I have been obsessed with the future for my entire life. I yearn for a time when the roads will be filled with the near silent hum of electric motors, driverless vesicles transporting their load to and from high rises in the city. A time when hospital waiting times are reduced to the time it takes a diagnostic tool to scan your body and dispense the appropriate medication. And a time when any material good would be available almost instantaneously, at the touch of a button.
I have read that all of these things may well be achievable in the next 60 years. This is, of course, exciting news. But 60 years is two more lifetimes away for me and right now that seems like an eternity. What if I don’t make it?
So, now that I find myself confronted by an eccentric older gentleman who claims to have discovered a way to deliver us into the future I figure that I may as well hear him out. We are stood in a board game shop, in the middle of a strip mall. I had been reading the back of the Khronos box when he called me over and asked whether I’d ever thought about time travel for real. Who hasn’t, right?
“This machine can transport you, instantly, to any date up to 80 years into the future.”
“Have you tried it?” I asked, nervously.
“Unfortunately not, my boy. I am too old you see and my body will likely fail to withstand the strain. I have, however, tested it with my dog. I sent him 2 weeks into the future 2 weeks ago and here he is. I picked him up from this very spot this morning.”
Sure enough his loyal canine companion sat by his side, panting.
“Ok” I say “what the hell, strap me in.”
“That’s the spirit, my lad. $500 please.”
I take my wallet out and with a quick swipe of that little plastic rectangle, my account is debited.
What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? I’m not going to travel into the future faster than one day at a time? I’m already doing that on a daily basis.
“Alllllright” he beams back to me, he is visibly excited and gestures me into his building. I follow and am led into a small, brightly lit back room in the store. The room is crisp and polished, there is a clinical feel to the place. Over by the adjacent wall is a machine that looks like a motion simulator. He signals for me to enter the machine, I fold my body in and my new (old) friend strap my legs in, he then takes care of my arms.
“When do you want to go?”
“Send me 50 years into the future.” I demand, now feeling as though this has been some elaborate display designed to get me to test his new ride.
“50 years it is!” As he says this he springs into action and fiddles with the many dials on the machine. His liver spotted hands are plagued by tremors, a true marker of his advancing years.
“When you arrive at your destination the machine will wake you up and the straps around your legs and arms will loosen. Don’t stand up too fast as you might be dizzy.”
“What do you mean wake up?” I plead. “Why am I going to sleep?”
My protestations have come too late and he picks up a large needle full of liquid, his hands, suddenly held steady, plant the stick right in the side of my neck, the straps hold me in place as my body tenses and struggles to break free but with each second the strength drains out of me and my vision blurs. My image of the world closes in, until; blackness.
I awake in the same blackness with which I drifted off until the door of the strange machine pops open, making a shrill beeping sound as the cuffs around my wrists and ankles pop off. I go to stand but receive an immediate reminder of that maniac’s advice, head rush. I sit back down and give myself a moment. I try again but my legs feel unsteady and weak, I grip onto the side of the machine for support.
“Hello?!” I shout out. “Anyone? Please, I’ve been drugged!” Nothing, there is nobody here. The small room I entered a few minutes ago seems dimmer now, and dirty. I stumble over to the sink in the corner and grab the sides, allowing it to support my weight. I raise my head towards the dusty mirror above the basin and shriek in pain. I am instantly chilled.
Replacing my neatly trimmed brown hair is half a head of wiry greys, my hairline retreated back towards the crown. My eyes, which once were a shimmering, glinting green have grown weary and cloudy. The skin on my face, which once was taught and springy, now sags downwards. I look at my hands which showcase a similarly wrinkled appearance, a liver spot has appeared on my right hand.
This can’t be happening. There has to be some mistake. “Hello?” I shout again, becoming increasingly desperate. “Hello, please help me! Anyone.” Tears well in front of my dulled eyes, I feel hopelessly helpless. My hands search my pockets for answers, any clue as to what happened. My left hand lands on something in the pocket of my jacket, a slip of paper. I take it out and unfold it, the writing is blurred. I squint until it comes into something resembling focus:
Live for the Moment.
Shelves adorned with emptiness line the walls in the main room, dust is the shop’s greatest commodity now. I scan the room and clock a box on the shelf, blowing the dust away reveals the word Khronos. I open the box and am surprised to find a pocket watch, it flicks itself open and resumes its taunting tick-tock. If a pocket watch ticks and there’s nobody left to hear it, will it still tock?
I limp slowly towards the exit, every step taking an immense toll on my aged joints, and push the door open. Vehicles whizz quickly up and down the street, in silence. At least there’s that.