The Man Who Saw Through Time – Leonard Raphael

time

The Man Who Saw Through Time

Leonard Raphael

Fantastic Adventures, Sept 1941

Gary Fraxer went into the future and saw something that must not happen!

“IT will be soon,” Walter Yale told himself for the fiftieth time.  “It must be soon now.

He was very tired. His eyelids were as swollen as Hitler’s chest, and his head felt like London after an all-night bombing. But he gritted his teeth and kept staring out of the window, looking at the place where Gary Fraxer should soon appear.

For months the two had been working out on the desert, sleeping all day when the sun shone brightest and working hard all through the cool nights. They used an old shack for their laboratory.

The little wooden building was the only structure in sight on the broad expanse of desert. That was one of the reasons they had chosen this spot. They had wanted a place where no one would disturb them. So they had come out here and pretended to be doing astronomical observation. Actually, they were perfecting a time machine.

It had been Fraxer’s idea originally.

“You see,” he had said, “all we need is a machine which can travel in the fourth dimension; a machine that will take a person through time. According to Einstein, time travels in a curved line. This machine would not only move ahead, but would take a shortcut from one point in the line, the present, to another, the future.”

They had slaved over the machine until they were exhausted, but neither of them had any intention of giving up.

And then, one night when they were both bleary-eyed from loss of sleep and overwork, the machine had been completed.

IT was a complicated mass of machinery which would have bewildered anyone but its creators. To them, however, each lever, each nut and bolt was familiar. They looked at it for a little while, hardly believing it was done at last.

Walter Yale put into words the thought that was in both their minds.

“Who tries it?” he questioned hoarsely.

Gary Fraxer passed a nervous hand over the heavy stubble on his chin.

“I guess it’s all mine,” he said.

“Guess again. You’re thinking that this experiment with time is too dangerous, and you don’t want me to risk my life. No, you’ve done enough already. This time I’m going to take the chance.”

“I should be the one,” protested Fraxer.

“After all, you wouldn’t be much use to Carol Lewis if you were stranded somewhere in the future.”

“Quit kidding. We both love Carol, and she cares for you as much as for me. She’d be just as sorry if you were lost. We can’t tell who she’ll finally choose for a husband, so that’s no reason for your going.”

“Well,” said Fraxer, “you can’t blame a guy for trying. What about flipping a coin?”

“You’re too lucky at that. I’ve got a better idea!

He pointed to a cockroach crawling along a crack in the table.

“If the cockroach crawls toward you, you go. If it comes to me, I go.”

“Fair enough.”

The two men bent over the table, watching the insect intently. The insect paused; then, attracted by a stray crumb of bread, crawled slowly toward Fraxer.

Fraxer smiled.

“Looks like my luck holds out even in this.”

The two men wheeled the machine outside, and Fraxer climbed up into the seat. He put his hand on the lever.

“Well, here I go.”

He pulled back sharply. There was a sudden buzzing and whirling of wheels, and then the machine was gone.

NOW Yale was sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting. Fraxer had been gone over twelve hours. Despite his resolve to keep awake, Yale started to nod sleepily.

He was half asleep when the door suddenly banged open. Yale started, instantly wide awake, as Gary Fraxer came walking in.

“What happened?” burst out Yale.

“What did you find? Is the machine all right?”

“I found plenty. As for the machine, that’s resting about a thousand years in the future. I fixed that as soon as I got back.” There was a strained, half-hysterical note in Fraxer’s voice.

Yale jumped up from the little cot. “What’s wrong?”

“Keep back.”

A gun sprang from Fraxer’s holster like a live thing. Yale looked at his partner in amazement.

“Have you gone completely out of your mind?”

At that moment Fraxer did look like a madman. His face was twisted into a mask of hate, the eyes shining like cold bits of glass, the mouth a mere slash of red.

“No, I’m not insane. But I’d be crazy to pass up an opportunity like this. You’re the only man in the world who stands between Carol Lewis and myself.”

“What’s she got to do with this?”

“Quite a bit in an indirect way. Except for the fact that you’re still alive, she’d marry me. So you’re not going to go on living. I’ll fix that.”

