Trigger warning: swearing, death, climate
I was never meant to be with Rémy. The timing was always off. But, if I am honest with myself, we were always too chicken shit to reveal our true feelings for one another anyway. Just a sliver of courage is what our pathetic selves needed. We could have avoided a great deal of heartache – but most importantly, prevented Freyja’s untimely death.
It’s a regular night in 2066, nothing to see here folks. Just a couple of kids in their mid-twenties back in my childhood bedroom. Rather than face off in VR battles we are firing up a time machine. We’ll see if it actually transports Rémy. My parents want to die in this house so it seemed like the most logical place for tonight’s “launch.”
“I’ll make it back here. I’ll find this timeline. Everything will be fine,” Rémy tries to reassure me.
My fists clench. “Your dad is the one who worked at NASA, not you. As much as you’ve studied and learned from him, you have no idea what you’re actually getting into. Who knows if you’ll even return.”
His dad had tinkered with this device for years before he passed. It became quite the father and son hobby. They called it the Trou de Ver – the “wormhole” in French. We affectionately refer to it as Monsieur TDV: Rémy’s chauffeur into the past. His personal driver that - if successful - will hurl him into the middle of the deadliest freeway crash site anyone has ever witnessed.
Rémy has to save his girlfriend. My good friend, Freyja.
I whisper, “It’s almost midnight.”
His eyes meet mine. “Yup, everything is under control…and Kit, thanks again for being here with me.” His head lowers.
I am spiraling. There is more he wants to say. JUST SAY IT. This could be the end.
That stupid storm. His dumb desire to drive out to see Freyja’s family that night. I loathed them together. And now she’s dead. She haunts me, her face floats into my thoughts constantly. But, is it wrong that I agonize over what could have been with Rémy?
My life was like a lengthy corridor. I mindlessly wandered through it. Like a dazzling chic hotel, my eyes would be drawn to the ornate tapestry and the shiny embellishments. All the bullshit that doesn’t even matter. I would peek in and out of doorways as guests milled about. Seduced by all the fluff, the trinkets – the senseless distractions.
But all along, there was a glowing door at the end of the hall. A glistening pure light shimmered through its frame. Where my life with Rémy summoned me. At any point I could have marched directly to it – hell, just kicked it open. To start something real with him. Untangle myself from the diversions.
I forced that door shut. I opted to stay single and party. I didn’t want to feel like someone’s wife at the age of twenty.
Because when we would eventually come together, I knew that would be it.
The start of a new life.
Back in college, after a couple glasses of wine, Freyja confessed to me, “I know you two are super close and everything. I just wanted to make sure it would be okay, you know, if I started seeing Rémy.” She pressed her lips firmly together.
The potential to be with him down the line - that glimmery entry – was now instantly walled off. My hallway transformed into a dark tunnel. A void. The infinite ways our lives could have meshed and evolved as a couple were harshly dampened. He was my North Star and I took him for granted. Why had I been so selfish? The parties. The futile dates. None of it was worth it. All of it was overrated.
As my reply to Freyja choked in my throat, I pressed for more 3D-printed food and selected the “all black”color option. Our beverages now had to be paired with the most depressing looking bites ever.
“You don’t need to ask for my permission. Of course, yes, he is the best. Such a good guy. The best guy. It’s totally fine.”
But, she did have to ask. Because he was mine. Deep down she knew that too.
We just hadn’t ripened yet. We hadn’t crossed that insidious threshold: childhood sweethearts to grown-up romantic partners. But, we were teetering. We were a moon and a planet in the same orbit. Our destiny was to crash into one another, to collapse into one.
Unfortunately, time caught up with us.
I imagine her cruelly pinned under the trucks, alongside all the frozen corpses strewn across the interstate. Rescue crews were in the trenches of the madness for weeks. It was an icy bloodbath. For days on end, heaping flurry and hail did its worst to trap everyone under its frozen blanket. The latest batch of AI National Guard soldiers were called in, those robots got stuck everywhere.
