To my surprise she took out a pen and paper, wrote the number down and handed it to me. I glanced at her hand as she did, and noticed a bit of string looped around her finger.

“What’s that?” I asked her. She glanced down, then back.

“Oh, that. Just a reminder about something I have to do later. You’ve never tied a string around yourself before?”

Her words struck me hard, like an apple falling on my head. In that moment an idea was born in my mind, fully-formed and raging to be free. An idea that would push me toward the brink of discovery.

It was an idea so electrifying, in fact, that I almost didn’t notice the mass of bloody limbs running toward us. The humanoid creature stumbling and slipping across the great lawn that stretched out in front of the university library. Screaming in the daylight, the seconds racing by like a panic attack. I didn’t look this time. Didn’t want to see it.

“Tahn!” it screamed, the voice slightly more human-sounding than before, yet no less anguished.

“Do you see it?” I asked Yvette, my voice tight in my throat. She looked, scanning the lawn with a concerned expression.

“See what?”

I grabbed her arm, to pull her with me, to take her away from the danger lurching across the grass. She stiffened, the fear pooled in her eyes. By the time I looked at the great lawn, scared to see how close the creature had gotten, it was already gone.

The seconds returned to normal but the air had changed. Yvette looked at me differently now. She waited for an explanation, waiting to give me the benefit of the doubt, but all I could do was leave.

“I’m sorry,” I said, running off to the university lab. A future with Yvette had become an impossibility- but something greater was waiting for me ahead.

* * * * * *

The idea that was born in my mind that day became the new focus of my life, brought about by something as simple and elegant as a string tied around a beautiful girl’s finger. A reminder from her past self to her future self. A bridge between them.

Cosmic strings. Narrow tubes of energy, left over from the formation of the cosmos. They contained huge amounts of mass, and therefore could warp space-time around them. I’d tried them before, looking to the stars for double images of background quasars, knowing I’d find a cosmic string joining them. If I could just accelerate atoms fast enough to outrun a light beam around a cosmic string, the theory went, I could outrun time.

The problem was, no one had found one yet. They existed only in the realm of theory. But I had a new theory for where I might find one. A different kind of cosmic string, located slightly closer than eight billion light years away.

And so, I started building my machine. It went through so many versions I stopped numbering them. Variation after variation after variation. I borrowed and spent every dollar I could get my hands on, using up my inheritance and my credit in the process. I secured funding from the kind of people you don’t make the mistake of not paying back. If I was successful, I told myself, I would have more than enough money to pay them back.

And if I wasn’t successful, nothing would matter anyway.

When the machine was finally done, I found the scrap of paper I’d been saving in a drawer and dialed the number written on it.

“Yvette?” I asked.

“Yes, who’s this?”

“It’s Alex. Alex from Particle Physics.”

There was a pause on the line, then: “Hey! How have you been?”

“Working. And you? Are you still at the university?”

Another pause. “Alex, I graduated two years ago.”

“Right. Right, of course.” Time had gotten away from me. If she’d graduated two years earlier, how many had it been since I’d seen her? Three? Four?

“Did you switch schools? I lost track of you after…” her voice faded out.

“I’m on my own now. I couldn’t stand having to answer to people who didn’t understand the work.”

She laughed softly. “Yeah, that sounds like you. You’re too smart for your own good, you know.”

I’d never been a skilled conversationalist, nor was I one for indirectness. Since I didn’t know what the decorum was for this sort of situation- if the situation had ever come up before- I decided to be as blunt as possible.

“I need you,” I said. “Your help, I mean. With an experiment.”

Asking her for help was a long shot, but she was a fellow scientist, a seeker of truth, and we’d shared a connection once. That made her my best choice- even if it was my only choice.

“What kind of experiment?” she asked, sounding curious.

“I’d rather talk about it in person. Are you still in Massachusetts? Can you come tonight?”

“I’m only an hour or two south. But Alex…it’s two o’clock in the morning.”

Time. It had a way of getting away from me.

After we finished our conversation, I sat in the dark for some time, going over the calculations again and again. Just as I turned off the computer, ready to find my mattress and get some sleep, I felt the hairs on my arms and neck stand up.

