He sat alone at the end of the bar, hunched over Scotch and cigarette butts. His attire was professional and polished, a sharp contrast to the dullness in his eyes. They were the weary, dying eyes of one who has made one too many mistakes. Irresponsibility and reckless decisions had turned years of his life and thousands of dollars spent on education into the poorest of investments.
“Bartender, another drink for my friend here,” called out a fellow sitting nearby.
That’s funny, thought the dull-eyed man, I could have sworn I was alone here at the end of the bar.
“Do I know you?” he asked the newcomer.
“Most certainly not,” came the reply. “But I know you. Perhaps better than you know yourself. William, do you believe in second chances?”
“How do you know my...” William began.
“I believe in second chances,” the man interrupted. “And you, my friend, are in dire need of a second chance right now.”
Irritated by the presumptive comment, William opened his mouth to speak, but paused.
“Everyone has unfulfilled potential. Even you, William. Especially you. You see, your untapped potential is incredible, but on your current path, that potential will never come to fruition.”
The man reached into his coat and pulled out a baseball sized metal object. Its metal mesh formed a chrome colored sphere with wires visible within it. It emitted a low humming sound and sporadic flashes of blue light.
“This, my friend, is a time travel device, and the key to a better life.” William raised an eyebrow as the man set the device on the bar counter. “You look confused. Let me clarify. This, my friend,” the man continued, “is a knife.” He pulled a knife out from the folds of his coat and stabbed it violently into the polished wooden bar counter.
Startled, William recoiled backward. The man smiled understandingly.
“Knives are an excellent tool for self-defense. But using them solely for self-defense wastes their true potential. You see William, their true potential is for murder.”
Holding the device in front of him, the man leaned forward toward William. “The time travel orb has been pre-calibrated to take you to the times and locations of the five wealthiest individuals who will arise in the next decade. These individuals are far more useful to me dead than alive. You are like the knife, William. Your true potential is for murder. You are a highly talented murderer, William. You just don’t know it yet.”
The man slid a piece of paper in front of William. “On this paper is a list of 10 stocks that will drastically increase in value in the near future. Investing in these stocks will reward you with the riches you will deserve for your excellently performed murders.”
In shock, William gazed at the man, horrified by his words. But the man smiled knowingly and worked the knife free from the wooden counter. He placed the handle in William’s hand. He slid back his bar stool, rose to his feet, and walked out of the bar.
William stared at the knife in his hand, then glanced at the humming metal orb left sitting on the counter. “I’m not a murderer,” William muttered to himself, “and that man was clearly mad.”
But William still held the knife.
“I’m not a murderer,” William assured himself, even as the promise of riches and a meaningful life pulled his hand to the time travel device. When his fingers closed around it, the device began vibrating in his hand, and its humming increased in pitch. After a few moments, the sound changed to a high-pitched whine and the device began shaking fiercely, pulsing with flashes of blue light. As the device shuddered with even greater intensity, the whine increased to deafening levels, and the strobe light flashes melded into a single blue glow. Abruptly, the device gave a resounding “pop,” and immediately the whine, vibrations, and light ceased. It took William a moment to realize he was no longer in the bar.
William stood in an outdoor parking lot, beneath the red glow of a setting sun. A tall, brown eyed woman leveled a gun at his head. “You won’t get away with this,” she said, as her finger tightened on the trigger. William instinctively swung his arm and knocked the gun as it fired, saving his life and sending the bullet into the air. With the same survival instinct, he brought his arm down, plunging the knife into her neck.
William shook in horror at what he had done. He steadied himself against a nearby parked sedan and calmed himself with the reminder that he had only acted out of self-defense.
“She shot a gun at me,” William explained to himself. “I had no choice but to fight back. I didn’t want to kill her.”
“Or did I?” William questioned after a moment’s thought. He could not deny that the act of killing had come remarkably naturally to him, despite his normal aversion to violence. Perhaps killing was his calling, after all. Perhaps it was his purpose in life.
“The act of murder is wrong,” William reminded himself, before adding “but so is the fact that a select few live lives of luxury while people like me suffer. Perhaps I am viewing murder in the wrong light. Perhaps I will improve the world by murdering these corrupt individuals.”
Confident in his purpose, William grasped the small metal sphere, which had fallen to the floor during his altercation. It began whirring and shaking. After the whine and flash of the device reached its maximum frequency, he heard the machine’s telltale “pop” and everything stopped.
He appeared before the large double doors of a stately mansion. After orienting himself, William raised the door’s brass knocker, let it fall, and waited. A smiling man opened the door, but his smile faded as he felt a stabbing pain in his side. He fell to the ground. Two out of five eliminated.
A table of business executives screamed in terror as William appeared behind their CEO, raised his knife, and brought it down. Three out of five.
Finding himself inside a laboratory, William noticed a small group of people working in lab coats. William did not know which one of them was the assassination target, so he killed them all—just to be sure. Four out of five.
William was now inside a luxuriously furnished room. But he did not stop to admire the lavish surroundings because he saw his target staring intently at a computer set upon a finely carved mahogany desk. Spinning around as William approached, the man pleaded “Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!” but William, blinded by adrenaline and the promise of riches, tuned out everything except the task at hand: murder. The man fell out of his chair and frantically scurried backwards on the ground away from William. “You don't know who I am! I—”
The knife made a satisfying “shink,” a sound that echoed in William’s ears as he delivered the killing blow. Five out of five eliminated.
William pulled his head up from the bar counter. That Scotch must have messed with my head, because that dream was bizarre, he thought to himself. Then he noticed the list of stocks lying in front of him on the counter.
When William first invested 100 dollars in one of the stocks on the list, he was skeptical. When the stock quickly tripled in value, however, his doubts were extinguished.
By investing his every penny in the stocks on the list, William quickly amassed a fortune. He lived a luxurious, worry free life—that was all he’d ever wanted. Occasionally, conspiracy theorists questioned William’s surreal luck in investing, but nothing ever came of those accusations. Still, William read every article written about him in newspapers, in magazines, and on the internet, just to be sure that no one ever came near the truth about his fortune.
One day, William opened his computer and searched for articles about himself, performing his usual routine of confirming that no reporters suspected his misdeeds. As William opened the first article to appear, his heart skipped a beat. There, on the Forbes list of “The Five Richest People of the Past Decade,” was the name William Kelman, thanks to his incredible investment “luck.”
William looked down at the carved mahogany desk on which his computer rested. He heard a “pop.”
The knife made a satisfying “shink.”