The ocean always gave me a tranquil, soothing feeling of serenity. The glistening waves giving comfort of the infinite possibilities that stretched on as long as the ocean did. The dancing palm trees swaying to every blow of the wind as they welcomed a surge of green, amid the neverending oasis of blue. Best of all, the baking, golden sands leading a pathway to the waters like it was the heavens. Each step was ingrained with memories of the sandcastles, and picnics that had filled our childhoods. It had always been a place of comfort and happiness for me, but that’d all changed now.
Faded into the unknown, that’s where he was—gone, into a place where I’d never see him again. Hell, I didn’t even know where that place was. He was just gone. The thought slowly sunk into my mind as I thought of him. He wasn’t coming back, ever. I fell over onto the sand where he was a day ago, crying. My tears fell against the sand, dampening it from its dry days of summer.
I stayed there as everyone left - families laughing as they got into their cars, couples riding their red tandem bikes into the sunset, and kids chasing their dogs out of the water and across the beach. They were all gone, but I’d stayed, with nothing coming and nothing going. Just me, and what remained of him.
The sun soon dimmed the sky as it hid behind the mountains, the very same way I’d buried my face into the sand. The moon and stars quickly followed it out, giving the smallest of brightness in the darkest of nights.
I laid down on the beach, the freezing winds howling as they blew over me. The frigid waves continued to gracefully prance across the beach sweeping up the sand, occasionally drowning my feet in its chill, then returning to rest like it never happened.
Soon, as the gray skies conquered the blue, the clouds started to rumble, and the rain began to pour down. Time kept passing, but the tears never stopped flooding my face. My eyes seemed to never dry and they kept pouring out what felt like more water than in all the oceans in the world. I- I can’t believe he’s gone. Forever. He’s never going to come back. Never. I screamed out in agony and pain, the shrill sound echoing in the deep of the night. Thinking about him only made me more numb, both emotionally and physically. I could no longer feel the freezing waves coming upon me, nor the cries of the clouds as they pattered on my skin. I was restless and exhausted, left without any ounce of energy in me to head back home…
I woke up to the beaming rays of the sun and found myself laying on the hot sands of the beach. Wha- Why am I at the beach? I got up and worriedly called out “KUNO!?!, WHERE ARE Y-” Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning on a stormy night, reality struck me. Kuno, Kuno was gone. All because of that STUPID CAR. That STUPID driver didn’t see where he was going. It’s all HIS FAULT. I was sobbing now as I squinted at the sky, yelling, “WHY? What did he EVER do wrong?!? Why HIM!” I was screaming, hollering in the middle of the beach like a maniac, but I couldn’t care one bit less. It felt good to scream out the pain but the blinding rays of sunlight stopped me from continuing. Clenching my fists, I looked down at the ground in sorrow. There’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing that’ll make it hurt less.
I angrily grabbed my sandy towel to put it in the picnic basket he’d bought me, but as I did, I felt something brush against my wrist. His watch. Kuno had taken it off the night before he- I stopped my train of thought and wiped the tear that rolled down my cheek. I placed it on my wrist and swore to never lose it. The very same black leather and gold watch he’d always worn was now on my wrist. He’d always had it with him, never taking it off except to shower. He even wore it to sleep. Must be one hell of a watch. I slipped on my beach sandals and decided to check the time before I left. 3:45 a.m.? There was no way it was 3:45 a.m. I pulled out my phone only to see the time was indeed 8:47 a.m. Why had Kuno worn it every day if it was faulty?
I pulled the golden crown of the watch and began turning it and the entire world started moving. My ears were ringing with a piercing, shrill sound, my head had a migraine like never before, and the world was spinning as if I was on a teacup ride. Except, it was moving a thousand times faster. Everything became colored blurs, and I could no longer tell where the water ended, and the sky started. I screamed in desperation, falling onto my knees in pain, with my hands on my head, and my eyes now closed. I had to stop it. I need it to end. The watch. The WATCH! I reached for the watch and pushed the crown back in. The spinning had suddenly stopped like a closing force field in a movie. I collapsed backward from impact but, thankfully, it was over. The world was no longer spinning and my ears weren’t ringing, I survived. Sighing, I stood back up, and just as I began to wear my slippers for the second time my jaw dropped. It- It’s night. What?! HOW? The sky was pitch black once again even though just a few seconds ago the sky was bright and yellow. “Huh?” I exclaimed in shock, “How is this even possible?” Did I just….. time travel? I rubbed my eyes, hoping that I was simply hallucinating though, in fact, it was still night. It’s not going to be fun but… I lifted the dial, spun it around a few times, and then pushed it back. I kept my eyes closed, praying that I was simply being insane, though I’d soon see that I wasn’t.
