Author: Elizabeth Hoyle
“Virtual breakfast with President Mahlers is at 8:30 followed by a joint press conference with the heads of NASA, Earth Only, and The Time Organization at 9:45—”
“Who invited those idiots from the T.O? All they want is to keep their rich investors young forever.”
“Don’t forget that they’ve invested heavily in you, too.” Perkins, my assistant, sighed. The sound echoed in my isolation chamber like a wave crashing against the seashore. “Final preparations begin at 10:30 with the test run scheduled to start at exactly 11 o’clock.”
“Then I can finally eat something other than this nutrogarbage!” I grabbed some of the nearby foil-wrapped pouches and threw them up in the air. Perkins chuckled.
“I’ll have a bucket of fried chicken and a bottle of champagne ready when you are cleared to come out of isolation. Now, about the press conference—”
“They’ll all ask variations of the same five questions. They always do.”
“Nevertheless, we need to be prepared. You’ll have the world’s eyes on you. The future and the past will be in your hands if everything goes well.”
My heart sped up at his words. He was telling the truth, though I wish he weren’t. “All I did was design a machine and do all I could to ensure it worked. I didn’t want to change the world or build a business. I wanted to see if I could make what was in my head a reality.”
“You did it! You made the world’s first time machine! Whatever your reasons, this is a paradigm-altering achievement. Everyone will want to know all about it. As I said, you hold the future.”
Perkins kept talking but I couldn’t hear him. My blood rushed through my ears like the gusts that herald a hurricane. I looked down at my hands. They shook. I slammed the “End Call” button and Perkins’ face vanished. I had about two minutes if I was lucky before he would remotely lock the isolation chamber’s doors so I couldn’t get into my adjoining workshop.
I grabbed as many nutropacks as I could and shoved them into the pockets of my shorts and hurried into my biohazard suit. The workshop door whooshed open after I keyed in the code. I pressed the lock code then hurried inside. The machine took my breath away even now. My mother would have laughed at my vainglory but she would have been even prouder than I was. I smiled. I knew where I could go.
I turned on the machine, set the date, time, and place, stepped on the transport pad, and squeezed my eyes shut. Everything worked perfectly because, even through my suit, I could suddenly smell the distinct mothball-and-paper scent of my mother’s attic. I opened my eyes. Everything looked slightly less dusty than it would two years from now, when Mom would force me up here to do some long-neglected cleaning.
The rushing in my ears gradually fell silent. My mother was singing downstairs. She had done that often when she finished teaching her virtual classes for the day. My gut ached with the wish that I could remove my helmet so I could hear her better. I wandered to the corner, where a dusty couch lurked. I sat down. There was a big box of my old childhood books next to it. I opened the box, clumsily picked up the top book, and started reading, memory after memory returning as I did so. I settled back, my shoulders relaxing for the first time in ages. The future could wait a little longer.