“Hey Aaron?” Mist asked, sliding into Aaron’s room. He was still unpacking some of his things from university. “I need your help with something.”
“Math?” He asked, dropping a shirt onto his bed.
Aaron froze, setting his phone down. They hadn’t had trouble with the time machine in ages. What could be wrong now? “Mist, what did you do?” He asked. “And how long has this been going on?”
“A few weeks.” Mist murmured. “I was messing around with a few wires and then when I went on the computer, it glitched out and the screen just have malfunction written on the screens.”
Aaron frowned. “Okay, so you didn’t create an alternate reality or we’d all be gone by now. I guess that’s a positive.” He said. “You might have just unplugged something. Remember when we were first learning how the machine worked and it just didn’t because something wasn’t plugged in? Everything has to be plugged in for it to work, so maybe that’s just what happened.”
“Wow, university changed you.” Mist said. “I’ve never seen you optimistic.”
“I can be mean if you want.” He shot. “I told Jemmy that I’d meet her for dinner, so we either make this quick or she’s going to come with us.”
“Oh, can she come with?” Mist asked. “I haven’t seen her in forever.”
“Yeah, I'll text her.” Aaron muttered. “Give me a minute. I’ll drive us to pick her up and we’ll go to the machine.”
“What’s wrong with it exactly?” Jemmy asked as they stepped into the tiny, cramped little machine. “Wait, we’re not going to have to fix the alternate reality, right?”
“No, that would be impossible.” Aaron said, dropping onto the ground and flipping up the old blanket they had over the table of wires. “Mist didn’t go back in time or mess with anything there. I think that they might have unplugged something.”
“Oh and one thing messes up everything, right?” Jemmy asked. “Okay, then it’s not that bad.”
“As long as that is what actually happened.” Aaron said, pushing around a few wires. There were so many plugged into computer. “I can’t see shit. Somebody pass me their phone.”
Mist stepped over and handed Aaron their phone. Aaron turned on the flashlight and moved forward, pushing a few wires. He jumped when one shocked him and pulled back. “Okay, that’s wrong.” He said. “Dammit, I think I know what happened and it’s not good.”
“What?” Mist asked, trying to look over his shoulder.
Aaron stood up, almost hitting his head on the table. “Jemmy, do you remember when we were in the alternate reality and I told you about how a light bulb is powered?”
“Yes.” Jemmy said with a shrug. “What does that have to do with this?”
“The wire I just touched is a ground wire. I made sure that the ground wires were white and not black or gray so I could tell the difference in case something went wrong.” He said. “A ground wire is a third wire that is supposed to take the power into the ground in case something goes wrong. It’s to keep it from overheating and starting a fire.”
“But ours doesn’t actually go to the ground.” Mist interjected. “It goes to the computer.”
Aaron shut his eyes to keep himself from glaring at them. It wasn’t all their fault. They didn’t know and neither had he. He couldn’t blame it all on them. “The whole point is that the ground wire is a safety measure. Which means that it’s not supposed to shock, see how all the white wires are at the front? That’s what’s safe to touch.”
“Okay, so what does that mean?” Mist asked.
Aaron sighed. “Ever since the alternate reality was created a few years ago, I wondered if it was the only alternate reality.”
“You think that there could be another alternate reality?” Mist asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“It doesn’t make sense based on my old theory.” Aaron said. “Remember what I said though?”
“Aaron, you’ve said a lot of things in 19 years. You’re going to need to be a little more specific.”
“Every action in the past has a consequence.” Aaron said. “Every action. Including the times that you messed up trying to fix what Kelly did. That’s why you’re supposed to get it in one shot.”
Mist’s eyes widened. “Meaning?”
“You created multiple alternate realities.” He said. “If I’m right this time, it could mean there’s too many realities and they’re collapsing in on each other.”
“If that’s true, why didn’t the machine malfunction two years ago when it was all happening?” Jemmy asked.
“Well, I can’t be sure, but I think that it might be because when it first started, it only tied us together.” Aaron said. “But as time goes on, the gap between our realities has closed and it’s starting to affect our world.”
“But why wouldn’t it have taken us to that time after we created it?” Mist asked. “That’s what it did when Kelly created an alternate reality.”
“Because you never created it.” Aaron said. “I’m guessing that there’s multiple realities. Versions of our worlds. Kelly created an alternate reality that hadn’t previously existed. But you guys all made changes that had already existed and therefore, when you went back in time, you returned to the reality you had been in before.”
“How do we get to the other realities if it didn’t take us there before?” Mist asked
Aaron shrugged. “I bet that if I can figure it out. I just need to get on the computer.”
“I thought that you can’t switch it from the regular screen.”
“You can’t. I can.”
“Because I have admin controls and you don’t.”
Mist’s shoulder slumped. “Why can’t I have admin controls on the machine too?”
“Because you’re still a kid.”
Mist crossed their arms. “You were only 16 when the machine first started working.” They said. “You wouldn’t let me have admin controls then because I was 12. Why don’t you trust me?”
“Because you’re the whole reason we have to fix this!” He cried. Aaron blew out a breath, trying to stay level-headed. He didn’t want to lose his temper. “If you hadn’t messed with things and created the alternate timeline then we never would have had to fix anything.”
“It was an accident!” Mist cried. Now he wasn’t being fair. She hadn’t meant to mess things up. “I had no idea that the time machine was actually working! I didn’t realize it had taken me through time.”
“There was no snow on the ground during December! December! What more could you have needed?” Aaron shouted. “I don’t care if it was an accident. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. You should have been careful!”
“What’s the point of a time machine if we’re not even allowed to use it!” Mist grumbled. “I have to follow your every rule. You can use the machine, but you can’t let people see you. That’s the whole point of the fucking machine!”
“You’re the one that messed things up in the first place, Mist.” Aaron snapped. “You can have admin controls when you prove that you can do some good for this machine.”
“That’s not fair! I’m the one that fixed the alternate reality!” Mist cried. “How is that fair?”
“Because I said so.”
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Great story! Aaron and Mist kind of remind me of Dexter and Dee Dee.