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Time Travel Machine No. 4
October 23, 2030
Alice sat straight up in her bed and turned on the light next to her. Had it all been a dream? The scratch marks on the now-open chest of drawers suggested otherwise, but her rational brain refused to believe it was true. She just couldn’t believe what had happened. The way the mysterious machine just appeared there out of thin air with that little zinging sound. That someone who looked just like her but about 20 years older… and claimed to be “Alice-of-the-future”… had stepped out. That when Alice didn’t believe her, “Alice-of-the-future” opened and closed a few drawers and even took out a very sharp looking knife and carved her initials into the chest. But especially the fact that then a boy got out of the machine too and kissed her! Well, the future her. That seemed to clinch the fact that it was a dream. No boy, absolutely no boy, had or would ever like her, she thought. And, in almost every dream she had, there was always a little romance, the little romance that she would always long for… or maybe not always long for it; if what had happened really had happened.
May 14, 2050
I remember back when this building used to be just the plain old town hall. Now there are laboratories where the courtroom used to be, and time machine storage in the room where I had Girl Scout meetings. I walk down to the room where my friend held her birthday party once upon a time and stop. As soon as I scan my iris and walk into that room, I won’t have any time to myself for three hours. Suddenly I am grabbed from behind and whirled around in the air.
“Brian!” I scream, laughing. Brian and I met when we were once caught in the acid rain together and had to huddle together under a tiny overhang. He gives me another hug and then we walk into the room for some “light” training…
Three hours later, we walk out of the room, cringing in pain. I was stabbed with a fake, but still very heavy, sword, and Brian got hit by an inattentive kid swinging his boomerang. These makeshift training sessions have been set up so that we will be able to defend ourselves if we ever misguide the time travel machines and end up in the middle of a war or something. Luckily, in Ancient Greece (my designated field of study) they were pretty nice to women unless they discovered that someone they thought was a man was actually a female. I barely escaped being stoned to death once. This does present rather a big problem for me, though, as on most of my assignments I am required to pose as a male.
I lean on a stone pillar and check my handheld for updates to the schedule. Yes! I get about an hour of free time now, and that means I can prepare for my next trip.
I love Ancient Greece, and I’m really glad that I was chosen to study this time period. Because I was successful on my last mission, which was to find Socrates and other famous philosophers and record some of their thoughts and teachings and posing as a student, I get to take one of the time machines and travel around Ancient Greece posing as a peasant and spend about a week there. Sadly, I can’t choose how long I’ll be there because there is a small glitch with the time-travel machines: they can only travel in yearly increments. When you leave May 15th in one year, you end up on May 15th in whatever other year you are traveling to. Even though the time is short because they will need me back home, I am so excited! I will leave tomorrow, and I will be landing in a remote location near Athens.
May 15, 500 BC
When I land, I find myself in the usual spot, deep in a cave, where my equipment looks like it hasn’t been touched since the last time I was here. That’s good. This is my own private cave, and I use it every time I visit this area of Greece. I unlock the cupboard and peer inside. The first object I take out is a chiton, a tunic made from a large rectangle of fabric that is tied over the shoulders, and the belt that goes with it. This is what most women wear in this time period. There are a few other chitons in the cupboard, all made of the same linen, some dyed in colors such as violet and green. I take one of the garments and fasten it around myself, then grab a large cloth sack, and put some of the clothing in it. I also grab a few beautiful golden rings, earrings, and a stunning diadem inlaid with gems. If I decide to pose as a member of the upper class, I need only to wear some of these and change my mannerisms slightly. Next, I take out a dusty water container. I will need to fill this at the nearest stream after I leave the cave. I then take out a very heavy sack. It is full of coins from the time when I was here and my mission was to join the weavers’ guild and then, at the end, I sold the goods at the market. I will need the money to buy other things that I may need or want or to stay at an inn. I close the cupboard and relock it. Next to it is another cupboard; this one is stocked with all kinds of food. I take some of it and toss it in the bag also.
My plan is to start by going to the market so I can pick up some other items that I may need and hopefully, while I’m there, I will meet a charitable woman who will be willing to let me stay at her house for a little while. If I don’t, I will leave Athens and start heading towards Thebes. If I am stuck on my own, I can stay overnight at an inn and then keep traveling until I find someone to take me in, somewhere to work, or something important to do.
I leave the cave and head straight to the stream to fill my container. I then head down the hill to the polis. As soon as I get inside, I go to the market and spend a while looking at the various stalls’ merchandise. I feel as if there is something that I am supposed to do, and then I remember: I don’t have to do anything! I can do absolutely anything I want. The mere thought makes me laugh, and I sit down on the edge of a fountain to regain my composure. I feel someone sit down next to me, and when I turn, I see a young man about my own age.
“Pray, who art thou?” he asks.
“My name is Alethea.” I have chosen this name for this mission because it sounds more Greek than Alice, and is actually derived from the Greek word for truth.
“Thy name is as fair as thyself,” he says with a wink.
“I thank you. Who art thou?” I look at him and blush. He has sandy blonde hair and deep blue eyes, which are typical of Grecians, but he is particularly handsome.
“My name is Narcissus.” I gasp. I wonder if this is the Narcissus of the ancient story/myth who died after gazing into a pool of water at his own reflection.
“Why art thou frightened?”
“I-I’m not. I’m okay, thanks. Oh my god. What the heck just happened?” In my surprise, I have forgotten to speak in the vernacular! I tense, waiting for a questioning reply, but I receive none. He didn’t notice. Thank goodness, for the repercussions could have been bad.
