Time Travel

After six decades of work, planning, and determination, Johan finally perfected his plans for a time machine. When he told his sister Anna, she was worried about the consequences of his discovery.

“Johan, if you change the past, you may not like how that changes the future.   Look forward, not back,” his sister said.

Johan laughed. “Anna, if time travel is possible, I can keep changing things until I get the outcome I want.”

Anna frowned. “And if you see yourself?   Will you go mad?”

“Does it matter?” Johan asked. “I can fix that too. There is nothing I do or have done that can’t be fixed now. The world is at my fingertips. I can live a thousand lifetimes and pick the one I want to keep.   I am now effectively immortal.”

“Perhaps you are already mad, Johan,” Anna said. Johan just laughed.

When Johan gave the plans for his machine to his younger self, the older self and his machine disappeared and young Johan was alone. The future had changed and older Johan, as he was, would no longer exist.

It took young Johan a decade to build the machine from the plans.   Finding funding was difficult.   He considered publicizing his research and asking for donations, but he hesitated.

If others had the option of changing time, they could change it in ways he didn’t approve of. They could steal his work and keep him from being born. They could hurt things he loved and help things he didn’t care for.

He only trusted his future to his own hands. So, he kept the research quiet. He worked at a terrible job that he hated to earn the money for materials.   He took classes to learn the construction techniques he’d need.

Young Johan worked through holidays and had no other hobbies. He had no friends and nothing he did for fun.   Anna, Johan’s sister, was the only person he told about the time machine.

“Johan, I don’t think this is a good idea,” she said. “I think you need to remember to live in the present.”

Johan laughed. “I can live all I want when the machine is finished. I have multiple lifetimes ahead of me.”

“Do you remember your last lifetime?” His sister asked. “The lifetime where you created this machine?”

“No,” Johan said. “This time I’ll keep a journal. I won’t include technical information though, just in case it falls into the wrong hands. I’ve already memorized and burned the plans for the machine.”

Anna frowned. “I don’t think that’s wise Johan. If you can’t refer to the plans, you may make a mistake in your work and not know it.”

“I’ll be fine,” Johan said.

Finally the machine was ready. He was a decade older and wiser. Perhaps he could give his younger self some pointers so this moment could come sooner.   Johan thought about it.

He remembered watching his older self fade away, leaving no memories behind.   If he gave the information to his younger self, his present self would cease to exist and he’d have nothing to show for all his work. He would be gone before he had a chance to really live.

Perhaps he could study some history and live in the past for a while first.   He could carefully use his knowledge to protect himself and perhaps make a little profit to pass on to his younger self later. It wasn’t as though waiting a bit would make a difference to his younger self.

When he was ready, he could reconstruct the plans and pass them on with the money he’d made and the lessons he’d learned. That would make everything easier. He picked a date to visit and prepared to leave.

“Johan, you don’t have to do this,” Anna said.

“I have waited my whole life for this. If I don’t go, I think I would always regret it,” Johan said.

“I will miss you,” Anna said.

“You won’t remember that I left,” Johan said.

Johan pressed buttons and pulled levers. The machine disappeared and reappeared. However, something must have gone wrong. There was no civilization on the horizon.

Johan stepped out of the machine and looked around at the strange forest.   He leaned over to examine an unusually large flower when the ground began to shake. He had enough time to stand, turn, and face his fate. Then a dinosaur ate him.

The machine was smashed. The knowledge of time travel was lost to the world. Anna did miss him after all.

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Charlie’s Room: The Shoes

Isaac was dreaming. Somehow he knew he was dreaming, but he couldn’t quite wake up. In his dream, people kept knocking on the door. He’d open the door, and the person would smile and wave and walk away. He’d close the door and the knocking began again.

The tempo of the knocking changed. Now it was a monkey at the door. Then it changed again and it was a dog knocking in a shuffle-tap rhythm.   The knocking grew sharper. He opened the door and no one was there.   He looked back and forth. He heard a strange rustling sound and looked down.

A bird was perched on the door knob. He looked down at the bird and it looked up at him. It launched itself off the knob, and he felt the feather soft touch of its wings on his face as he woke up.

Marianne’s hair was in his face. He sat up. She rolled over and the blankets rustled. There was a tapping sound coming from outside the room.

Isaac stood up and walked softly to the door and opened it. There was nothing there. He checked the doorknob and then behind the door. Nothing there either.

