I dropped the crumpled silver sphere onto the reporter’s immaculate desk. He touched it with the tip of his pen, poking at it as if it was some kind of exotic insect replete with a multitude of furry legs, compound eyes, and venom-dipped fangs.
“What is it you said happened?” The man grabbed a pile of torn paper that appeared to have been doodled on and pushed it into the Eliminator, watching with a contented smile as the scrap vanished. In the eight years since the invention of the Eliminator, a device that made just about anything go who knows where, people had gotten fastidious, even compulsive, about disposing of items they considered clutter. I found myself doing it as well, actually looking for things to purge from my crowded life.
“This appeared out of nowhere while I was driving to work yesterday,” I said.
“What is it?”
“A test capsule.” I turned the object over to display a date code. “I looked it up. They used them when they were testing the Eliminator, before they knew it was safe to use it to clean up the planet.”
He prodded the thing again, and seemed vaguely annoyed that it didn’t jump up and bite him. “So?”
“Then this, this morning.” I dropped a second object onto the desk. It tinkled like glass against the clear plastic. The man’s eyebrows shot up like two startled caterpillars.
“A test beacon,” I said.
“So this stuff…” He waved his pen over the items like a magic wand. “They’re what? Junk? A prank? What?”
I sighed. I thought this might happen, since I didn’t really put it all together myself until the third piece appeared. It popped out of nowhere as I rode the elevator up to the news room, hitting the carpeted floor with a dull squelching sound. I dropped that on the table as well.
He leapt up, shrieking like my six year old daughter having a tantrum. The dead rat lay between us, crumpled like an old candy bar, its tiny face set in an accusatory glare. A little fluorescent yellow vest hung off one furry shoulder. Imprinted on the vest was a date code similar to the one on the test capsule lying beside it.
“You’re crazy!” He grabbed a notepad by the edge and quickly scraped all three items from his desk into the Eliminator, following them with the notepad itself. All four items disappeared silently and efficiently. “Get out!”
“What did you do?” I lunged for my evidence, but it was gone.
“Get out,” he said a bit more firmly.
“You don’t understand,” I said. “It’s coming back, it’s all coming back.”
“You’re nuts,” the reporter said as he pressed a small red button on the edge of his desk, presumably to have me forcibly removed.
“The Eliminator doesn’t destroy garbage; it merely moves it into the future!” The people who developed the Eliminator technology thought they had invented a disintegrator, a device that would free the world from the crushing mass of its own waste, but what they had really invented was a time machine.
And time had run out.
“You have to tell the people,” I cried. “You have to warn them that everything they’ve thrown away in the last eight years is going to come back.”
And not slowly. The dates on the canister and the rat were months apart, but both objects returned within hours of each other. What would happen when a month’s worth of debris came back all at once? How much was that, a ton? What if a thousand tons returned, a rain of trash popping into existence randomly.
To punctuate my plea, a hail of shiny titanium screws peppered the reporter’s desk, appearing from nowhere. Then, a thick splash of soggy brown ooze that smelled like week old coffee grounds. I looked out the window. A moldy orange slapped the glass, sliding slug-like out of sight.
“What have we done?” I whispered as other less appealing things began to appear.
© David D’Amico
David has been writing as a hobby for many years. His favorite genre is whatever flavor of speculative fiction happens to burn through his brain at any given moment. His work has appeared in Writers of the Future and Daily Science Fiction. He is a member of the SFWA.