After years, months, weeks, days, the moment had arrived—the moment they would be reunited. Walter Smith carefully inspected his invention, making sure every nut had been fastened, every screw had been tightened, and everything was in place.The machine looked like a dull metallic beehive with a sliding door, and it was just big enough for someone to step inside of.
This was to be his third and final attempt, as he had invested everything he had, all his time, effort, and money. He had focused all his energy on the project, and it had been an exhausting process. What kept him going was his love of science, the art of experimentation and discovery, and the hope that he would one day be reunited with his wife.
Isabella had passed away from skin cancer a decade ago despite having had the best medical treatment available at the time. He couldn’t bear to see his beloved Isabella suffer in agony, so he did what would have previously been unthinkable. He emptied the contents of a death pill into her tea. It did not take long for the pill to take effect, and she passed away peacefully.
As he was a physicist, he believed that her death would be temporary and that one day they would be reunited. He had been on the verge of discovering the secret of time travel, but his research was stalled by the devastating news that his wife Isabella was dying of cancer. After her death he worked harder than ever and with great resolve to solve the mystery of time travel. He had found his purpose, and that was to be united with his beloved.
You see, everything in the universe is imperfect, including time. The imperfections or wrinkles in time are so minute, so miniscule, that they could not be detected by the most precise scientific equipment at the time. However, that was before Walter developed the “Eye”—the electroscope that could detect these tiny wrinkles in time. Having identified the imperfection in time, what Walter then needed to do was understand the nature of the wrinkles, iron them out, and control them.
But this was all before Isabella had been diagnosed with cancer. When that happened, he abandoned his work and focused all his energy into being with her. Holding her hand whenever he could, even during her treatment. In Isabella’s passing he felt he had lost a piece of his heart, so he set out to find it again. He knew the answer lay in his research. So he set up a secret laboratory in his basement. Of course, it had to be secret, for even if time travel had been achieved and a time machine created in the public domain, there would be protocol and testing, which would mean that the earliest that the machine would be ready for a human subject would be decades. Walter didn’t have decades to wait, as he was a middle-aged man, and by the time that time travel would be available to the public, he would most likely have passed away.
Then one day he did it—he made time travel a reality. What was needed to control or bend time was lots of energy. To bend time, Walter used the concentrated energy from a device known as a rechannelling machine. The device would absorb the energy around it and channel it into a space the size of a keyhole. He managed to steal a rechanneling machine from his old workplace: Syntech Corporation. He then buried the machine in an area where the government performed its weapons testing so the machine could absorb the energy required. This energy would then be rechannelled into his time machine, making time travel possible.
He checked the touch pad once more before pushing the activation button of the machine. The machine came to life buzzing with lights and sound. The sliding door silently slid open, and at exactly twelve p.m. on July 14, 2116, Walter entered the unknown.
He had programmed the machine with the coordinates to arrive at noon plus one second on July 14, 2105, a few days after Isabella had been diagnosed with cancer. He arrived through a blue portal into his basement. In 2105 it was an old dusty room with piles of newspapers and old junk. He had planned everything to the minute. He knew that this would be the day his old self would be finishing up at Syntech Corporation so he could tend to Isabella. He had a handwritten note to give to his old self in case the experiment did not go as planned and Isabella could not be returned in time. The note was to explain to his other self the reason for Isabella’s disappearance:
It’s “me”—or should I say “us.” I’m the future you.
I want to tell you that we eventually crack it; we discover the secret to time travel and this note is proof.
If you don’t believe me the formula is: E = mc2 [classified information].
As you know, Isabella is sick, and I regret to inform you that she will pass away in a year’s time. But there’s hope. My plan is to bring her into the future, where there have been many medical breakthroughs in the cure for cancer. I hope to have her cured and back to you soon so that she will continue to live during my time in the future. I hope you understand.
Your future self,
PS. By the way, in order to get our time machine to work, you’ll need heaps of energy, more than we initially thought. To solve this problem, I used one of those rechannelling machines. They are ideal for singular time travel.
He knew he did not have long and quickly rushed up the stairs to the kitchen, where he knew Isabella would be. Isabella was startled by Walter’s presence, “Walter? You’re home. What a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect you home so early.”
“My love, there’s no time to explain, but you must come with me. I’ll explain everything later. You must trust me.”
“Of course I trust you, dear.”
He grabbed her hand and led her into the basement. She was slightly taken aback when she saw the blue portal in the basement that was the gate between the past, present, and future.
“My love, I’ve done it. I’ve managed to make time travel possible, and I want to save you. I don’t want you to suffer. I want to cure your cancer. Trust me.”
