Caught Somewhere In Time
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1729
“Bugger!” Doctor Lector yelled as he flickered out of the University’s Library, reappearing in the same location six days in the future. It was the tenth time it had happened this week.
Lector made his way to the car park, hoping his BMW would still be there; he parked it a week ago. Well it would be a week if he did not keep skipping through time randomly, now it was almost a month. He tried to get back to his laboratory at CSIRO where he finished his time travel device last week. At first Lector thought the device did not work, he did not travel in time during the final experiment. When he arrived home later that evening, his wife was hysterical, wanting to know where he had been for the past day. That was when he realised the device had worked, only not as expected. It was pushing him through time, at a rapidly growing rate each jump.
A moment before each jump, Lector felt a migraine coming on rapidly and caught the acrid aroma of sour orange in the back of his throat and nostrils. He caught a glimpse of himself during one jump in a bathroom mirror. It was as though he became out of focus, flickering like a television losing its reception until he popped out of sight. While it was only a split second for him, it was a period of days in real time.
Just before he came back into focus fully, he was able to see his surroundings intermittently, which was lucky. Someone was standing in the same position as him two jumps back and he moved to the side before materialising inside of him. It gave him an excruciating pain down his spine moving this way, as though he moved part of his body one second and the remaining part the next. He assumed it was still a damn sight less painful than reappearing inside of someone else though.
Lector arrived at the car park. A Suzuki Swift was now parked where his beemer should, or was when he parked it whenever it was he thought he parked it. He raised his hand to hit the bonnet of the trespassing vehicle, swearing when he felt a migraine coming on again. An instant later, Lector flickered out of focus. The Suzuki was replaced by a multi coloured Combi Van, with hippie stickers covering the entire back window.
Two young female students walked by.
“Excuse me ladies, what is the date?”
The girls looked at each other, then the taller of the two said, “Tenth of October, buddy.”
Lector made a quick calculation and swore slightly louder than he would have liked. The students walked away at an uncomfortably quicker pace in response. Lector did not notice this, as he was more concerned about the week he had just moved into the future with the last jump.
He took his mobile phone out of his jacket’s pocket and rang home. His wife would be hysterical with worry by now. The answering machine clicked on after five rings and he heard his own voice on the recorded message.
“Honey, it’s me. Pick up if you are home.”
There was no response.
“Please Trish, I love you.”
The machine cut out. Lector hung up and put his phone away. He wanted to try again but thought better of it. For Trish this would be happening over a much greater timeframe than for him. He knew that she had trouble believing him when he explained what was happening to him. Lector could not even begin to imagine what his wife thought was going on, with her husband not coming home for days at a time. Now it was a full week in real time since he had last spoken to her and nine days since he had seen her in person.
Lector decided to walk to his lab, no use catching a bus or taxi in case he moved forward in time again. He might end up further away from his building, and the time travel device, than he already was. Half way to the CSIRO, Lector realised that he had not eaten in a few days, but was not the slightest bit hungry anyway. A thousand other thoughts popped into his head at that moment regarding other implications involved with skipping days of his normal routine; eating, sleeping, bathing and so forth. He wondered what the long-term effects of this fractured form of time travel would have on his health. He wondered...
The smell of oranges rose in his nostrils again and his head ached.
Lector felt himself falling. His vision returned and he found himself at the bottom of a cold, hard asphalt ditch in the dead of night. There did not appear to be any streetlights shinning above the deep hole he found himself in a moment ago. Lector stood up stiffly and pulled himself out of the six-foot deep ditch. Abandoned cars, motorbikes and busses lined the streets like a bundled of carelessly discarded children’s toys. An eerie silence filled the dark, moonless night, sending a cold shiver along Lector’s skin.
“Hello!” he yelled. “Is anyone there?”
There was no reply. He squinted to look around the city street for any sign of movement and was deeply concerned when he could see none. Lector could see nothing that indicated what the date, or year this time period was and he began to wonder if it was even Earth at all. He began to walk along the eerily and desolate street, feeling extreme trepidation and anxiety rise up from the pit of his gut. After walking for ten minutes without any signs of life around, Lector came to the end of the street. It took a minute for him to realise that the street should not end this suddenly, or in a wall of impenetrable darkness.
“What the hell’s going on now?”
Lector moved closer to the darkness, cautious of what might lay beyond in this unnatural and deeply disturbing veil of black that bordered the end of the street and seemed to cut into the buildings as if they had been erased out. There was no sound coming from within the darkness, nor could Lector see into the thick, black tar like environment. The world appeared to stop two feet from Lector’s nose.
Sharp, stabbing pain ran down behind Lector’s eyes and the strong acrid aroma of freshly squeezed oranges arose in his nostrils. He felt himself falling forward, headlong into the end of the world.
Lector opened his eyes, squinting with the sudden change of light from pitch-blackness to the bright midday sun. There were people carrying on their daily business and the street was busy with peak hour traffic. Lector had to steady himself so he did not trip and fall into the woman walking in front of him on the sidewalk. He was surprised when she did not seem to notice him and kept walking straight towards him.
“Watch out…” he began to say but stopped when he passed right through her rather than bumping into her.
The woman stopped, looked behind but did not appear to see Lector crouching with his hands over his face. Lector opened his mouth to speak to the woman again, but she had already turned and started walking away from him.
Lector straightened up and turned around to walk towards his lab again. Another pedestrian walked right through him, this time it was a large middle-aged businessman. He did not stop or seem to be affected by another person passing through his huge, sweaty body. As the pedestrian traffic increased, so to did the amount of scurrying business people walking into Lector. He passed through each one like a ghost, with only half of the men and women appearing to feel his presence.
Lector did not pick up any thoughts or feelings of those whom he passed through, which disappointed him somewhat. It felt like walking through a heavy set of plastic curtains, similar to those on cold room doors in supermarkets. The drag slowed his pace down as he continued on his way to his lab, with renewed passion to get to his time travel device to reverse this side effect and return to a normal life.
“Jim,” Lector said to his assistant upon entering his lab. His assistant stoped for a moment and Lector thought he had heard him. Jim felt his coat pocket then proceeded to work on the time travel device without further recognition of Lector’s presence. Jim had the time travel device in pieces on the lab’s main workbench, each component neatly placed in a logical sequence to its correct place in the machine. Lector moved to the bench and tried to pick up the main casing of the device. His hand passed through it and through the workbench until Lector stopped himself before he toppled over through the bench.
“Bugger.” He said to himself.
Lector looked at the digital desk calendar and was disheartened to see that it was now two months since his first jump into the future. One week of his time was eight times that in the rest of the world. He wondered how Trish was, what she was thinking about his disappearance. How could he let her know where he was now? He appeared to be outside of time itself, so there was no chance of using the phone to call her. Reaching into his pocket for his mobile to try, Lector briefly felt the tell tale migraine come on rapidly before fading out of the present again.
When he reappeared in the lab, it was reorganised into a different layout to how it should be. Lector was appalled at the poorly thought out bench and equipment arrangement and could tell that it was no longer his lab. He looked around the lab for a calendar to tell him how far into the future he had travelled this time.
“Two years!” He yelled.
He wondered how Trish was coping. They never had the chance to say goodbye, he never had the opportunity to tell her what was happening. He never got to tell her he loved her one more time. Now it was too late to everything; he was caught somewhere in time.
Caught Somewhere In Time
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