Genre: Speculative Fiction, Gaslight Fantasy, Alternative History
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: May 15, 2016
– Trina King, Amazon Reviewer
First edition published in 2016
© Copyright 2016
Since Arthur firmly believed that death was not the ultimate finality, who was to say that the two of us hadn’t experienced a significant encounter in a previous existence, and this wasn’t the first conscious time we had set foot on earth? Time travel became a never-ending fascination. I was unstoppable. My curiosity was limitless, and I desperately sought ways to find proof. Considering the fact that one of my favorite stories was H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, I took it upon my own initiative and built my own construction, which was no easy undertaking. There were many thwarted attempts before I could confidently say that I had achieved any success, whatsoever.
How this time machine worked was another mystery. What I never expected was that in my pursuit of perfecting this invention, I got more than I bargained for. Metaphorically speaking, it was like saying that I was attending the university to get a degree, but I unwittingly learned how to sprout wings and fly to the moon in the process. Once enough magic doors were opened, whether I liked it or not things changed. I began to transform into something unexpected, which I was assured was for the better, although often I begged to differ. Personal ambitions unraveled. Friendships and associations fell apart or felt shallow and worthless. Nightmares appeared more real than they had before and manifested in physical form on my doorsteps. Many times I’d venture either into the past or the future, and I’d bring back a souvenir. Sometimes it was a tangible object. Other times it was merely unlocking a long obscured memory, and often it wasn’t welcome.
The recently discovered Neptune was considered the planet of dreams. Whether or not you believed in astrology, it induced many prominent Victorian scholars to explore new frontiers. Darwin’s theory of evolution toppled religious dogma, but in reaction to the Industrial Age, that mysterious planet also influenced an interest in exploring the depths of the human mind and the realm of the unknown, challenging the limits of scientific knowledge. Tables were tipped. It was like having a clever stage magician swiftly yanking off the tablecloth of perceptual reality, but leaving the candelabra intact with all observers wondering how it was done.
Discovering facts about the past was amusing, but even more exciting was being able to capture glimpses of events to come. The future was never absolute. It could be changed with the blink of an eye. It was mutable and quite dependent on volition and free will. Nonetheless, it was an obsession, and I’d conduct test runs in any which way possible using a variety of techniques, some benign and others not, but regardless I was always treading into dangerous waters to see what the future might bring.
I hurried back to my flat after class and dumped my book bag atop my cluttered worktable causing a haphazardly stacked pile of books to tumble to the floor. These books were atypical of a student aspiring to become a composer and concert pianist—ones on elementary physics, astronomy, earth science, and, of course, a brand new copy of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
With my motley assortment of research material, sundry gears and machine parts, lamp fixtures and the guts from broken clocks, I meticulously set up my own version of a time machine fashioned from an old hand-cranked electroshock device. I had jerry-rigged together a mechanism consisting of an old leather belt with magnets running alongside both lobes of my brain facing their polar opposites. However I wanted the magnets to move and not simply bolted or glued, so I inlaid small grooves with a set of gears that would move them side by side almost like a tiny train going down its own track. To power that motion I would drop in special mineral pellets. I really had no clue what they were, but the man in the shop who sold them to me said that once I tossed enough of them into water that they would instantly cause the water to boil and create steam, and that’s what would cause those tiny gears to move the magnets along their course.
I must’ve forgotten to refill its canister from the last time, but all was well as my timepiece indicated that I had spent way too long dallying in extracurricular activities, and it was time to head off to my next class. It wasn’t really vital that I utilized such an elaborate construct, but if it was theorized that it could give a boost to my currently developing psychic abilities, I was all for the chance to test it.
In fact, my flat was beginning to look more like an alchemist’s den. Of course, I still had my upright piano in the corner with its metronome perched on top, as well as, scores of sheet music and books on music theory. How could I not? But now I was gradually collecting a strange assortment of rare books, mostly procured from back alley establishments as well as trinkets found in curio shops. There was also unconventional laboratory equipment, as well as herbs and minerals that I’d acquire from the medical and science colleges, often bribing the lab assistants for their discards. Alas, I continued to curse the day when I elected not to take a chemistry class. It would be reassuring if I fully understood the nature of the elements I’d be working with and not feel like I was groping blindly in the dark.
Lydia, my landlady, was beginning to wonder if I was becoming an eccentric. I finally requested that she knock first before bringing tea, rather than barging in without warning. This put me in the habit of locking my door more often, something I hadn’t thought about previously.
The very first time it happened, it was like watching a novice weightlifter struggling with barbells way beyond his capacity. I looked to see how long, if at all, it would take for my time travel experiment to work, and the first thing I noticed was that the second hand of my timepiece started wobbling like the needle of a compass near a lodestone. Almost like Atlas shouldering the burdens of the world (and very similar to the experience I had when I encountered a strong headwind the other day, catching me dead in my tracks unable to advance forward), my watch’s second hand, against all odds, started trudging backwards. Its minute hand followed suit using leaden baby steps, eventually pulling the hour hand in tandem.
My lungs were barely able to function. At first I drew a few quick breaths through my nostrils and choked down a few gulps of air, fighting against suffocation. Instinctively I dispelled my panic, slowed down my heart rate and took very long, slow, controlled breaths deep from my abdomen. Although everything around me seemed to be spinning out of control, I needed to be operating in slow motion. Houdini knew this technique. I was certain of it. This was one of those magician’s secrets whereby slowing your vitals and heart rate you could survive the odds of extreme heat, severe cold or being buried alive. I think the Hindu mystics even performed this when averting pain while lying on a bed of nails.
Perhaps, one day I wouldn’t need an elaborate or expensive scientific contraption to catapult myself beyond conceivable physics. Wouldn’t it be great to prove H.G. Wells wrong and that traveling through time was more of a mental journey? Maybe he just romanticized it as a physical machine in order to make it more believable. It was reassuring, yet scary nonetheless, to know it was a lot easier than depending upon an elaborate assemblage.
Read the First Three Chapters
– Susan Breen, Amazon Reviewer
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About Elizabeth Crowens