A Journey to a Past

Time travel. The ability to bend an unstoppable, unreasonable, apathetic force to our every whim. Man's greatest universal query. Ever since the concept was spurred on by one H. G. Wells, really no one in particular, the human condition has taken a great fancy in winding back the three unwavering hands of God that ever tick the universe away, steadily whittling its cosmic strings down to fine dust. Marching to a questionable end more alien, unknown, and unfamiliar to us than even the deepest parts of the seven seas, nobody can say for certain what the future may hold. Even so, the simple fact is this: time is but a human construct. A concept originated out of our own unquenchable desperation to understand the eternal mystery that surrounds us. This mystery, of course, being an unbearably complex equation we dulled down to our floor of comprehension and named “The Universe.”


A novel.

Truly there is some sense of Ouroboros-esque irony present in that the very thing we seek to master was birthed from the same, endless tirade for understanding that we embarked on during the age of the barbaric caveman. A never-ending quest that raises an infallible truth demonstrated nearly flawlessly by the likes of the Mongols, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans of times long gone by: humans have a primal lust for control. From the content on our phones to the people we surround ourselves with to even our own identities, being able to manipulate the world to embrace us is not just some silly pastime. However, one simple truth remains: despite our most earnest efforts, the likes of time march onwards, agonizingly sluggish, but mechanically purposeful. We may whine and stamp our feet and deny it until our brain stops thinking and our heart stops beating, but time is simply out of our grasp. Not even the ancients with their firmer-than-iron grip on the world and all of their bows and swords and shields and spears could domesticate and force into servitude their one common, unhindered enemy.

Disturbingly, that same unmalleable force that vanquished the likes of Julius Caesar, King James the Third, Romulus, and Sargon still pervasively looms above our heads to this day as though Death himself’s personal raincloud. A cloud that floats far aloft both the heavens and the Earth alike, its sole purpose to deter our grubby little opposable appendages from procuring and molding the clay to any form we see fit. It hangs and it nags and it pokes and it festers and rots, yet it never waits. Rains descend by the cloud's own volition and it absorbs vapors only as it sees fit. Many great minds have tried to tame the cloud, to encase it in glass, but none have been able to halt its advance. Our best efforts have merely slowed the rains on a relative scale, but even this proves to be a daunting and costly feat, and, eventually, we still get wet. As far as we’re concerned, time is the great, impassable obstacle. A final frontier that we may never set foot on, let alone get a glance of. But just as the cowboys paved the way into impossibility for the new United States, so too have I for a new universe. The final frontier, now mastered, tamed, domesticated, manipulatable, and controlled. Meanwhile, Mr. Wells ‘hip hip hoorays’ from within his earthen resting place, though scholars would argue this not being the true meaning underlying his novel. For the first time in the history of time, the transit of the temporal world is truly realized.

As I voyaged forth into a new era, something that had only been a scientific pipedream since a few months ago, a wave of emotions hit me. It’s not something I could put into writing, really. Much like the inner workings of the machine itself, they were simply too complex for the scope of this diary. Still, though, I had accomplished what so many before me had failed to do. A caveman no longer undermined by Death’s storm cloud. I was Julius, King James, Romulus, Sargon, Nebuchadnezzar, Tutt, and an uncountable more whose names and legacies were lost to the very sands I had just conquered, the process of which they could never have even remotely fathomed. Like a pure element, this was control in its rawest, unrefined, uncompounded state. This was the pinnacle of mankind’s dreams and desires, hopes and wishes, and everything in between. I threw the power switch and the machine whirred to life, mimicking my state of consciousness. It hummed and it buzzed and it droned and clanged, the noises of an artificial heartbeat. All of these sounds might have been unworldly to any other living being within that room, but to me they were the sounds of an extraordinary symphony produced by none other than Mozart himself. As the score played, I plugged in my destination, something that was predetermined long before even my initial thoughts on how to construct such a device. I killed the safety switch, prompting it to angrily reverberate a high-pitched, piercing beep. Ten minutes was all I allocated myself for now, I didn’t know if I’d be able to carry the weight of any more quite yet.

