The Paradox Paradox

By Daniel Hardcastle

A bit Star Trek, a bit Doctor Who, and a bit fucked up.

The Paradox Paradox – Prologue

Austin Lang was about to kill himself. Nothing fancy, just a bullet through the head, imploding the skull and making the opposite wall look like someone had lobbed a bowl of bolognese at it. A quick death. Painless, apparently – not that anybody really had any experience in that regard, but it was too late to pick something else. This was the only way he could save the world.

The door to the bathroom squeaked open. Austin, startled, panicked briefly then quickly pulled his feet up off the floor, cloaking his presence in the stall. Shoes damply tapped across the tiles and stopped, presumably either side of a urinal. Austin cautiously lowered his phone and took a picture from under the stall door. Brown jacket. About five foot eleven going by the markers that Austin had scrawled on the wall earlier. No. Not him.

The man finished his business, washed his hands and walked out. Austin relaxed, sliding down on his toilet, his arse perched on the very edge of the seat. He put the gun down onto his stomach and ran shaking hands through his hair. Three hours of this so far. It wasn’t the suicide that was killing him; it was the waiting. 

The bathroom door burst open, causing Austin to slip. His limbs shot out, planting themselves on the closest walls, like a spider reluctant to go down the plughole. He held on for dear life. Well, a few more minutes of it anyway.

Two voices. Shit. Not right.

‘… so I said, decant this!’ One of the voices punchlined, his words slurring as they flew out of his mouth. ‘And I shat in her 1841 Veuve Clicquot!’

The other man laughed like an old car failing to start and stumbled into the stall next to Austin, wobbling the wall between them. Austin, midway through rolling his eyes at the last conversation he’d ever hear, noticed that the gun on his stomach was slowly slipping to the side, threatening to crash onto the ground.

He stopped breathing.

The door in the next stall locked.

The gun slipped further.

Voice number two settled in for his namesake.

Austin’s attempt to wiggle the gun back towards his navel proved futile.

Suddenly, a commotion outside the bathroom. Voice number one strode in a zigzag over to the bathroom door to investigate.

‘Shit, Phil, some guy’s died. Come take a look!’

Voice number two exploded out of the stall, not wanting to miss the action – or practise basic hygiene, apparently. The bathroom door slowly swung closed. Silence.

Austin dropped to the ground, hitting the small of his back on the lip of the toilet, which sent a shock of pain through his body. He groaned as his gun clattered next to him and his trousers soaked up what he hoped was water. He leaned his head against a piece of obscene graffiti. He hated today.

‘Are you OK in there?’ Another voice reverberated off the wall by the urinals, mid-flow. He must have come in as the others left. Austin splashed onto his side to get a look.

Shit.

There was no mistaking it.

Oh, shit.

It was him all right.

This is it.

The man who destroyed the world.

Austin stood, took a breath to steady himself, opened the door and shot himself in the back of the head.

Five hundred years in the future, Kez was about to cheat on an exam…

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