At last! After years of hard work, Joel had finally perfected his time machine. He knew not what awaited him nor was he fully prepared for what he would see. At this time, he was consumed by excitement and a desire for knowledge of something that no man has ever gained before. Surely, this would set him apart. Surely, he would be revered this time. Maybe instead of being the local mad-scientist, he would live in infamy as a brilliant doctor. Dr. McKinstry, the history books would write, founder of the greatest invention of all time: the time machine.
Joel took in the sight of his masterpiece and ran his hand along its smooth surface. It had an alabastrine exterior which appeared to be nothing more than a self-tanning bed. Was it just him or could it also be reminiscent of a coffin? No! He wouldn’t allow his mind to wander down that rabbit hole. This was genius! Being of short stature, Joel had put a step stool next to the machine. He climbed the stool and pushed the only button on the outside. It clicked and whirred. The lid was mechanized and popped open slowly, adding a dramatic effect. The interior was soft and plush and had a strip of neon blue lights. Joel had added those purely for entertainment purposes. The meat and potatoes of the machine were the keypad, the screen, and the switches. All of the elements were located on the inside of the lid, except the on/off switch, which was on the side near the opening.
Joel sat on the “bed” and swung his feet around. Then, he lay down and closed the lid. Even harder than determining how to make the machine was determining the best time. What year should he pick? He had pondered this question so much that it kept him awake at night. Finally, he had made a decision, and it all came down to this. He had to see if the Mayans had accurately predicted the end of the world. His fingers trembled with fear and excitement as he typed 2012 into the keypad and hit go. The machine rattled, shook, and lifted off the ground. What happened next, Joel couldn’t explain. He felt really funny and then blacked out. When he awoke, the shaking and rattling had subsided. Everything was quiet. He slowly sat up and opened the lid cautiously. Joel had done his research. He was an avid reader and television watcher. He knew that time travelling had to be done with an abundant amount of caution and usually involved not running into your future or past self. Thus, before entering the machine he had donned a black wig and a pair of thick rimmed glasses. Now, he climbed out of his creation and jumped to the ground. He clicked a remote and the machine turned invisible. Then, he took in the scene. All around him were headstones of all shapes and sizes. Some were small and made out of stone. Others were very large and ornate with crosses or angels. There was one headstone in particular; however, that caught Joel’s eye. It was a marble statue that had a big square base approximately three feet high. On top of the base was a marble angel in a flowing gown with wings, a halo, and a harp. A gold plaque lay near the angel’s feet. It read: Here lies Joel McKinstry who toiled with time one too many times.
“What, this can’t be!” Joel cried. “I can’t be dead!” “What is this rubbish?”
Joel stormed off toward the only road in sight. He followed the road aimlessly for about an hour until he came to a diner, Lucy’s. Hungry, tired, and sore, he walked inside. Lucy’s was quaint. On one end there was a bar and in the middle of the room there were five round tables. A family sat at one of the tables, and a couple of lone patrons sat at the bar, an empty seat in between each of them. Joel took a seat at the bar. A waitress came out. “Was that a mask on her face?” The people are weird here. Joel thought to himself. He ordered a beer and waited for his food to arrive. A young man about mid-thirties was to Joel’s left. This man was playing with some sort of device.
“What is that?” Joel asked.
“What do you mean?” The man replied.
“What is the thing in your hands?”
“That’s a phone!” Joel was amazed. Not only did it seem as though the world did not end, but people here had phones in their hands.
“You’ve never seen a cell phone before?”
“I uh, well, I’m not from around here.” Joel stuttered.
“I see.” The man said.
“Have you heard anything about time travelling?” Joel asked. He figured the young man must already think that he was weird, so this question would be in character.
The man rolled his eyes. “What rock have you been living under?” “It’s all over the news.”
“Like I said, I’m not from around here. I don’t watch television much either. Please tell me about it.”
“Oh, alright.” “It all started with some guy who calls himself Doctor McKinty or something like that.”
“Okay. Go on.” Joel pressed.
“Well, he won the lottery. He won millions!”
“Wow!” Joel smiled.
“Don’t get too excited.” The young man remarked. “He cheated.”
“How did he cheat?”
“He time travelled. “
“How did anyone know?”
“You see, no one was suspicious the first time he won. He’s so lucky! Every exclaimed. But by the third time, people caught on. The government full on big brothered him until they finally found out his secret.”
“Time travel.” Joel added.
“Exactly, and he even admitted, more like bragged about, it.”
“Then what happened?”
“How do you know?”
“I think I’ve heard the name before. It sounds familiar.”
“Anyway, as I was saying, what McKinstry didn’t realize was that on one of his time travelling escapades he brought back a deadly virus.”
“Yeah, he claimed it was from the year 2020, but nobody knows for sure. It caused a pandemic and the whole country shut down. Now were all stuck wearing masks and staying six feet apart.”
“Really! Do you think the world is going to end?”
“Who knows man? At this rate anything is possible.”
"What happened to McKinstry?”
“Well, he was deathly ill for a while, but he managed to recover from COVID-19. Unfortunately, he was thrown in jail for a few years. The government banned time travelling. It’s even a crime now, although, I don’t know how the government could catch a time traveler.”
“What happened to his money?”
The young man lowered his voice. “He was allowed to keep it, but he’s dead now, so it went to his gold-digger wife.”
“He had a wife?”
“Yes, they were married before fell ill. Rumor has it though that she killed him for the money.”
“Really, but you have to keep quiet about that because she took the money and used some of it to buy this diner.”
Joel opened the lid to his machine and was relieved to see his basement. He had only gone on one adventure, but maybe the world wasn’t quite ready for time travel. Maybe he should keep his masterpiece hidden for a while. Just in case. He neither wanted to end up in jail nor did he wish to be married to a murderous, gold digging wife. Maybe he should start figuring out what this COVID-19 virus was and maybe, just maybe, he could find a cure.