The Chronovisor

📅 Published on August 17, 2020

“The Chronovisor”

Written by Irving Crane
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on 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


Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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When you’re bad, you get thrown in jail.

When you’re really bad, you get sent to prison.

When you’re unspeakably bad, you get sent to maximum security and they throw away the key.

When you’re the devil incarnate, well, nobody really knows what happens to you. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know what to do with you, other times it’s because they bury you so deep that only a handful of people know where you are. I got a message from someone deemed to be the single most wanted man alive. And they got him. But he was still wanted even after he was behind bars.

His prison was basically an underground bunker with four or five layers of security clearance. If you don’t have business there, you don’t know it exists.

He had his head down. The hair was blonde and long enough to make you question whether it was a boy or girl. The chin with its scant beginning of salt and pepper was the giveaway.

He was clad in a special jumpsuit that looked like it could have been one or two sizes too big. This was by design. It was overloaded with sensors that perimeter alarms waited to pounce on. I adjusted my round gold-rimmed glasses as I sat in the curved gray chair on my side of the barrier. There weren’t any phone receivers for us. Just holes drilled into the Plexiglas.

He lifted his head and I was somewhere between the two directions his eyes looked.

I held my briefcase in my lap like some sort of shield. I was nervous about this meeting and I couldn’t quite place why.

“Mr. Amos McCarthy,” I said. My cadence almost suggested that I was asking a question. Here was the most wanted man in the world and I was sitting across from him.

The unshorn face bristled into a smile.

“Howdy, Father,” he said.

“I’d rather you didn’t call me that,” I said.

“You’re still a man of the cloth on the inside, right?”

“What can I do for you?” I said.

“Straight to the point. I can respect that. Since you’re looking to conserve your minutes, I better make sure you know who I am.”

I held up a manila folder that was thick enough to be an encyclopedia. I began thumbing through it.

“Amos Delmar McCarthy, you’re a household name across the country and across the Atlantic. You’re wanted here in the US for thousands of counts of slander, defamation, leaking of and possession of classified information and intellectual property spanning all levels of government and private corporations, illicit surveillance, and espionage. That’s just here at home. You’re also accused of framing the US for scores of accusations of espionage that have led to immense casualties among officials stationed at embassies worldwide and…”

I stopped talking when I noticed how big his grin was getting. He looked like his skull might split in two horizontally.

“Purty nice lil resume I got there, eh?”

“You requested a consultation with anyone who was a priest before they were a lawyer. That brings us to where we are now. What can I do for you?”

“First of all, you can slow your ass up a bit. Even if we trim all the fat, you’re still gonna be here a minnit. I can see it in yer eyes… you don’t want none of the bad fish smell I got on me seeping into you. You think you’ll be a marked man just fer talkin’ with me,” he said, chuckling.

I was not amused and my face must have conveyed it. He looked down again.

“You never did introduce yourself proper like, Mr….”

“Paul Morse.”

“Ah, Morse. There’s a name for ya. I used to know Morse Code by heart. That’s been a long time ago. Bah, you ain’t gonna loosen up for nothing, are ya?”

He was right, I wasn’t. There was no way I could represent him in any capacity. He was facing the death penalty and it was as good as handed down. It would be like an ant standing before an oncoming locomotive. The idea of representing him in court would be ludicrous. He had the scent of someone that wanted to play games and I wasn’t in the mood.

“Heh, man. The last name suits you, ‘cause I’m reading your signals loud and clear.”

“I’m in no position to offer you any legal help, Mr. McCarthy. Truthfully, no lawyer is. You have literally teed off the entire world.”

He threw his head back in a cackle.

“Y’all think I don’t know that? You really think I don’t know why I’m buried down here deeper than an adulterous woman? Yeah, I didn’t call you in here to ask you to go on a suicide watch for lil ol’ me, no sir. I asked you here ‘cause I need to make a few uh, confessions.”

“I’m not a priest anymore, Mr. McCarthy,” I said, barely concealing my mounting impatience.

“You still know how to listen like one. You got the ears of a priest and the options of a law man. If you pay attention like a good boy you might walk outta here with the story of the century. It’s as fascinating as it is valuable.”

That’s when I began to soften. But I wasn’t going to tell him that. I just took out my digital recorder, turned it on with a small beep, and set it down on the table. He smiled.

“Attaboy, law man.”

