Infinity, in Four Acts by James Rumpel

Monday, November 11, 2019
James Rumpel gets meta.


In Captain Smith's version of reality, he was eternally seated at the wheel of an assault vehicle. Today was no different. Glancing over his shoulder he spied Private Kohler waited patiently in the back of the vehicle. To Smith's relief, the reckless young soldier had nestled into the safety harness. Kohler's survival of the imminent collision was of primary importance to the plan. As the captain waited for the enemy to emerge over the nearby knoll, he once again checked the surroundings.

The assault vehicle was snuggled between a large speckled boulder and an enormous concrete wall. None of the soldiers stationed on this planet knew the origin of the ominous structure. Smith did not know if the barrier had been constructed to keep something in or something out. What he did know was that it was too tall to scale. As far as its length, Smith could not even begin to estimate. Troops had investigated to the east and west and no one had ever found the beginning or end of the expansive structure. As far as Smith could tell, it went on forever. Mystery aside, their assignment was to protect this structure and he was not going to fail on that mission. Smith was, by design, the ultimate soldier.

The cement structure was the only thing in the immediate area that was not humid jungle. Towering, oddly shaped vegetation littered the area. Smith could only see a short distance directly in front of himself before his vision was obscured by the thick greenery. Luckily the plants were flimsy and could easily be pushed aside by the mammoth military vehicles the company employed. Occasionally, a denizen of the planet would flash by, flitting across the windshield. They seemed to be harmless, ignoring Smith and the other troops in the area. Some of these creatures were airborne, others would run past in a hurried gait. They were all sizeable, however, and Smith was elated they chose to ignore him and his men.

From his veiled position, Smith could spy the crown of a turtle-shell-shaped knoll to the south-east. Many of the trees and plants on this hill had been laid waste by some cataclysm. His eyes focused on the hill's peak. As soon as an enemy vehicle crested that hill he would spring into action. As luck would have it, Smith did not have to wait very long.

The acoustics on this planet were atypical. Almost all sound seemed to descend from above. This moment was no different. Smith readied to hit the propulsion initiator as soon as he heard the grumbling engine noise above his position. Sure enough, the enemy transport was soon visible, motoring over the top of the knoll. Smith waited a moment to ensure that the enemy vehicle would be broadside to his path and then he stomped on the propulsion initiator. After a very slight delay, the assault vehicle shot forward, mechanical rumblings raining down from the sky.

The captain thanked any deity that would listen for the fact that his vehicle was basically indestructible. Smith guided his truck, turned projectile, directly into the side of the enemy vehicle. The thunderous clamor of the collision was interrupted by the distressed screams of enemy soldiers. Smith found himself wondering why the two sounds did not overlap. He distinctly heard crash sounds, then screams, then crash sounds again. This oddity had to be another attribute of the strange acoustics of this world.

The collision had accomplished precisely what Smith had desired. The impact had bowled over the opposing transport. The enemy's vehicle appeared undamaged, but it now lay, wheels up, in the thick underbrush. Three enemy soldiers had been hurled clear of the vehicle. They deftly scrambled to their feet and were soon mounted on their hover disks, climbing back up the hill. The summit, a safe haven, was their goal. Private Kohler, whose harness had performed admirably, now jumped into action. Smith knew Kohler was an excellent soldier, always in a state of readiness. His gun positioned on his shoulder, ready to fire. Kohler completed his part of the mission with lethal accuracy. The three enemy soldiers all lay, motionless, on the ground. Their hover disks still connected to their feet, shaking sporadically, but going nowhere.

With the mission successfully completed all Smith and Kohler had to do now was wait for the inevitable. Soon they would once again be placed into suspended animation, until the next time they were called into another battle. Such is the life of a soldier.


The sun beat down on the young boy, warming his shoulders. Tommy was overjoyed to no longer be cooped up in that boring house. He had not been allowed to play in the yard for a couple of days because he had been ill. With painstaking care, he set his toys down near the sidewalk. He placed one of his plastic army vehicles next to the sidewalk and put two soldiers inside. Tommy then found an egg-sized, mottled rock that he positioned in such a way that it looked as if the vehicle was concealed behind it. The ten-year-old then took his worn sneaker and flattened out the grass on a small bump in the lawn. He knelt and prepared to play.

Placing three toy soldiers in a second vehicle, Tommy made engine sounds as he rolled that army truck over the bump. He then grabbed the first vehicle and rolled it along till it crashed into the side of the truck coming over the hill, rolling that truck onto its side. Tommy made an extended crash sound, interjecting screams. Next, he took the three soldiers from the overturned toy and positioned them so that it appeared they were running up the hill.

From the back of the first vehicle, Tommy picked up the toy sniper soldier and stood him up, facing the retreating troops. "Bam. Ahhh. Bam. Ahhh. Bam. Ahhh." Tommy knocked the three toy soldiers over.

Randomly losing interest in playing war, Tommy decided to go bounce a ball off the side of the house.

Dominick sat at his computer, playing his life simulation game. As he watched the little boy character manipulating toy soldiers by a sidewalk, Dominick decided to have the boy go play with a ball and hit the appropriate keys to make him do so. Growing bored with this game, Dominick had a sudden desire to play a first-person shooting game. He began loading Battlefield of the Titans onto his laptop.


After James typed the last sentence of his short story, he leaned back in his chair and looked around the room, wondering.


  1. Fun story. Entertaining premise. I liked the point of view of captain Smith.

  2. I liked how it ended--quickly, with each paragraph shorter and shorter. Interesting concept.

  3. Very good! This story puts a whole new spin on the soldier's lament that war is boredom punctuated by moments of terror.

  4. I'm not often a fan of introducing the author into the narrative, but found it quite effective in this case. Very cool. Highly enjoyable.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Never been a huge fan of the fourth wall. Nice to see it knocked down, again and again. But, is it just me or does this need one more metafictive regression? To show that this too is a virtual reality.