Everyone on the road that evening was falsely comforted by their car’s safety features; the advanced apps and enhancements. But when you’re up against mother nature and her hellish fury, your chances of survival are still slim. Especially when she’s been scorned. Our unruly global climate wreaked more havoc with each passing winter. Regardless of your vehicle’s tech or upgrades, everyone skidded into that blizzard blender and barely anyone survived it.
Except Rémy did.
When he realized death was fast approaching, he yelled at Freyja to leap out. He jutted his door open and tossed himself outside. By some miracle he wasn’t wrenched into the collision and instead catapulted closer to a ditch.
We yearned to be in each other’s presence. We never said a word. The urge was crushing. The rush when our arms would brush up against each other. He placed my hand in his gentle grasp at her funeral and then it all just felt so wrong. At that point, we could barely look each other in the eyes.
Our door had disintegrated.
Rémy continues to re-analyze his codes and inputs. He incessantly rubs his palms against his knees. He is dressed in our college hoodie and sweats as if he has popped out of one of my old pictures – not like someone about to embark on a death mission.
There are rumors that similar contraptions have worked. No one knows anything with certainty. There are groups of people who are convinced they have met these “tourists from the future.” I wonder what Rémy’s dad’s former colleagues know. He stopped talking to them after NASA fired him. Monsieur TDV was his dad’s secret home-adapted prototype.
After I gave my blessing to Freyja, she practically squealed. I slouched into my seat, hoping to melt away through the floorboards.
For a split-second I debated locking myself in the bathroom to call him.
“We’re supposed to be together. What’s wrong with us? Why do we torture each other like this?”
Instead, I poured us more wine and hoped that it would drown every rebellious intention of mine.
Freyja deserved happiness. Now she deserved a second chance at life.
In a few minutes it will be exactly a year since her tragic death. We would have preferred that he return to any other day, not the most lethal one he had ever encountered. But he said that with this much death, these kinds of events were “super charged.” It’s easier to get sucked into these timeframes.
Rémy had lectured me on the basics. “The instances when life feels the most electric, it really is. The energy surrounding these moments is intensified. Large celebrations have the same effect. But, you know what? If you have a room with a baby being born, then boom, that has a real charge to it. A time traveler could quite effectively cut through the present and show up in a labor and delivery room.”
Guilt and dread takes me hostage as I desperately wish that he won’t vanish from this crazy capsule. That at 12:01 a.m. he will still be here.
“Rémy, what if you end up dying in your car? You can’t control exactly where or how you’ll show up. What if you find yourself in the future?”
“Yes, it’s a possibility and there are no guarantees, but at least I would have tried to save her. I owe her this.”
The glass-like cylinder is lighting up like my parents’ holographic Christmas tree downstairs. Like an outer space organism coming to life – beckoning Rémy inside.
I want to scream. I want this machine to lose all connectivity.
I want him to hold me. Tell me, it was always us. It can still be us.
My hands tremble. My legs wobble so I kneel down to his level.
He is about to hunch over and seal himself in. I imagine knocking him aside and locking myself in that damn thing. Plugging in the coordinates to go back to one of our rowdy college pub nights. I would waste no time. I would yank his shirt back, drag him to a corner. Tell him that whatever long-game approach we’re doing won’t work, and in fact, it kills.
I would press my lips against his. The pleasure I would take in seeing his surprised reaction. The delight in his eyes. He could have me.
“Give me a hug Kit. Wish me luck.” His eyes dart across the room. Beads of sweat build on his forehead.
This is it. The point of no return.
I throw my arms around his neck. The citrus scent of his freshly washed hair takes me back to our innocent adventures: rifling through old magazines on his bed, turning his poems into songs and gorging on copious amounts of junk food.
He steps inside as I grip the little door of the unit. “Obviously save her. She should be alive. She should have never been there.”
He is about to close the device’s door down. “Yes Kit. That’s the plan. I’ll make things right.”
