Hope you all enjoy. This is a short story posted due to requests.
A blink, and all I knew and all I was vanished into a kaleidoscope of sparkling lights. The expected darkness did not materialise, the sleep of the temporal traveller somehow non-existent. I fluttered through a magical landscape of colliding colours and absolute silence. A butterfly on the wing, I was blown away to some unknown isle.
I opened my eyes, not having realised them closed, to a vista of emerald green. A verdant, arboreal landscape lay below me, my chrono-cubicle balanced precariously on the edge of some ancient Jurassic cliff. With a delicacy not afforded to my London laboratory, I opened the door of my glass machine and fearing for my safety slipped out into the clearest air I had ever sampled. It
was not a moment too soon! My weight removed from the chrono-cubicle and redistributed across the translucent floor sent the machine crashing over the precipice. Whether I liked it or not, I would never be returning home. Good, I should rather rot in the past than fester in the future.
A brief perambulation of the plateau revealed no easy descent to the world below, so trusting to my tailor’s needlework, I lowered myself over the clifftop and began a controlled slide down. That was the idea, at least. I had made it no more than forty feet or so when my momentum took over. The next thing I knew, I was upside down in a treetop.
The indigenous bird populations had nothing to fear from my aerial acrobatics, I thought righting myself, then remembered that there were no birds in the Jurassic. That brought a greater clarity to my mind. The jungle floor was not the place for a nineteenth century Englishman to reside. But the arboreal foliage was too dense to push through, so with no other choice, I lowered my aching limbs to the ground.
Seeing what was left of my machine strewn across the area in tiny pieces of crystal, glass and English oak pained me greatly. I’d put the last ten years of my life into escaping the hell of modern day Hitlerian Europe. Viewing my work in ruins somehow brought everything to a head and I wondered how we had let it happen.
When the Nazi’s had taken England, the last bastion of
European defence, a ten-year-old, lunatic Austrian at their forefront, what was left of civilisation had crumbled. The posters of Queen Victoria in chains broke any resistance that remained and the world had a new dominator.
I remained hidden locked away behind granite layers of secret passageways hoping above hope that I would not be discovered until I could finish my work. But even tens of feet below London’s cobbled streets, I had no peace. The sounds of mankind in motion increased incrementally each day. When I could bear it no more, I crept from my subterranean hideaway and up into the bowels of Big Ben, the building I skulked beneath. Up and up I went allowing my feet to carry me onwards. When there were no more steps to climb, I had found myself stood amongst gears and cogs and realised I had attained London’s highest viewing point. It was there that I risked a look across the city from between the old clock’s arms: I was devastated! Hitler’s army and those it had forced into servitude had been busy, very busy. All I could see was mile upon mile of smelting works, and the industry of war. There was no longer a horizon just death in the making.
I’d known right there and then that England and the world it belonged to was changed forever and without further ado descended back to my own private domain. There, I departed into the past for the future held only pain, my chrono-cubicle untested, but what did it matter.
The silence was the thing that bothered me most. Not one
creature of any size or shape did I see, as I wandered aimlessly into the wilderness. Other than trees of even greater stature than I imagined there should be there was nothing but a world of vines and pooling mists. The life that Darwin had predicted as abundant was noticeable by its absence. I should have been glad not to risk being torn limb from limb but the truth was I was touch disappointed. Without an element of risk in one’s life there is only stagnation and the purgatory of normality. I had no wish to be normal, nor stagnant.
It was whilst mulling over the thought of a stale environment that it was all of a sudden not. From darkened gloom, I emerged into brilliant light and the beauty of free flowing water. Eons of time travel, even if it was crammed into but a few seconds, had left me dry and desperate for a drink. With a pleasure reserved for birth and marriage, I forewent decorum and dived straight in. It was an odd thing to do for a man known for his caution, quite out of character. The thought tumbled through my mind as the river, in turn, tumbled my body. The undercurrent was far in excess of anything I suspected and I knew myself to be in grave danger. Swimming was not my forte. I struggled, who wouldn’t have, but my flapping and flailing achieved nothing. If not for the shallow nature of the riverbed, at least, in places, I would have drowned. Instead, I hurtled through prehistory in a long arcing curve that swung me back towards the mountainside that I had come from.
Once I realised my efforts ineffectual, a total waste of
energy, I allowed my tired body to be borne along without complaint. Even as the river disappeared into the gaping, obsidian black of the inner mountain, I refused to panic. Not until my head hit rock and groggy and disorientated, I staggered from the knee-high depths of the pool I had been deposited in, did I wonder at what I should do.
I was used to darkness and my eyes quickly adjusted to it. Once they had, the speckles of the retina becalmed, I realised that there was light, not much, but it was there. Both the cave entrance and a shaft high above provided a wan illumination. I weighed up my options. It was impossible for me to have swum out of the raging waters the way I came, so finding what was almost a rock staircase, I climbed.
I could not begin to describe the age that it took to attain the required height, how my legs ached and hands bled at the continual brushing against rock. I even shelled my sodden jacket and shirt, so desperately hot did my ascent make me. As an English gentleman, I feared being found in some unseemly position more than I did of any physical pain. But the likelihood of ever seeing any human again, never mind an Englishman, was remote at best.
I marvelled at the crystalline cavern that I found myself in. The closer I got to the light source the more detail it revealed. That I was in a shaft of near symmetrical proportions, I was in no doubt and even the steps became clearer. The rock staircase could have been fashioned by trolls or ogres for the sole purpose of the ascent and I was more than grateful for it. Until eventually like
the bursting of a child’s balloon, I achieved the required height. But something was wrong, very wrong!
It took the closing of my eyes to confirm what my brain had already told me. Sensing north, a gift my nautically inclined Grandfather had bequeathed me, one that skipped past my father’s generation, I stood arms splayed. To my left should have been cogs, my right, three gigantic brass wheels and to the front the same opening I had stared through in my own time. I opened my eyes to the same proportions of the same room and the same window only covered in a millennia’s worth of deposited minerals. I stepped carefully forward and forced my way out of the hole in the rock face to a landscape as seen by God. The final confirmation was right there before me: it was the Thames, and I was not in the past, but the future!
I never did find out what had happened: world war, natural evolution, or Armageddon. My one discovery to suggest any theory was a statue formed of pure gold that had survived the ravages of time. It was of a man I did not recognise with a strange small moustache and swastikas on his lapels. The find meant nothing on its own just another confirmation of unknown facts, but it unnerved me for days. Then three weeks later, as I finally made it to the coastline that was once the southeast of England, I had my epiphany. It went like this: when one looks out over land or sea and views a horizon yet to be discovered the adventurer has not lost a universe, but gained one.
Gone was the violence of the past, the smogs and the industry, the evil and the greed, and in its place were possibilities. I intended to seek them out for I had all the required time to do so.