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  • -- known such horror.

    I never wanted that moment on the beach to end. It was perfect in every way. Julie was young and breathtakingly lovely. I sat on a throne-like rock a few feet into the sea, the surf crashing about me, and regally waved to my subjects, a trio of leaping dolphins. From the trees behind us, howler monkeys keened a riotous serenade. We were in love, and all Nature seemed to embrace us. If an asteroid had chosen that instant to slam into the Earth, it would have been all right.

    I never wanted that moment to end, but it did. We went back to our workaday lives. Years passed. Bills piled up, as did resentments. I put on weight. Julie’s wit degenerated into bitter sarcasm. We both slept around with neither passion nor pleasure. The Age of Perpetual Discovery gave way to the Era of Endless Boredom. It was nobody’s and everybody’s fault.

    In the midst of yet another business failure, my mind kept returning to that enchanted morning in Costa Rica, now so any years gone. At the risk of sounding immodest I’m somewhat of an ingenious tinkerer. But I’m also an atrocious businessman, and none of my inventions have ever made it to the marketplace. More than anything I wanted to relive the innocence, the sights and sounds and smells of that sun-swept day, so I threw myself heart and soul into creating a miniature device that would allow me travel back in time. After many, many misfires, I succeeded.

    My hands trembled as I threw the switch. I realized that I might end up in oblivion, but it was worth the risk. The walls of my tiny lab began to shimmer and dissolve. Then there came a flash of light so bright, I had to close my eyes. When I reopened them, I was once more on that secluded beach. An iguana slithered past me. Julie frolicked in the waves, her face unlined, her figure shown off to splendid advantage in her bikini. She pointed to a large nearby rock. “Hey, it looks like a throne! Have a seat, Your Majesty.”

    I was back at that precious moment of pure, unconditional love. But it was not the same. Not knowing what I knew now. I couldn’t help staring at the laughing face of the woman I would casually betray as she would me. How did we let affection lapse into indifference? We congratulated ourselves on resolving big issues, never noticing that the small things had engulfed us. Sadness, anger and despair filled me. It was too painful to stay here. Turning my back on Julie, I surreptitiously advanced the lever on my time machine. There was another brilliant flash. When I blinked open my eyes, I was still in Costa Rica. An iguana slithered past me. Julie frolicked in the waves and motioned to the throne-shaped rock. Howler monkeys hurt my ears, damn them.

    I have tried returning to the present day hundreds (thousands?) of times, but I always end up on this infernal beach. My time machine is jammed and I have no tools to fix it. It's on a continuous loop now. I will repeat this moment forever, being reminded over and over and over again of the failure of our dreams. I am trapped in the Eternal Now like a fly in amber and I don't like it one bit.

    In fact, I have never --
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