Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

As the supports of Hall’s final prototype sank a half-centimetre into the soft earth, he breathed a sigh of relief.

After a moment’s perfect peace, one of the guide crystals under his seat exploded. Fragments scattered all over the clearing, and a splintered length about the size of Hall’s forearm punched straight through his thigh.

He screamed, and fainted. After an indeterminate time, he regained consciousness to find four people in heated discussion by his now-ruined contraption. The length of crystal was still embedded in his leg, pinning him to the seat: if he moved even a fraction, pain lanced through his body and the wound began to bleed. Hall groaned and gritted his teeth. They were ignoring him, bickering amongst themselves.

“My instruments detected his arrival – he’s mine by right.” The shorter of the men was wearing a white lab coat, with goggles pushed up on his head, and thick gloves.

“Don’t be tiresome, Sil,” one of the women replied. Her skin and eyes were midnight black, her hair and lips a shining silver. “You had the last two spacers, and he looks, what, twenty-third century? All that crystal. Definitely twenty-third. He’s just perfect for my latest expedition!”

“Delectable dark one, I believe you have your history all skewed. His crystals are incidental. Look at his clothing! He’s definitely from the hundred and twentieth.” The taller of the men was dressed in long robes of green and gold, and wore bright jewels in his hair.

“Shatter, Ratri, Sil: I propose we find an equitable way to settle this.” This was said by final member of the group, an almost transparent female. She touched each of her compatriots delicately on the shoulder, and turned towards Hall, who still winced in pain.

“You must choose, traveller,” she gazed at Hall, and he could see her breath move beneath her glassy skin, “You must pick to whom you would rather belong. This is the end of time, and you are trapped here: injured, with your magnificent time machine in pieces around you. Even if it still functioned, you would be unable to remain in the past.”

She approached, and touched the spear of crystal that pinned him to his seat. It vanished, and the wound in his leg closed up.

“My name is Tanelorn: enter my collection and you shall have companionship of the like you could not imagine – all the pleasures of life your origins denied you. Death and suffering are strangers to my domain.”

“I am Sil, the experimenter. To travel through time, you must be a man of science. I am the last true scientist – join me in my laboratories as an equal, not a pet. You will see the universe. You will see atoms dance for you: you will be able to pursue your research to whatever ends you choose!”

“I’m Lord Shatter, a humble student of history. So much has been lost throughout the ages: my life’s work is to assemble a complete history of our beloved planet. There is so much you could help me with – you must come and add the sum of your knowledge to my libraries, and be part of something greater than any one of us alone.”

“And I am Ratri, the traveller. My domain is the outer reaches: come with me to unbind yourself from the fetters of this world. With me, you’ll see the universe. Not Sil’s universe of physics and time, but the cosmos. We’ll visit world after world, see the wonders of the universe up close and personal. So what do you say?”


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows