Author : Andi Dobek
The instrument panel flickered longer than I’d have liked before its glow intensified, and the loud knocking finally quieted as the machine entered standby mode. I focused on the snugness of the harness around my chest, rather than what was about to happen.
I didn’t have the credits to buy one of the top of the line, government-sanctioned time reversers, the ones that came with a “money and time back” guarantee. If you weren’t completely satisfied with your trip to the past, your credits would never leave your bank account, and security would stop you at the door. They’d hand you a card that read “We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy your trip” with a list of reasons you gave in a survey, filled out before they’d even unstrapped you. The QR code on the card provided a link to FAQs, so you could figure out how you didn’t enjoy a trip you’d never taken.
Ones sold illegally were built in basements, chop shops and abandoned warehouses. You used them at your own risk, and all of them had the same flaw: they couldn’t monitor your activities like government ones did, and therefore could not guarantee your safe return. These were one-way tickets, banned nearly everywhere.
Mine was one of the “newer” models, in that it provided such luxuries as a cupholder and charging port for devices that still required them. It tracked my heartrate (spiking at the moment), brain waves, and lung capacity. The latter had been steadily depleting, but smoking two packs a day will do that, and my desire to quit had long since abated.
I wiped my thumb on my pants and held it to the thermal scanner. I had to wipe it a second time before the screen was able to scan accurately. Once my identity was verified as the purchaser and sole user of the machine, a backlit keypad slid out of the dash.
I could choose any moment in my life, from as little as 60 seconds prior to the jump, to as far back as the day I was born. It had taken me months to work up the nerve to make the highly illegal purchase, and another half a year before I could even bring myself to sit in it. But I had known since August 12, 2181, what date I would revisit.
I entered February 9th, 2170. The default time was 00:00, just when the day was beginning.
I thumbed the scanner to confirm. The knocking started again, and I felt its vibrations in my seat.
[Date confirmed. Have a nice day.]
As the knocking swelled to a roar, I tried to picture my wife’s face one last time. I had memorized the day we met, knew exactly where I needed to be in order to meet her for the first time, and fall in love with her all over again. And what I needed to do to ensure that didn’t happen.
I closed my eyes, trying to hold on to her smile, the way her eyes crinkled above blushing cheeks, because in a moment, I was going to ensure we never met. She’d marry someone far richer, someone who could afford the life-saving treatments I couldn’t.
I gripped the armrests of my seat. My teeth rattled. Scenes from our life played back in reverse, and my breath hitched as I watched her grow healthy again, then younger and younger in my memories. As an afterthought, I reached to thumb my wedding ring, one last time, but it was already gone.