We’re heading into a new, utopian age of progressive enlightenment, or so the media said constantly. I called bullshit because I’d spent my life watching one crisis after another. Wars abroad, riots at home, political scandals – every day there would be something new and more sensational to set family and friends against one another. So yeah, I’d maintained a fair level of skepticism over the years. But deep down inside, a part of me still held on to the hope that eventually, we as a society would get it together and rise above all the crap to be something better. Then I saw the future with my own eyes.
The magazine was hidden amongst some old paperbacks I purchased from the used bookstore. Strange Things and Oddities the cover proclaimed in bright, green font, with Oct. 97 printed underneath it. Behind the text, an alien creature with green skin and a multitude of eyes stared back at me. Grinning from the sheer cheesiness of the cover, I gave the magazine a quick flip through. It hadn’t been something I picked up, and I didn’t recall seeing the cashier put the item in my box either. Interesting enough, for a twenty-year-old magazine, it was in near-mint condition. I gave it another curious look, then tossed the periodical onto the coffee table before going about other business.
It sat there, undisturbed where I had left it for the next few days before I gave it another thought. It was an especially boring evening, and the best thing I could find on TV was an old Roger Corman, Poe movie. Because I’d seen the film numerous times before, it wasn’t holding my attention very well, so I was beginning to get bored with it. After a few more minutes, I decided to give up the ghost and look for a book to read. Then I saw the alien on the cover of Strange Things and Oddities staring up at me. I reached for the magazine. “Might as well see what was going on back in good ole’ 1997,” I said opening it up to the table of contents.
Over the next hour, I was immersed in the paranormal world of two decades ago. One very interesting article involved the account of a woman’s sexual encounter with an alien.
“Probably the one from the cover,” I said to myself smirking.
There were many other interesting articles and columns, then when I got to the back, I found a classifieds section. It advertised a good variety of strange things such as voodoo dolls and psychic readings, but one ad, in particular, caught my eye.
Travel Through Time – Ever wanted to go back in time? Or maybe you desire to see the future. For the low price of 30 US Dollars, you can do just that with your very own Time Travel Device (DeLorean not included). Send a check or money order in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Chrono Industries Inc. at P.O. Box 555, Hackensack, NJ 75757.
Who in their right mind would shell out cash for something like that? Nowadays, a lot of people would, probably, but back in the nineties people had, had more sense. At least it had seemed like it. Pushing the thought away, I closed the magazine and tossed it back on the coffee table. Then picking a paperback from the shelf, I settled down to read for a while.
Every so often, I would catch myself stealing a glance at the magazine. For whatever reason, it felt like the thing was calling to me, and before I realized it, I had Strange Things and Oddities back open to the ad page. Shortly after that, I held the required, self-addressed, stamped envelope containing a check for thirty dollars in my hand.
“What the hell,” I said with a chuckle. “If anything, I’m out a stamp, and at the worst, thirty bucks.”
The next morning, I slid the damn thing into the mailbox at the front of the building and forgot all about it.
About six weeks later, I came home from work one afternoon to find a shoebox-sized package sitting at my door. Curious, I looked down at the address label on the package. Chrono Industries Inc. it read. Somewhat confused, I grabbed the box and took it inside. With it now sitting on my coffee table, I found a knife and sliced open the packing tape. Inside was a smaller box labeled Chrono Industries Model TTD005. That’s when realization dawned; it was my time travel device.
“I’ll be damned,” I said with amazement as I opened the inner box.
Inside, was a device roughly the size of a walkie-talkie. It had a full keyboard, LED display, and belt clip on the back. On the top of the TTD were a power switch and two buttons labeled start and recall, respectively. For a time machine, the damn thing looked pretty simple. Opening the included user’s manual, I read up on how the device operated and discovered that its operation was equally as simple as its design. But the million-dollar question was, would it work?
“No time like the present,” I said switching the TTD on.
The screen lit up with blue characters which displayed the current date and time. With no visible antenna, I wondered how or where the device received its information, but who was I to question such amazing technology. For a moment I thought about where, or rather when, I should go first. Three days in the past would be a sufficient beginning, so setting the device I hit start.
My expectations of the TTD’s successful operation were not huge, to begin with. Hell, the novelty of the thing alone was worth the thirty bucks I’d spent on it. But, after pushing the start button, and having nothing happen, I admit I felt a little disappointed. The damned thing didn’t even beep for God’s sake.
