Author: Ryan Watson
853 is a rather unremarkable number. It is the approximate weight of a male grizzly bear in pounds. A sloth will travel at approximately 853 feet in an hour. It marked a central year of the Danish Viking raids of Europe, resulting in a Swedish Viking raid reply.
Robert Mattheson knew none of these things however.
Robert Mattheson was doing laundry in the basement of his Minnesotan home when a stuck pant leg, caught at the bottom of the basin, had him lean forward overtop of the machine.
It was simply bad luck that at 8:53 pm Robert Mattheson found himself tumbling through the hatch and into the past.
Robert Mattheson was not a scientist; he had not been previously experimenting with time travel. Neither was he an engineer, making untested changes to his washer. He was an accountant. Just a man dealing with an extraordinarily uncommon occurrence in the confines of his laundry room.
One might imagine that the act of traveling backwards through the stream of time would be a dramatic experience, but it is not. One minute Robert was tugging gently at the hem of his work pants and the next he had found himself falling flat on his back on the grassy floor of a Red Cedar Forest.
“This is certainly strange,” Robert thought from the ground. He checked his watch, finding the time to now be 8:54, and stood up. He looked around, confused at his sudden change of scenery. Still holding the wet trousers that had miraculously accompanied him on his journey, he wondered how it came to be that he was now in the woods.
Robert had no way to know that he had not travelled any distance whatsoever, that he was, geographically speaking, exactly where he had been standing 1400 years in the future. But he also had no way to know, or reason to suspect that he had travelled into the past. It simply made more sense to believe he had had an episode, and lost track of the previous day. He had never had an episode before, but to him this must be what one must be.
Draping his damp pants over his shoulder, Robert set off into the woods in the direction he believed to be his home. He would never make it back, and was subsequently fired from his firm for his sudden and continued absence.
Nicely humorous play with tangential relevance, and a fun tale with echoes of H. Beam Piper.
853 yeas later Robert’s future self found himself in a washing machine.
So was he eventually eaten by a 853 pound Grizzly, or by a traveling Sloth? And if not, why are they in the story?