It’s my sister’s birthday today, and this story is for her, but feel free to read it as everyone can find a piece of themselves in this story 🙂

Happy birthday sis!!!


THE TIME TROTTER

“This is it?” Nadine rolled her eyes in sheer disappointment as she pushed and rolled over the device to one side with her index finger. The three interlocking gears at the base were furnished with cobwebs. She pulled her hand back quickly and rubbed her fingers onto her t-shirt to ditch the possible presence of sticky web particles she’d nearly poked through.

“It is,” Jerzy said almost shouting. “All the indications are there, right in front of us…staring at our faces…”

Nadine fixed her gaze at the device once more and chuckled. “The only thing staring at our faces is most likely a hairy, little spider.”

Jerzy toppled the device back over and took out a small notebook from his back pocket. He started shuffling through the weathered pages.

“Your grandpa was nuts guys,” Leo said. He had helped himself onto a dusty chest in the far corner. “Old Felix’s attic is full of weird junk like this… and none of them is of any good.” He noticed Jerzy wasn’t listening, but carried on anyway: “Teleportation chamber? Clean energy generator? And now a time machine? Come on…”

“Here!” Jerzy shouted as he opened a page in the notebook and showed it to them. The diagram drawn on the page was no doubt the blueprint of the device that was lying on the table now; an antique pocket watch screwed to a sizeable wooden box with knobs and pegs on each side. The lidless cavity at the bottom of the box housed some kind of battery or a power source, impossible to identify in its current horrible condition. And wires… lots of wires coming out of the device in chaotic tangles. Each part of the device was labelled in almost illegible handwriting with the heading in all caps over the drawing: ‘The Time Trotter Prototype and its Parts’. 

“So?” Leo still seemed uninterested. 

“This,” Jerzy said as he picked up the device. “…is the only ‘junk’ we found in grandpa’s attic that came with a manual… including the blueprint and operating instructions!” He quickly skipped over a few pages with his free hand and showed Leo and Nadia the page titled: “Step by step instructions”.

“Step by step instructions? That doesn’t sound like something a scientist like grandpa would write,” Nadia said as she carefully took the device from Jerzy’s hand and placed it on the table before she bent over to examine the device more thoroughly. “Even the bedtime stories he used to tell us years ago were riddled with technical and scientific terms.”

“Not if the manual was intended to be found by the likes of us,” Jerzy protested waving the manual.

“Jerzy,” Nadia finally said. “You’re my brother and I love you for that… but a mechanical, antique pocket watch… it’s so outdated. I am not sure if it can even point out the right time, let alone travel.”

“All the early prototypes of great machines were… outdated at first. Think about the first mobile phones as thick as bricks, all the way to the smart phones of the modern era not much thicker than an ID card.”

“Ok genius, so how does it work?” Leo cut in with a hint of boredom in his tone. He was holding a ceramic jug with no labels on, possibly one of the scattered, ordinary junk in the attic with no superpowers allocated by Nadia and Jerzy’s granddad. 

Jerzy was already on it, finger lining the relevant step on the manual. “Place the device on a steady surface,” he read aloud and checked whether his sister followed the first step. The device was indeed on the table, Jerzy just pressed hard on one corner of the table to see if the legs were even. It didn’t budge.

“Next, we press the stem until it clicks,” Jerzy read before pointing out the sticking metal piece on top of the watch. Nadia pressed it hard and they all heard the clicking sound. The hands started spinning at an incredible speed in opposite directions until they stopped, displaying five past four.

Jerzy quickly checked his phone and to his expectations the time was exactly the same as what the pocket watch was claiming it was.

“That was weird,” Nadia said as she looked at her own wristwatch. “Now what?”

“Look! It started ticking…” Jerzy was astonished to his limits. He kept on reading. “Pull the stem out and start turning it in the desired destination: Counter clockwise for the past, and clockwise for the future.” He put the manual back into his pocket and rushed to the device. He got hold of the stem in no time. He pulled it slightly out and began turning it counter clockwise… allegedly into the past.

After a couple of turns, he stopped. “This shouldn’t be the way,” he thought. The pocket watch read twenty past two, but as soon as he released the stem, it went back to the original time. A tiny spider started scurrying away to safety… towards the absence of mechanical tampering.

“You just scared off the operator,” Leo said laughing as the spider found new shelter under the junk posing as the clean energy generator.

“No,” Nadia said. “The time on my watch also went back a couple of hours, but it’s back to normal now. Did we really go back in time?”

Jerzy shook his head. “I don’t know,” was all he could say.

At that moment, Leo smashed the ceramic jug in his hand by throwing it to the floor. “I have an idea,” he said. “Just try again, but go slow…super slow.”

Jerzy was at the wheel again. He started turning the stem in the same direction as before. Weirdly enough, he could take back the seconds which shouldn’t have been possible… Seconds at a time… 

The smashed tiny bits of the jug started moving towards each other until they slowly started forming the original, unscathed jug. The pieces were sticking together on the floor with no indication of having been smashed before. When the jug was complete, it slowly started rising in mid-air and moved towards Leo’s open hand… the one that smashed it seconds ago… or the one that will smash it seconds later.

Jerzy let go off the stem in sheer joy, but now the time went back to its original position and they all had to witness the jug being smashed again in fast forward.

Nadia pulled out the manual out of Jerzy’s back pocket and quickly skimmed through it to the very last page. “Time is never steady, it can flow in both directions… but it’s intended to go only forward to avoid confusion and chaos. I invented the ‘time trotter’ for the sole purpose of providing myself tiny comforts like taking back time a couple of minutes before I made a huge mistake or travelling forward to avoid waiting hours for my favourite evening show. But even then, the need to hold the stem in an upright position was never worth the trouble. Time catches up in the end.” Nadia put the manual back into Jerzy’s pocket before mumbling “I’m outta here,” to herself as she left. Leo soon followed.

Jerzy spent the next couple of months experimenting with the device. He found out that he was stuck in the attic as he couldn’t take the device with him, he could never find a steady surface to allow the device to work elsewhere. All the unlabeled junk around him started to make sense now. The old TV unit in one corner, the bathtub and the toilet in the other with complete plumbing. The browned out mattress, too. Their grandpa lived nearly all his life here. 

Just as Jerzy was about to give up, he found an old photo album buried deep in the shelves. The photos were of his childhood, Nadia and him as toddlers, grandpa and his youth… Something was strange… really strange… as the young grandpa Felix looked exactly the same as Leo in the present. He couldn’t stop now… there was a way… he needed to find it.. just like grandpa!

Morals of the story:

  1. Stick to the present… don’t burden your life with the past and thus stop living the present, the moment. Same with the future in a way… Long live carpe diem.
  2. Most things that seem complex at first like the time trotter device with lots of pegs, knobs and wires, can work with much less. Don’t scare yourself with possible obstructions that may arise in achieving your dreams.
  3. Leo, in fact, isn’t the younger version of Felix, but we like making connections between unrelated things to support what we really want. Felix Leo!!! Even the photo Jerzy found had little resemblance to his grandpa’s youth but that’s how our minds work if we are inclined to believe in something. We only see what we want to see.
  4. Family is important… but how you perceive family members and how they affect you is vital…  

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