There’s a minute until it’s midnight.
My eyes well up. “Yes, but…Can you come back to me?” I sharply inhale. “Rémy, I love you. I really fucking love you.”
His shoulders drop as he audibly sighs. “Oh Kit, I have always loved you.”
The door closes shut.
I vividly recall his misty eyes. How I kept my gaze on him until his body disappeared. And how the almost neon glow of the machine’s instruments abruptly faded. It was just me and the dark now.
It has been over five years since that night.
Is he trapped in some other dimension? Is he dead somewhere? After he showed no signs of coming back, I roamed through life with the gravitational pull of a black hole. Anything that came to my life like friends and work opportunities were just swallowed up, plunged into the abyss. I didn’t deserve any joy.
Then I met Hugo.
He was immune to my powers of inhalation and decimation. He eventually made me realize that I should soak up life while I can. Freyja and Rémy would want this for me.
We started as friends. I learned to not repeat my past mistakes and eventually became excruciatingly vulnerable with him. He knows all my flaws, fears and hopes. Except, he doesn’t really know about Rémy. That part of my life is tucked away, like a storage locker without a key. No point going back there.
Hugo is not as charming. Sometimes his jokes make no sense to me. But, there is a real fondness, an admiration – a love.
On our first real date, he asked me, “When do you want kids?”
“Definitely when I’m thirty.”
“Me too. That was always my number. You would be such a good mom. A natural.”
My face flushed. “You know, I always wanted to name my child Nova.”
Hugo grinned. “A bright twinkling little thing, just a perfect name, Kit.”
There were more luminous doors to lunge toward.
It’s eerie to be back in my childhood bedroom. But, my mother insisted that it was bad luck for the bride and groom to be together the night before their wedding.
My wedding dress drapes on my closet door. I wish I would have kept it in its garment bag. Each passing car light zings the dress like lasers, like an assassination target.
That vessel, Monsieur time machine, collects dust in that closet. Only both our families know that Rémy ventured inside to never return again. It’s our shared secret and no one has dared to touch it.
It's almost midnight. I shudder in bed as I stare at those closet doors. The hung dress. The hidden device. My fingers are prickly. I shake my head back and forth against my pillow as if it will steady my unfiltered thoughts – my raw feelings that always find their way to my quivering hands.
I deserve the torment of sleeping close to that machine. A brutal reminder of the “what if’s.” The relentless ache of never knowing just how brilliant and messy our lives could have been as a pair.
A flash appears, Hugo has sent me a message. I lift up my wrist and read, “Can’t fall asleep because I am just so excited to make us official tomorrow! You are going to be so beautiful. Love you dearly Kit, your future hubby.”
Hugo, like a trusted warm wool blanket. I am comforted again. Hold onto this feeling. He is so good to you.
Another flicker. More flutter. Highlights bounce off the ceiling and streaks of colors stream across the walls. It’s not coming from the window or my messages.
My body stiffens.
The flashes dim as a rustling intensifies in the closet.
He whispers, “Kit?”
“Rémy?” I can barely speak.
He slowly pries the door open. “Where’s Nova?”
“What?” I muster.
His shadow approaches the bed. He mumbles, “What date is it?”
I am paralyzed. “It’s April 14, 2071. You’ve been missing for five years.”
After another step he crashes into the covers. His body tugs me close. There is a confidence in his grasp, the way he pulls me firmly against him.
His breath caresses my bare shoulders. “Then I’m not too late this time.”
I inhale a chemical odor, like one of those full-body hospital visitor sanitation sprays. His arm extends as his hand softly pats my stomach.
Adrenaline surges through me. My mind and pulse are in staccato. My lips are frozen.
I have longed to be entwined like this, just to linger in his snug embrace.
Rémy’s lips graze my ear. “It can still be us.”
Tonight, any rational thoughts will be firmly shut and sealed from my conscious mind.
I’m leaning into his warm body… into my true feelings.
I’m breaking our damn door down.
Where the fuck has he been?