Art by David Revoy/ Blender Foundation

Shrinking Squares

By Joe Marchia

Time travel was easier than we thought. Or, the fact that it was even possible made it seem easy. We were doing it all the time. It was like beating hearts — it was always happening. It was like the invention of the car. It was big.

But at the same time it was lonely. It was solipsistic, which is why not everyone did it. I’ll explain: Imagine you have the option to change the universe you’re in. You can go back to a point in time, or forward. But it would be a different universe. Your parents would look enough like your parents, but you’d know they were not the same ones. They were similar, but not the same. Would you do it then?

It’s tough to imagine and tough to explain. It was a scientific miracle, but also an existential nightmare. So people mostly left it alone.

The option was open for only tens-of-thousands of dollars. For some, it was not feasible. But once you started to accumulate savings it hung in the back of your mind.

For me, it would have been easy. I’m an idealist. I like to keep things in order: real, parents, real life, reality. I’d done a pretty good job at coming to terms with my past. My parents’ divorce was inevitable. My love life was stable. My career was above average. I’m pretty grateful, in general.

It would have taken something tragic to make me consider time travel. There are no guarantees. It could be worse, even — who knows what’s really out there?

It was last summer that our son drowned. It’s taboo to speak about what could have been. People offer condolences. People cry. People mourn. It’s normal. It’s human. Nobody says DON’T think about it. Nobody tries to deter you from anything.

“What about two people?” my wife asked.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“Can two people go back?”

I told her it was unethical. She said nothing. She was in bed most of the time, in those days. But it latched onto her like a disease. In everything we did it was there. When we were silent watching TV it was there. What if?

What if?

She started researching. I knew she was but said nothing. She’d watch me and hope I’d mention it again. But I stood firm. It was a fleeting thought for people. Something bad happens and they consider time travel. Then, they resign themselves to reality.

That’s when she started to leave the house. She had meetings with experts. She had consultations on the possibility. She went to conferences overnight. She would return and I would say, “I won’t do it.” She continued.

It appeared that she had stopped. The conferences and consultations became less frequent. I thought she had finally adjusted when she approached me, smiling.

“I found someone who will do it.”


“For both of us.”

We have it scheduled. It’s marked on our calendar. The rest of the pages are blank. We won’t need it anymore. We mark off the days. I look at it each morning. I marvel at the shrinking squares.

Joe Marchia is an author of fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in Instigatorzine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Citizens for Decent Literature, and numerous other publications. His website is

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  1. […] Your short stories Playing Guitar and Shrinking Squares really stuck with me far after I’d finished reading them. They both conclude in an […]

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