time traveller
Art by Duy Huynh

The rain was hitting the window glasses with fury while lightings were ripping the sky in two, making everything visible for a few seconds in this dark night of May. The man, pouring with sweat, was now placing the last part to his most ambitious creation. After making sure that everything was in place, he took a step back in order to inspect the situation. Yes, everything seemed ready: the capsule was repaired and there was no crack anymore that could lead to a leak of matter into space-time, the engine was improved with the upgrade of the molecular accelerator and the addition of a generator in case of emergencies. Now was the time for a first trial. He approached one of the many cages that were batched in the back of his laboratory, opened the door and grabbed the fat rat.

Well, Fatso, tonight is your turn. I hope you are luckier than the previous ones, he said to the frightened rat.

He turned towards the machine, got inside and let Fatso in the center of its small chamber.

Good luck, he said to him.

He got out, closed the iron door and after turning the big locking wheel several times he faced the external control panel of the machine. The red digits of the first field were on the current date: 24 May 2016, 23:29. The green digits of the second field were blinking waiting for him to set the desired date: 24 May 2016, 23:34. Everything was ready. He took a deep breath and pulled the big bar down. The engine started working with a slow, purring sound that was getting louder and louder. Soon the construction was making a real racket, shaking and letting fumes out. This is normal, thought the man, it is overheating due to the high speeds of the molecules. After a few seconds the noise and the shaking stopped. There was absolute silence and only the last rain drops on the window glasses could be heard. The man looked at his watch. 23:30. Still four minutes to go. He paced restlessly up and down the room for a while. He looked again at his watch. 23:31. He pulled the chair from his desk, putted right in front of the machine and took a seat. There were only two minutes left before he could find out what has happened. Two minutes that seemed like a century to him. 23:33. The man pulled his handkerchief out from his shirt’s pocket and wiped his sweat. 23:34. The siren sounded. The man jumped off his chair. When the siren stopped, he started turning the big locking wheel of the door in a hurry. The door opened and he got inside. He looked at the spot where he had left Fatso. Nothing. He looked around.

Fatso! he yelled in worry.

He couldn’t see him anywhere.

No, please, not again, he mumbled.

Suddenly he heard a squeak right behind him. He turned around and saw Fatso next to the door, ready to get into the room.

Fatso! he yelled again, this time enthusiastically.

The scared rat ran out and tried to find shelter under the man’s desk. The man went right after him.

Fatso, we made it! You are safe and sound! You did it Fatso! You are the first time traveler ha ha ha, he burst into laughs.

For a while chaos dominated the little laboratory as the rat was trying in vain to hide in a safe place and the man was running like crazy right after him, screaming and laughing. In the end, he managed to corner the rat and catch him.

You rat! said happily and kissed him on his furry nose. I knew it that you would made it. I am so glad you didn’t end up a mass of fur and blood like the rest. You were always my favorite one you know.

He put the rat back to his cage and sat on the chair. He looked at the machine and swelled with pride.

So it is ready. My time machine is finally ready… and runs like clockwork! he said and laughed.

He got up from the chair. The time machine is ready, he mumbled again scratching his beard. He turned and looked at his father picture in the frame on his desk. Everything had started from him many years ago. Countless notes, endless trials and plenty of failures. And now finally his father’s dream had become a reality. But he was not there to see it.

Maybe, said the man as he was approaching the control panel, maybe I could let him know. If I went back for a while, before his death, before the accident.

The man changed the date in the second field: 24 May 1987. But almost immediately he erased it again.

No. No travels to the past. Father warned me. He made me promise that if we ever succeeded, we would not travel to the past. He always said travels to the past are the most dangerous ones. The tide of history is very fragile. One single mistake and you could come back to a present much different from the one you knew.

He stepped towards Fatso’s cage. The rat was now calm, chewing his food carefree.

Travels to the future are acceptable though, Fatso, said to the rat who continued chewing his food paying no attention to the man. That was my father’s goal. The future! He always wanted to see how much our civilization could evolve, what wonders science could reach to.

Suddenly the man turned towards the time machine.

To the future it is! yelled enthusiastically with his fist in the air.

