Black Petals Issue #72 Summer, 2015

Onward Traveler

Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Brutal-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Chaos in Corollary-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
In Dreams, There Is No Time-Fiction by George Gad Economou
Nuncapisco-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Ocean Life-Fiction by Lael Braday
Onward Traveler-Fiction by Kathleen Wolak
The Beach House-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Weeping Man-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Poetry & Prose by Alexis Child
Poetry by John Frazee
Poetry by Denny Marshall
Poetry by Jeffrey Park
Poetry by Dr. Mel Waldman

time_machine.jpg

Onward Traveler

By Kathleen Wolak

A dropped stitch in the knitting of time

 

 

11:58 p.m. with thirty-nine seconds to go.

The clock ticks in time to Dr. Caine’s footsteps. He walks lightly, as though there are pebbles wedged in his shoes, right under his toes. 

I notice my head getting sweaty from the lights, but unfortunately, my arms are bound and I couldn’t so much as scratch the tiny itch I have in my inner thigh, let alone wipe my forehead. The cameramen seem to notice my discomfort, but do nothing for me, as it may disturb the process. Dr. Caine, however, grabs a towel from one of the men’s back pockets and lightly presses it on my head, dabbing away the sweat before it reaches my eyes. As he leans in close, I can see my reflection in his glasses. Who is this man staring back at me?

“Our first traveler…” Dr. Caine answers my silent question. “I never thought I would live to see this day.”

He is smiling, but I can see a hint of worry in his eyes. Behind him, three men position their mammoth cameras so that they are all pointed directly at my face. A man in a smart black suit pushes something into his ear before he starts to talk to the one camera that is not on me.

“Welcome to our live broadcast of the world’s first attempt at sending a man through time. This is perhaps the most important day for science, as mankind will finally be traversing the space-time continuum. Theories have been proposed, books have been written, and tests have been run on this very machine using lab rats and mice. Today, however, will be a day that will live on forever, as Dr. Jason Robard will be the first human ever to attempt this feat.”

Dr. Caine, seemingly unaware of the broadcast going on behind him, continues to adjust my straps. The news anchor, anxious to have a word with me before the final button is pressed, inches his way closer to my vessel.

“Now, I am going to try to have a word with Dr. Robard before he is sent exactly five hours back in time. The start time, I am told will be exactly 12:03 a.m., so if I could get a word with the world’s first time traveler…”

Dr. Caine continues to ignore the anchor, and stays in his way. 

“Or perhaps a word with the physicist who invented this very machine, Dr. Lewis Caine,” the anchor tries another technique. He puts his hand lightly on Dr. Caine’s shoulder. 

“Sir, can you please tell us what is about to happen?”

Dr. Caine looks rather annoyed with the news anchor, but humors his question anyway. “The 99% probability is that Dr. Robard will be launched into the past.”

The anchor looks irritated. “Yes…that we know. How is this being achieved, Dr. Caine?”

“I’m sorry, but I simply don’t have time to explain the process just yet. If you’ll let me get Dr. Robard ready, I will happily explain while he is traveling. We are on a bit of ticking clock after all.” Dr. Caine smiles at his little joke and turns back to face me.

“Are you ready, Jason?”

I nod, as much as I am able.

“Now, I feel as though it is my duty to tell you, you are going to feel an amazing amount of pressure throughout your entire body. We are basically sending you through a wormhole, as you know. Your body will arrive intact, as long as you stay completely still in your vessel. You remember that five hours ago, we set up this identical vessel to ensure your return safely to what will be the present. When you arrive in the past, it is crucial that you return within an hour to the present. That is how long we gave the mice and there was no incident.”

“I know,” I say, remembering exactly where I was five hours ago and wondering if my future self was in another room, mere feet away, ensuring the success of the mission.

“When you return, the wormhole will close, sealing with it the past and your past self.” Dr. Caine continues on as the news anchor leans his shoulder into our conversation. He wants to get everything Dr. Caine says on camera, ensuring an award for journalism. 

Dr. Caine removes his glasses slowly as he glances at the clock. I will be traveling in exactly one minute, fifty-five seconds.  

  “Jason, before you go, you know you can stop right now and receive no judgment…nobody would blame you.”

I shake my head, with great difficulty. “No, Lewis, this is everything I’ve ever worked for right here. I’m going. I want my son to be proud that his father is going to be the world’s first time traveler.”

Dr. Caine nods, “Yes, but you are aware of the risk…I don’t want this to just be the result of a foolhardy attempt to win over your son from your ex-wife.”

“So what if it is?” I ask.

“I have never doubted you Jason; I am just trying to be a good colleague. I just need to be sure you are completely aware of what could happen…the 1%.”

“I’m aware of the time loop. Believe me, Lewis, I’ve gone over the mice stats a million times and there was never so much as a hiccup. Even when we sent the corpse, there was nothing wrong, so we know a human body can easily travel.”

“Excuse me, did you say time loop?” The news anchor asks as he sticks his head in between Lewis and myself. “What does that mean?”

Lewis, more aggravated than ever, looks at the camera pointed at his face. “There is a 1% chance that the wormhole may collapse, causing an endless time loop of the five minutes before the traveler left. So, basically, this…” Lewis waves his hands in a circle, “could conceivably be young Dr. Robard’s eternity. This has never happened, of course, and was just a theory presented to us.”

Lewis turns back to face me. “Okay, it’s time, Jason. Godspeed.”

Lewis presses the button that encloses my little pod. I close my eyes as I feel the next button being pressed, adjusting my position so that I am aiming for the wormhole  The pressure is building and building—I can’t breathe…can’t breathe, and my eyes are trying to escape from my skull…the pressure is crushing my insides as I start to die…

 

11:58 p.m. with thirty-nine seconds to go.

The clock ticks in time to Dr. Caine’s footsteps. He walks lightly, as though there are pebbles wedged in his shoes, right under his toes. 

I notice my head getting sweaty from the lights, but unfortunately, my arms are bound and I couldn’t so much as scratch the tiny itch I have in my inner thigh, let alone wipe my forehead. The cameramen seem to notice my discomfort, but do nothing for me, as it may disturb the process. Dr. Caine, however, grabs a towel from one of the men’s back pockets and lightly presses it on my head, dabbing away the sweat before it reaches my eyes. As he leans in close, I can see my reflection in his glasses. Who is this man staring back at me?

“Our first traveler…” Dr. Caine answers my silent question. “I never thought I would live to see this day.”

 

Endless

 

Kathleen Wolak, kathleenwolak@yahoo.com, wrote BP #72’s “Onward Traveler.” Some of her short fiction credits include: “Area 1” (issue #13, Hello Horror), “The Legend of Creeper Man” (issue #7, Dark Dossier Magazine), and “Stalin” (issue #21, Hobo Pancakes).

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications