One Shot

By Griffyn Goodall

sfgenreIt truly is a cruel thing, hindsight — leaving your mind seething with the bitter taste of regret, and the simple, desperate wish of wanting to go back and have a second chance. But I have learnt that as desperate as one may be, the ability to redo one’s actions is not necessarily a blessing. Some things just can’t be fixed.

It started with one mission entrusted to me.

I not only served my country, but the whole world with my prowess at handling a sniper rifle. My task: the assassination of the most infamous, tyrannous world leader in history. He rose to power nearly a decade beforehand, and the threat of him becoming too influential prompted my entrance into the army. God knows how he even attained his power, with his radicalised and downright absurd policies. His dictatorship would inevitably lead to WWIII and the extinction of humans (our obsession to ceaselessly construct more lethal weapons is one of humanity’s greatest downfalls). In order to end the tyranny, I had to blow his head off — easier said than done from a little over two kilometres away. Not only that, but he was so heavily guarded my openings lasted mere seconds at a time.

I should have realised how ridiculously impossible the shot was. Maybe I did and just wouldn’t concede defeat, though I’d like to think my stubbornness and determination stemmed from more than just conceit in my abilities. Every single person on earth was relying on me, so I felt an astronomical responsibility to meet their expectations. But of course, due to fate’s incessant desire to mock its victims, I didn’t pull through. The shot missed. Horrendous. My heart sank like a rock, and I was enveloped in an ineffable guilt. That’s why I used it; I had no other choice. I had to make it right.

My grandfather gave me a pendant when I was 16, and told me to only ever use it in the utmost dire situation in order to rectify the mistake I had made. He also told me to only ever use it once, so I should be particularly discerning in its use. It was essentially a second chance embedded in a piece of jewellery; a time-travelling device.

There was no hesitation in my mind to use it the first time, but the shot was far too insurmountable for me to be successful on the second attempt. So I broke the promise I made to my grandfather and dismissed his warning. It was for the sake of the world.

Third attempt, miss. Tenth attempt, miss. Hundredth attempt, miss. I had started a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle. By about the 150th shot, however, I noticed my aim was not the only thing that was off. Every time I used the pendant, the scenery changed slightly. It started with miniscule variations, but quickly grew to substantial and undeniable differences. The tree I used for cover moved, the guarded vehicle my target arrived in changed... even the guards themselves came and went with each passing attempt.

And then, reality struck. Physicists had always claimed time travel into the past was impossible, and the pendant was not breaking these rules. That’s because I wasn’t travelling in time. I was travelling in space. I realised the pendant allowed for the user to be transported to a parallel universe. I wasn’t being gifted innumerable second chances, but rather reliving the same event in different worlds.

However, I was not deterred by discovering the true nature of my grandfather’s pendant. I kept shooting, desperate to eliminate the man who would destroy the world should he be left alive another moment. But the only progress I made was to enlarge my pile of failures.

Eventually, the cycle stopped. I stood confused. I was in the correct position, but there was no target. The antagonist did not step out of his car to greet the world with his portly build; there wasn’t even a car for him to step out of. The world I had arrived at simply never had him rise to power, thus his figure no longer portended the calamity I had tried to prevent.

After spending what felt like hours trying to comprehend the situation, I decided to head home. What else was there to do? I felt as if I had no purpose, so I would go home and greet my family. It would feel like a long-awaited reunion for me, but just another day for them.

But when I tried to enter, the key wouldn’t fit the front door. I rang the doorbell to see the face of a stranger greet me, and once again confusion befell me. Why wasn’t my family here? Who was this man in my house? What was going on? The answer came in one swift motion... they didn’t exist in this world.

The realisation resounded deep within me, sent cold chills of pure terror to ravage my body. The thought of never being able to hold my wife and twin daughters again was far more devastating to my sanity than the pressure and guilt I had endured so far.

My family didn’t exist because I had never met my wife. After all, I met her in the army that I had been prompted to join after the rise of the world’s most infamous leader. Through the wave of emotions that came crashing down on me, only one coherent thought revealed itself. I had broken my grandfather’s promise. At the time, it seemed like a negligible action that would have no significant effect. Only in hindsight is the crushing truth revealed. We only have one shot.

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About The Author

Griffyn Goodall

Griffyn Goodall is a youngster...

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