Walter Yale stared unbelievingly at the man with the leveled gun. It took him a little while to realize that Gary Fraxer, the man he had trusted above all others, was going to kill him. This wasn’t really happening, he tried to tell himself, it was a dream, a nightmare. But you couldn’t fit that steady gun or that white, set face into a dream.

“It’s that damned time machine,” said Yale.

“Traveling in it must have affected your mind.”

At the mention of the time machine, the gun in Fraxer’s hand wavered ever so slightly. Walter Yale’s hand moved a little closer to the drawer of the table.

“Hold it,” said Fraxer, and his voice was cold, hard. He reached over, opened the drawer, and laid the revolver in it on the top of the table.

“You’ll be put on trial for murder,” said Yale, staring at it, “and probably be convicted. Even if they don’t find you guilty, Carol would never marry a man suspected of killing me.”

“No one will suspect anything,” said Fraxer confidently. “Two graduate students who are very close friends go out into the desert to do some research work in astronomy. One of them you, Walter —happens to wander off and is lost forever. Too bad, but other men have died in the desert. There will be no trial. People will sympathize with me because I have lost a friend, not condemn me for killing him.”

YALE racked his brains for a plan of escape. He could think of nothing. There was the revolver Fraxer had inexplicably placed on the table, but he wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance to get it before the other fired. And one shot was all Fraxer ever needed to hit his mark.

“So it’s going to be murder in cold blood, is it?

“Not quite that. You’ll have three counts during which you can try to get to that gun on the table. When you reach, I fire.”

“That’s not much more than murder.”

“I won’t argue the point,” said Fraxer impatiently. “We’ve done enough talking.”

Yale whitened, but kept silent.

“One,” said Fraxer.

Yale stood motionless, wanting to postpone the shooting as long as possible.

“They’ll never believe you, Gary,” he argued. “They’ll suspect something is wrong. There’s always a chance that my body will be found with a bullet hole in it, and you couldn’t explain that to the police.”

Fraxer’s set expression didn’t change. His gun was perfectly steady, aimed directly at Yale’s heart, and his face was pale behind the gritty film of desert sand.

“Two,” said Fraxer hoarsely.

“It won’t work,” said Yale, still fighting for time. Fraxer showed no sign of having heard.

“Thr—” he began, and at that in stint Yale made a desperate grab for the gun on the table.

A gun roared an angry message of death as a shot, a single shot, crashed out. A dark, red fluid welled from a black hole that had suddenly appeared in Fraxer’s shirt front. He reached out in a blind effort to find something for support, failed, and then crumpled heavily to the floor.

YALE stood there for a second, staring at his own smoking gun. A slight pressure on the trigger of the other’s revolver would have been enough to blast him down—but it had not come. By all the laws of chance it should have happened. But it hadn’t.

There was a low moan from the fallen man, and in an instant Yale was kneeling beside him. Fraxer’s lips moved feverishly.

“Clipping in pocket,” he managed to gasp, “explains why.”

Blood bubbled up from between his clenched teeth, a convulsive shudder shook his body, and then he was quite still.

Yale got the clipping from the dead man’s pocket and unfolded it carefully. It was dated May 15, 1951!

“FRAXER TO DIE IN CHAIR FOR MURDER OF WALTER YALE,” read the column headline. A description of the trial followed.

Walter Yale saw a few lines written in a familiar scrawl at the bottom of the clipping. He read them eagerly.

“It seems certain from this clipping that sometime in the future I shall kill Walter Yale. Yale is too fine a man to die. It is infinitely better that I be killed first to prevent this from happening. I will send the time machine where he can’t use it to undo my suicide. This seems the only way. This clipping and this confession will clear him. He shot in self defense. He didn’t know I never intended to fire.

There the writing stopped. Yale bent to examine the weapon that should have been fired first. The safety-catch of Fraxer’s gun had not even been released. Fraxer really had never intended to shoot, but had deliberately let himself be killed.

A hoarse sob tore itself from Walter Yale’s throat. He looked at the still face of his dead partner, at the lips curved slightly in what seemed almost a smile. Suddenly Yale felt very tired.

And he got up slowly and walked out.

THE END

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