It was the static electricity that gave me away. I had hidden the machine under my shirt and attempted to stalk out of the building with it. But I didn’t get far enough. When I asked what it was that gave me away, they handed me a mirror. I laughed then, because what I saw was quite hilarious. My hair standing on end, sticking out as if I’d been the one holding the key and the kite.
When they asked me why I’d wanted it, I hedged. I didn’t want to reveal the truth – that I thought it was the beginnings of a time machine and I was put here in this time to stop one from being built – because it would make me seem crazy. As in, lock me up and hide me from society crazy. So I told them that I wanted to see what it could do. Outside. Out of the lab and in the wild. I’m sure when I said it, my eyes went big and I almost looked wild, but I didn’t pay any mind to my appearance.
They laughed at me, made me put it back in the lab and sent me out of the building, forgetting I had my own key.
I walked back to my dorm room quickly, the wind at my back pushing me to continue. I knew I was going to be blamed for all this, once it exploded, even though I really had nothing to do with it. It was an unstable machine anyway. Yet that explosion was set to open up the window. It would cause a thought process to spark, and the time machine would be planned. I had to stop it.
Cursing myself for waiting too long, I looked over my notes again. Machine stolen: 8pm. Explosion: 11pm. Time machine built: 3 years, 2 days and 34 seconds after explosion. I should have snuck in a few nights ago, when I first got here. I look down at my hands, red with cold and then stuff them into my pockets. If I fail again, there will be no stopping it. I shake my head in my own disgust.
At 7:18pm I start out across the campus again. This time my hair is pulled back and tucked under a hat. My key is in my pocket. I feel sorry for her when I go. She’ll no doubt be expelled from school. But her contributions to history were not as great. She’s the sacrifice.
At 7:21pm, I tug on the doors to the lab. My heart is racing, but the building is serenely quiet. I jump when I hear the shout, but I realize it comes from her mind. The mind I’m currently occupying. “Time travel is real!?” My heart drops. My pace quickens. She’s struggling against me occupying her body. And she’s tough.
At 7:43pm I pull the machine to my chest again and sneak outside. Now what? It’s going to explode, I don’t know how to turn that part of it off. So where can I bring it? The moon’s reflection off the glassy lake brings a smile to my face. Of course. It’s far enough away from people, from mostly anything.
I stand on the edge as close as I dare and heave it into the lake. Electricity sparks, then the water sucks it down. The whole lake turns an eerie blue color. I shiver and quickly walk away.
I’m in my dorm room again, waiting to be called back to my own time, my own body, my own bedroom. Except she’s yelling at me. “If time travel isn’t invented how will you get back?” Her paranoia causes me to stand and pace. The thoughts fly between us. The conclusion inevitable. I’d be stuck here, in this time occupying her mind. I shiver involuntarily. I watch the clock strike eleven. Then, I gaze out the window at the lake.
The explosion is brilliant. Water shoots into the sky, as does blue fingers of electricity. They crackle and it sounds like a thousand fireworks going off at once. The blues light up the sky. I feel it deep in my gut: a weight and the realization I did nothing, yet again. This time, I only exacerbated it. I might as well have paid for an advertisement during the Superbowl, for what I accomplished.
She’s still there, in my mind. I try to ignore her, but I know I’ve already lost. She’s so excited to learn that there’s the hope of time travel, now she’s convinced she can figure it out.
She’s the catalyst.
It dawns on me slowly. There’s no winning. I’ve been here, in her, each time. And each time I’m the one who convinces her, not the machine. Me. Occupying her body. I sigh. Her roommate comes in excitedly. “Are you watching this?”
We stand together and watch out the window. When the blackness comes, I welcome it, my sad fate finally revealed.