“Oh well,” I said looking at the device. “At least you kept me entertained for half an hour.”
Carrying the TTD with me, I went over to my desk and turned on the computer. Might as well see what kind of craziness was going on in the world I thought as I opened my favorite news webpage. Scrolling through the headlines, I began to notice everything I saw was eerily familiar. This was my first visit to the site that day, but I knew I had seen those headlines before.
“This is just too fucking weird,” I whispered to myself.
After a bit, the feeling of déjà vu became too overwhelming, causing me to shudder. Then my eyes fell on the device sitting on the desk.
“No way,” I said in disbelief. “It can’t be.”
Scrolling back to the top of the page, I read the date and instantly felt sick to my stomach. It showed 3/5/2018 where it should have said 3/8/2018.
With a shaking hand, I reached for the TTD and hit recall. Once again there was no sound and no sense of activity, but the computer was now off. Turning it on, I checked the news headlines once again. They were now different and the date up top read the eighth. As impossible as it was to comprehend, I had just traveled through time.
An hour later, I held a half-empty glass of vodka in my hand as I sat staring at the TTD where it sat like a ten-ton weight on the coffee table. The implications of what had just happened were massive. This whole thing should’ve been a joke, but I knew damned well the TTD had worked. I saw the three-day-old headlines, the instantaneous change with the computer – it had happened, but I had to be certain.
Grabbing the device, I left the apartment. There was a park about a block from my building, and I began walking in its direction. It would be the perfect place to really test the TTD’s capabilities. Upon arrival, I searched for and found just the right spot for my test. A medium-sized pecan tree stood before me, and I pulled out my phone and took a picture of it. If the device truly worked, the tree would change over a longer length of time, so taking the TTD off of my belt I set the device for 3/8/2013 and hit start. The change happened so fast and imperceptibly, that my brain could barely process it. With shaking hands, I fought to steady myself long enough to get a decent picture of the now smaller tree. Once satisfied, I pressed recall. The pecan tree loomed as tall as it had previously, and I took another good look at it before returning to my apartment.
Back at home, I downloaded both pictures to my computer and opened them side by side. At first glance, someone looking at the pictures wouldn’t notice much out of the ordinary. They might think it was nothing more than a couple of pictures of the same tree, taken years apart. The time stamps told a different story. They showed that the pictures were taken less than a minute apart, and that was just the assurance I needed to know that the device was legit.
With this knowledge, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities. The TTD could open up a whole world of them. Past mistakes I’d made, could be corrected, or I could be wealthy beyond imagination. Anything was possible, and it would be so easy. But unfortunately, I could never do those things. My parents had raised me with morals, and using the TTD for personal gain would go against everything they’d taught me. But still… There was a reason I had the damned thing, I just didn’t know what it was.
For several hours, I sat and stared at the thing before finally making up my mind that the TTD was just too much of a risk. What would happen if I eventually gave in and used the device out of anger or spite? Even worse, was the possibility that it could fall into the wrong hands. That would be a disaster. No, the best thing, I decided, would be to destroy the TTD so that it couldn’t be used at all. But before I retired the device for good, I’d use it one last time. I had to see the future.
The next day, I took the TTD back to the park. Its vast open space would be a better launch point than my second-floor apartment, should things change drastically over the coming years. My plan was to go forward at least ten years, and I didn’t want to risk appearing in a crowded place or inside the walls of a structure. When I felt ready, I set the TTD for 3/9/2028.
“Here goes nothing,” I said pushing the start button.
The park now looked shabby and uncared for. Trash was strewn everywhere and graffiti-covered nearly every surface. Disheartened, I left the park and walked out onto the street. It was the same thing there, but what disturbed me most was the lack of a human presence. This was a large city so there should be people out driving their cars or jogging down the sidewalk, but there was none of that. The whole damned place was empty like they all just up and left. Curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to explore some more. Maybe something, or hopefully someone, could tell me what had happened here.
It was over an hour later when I finally came across an actual person. The man, who appeared to be in his mid-fifties, was digging through a dumpster emblazoned with the words Fuck the Guv. Excited with the prospect of some potential answers, I jogged across the street.
