A Step Ahead (from a WIP)

William Benson, a United States Sailor, learns he can travel short distances into the future.

“Ice Valley,” William said. “From Metroid Prime.”

He crossed his legs. He and Mario — CTT1 Mario, a newly minted Petty Officer First Class — were listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos on William’s iHome speakers.

“Everyone draws inspiration from the classics,” Mario said. “There’s nothing new under the sun. All music can be sourced to like four fucking songs.”

“We don’t know about ancient music.”

“Yeah we do. Go on YouTube.”

“Those are reconstructions.” William ought to know. In grad school, his thesis advisor had produced a reworking of Babylonian music. Here’s what I think it sounds like . . . and a man with a PhD in music, one of the lucky few to have tenure, had spent five years working on it, years William could compact into minutes.

“Well obviously they can’t hop in the DeLorean and — what?”

“Your age is showing.”

“My age? How old are you again, thirty?”

“Twenty-nine.” And William had joined the Navy at twenty-seven, after dropping out of the Master’s program in Music. Years spent toiling under old men who constantly told him “it gets better” with the sincerity of a late-night pitchman. Except it never did. Those years William hadn’t been able to speed up, and even if he could have, what would he have sped them up to? This? Waiting on a floating dumpster for the poor lower ranks to finish off-loading trash while the squadron assholes just sat around?

“Rough Riders this is the CMC,” came the voice over the 1MC. “We still have a lot of trash. If you’re just sitting there in the hangar bay, waiting for liberty call, we’d appreciate it if you’d help out. No one’s getting off this ship, repeat, no one’s getting off this ship until we get all the trash off, so I need everyone’s help. CMC out.”

William got up.

“Oh? Going to help out?”

He shrugged. “You know me. Super Sailor.”

William climbed the ladderwell to the next deck. The head was separate from the berthing, beside a hatch leading to the forward mess decks, and it had a lock. The combo used to be secret. None of the deck apes the Navy had rescued from the welfare line could go in and trash their head. Then one day the CMC decided that all head combos must be 1-2-3-4 because he didn’t believe in locked heads. Since then . . .

William put in the not-so-secret combo and went inside, bracing himself for the worst. William had come in here before to find all three stalls taken. He’d come in here and smelled smells not meant for human nostrils, smells to wilt your nose hairs, all because the CMC did not believe in locked heads.

It was one of the few policies he could create himself — usually he just enforced whatever the CO and the omnipresent Big Navy said — so the CMC was sticking to his guns. William understood. He didn’t hold it against the man.

William went into the last stall. He locked it, keeping an eye on the iron angle. One morning he’d banged his head on the edge, and the pain had lasted all day. When designing this ship, human comfort had come second to how much shit they could squeeze into one space, and God help you if you were tall.

William sat on the toilet, pants on. He clasped his hands, lowered his head and closed his eyes.

What a trick to learn, what a gift to have. If he’d known this earlier, how much tedium he could have saved in boot camp. He’d discovered his gift in A-school, and when the asshole in charge of barracks room inspections failed half the students over petty bullshit, it took no time at all for William to finish his extra cleaning duties. Clean for five minutes, then go sit somewhere alone.


William concentrated. He felt slightly buzzed when he did this. He didn’t open his eyes — that would ruin everything. He was moving through a tunnel, and he heard nothing. The world quietly awaited his return.

William stopped moving. He opened his eyes and checked his watch. He’d sent himself ahead two hours. Was that enough? He went down to the berthing.

Everyone was gone but Mario.

“Figured you’d be out too.”

“They called E5’s?”

“Yeah, but I got duty tomorrow, so . . . ” He raised his middle finger up and down.

William nodded. “It’s alright. My speakers can keep you company.”

3 Replies to “A Step Ahead (from a WIP)”

  1. Nice references. I’m not up on military terms, however. Is it an excerpt from a longer piece? I’m intrigued!

    Wish I had that power…

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