I didn’t look. I closed my eyes as the creature materialized behind me. I didn’t have to see it reaching out for me, I could feel the dilation of time as it did, seconds becoming minutes becoming hours as it cried out in its inside-out language I’d come to know so well. Cried out a painful and haunted syllable. A bloody, choking, “Ood!”

My eyes opened. They had to see it. The reflection in the darkened computer monitor, it looked almost human, a twisting silhouette of wet, snapping bone reaching out in the dark. Reaching out with rearranging fingers.

And then, it was gone. I worked through the night, preparing the machine.

* * * * * *

“Human beings move through time like an arrow. I believe that, as we do so, we gather timespace energy about us- not unlike a static charge gathered from carpeting. In doing so we form a string through time that should, for all intents and purposes, act exactly like a cosmic string loop.”

I turned to face my guest and added, “I call it a time string.”

Yvette stood in front of the machine, admiring its simple design as I explained how it detected topological defects. I appreciated not having to simplify the science or be too succinct, as she had a firm grasp on the subject, and in fact asked all the right questions.

“But do you really think you can find an anomaly as small as a proton?” she asked. “Not to mention, once a loop is formed it’s essentially doomed. It oscillates, radiates gravitationally, shrinks, and eventually…”

“Evaporates, yes. But if my theory is correct, they should behave more like vortons.”

She pondered it a moment. “A stabilized loop.”

“Correct.”

She looked from me to the machine. “It looks pretty cramped in there,” she said with sudden finality. “I hope you’re not claustrophobic.”

“There’s no room for phobias in science,” I replied. “I built the machine to my exact dimensions. Nothing other than my physical body can be allowed inside.” I paused. “Not even clothing.”

She nodded, understanding my meaning. “I guess there’s no room for modesty in science, either,” she said with a smile.

I showed her how the operating program worked, taking the time to explain every command and function as we sat in front of the computer. I told her what to do in case of an emergency, however unlikely. As I did so, I tried not to think of the reflection in the monitor the night before. Then I undressed completely, laid my clothes carefully on the floor, and ducked inside the machine.

Seeing it that way, about to be powered up with me standing inside, made me see the machine as if for the first time. A hundred dark panels were aimed directly at me, each one containing a thousand sensors running a hundred-million scans. The machine was like the child of an MRI machine and a deep space telescope, though a masochistic one, as an electric current was required to hyper-excite the energy field. I attached the adhesive patches to my body as Yvette watched from behind the computer.

“Maybe after this we can revisit that conversation about entanglement,” she said.

“There’s going to be an enormous amount of data to process,” I replied. Then, realizing what she meant, added, “But yes. I’d like that.”

I talked her through the start-up sequence once more, then told her to close the machine door. There was no room in the design for an interior handle. She walked over, gave me another smile, and gently shut the door. I gave her a thumbs-up through the observation window. Then, a few seconds later, the sequence began.

The only sound I could hear was the hum of the generator as the sensor panels powered up to full. A chill moved through my body. I thought it might be the unexpected effect of an oscillating magnetic field coursing through my nervous system, though I was aware that the much simpler explanation was nervousness. The fear response was an unwelcome though nevertheless predictable factor in self-experimentation.

As I stood shivering inside the cramped machine, waiting for the current of electricity to be introduced to my body, I was overcome with the strangest sensation. The dark panels surrounding my body suddenly felt like a hundred eyes staring back at me. Pitch black irises of an unimaginable being, passing judgment on me. Naked, shivering, I was laid bare under its intense, unblinking gaze. I pushed the thought aside, ascribing it to the effects of the electromagnetic field, a fear cage stimulating my mind, then prepared for what came next.

The generator was pushed to its limits as the next phase of the sequence began. An energy transfer of nearly one-and-a-half gigawatts per second coursed through the machine’s energy cells, drip-feeding the current down the wires and into my skin, a carefully measured, non-lethal shock meant to act like timespace tracer ink.

My system was with flooded with electricity for just a few seconds, but it was enough to send me into agony. Every muscle tensed at once. My jaw locked shut and my body stiffened. Knuckles and knees popped from the intensity of the squeeze.