“So, you noticed that I’m an international celebrity for better or for worse. It didn’t take me long to get there. All these kids that are born into infamy and fortune and have the family reputation by the time they’re 13… me, I was nobody. Less than nobody and treated like it every time I got out the mop and bucket and squeezed that sucker from dawn till dusk for pennies and a pat on the head.

You ever heard the saying that a company is much like a bunch of monkeys sitting in a tree? No? Well when a monkey looks down, he sees nothing but smiling faces. When a monkey looks up, he sees nothing but assholes. I saw some real gapers from my station, law man. They knew what I saw and they wore it like a badge.

That office was my education in the hierarchy of the rich and the little people trying to build treehouses in their ball sacks. Embelco. You heard of ‘em? The bossman on the top floor had two dumbass potatoes for kids and he gave them clipboards and permission to walk around and give orders. It went straight to their walnut brains and they hung around whatever floor I was cleaning and made it a point to get in my way and otherwise distract me from the job at hand.

They’d go ahead of me and make a mess of the bathrooms as best they knew how. I started seeing them nipping from a bottle while they were on duty. They offered me some more than once, and I’d refuse. And they’d say ‘Good, ‘cause you’re on the clock!’ And they’d laugh like it was the funniest thing they ever heard in their whole lives.

Day came when I could tell they were done toying with me and looking to fire me. They fired two other maintenance men and had me take over their floors. I was staying ridiculous hours and they had the gall to tell me that they couldn’t pay me overtime so I better find a way to hustle or start working on dressing up for the street corner.

Their daytime drinking got out of hand and they started harassing one of the girls that handled their paperwork. They flat out told her that her body was the only thing going to save her job. I don’t know if she ever caved in to them or not. She was around for months before they decided to let her go for the hell of it. That burned me so bad; she was a good girl and a good worker. They must have been practicing on her because all the weight and the truckloads of BS they had put on her was switched over to me. There was no way in heaven or hell I could do what they asked in a single shift. I was getting home for just a few hours before my shift would start up again.

The threadbare marriage I had fell apart ‘cause I was too stubborn to just quit. I told her we needed money and she told me that my job was destroying everything. I didn’t know how right she was until I woke up one morning to see she wasn’t around. And then, law man, they fired me. They waited until there was nothing left of me or my home. I’ve known some low human beings that done some low things but that was a cake winner right there. They was outright subhuman.

I dunno how many days I spent passed out with the bottle in hand. I didn’t care, neither. I was gonna spend the rest of my paycheck anesthetized with Southern Comfort and when I ran out, well I had thoughts of burning the place down with me inside. Now maybe there’s a God or maybe the girl that got fired put in a good word for me, ‘cause the phone woke me up one day and if they hadn’t been so quick to state their business I would have hung up. A warehouse was looking for a full-time maintenance man. They’d be giving me a few cents more and all the overtime I could handle. I said yes as much as I wanted to just go back into hibernating.

Took me a long one to find the place. It was tucked away in one of them districts that you don’t think you’ll find anything. Thought I was gonna find a bullet in my windshield before anything else. But I found it and it looked like it should have had its own zip code. It surely was several warehouses that had been annexed onto each other.

The owner was a little old guy that looked like a vacuum sucked all the extra air out of his skin, what with all those really pointy bones. He was a little too happy to see someone take the job of keeping up the place.  Law man, I ain’t never seen so many wooden crates in my life standing at attention in uniform rows and ranks and files. I think they were all perfectly spaced the same and all aligned to an invisible grid. All he wanted was for me to sweep and mop and cover a reasonable amount of square footage a day. He didn’t ride my ass much. Just spurred me a time or two when I wasn’t getting quite enough done, but he wasn’t hard to please. I never really got to know him, but I got to know how he liked his warehouses cleaned. Those crates weren’t gonna gather any grime if it were up to him. The only thing that wasn’t uniform was the size and shape of the crates. I didn’t ask him what was in them or why he had them and he never volunteered to tell.

Now the reason you and I are talking started with one day when I was back in the quietest, farthest-flung and eeriest corner of the warehouse where light barely reached. Shadows kinda moved when nothing else did and it just didn’t feel right. Before I was going to excuse myself for the day, I nearly ran into a crate and found the stenciled words VATICAN CITY inches from my nose. That’s one of those moments when you really question who you’re working for and what kind of stuff they collect. I didn’t reckon that the Vatican liked to part with anything valuable. I stalked around that box like a polar bear with an igloo. I tried to look through any gaps in the boards and shined my phone’s light where it might reach. But I just wasn’t gonna learn nothing. Thing was sealed up tighter than a list of pedophile clergymen. I went about my business and I kept my eyes open for anything that may be just as curious, but damn it if that crate didn’t start a fire in me that nothing else was gonna put out. Nothing else under that roof was gonna catch my fancy like that Vatican crate, law man. Nothing.

