Name: Dr. Marcus Clyde
Object: A time machine
Time. Our perception of it is a tricky thing. Someone who is laughing and sharing stories with old friends for hours may be under the impression that only minutes have passed. However, a person riding out a tornado in a darkened cellar may feel as if hours are slowly ticking by, when really it’s been a matter of minutes.
In 2010, a quantum physicist named Dr. Marcus Clyde completed work on what he believed was the world’s first time machine. It was a project that he had been working on for at least a decade and had begun as little more than a hypothetical conversation between himself and the woman who would become his wife.
If one were to investigate Dr. Clyde’s notes, which he kept on white boards and composition books, it would become clear that he was not due to test his machine with a living specimen, much less a human being, for another two years.
Dr. Clyde decided to move up his timetable.
Tragedy struck for Dr. Clyde and his wife, Susan, in the summer of 2009 when their 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. Within two months of her diagnosis, she was gone.
In his grief, Dr. Clyde threw himself into his work. He was determined, now more than ever, to complete his machine because he had one singular goal in mind: to see his little girl again.
And so, on the evening of May 29, 2010, Dr. Marcus Clyde made an unscheduled visit to the underground hangar that had served as his laboratory for the last ten years. Being head of the project, the security team saw nothing odd about this after hours visit. Dr. Clyde told no one that he intended to send himself back in time to see his daughter again.
Closing himself inside the sphere, Marcus set the time and date to June 14, 2009. One week prior to Amanda’s first trip to the doctor. Two weeks prior to receiving the worst news he would ever hear. He then adjust the GPS coordinates, which would allow for the sphere to travel through not only time, but space as well, placing him in his own back yard.
If the machine worked properly, that is.
With the correct data entered into the control panel, Marcus held his breath and shut his eyes tightly. He pushed the lever forward and felt an odd sensation, as if the air around him had suddenly been charged with static electricity.
It only took seconds for the sphere to power up then power back down. When all was silent once more, Marcus opened his eyes.
Nothing was out of place inside the sphere. He reached behind him to open the hatch and was thrilled to see that he was in his own back yard. It was late in the evening, just after the sun had set. Marcus knew that, on this evening, the version of himself native to this time would be away from home. The Marcus Clyde of nearly a year ago was in San Francisco, trying to secure funding from some of the giants of Silicon Valley.
He knew it would be a shock to his wife when she saw him, but it would all be worth it to see little Amanda’s smile once more.
Marcus let himself in through the back door. He walked through the kitchen and found Susan and Amanda curled up on the couch watching their DVD copy of Finding Nemo for, probably, the 183rd time. He said nothing and just allowed the sight to wash over him.
Amanda looked over and shouted, “Daddy!” before jumping up and running into his arms. He hugged her as if would be the first and last time he ever got to do so all at once.
Susan walked toward Marcus with a confused look on her face.
“Surprise!” he said, before letting Amanda go and greeting his wife with a kiss. He had missed this.
In the months since Amanda passed away, he and Susan had grown more and more distant, unsure of how to be themselves again without their daughter to connect them.
That kiss took Susan by surprise and she smirked as she looked up at her husband. “Mandy,” she said, turning back to her daughter, “go keep watching the movie, I have to talk to Daddy about something in the kitchen.”
With that, Susan gently pushed Marcus back into the kitchen until he was pressed against the counter. She took a step back and demanded, “Spill.”
“Spill what?” Marcus asked.
“Don’t give me that,” she huffed. “For one thing, you look like hell.”
Marcus suddenly became self-conscious and tried to flatten his hair back down, realizing it had been standing up due to all that static in the sphere.
“For another, I just spoke to you ten minutes ago. You were about to sit down to dinner with some potential investors representing Google.”
“Right…” Marcus began, but trailed off.
Susan just stared at him with her arms crossed, waiting for an explanation.
“It works!” he whisper shouted, trying to contain his excitement.
“But why are you here? Now?” she asked. “This was never part of your plan. We discussed this years ago. Traveling to the past and interacting with people you know can be extremely hazardous! You are being incredibly irresponsible!”
“I know,” he said. “And I really can’t tell you why I picked now, but I want to take you and Amanda with me for a while.”
Susan narrowed her gaze at her husband. She knew him to be a brilliant man, but he was horrible at keeping secrets. If she agreed to go on a quick trip to the future with him, she knew he would eventually let the truth slip out.
“I promise, I’ll have you back in less than a minute. We won’t even miss Mandy’s bed time.”
Susan sighed. “Mandy! Pause the movie for a sec and come here!”
Little feet ran into the kitchen and Mandy looked expectantly at her parents.
“Kid,” said Marcus, “how would you like to become a time traveler?”
“Like in Back to the Future?” she asked, suddenly very excited.
“Can Mommy come, too?”
“Of course! How could we go on an adventure without Mommy?”
Marcus led his wife and daughter out through the back yard and helped them climb into the sphere. Once he closed the hatch, he turned to his little girl and asked, “When do you want to go?”
“All right,” he said, turning to his wife, “And what year do you think we should visit, Mommy?”
“When did you come from?”
“Fine. Well, you don’t look old enough to be from 2020, so let’s try that year.”
“2020 it is!” Marcus yelled as he input May 29, 2020 into the control panel. Susan noticed the date he chose but held back from asking why he picked May 29. Turning back to Mandy, he asked, “Where would you like us to go in the year 2020?”