I stepped onto the platform as a race of thoughts drove laps around my mind. My hand hovered over the button to whisk away the payload as the cloud lingered overhead. One-click and it would be gone, vanished without a trace or other word. So then why was I hesitating? I knew why I was here, on this platform, performing the actions I was doing. Cavemen don’t have to strictly be barbaric, it’s not some sort of grand rule set up by the cosmic wonder and incomprehensible scope of “The Universe,” at least not that studies have shown. Total manipulation over the greatest hurdle to mankind and for some reason, only known to those vile, alien creatures making their abodes at the bottom of the seas, I couldn’t do it. So, with a long, deep inhale, I let my eyelids roll shut. I caught my breath before it fell, and I let my hand do the work my brain had been so inexplicably reluctant to do. In one swift motion, it made up its mind and descended from the relative heavens like lightning, finally freeing me from the gallows of that pesky cloud. But what I had not accounted for is that lightning always brings about the deafening boom of a thunderclap.

Instantaneously I heard it, the soul-crushing pop of some egregious miscalculation or a screw coming loose. My window to react was null, yet the machine, by some miracle, still hummed its final measure. Quicker than the snap of a finger I was carried off across the river of time. I was almost certain that the “scenic route” was stunning yet dangerous. There was a vague idea that whatever sights were available to me at the moment would be a far cry from comprehensible to the simplicity of my human mind, so I kept my built-in blinders locked down. An odd, serendipitous feeling of bliss washed over me like the tide at a beach, but I also feared that even this would be too much for my brain to ruminate on, so I herded my thoughts to another corner of headspace. I remembered why I was here, exactly who I was performing this circus act for, and everything and everyone that led up to the very moment. I knew that even though this attempt was futile, I would still see them again. I had to. I’d simply come too close for it to never function properly in the remaining dividend of my restless trial and error. Finally, after what seemed to my mortal coil like both instantaneous and infinity enacting in unison, I found myself upright. I had just set foot in the Wild West.

I raised the blinds covering my eyes to view in front of me… sheer, plain nothing. At least, it was as close to nothing as my mind could perceive. A stark white sheet of void surrounded me in all directions as my brain immediately tried to fill in both the visible and invisible gaps with ghastly illusions. Shockingly, there was oxygen and my soles found footing beneath, but I suspect these, too, were but pieces of my linear comprehension. I could immediately discern that something was different. I pondered only for a moment, and then it hit me: Death’s cloud had been silently, delightfully abandoned at the door. I tried my stopwatch to, more or less, keep pace with the machine. But, as I attempted to initiate its ironic function, it refused to cooperate, God’s hands had at last gone dormant. Had I found myself in a space where time was merely broken? If I had I’d, naturally, assume this would implicate certain things behaving very differently from how they operate for us in our standard timestream. But, again, the only reasonable solution I could deduce was that the brain simply does not have the cognitive capability to visualize such an abstraction from our own reality. Fascinating.

Now alone with my thoughts, I was free to wander this vast, empty plane. Yet all I could think of were the words of Wells being read aloud by those once oh-so-great emperors, kings, and lords. All of them spoke in a symphony of voices. Some read parts as a soliloquy and others seemed to have some greater role as though enacting a play. But their inflection didn’t come across as standing atop some lofty granite, quartz, or stone pedestal, reciting a royal decree like one might expect from figures of such stature. Rather, it was as though we were sitting down at the local coffee shop simply discussing the ups, downs, and all around of the week prior over a steamy cup of joe. It was a novelty, to say the least, but I found that each new voice ringing throughout my consciousness gave me some amount of perverted solidarity, distracting me from the hallucinations now plaguing me. Although I suppose those, too, were hallucinations.


A person.

As I remained wandering, my footsteps creating no audible sound, something off in the distance gleamed in my eye. Surely, I imagined, it was another illusory concept invented by my brain to characterize the void. Yet, as I encroached ever closer, the vision simply became crisper, growing ever more defined. Not at all satisfied with this prospect, I raised my right hand and “stimulated” my cheek, but the structure remained steady. As I approached I began to make out the intricacy of aged masonry work. Perhaps not ancient like the voices continuing to ring thoroughly throughout, but certainly nothing akin to modernity. I stumbled upon it, discerning some sort of stone-crafted ruins. Perhaps I was, indeed, not the first to be here? Or perhaps this was something else entirely, my brain simply refusing to cooperate. As I wandered inside the voices slowed to a silence, seemingly showing their respect for something, somehow, of a far greater scale. Their sudden, impromptu absence allowed a new sound to perforate my ears.

