Samantha Pious: Flash Fictions


The best way to recruit a time traveler is in the zygote. Those recruited later in life will require prosthetics to reach the slipstream.

Last night, my father came to tell me he was leaving. To find new earths, he said, to chart new galaxies. When I touched his cold hand, I saw his rocket ship explode and my mother’s garden fail.

I tell you, I was there. But it didn’t happen. For having allowed his chronobots to spread without permission, my father was sanctioned and placed on earthside leave.

I found myself strapped to a hospital bed. Somehow, I knew—the bots had reached my brain—the doctors were scanning my temporal lobes for time unbinding, my hippocampus for any residual paradoxes. Even trace levels could mean perpetual quarantine.

Just breathe. Closing my eyes, I let my mind go blank. Breathe in, breathe out. It was almost like floating on a lake. Breathe in, breathe out. My body and the bots knew what to do.

Am I a human who dreams of time travel? Or a time traveler dreaming she is still human?


Once there was a woman, a blacksmith of words, who dreamed that she was captured and taken deep into the bowels of the earth to the temple of Tolari, the Guillotine-Spider, Devourer of Women and Conqueror of Worlds. There, she was told that worthless as she was, she had been chosen to become an acolyte of the goddess, the one who would bring her religion to the waking world. From the altar—a metal statue, shaped like a woman and larger than life—emerged a web of delicate steel blades. When the blacksmith protested, the bottoms of her feet were sliced off, and she was tortured for a long time, until she was ready to do anything she was told.

However, being only a blacksmith of words, she was powerless to rebuild the temple by herself. Therefore she enlisted an army of metalworkers, men who were only too happy to share in her holy work. Deep in the bowels of the earth, they constructed a labyrinth of steel and lined its passages with the most intricate of deathtraps. At its center, they raised a statue of the goddess, its metal lips smiling at their cruelty.

When the edifice was complete, the metalworkers put off their leather aprons and arrayed themselves in priestly robes of surpassing splendor. The blacksmith of words smiled, relieved that her task was done. Then the priests fed her to the altar. As she screamed, she realized too late that the statue’s metal face was shaped exactly like her own.

Last night a succubus

rearranged my bookshelves. The poetry collections I’d gathered so carefully over the years—all gone. In their place, that demon had left a set of glossy coffee table books. I vowed revenge. From the clumsily woven friendship bracelets she had substituted for my jewelry box, I tracked her to the campus of a well-known women’s college and waited with my gun under a row of cherry trees. (It was February.) As she emerged from the auditorium, I cocked the hammer and took aim. In her blazing eyes there was the shock of recognition. Reality split into strands, like a braid or a friendship bracelet unraveling. In one, she just stood there and smiled like a doe in the headlights, and it dawned on me that this was only a student. The succubus herself was long gone. In another, her smirk exposed a set of pointed fangs. A pair of scaly wings unfurled behind her shoulders, and her eyes took on a lavender glow as she slowly drew a silver hunting rifle from her music case. It was a stand-off. Clutching our weapons, we circled each other as though a couple of space cowboys at high noon or a pair of rival magicians commencing a duel. At the same moment, we both fired. The silver bullets met each other mid-flight.


A lifetime of moments all at once. I was studying for exams, I was playing with the cat, I was in the arms of someone whose face I could not see. The cat stopped chasing her catnip mouse and turned wide eyes from the food bowl to the litter box to the futon to me.

From behind an invisible curtain, a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a quantum physicist stepped into my room, talking of the end of the world. Soon now. Could they borrow my copy of James Tiptree Jr.? The book had already dematerialized.

I pulled back the curtain and followed them through a corridor of golden light and into a silver spacecraft. The therapist placed a small metal token in the palm of my hand. What did I make of this? A sword, a crescent moon, a sailing ship, a stringed instrument.

As I played, the four of us began to fade from this world to the next. No longer matter occupying space, we found that we could flit from moment to moment, from galaxy to galaxy, in the blink of an eye. The light is spreading. Soon now. Very soon.

Image: detail from Blackwork Print, Etienne Carteron, 1615; Metropolitan Museum Open Access, Public Domain

Scroll to Top