“Excuse me,” I called to the stranger as I approached. “Can you help me?”
Turning to face me, the man only stared. When he didn’t reply after a few moments, I continued.
“Sorry to bother you, but I’m just wondering what happened here?”
He eyed me skeptically. “Have you been living under a rock or something?” he asked finally.
I grinned. “Let’s just say I’ve been away for a while,” I told him vaguely.
He fixed his narrowed eyes at me. “Hmm, must’ve been a hell of a long time then. Things have been this way for nearly ten years now. Ever since the government declared martial law.”
My head began to spin. “Why in the hell would they do that?” I asked incredulously. “Was there a war or something?”
“You really don’t know, do you?” the man asked with amazement.
I shook my head. “No, I really don’t.”
As if contemplating some sort of cosmic mystery, the man looked silently at me. “There’s more to you than you’re letting on,” he said eventually. “But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now. If you want to know what all of this is about, I’ll tell you. Not here though. We’d be in deep shit if they caught us out and about. Come on.”
The man, whose name was Isaac, led me to what used to be his bar in downtown, but now it served as his residence. Once inside, he poured a healthy portion of whiskey into a glass and then held it out to me.
“You might want this,” Isaac said comfortingly. “It’s not a pretty story.”
I took the glass and settled myself on a worn-out barstool as he began. When he’d finished, I was more than grateful for the liquor.
Isaac told of how there had been a very controversial election eight years previously. People of all walks of life were played against one another like pawns in a grand chess game. I’d seen the beginnings of some of that for myself, but hearing how bad it would get was shocking. When the election was over, the winner was revealed to be nothing but a patsy, and he was quickly disposed of. Afterward, his successor declared martial law and abolished the US Constitution. In the years following, the country had become more or less a prison state, with the citizens relegated to indentured servitude. The government regulated all aspects of their lives, and all basic goods were rationed, sparingly.
“I just don’t understand. How could people let this happen?” I asked when Isaac had finished.
The man scoffed. “No one let this happen. They asked for it.”
Downing the last of my whiskey, I held the empty glass, turning it in my hand. “Didn’t anyone even try and stop it?” I asked in disbelief.
Isaac shrugged. “Some tried, but they were the first ones hunted down. The public executions that followed were used as an example to anyone thinking about defying the new order. Worked pretty well too.”
This was all too much. It sounded like the plot of a Philip K. Dick novel.
“I think I need some fresh air,” I told Isaac, standing up.
“Don’t go too far,” he warned. “It’s after curfew. I can’t tell you enough how bad an idea it would be to get caught.”
Nodding with understanding, I opened the door and stepped out. This world was a nightmare, and even though I felt bad for Isaac, I had to get back to my own time. Running, I fled the way we had come. Maybe I could do something to prevent all of this from happening. I had the means and definitely had the time. Halfway to the park, an idea started to come to me, but before I could think more about it, I was met by an armed group of soldiers.
“YOU THERE, STOP WHERE YOU ARE,” one of the men yelled as he raised his weapon at me. Certain that it was the only warning I would get, I hit the first button on the TTD I touched. Once again, the change was instantaneous, but not for the better.
The seemingly abandoned city was replaced with a barren wasteland filled with the ruins of burnt-out buildings. I looked around in awestruck horror at the devastated landscape surrounding me. Scattered about the area were inverted, metal crosses, on which hung the rotted corpses of human bodies. Satanic-looking symbols, written in what looked like blood, adorned each cross above the victim’s heads. Farther off, the screams of people who had yet to die filled the air like a grotesque chorus. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, I saw them. Words cannot describe the horrendous appearance of these creatures. They were most definitely not of God’s creation, and I was more than certain they were responsible for the vileness I was witnessing.
With great effort, I reached down and took the TTD from my belt. The screen read 3/9/2038. In my haste to get back to my own time, I must have hit start rather than recall, and by default, the TTD sent me another ten years forward. After fumbling and nearly dropping the damned thing, I punched in the correct date and pushed start.
The familiar surroundings of my city and time spread out around me, and as I started for home, I turned the device off. While I was relieved to be back, I couldn’t help but feel utter despair from the forbidden knowledge I now possessed. But… As terrible as my glimpse of the future had been, one good thing had come of it. I now knew why I had the TTD, and I planned to use it. God help me.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in