Took me months to work up the nerve to find reasons to go back to that dark corner and eyeball the box again. The boss man was going on a trip and he trusted me to take care of everything and log my time fairly ‘cause I had given him nothing but damn good work.

I swear as soon as he was gone I was in that warehouse checking out that Vatican box. I hawked around it one more time as if there was still hope of getting in or getting an idea what was inside without getting rough with it. Which of course was impossible. I broke down and got a crowbar and was as gentle with it as I could possibly be. It barely resisted. Getting in was a little too easy.

I opened the lid and looked down to see something like an old-fashioned television that had to have been put together by a mad scientist. There were tubes and wires and things that I couldn’t even place for a function.

I removed the side of the crate by loosening the nails. Only when I was inside the thing did I notice that not only was the TV clean, it was connected to wires that ran outside the crate. It was connected to a power source and had all the signs of recent use. Inside were four books. Three were hardbound and in Latin, the fourth was a notebook. The first few parts of the notebook told me how to turn the damn thing on. But it was the second part that caught my attention. There were notes on settings for the knobs and dials with peculiar labels next to them: Death of Hitler. Speech of Cyrus the Great. First performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Christ at Calvary.

I fiddled with the controls a bit until I saw myself on the screen pulling into work. I recognized it as footage from that day and I panicked for half a sec to think that maybe I had been on a surveillance camera. But that couldn’t be right. For the camera to be recording me, it would have had to have been suspended in the air where there was no pole or wall or nothing. I took a minute to go outside and check my math, and for sure — No camera. No place to put a camera. I diddled around until I got the things described in the notebook to show up on the screen. It was all as the notes described. Nothing the moving pictures said was in English. That’s because none of it was movies. It was all the real thing. I was looking at a damn time machine that could look back into the past. I was in denial over it for the longest time, but I tuned in to watch myself go through parts of the last couple of days. I saw myself lay asleep for hours with the empty bottles of JD next to me. I dropped my pants in the bathroom and there were the family jewels on display and I know there wasn’t no cameras in my home.

So there you had it. I was using a time machine.

The controls weren’t as complicated as they looked. Looking up the time indexes in the notebook got me used to the way the thing worked. It didn’t take long before I wasn’t thinking about major moments in history. Seeing Jesus die was educational and all, but it wasn’t gonna change my life in the short-term.

I wondered. Could I find myself at my last job? I could. I did. Then I wondered, could I find my last boss’ dumbass kids? Yup, I could do that too. I got to see exactly how they dicked off all day. Drinking and looking at porn and talking about me. Oh hell, they talked about me so bad. I knew they hated me but gee whiz. Then I got around to seeing what they did to Lily. They got to have their way with her and she didn’t do it willingly. She turned ‘em down for days and one day they each had enough to keep them from caring how she felt about their propositions and they took turns holding her down. They left her a crying half-dressed mess each time like she was a used candy bar wrapper.

God Almighty that made me hot. I kinda lost the ability to think about the consequences of my actions for a few hours. I took out my phone and recorded everything they did to poor Lily. Then I looked up moments they had logged into their emails and I hacked my way in and I sent the videos to everyone in their contacts list. Their boss man dad, their families, their girlfriends, I mean everyone, Law Man. Took the time to send it to the police too.

After I cooled off, I started to worry that they might find out where the videos came from, but nobody ever came calling. After the trials and sentences were over, I tuned in to see how recent days of being locked up was treating ‘em, and well, they weren’t exactly at the top of the food chain.

My own boss man was due back in a few days so I boxed the thing back up and it looked like I never touched it.

You talk about a paranoid dog, mister law man.

When he came back he asked me if he had missed anything interesting and of course I told him nope. It took two or three days for me to notice it, the way he was looking at me and it wasn’t really a look-look of any kind. He just prolonged his gaze at me from time to time.

One day he was following me around the warehouse at a distance. Not really by my side but not terribly far away either. At a certain point, he put his hand on my elbow and told me that was enough, time for a break. I didn’t know where this was going. He had me leave my cleaning equipment behind. He took me to a painfully small office where there was scarcely room for one person. He took out a folder of some papers and I honestly thought that he was going to let me go for using that time machine, but he tucked the papers under his arm and reached into a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of champagne and two of them fancy fluted glasses.

‘Sit down,’ he said as he poured to the top of each glass. He handed one to me and lifted his up.

‘A toast, Mr. McCarthy. To the first employee who has not stolen from me in my absence.’

I must have looked like a deer in the headlights the moment after the car turns off the road just a few feet before the impact. He raised his eyebrows and lifted his glass again.

We drank. It was good. I waited for his expression to either soften or harden, but it never did.

‘It’s a delight to know that I’ve hired someone that doesn’t have a lump of coal for a heart,’ he said. ‘But you don’t exactly have a heart of gold.’

Here I watched him to see what he meant. Was I in trouble or not?

‘The Chronovisor. The time machine that you found at the far end of the building. I use it often. I checked it to see what you’ve been up to while I was away. You didn’t steal a single thing and you’re the first person I’ve hired to keep your integrity like that. But I did see you use the Chronovisor.’

My head dropped and I could feel the tears starting to sting my eyes.

‘Please don’t fire me,’ I cried like a big baby.

‘Oh please, I wouldn’t dream of it,’ he was quick to say. ‘But indulge me… what did you use the Chronovisor for?’

I looked up at him, partly with relief and partly with worry.

‘When I saw that it was from the Vatican I couldn’t help myself. I tried to forget about it for days but it got stuck in my head so bad. So when you told me you’d be gone, I couldn’t help it. I had to look. I had to see. So I opened it up and there it was and there were the books and the notes that told me how to use it. Once I knew what I was doin’, why… I had to know if a girl I worked with got hurt at work or not. We worked for some real bad people, sir. And I looked and they raped her. But she kept working there ‘cause she didn’t have nowhere else to go, and so they kept raping her. She was such a good girl and a good worker and it made my blood boil. And… and…”

“And you used the Chronovisor to bring justice as you understood it.”


“Did you get justice?”


“I know. I watched that part, too.”

He poured another glass for the both of us.

“Another toast to you, Mr. McCarthy. For your heart being more gold than coal.”

And you know what I think he actually meant it. I don’t think there was a bit of sarcasm in his voice, so I took him up on the toast.

I couldn’t help but notice how he looked really pleased with himself.

“You want it?” he said.

“Huh? Beg pardon?”

“I said do you want it? Do you want the Chronovisor?”

“I don’t know what I’d do with it if I had to see it every day.”

The old man shrugged.

‘I’ve got more yesterdays than tomorrows, and I’ve used that thing to review all the yesterdays that I really care to see again. Its potential is endless. I’m a collector, you might have noticed.’ He waved his glass all around him at the crates beyond the walls of the tiny office.

“It didn’t take me my whole life to amass all this. I was able to use the Chronovisor to see the items when they were created and follow them to where they were hidden. You know why they’ll always be looking for the Holy Grail in the East? It’s boxed up over in Cell H3C2,” he gestured off to his left.

Now, I won’t lie. The old man was kindling something bad in me. Not for material things or treasures, but for something else. I lost track of how many years I’d been a bottom feeder because a bunch of pigs swept me under the rug with their connections and their bank accounts.

I was ten times worse than the disgruntled employee that went back in with a bomb on my back. Instead of blowing their carcasses to bits and letting the media sort out their lives, I shattered those very lives and they got to watch the whole thing happen in slow motion. And they never even knew who did it.

Did I want that Chronovisor-thingy? Hell yeah, I did. And just like that, it was mine. All mine and no strings attached.

I didn’t have to stay at my job for long.

I was getting my mail at the post office one day when I saw the wanted posters they always had up. Cash rewards for tips on the suspects’ whereabouts. Not exactly the criminals I was lookin’ to take down, but it was the kind that would pay.

Sure enough, I could sniff ‘em out with that machine. That scrawny bank robber, Martin Ridgewell, that looked like a half-breed woodchuck? Idiot was hiding no further than the edge of the county. Now that’s just plain stupid. Both that he didn’t go far and that the law didn’t find him sooner.

How about that guy with a neck like a cobra that everyone was afraid of? Looked like he could deepthroat a whale? Yeah, Maron Tibbs. A neck like that is a fingerprint waiting to happen so he got pretty far after he left the last body in that barn. He did everything right, law man. He covered his tracks and left no witnesses to his deeds or his plans. I almost felt bad for nailing him when I got done watching how hard he worked to erase his path. Almost. The cash reward from that was real sweet.

