I was finally done with my construction of the machine. It’d taken a grueling two weeks to put together after I’d had a dream about it. Ever had a dream inspire you to do something you normally wouldn’t? Well, this was the same except I’d been studying quantum physics for a few months in preparation for a mid term and now.. it seemed, all that was just irrelevant considering the discovery I’d made. Time itself, just focused the right way ..would bend in on itself. All I needed was some cables, some lenses and positioning grips to focus it just so and it’d be done. I marvelled at the simplicity of it, why hadn’t anyone else thought of this before?
I was nervous though when I turned on the machine and time started to fold in on itself. If ANYTHING were to rustle the delicate machine when I went through, it’d be a total disaster. I’d probably die in horrible agony, like in that movie The Fly. So after a tense moment of trying to decide to go or to not go, I turned it off and then spent two more days just trying to psych myself up for it. On the third night, I woke up at 4am, bathing in my own sweat, nightmare after nightmare about the same damn thing.
That fucking machine. I’d built it, but I was too afraid to use it.
I COULD SEE MY FUTURE. But I was too afraid!
Then I got really angry, at myself, at my stupidity, at this whole stupid thing. Here I had the chance of a lifetime and I wasn’t going to waste it. I resolutely marched down from the upper floor and into my living room where it was still positioned. I grunted, turned on the machine and before I knew it, I was standing in a brightly lit mall.
Ah, of course, I’d been an idiot for thinking the world would just stop just because I travelled in time. My house was apparently gone along with my neighbourhood. I walked around for a bit, staring wide eyed at all the amazing new tech and it took me a while to realize that people were staring back at me as well.
It was at that point that I became very aware that I was in my PJs and still holding my wrench I’d used to tune the last mirror. So I snuck into some of the back streets outside of the mall and tried to compose myself. “A library” I thought to myself, “I’ve got to find a library.”
After wandering around for a few hours, I was nowhere closer to finding one, all the street signs had strange graphics on them. I assumed it was some new kind of technology I couldn’t decipher. Probably something like the old barcode or QR code system. After a while of aimless searching, I finally mustered up enough courage and walked up to a plain looking woman and asked her “Hey, I’m sorry to intrude, but would you know where the nearest library is?”
She looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled and said “Library? I’ve heard of those, aren’t they like the old museums used to be? I think we had a library once, but it’s been closed for ages. Are you feeling alright?”
The last question took me by surprise and I just shrugged and said “Yeah, I’m just a bit.. disoriented, I think I bumped my head.”
She looked concerned and replied: “Well, your PJs look really weird in the streets you know. Do you remember your name? Where do you live?”
I fibbed a bit when I answered “Yeah, it’s kind of odd, I don’t remember how I got here, but I know I used to live around here. I just can’t remember how I got here”
The woman took me by the arm and said “Mind if we head over to my place? It’s not far, I’m a federal nurse and I think you might be experiencing the aftereffects of a severe concussion.”
I just nodded feebly, feeling very out of place. We walked over to her place which truthfully wasn’t very far. One street down and she was opening her door and letting me inside.
Once inside, she told me to sit down on a chair while she got some things. She came back with a thing that looked like a tennis racket, she hovered it around my head, made some noises to herself and then looked me straight in the eyes.
“Who are you really? These readings don’t make ANY sense whatsoever. Your gene makeup is totally wrong, you’re missing so many markers that are usually present. Care to explain yourself?”
She stared daggers at me and I cracked and told her the truth. That I’d been travelling through time, that I was lost and that I was only trying to get a sneak peek of my future self. I told her my name and after some deliberation on her end, she told me hers: Kee.
“You know” she started, looking ponderous “If it hadn’t been for these genes, which you can’t really fake, I would have assumed you were delusional. OK, let’s find out what really happened to your future you then. I’m curious as well.”
She walked over to the wall and made some gestures and it lit up. She then made some cryptic comments which made lists show up on the screen. Not much of it made sense to me. After a while, she paused and looked at me and said “Oh, right! You’re from the past, you probably can’t read any of this without a blip can you?”
I shook my head and told her that it looked like total gibberish.
She laughed and said “Well, I can set you up with a temporary headset that we use for kids, it’ll be kind of uncomfortable, but you’ll be able to search yourself. “
And after a while, she came back with the headset and placed it on my head, suddenly I could see the screen, but also feel it. Then I realized I was the screen and I remembered that I wanted to find out who I was. I projected all of the information about myself that I knew into my tendrils and I started searching outward from the house I was in. All I felt was cold as I expanded further out. After a while, I looked at her and said “Is it supposed to be cold like this?”
