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Spoiled Milk

Jessica rolled over in bed and stretched her right hand out to where she would have hoped to find her husband. No one was there. Just a cold spot where he used to lay. They had only been married for two years now, but it seemed like lately the flame was just gone. She was almost not surprised to find that he had never even come to bed the night before. “He married me,” she thought, “but he has always been more interested in his job.”

Steven was an engineer for some fancy research group. Pretty much right after they were married, they moved out to Silicon Valley to this new job. Jessica fiddled with her wedding ring on her hand. She had gotten so accustomed to feeling like she lived alone. It was only a few months ago that she complained about how Steven was never home. They even went to a marriage counselor for a few weeks and eventually lead them to adopting a kitten and him beginning to bring work home and setting up shop in the garage. At first it was nice, but now Jessica just has a sense of disdain for his work-space out there and feels like she is constantly competing for his attention.

Just like every other day, Jessica had fallen into a predictable pattern. Every day just felt like the same day on a broken record and now with Steven so distant she was beginning to think this was as good as life would get. The thought depressed her. As she finished preparing for her day, she noticed her nails looked terrible. She began cutting her nails over the kitchen trash can. She could see the garage door cracked slightly and could hear Steven hard at work. She grabbed her coffee, added cream and sugar and just before heading out the door she called out to her husband, “Goodbye dear!”. She paused for a response and heard nothing, so she shook her head in frustration and just went out the door.

It was mid January and she was bundled up expecting cold weather, but it was unusually warm and although it had recently snowed, it seemed that the sun was shining and spring had come early. As she stepped out into the sun she covered her face to shield from its unusual brightness…

Jessica rolled over in bed. Now the days had gotten so repetitive she couldn’t even remember last night. Was it just the same as every other? Steven’s place in bed looked untouched. She was slightly concerned about him not getting enough sleep. She arose from bed timidly asked, “Steven, you okay?”. No response. She walked out toward the garage and saw the door wide open now.

Jessica rolled her eyes, now steaming with anger. She contemplated just packing up her things and heading to her mothers. How long before he would even notice. As she brewed the coffee, she looked down to see the cat’s food bowl filled with food. “At least he takes care of the cat.” she thought to herself. They had gotten that cat in hopes of it being that thing that brought them closer together. At first it seemed to, but then it just became a reminder of how they were not ready for children. “Children” she thought, “at least we don’t have children.” She fiddled with her wedding ring. Then looked oddly at her fingernails for a moment. As the aroma of coffee made its way to her nose, she was brought back to this moment and began to make her morning cup to go. Coffee, two scoops of sugar and cream. She put on her coat to go out the door and sipped her coffee. It tasted off. She sipped again. It was bad. She put down her coffee cup and considered if she should warn Steven. “No”, the thought to herself. “Let him drink bad coffee. It’s what he deserves.”

She didn’t even say goodbye this morning. She grabbed her scarf and went out the door. It was still unusually hot. Much too hot. She took off her coat as she started to get into her car. She noticed the garage door was cracked. The sun was barely up and she could see a light coming from inside the garage. She realized that the cat could get out and she headed back towards the house to let Steven know.

“How could it be”, she thought, laying in bed. As she shifted over in her bed to see she had once again slept alone, she noticed her body was sore all over. She ached like she did when she last attempted to run a marathon. Was she sick? Why does she have these gaps in her memory? Jessica’s mind was racing. She called out for Steven. “Steven! I don’t feel well!”

She couldn’t hear anything. She crawled out of bed and as she entered the bathroom she noticed that she did not look well at all. She had bags under her eyes and although her vision wasn’t great so early in the morning, she leaned over closer, almost not recognizing the face in the mirror. She went into the kitchen and put on her glasses. She felt a pain in her stomach. She was either unusually hungry or it was just a stomach flu working through her body. She rationalized the aches and pains and hollered out “Steven, I am sick babe!”

Not a peep from the garage. She made her way to the refrigerator and grabbed the milk. As she fixed a bowl of cereal to attempt so satiate her hunger, she quickly pored the milk onto her Cheerios only to be shocked when curds fell from the container. The milk had spoiled. She smelled the container out of instinct and then quickly filled with instant regret cupped her hand over her mouth and nose.