It was almost quiet, initially, the only audible was the slow crunch, crunch, crunch of some impossible being having its way with the stone. But as I ventured deeper into the derelict, alien, temporally halted 'castle,' so too did the noise grow in volume. Uncertain that I wanted to find contact with whatever the sound was resonating from, I attempted my best to stay away. My efforts proved to be fruitless when I found myself standing behind a bizarre, yet vaguely humanoid being.

Although it was quite short in stature, no taller than three and a half feet, it stood atop a slate precipice just higher than myself. Of course, it didn’t have much going for it in terms of bolstering height; its bald, dirty, ashen gray skin-colored head was sunk directly into its shoulders. Its bare-naked torso, while unnaturally hairy, was perhaps the only part of it you or I would consider ‘normal.’ Extending from the torso, in standard human locations, were thick, similarly hairy arms and legs beginning at the joints, each boasting an auxiliary joint in the usual human placement. I stood there in awe, entirely unsure of what to make of this… thing. Apparently knowing of my presence, it flipped itself around to be facing me, a large brick still hanging from its long, pointed, oily tongue. It looked sickly, rightfully so. A distinct absence of any genitalia left me wondering if it were, yet again, the product of my imagination, but I quickly dismissed this notion. For covering every ounce of the creature’s exposed skin, especially profound on its large, barren forehead, were runic symbols, a detail my mind would have glossed over crafting. It glared at me with large, soulless, empty eyes, trying to inhale my distinct scent with its pudgy, nubber nose. The mouth opened wide as its grotesque tongue stuck out slightly and then suddenly retracted to devour its prize. It licked its lips. Its right arm turned about to the wall behind it to put its hand on another stone course, its body remaining statuesque. I saw its left arm slowly raise a pointed finger directly at my being. A third, stunted arm on its naval region protruded from beneath its matted hair. Like clockwork, it passed the buffet's nourishment from right arm to center arm to open mouth, loading up as much stone as it could muster. Once adequately supplied, it chomped down with a nauseating crunch and tasted its chops once more. Then, catching me off guard by an incredible degree, it began to articulate. It could, much like any other intelligent being, speak. Alas, though, the tongue it spoke in was of the flowery, alien language of the Blobfish, nothing like that of Wells. I suspected that tone and other factors vary wildly between us, so there’s no use in toiling over what it may or may not have communicated. I looked up at it as it looked down and continued to point at me, no words truly spoken. Then it was over, my minutes had passed.

The sudden blast of insight on the way back seared my feeble mind as I tried to shut my eyes. I couldn’t. I saw them, standing there, laughing, living. Memories, The Universe's silk. I tried to cry, I wanted to cry, to shed any amount of tears… but couldn’t. Tears would only serve to cloud my vision, to hinder my body’s natural reaction to the cosmic scenario: complete observation of the collage engulfing me in every degree. I was paralyzed, too busy to feel. Then, as quickly as it had started, I came to a screeching halt at the end of the line, my previous departure station now turned into my return destination. A vaguely familiar, serene feeling of infinity and instantaneous overcame me once more, but this time around it was nigh unbearable. I collapsed, and only the feeling of my face slamming into metal persisted as my consciousness drifted elsewhere.

I didn't know how long I had been out. Minutes, hours, perhaps even days, but I was dehydrated, now craving nothing more than a glass of fresh, cold water. I got up, re-learning how to stand under the weight of the cloud, and shambled over to the sink. I let the tide wash over my face and then filled a cup. However, as I went to take my more than well-deserved respite, I spied a flashing red light shining off of the machine's console. Trudging over to it I could make out the bright, glowing, red text, which for some obscene reason hadn't cropped up in prior tests of the device. It read simply: “DESTINATION OUT OF RANGE.”


A clock.

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