Fiction: With a Bang, Not a Whimper

Latest flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig:

With a Bang, Not a Whimper

It’s always midnight somewhere.

It took both a witch and a physicist to destroy the world.

Frank stepped quietly into the kitchen.

Mary was bent over rummaging in one of the refrigerator drawers. He took a quick step and pinched her bottom.

She squeaked and jerked upright, whirling around. He stepped in close and wrapped his arms around her and kissed her thoroughly.

“Mmmm, much as I like this, I have to finish dinner.”

“Well, you just do that, because after dinner I have a surprise for you.”

“Oh? What is it?”

“You’ll see,” Frank said mysteriously.”

“Pooh. In that case, go wash up, because dinner in five minutes.”


“All right, now where’s my surprise?” Mary asked after the dishes were done.

“Right here.” With a flourish, Frank presented her with a piece of paper.

Mary unfolded it with look of anticipation that quickly turned blank when she saw the single line of an equation that bisected the page.

“What’s this?”

“That, my dear, is your witching hour,” Frank said triumphantly.

“It is?” She looked back at the paper.

“Yes. Ever since that conversation we had about the witching hour, I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I put my regular research aside and worked on this. I made a few assumptions and ended up with that.”

“You know I’m not a physicist, can you show me what this means?” She shook the paper slightly.

“Sure, nothing simpler.” He opened his laptop and started a math visualization program. He entered the equation and sat back while the computer built a graphic representation of the single line of text.

Mary clutched his hand and watched the computer work.

“Oh, it’s one of those–what do you call them–fractions.”

“Fractals,” Frank said. “Yes it is. It turns out time isn’t linear at all, it’s a fractal.”

“So which part is the witching hour?”

“There is no one part that is the witching hour,” Frank said. “One of the characteristics of a fractal is as you zoom in, any sub part looks like the whole.”

Mary leaned forward and studied the image.

Frank watched fondly as she talked to herself.

“Oh! Of course,” she said. “what’s this?” “I see, that makes sense.”

“Now let me show you something.” She stood up, pulled Frank to his feet and out the door.

He looked around, curious. “What did you want me to see?”

“The Witching Hour,” she said. Without loosing his hand, twisted her mind in almost the way she had been doing for years. Looking at Frank’s fractal had given her new insight.

They stood in the midst of a frozen world. A car down the street stood motionless with a plume of exhaust gas strung behind. A bird was frozen in the middle of a flap. The neighbor’s son was falling from his skateboard, but never reaching the ground.

The sky had changed into a swirling pattern of almost invisible colors that made up the blue it had been a moment ago.

“It worked!” she said. “I brought you with me this time!”

Frank stared, amazed at the changed world. He took a step toward the boy frozen in the midst of falling, but the tug of Mary’s hand kept him in place.

She was staring at the sky.

“What’s wrong?”

“That’s not the same,” she whispered. “The sky never changed before.”

Frank studied the sky. “It looks like the time fractal,” he said.

“We have to go back,” Mary said.

“But this is incredible!” Frank said. “I have to study this. How long have you been able to do this?”

“No,” Mary said. “Something’s wrong. I’m taking us back.” She closed her eyes before Frank could say anything.

Unlike entering the enhanced Witching Hour that Frank’s fractal had opened to her senses, leaving was a different matter. As they re-entered ‘normal’ time, the fractal started to unwind.

Frank and Mary died as their atoms turned into…something, the touch of which converted other normal matter to the same state. The conversion propagated around the globe in a few seconds.

Degenerate matter interacting with our universe radiates energy at a prodigious rate. The wave front shattered the Sun, pushing its mass outward at an appreciable fraction of lightspeed. The nearby stars, indeed, the entire closest third of the galaxy was sterilized.

Eventually, a civilization in the Andromeda galaxy recorded a new Quasar.


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