He moved fast and grabbed the suitcase which was labelled ‘In Case Of Success’, blew the dust off of it and got into the chamber. He locked the door turning the wheel in the same way he did just minutes ago for Fatso. He went close to the internal control panel. His finger suspended for a while in the air over the keyboard. Finally he set the date: 1 June 2116. Beginning of summer, a hundred years ahead. Yes, it’s a good choice, he thought nodding his head. I will definitely not be alive by then so there won’t be any chance of me meeting my future self and anything… unexpected to happen. A hundred years are enough for the humanity to make a notable progress, which I can’t wait to witness, but not too many for the changes to be dramatic and find myself into a completely unknown environment. Or at least that’s what I hope so. Making these thoughts he sat on the chamber’s seat, the seat of his grandfather monoplane in reality which he and his father had adjusted in the time machine. He buckled up the seatbelt and reached for the bar next to him. He took a deep breath.

Well, let’s go, he said and pulled the bar down.

The light purring sound and the first shaking began. In that exact moment the first doubts filled the man’s mind. Could it be that the machine was not ready yet for a human to travel? Maybe his mass, being much larger than Fatsos’, would create some problem to the flow of the matter through space-time. Maybe a fly was trapped with him in the chamber. That last worry was of course coming from his favorite science fiction movie, where the main character uses his teletransporter while a fly is in the chamber with him and due to this tragic mistake he ends up turning slowly into a giant fly himself. This silly thought made him laugh and relax. Until the light shaking turned into vigorous trembling and the purring sound into a deafening racket. The man felt his head spinning and buzzing, as if it was hammered. He squeezed the worn leather of the seat with his nails, closed his eyes tightly and begged for this torture to end soon. The siren sounded strident and then suddenly everything went black.

The man opened his eyes slowly. A bright light bothered him and couldn’t see clearly. After a while, his eyes got adjusted and he realized he was not inside his time machine anymore. He was lying on an extremely comfortable bed, covered with silk sheets. The big room around him was desperately empty. Right in front of him there was a huge glass window, where the light came in from. He could see nothing outside except clouds. He arose. His head was still buzzing.

I must have lost my senses, he mumbled. But… where am I?

-Are you awake? a male voice came from the door on his left.

A young man with a spotless face and a remarkable body entered the room. The young man was like a model that had just jumped right out of a catwalk or a TV commercial. The man looked at him for a few seconds surprised. Then he said:

I am awake, yes. But I have no idea where I am or who you are so I would particularly appreciate some enlightening explanations.

-But of course. That is why I am here after all, to help you with your wandering in our world, said the young man with a kind but yet cold smile. You are in year 2116, 1st of June. Your machine therefore worked flawlessly.

-You know about my machine? asked the man confused.

Sure. I know about you, your machine and the many years of time travel trials that were finally successful in 24th of May, 2016.

After saying these, the young man handed the man a sealed envelope. The man looked at it with curiosity.

Please, open it. It is for you.

He opened the envelope with shaking hands. He pulled the worn yellow paper out, unfolded it and started reading.

My dear,

Welcome to the future! We finally did it! We are finally here! I have so many to write you about. But I won’t say anything to you. In the contrary, all these will be done by our descendant, who I imagine delivered you this letter as I had asked him to do and who is probably standing right now in front of you with this kind but cold smile on his face. I still remember it, so creepy! But soon you will get used to it. Although he seems heartless and cold as ice, I guarantee you that you can fully trust him. He will show you everything and answer to all your questions, exactly like he did with me. I had also left a detailed note for him, which is why he knows everything about us. I wonder how many times this pattern has been repeated within the continuity of time and when did exactly happened for the first time. Time is mysterious and complex, you will discover that yourself soon. I won’t bother you anymore. I let you enjoy the experience.

And don’t forget when you return to your present to leave also a letter to… the next one.

The signature of the writer was following. The man’s hands were still shaking. He read the note at least two more times. He inspected the paper, the ink, the writing. He could not believe it. He knew exactly from who this letter was. After all, how could he not recognize his own writing and his own signature?

(To be continued…)

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