I found myself standing behind a palm tree on the beach. It was around evening time and the beach was completely empty, or at least it was until two people showed up. They were holding hands- the woman in the red dress was running along the sand and the man was attempting to catch up. As they ran closer to the shore, I was beginning to make out their faces. I felt a chill run down my spine as I took a better look at the two. It.. It was… Kuno- Kuno and I. I could hear myself sniffle as I saw him again. Despite my shock of going back in time, the long-gone sensation of comfort took over me once again. It’s like he never died. Kuno and I had spent our last night together at the beach having a picnic dinner. Hidden behind the palm trees, I watched them set up the mat, get all the food out, and eat, all while watching the sunset. I just sat there silently gazing from afar as we spent our night, not knowing it would be our last.
It would be midnight by the time we’d leave, and it was already getting quite dark. I sat behind the trees for four hours watching them and they were now starting to pack up. I can’t do this. I can’t watch him die. Not again. He’s going to die within the next 15 minutes and there’s nothing I can do about it. Or is there? Could I stop this imminent life-changing event from happening? I’d always heard about the dangers of time travel but that was never a problem, until now… I grabbed the dial of the watch and twisted it once more, spinning it back by around 15 minutes. I had to think, could I really stop it? Closing my eyes, I thought about what I could do. I couldn’t directly tell them to not cross the road or stop the car, but perhaps I could mess with the traffic light. I quickly got up and silently ran towards the road which we would later cross. I had to break the traffic light in order for them not to cross, I had to.
I reached the traffic light and opened its button box, revealing intertwined wires of all sorts. Which one, which one? They’re almost packed up; I have to hurry. My heart was rapidly beating as I used all my force to pull the wires out. I closed the lid of the box, and then looked up at the blank screen of where the lights once were. Yes! I hid behind the closest wall I could find and waited anxiously as they approached it. When they did, instead of waiting for the pedestrian sign to come on, they walked past it and went straight into the parking lot. Then, the black car sped across the road, this time, not hitting anyone. I did it? I DID IT! I SAVED HIM! They didn’t cross! Kuno didn’t die! I couldn’t stop myself- I jumped in joy and excitedly twisted the dial to travel back to the present. I’d finally be back with him!
I returned to the familiar dry sand of our favorite beach, smiling, excited to see Kuno once again. When I looked around, I didn’t spot him at the beach, but he was probably just home. I got in the car, drove back there as fast as possible, and searched for him. He was nowhere to be seen. I even called his number. I checked everything; he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He’s probably just busy somewhere, I told myself even though I couldn’t help but think that he was still. Still dead.
I needed to know if he was still dead. I immediately picked up my phone and dialed 911, calling them to ask about a man named Kuno Hatchaki. I waited anxiously while they put me on hold for twenty minutes before they broke the news. According to them, he was dead, killed in a car accident on Southwest Beach Road. I thanked them and hung up the phone. How did this happen? I just. I’d saved him, I saw him cross safely with my very own eyes. I’d seen it. I burst out into tears not bothering to wipe them as they rolled down my cheek. But- I’d stopped the car. I stopped him from walking into the car’s path. How’s he still dead? I could now feel the salty taste of my tears as they reached my lips. How could I live without him? All the time we spent here. All of it was gone. There would be nothing more coming after this. I lay down on his side of the bed. It was so empty. He wasn’t there. I took off his watch and put it in the nightstand drawer only to notice that there was something unique in there. It was a box labeled with two lines and in between those lines were the three letters -U, N, and I. Was this his university box? What was inside? I opened the box carefully and found a bag of circular batteries inside. The watch’s batteries. That’s it. Maybe the batteries were dying. The watch did lose track of time, after all. I swapped out the battery, replacing it with one from the box. Then, keeping the remaining batteries in my jacket pocket, I spun the dial once more.