She was a little hesitant at first but knew that if anyone was brilliant enough to solve the mystery of time travel, it was her Walter. So they stepped through the portal to the present day, at twelve noon on July 14, 2116 (one second after the point when he had initially left).
Back in 2116, Isabella was bewildered and glad at the same time in the knowledge that her Walter had achieved the seemingly impossible—travelling through time—and potentially saving her life in the process. The house in which they lived looked so different, having decayed somewhat without her presence, her woman’s touch.
Having not seen his beloved Isabella for so long, Walter caressed her cheeks and stroked her raven-colored hair before kissing her tenderly.
“I’ve missed you,” he finally said. “If only you knew how empty I felt inside. The only thing that kept me going was the dream of this moment.”
“Well, the moment’s no longer a dream.” She smiled, holding on to his embrace.
Tears streamed down their eyes as they held each other close. After what seemed like an eternity, he gently lead her through their home explaining what had happened in the intervening years. Though, he was careful not to divulge too much about what had happened in the world since 2105 (because he knew that this version of Isabella would be required to go back to the Walter of 2105, and to give her too much information could irreparably alter the fabric of time).
There was much laughter and tears as he remembered old times and she learned about new ones. That evening in the comfort of their home, they wined and dined and danced the night away in good spirits. Walter’s good friend Dr. Stephen Windsor was a renowned cancer specialist. With Dr. Windsor’s expertise and the latest medical breakthroughs in the cure for cancer, they hoped in their hearts that he could cure Isabella’s disease. After their dance, they retreated into their bedroom for a night of passion and fireworks, finally falling asleep from exhaustion.
Walter was so spent that he slept through the buzzing of his alarm clock at seven a.m. When he finally did wake at eight, he kissed Isabella’s forehead before leaving a note:
Just heading out to grab breakfast. I remember what you like: Eggs Benedict with English muffins and a coffee. Be back soon.
Walter’s mind was most active in the morning, so he loved to go for walks at the start of the day. The combination of exercise and fresh air cleared his mind, and this was when he often had his most productive thoughts. Today was no exception, and he experienced a most profound revelation: if he was successful in curing Isabella from her cancer, he would take her back one second from the exact point from when she had left on July 14, 2105, to have the least disturbance to the time continuum as possible.
Otherwise, imagine the horror of two Isabellas (from differing times) confronting each other, he reasoned.
This led to his next thought. If he succeeded in curing Isabella and bringing her back to the past, wouldn’t there be two Isabellas in the present right here and now? One would be the Isabella from 2105, who he had just spent the night with, and one would be the Isabella who never died in the past and would have lived with him till this day in the present.
So where was this second Isabella? As Walter grabbed his coffees, eggs, and muffins from his favorite café, he thought, I must stop thinking such thoughts. It’s unhealthy; everything’s going to be fine. I’ve got to stop overanalyzing everything and worrying so much.
When he arrived home after his morning stroll, he could hear murmuring coming from his bedroom. My Isabella, I wonder what’s happened?
He rushed to toward his bedroom and opened the door. Words could not describe his shock and horror. There on the corner of the bed lay a woman who did not appear to be his Isabella. She looked nothing like the woman he loved. She was old and withered, her jaw gaunt. Gone were Isabella’s sparkling eyes full of life; they had been replaced by hollow eyes with a death stare. Bulging veins and wrinkles covered her entire body.
It was his beloved Isabella, but what on earth had happened to her? There were claws where her hands were supposed to be. What was once a mouth was now a wide open gape chanting, “Walter what have you done to me, what have you done to me,” over and over again. The words played in his mind over and over like a horrible, haunting melody.
Then he saw her feet. Her feet were slowly rotting away, with the bone exposed beneath the flesh, and the rancid, rank smell of her rotting flesh contaminated the very air he was breathing.
The haunting melody, wretched sight, and smell of his beloved rotting away like a leper plagued his mind till he could bear no more. He fainted at the sight of what had become of his beloved.
When he regained consciousness, he turned around. All that was left of Isabella was a bloody red corpse with blood seeping into the bed sheets, her exposed eyeballs staring right at him accusingly. He screamed, unable to block the terror in his mind.
Bio: Kevin C. Ong lives in Lavender Bay, Sydney. He writes in a variety of genres. Published and soon to be published works include "Love in Another Time", (www.dailylove.net, 11 Dec 2011) and "100 Rooms" (Issue 59 of www.blackpetals.net to be available 15 April 2012). These stories and more will appear in a collection of short stories to be published in 2012. Read more at facebook.com/kcongpublications.
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