The tapping sound started again in a different rhythm. It was coming from Charlie’s room. Charlie’s door was open a little. Isaac pushed the door open all the way and looked inside.

Charlie was asleep. His quiet, regular breaths sounded loud in the middle of the night. Moonlight streamed in through the window, lighting the carpet in front of the closet. Inside the closet a pair of shoes danced.

Tap tap tappity tappity tap tap tap they danced. They floated and whirled and danced some more. And then they stopped.   Isaac walked into the room. His bare feet made whispery noises on the carpet.   Another pair of shoes started to dance.

Isaac sat in the moonlight in front of the closet and watched the shoes dance.   He softly hummed a tune. The shoes danced in time to the tune as he hummed.   He sang a lullaby. A pair of shoes waltzed.

Isaac clapped quietly after each pair of Charlie’s shoes took turns performing.   He considered fetching some of his shoes and maybe Marianne’s too. He really wanted to see if his sandals would do a shuffling, kicking dance or more of a tapping twirling one.

Just as he started to stand up, a cloud drifted in front of the moon. The light dimmed. The shoes stopped. Isaac sat back down and waited hopefully. The shoes didn’t move. He waited and listened to Charlie breathe quietly.

He started to feel tired. He laid down on the carpet so that he could wait more comfortably. He was really, really tired. The shoes would wake him up if they started dancing again. He could just take a short nap. He fell asleep.

Charlie woke him up in the morning. “Dad, why are you sleeping on the floor?” He asked. He shook Isaac’s arm.

Isaac sat up and rubbed his eyes. It was morning. The sun was coming up, and the shoes in Charlie’s closet stood neatly in rows.   Had it been a dream? If it was a dream, then why was he in Charlie’s room?

“Dad?” Charlie asked.

“I’m not sure,” Isaac said. “I think your shoes were dancing.”

“I sometimes have strange dreams too, Dad,” Charlie said. “Not that one though. That’s really weird.”

Marianne came into the room. “There you are! You were up early today, Isaac,” she said.

“Dad was sleeping on my floor. I think he had a weird dream,” Charlie said.

“Hmmmm,” Marianne said. “Well, let’s have breakfast.”

That night, there was a snowstorm. It snowed six inches in the night and hadn’t stopped when morning came.   Isaac woke once in the night.   Light came in from the streetlight outside, dimly illuminating the dancing snowflakes. He checked Charlie’s closet. The shoes didn’t dance.

He checked again a few nights later when there was moonlight again. The shoes didn’t dance. Did they only dance before big snowstorms? When the moon was a certain size? Once every hundred years? He asked them in a quiet whisper once, but they didn’t answer.

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New Year’s Eve

“Lottie, it’s New Year’s Eve,” Dad said. “We’re going to stay up until midnight!”

“Really?” Lottie asked. Her normal bedtime was eight o’clock. “How late is midnight?”

“Twelve o’clock,” said Mom. “You’ll be staying up four hours extra. Do you think you want to take a little nap now?”

“No. Naps are for babies,” Lottie said. “I can help with the puzzle.”

Lottie helped with the puzzle until it got too boring. She ate chips and watched a movie. At first staying up was exciting. But then she started to feel tired. She yawned.

“You can’t be tired yet, Lottie,” Dad said. “We still have three hours to go.”

“I’m not tired,” Lottie said. She was tired. Her eyes started closing on their own. It got harder and harder to open them and stay awake.

“Don’t go to sleep. You’re almost there. Just a little over two hours, Lottie,” Mom said.

Lottie suddenly felt suspicious. Her parents were always telling her to go to bed.   Why did they want her to stay up now? It didn’t make sense. Maybe these weren’t her real parents.

Lottie felt a little less tired. She needed to find her real parents and rescue them. She started to search the house.

“What are you doing?” Her maybe-not-real-mom asked.

“I’m looking for something,” Lottie said.

“What are you looking for?” Her maybe-not-real-dad asked.

“It’s a secret,” Lottie said.

“Just stay out of our room,” Maybe-not-real-mom said.

Aha! Of course they’d hide her real parents in the one place she normally wouldn’t look. Her real parents wouldn’t mind if she went in their room just this once. They’d want Lottie to save them from the not-real-parents.

Lottie looked in other places until the not-real-parents lost interest.   Then she opened the door and snuck into her parents’ room. She looked under the bed. Boring.   No people. She looked in the closets. Nope. She checked the bathroom. Empty.

