Been there, Done that

Submitted into Contest #154 in response to: Write a story featuring an element of time-travel or anachronism.... view prompt

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In a flash of bright green light, he stood eerily still. It’s not the first time Isaac had experienced this. It’s also not the first time that he begs for it to be his last.

Barely a moment ago he was standing in front of Lorenzkirche with Mary in his arms. They just went to see the new romcom she was pestering him about, and he finally caved. Today was their second anniversary, just a couple they weren’t yet married. He didn’t care too much about it however, their anniversary. The celebration being more of a formality than anything else. Although he knew she would almost certainly feel the same, that this day was just like all the others. He still wanted to make it special, and it was. A perfect day starting with a movie, a walk around Nürnberg’s old town centre and eventually veering towards Brunnengasse for a coffee at the Machhörndl cafe. Mary got washed away in the moment, they both did. But sipping at her latte she was growing restless, impatient. They had been together for two years now and neither of them had ever said “I love you”. But for Mary it wasn’t by choice. Isaac had specifically asked her, begged her even, to never to say it, those words. He had some strange, unsubstantiated phobia from these three words spoken in Unison.

“It makes me uncomfortable.”

“I don’t like it”

“Do this for me”

She couldn’t understand, but it wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried these last two years. Yet every time the situation arose, and she felt it was time he would hold a finger to her lips, preemptively he would always stop her in her tracks.

He could read her well. He always could. Some hidden talent of understanding people, her, a waitress even the bus driver. He could Read their emotions and know exactly what they were going to do next. She made a game of it over the years, tricking him. At least she'd try to.

Try to surprise him, to be spontaneous. He would always laugh, he understood it was only playful banter. But she could see it bothered him. He didn’t like the feeling of not being in control. He didn’t like not knowing what was going to happen next.

But today he was different. He would babble on about work or about the traffic. It was mind numbingly dull and she was focused on other things. They all had jobs; they all have shitty coworkers.

Why doesn’t he just say it already? She caught herself thinking. She was frustrated and he wasn’t concentrating, he seemed tired and off guard. She found her moment. To surprise him, to be spontaneous.

“I love you Isaac” She blurted out, watching his eyes as they grew wider.

His smile dimmed and a serious look cropped up over his face.

He embraced her, held her close. He knew this moment was coming and that he couldn’t prevent it forever.

“Happy second year anniversary, Darlin”

Those were the last words she ever heard from him. Yet he still never told her what she wanted to hear.


With a flash of green the clean cobblestone streets upon which he stood were gone, in its place appeared cracked red pavement and the sound of crashing waves. The stunning church steeples and the beautiful gothic architecture that once surrounded him had now vanished. Modern houses stood before him with a multitude of tall Douglas-Pine trees scattered about, seemingly out of place in this dry, hot landscape. Behind him a well kempt grassy area with rolling dunes covered in what could be assumed native shrubbery. A vast empty ocean which extended towards a seemingly endless horizon, his only doubts about that being what looked to be offshore breakers, maybe three kilometres out but he wasn’t certain.

This place was new, yet oddly familiar. he had never been here before, to this exact location, this exact spot. But the climate and scenery brought about a sense of De-Ja-Vu. By now the strobing green light had all but disappeared, leaving him behind almost as quickly as it had gobbled him up and ‘shat’ him out, and he was left standing beside a street sign which read ‘West Coast DR’.

“California?” he mumbled out loud in a daze.

The thought of Mary had all but left his mind. He was used to it by now and they had two good years, more than he usually gets truth be told. It still stung though; his chest felt like a sheet of paper having a cigarette pushed through it. The initial burn was quick yet excruciatingly painful. Now however, a few moments after the fact it felt like a persisting ache. Like the ember is growing and travelling further and further around the original burn. Slowly the paper smoulders, turning to bright orange, then black until finally falling away as ash.

He reached for his chest, feeling for any wounds, anything that hurt. Physically he was fine. He made it through unscathed. But it wasn’t always so painless, the recollection of his last jump propping into memory. Valentina, the one before Mary, let it slip one night in bed. She told him right after they’d made love, she held his face and pulled him closer. Isaac had thought it was just going to be a kiss. Exhausted and euphoric, he was not thinking clear and let his guard down, an all-too-common mistake he now realised.

Before he had time to react the flashing green light took him again and dropped him in the middle of Ingolstadt old town. Not a moment earlier he was lying naked in a bed in Sao Paulo. The next he was standing staring stupidly at a glowing neon sign reading “Christkindlmarkt”, dressed in a thick winter jacket, holding a mug with hot wine and winter boots that just didn’t seem to grip. He only took a single step before he woke up in a hospital bed. Apparently, he had slipped backwards on ice, rolled mid-flight, and broke his nose. He escaped any dental damage,

“Gott sei dank”.

His AOK insurance card read out Isaac Wagner and his life changed in an instant, as it had so many times before. One moment he was Isaac Rocha, everyone’s favourite local bartender and the next he was “Herr Wagner”, a financial advisor working at the nearby Sparkasse.


Now however he stood in scorching heat and the danger of ice underfoot was not at all a concern, but still he would check his vitals. He still checked to see if he was breathing or if he even had all his limbs (thankfully this time he did) until he finally decided to forage around his pockets. He didn’t have many as he had jumped into stupidly hot weather and was only wearing flip flops, board shorts, a tacky purple t-shirt which read “Flagmantle” with a courier bag strapped across his chest.

But his search did yield results.

A phone, an iPhone! It was a good sign. Within the courier bag was a worn leather wallet, which held a driver’s license with “Western Australia” written in bold at the top in a blue banner, below it his face in full view and his new identity to the right. “Isaac Humphries”. He preferred Wagner; truth be told.

He pulled out the other cards, all inscribed with that same, boring name, Isaac Humphries, Commonwealth Bank, Medicare, License to perform high risk work and a Fremantle FC club membership? Explains the tacky shirt.

He was tired and the beginning is always the hardest part. He knew what was laying ahead for him, he had done it a thousand times before. Slowly he would learn what kind of person he is here, and he would forget everything about who he was before. He will forget Herr Wagner, the cobblestone streets of Nürnberg. “Kaffee und Küchen” with Mary.. He needed to evolve. He needed to become Isaac Humphries.

So, with a sigh he unlocked his mobile.

“Hey Siri.”


“I want to go home.”

“It looks like you don’t have a home address listed on your contact card.”


July 15, 2022 03:53

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1 comment

Katy B
14:59 Jul 18, 2022

I really enjoyed this story. What an interesting concept, and I loved the images of a few different cultures. Thanks for sharing!


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