The Bus Station
July 27, 2012
This week's challenge from Terrible Minds was to write about Time Travel.
You have 1000 words in which to write a story where “time travel” is a prominent feature.
Anything and everything else can feature – as long as it has time travel.
Post at your online space, then link back here in the comments.
You have, as always, a wee widdle week. Due by noon EST on Friday, July 27th.
NOW GO, TEMPORAL WIZARDS, GO.
Quite a rich sub-genre, so it took me a while to narrow it down. Then I found myself getting caught up in all the intricacies of how this might work, and trying to explain away all the contradictions and paradoxes that abound. I tried to pare that back, still learning here - which is why I appreciate the range of these challenges. I did try to leave some clues as to possible endings for our poor time traveller. As always, comments and suggestions welcome. 880 words.
The Bus Station
He only had a few months left. Apparently even his vast fortune couldn't stop the spread of the disease, but maybe he could trick it. One of the many projects he'd been supporting had been working on temporal manipulation, and had succeeded. They now claimed to have a working time machine. So far they had sent back dozens of probes, all to the same time in the past, all equipped to record and analyze. The temporal field could only hold there for 30 minutes, after which they were all supposed to return. Some had returned on time, some only after days, some never. Data analysis showed that if they interfered with the past, even in a small way, they would point to a new future for their return, but still a future advanced and stable enough to have time machines too. After 30 minutes there, they would bounce back and forth in time until they found the path back to their origin. Or not.
He was counting on those choices, those alternate futures, to lead him to a better life, a longer life. He had picked the perfect time to return to, what they were calling a nexus. When he was twenty he'd taken his savings, packed a bag, and headed down to the bus station to take a chance. He'd been bored with Toronto, with his job, with his friends, with his life. He'd wanted to live, to take some risks. He'd showed up there at noon, asked for anything within 500 miles, and had been sold, after a quizzical look, a ticket to Chicago. He'd bumped into some interesting people on the bus, and ended up exploring the city with them for a while. One of them worked in a bank, and got him a part time job there. On a lark, he took a few night courses in investing, made some good picks, and eventually ended up very rich, and very sick.
He'd decided he would travel back to that bus station and that chance decision and see what future it popped him back into. Hopefully a healthier one, and hopefully not a poorer one. If he liked it better, he could push the cancel button on the remote and he could stay. If he didn't like the future, he just had to wait for 30 minutes, then bounce back for another choice. He'd asked about futures where he was already dead from the disease, or something else, but they were pretty sure he'd just bounce back on his own, after a blank 30 minutes. Hopefully there wouldn't be a lot of those. It was all pretty fool proof. His future self would remember his life before, and the whole scheme, but his past self wouldn't. He'd wanted to give himself some help back in the past, like a letter or something explaining the scheme, but he decided to really leave it up to chance. He would have the remote with him, but they'd disguised it to just look like an iPod – his future self would know the whole story and the code sequence needed for the device.
He stepped into the chamber, nodded at the technicians, and triggered the remote.
He jerked awake, then looked up at the clock. Almost noon. He'd partied all night with his friends, then rushed back home to say his goodbye's to his family. He'd reassured them it was only for a summer, he'd write, it wasn't as if he'd disappear from their lives. He'd been dead tired, and a little hung over. He must have fallen asleep for a minute here in the waiting room. He grabbed his pack and headed for the counter – time to get on with his life.
“Where to sir?” asked the clerk.
“I don't know,” he said. “Just want to get away, you pick.”
“Somewhere within 500 miles, anywhere, Canada or US. Return ticket.”
She smiled. “Ah, to be young and carefree. OK – let's see – here you are, Richmond, Virginia.”
He sat by the departure gate, sipping a coffee and watching the crowds walk by. He smiled at a pretty girl across from him, and was pleased to get a shy smile back. He was just getting up to introduce himself when he felt a wave of dizziness, and a blurring of his vision.
His body burned in agony, every nerve ending on fire. He was frozen in ice, burned in lava, ripped to shreds by wild beasts, crushed in massive machines, dropped from the sky, drowned in the ocean, shredded by bullets. He was tortured and beaten and abused, and then there was nothing.
He jerked awake, then looked up at the clock. Almost noon. This was more than just a hangover, he was dripping in sweat, and dizzy. He felt like he'd been pulled through a ringer. One hell of a nightmare too, he was glad to be awake.
He bought a ticket to Quebec City, then sat by the departure gate. The bus didn't leave until one – another half hour. He pulled out his iPod and was just looking for some music to sooth his nerves when he felt a wave of dizziness, a blurring of vision.
His body burned in agony, every nerve ending on fire.
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