Lottie looked out the window. It was too dark to check outside. She carefully closed the bedroom door and went back downstairs. She needed more information.

“What happens at midnight?” Lottie asked.

“It will be a new year,” Maybe-not-real-mom said.

“It’s so much fun, Lottie,” maybe-not-real-dad said. “We’ll bang pots and pans together and yell and make lots of noise!”

“In the middle of the night?” Lottie asked.

“That’s right,” maybe-not-real-dad said.

That confirmed her worst suspicions. These couldn’t be her real parents. They’d never tell her to stay up late and make lots of noise at night.   She wasn’t supposed to bang pots together or yell in the house in the middle of the day.

“Hmmmm,” Lottie said. She tried to look like her normal self. She was feeling tired again, but she didn’t want to fall asleep around the not-real-parents.   She looked around.

She could squeeze in behind the couch. She went to her bedroom and got her blanket and pillow. She started to crawl backwards, pulling them in behind her.

“Lottie, what are you doing?” Not-mom asked.

“I’m going to sleep,” Lottie said.

“But you’ll miss the New Year!” Not-dad said.

“I don’t care. I’m going to sleep now,” Lottie said.

“All right, if you’re sure,” Not-mom said.

She would find her real parents in the morning. They couldn’t be hidden far away. Maybe they’d come back on their own. Maybe the not-parents were going away at midnight, and if she was awake they’d take her too. All the more reason to fall asleep now.

As she drifted off, she heard Not-dad say, “But she’s always wanting to stay up late.”

“Kids are so funny,” Not-mom replied. “Sometimes I wonder what she’s thinking.”

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Picky

Harold paused by Melvin’s desk. “It looks like we can get a group discount on tickets to the game this weekend.   Are you in?” He asked.

“I thought baseball was all done for the year. There’s snow out,” Melvin said.

“No, it’s basketball now,” Harold said.

“Is it going to be much different than that baseball thing we went to this summer?” Melvin asked.

“Well, it’s inside. And it’s a different sport,” Harold said.

“Does it last as long?” Melvin asked.

“It can,” Harold said.

“Are there soft seats? You get soft seats at the movies and they’re shorter,” Melvin said.

“No.”

“Is there a soundtrack?” Melvin asked.

“Well, sometimes the announcers…” Harold began.

“Like at the baseball game?” Melvin asked. Harold nodded. Melvin snorted. “That’s more like listening to ringtones than a soundtrack. And it was so boring. They should at least try to script it.”

Harold laughed. “If they scripted it, it wouldn’t be real. People go to a game to see something real.”

“No they don’t. It has an imposed set of rules and people who train heavily to boost their performance.   Real life is nothing like that.   And I can watch real life for free,” Melvin said.

“Fine, I guess that’s a no for you,” Harold said.

“That’s right. If it’s anything like the baseball game, all there is to do is sit and eat and talk.   The food was expensive, the people were drunk, the game was boring, and they didn’t even have free wifi. I hope you have fun,” Melvin said.

“Ouch,” Harold said. “I guess you’re not a sports fan. Well, you’ll feel left out when it’s all we talk about next week.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll look up the scores and such and be able to follow along,” Melvin said.

“Whatever,” Harold said. He stalked off.

Janet paused by Melvin’s desk. “Hey, there’s a comic con coming up in two weeks. A group of us were going. Do you want to join us?” She asked.

“Is it going to be any different from the one we went to last year?” Melvin asked.

“There’s new speakers,” Janet said. “And we’re all going to wear Star Wars costumes. It was Avengers last year, you remember?”

“Are the lines going to be as long?” Melvin asked.

“That’s part of the fun,” Janet said. “You get to talk to people you wouldn’t have met otherwise that share your interests.”

“We didn’t really do that last year. We just stood there and shuffled forward every so often,” Melvin said.

“No, we talked to those girls in the Sailor Moon outfits for twenty minutes,” Janet said.

“The ones who kept rolling their eyes at us?” Melvin asked.

“And we talked to those school teachers, they were nice,” Janet said.

“I suppose so. But we could hardly see the speakers and it was too loud and the food was expensive.   Everything was expensive,” Melvin said.

“Yes, but it’s an experience,” Janet said. “And it only happens once a year.”

“Pass,” Melvin said.

“Whatever,” Janet said. She stalked off.

Susan had the desk next to Melvin. She’d agreed to go to both the basketball game and the comic con the moment she was asked. When Melvin was getting ready to go for the day, she asked him, “Melvin, what kinds of activities do you like to go to?”

