“Rey, I told you this already. I don’t know how I managed to travel in time, it just happened,” I groaned into my pillow. “I had been taking a walk in the woods when I stopped to look at this beautiful pine tree. The bark had weird grooves so I placed my hand on it, and that’s when I felt the ground shaking from under me with machine guns and screaming in the distance.”
“But surely it was some freak dream,” She pleaded. “Time travel isn’t real.”
“That’s what I wanted to believe too, until I looked up and saw the sky was on fire. It was the end of the world. The apocalypse.”
Rey inhaled deeply and with a curt smile, left the room. I knew she was going to go back to my family, and explain how I had been hallucinating but I knew what I had seen. When I went for a walk this morning, the sky was clear and blue. Not a cloud in sight, and the air was crisp and fresh. The best weather for a fall day. I had stopped to take in the scenery, and feel the nature fill my lungs, so I stopped by a pine tree. When I looked closer at the tree, I noticed there was a pattern carved into the bark, an ‘S’ shape. Curiously, I placed my hand on the engraving, and the ground began to vibrate under my Doc Martens. I tried to pry my hand away but the setting around me shifted too quickly for me to do something about it.
The sky went from blue to a red that looked like the sun was crashing into the planet. Machine gun fire popped in the distance causing my heart to speed up faster than the bullets could fly. Two shouts came from a few trees over accompanied by voices that were yelling for me to RUN. With a knee jerk reaction, I quickly followed after the two people that were wearing SteamPunk attire. At this moment, I was thinking that I had gone crazy.
My feet trampled over fallen needles from trees, branches that were blood soaked, trees that had fallen over. The machine guns got louder, the air got warmer, more people were running with us. What the hell was going on? The further we got into the woods, the thicker the trees and brambles got. I avoided looking around but I couldn’t help seeing all the people that were on the verge of death, and the scenery that had been set ablaze. Acrid smoke filled my nostrils, and burned my eyes.
The two men I had been following slowed their pace to grab onto my arms, in order to make sure I kept up with them. After a few more minutes of running, one of them brushed leaves off of a hidden entrance to a bunker in the ground. They shoved me in and crashed down after me. I pinned myself up against the wall as the two men ignored me, and made themselves at home. Attempting to settle my heavy breaths, I looked around the space that was reminiscent of a studio apartment. There was a bed in the corner, a small kitchen area, and what I hoped was a bathtub.
“So who are you, boy? And why aren’t you wearing a mask?” A man with dark hair gruffed at me after removing his gask mask.
“I’m David, and why would I need to be wearing a mask? I don’t even know where I am.”
“How can you not know where you are?” The other one laughed. He had removed his mask too as they sat down at their table. “Everyone knows these woods are the danger area for government workers to take down anyone they run across.”
“No, these woods are behind my house. I was just going for a walk.”
They looked at each other in suspicion.
“There haven’t been any houses around these woods for centuries, kid,” The dark haired one said softly. “Who are you?”
“I told you. I’m David.”
“Well, how did you get out here David?”
“I was going for a walk behind my house, and then I touched a tree, and there you were yelling for me to run. So I ran.”
“You took orders from a stranger?” The second one asked confused.
“Well I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for the machine guns to get me.”
The room went silent as the still air hung over us like a moldy blanket. From above, boots were thundering past the secret entrance that no one probably knew about except these two.
“So what’s going on?” I asked with desperation. “I mean, why is the government shooting people who are here? Why didn't you help any of those people that were dying? And why on earth did you drag me along with you?”
“The government is shooting people that believe the world is ending, because it is. We were looking for answers, and you just happened to be in our way. Nobody helps each other anymore, it’s every man for themselves.”
“But how do you know I’m not working for the government?”
They laughed until they realized I was asking a serious question.
“Oh, he’s serious. Look twerp, there’s no way you work for the government. We saw you and figured if we kept you alive, then you’d be able to us stay alive.”
“Stay alive in a battleground where the world is ending?”
