SF Flash Fiction: The Watcher

Posted on 21st November 2008 by Ryan Somma in Pure Speculation

Some people read the news on their lunch break, but I know the news is just the first draft of history, and my job is the final draft. I’ve read every single Marvel Comic book ever printed over three centuries worth of coffee breaks. You might think that a frivolous way to spend one’s free time, but I get enough real life in my regular work that I’m allowed this bit of escapism. People who understand invariably ask me who my favorite superhero is, and I answer, “The Watcher.”

Whenever something big was going to happen in the Marvel Universe, the Watcher would appear, this giant alien bald guy in robes. He didn’t do anything; he was only there to watch. There were a few single-shot issues given to the Watcher, but you can probably understand that there wasn’t much demand for stories about a guy who stands stoically and observes great events in time, never getting involved.

I admire the Watcher, his resolve, as I spend my days at the chronoscope, sifting through the moments of history. My job is generating digital archives of historical events, and it took decades of training to get certified to use it. There are ways to hack the chronoscope or use it clumsily enough, that one might disturb history, and so we few professionals process requests from academic institutions, historians, and scholars for digital facsimiles of time periods and events.

Most of this is very rewarding, the moments of discovery, evolution, revolution, and improving quality of life all the way up to our own times. I love researching these best of times, and, for the most part, it is the most constructive periods that historians are interested in.

But sometimes not, and I haven’t slept for days for what I saw recently. I sat through the reign of Caligula, the Spanish Inquisition, and Adolf Hitler with clinical detachment, but this chance incident, not even part of my assignment, has wrecked me.

I know why I followed her story out of the village, because she looked like my daughter. I didn’t know where it would go, or how quickly it would end at the hands of those bandits. I watched the body vanish, decaying into the field without anyone ever finding it until I happened upon it 3,000 years later looking through a portal in time.

Masochistically, I watched it over and over in horror. Hoping that somehow through the Heissenberg principle, the photons from my observations might somehow alter the outcome. Such a senseless loss, committed by a few thugs who would die without leaving any measurable consequence on the world on a girl who hardly anyone would notice was gone.

Really, if you think about it, the Watcher was affecting the outcome of events. By the mere act of showing up, he signaled to the superheroes that big things were about to happen. The heroes knew they were being watched. If those bandits only knew I was watching them, recording their actions for future generations, their great grandchildren to the hundredth power to witness, they might have shown mercy and dignity. How we behave when we think no one’s watching, that’s our true character.

I could change that moment in ancient history, just that one moment so that she could live. But I mustn’t think like that. It’s a momentary shock, and time will help me overcome it. Until then, I’ll lay awake at night, and pray for the strength of the Watcher.


  1. OOoh I really like this one. I am fond of the voice and I like the notion that even if someone didn’t witness your act when it occurred, you could still get outed by the future.

    Instead of, “Even if no one sees you, God knows” it could be, “Even if no one sees you, the future knows”.

    Supposedly God is pretty forgiving, but I don’t know about this future. So I need to be on my best behavior.

    Just in case.

    Comment by TGAW — November 25, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  2. Uh oh. Do you think the future cares if I pick my nose?

    Comment by TGAW — November 25, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  3. Confucious say, “Are not fingers nostril-sized for a reason? Look at the ape, with it’s big fingers and big nostrils.”

    Comment by Confucious — November 25, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  4. Heh heh heh, Nice! :)

    Comment by TGAW — November 25, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  5. Man, if that guy really did read it all, he would know there is many Watchers, and they only gave up interfering due to giving the atomic power to the Prosilicus to help advance their technology, but instead watched them use it for weapons and do bad things.

    I guess he might be talking about Uatu, the watcher who watched Earth, but he interfered all the damn time helping Reed Richards in times of crisis (like Galactus)

    (Of course comic background story lines are crazy and not set in stone anyways, and have gone everywhere for some people so there could be another Watcher storyline that I am just not aware of, but I think this is the main one)


    The Watcher is totally creepy.

    Comment by DJ Nicko — November 25, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

  6. I wrestled with referencing Uatu directly, but decided to go with the essence of what a Watcher is supposed to be. It’s like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, a law that gets lost in the show’s execution.

    Comment by ideonexus — November 25, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.