Fahrenheit 52

Flynn's Arrow

The so-called Butterfly Effect pisses me off. You know the one - where a single flap of a butterfly's wings causes a tsunami on the other side of the world?

It's offensive. Do you know how hard it is to cause a tsunami? That takes weeks of planning. And, even then, it's still a coin-toss. Look, I'll be the first to admit that geology's not my strong suit -- I've always been more of a physics girl -- but this butterfly nonsense has got to go. I'm to to Nudge that theory out of existence in the next Sim I'm working, whether or not it's on my chart.

That's right. I'm a Nudger.

"Give me a lever and I can move the world."

Aristotle, right? No, I remember now. It was Archimedes. Loved that guy. He was in one of my favorite Sims yet. Usually we don't get compound pulleys and the simple machines 'til much later. Still, might I suggest a slight tweak to Archie's maxim?

"Give me a Nudge and I can move the world."

The name's Flynn. Class II Nudger. But everybody calls me "Her Majesty."

Okay, they don't -- except for that one time, and that wasn't my fault. Defenestration -- look it up. It's not pretty, but neither is primogeniture. Anyway, I'm getting distracted and it's almost my cue.


Did I mention yet that Sims can only run in one direction? Forward. It's called the Arrow of Time. Everything everywhere's headed to The Big Crunch. Nothing we can do about it. I've never actually seen the Crunch, thank the stars, but I'm sure you get the idea. It's when all the simulated mass in the simulated universe compresses uncontrollably into a tiny simulated...


The stop sign next to me now has a mouth, and it's yelling at me.

"It's time!"

I look at the Sim-space timestamps streaming on my wrist-watch.

"Be quiet, Nack! I'm a professional, remember? Now, where is she...?"


"You were distracted! I knew it!" said the stop sign, which reverted to its normal non-speaking self with an electric crack. Then I see an bus advertisement for expense-tracking software glaring at me.

"We're going to lose this charge, Flynn," declared the ad. "And your numbers are terrible this quarter."

"Why do you always have to be so negative, Nack?"

I keep scanning the crowd of school children at the intersection for my target.

Then I see a girl with a green dinosaur backpack about to fall backwards into oncoming traffic, mostly because the triceratops on her pack is shouting at me.

"Flynn - it's her!" yells the dinosaur.

Good ol', reliable Ack. Nack's partner.

I dive forward through the crowd and snag the girl's arm, pulling her back onto the sidewalk, right as a huge truck whooshes by us. Sometimes we Nudge, sometimes we snag. But Nudger just sounds cooler, doesn't it?

The girl's giving me one of those terrified, who-the-hell-are-you looks. How about a thank-you-for-saving-my-life, Maria? The squirt's name is Maria Gutiérrez. In 23 years, our charts predict that she's got a 0.004% chance of inventing a portable fusion reactor that could change Simulation 1A2AD1D6 forever. Or was it something with anti-grav? I'll have to check in on this Sim in a few days to find out. You see, time runs faster in Sim-space than in Clock-space, which is where I'm from. We can even over-clock a Sim to speed things up. But that's expensive, and A.L.U.'s been touchy about that lately. Anyway, now that I've saved Maria's life, my watch says she's got a solid 73.2% percent chance of making this fusion-anti-grav-whatever-thingie happen. Good for you, Maria.

"I said.. what's your name?"

It's Maria's teacher. Context clues. She's not looking too happy with me, either. I mean, it must look weird, I'm a thirteen year old girl (though I have good reason to believe I'm much older than that in Clock-space), and I'm clutching this six-year-old squish with a death grip.

"I'm Fly... t... Flint! I'm Flint."

You're not supposed to give your real name in Sim. It's one of the Orthogonal Rules. But Flint... what was I thinking? I can see Nack now, scolding me about it. No, I can literally see him. He's taken over this teacher's band t-shirt and the drummer is making faces at me.

"Why aren't you with your own class, Flint? You're a seventh-grader, right? I think I recognize you."

I let go of Maria's wrist and she scurries off. I start backpedaling, but Mrs. Angry Drummer t-shirt grabs my shoulder, gently but also kinda ouch.

Her shirt whispers at me. "What are you waiting for, Flynn? Get us out of here. Grab the arrowhead."

Nack fizzles out of the shirt, down to the ground, and over to my sneakers, where the little pest zaps me. They can do that. Ack and Nack. My guardian robots. Someone decided to give them zapping-powers in Sim-space. Kinda unfair.

I look around for Ack. He's hanging out in the logo of baseball cap, watching a kid play a game on his phone. Ack loves video games. Worlds within worlds, and all that metaphysical weirdness.

Nack zaps me again. Fine. I could use a good cold-sleep after this assignment. I reach into my pocket for my totem. It's my way out of Sim-space. Every Nudger has one, a unique item that returns them to Arrow Prime aka Clock-space when you grab it. Mine just happens to be an arrowhead, a little on the nose, but at this point it's too dulled down to even hurt a marshmallow.

Except it's not in my right pocket. Or my left.

Ack stops staring at the game and zaps over to my other sneaker.

"I don't know. I don't know... I must have dropped it," I mutter.

The teacher gives me a reassuring look and rubs my shoulder. "That's fine, honey. We'll bring you back to school and we can find your class."

I'm just nodding blankly at this point, as Ack and Nack zip and zap through every inanimate object in a growing search radius, look for my arrowhead.

Then I see it. Ack is flashing an orange circular pattern on the ground around it and I push through the little twerps to get there.

But someone gets to it first.

A boy reaches down towards it and turns to me, eyes hidden behind his floppy black hair.

"Consider yourself Nudged, Flynn."

His hand closes around my arrowhead and he vanishes.

Ack and Nack fizzle back to my sneakers, pulsing gently. They're terrified. So am I.

Who was that? Another Nudger? We're not supposed to collide. Orthogonal Rule #4!


Does this mean... we're stuck here? Stuck in Sim-space?

"There you are, Flint. Come on. The school bus's leaving."

The teacher grabs my limp hand and nudges me towards the bus and whatever terror awaits me in 7th grade.