What happened to his dad? Sam travels back in time to learn the horrifying truth.
|Sam never knew what happened to his dad, he just vanished one evening. Now, he was going to travel back in time to find out what happened; he would take his answers to the grave.
"It's done, Molly. It's really done."
Molly turned from the stove, where she was fixing their dinner to look at her husband. Sam looked tired, his gray hair thinning and wild, like he had just rubbed a balloon against it. "It works? You tried it?"
Sam heard the alarm in her voice and answered quickly to calm her. "No, I didn't try it, but it's finished and I've checked everything for the third time, it will work. There's no way to test it, Molly, it's a one-way trip into the past."
"Sam, you're not thinking about trying it. Are you?"
Again Sam heard the fear in Molly's voice. "No, I'm not going to try it. Much of the electronics that control everything are too fragile to handle the accelerated particles and will burn out shortly after it's activated. The only way to fix it is to start over and run the controls out of a computer located a safe distance away from the travel chamber. I don't have the time or the resources to do that. But, maybe one day, someone can pick up where I left off and make a reusable time machine."
Sam had pulled out a chair and now sat at the kitchen table. Molly poured him a cup of coffee after warming it in the microwave. "Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes. Are you going to sell it to the university then?"
Sam sipped at his coffee and stared off into space, lost in thought. After a few minutes he answered her, speaking more to the cup than to Molly. "No, I have everything documented. All my notes and diagrams are in an envelope ready to mail. But, I spent twenty years working on this, and now it's finally finished, I can't even think about parting with it. I suppose when I'm gone someone will pick up where I left off. For now, I'm content to know it's finished, and it works."
"Sam, you promise me you won't decide to try it out and leave me here alone."
He stood and hugged her. "I promise, Molly. You stuck with me."
He went and washed up while she finished dinner. After they finished, he helped clear the table and wash up the dishes. Molly turned on the television. "What do you want to watch tonight?"
"I'm going to pass. I think I'm just going to retire to my study and write in my journal. Maybe after, I'll join you for a little T.V. and some popcorn before bed."
Molly watch him walk down the hall. He still moved pretty good, but his age was showing. She supposed she was lucky he was as healthy as a horse yet, except for some arthritis. He needed glasses to read, and his hearing was fading, but for 81 years of age, Sam Hall was still pretty robust and energetic. Molly went to the couch and sat, pulling her favorite throw over her legs.
She punched a button on the remote and the television turned on, but she was lost in her thoughts. Even though he didn't show it, she knew Sam was excited about finishing his work. He had stumbled on the principles of time travel while working as a professor at the university. Knowing the principle was one thing, but back then there wasn't the technology to do anything except speculate.
It all started about twenty years ago when Sam got home from the campus and opened the garage door to park his car. He had recently had an electric garage door installed and used a remote from inside the car to open the door. On this particular day, a bird decided to land on the hood right before he pressed the button. It had a bug and sat on the hood to eat it, then flew off. When Sam pointed the remote and pressed the button, there was a feeling of static and what looked like a burst of colored light in front of him. He felt nauseated, and his vision blurred for a second, then everything was normal except for a few little things.
The garage door opener was in his hand but the door was still shut. Then, the same bird landed on the hood with the same bug. Again the bird ate it and flew off. Sam didn't know what had happened; he thought he was losing his mind.
Molly had captured it on video cassette. She had been trying to film the bird feeding it's young and had the camera set on the tripod, recording. It showed the time as 5:11 when the bird landed and started eating the bug, then when it flew off it indicated 5:16. At 5:17 a colorful burst of light formed between the car and the garage and the same bird appeared just as the light vanished, again landing on the hood and eating its bug. The time indicator read 5:18 and the bird left at exactly 5:23, five seconds later. Everything was exactly the same, as if time had been reset.
Of course, being a physics professor, Sam figured out what had happened, something had sent the bird back a few seconds in time. He had always been interested in time travel and read anything that stated someone or something had gone back in time There were plenty of cases documented, most fake. But, there were other cases that indicated that something had indeed happened, such as some in the Bermuda Triangle. Sam speculated on the causes and had a few ideas, but was never able to actually prove anything.
This time, however, he found proof of what had taken place. He researched everything going on at the time. There had been a major solar flare at exactly 5:10 that lasted for fifteen seconds. The digital display on the video also indicated, that Sam had reached up and activated the remote at 5:17, when the burst of light appeared. Somehow, the radio frequency and the particle burst from the sun had sent the bird back into time. For the next twenty years, Sam had spent his time trying to create a time machine. Now he had one, built in the shed out back. In fact, the shed itself was the time machine, and now it was finished.
