Fortnightcap: Long Way Home

Long Way Home

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Tracking the parts down. That was the challenge. Professor Fitzsimmons had sourced so many of them without documenting origins or purposes. For seventeen years I could only follow the money trail, going through his credit card records and requisition orders. So often this left me with odd metals, minerals I’d never heard of, assemblies that were little more than fanciful black boxes. I could only guess at some of their functions, working from notes that ranged from formalized files and patent applications to the back of stained napkins.

Through it all, one thing has kept me going. The letter delivered by the bewildered courier, little more than a yellowed scrap that his company had in its possession for two and a half centuries.

It’s above my work bench, and reads simply “stuck in 1784.”

The machine worked. The note was the evidence of that. But something had gone wrong, something had broken and the professor couldn’t get home again. No one believes me. I show them the note, they call it a forgery. Time travel is a fiction. I’ve been told this more times than I’d care to count. Every cliche has been thrown at me. All I need is that letter.

The scrap of letter came along with documentation telling me the day, but not the time, it had been delivered to their central Boston office. Seventeen years of work, what would one day of waiting around be? With the machine complete, I stepped inside, and stepped out again in the late 18th century. The machine was in perfect shape, there was no reason it wouldn’t be ready to go for another trip.

So I found the firm.

And I waited.

Just after two in the afternoon there was a man who looked exactly as I’d remembered. For me it had been seventeen years, for him it hadn’t been even that many days. I let him enter the firm to drop off his letter, no need to create paradoxes after all. When he came out again, I approached him, arms wide.

“Professor Fitzsimmons!”

His face fell, looking back at the firm.

“Yes, they delivered the letter! I’m here to save you.”

I pulled out the scrap that had kept me going, and handed it to him. He panicked, turning it one way then another in his hands. “Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the rest of it?”

“This is all I got.”

He crumpled the paper, threw it to the ground in disgust. “There was more. You weren’t supposed to come.”

“You said you were trapped.”

“I am. And now you are too. Time travel. Look, there’s a past already in existence that you can travel back to. But the future. The future is amorphous, it doesn’t exist, so you can’t travel to it.”

“But,” I tried to work this out. “We’re not going to the future. Only back to the present.”

“This is the present now!”

“So how do we get back to 2011?”

“There’s only one way: wait. We can only take the long way home.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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