The tenth and final time somebody found the object, it was 1987. Laura found it on the side of the road, and picked it up. She was an artist and finding and using detritus she had found was something that she often did.
She couldn't even figure out what it was until she saw the glass eyes, and the feeling of fur between her fingers made sense. It was a teddy bear, the fur the only thing left of the child's toy.
"Hey," she said, softly, running her fingers over what was left of it, covered in dirt and leaves as it was. The stuffing had completely disappeared. She glanced around the side of the road but couldn't see it anywhere, and assumed that the stuffing must've washed away with the storm.
She didn't notice that the fur itself wasn't even wet.
"Come on. Let's get you to your new home." She smiled. "I can fix you up like new. How does that sound?"
The bear didn't respond as she put it in her backpack.
Nor was the bear there when she unzipped her bag and got home.
The object was never seen again.
The ninth time somebody found the object, it was 1990. Lynn was cleaning out her son's room when she spotted the cat chewing something up, taking the stuffing out.
"Marlin! No!" she chastised the cat, which couldn't have cared less. Marlin jumped down, fur still attached to her whiskers. For Lynn's part, she frowned. "What the..."
The teddy bear wasn't one she'd seen before. Her son didn't own toys like this, leaning more towards action figures like other boys his age. "Where the hell..." she wondered. She frowned, setting it down so she could set the laundry basket down. When she turned back, the teddy bear was gone.
Her eyes widened.
"Marlin! Marlin, bring that back right now!"
Marlin did not, content to perch on her sun laden windowsill.
The eighth time somebody found the object, it was 1999. Four year old Dorothy was playing with her other toys excitedly when she found a teddy bear she did not recognize. "Hello," she said, picking it up. "Where did you come from?"
The teddy bear did not answer, but judging by how dirty he was, he'd been in the park. At least, that's what Dorothy thought, as the park was the only place that dirt could be present in a city like this.
She noticed the rip on the side and immediately took out her toy stethoscope.
"It's all right," she said, speaking very seriously as she ran the stethoscope over his body. "I'll 'nose you, like my daddy does. He's a doctor, and he saves people's lives. I'll figure out the i'ness and make you a hole again."
The teddy bear would be with her for ten years before it disappeared, but Dorothy didn't notice.
Even if she had, she wouldn't have cared. She was much too old for childish things, in her very grown up opinion.
The seventh time somebody found the object, it was 2004. It was at the construction site where Devon Waters worked. He looked down at the teddy bear and wondered how long it had been there. Judging by how much dirt it had on it, it had been there for quite some time.
It was strange, though. This had been the site of an old factory which had burned down. Where would a teddy bear have come from?
Too busy to think too deeply on this, he shrugged it off, walking away without another thought.
Not even noticing that the bear had disappeared when he walked past the same spot.
The sixth time somebody found the object was 2017. Chad, Dorothy's maybe possibly but not quite there yet serious boyfriend was sitting on her dorm room bed. He looked over and frowned, staring at the bear that was sitting there. It looked worn out and loved, and he smiled slightly before he picked it up, running his fingers over the fur and wondering where she'd gotten the object.
"Hey Chad have you seen my- what is that?"
He turned the offending object to face her, almost accusing in its stare. "I don't know, you tell me," he said. "Been going out with somebody behind my back, who wins you stuffed prizes at carnival games?"
Dorothy frowned, staring at it. "Hold on, where did you get that?"
"Your bed," he said, not yet confused by her weirdness because there was nothing weird here.
"Oh my- I swear to god that looks like Mr. Stuffers!"
Now he was confused by her weirdness. "Mr. Stuffers?" he asked, as she grabbed the bear from him before gently running her fingers over the fur.
"Yeah, I had this-this teddy bear, Mr. Stuffers. He was like- I dragged that thing everywhere, I swear." She frowned, running her finger delicately over his side. "There was a tear, right here, though." She frowned even harder before she shook her head. "Weird," she said.
"Maybe you have a stalker," he said, grabbing her hand. "Maybe they found your childhood bear and fixed it up, left it for you here," He yanked her on the bed suddenly and she let out a shout of surprise before she laughed, caged between his arms. "Don't worry," he said, kissing her cheek. "I'll protect you"
They started to kiss before Dorothy made a noise of protest. "No, not in front of the bear!"
Chad rolled his eyes, laughing a little. "No, right, my mistake," he said, and he grabbed the bear before he placed him on the open windowsill, facing away from them. "Gotta preserve his childlike innocence."
When Chad moved back, he moved just right so the already precariously placed bear tipped, falling out the window. Dorothy protested once more, saying that even if she didn't want the bear, it was still considered littering.
Chad, slightly more annoyed than endeared by his girlfriend's behavior, looked out the window to see where he'd fallen. Sighing in relief, he saw that the bear had caught on something that was jutting out of the building, being held up by what was likely a stray nail that got left from when the campus hung up banners for spirit weeks.
Eager to get back on track with their previous (and so rudely interrupted) activities, he reached down to grab it.
The fur caught in such a way that he heard a tear a moment later. He made a face, looking inside as he glanced at Dorothy to see the look on her face. When he brought his hand back in, however, it was devoid of any offending object, ripped or otherwise.
The fourth time somebody found the object, it was 2043. Mitzy was bored at this benefit, bored of her life, bored of the glitz and the glam and the-
"Is that a..." She frowned, looking at the teddy bear sitting in the corner of the room.
When she went over to it, she saw that it was, indeed, a teddy bear. The lining was still perfectly preserved, though it looked like somebody had cared for it and loved it. She had no idea where it had come from, as no children would've been running around this particular benefit. Perhaps it had been dropped by a child at one of the previous parties or events that the hotel hosted, and the hotel staff had just missed it. She went back to her table, rolling her eyes at Jean-Claude, her 'husband', and how obvious he was being in his flirtations with someone younger and much prettier than her.
She set the bear down on the table and then walked away, thinking of ways to make him jealous before she wondered if he'd even care.
When she came back, the bear was gone.
The fifth time somebody found the object, it was 2052. Mariah was standing at the counter of the dog shelter she was adopting her lab-pit mix from. Or, more accurately, she was leaning against the counter, bored, waiting for them to finish the paperwork and bring what was supposed to be her new best friend out.
She perked up at the teddy bear sitting on the counter. Although it was the size of a child's teddy bear, she thought it would be perfect for Otis. She picked it up before she showed it to the worker who was filling out paperwork on a computer that was older than her. "How much for this?"
"What? Oh, I don't- we don't sell anything, somebody must've left that there."
Disappointment pooled in her gut. "Okay," she said, putting the toy back.
The counter girl privately thought that Mariah was cute, and so, she spoke. "I'll tell you what. If nobody comes back for it in a week, you can have it."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, why not? It's a cute bear. Somebody should be using it."
The bear was not there when Mariah came back, but Mariah did still leave with something: the counter girl's phone number.
Actually, she left with two things. The phone number, and a smile.
The third time somebody found the object, it was 2082. It was in a hospital, and Maritza DeLuth sat in the maternity ward. She looked down at her hands to see that she'd picked up a teddy bear at some point, though she didn't know when. She worried the fur as she listened to the doctor's telling her that even with all of the medical advances that had been made in the past thirty years, they still might not be able to save her daughter Abigail's life.
She clutched onto the bear and prayed and bargained with everything and anything out there that if they just saved her daughter's life...
Apparently, it was enough. Eighteen years later, Abigail walked across the stage at graduation, a diploma clutched in her hand and the bear, considered a good luck charm in her family, sitting on her bed before it wasn't.
The second time somebody found the object, it was 2109. It sat amongst a sea of gifts on a gift table at a party for little Celine. Celine's mom glanced the bear out of the corner of her eye and thought it was a nice gift, happy that somebody had thought outside of the box and gotten something so completely retro. It was a toy that her child could grow up with, love, even when her tablets and computers and phones all died and became bricks in the back of her closet as they had for Celine's mother.
When she looked more fully at the table, however, she saw that the bear was gone. She frowned, staring at the spot it had been at, before she resolved to drink less 'mommy juice' after the kids had gone to bed.
The first time somebody found the object, it was 2209. It was in a toy store, where Dr. Celia Marcus was taking a break from her experiments with time travel.
Strictly speaking, it was taking a break from deciding what to send back. They'd gone over and over what the object should be, but they hadn't found the perfect thing: the material was never right, or the object was too heavy, or it just wouldn't fit the machine.
The machine itself was small, and designed purposefully this way. Human test subjects were far into the future, but the university where Celia got her funding knew what scientists could be like. There was no telling one of them wouldn't get impatient and jump the gun, even if it was nowhere near ready and there was still a chance they could be scattered into a thousand atoms.