It was Steven’s responsibility to do the shopping. “How could he let this go so bad!”, she thought to herself. She got up from her chair and took the milk to the trash can. When she dropped the milk into the trash can it wafted a foul-smelling stench into the air. She gagged and coughed in reaction. She screamed in disgust and anger, “Steven, what is so important? This house is falling apart!” She burst open the door and marched into the garage. “No!, get out!” screamed Steven as he laid cowered over his project that was a computer the size of a small refrigerator with exposed circuits and transformers. The terror in his eyes made her freeze in her tracks. Something about him looked different, but the light from the device he stood above grew so bright that she couldn’t see him any more. As she covered her eyes, suddenly she felt herself sitting at a table.

Her arms were shaking. She could not begin to comprehend what was happening. She felt a sickness in her gut and a chill in her spine that would not cease. As she uncovered her eyes she saw herself in a different position. Sitting at the table. In front of her sat a bowl of was once cereal and curdled milk, but now was a festering foam of bacteria and hairy sludge that almost instantly induced a desire to vomit. She jumped back from the table, knocking the chair down behind her. She turned to see on the floor, the cat food bowl, now swarming with flies. She shrieked, “Steven!”

She heard a scream from the garage, “Run away!”. She instinctively ran to the garage, still not processing the words that echoed from her husband. As she entered the garage her husband raised his hand and said it violently this time. “Stop, turn around and run, get in the car and travel as far away as you can!”. She looked at him puzzled as he continued to fiddle with the computer pulling boards from it as if he didn’t even know what he was doing any more.

“What is happening?” she inquired in a panicked voice. He stopped what he was doing and looked up at her. In that moment she noticed he was different. His face was covered in stubble and his hair was beginning to gray. His skin seamed to hang loosely from his face and he looked gaunt and aged. He looked her straight in the eye, his mouth quivering and his voice shaking in fear.

“Jess, we don’t have much time. I love you. You have to leave now. I… I can’t go with you.” He looked down and to the corner of his work-space. There on the floor lied the frail dead body of their once cute young kitten, now much larger and slightly decomposing. “Once you get close, I don’t think you can escape the singularity.”

The computer began to glow again from its core. “Jess, run! now!” Jessica took another step closer and their eyes met again for an instance, she could see a tear rolling down his cheek. “No Jess!” The light grew bright again and flashed. Suddenly she was closer to the doorway of the garage. “I’m sorry Jess. This is the way it has to be. Somehow the quantum processor has created a time paradox. And the closer you are to it…” Jessica began to walk closer. “Jess, stop!” She took another step closer. “Once you get to close, you can never escape!”

Jessica looked down at the ground toward her decomposing cat. Then at her hands, which now looked aged and wrinkled. She looked up at him and a tear fell from her eye as she took another step closer. “Jess, you don’t know what your doing!” She began to cry and then stepped closer. She was just within reach and both now crying and shaking in fear. She reaches out her hand to him as the machine sitting between them began to glow again. “Jess, you don’t understand” said Steven in a soft voice as he reached out for her hand. Their eyes met and she began to smile. “I do.” she spoke softly and then again with a breath of confidence. “I do.”

The machine lit up again filling the room with light. They now stood their together, hand in hand. Steven looked down at her hand to see her frail and aging hands in his. Both now looked sickly and appeared at least 10 years older then they had previously.

“You could have gotten away.” Steven said in tears. “But I didn’t” she said almost surprised by the thought as she said it. “What do we do now?” Steven shrugged his shoulders. “I have tried shutting it down. Somehow it created a paradox in the core of the quantum computer, and I have attempted repairing or diagnosing the problem from every angle, but as much as I can get done in less then a minute, it all gets somewhat undone at the reset. I have been working on this for almost a full day, but I’m afraid that much, much more time has passed outside of the event horizon, which we are now both stuck in.” The computer began to glow again. Jessica gave a puzzled look and asked, “Have you tried just unplugging it?” “It has a battery backup built in. Yes, I have tried that so many times… I’m sorry Jess, I don’t think we will survive this much longer.” The light encompassed the room once more.

Steven fell against the table. His body weak and frail from the experience. Jessica held him and wrapped her arms around him. He began to cry. “I am sorry.” “You know what Steven…”, Jessica said as she held his face and made him look her in the eye. “… This morning I thought I had already lost you. And my biggest fear was that we wouldn’t grow old together… Just look at us now.” They both laughed slightly and then held each-other closely. And whispered words of love as the light from the device began to glow again. As they laid one last gentle kiss and muttered words of love, the room was engulfed in light one last time.