So the money started piling up. I was smart enough to keep from getting too much of a reputation, you know? I laid low when I could and I didn’t brag about nothing. I accepted the cash rewards but none of the press. There were a few people that started wondering why I was always the person to find out where to get these goons. But what were they gonna do? Put me out for too many good deeds?

The gloves came off when I had enough to live on for a few months.

I never did nothing that would land me in jail. But somehow I felt that when I was bringing in the heads of those men for their bounty, I was really persecuting people much like me, I just hadn’t sunk as low as they had. Ridgewell, Tibbs, all of ‘em… they were a product of the exact same arrangement I was. Pearls shit out of the same oyster. We’re an irritation, so they keep us in the dark and they eventually spit us out into the cold when we get too big for them.

Well, I had the answer to that dark. I had that Chronovisor. It was like the torch of God. The dark that the establishment depended on to save face and keep power had no hold on me.

I hit the bar pretty hard to wash away some of that guilt from turning in those wanted men. I got a few of my buddies to take a bet with me that the sitting priest at the church up the road would be in trouble for something straight outta line within a week. Quickest gamble I ever won.

I didn’t have to spy on that priest’s past further than the last three months and I saw him doing some really nasty things with kids no older than eight. Nasty enough that he had to drug them. The internet saw him doing it too, thanks to me.

You know the rest, law man. I was like fire licking up gasoline. Priests weren’t enough. Then politicians weren’t enough. Then straight up fuggin’ world leaders weren’t enough. I had the world by the balls and I was squeezing like a sonofabitch, and the world was squealing and begging for mercy and I wasn’t giving any.”

“And then you got caught,” I interjected dryly.

“Caught? Hell no, man. I turned myself in. I was using that machine to stay one step ahead of everyone after me and I coulda done it forever. Five minutes ago is the past, right? I could tune in to what the hounds on my trail were saying and doing with a delay of a few minutes, just like regular talk radio.”

“Then why did you turn yourself in? Your charges call for capital punishment in several countries.”

McCarthy grinned. “I know. Remember what I said about being worse than a suicide bomber? I made myself even worse by an additional degree. Bomber man goes to his target and boom, no survivors; the victims don’t get to see the aftermath and the bomber doesn’t have to suffer the consequences. Well now my quote-unquote victims have to watch their lives get shredded by vultures and I won’t be on this earth to face anyone’s wrath. They can’t starve me, beat me, rape my ass or whatever if I’m dead. Oh, and the fire from the bomb is only gonna get hotter. You see, God made the dark for a reason. There are just some things that are supposed to be screened off from human eyes. Now that little light o’ mine, I made it shine wherever I fucking well pleased and I got a bit ahead of myself in the process. Opened a little can of worms that hadn’t meant to be opened. Shouldn’t come as a surprise, law man, that I know you still have active connections to the church. So I need you to go to the storage facility over by the pier and tell ‘em who you are. They’ll give you the key and everything.”

“For what?”

“For the unit that’s got the Chronovisor innit, o’course! I’m giving it back to the church! Unless you want it. But that’s your call. The important thing is that it’s in your possession after I’m dead. Come on. You know you’re curious.”

I made my fingers into a pyramid and pressed my lips against it. He got me there. I was curious.

But I pretended that I wasn’t going to take him seriously. He acted disappointed. But when they led him away, he gave me a look. He knew. We both knew.

News of the execution was everywhere and I had made up my mind by the time it happened.

I found the storage facility. They indeed recognized my information and gave me a key.

It was just the way he described it. Like something out of a silver screen mad scientist’s lab. He hadn’t mentioned the detail of using a gas generator to power it. Because one was hooked up to it. Along with a sign that was addressed to me.

“Come on, Pauly! Give it a whirl!”

It was a diabolical invitation. But he was right. How could I resist?

The generator was loud, but my mounting curiosity muffled it. The note left for me had coordinates written on the back along with the words HEY PAULY, VIEW YOUR POSTCARD HERE.

I dialed the numbers in and didn’t get much at first. Dancing lights. Odd shapes. But then I could make out McCarthy being led along with a group of people… were they people? Something about them wasn’t right. Their legs were too long, or their trunks were too oddly shaped.

Then I saw the large hooks embedded in McCarthy’s body and the heavy chains attached to them. Then I saw the burns on his body and the horns and spikes protruding from his companions.

McCarthy looked directly into my eyes from behind the screen and smiled. Then the figure surrounding him did the same.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
Please wait...

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Irving Crane
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Irving Crane

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on 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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