And then it was gone, and I could breathe again. My head swam and my eyes closed. I felt a rising ball of flame in my gut and then a sensation like fire ants crawling through my veins. I became aware of distant screaming, and I considered whether it might be my own cries until I realized it was a woman’s voice. I thought then of Yvette. Why she should be screaming, when it was me disoriented and riddled with pain, made no sense.

I opened my eyes. Opened them to utter darkness.

Had the fuses blown? Were the machine and the lab beyond it experiencing a power failure? It was a confusing development. The generators had fail-safes in place to avoid such interruptions from occurring, so what other explanations were left?

Had I gone blind? Lost all sense of sight? Had I done to myself what I’d nearly done to that childhood friend so many years earlier?

But then I became aware of a shape in the darkness just ahead of me, blocking a source of light. There shouldn’t have been anything there except a wall of sensors. Then the shape moved, letting me see the light source.

It was a computer screen. My computer screen. I glanced around and realized, with no lack of confusion, that I was standing on the other side of my lab.

The shape in front of me, sitting at the computer, was it Yvette? As I reached out to touch it, the skin on my fingers peeled back, as if they were being punished for moving closer to the shape. It felt like dipping my hands in flames. Then my arms began to peel back, too, the fire spreading across my body as the flesh curled and tore away. I tried to scream but the sound lodged in my throat.

Then the screen went dark, and I saw the image in it. The reflection of the shape in front of me.

My own face. Terrified of the sight of me. Locking eyes with myself.

I was back. Back in the night before.

In one terrible moment I realized the truth, the explanation for the monsters that had been visiting me throughout my life. I knew what they were. I had to warn myself away. Stop the experiment. Tell me what was waiting the next day. I gathered my breath and opened my bloodied lips, already feeling the teeth shift and the jaw dislocate.

“Do!”

Blinding light attacked me. I stumbled forward, slipping on grass, my feet wet with my own blood. I was in front of the university library at MIT. Across the great lawn, Yvette was talking to me. Me of a few years earlier. “Not!” I screamed out in the daylight, though I could see by the look of terror on my face that I wasn’t going to look.

A moment later the sunlight cut out, and I was looking into my own, younger face, sitting on my college dorm bed with a book in my hands. I felt my body mutating, reconfiguring, like a puzzle box shifting and snapping into new, unrecognizable angles. With my mouth contorting, I struggled to keep speaking, to warn myself. I let out a gurgling, “Turn!” as my younger self screamed back at me.

Then he was gone, replaced by a dirty, metal wall. Locked inside a toilet stall, my arms and legs were crushed and reshaped like crumpled paper, an origami animal of popping bones and twisting flesh, and I knew, knew I was out there, my younger self, wearing a graduation gown and a look of terror.

“It!” I screamed in agony, my insides erupting out of me.

And then suddenly I was choking on dirty water. Drowning in it. I thrashed to be free, fighting to reach air. I burst free of the rancid water and clawed my way out as best I could with my new, twisted configuration of limbs and bones. With bleeding eyes I stared out at myself, a boy of fifteen standing across the yard in an orange vest, scared for his life.

I had to finish it. Finish the warning.

I ran after him, me, the boy, my bones popping and cracking, shuffling and rearranging my form, every nerve alive with pain, and I screamed, screamed a single sound at him.

“On!”

He, me, the boy, fell to the ground, backpack on top of him. I took the last few steps, barely able to move anymore, as he fumbled from his stomach and flipped over onto his back to look at me, to see the monster bearing down on him.

The terrified boy prayed for me to be gone as I stumbled and crunched toward him, toward me, each step a new torture on my broken body. Then I was nearly on top of him. I looked down on his young, innocent face, taking in the tragic details of the painful existence that waited for him.

Then I felt it. Felt my body erasing, an error corrected, the covering up of a path not meant to be taken. The pain was gone first, then any feeling at all. Sights and sounds drifted away, back to the void, the nothingness, the never-ending darkness.

Like a blink I vanished. Nothing but a wisp of black ash, carried off by the breeze.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Brian Martinez
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Brian Martinez


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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