“That sounds perfect, peanut!” Marcus located Disneyland on the control panel’s Google Earth display and input the coordinates which would cause them to materialize just inside the amusement park but, he hoped, just out of sight of any curious crowds of people.
“How are you able to do that?” asked Susan.
“Let’s just say my dinner with Google goes well tonight.”
Marcus prepared to push the lever forward for the second time tonight, but first warned his family, “This is gonna feel a little weird.”
Again, within seconds, the machine had done its job. Marcus opened the hatch and they all had to shield their eyes from the bright, afternoon sun. Climbing out of the sphere and pushing through some bushes near the Haunted Mansion, the trio discovered they were safe and sound in Disneyland in 2020.
“Where is everyone, Daddy?” asked Amanda, noticing that the happiest place on earth seemed more like the emptiest place on earth.
“I don’t know, sweetie.” Marcus looked at Susan and they both shrugged their shoulders.
“Let’s just walk around and see if we can find the people,” Susan suggested.
Hand in hand, the family walked, with Amanda in the middle, toward Sleeping Beauty’s castle at the center of the park. The smile on the little girl’s face never dimmed, but both Marcus and Susan’s faces were tinged with worry. In all the time they spent walking from the Haunted Mansion to the castle, they neither saw nor even heard another soul.
“It’s Friday,” said Marcus, “This place has got to be packed!”
Making their way to the back of the castle, Amanda’s excitement grew when she saw the carousel. It wasn’t spinning and the lights were all turned off, but she begged to climb up on one of the horses anyway. Marcus helped her mount the steed of her choice. Then he noticed a security guard jogging their way.
“Stay with her,” whispered Marcus to Susan, “I’ll take care of this.”
Susan watched her husband rush to meet the security guard with his hands in front of him, as if making a plea. She wondered why this guard was wearing what looked like a surgical mask. She was also desperate to hear what Marcus could be saying to the man.
Whatever it was must have worked. The guard gave Marcus a solemn nod before her husband turned and gave her a thumbs up before walking back to the carousel.
“Girls, this is Gary,” Marcus said, introducing the security guard to Susan and Amanda. “Gary has been kind enough to let us ride the carousel today, even though the park is closed. Isn’t that nice of him?”
Mandy grinned, “Thank you so much, Mr. Gary!”
“You’re welcome, Mandy,” Gary said before turning back to Marcus and Susan. “Now, I’m happy to let you all enjoy this ride for the next ten minutes. After that, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to leave the park.”
“You have my word, Gary. After this, you’ll never see us again,” Marcus said. “Thank you for this.”
Gary nodded, then made his way to the carousel controls. Slowly, the big machine came to life. The music began playing loudly through the speakers and the lights all started flashing and blinking as the horses bobbed up and down.
Amanda had never been so excited in all her life. At least, that’s how it appeared to Marcus. He stood there and just watched the little girl’s face as it displayed its apparent euphoria.
“This,” he said to Susan while still watching Amanda, “this is why I did what I did.”
Susan saw Marcus’ eyes beginning to well up. “Something is going to happen to her, isn’t it?”
Marcus knew his emotions had betrayed him. He looked to his wife, then embraced her. He kissed her forehead.
“Marcus?” she began.
He couldn’t find the words. He kept hugging his wife until all he could say was, “I’m sorry.”
With that, Marcus brought his mouth close to Susan’s ear and told her everything. A single tear ran down her cheek as she buried her face in Marcus’ shoulder.
At this point, the carousel began to slow back down, eventually coming to a stop. Amanda hopped off the horse, proudly doing so all by herself.
She tugged on Marcus’ sleeve. “Can we go home now? I’m sleepy and it’s weird here with no people.”
Making sure their intense emotions were hidden away, they both turned to Amanda and said, “Sure.”
They began walking back toward the Haunted Mansion, where they had parked the sphere. Marcus shared his thoughts, “I’m a little surprised Gary didn’t insist on walking us out. I mean, I’m glad he didn’t, seeing as how our way home is inside the park. Still…”
“Did he say why they were closed on the Friday after Memorial Day?” asked Susan.
“He mentioned a pandemic, but I didn’t want to pry. If I were to ask questions about what sounded like an obvious current event, he’d have probably thought I was insane.”
“A pandemic?” Susan said, obviously troubled about what the future held.
Within minutes, the sphere was back in the Clydes’ back yard and Marcus was helping Susan tuck their daughter into bed. After kissing Amanda good night, Marcus took Susan by the hand.
“I hope you’re not angry with me.”
“I’m not,” she said, honestly. “Though I can’t promise I won’t be a year from now.”
“Because I didn’t bring you with me?”
She nodded. “I’ll get over it. Because I’ll know you wouldn’t have been able to let me be seen by my past self.”
“You won’t say anything?”
“Of course not. You’re the one who can’t keep a secret, remember?” she said, laughing lightly and poking him in the chest. Growing serious, she continued, “Just don’t keep me at a distance when you get back home. I’m going to need you. We’re going to need each other.”
“I know,” said Marcus, holding back his tears. He kissed her good bye, then made his way back to the sphere.
Susan stood on the back porch and watched as the sphere vanished before her very eyes.
Thanks to Kevin over at Master Mix Movies for this week’s challenge! Now that you’ve finished reading this story, head over to his blog, Master Mix Movies, and see what he’s up to. He’s got tons of great movie reviews and I’m always excited to see what movie he’s talking about next. I’ve only got two of these challenges left to go, but I would love to have more, so if you haven’t submitted your challenge, you can still click here and leave something for me in the comments.