This time the story must be about time travel. Anything else goes. This is a story idea I'd been kicking around for a while, but I never really had a place for it. Why not here?
Have Time - Will Travel
Deborah thinks me mad. Truth told, she may have more insight in the matter, for I could hardly hold an unbiased view. Still, I see the damn thing everywhere. It is in the room when I wake, watches me as I drift off to sleep, and at every point in between. Deborah claims not to see it, but I ask, which is the more difficult to accept, that one’s own eyes are deceptive, or that a person who claims to love that person is doing what she thinks best to protect that person through subterfuge?
I first saw it seven days ago.
Having tested the machine with a simple iron weight, I then tested it with a pocket-watch to ensure that the small parts would be unaffected. In each case, the results were identical. The item vanished from the chamber only to re-appear a week later. The watch, normally good for only twenty hours on a wind, continued to run as if no time had elapsed.
I prepared the machine for the final test, in which I would slice an apple in half before sending it along. This test would be to determine any risk to soft tissue and to examine the rate at which the soft parts of the apple turn brown. I placed the fruit in the chamber and engaged the motor.
The thrum of electric power filled my laboratory for a scant ten seconds, and with a flash, the apple vanished from the chamber. I would need to wait a week to see if the experiment was success. For it to be so, the receiving chamber would contain a freshly cut apple, fit for consumption. A victory meal as it were.
No sooner did I turn from the chamber than I saw the wraith before me. I jumped back with a start and it seemed to understand my fear. It stepped back so as not to crowd me. At this, I felt relief.
Its appearance was rather translucent, and its borders were ill-defined. The effect was rather like looking through a fogged window. Despite the ambiguity of features, I could see its mouth moving in a manner consistent with speech, though I heard no sound.
I pointed to my ear and shook my head, while saying “I cannot hear you.”
At this, it stopped speaking and hung its head.
I repeated the phrase and it responded by pointing to its own ear and shaking its head. Was it telling me that could not hear me either, or was it simply a mimic?
To this, I clapped my hands together three times and waited for its response. The reply was not mimicry, but an urgent pointing at the test chamber. With the pointing was a violent shaking of its head, followed by a gesture which I have used many times myself to indicate that something was forbidden.
Before I could proceed with further attempts, Deborah arrived to inform me that dinner was ready. I asked for her opinion on the wraith, and she claimed not to see it. She looked at me, her forehead wrinkled in that worried way it does when she feels something is amiss and took my arm to lead me away.
The wraith has appeared to me daily since. Each time, it seems adamant to dissuade me from furthering my experiments, yet no one will admit to seeing it. The situation is quite maddening, and I can feel my focus shifting.
The apple I placed in the chamber a week ago arrived right on schedule and I carefully examined the structure for damage. Tests made on the skin and juice match those of the other half, which I used as a control. I am confident enough that the apple has moved through time unharmed that I take a bite of it.
Juice runs down my hand and I begin laughing. The experiment was as successful as those before. One test remains before I step into the chamber myself.
Despite the agitated antics of the wraith, of which I have grown quite tolerant, I pull a large field rat from a cage on my bench. I mark one if its feet with a drop of ink for identification and place it in the chamber. I close the door and activate the switch. The rat scampers wildly around the chamber and I plan to make note of its exact position when it vanishes.
The normally familiar thrum sounds different this time. It is faster. It sounds almost like a rapid heartbeat. My silent count reaches nine, and I hold my breath. There is a flash, and a moment of unexpected pain, followed by intense nausea and a feeling of being drawn toward the machine, into darkness.
I awake and look about the room. The walls are diffuse and only semi-opaque. I am not in a room, but the hallway outside my lab. The explosion must have cast me through the door, yet I feel no pain. I try to open the door and am stunned to see my hand pass through it as easily as if it were air. Assuming it possible, I step through the door. Before me is the wraith.
It sees me and jumps back.
“Is that what you’ve been trying to tell me?” I ask. “That the machine cannot transport living creatures?”
It points at it ear and shakes its head. Its mouth moves but no sounds come out.
I repeat the gesture, see one half of a freshly cut apple on the table, and hang my head.
I am doomed.