Sam had been interested in time travel his whole life. Before he was born, his dad had vanished without a clue. As a boy, Sam often fantasized about going back in time and discovering what had happened to his dad. Partly, he wanted to know if his dad had just abandoned him, but his mother never believed this was the case; she knew something had happened. After Sam and Molly were married, Sam had often talked about his missing father and had collected anything he could find trying to find the answer.
Sam had finished writing in his journal and took out some old newsprint clippings and letters his mother had from the time his dad had vanished. He had them memorized and didn't really look at them as his mind drifted....
Sam's mother, Edna, had started him on his obsession when he was still a young boy. She often told young Sam what had happened that November night. It was back in Chicago, in 1932, a year before Sam was born. In fact, Edna had just found out she was pregnant with Sam, her and Hank's first and only child.
When Hank got home that night from work at the factory, she had told him the good news. They had been trying for a child for a long time, and had begun to think that they would never have children. Both Hank and Edna were already into their mid-thirties and the clock was ticking down for them. The timing wasn't the best, with the Great Depression putting thousands of people in Chicago out of work, but Hank had a lot of time in at the factory and was kept on. He had taken a cut in pay and things were tight, but they were managing.
It was the night before Thanksgiving when she told him the good news. Hank had danced around the little apartment kitchen with her, and then grabbed his coat. "I'm going to Charlie's Market and buying us a turkey and sweet potatoes for dinner tomorrow, we are going to celebrate our thanks for everything, especially our baby."
Times were bad and money was short. They lived on day old bread, dried out cheese, and the cheapest cuts of meat they could find. The only thing that kept them from starving most times was Edna's sister Estelle had married a farmer and lived in Iowa. Gus travelled to Chicago about once a month to sell produce and hogs, sometimes Estelle would come with and they would bring home canned goods for Hank and Edna. They could have found a market closer but Gus insisted he got a lot better profit in Chicago. Deep down, she and Hank thought there was a bit more to this, but they weren't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
When Hank announced turkey and sweet potatoes, Edna knew it would leave them short on cash, but it sounded so good. "Yes, we will feast and celebrate, but buy a small turkey and we can share one potato. I still have a few potatoes left from Estelle and Gus's last visit."
"A small turkey it is and one big sweet potato." Hank agreed. She waited and waited, but by nine Hank had not returned. Chicago wasn't a safe place back then and Edna worried through the night. They didn't have a car or a phone and it was too late to bother the neighbors to use their phone. All Edna could do was wait and hope.
The next day Edna walked to the store and learned that Hank had made his purchase and left just before the store closed at 8:00. She used the store phone to call the police and met a detective back at the apartment later that afternoon. The police detective took a few notes, looked at a picture of Hank that Edna had, and told her he likely skipped town like a lot of other men were doing. He said he'd investigate but didn't expect to find any information proving otherwise. A couple days later another police officer stopped to tell her they hadn't found anything.
He was rather blunt when he told her, "Ma'am, you said yourself that you told him you had a baby on the way, and with times hard as they are, he likely just took off. A lot a men doing that these days. Sorry, ain't much else we can do."
Without Hank, there was no way Edna could keep the apartment or buy food. The landlord was sympathetic and let her stay on for a while in exchange for doing some cleaning in the building. Edna, with a baby on the way and no place else to turn, called her sister. Estelle had talked with Gus and they agreed that Edna could stay on the farm with them.
Sam was born on the farm and raised by his Aunt and Uncle. Edna stayed on the farm for just over a year, then took a job as a waitress in Sioux City, living in a room upstairs while she looked for a better job so Sam could come live with her. She came and visited as often as she could, and Uncle Gus even helped her hire a private investigator to try and find Hank. He worked for a couple weeks but didn't find out much more than the police had.
He did find a witness who seen Hank leave the store. Hank had stopped and talked to a man carrying boxes into a warehouse, then went into the alley with him. A few minutes later a car drove out, a 1929 black sedan, Ford Model A with a trunk on the back. Hank never reemerged, the witness figured he had continued on down the alley or left in the car. That was the last place Hank had ever been seen.
His mother had held on to the information, along with a couple pictures of Hank, their marriage license, and of course her wedding ring. She died before she could afford to bring Sam home with her. She was hit by a car after work and died the next day. Sam was raised by his aunt and uncle. They seemed to have quite a lot of money for the times, and even helped Sam go to college. Of course, he had to work as well, and soon found a part-time job close to the campus. When he moved out, his aunt had given him all the information, pictures, and his mother's wedding ring.
