Is It Plagiarism If You’re The First? by Ashwin Dayal

Is It Plagiarism If You’re The First?
Ashwin Dayal

Rod Robbins had made a promise to his father when he lay on his deathbed.

“Rod, I need you to promise me something,” his father murmured faintly.

“Sure, dad. Anything,” Rod hastened, his hand tightly gripping his father’s.

“Do not ever take the wrong path. Do not ever try to fool anyone for your gain,” his father’s eyes locked at Rod.

Rod bent his head and closed his eyes. It was too much of a kindergarten thing. Never lie, never steal. But there was something else in his father’s words. It was prediction. It was as if he could already see what was meant to happen.

Rod waited and the worst feeling hung over him. Wait.

YES! Say yes, I promise.

He didn’t. Those were his father’s last words. His father’s last hope.

Of course, none of that mattered now. Now, Rod H. Robbins was the universally acclaimed writer.


His laptop sat on his lap; word processor open. He scrolled down the page and read the same phrase over and over again: IS IT PLAGARISM IF YOU’RE THE FIRST? It was a question he had been asking himself since his first book came out. It was only six months after his father had passed away. Six months since he had found it.

He had returned to his house. His face looked washed, with tears. He reached his room and that was when he saw it. Simply lying on the bed. It was a weighing machine. Four digits glowed on its screen: 2050. And three dials were fixed beside it. Below the first dial, it read: YEAR. Below the second, it read: MONTH and below the third, it read: DAY.

The dials had already been turned. Now that Rod thought of it, it made just no sense to think that he actually stepped on the machine. But it was not pure chance. It was a feeling that Rod had forgotten over time. It was like Deja-vu. It was a vibe that instructed him to step on the weighing machine. As he did, his whole life changed.

He was in a new world. Everything was new. It all seemed good until he started to suspect. Until he bought the newspaper and the date… 26 February 2050.

The Future. He was in the Future.

It was like what they showed in the movies. Lights everywhere. His mouth remained open throughout his tour of the Future’. Then he saw a bookstore.

Not a second did he waste before running right into it. All the books seemed to be looking right at him. Waiting for him.

2050 SIR GARDENER BOOK AWARD WINNER: The Audition by Harry Weir.

He felt a special connection with that one. Of course, it was his first. He had absentmindedly bought that book and walked out of the bookstore and into the street without any idea of where he was going. It had grabbed him, just not letting him take his eyes off it. It was a story he had fallen in love with. It was so beautiful that he’d begun questioning everything. Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before? Why weren’t the people of his time brilliant enough? And worst of all, why did they have to wait?

“Maybe they don’t have to,” his conscience echoed, “maybe you’re the one who will satisfy this need for them. Maybe you have to.”

He turned into an alley and clicked open the briefcase. He extracted the weighing machine from it. The digits were the same: 2050. His shaking fingers turned the YEAR dial. He turned it back once and the digits changed to 2049. He turned and turned.

When he was done, he stepped on the weighing machine, carefully checking that he’d not left the book.

Rod was sure that he had the read The Audition more than three times. And then, he had started writing. Writing, writing and writing. One year later, his book came out.

2020 SIR GARDENER BOOK AWARD WINNER: The Audition by Rod H. Robbins.
Praise for The Audition by Rod H. Robbins

‘You’re going to get way pickier with the books you buy after you read this. A Masterpiece.’
• Basilay Times.

The book had changed the world. It had broken records. It was new. It was not it’s time.
Thief, thief, thief. Plagiarism.

After that, everything just happened. Everything unfolded. More books came. More records were broken. It was still going on.

TING-DONG! The bell rung. Rod shut his laptop and ran to the door.

There stood waiting Randall Shay, Rod’s best friend.

“Ay! How we doing, man?” Randall said, hugging Rod.

“Great. How’re you?”

“Like yourself.”

“Come in!” Rod said, stepping back and waving his hands in a dramatic way.

They were at the table eating dinner.

“And you remember that time you brought that cake from Yorker’s Bakery across town and just flipped it on the table,” Randall laughed.

Rod’s face was red with laughter. He waited for the laughter to end before trying to eat again. He said, “We were in that park. It was raining like hell and that was the first time I’d ever felt scared by thunder. Then, to take our mind off it, we played that game where we would see ourselves after five years.”

Randall smiled. He looked lost.

