Out of Time
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William E. Boeing found himself on a couch in his study, where moments before he had been a happy child near a seashore. He got up infirmly and slowly started making his way from the first floor where his study was, to the ground floor of the main mansion of the estate he was currently at. Halfway down the broad red-carpeted stairway he ran into a servant, like he knew he would. He spoke up, knowing exactly what his words were going to sound like.
"Twenty eight acres of maple and oak ? I think we can do business," he said.
"I can see it's a thoroughbred, but that's a king's ransom you're asking," he said.
"In this connection the first logical opening will be the development of a commercial flying boat.," he said.
He also screamed at the top of his lungs while clawing at a jammed door, as he was about to be burned alive while stuck in the wreck of a car.

But just like every other sentient being William E. Boeing actually only ever said one — same — thing. That same thing just sounded different each time it was spoken out loud, in accordance with the where-and-when it was being uttered. This is what it sounded like when William E. Boeing said the thing to the servant: "What year is it?"

The servant gathered a worried look about him. "It's the same year as when you asked me this morning, sir," the servant said, and repeated the answer he had given William E. Boeing earlier on that day.

William E. Boeing hemmed his throat and nodded as a gesture of appreciation, ignoring the servant's obvious discomfort about his employer's apparent forgetfulness. William E. Boeing turned around and went back upstairs to his study. He knew which year it was. He knew he was going to go downstairs and meet the servant half way down. He knew the thing he was going to say was going to sound like "What year is it?"

"Time," it was sometimes said, "is what prevents everything from happening all at once." In that sense William E. Boeing was outside of time. From where William E. Boeing was standing everything was always happening all at once. Moreover, existence was simply doing the very same thing over and over within a different set of parameters, and what was generally referred to as "free will" was nothing more to him than an ability to be surprised by an inevitable outcome of a fixed sequence of actions.

William E. Boeing sat down in the broad Naugahyde chair in his study, closed his eyes and massaged his temples.

When he opened his eyes, he was sitting in a comfortable business class seat, cruising at 780 kilometers an hour at an altitude of almost eleven kilometers. There was no one in the passenger compartment except for William E. Boeing. He was afraid. Not because he didn't know what was coming; he knew exactly what was going to happen. He was afraid because, given the situation, it was the only thing left to do.

The voice over the intercom would have interrupted his anxiety, had he not known the interruption would happen. "Mr. Boeing, sir, five more minutes until onset," was what the thing the pilot said sounded like.

William E. Boeing got out of his seat and waited patiently in front of the center left emergency door. He looked at the rows of corpses seated next to the emergency exit door. All the corpses were of William E. Boeing, and each one of them was burned in different ways to different degrees. The sacrifice it had taken to bring him this far had been immense. Not just the personal sacrifice he was witness to right now, but the sacrifice of the countless others, in the past, the present, and the future, as well.

But William E. Boeing was not a mad murdering maniac; he was a businessman. Mad murdering maniacs would eventually get hunted down and stopped, no matter how successful they initially appeared to be. And the truth of the matter was, his aircraft had a better safety record than most of his competitors, so statistically he was actually keeping people alive. But with misfortune and mechanical defect at some point being inevitable, he might as well collect the lives lost as sacrifice; all in all, it made good business sense, for the aircraft division as well as the other.

At exactly the right moment, the center left emergency door started to open. At exactly the right moment William E. Boeing started to scream in terror at what was outside that door. Flames burst inward and set fire to the closest row of corpses, which now were animate and, for those with a working voice box, screaming as well. On the precipice, William E. Boeing wrangled with the now closing emergency exit door with all his might, trying to keep it from closing.

William E. Boeing jolted into consciousness in agony. His upper body had severe burns. He was strapped to his seat. The thing he tried to say amounted to nothing, because he no longer had a working throat. If he would have had a working throat, the thing he would have said would have sounded exactly like the frantic screaming of someone who was on fire. With his working eye he saw William E. Boeing wrangling with a closing emergency exit door with all his might, trying to keep it from closing. His eye stopped working.

Normally, being dead would be the end of things, even for people who were outside of time, though they would have the benefit of knowing how and when they would die, even if they could do nothing about it but act out the appropriate death scene. But William E. Boeing was a businessman, and few things were as disruptive to conducting business as being deceased. So William E. Boeing made sure to make sure that — to put it in inside-time terms as accurately as possible — "William E. Boeing, was always going to be, and would always have been, William E. Boeing."

That is what the thing he said sounded like at the particular where-and-when where he was sitting upright in a casket somewhere in a gigantic warehouse. There were a few dozen of additional caskets propped up against the nearest wall. Where the caskets touched the platform that supported them a white mist hung in stale air. The transparent lids of the caskets were covered in ice flowers to the extent of being opaque. Not that it mattered much, William E. Boeing knew who was inside. The inside-time description would be that he could remember stepping inside each one of them at different times, but outside of time, William E. Boeing was laying down inside each one of them concurrently, and slowly began drifting off on behalf of the various chemicals, to start the long wait for when he would be William E. Boeing once again. Well, not "wait for", he knew perfectly well at what where-and-when he would be recalled, or, in the case of 3 and 7, never at all. But being William E. Boeing, such things mattered little, and even if they mattered, nothing could be done to change it anyway. William E. Boeing felt himself slowly drifting away into unconsciousness as a comforting freezing cold started to set in around him.

William E. Boeing regained his faculties upside down with blood trickling from a split lip down into his eyes. The inside of the car smelled like gasoline. He had been speeding, and he had been distracted by the pretty girl of french heritage that sat next to him. Her name was Ronda. Ronda was unconscious now and would soon be dead, even though William E. Boeing was going to be okay. Still, he had no options left other than panicking.

He called out her name repeatedly to no avail. Then he called out her full name repeatedly, hoping that the familiarity of it would trigger something, would elicit some sort of response. She would remain unconscious for the next few minutes up until the time the fire would reach her.

The whole accident gave rise to one of the funnier aspects of being William E. Boeing. You see, the full name of the girl was phonetically very similar to a model of compact car of Japanese manufacture that would be produced several decades into the future, resulting in him erroneously producing about a hundred similar compact cars that were also William E. Boeing.

William E. Boeing realized that mistake, of course, then, as now, as always. But the mistake was made, had been made, and would always be made. He would have laughed at the mistake if he would have had the opportunity, but he didn't. He was now stuck in the routine of being William E. Boeing being stuck in a wrecked upside down car that was about to catch fire. The car caught fire.

William E. Boeing was at the seashore again. The thing he said roughly sounded like "Hmmmmm", as he was enjoying a cool inbound breeze on a sunny day. William E. Boeing found himself staring up at the blue sky, and he felt himself raising his arm and pointing upward. William E. Boeing heard the voice of this father — his real father, not William E. Boeing — from behind him.

"You want to fly boy ?"

His father picked William up by the waist and lifted the young boy over his head, holding him upward as if proffering him up to the heavens. William stretched his arms outward as if they were wings and closed his eyes.

William E. Boeing was back in his study. There was a man he didn't know standing in front of him, talking to him. The thing the man was saying sounded like this: "William E. Boeing?"

William E. Boeing wasn't sure what to make of the question.

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