The Man with the Time Machine

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

He stepped out of his machine and looked at the house in front of him. It looked the same as it would eight years in the future. There were small differences; the siding would not look so pristine where he came from; the garden, now lush and beautiful – would be abandoned to wild negligence. The doghouse – this thought stopped him momentarily.

“Webster?” His voice almost broke, but he held himself steady. A small ball of fur bounded out of the bushes and hurled itself at the man. He burst into surprised laughter as he picked up the little creature. “You’re still a pup, aren’t you? I’d forgotten. I’ve missed you, buddy.”

The man looked at the house again. She would be in there, right now. She would be crying and packing her bags. His past self would have left a while ago in a huff, and wouldn’t be returning for hours.

This would be his only chance to stop her. He set down the excited dog, took a calming breath, and strode towards the house.

Inside, he could hear the sounds of hurried departure. The muffled swish of clothes being strewn about and packed, the crinkling of newspaper as trinkets were carefully wrapped and placed in boxes.

He faced the stairs with something akin to hope, mixed with paralyzing fear.

Upstairs Sabine was zipping closed a suitcase as he walked through the door behind her. She grabbed a photograph from the nightstand beside her and raised it over her head, pivoting on one heel to face him. At the sight of him, she frowned and the picture frame fell from her hand. The sound of shattering glass was magnified by the tense silence between them.

“Joel? Is that you?” Sabine blinked at him. Her voice was shaking.

“Sabine, you know it is. Please, please don’t go. I’ll do anything, just don’t leave.”

“What happened to you? You’re…different. And your clothes…  Joel, tell me what’s going on.”

“I did it, Sabine. I finally built the time machine. But since this day…” Remember the rules, he reminded himself, she can’t know. “Sabine, since you left, life has been hell. I’ve worked for eight years to come back to today and convince you to stay with me.”

Sabine looked at the sad, scruffy, thin man in front of her. He looked like her Joel, if her Joel hadn’t eaten or slept for months. His eyes, though, were the dark and sunken eyes of a man obsessed. This Joel, though she wouldn’t admit it, terrified her.

She steeled herself before she replied.

“No, Joel. You can’t fix this that way. If we were meant to be, we’d have eventually worked things out. You made some really big mistakes, and you need to live with them for the rest of your life. I’m leaving. If you want me to come back to you, you need to talk to your past self about making that happen, not me.”

With that, she picked up the suitcase and stepped over the broken glass, brushing past him through the door. He heard her descending the stairs, slamming the front door behind her. He heard the car engine start, heard her drive away.

Joel was dumfounded. He’d thought this would work. And now there was nothing he could do. He heaved broken breaths as the sobbing threatened to choke him.

Back inside the time machine, Joel was cradling Webster the puppy and looking at a yellowed newspaper clipping taped to a panel.

Young woman dies in tragic car accident

The date on the machine panel is the same as the date on the paper.

Joel gives a few more sniffles, then gently ushers the pup out the door.

“There you go, bud. No, it’s ok. The guy in there will need you more than I do.”

Joel closed the door and began fiddling with his panels. He couldn’t give up, he wouldn’t give up. He would just have to find another way to do it.

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

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