She replied “Yes, cold means that there’s no information it can find, try looking around until you feel warmer. You’re really good at this, it’s like you’re a natural at it, keep going! I’ll be in the other room if you need me, I have some work to finish up.” she beamed me a smile and left the room.
And the hours passed, the cold remained and then after a while, she came back and asked me if I wanted something to eat. I realized that most the day had passed with me in front of the screen, trying to find something, anything about who I was in the future. I sighed, took off the headset and joined her in the kitchen.
The kitchen was unlike anything I’d ever seen, she was touching panels and making gestures and suddenly a beautiful melodic tone chimed from a box. She opened the box, drew in a deep breath and smiled as she said “Oh, I haven’t had this in a while, did you have Sushi back in your time?”
At the word Sushi, my stomach made a happy little jump of joy and I grinned and said that I loved the stuff.
So after a while, we sat at the table and had ourselves a nice dinner together. The sushi was markedly different from what I was used to. Strange meats and even stranger spices. As we both ate, we discussed the differences in her and my time. I told her about the California Maki roll and she was amazed at it and promised to make it at a later time. Then she told me about the Cyprenza Lemfo I was eating and how it was created with a very specific method of culvating a specific strain of bacterially contaminated mushrooms in ultra high gravity tanks.
After the dinner was over, I thanked her for a delicious meal and said “I’m really sorry to impose on you like this, but would it be OK if I went back into the other room to try and find out where I am now? Maybe the future me can send old me back home again.”
She smiled a strange smile and said “Oh, it’s no bother at all, just take your time.”
And so I kept at it for the remainder of the day and found nothing, the further out I searched, the colder I got. Not even an iota of warmth crept into my tendrils as I scoured the networks for any mention of me, any family I had, anything at all.
When I finally almost ripped off the headset in frustration, the sunlight had faded and a subtle brown glow in the edges of the room told me that the lights had turned themselves on everywhere.
I walked into the other room to talk to her and that’s when I saw her slumped on the side in the sofa. She was snoring very loudly and was clearly asleep. As I was looking at her, I felt a strange sense of shame, that I’d roped some stranger into this stupid search of mine. I was angry at myself, I’d taken a dumb risk and paid the price for it. And here I was, mooching off someone elses life.
I really had no right, I was a temporal anomaly and I was just making this persons life more complicated. So I snuck out, thankfully the door reacted to me when I approached and unsealed itself with a slight hiss. I stepped into the moonlit street and briskly walked down past the rows of houses, all wonderfully lit. I was in total despair and feeling more lost than I’d ever been in my entire life.
I didn’t have a future, I’d somehow disappeared the moment I left which could only mean one thing, I would never get back from this future. I was lost in time, I had no family left, no kids, no history, I was unmade. As I strode down the street, feeling ever more dejected and alone, I came upon a bridge crossing a pretty big river and that’s when it hit me. That’s how it was going to end wasn’t it?
I strode up to the edge of the bridge and looked down. The river was furious and shimmering in the light. It’d probably be quick, if the impact in the water didn’t kill me, I’d probably drown quickly enough. “Alright” I thought to myself, steeling my nerves “This is it, I hope I can at least do this one thing right.”
“WAIT! NO!” I heard a voice behind me scream in abject horror, I turned around and I was surprised to find Kee standing behind me. She looked tired and afraid. “Please, I know you’re feeling alone and lost, but there IS a better way!” she frantically blurted out.
“But I have no future, NO FUTURE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS?!” I yelled back at her. “I don’t get to live, I don’t get to ever come back there, my future ended the second I stepped through that damn portal I made!”
There was a deafening silence where we just stared at each other, both in total despair, time as it were, seemed to have stopped. But after a while, she slowly sank to her knees and broke down crying, between sobs she pleaded with me, no begged me to step down from the side of the bridge, it didn’t have to be this way she said, it wouldn’t be fair, as the rest of it was drowned in her tears I realized that this adventure would have quite a different ending. When I held her in her arms and promised I’d stay, we both knew that the future really wasn’t anything to think about, because the present is all that mattered.
* * * * * *
A couple of months later, I had mostly adjusted to the future, it wasn’t so different after all. People were still people, technology was still just there. As I turned on the new time machine, now made with vastly superior parts than my old one, I smiled and turned to Kee.
“Are you sure this’ll work? I mean, I basically inverted the design that I dreamt, but I have no idea if it’ll be viable.” I said to her.
Kee smiled and replied “It’ll be fine” and then we stepped through the portal.
As I looked at myself sleeping in the bed, I grinned like a kid that’s taking a sneak peek at their Christmas presents on the night before. This was going to be great.