A Wandering Mind

Author: Richard Wren

“Aaaagh!” It was always a shock to return, to feel the meat encase him again, to stare out through balls of jelly. Felix Bonaparte, time traveler, twitched his body to relieve his aching joints and waited for his heart to stop racing.
With eyes now closed, and in a fetal position, he concentrated on calming his rapid breath. Okay, that was better.
The worst was over. He was home. Rolling onto his back, he pushed with his legs to slide sweatily across the soft flooring. Now, propped into the corner of the dim little room, he felt his muscles gradually relax.
Felix loved to travel but wished it was more like H. G. Wells and those other stories. If only he had a slick, shiny machine with flashing lights and data screens. In reality, time travel was more of an art than a science. A matter of focusing on the moment – any moment, and then simply being there. Easy once you had the knack, but not everyone allowed themselves to be released into the currents of time. Most people preferred a limiting, single reality.
Felix Bonaparte – not his real name, had been traveling for most of his life, firstly by shocking accident then, after resisting Ritalin and other childhood drugs, deliberately. Teachers said he had a wandering mind.
As a youth, he had followed various boyhood whims. He had gawped at dinosaurs tramping through primeval swamps, watched dramatic, blood-stained battles and had admired the building of the great pyramids under the ancient Egyptian sun. Now, more mature and satiated with the spectacles of history, he was a connoisseur. He specialized in French history of the eighteenth century, a time of great change.
His last trip had been to his favorite place – the sumptuous palace of Versailles. It wasn’t just the elegance and social intrigue that he enjoyed. Even the hard lives of the servants and courtiers held a fascination for Felix.
Would M. Hardouin be able to create the spun sugar sculpture he boasted for the Duke’s visit? How much longer would The Marquis de Lafayette continue his dalliance with his chambermaid? It was all a real-life soap opera, both subtle and dramatic.
Of course, only his focus moved there – roaming the mirrored corridors like a ghost. His body always stayed here in the cushioned little room.
He had visited the palace a dozen times without the problem of seeing himself from a previous jaunt. His earlier foci were no more visible to him than they were to the locals. By the same spectral token, he could observe but have no effect on what happened around him.
A little smile trimmed his mouth. Why hadn’t those story writers thought of that? Goodbye time paradoxes.
The little smirk widened to a grimace. Damn! He could feel what was coming next. It happened like this sometimes – uncontrollable spasms and reflex actions as his body adapted to being full again. It shook, laughing uproariously at those narrow-minded old tellers of tales.
Thankfully the padded walls and securely tied straps of his jacket prevented him from serious damage from his frantic contortions. He paused to grab air before another exhausting bout of laughter, accompanied by bodily thrashing, rolled him around the echoless room. Opposite him, set in the cushioned door, a little flap slid open for someone to peer in, then immediately shut again.
He was safe in his little box with its gentle lighting and comfortably tight clothing. Beyond, in nearby cells, he could hear the anguished shouts and wails of other returning travelers.

9 Comments

  1. SimonJM

    Nice use of a not often trod path to time travel, and quite a delight to see it wrapped up in a strait jacket!

  2. Richard Wren

    Thanks to all for the really encouraging comments. I’m afraid I can’t resist a shameless plug for my novel “Methuselah’s Memoirs” due out in the summer, published by Alban Lake.
    Shameless plug over.

  3. mikebailey1979

    I’m a huge fan of the unreliable narrator and you did a good job of employing it here. The duality of his sanity and time travel are fun to think about. I enjoyed this one. Thank you!

  4. Jes

    This was surprisingly good. As Hari said, you mined a new gem from the Time Travel mines. And it is a clever fix to all of the time paradox problem if only the consciousness is projected to observe. Last line is perfect, as is the idea of returning to the meat bag. Very good.

  5. Clapboard

    Just… Excellent!

  6. Hari Navarro

    It never ceases to amaze me just how much is still able to be mined from these, so called, hackneyed tropes. Yours draws on previous work, but you made it your own. “… to feel the meat encase him again” Nice work and I loved the closing line.

    • Richard Wren

      Thanks. I’m glad you liked it.

  7. Jae

    Oh, that’s nicely done.

    Minor typo: “breath” should be “breathing”.

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