James Erwin, an encyclopedia writer and two-time Jeopardy Champ from Des Moines, Iowa, was browsing Reddit on his lunch break one day when he spotted a thread that peaked his interest: “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or MEU?

Erwin, who had just finished reading The Encyclopedia of U.S. Military Actions (Through Facts on File), wasn’t satisfied by the responses he saw in the thread, so he spent the remainder of his lunch writing up a brief 350 word story that set out to tell the fictitious tale of the 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) disappearing from operations in Kabul and reappearing on the Tiber River in 23 B.C.  When his lunch break was over, he clicked post and returned to his day, unaware that his story had immediately found an audience composed of thousands of Redditors.

Nelson now believes something more terrible has occurred – a nuclear war and EMP which has left his unit completely isolated. Only a few men have realized that the rest of Bagram has vanished, but that will soon become apparent as the transport helos begin circling the 35th’s location.

Erwin wrote in his brief story that would come to make him famous.