“Oh, I like almost anything,” Melvin said. “I’m not picky.”
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Marking the Spot

Gerald looked both ways and then darted out the back door of the manor and into the nearby woods. He pressed his arm against his chest, holding the golden chalice in place, hidden under his black coat. He tried to run as quietly as possible through the thick snow, but his boots crunched loudly beneath him leaving an easy trail through the snow that anyone could follow.

Finally, he stopped and listened. Far away a bird sang. Nothing more. He chuckled quietly as he pulled out the chalice. It glinted in the weak sunlight that filtered through the leafless trees from the over cast sky. It was finally his.

It was always meant to be his. He knew it the moment he’d come in for his interview for the assistant gardener job.   He’d waited in the front room and glanced through the open door into the parlor and saw it there on the mantle.   It glowed in a beam of sunlight and he thought he heard angels sing. At that moment he knew that he had to have it, no matter what it took.

He’d cautiously asked around. It was a priceless family heirloom, valued at more than Gerald had made working hard the last ten years. There wasn’t any way for him to acquire it legally. He looked at it longingly through the windows whenever he could.   It was always all alone, unloved, uncherished.

Now its owners were out of town for a week, with just the butler home. The butler had slipped and fallen on the icy path and turned his ankle and Gerald was called in to sweep the walks. It was a sign. The way was clear. The butler had gone in to take his pain medicine and lie down. Gerald walked in quietly and took the chalice.

Unfortunately, he had no way to get it home. He hadn’t brought a bag, just his shovel. The sharp-eyed postman had offered to drive him over.  The postman wouldn’t look the other way on the ride back.  He was so law-abiding it made Gerald’s teeth hurt.

He’d have to hide it and bring a bag the next time he was called to the house.   If the family came home before then, they’d blame the butler for its absence. Everyone always blamed the butler, right?

Gerald looked around. There was a little den, just the right size, nearby in the thin snow under a large tree.   He wondered what animal lived there.   It didn’t really matter.

Gerald murmured an apology to his chalice as he wedged it into the den and put a large rock on top. He built a snowman right on top of the rock. There, he’d marked the spot well. He blew a kiss. He’d be back.

He did marvelous job shoveling the walk. He felt as light as air. Mine, mine, mine, he thought. He smiled at the postman who picked him up. The postman frowned and looked suspicious, but he’d never know.

Gerald grinned. The next time it snowed, he would be back with a bag, and the chalice would come home with him. He’d keep it under his pillow and look at it every night. He couldn’t wait.

But it didn’t snow. It rained.   It rained off and on for weeks. It was a month before Gerald was called back to trim the hedges. He brought a large bag with a lunch in it in case anyone asked. As soon as the head gardener turned the corner, Gerald slipped into the woods.

There was no snow left, so the snowman was gone of course. He tried to retrace his steps, turning over stones as he went. None of them had chalices underneath, or even likely looking animal dens. He’d lost the chalice. He took as much time as he dared and finally wobbled out of the woods and started trimming.

He wanted to weep. How had this happened? He should have walked miles in the dark to return here the very night he’d hidden it. The chalice was worth it. This was all his fault.

At lunchtime, he wandered over to the parlor window to peek inside and mourn the lost chalice. He looked, and the chalice was there on the mantle once more, glowing. Had losing it been a bad dream? It didn’t seem likely.

Was he dreaming now? He rubbed his eyes. It was still there, as beautiful as ever.

“A hunter found it out in the woods,” the head gardener said at his elbow.   Gerald jumped.

“Found what?” he asked.

“The chalice there. No one knows how it got there. It was next to a fox den. The hunter took it as a bribe from the fox and left the poor thing alone,” the gardener said.   “He took the chalice into town to look for the owner. It came home before anyone knew it was gone.”

“What a strange story,” Gerald said. “How did it get out in the woods?”

“No one knows. The butler says that no one is to go into the house any more but the family. He’ll mail us our pay,” the gardener said.

“No one?” Gerald asked. His heart sank. He’d failed the chalice and lost his chance. It was no longer his. He looked back in the window. The chalice glowed, reserved and remote.

“Nope. He says it was a warning from a guardian sprite or something that the security needed to be tightened. A lot of nonsense if you ask me. I makes a good story though.” The gardener laughed. “Lunch is over now, back to work.

“Back to work,” Gerald echoed. He turned and walked away from the window. He didn’t look back.

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