“Stay alive, and help prevent the world from ending.”
I stared in disbelief. None of this made sense. I pinched myself until I drew blood on my arm. There was no way this wasn’t happening, and yet none of it could be happening.
“The world won’t end for thousands of years. Hundreds of thousands, what are you talking about?”
“The world is ending right now, David. Ever since humans melted through the atmospheric layers, the sun has been getting closer and closer to us. Didn't you see how the sky is so red out there? That’s the sun come to finish us all off. The government just wants to speed that process up.”
“This doesn’t make any sense!” I shouted at them. “The sun is millions of miles away! The sky was blue an hour ago! The government isn’t in the woods implementing total annihilation!”
“I don’t think he’s from here,” The quieter one said.
“Well where could he be from then?”
“The past or something. Nothing he says adds up to anything we grew up learning.”
“What year is it?” I interjected.
My jaw dropped as I held in a panicked scream. How could I have flashed forward in time so far that the world was now ending before I was 20 years old? Why did I have to touch that tree in the first place?
“No, no that’s not right. It’s 1991.”
“1991?” They laughed. “That was almost a thousand years ago, you little liar.”
“I’m not lying! I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about! Where I’m from, the atmosphere surely isn’t gone, and the sun definitely isn’t right next to the earth!”
They were silent again. What was it going to take to make them realize that I had somehow travelled in time? My wallet! It had my driver's license in it! Swiftly grabbing it from the inside of my jacket, I thrust my information in their faces.
“It’s 1991, and I’m 17 years old. That’s where I’m from,” I said with an extended arm.
“What’s that on your arm?” The quiet one asked.
I frowned in confusion until I looked down, and saw the same mark that had been on the tree had somehow burned itself into my arm. I didn't notice that the red flesh was angry until it felt as though a hot poker was being buried into my skin. When could I have gotten this? How could I have gotten this?
“That’s a resistance mark,” They said in unison.
“A resistance mark?” I grimaced while putting my wallet away. “This just showed up on my skin, it must have happened while we were running.”
“No. If you’re a time traveler, then you need to go back to where you came from. Fix the earth before it can become the nightmare it is now.”
“I have no idea how to get back! I don’t even know how I got here!”
“You said you touched a tree. We will escort you back to your spaceship and you will go back to your time.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me, I don’t have a spaceship!”
“We leave now, boy!” They said putting their masks back on and grabbing their guns. How convenient I was going to have to cross the battlefield again with nothing but my jean jacket and Doc Martens. What a hero I’d make.
Without a choice, I followed them out of the hatch into the air that had somehow become even thicker with smoke. The air smelled like forest fire and ammunition rounds. When I reached the surface, they pulled me out, and covered their secrets. Within a second, we were running at full speed again, but how was anyone supposed to see anything with the ash in the air? Oh, that’s why they had gas masks.
Somehow, they knew exactly where the tree had been, and eventually we made it back to it after crossing the same horrors we had seen previously. Before I could protest or ask them any more questions, they forced my arms incision into the tree bark. The world went black again as my head felt like it was being squeezed through a tube. With a thud, I realized I had fallen onto my back in the same woods I had left.
You need to fix this, the breeze whispered to me before the disembodied voice was as gone as the future setting I had just been in. Why were they so insistent on keeping me with them and then suddenly decide to send me back? What if it hadn’t worked in the first place? I sat up, trying to shake the feeling that I had broken every bone and nerve in my body. My arm stung and I looked down at it. The previously opened wound had somehow turned to scar tissue, but underneath it were the numbers 2981. I wiped away at the fresh blood, ignoring the sting, as I looked back up at the sky.
Blue and calm like the ocean on a summer afternoon. I dropped my head back onto the pine needles that held me. Birds chirped above me. The sun was million miles away. There weren’t any machine guns being fired at people of the public population. But how was I supposed to stop something that was going to happen in almost a thousand years? Part of me felt guilty, as I wished I had never touched that tree.