“Fare ye well. I must go to the house of my mother now.” He gets up and leaves. I stare after him, wondering if he will soon meet his end as detailed in the myth.
Night is beginning to fall when the women start to pack up their wares and leave for their homes. I wander around until I find a friendly-looking inn, pay the innkeeper, and climb the stairs, ready for a good night’s sleep.
When I wake up, I decide to stay in Athens and just relax, shopping at the marketplace and watching shows at the theater. I meet a few other Grecians, and I believe I am very good at conversing with them, if I may say so myself. The week passes incredibly quickly. I go back to the cave reluctantly, but happily. It was a good week. I store all of my Greek items in their cupboards, and don my normal clothes once again. I get in the machine, and set it for the year 2050 and the location of the time machine headquarters. After strapping myself in, I push the button then hunch down, readying myself for the familiar spinning feeling. But nothing happens. I carefully open the door and see my cave. Surprised, I go to the entrance and see the torrential downpour that was happening in the year I thought I just left. And there’s the shepherd that was out tending his sheep. I definitely haven’t gone anywhere. I get back in the machine, check the controls, and again push the button. Nothing. I try changing the year to 2030, thinking that for some reason it just won’t take me to 2050. Nothing. Desperate, I set the destination location to some random place to see if it will let me go anywhere. Nothing. Frustrated, I pound the button. Absolutely nothing. I’ve never heard of this happening before: a machine malfunction! I’m not a mechanic, but I do have some tools... that I don’t know how to use. I’m stuck!
I realize that I’m panicking and calm myself down. What can I do? No one else is here who even knows what a time-travel machine is. Hopefully someone will notice that I’m not back and come find me. When I sit down, I realize how tired I am. I decide to lay down and sleep for a while.
I am high up in the air, in the arms of a man. At least, he seems like a man, but different somehow. He is wearing winged sandals, and I realize: this must be Hermes! We fly towards a mountaintop obscured by clouds. As we break through the cloud barrier, I realize that this is Mount Olympus. He sets me down outside a pair of large, ornately carved golden gates. The gates begin to open smoothly and I get my first glimpse of the gods. They’re everywhere and just the way I imagined: human-like, but there’s something I can’t describe that defines them as gods. I walk up a staircase to two large thrones where Zeus and Hera sit. It seems like a dream, yet somehow real. I bow before the thrones.
“What is thy name? Why art thou here?” Zeus rumbles.
“My name is--” I begin.
“Wait. Who am I kidding? Of course I know your name! And I know why you’re here. Hermes brought you because he believes we can help you. All the gods have been watching your excursions from the future. We will help you on one condition: that you take one of the Grecian villagers back with you.”
“What?” I exclaim. Well, I should have seen this coming. They are gods, after all. I’m pretty sure they are omniscient, and whenever they do something for you, they expect something back in return. “Why do you want me to bring a villager?”
“Well, there is a young man who did something great for us. He has long expressed an interest in the future, and this will be his reward.”
“It is tricky to transport more than one person in the machines. However, I will try, for I really want to get back home.”
Zeus nods in agreement. “Chronos!” he calls. Of course. I should have realized - the god of time! Zeus gives him whispered instructions then Chronos begins the journey down the mountain.
“Who would you like me to bring?”
Hermes is back, bearing another boy in his arms. The boy is even more beautiful than Narcissus, if that is possible. He looks like one of the gods, but somehow I know he isn’t one. Maybe he’s a half-god.
“My name is Diokles,” he says. That’s interesting: his name means “glory of Zeus.” Maybe he’s a half-child of Zeus’s.
Chronos comes back shortly. “The machine has been fixed.”
“Thank you so much!” I will finally get to go home! “Come, Diokles, let’s go.”
I’m not quite sure if that was a dream, but when I wake up, there is the boy from my dream tentatively standing in the mouth of the cave.
“Good morning, Diokles,” I say.
He starts as if I have hurt him. “Who art thou, that you know my name?”
I guess it was a dream, after all. Hopefully, since Diokles is here, the time machine will be fixed. We get inside and he gasps. “Is this a time machine?”
“Yep.” I am very tense, wondering if it will work. I strap both of us in, change the settings, and press the button. And then it spins!
I gasp in relief just as Diokles gasps again in astonishment.
“This device, then... it will take us to the future?”
“Yes, it will. We will be going to the year 2050, 2550 years from now.”
“Two thousand five hundred and fifty years? The earth must be very different then!”
“Yes, it is,” I say, laughing, as the spinning slows and I ready myself for the zinging sound that means we’re there.
When it comes, I carefully unbuckle my seat belt and open the door of the capsule, expecting to see the familiar scenery outside the landing pad but instead I see a darkened room where a girl lies in her bed, seemingly half asleep. I tell Diokles to stay inside and step out, trying not to make too much noise, but she sits up.
“Who are you?” she says, rubbing her eyes. And then I realize - it’s the past me! This is the night that I encountered that time machine for the first time! I know exactly what to do, and the encounter goes without a problem, until the end. Diokles suddenly climbs out of the machine.
“Thank you for bringing me to the future!” he exclaims and kisses me on the cheek.
“Wait, Diokles, get back in the machine!” I whisper urgently.
“Why?” he asks in a normal tone of voice.
“Just do it.”
I say goodbye to my past self and get in the machine.
And then it spins.