How could they be blamed? It was time travel, the thing society as a whole had been dreaming about for who knew how long. So many fields of sciences had already been conquered. This was one of the only fields left to truly make an original discovery. The theories had finally started being perfected about ten years ago, but they had finally gotten a machine up and running in the past month.
It hurt how badly Celia wanted it. She dreamt about it; not just the accolades and her name forever emboldened in the annals of history, but about time travel itself, about seeing the future and how they had progressed as a society. A hundred years ago, they had thought time travel was a cool plot for a sci-fi movie. Now, it was almost a reality, and Celia could taste it.
It was why her lab partner had sent her out, to be one with the world again, as she had only half-jokingly put it. When she stepped out of the lab, she realized that she couldn't remember the last time she'd seen the sun, the light of it nearly destroying her retinas (not literally, but it wasn't a pleasant experience).
She hadn't known what to do and, in her wanderings, she'd ended up at a toy store that she'd used to frequent as a kid. It wasn't the original one, but it was the same company.
She was surprised to see the row of teddy bears. She picked one up, reading the label on the packaging it was in to see that it wasn't electric, wasn't battery operated or held any specific type of machinery. It was simply fur and stuffing and glass eyes, real glass eyes.
Lightning struck and she clutched the bear, smiling so widely her mouth hurt.
"A teddy bear?" her skeptical colleague (and often more) asked. "We've been over this, the wiring and circuitry would be too delicate to-"
"No, no, that's why it's perfect!" she said, clutching it in her hands so tightly she could feel her thumb pressing up against her other thumb. "There's nothing electronic about this bear! Not only that, but it's the perfect size and shape, the material is durable-"
"And flammable," she pointed out, putting a file into the cabinet before moving about, her coat moving with her. "And if a fire catches in The Thing, it'll set us back months."
The name of the machine was a joke. The Thing, when looking at the first letters of the words, was TT. Which also happened to be the same as Time Travel.
"We have flame retardant sprays just for that reason," Celia said. "It's perfect." She put her hand on her arm. "Come on, you know I'm right."
She looked down at the bear before she looked up at Celia, obviously seeing the hope in her eyes. "All right," she said. "But if a fire breaks out in the lab because the fire retardant acts in an unaccounted for way-"
"I'll explain it to the dean myself!"
A day later, they were all set up. The machine was humming, as if it was excited at the thought that it would get to take part in history. The object, however, was sitting quite passively, unaware in it's role of human history.
The test itself was simple. They had set coordinates for ten minutes into the past, to be delivered to Dr. Arkans in the lab down the hall. Dr. Arkans would then seal it in a special container before she delivered it to the lab. From there, they would take the necessary readings and gather data before they repeated the experiment.
That was assuming everything went according to plan.
Dr. Emily Shozenburg was not entirely convinced that everything would go according to plan.
It was why she watched through her fingers as Celia counted down and then pressed the button.
Her heart leapt into her chest when the object disappeared-
No, actually, her heart leapt into her chest when The Thing didn't catch on fire, quietly relieved that the flame retardant they'd added worked as it was supposed to. It leapt into the stratosphere when the object actually disappeared, leaving in a blinding white light that was tinged with a rainbow at the edges.
They counted out fifteen seconds, both of them hopeful that Dr. Arkans was already standing at the door, waiting for just the right moment to come in and give them the bear that had already been delivered to her, waiting fifteen seconds after the test was complete so that she might avoid a paradox-
Dr. Shozenburg stopped breathing when Arkans came into the room-
But frowned, her breath still caught in her chest, when she came in empty handed.
"Sorry, I never got anything," she said. "I still waited until fifteen seconds after, like you said, in case something went wrong-"
"Nothing went wrong," Celia insisted, and Dr. Shozenburg privately thought that Celia was at her most beautiful when she was hyperfocused on solving a problem, nothing else mattering. The building could've come down around them in that moment and Celia wouldn't have noticed.
Dr. Shozenburg was a little distracted from that particular thought, however, because not only had the object not ended up with Arkans, it didn't appear to be anywhere.
"It's not in the building, I'm not getting any strange energy readings on campus. I've even increased it to a 25 mile radius. It's not here."
"If the object isn't here..."
They shared a look.
"Where the hell did it go?"