“Randall, you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I remembered that game. It was just that whenever we played the game, we would increase the number of years. But no matter how much I’d increase it, you answer never changed.”

“A writer.”

“Yeah. That was my dream too,” he sighed, “you’re a writer loved by all and I’m just getting sick deleting all those rejection mails.”

“Come on, Randall.”

There was a silence.

Well, guess what? I cheated.

“Anyways, Mr. Robbins,” Randall raised his glass, “where do you see yourself in the next fifty years?”

It was the feeling again. The one he’d felt when he’d first read The Audition. Destiny shining. This was meant to happen.

“Randall, I think I’ve got to do something really important right now,” Rod said, confused.

“Oh, okay,” Randall grabbed his coat and got to the door.

“I’m sorry, Randall. But I have to do this thing.”

Randall didn’t say another word before steeping out of the house.

Rod held his head in his hands.

“God, what’s going on? What’d I do?” He muttered to himself.

“Oh! But think about that question he asked you,” said himself who sat beside him, “where are you fifty years from now? Well, you can know, can’t you?”

“I can.”

And so, there he stood in the year 2070. Rod Robbins looked for himself. The first place he went was of course, the bookstore.

“Um… sir, do you have any Rod Robbins?” Rod asked the shopkeeper.

“No, those stopped coming long ago. No one likes to read them anymore,” the shopkeeper replied.

That was when Rod thought of the obvious.

The house looked a lot better now. Someone else lived here now, in his home. He felt a tap on his shoulder. Rod turned around to see an old man looking wide-eyed at him.

“Rod Robbins,” the old man whispered, dropping to the floor.

“Sir, are you alright?” Rod bent down to help him.

“I knew it was supposed to happen here,” the old man said.


“It’s me, Randall.”

Rod’s eyes widened. He froze as Randall got up himself. He spoke Rod’s thoughts, “We need to talk, Rod.”

“Yes. Yes, we do.”

“Rod, I know what you’re here for. You know where you are today.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m here for. So, wha.. where am I?”

“You’re dead. You committed suicide thirty years ago.”

Rod gulped, “What the hell are you talking about, Randall? What are… why would I do that?”

“You thought your secret had been revealed. You were afraid the world knew the truth.”

“But why?”

“I took your machine.”

“What? Why?”

“That I cannot tell you. But now,” Randall went inside his house and after a while came back, “you can have it back.” His hand held out the weighing machine to Rod.

“Randall, I have something to ask you,” Rod said.


“If you had the machine, why didn’t you use it yourself?”

“Because I understood something you never understood, Rod. The consequences of meddling with Time.”

“The consequences of meddling with time?”

“You’ll know, Rod. You will.” What’s he talking about?

“He’s hiding something,” his conscience hissed, “he’s the cause. Keeeeeeeel him!”

He doesn’t count. Counts the one who took my machine.

So, Rod left. Back to the present. He was in the kitchen. TUCK! TUCK! He heard the footsteps in the living room.

Rod peeked at young Randall, who stood near the table, examining the machine. Rod saw to his right: a knife. Do it. He’s the cause. It’s you or him.

Blood was spluttered on his face and on the ground and young Randall lay lifeless on the floor.

Rod took a deep breath. It was done. He was clear. His Future was clear. The Future.

There he was. In the Future. Looking for himself, again. The bookstore.

In piles and piles lay the latest non-fiction bestseller, yet it seemed less to the line of people who stood behind it. And the book.


Rod blinked. It was him. He was the bestselling author but…. Mass murderer? He held his head in his hands and shook it vigorously.

“Well guess what? Randall was right,” his conscience grinned, “and he wasn’t the last life you took. Just to keep your secret. What’ve you done, Rod?”

What had he done? Then, he saw the way. The only way.

He was back in his living room. The present. He had the machine in his hands and a note. He placed the note on top of the weighing machine and kept both of them on the table. The note read:

Dear Randall,
Take this weighing machine. It conceals secrets. Discover them. Never give it to anyone else. Someday, I will come to you asking for it. Unburden yourself and hand it over to me. Leave the house immediately as you read this.
Your best friend

As Mr. Randall Shay came into the house and discovered the weighing machine, in the kitchen, Mr. Rod Robbins stood smiling, over an unconscious less enlightened himself. Mr. Robbins was fading away slowly…. Out of existence.



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