“How’s your crumble, Val?” Derek sits across from me, his forest green eyes twinkling. Candles flicker next to us, casting an ominous glow all around our table, but we are uncaring. He flashes me a smile, and I can see his cheeks darkening, as he tries to focus on me. With all of the wine we’ve consumed, I am surprised he’s sitting upright. Tipsy, but still manages to ask me about my dessert – what a wonderful man!
“It’s perfect,” I tell him, and sigh contentedly. “Are you having a nice time?”
“I’m having a lovely time!” He blushes even more, if that’s even possible. “I hope you are too.”
“Yes, of course I am.” The nervous vulnerability in his eyes makes him more endearing to me. I bat my eyelashes at him, enjoying the small breeze flowing through the restaurant. “But how about we get out of here? Go somewhere a little bit more… private?”
“Oh, ye- yes, that’s a great idea.” Derek signals for a waiter, and fumbles with the cheque – which of course, we argued about, until he eventually won. We wander out the restaurant, hands clasped in each other’s, and we walk on together, as the sun begins to set.
The sky is a mixture of orange shades, and the sun is rapidly disappearing behind the clouds. Everything is painted in a pink, cloudy haze, with almost a romantic aura painted over the town. On Valentine’s Day, that’s to be expected, with millions of happy couples passing by, wishing them well. Under the dimming light of the sun, we set off at a leisurely pace, and eventually end up at the beach.
I slip my shoes off and dip my toes in the warmth of the sand, before we start strolling across the beach. The crash of the waves is a gentle lullaby, sending warm vibrations through my body. The whole night is tranquil, with no interruptions other than the occasional seagull, which preys on leftover chips. As we walk along, my eyes adjust to the diminishing light of the setting sun. In the distance, I can see something. Some sort of a machine, chunky and enormous, whirring away at the end of the beach. Fuelled by curiosity, I let go of Derek’s hand, and rush over to the machine.
As it grows nearer the harsh whirring becomes louder, grating my ears. It smells like petrol, probably because of the thick layer of petrol it has been coated in. Various bugs and other unknown substances stick to its side, unable to be freed. Right at the top of the machine, there is an antenna, a chubby, metal finger that points to the sky. It seems to be emitting a pulsation that travels through my body, sending chills down my spine. I’m fascinated by the machine, infatuated by it… however, looking over at my boyfriend, I see he doesn’t feel the same way. He looks uncomfortable, and mildly irritated, by the fact this machine has taken priority over our date. He coughs, and we are plunged into an awkward silence. I can’t help it; as a mechanic, metal and machines are my life. I have a right to look over this strange contraption… so why is it such a big deal to Derek?
“What’s the issue?” I ask him, starting to feel a little agitated. My hands are planted firmly on my hips to show him I’m not fooling around anymore. He seems to understand.
“I’m just saying, this is our date. Our date. We get one day a month where we can go out, and not have to think about work. And yet here you are, still thinking about work.”
“I’m not thinking about work!” I say incredulously. “There’s a weird machine on the beach that has suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and you’re not even a little bit curious?”
“Nope.” He says simply, and sits down on the nearest bench he can find. “I’m just bloody freezing. But it’s fine, you go and explore, make sure you spend the whole night looking at this machine, otherwise I’ll be disappointed!”
Rolling my eyes at him, I vow to take as long as possible, just for the sarcastic tone he uses. I circle the machine, wondering what it is, when I see a plaque on the back, engraved with writing. I step forward to see it clearer.
“Time machine? Wow, this has got to be good,” I laugh, and signal to Derek. “Here, Derek, we have a time machine here!”
“Brilliant,” he replies monotonously. “Can we go now?”
Ignoring him, I turn the flashlight from my phone on, and advance on the machine. Underneath the plaque, there are more words, this time in a smaller, cursive font. I reach out to swipe the dust away from it, and as my bare skin connects with the cool metal, it sends tingles through my body.
I feel like I’ve just had electricity soar through me. There is a snap, as I immediately pull my hand away from the machine. At least the ruckus has got the attention of my boyfriend, who walks towards me, alarmed by the noise.
“You okay Val?” He questions, but I can’t move. My mouth won’t open, so no words come out, and my feet can’t be taken off the ground. I start to feel dizzy, and I’m fairly sure I can see stars now. A cloud, thick and heavy, starts swarming around me, and I’m trapped in the cloud of violent fluff. I can’t see Derek – or anything else for that matter – and I use my hand to cover my eyes from the dust which is swimming in the air in front of me…
Suddenly, everything stops. The cloud dissipates, the tingling sensation in my body is gone, and I’m able to move all of my limbs. My jaw, locked in place before, can now move, although it is sore. Rubbing it, I look around for Derek, but he’s not there.
Neither is the beach.
Looking around my surroundings, I’m somehow now in a forest. Trees tower up to the sky, protecting me from the torrential rain that is falling from it. Soil crunches beneath me, obviously infertile, as I try to figure out where I am, and how I got there.
I spend the next few hours wandering up and down, hiding from carnivorous creatures, and attempting to uncover crucial information about where I am. In the depths of the forest, I claw through the bushes, searching for a clue, or anything. I spot a sign in the distance, rotted and ancient, but still standing. Rushing over to it, I bend down to read the sign, and as I stare at it, my sanity dissolves.
“1968?” I say, disbelieving my eyes. “How am I in the year 1968?”