The pain of traveling didn’t hurt anymore. With the hope of Kuno coming back, I’d do anything. When I pushed the dial back in, I found myself behind a slide at the neighborhood park. I had never come here with Kuno before. Why was I here? I peeked out from behind the blue slide and saw two people sitting on the swing sets. It looked like us-Kuno and me, yet everything was different. Kuno was more of a scrawny little boy compared to his usual fit self; he had blonde hair instead of brown, while I had short hair. Specifically, the short hairstyle I’d decided against last summer. I shook my head as I swapped the batteries again. This is probably just another faulty one.
This time I was sitting in the back row of a movie theater. It took me a moment to spot Kuno and myself but when I did, once more, Kuno and I looked different. He was wearing a surgeon’s coat, and I was congratulating him on the job. He went for it, he had applied to med school.
Each time I opened my eyes after changing the battery, I discovered a new world, a new us. In each of them, Kuno and I looked different, had different jobs, different houses, and lived vastly different lives. In one, I decided against being an astrophysicist, while in the other I decided against being a teacher. Every choice led me to a different timeline, each having the same people who were yet all so different. The choices we rejected at one, we accepted in the other and the batteries showed me that. The batteries took me to the same places, but each was different than the previous. It was all during the same time, yet the time itself was different. I pictured the box where I found the batteries, and I instantly understood what it meant. If I could time travel, well wouldn’t these other theories of space and time be true as well? There were two lines. Parallel lines. And U, N, and I, well, it wasn’t a university. It was the universe! These were all different universes where we made different decisions, different choices, and took different paths. I excitedly swapped the battery for the one that led me home. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone what I’d discovered. I could get a Nobel prize for this! I couldn’t hold back my smile, I pulled out the dial one last time and spun it with excitement. I was about to reach home when….
The pain this time was agonizing. It was all a blinding bright white and I couldn’t move. As if I was handcuffed while standing, I felt a shock go through me. I think I started to hallucinate because I could hear two men arguing about taking a guy and a girl, something about a car crash and suicide. The pain was unbearable until it wasn’t. There was nothing, no pain, no feeling, no senses, just sleep…
I woke up back in my white fluffy sheets after the most bizarre dream ever. I could hardly recall it, yet I had the strangest sensation that it was real. That crazy brain of mine. Ha. I laughed it off and got up to go make a cup of coffee. I continued with my regular day and even though Kuno was gone, he was in a better place now. He’d be happy I was living my life and not spending it grieving him. I got ready for the day and what would be the rest of my life, clueless of what had really happened….
EPILOGUE: The previous night…
“We’ve already taken the boy, this is going too far.”
“For the last time, when we detected him, he knew too much. And now she does too.”
“But we can’t take her. They’ll notice if another one dies off, especially when they’re so closely related. You know the last thing we need right now is the humans investigating.”
“Listen, it doesn’t have to be another car crash. I’ve researched their species, when they’re experiencing agonizing grief, some of them commit suicide. It’ll be plenty believab-”
“Believable or not, the boy can tell us everything we need to know. He time traveled first, and it’s his watch that could do so. Our job working for the Timeline Disruption Agency is simply to prevent new timelines from being created, and we can do that with just the boy.”
“All I’m saying is that if he was smart enough to take off his watch and change the time so she'd discover time travel herself all before we abducted him and his doppelganger died, what’s to say she won’t be able to modify the timeline as well? After seeing the future, he could’ve easily left her all kinds of clues, and if she were to ever discover it…we don’t know what kinds of crazy complications she could cause - don’t you think we have enough to deal with as it is?”
“Perhaps you’re right. I’ll have her memory wiped later today, and even if she does partially remember what happened, it’ll be nothing more than a dream”
“And his death? What about the watch?”
“She’ll wake up at peace with his death. I’ll be sure she doesn’t have a reason to investigate. As for the watch, she’ll return with an ordinary duplicate.”
“Good. We’ll continue tests on the boy as soon as she’s back in her universe. They can never know what happened, alright? The last time something like this happened, workers like us went up to the management and never came back. They watch everything, so you better not mess this up.”
“I understand that. You need not worry. The boy is ours to investigate and the girl will be unable to do anything. You have my word. They'll never find out. Never."