Sam had a stiff neck from sitting with his head tilted down looking at the old documents and letters from the private eye, Jack Dempster. He had saved everything; his wife had his mother's wedding ring on her finger. He had copies made of the few photographs he had of his mother and father, even one of them together, hanging on the wall across from him, and now, he had the means to go back and find out what had happened. There were just a few problems that prevented him from going.
The biggest was his wife and his promise to her not to try the machine. Another reason was there was no way to test the machine, except by theory. If it worked, the subject would be transferred to another place and time, but there would be no way of returning to the present. Once time is written, it cannot be changed. Sam had found an answer to this problem, when a person transfers to another time, they would also transfer to another person. Well, their essence would transfer, but they would only be able to witness from that person. They could not act or alter any decisions. It would, in theory, be just being able to see and hear what the other person sees, hears, and thinks, but not being able to communicate back.
Also, since no one person can exist in two separate places at the same time, a person cannot go back in time as them self and still exist in the present. Once the person travels back even a second, there body in the present dies. If the time and place picked is not precise, there will not be anyone there to host the traveler. Since this had never happened, there was no way of knowing what would happen. Would the essence of the person return to their now dead body? Would they're essence be transferred into some inanimate object? Or, would they be stuck between time?
Sam rubbed his neck and turned off the desk lamp, then went to watch a little television with Molly. She went to the kitchen and made a bowl of popcorn and they enjoyed a quiet evening together.
The next morning, Molly told Sam what the medical tests had revealed. She had a tumor in the base of the brainstem, and it was too far advanced to treat. Sam had anticipated this already, but now it was confirmed. There was no way to determine how long she would have; the tumor was located in such a manner it would likely cause her involuntary nervous system to shut down. At the most, she had six months.
They both cried and held each other. At their age, they both knew every new day was an extra day, but they still tended to take for granted they would have many more. Now the reality set in that their time together was very limited. They discussed how they would spend the rest of their time. They visited family and friends, they took a cruise, and they travelled. Four months later, Molly began to have trouble with her vision and her balance. She was admitted to the hospital for tests and died there two days later.
Family stayed with Sam for a while after Molly passed. After two weeks and Sam insisting he would be fine, they went back to their homes and their lives, calling often and checking up on him. He spent most of his time looking through old photographs and memorabilia, remembering the wonderful life he and Molly had shared. Deep inside, however, he knew it was time to move on. In a couple months he would turn 82, he didn't have much time left before he would be reunited with Molly.
They had created wills many years back, now he set about getting everything else in order. He was in pretty good health and could get around fine, but with each new day, Sam understood he was one day closer to the day he would no longer be able to live in the home they had shared so many years. His health and ability to take care of himself would fade and he would end up in a nursing home. He wanted to get everything in order for that day, and there was one more thing he needed to do, while he was still able.
Sam got up early and went to the cemetery to put some flowers on Molly's grave. He wept as he kneeled by her stone and talked to her. "Molly, I miss you so much, and hope that soon I can be with you again. I know I promised you, but since you're no longer here, I guess that means my promise has been kept. I know I don't have much time, so it's now or never. I'm going to use my machine to travel back and find out why my dad vanished." He wiped tears away with the back of his hand. "I look at it like this, if the machine works, I will finally have my answers, if it doesn't, I'll soon be holding you again. My biggest fear is learning my dad really did abandon us, and being trapped back there until he dies. My mom never believed that; she knew him and she always believed something had happened. I have to know the truth."
Sam drove back home and pulled up to the garage. He sat for a few minutes and remembered the day the bird had landed on his hood. He remembered like it was just yesterday. "I know it will work, even though the particle beam will be much smaller and weaker than the one created that day by the solar flare. I know there was a reason it hit here, right when I broadcast that radio signal to open the garage, it was meant to happen. I was meant to see it, to study it, to build a time machine and go back into the past."
He thought about the differences in his machine, it would not be powerful enough to send a physical object back even a few seconds, but it would transport his energy, his essence, and that was all he needed. He understood if he sent more, he could alter time and there was no way to know the consequences of that action. He had mailed off everything he had researched, his blueprints and theories, and the very means to build another time machine. Maybe someone would pick up where he left off so people would be able to send their conscious self into the past and witness events first hand, then return to their bodies stored in some kind of cryogenic stasis.
Sam went through the house checking all the boxed up items and the labels he had put on them. He put a few letters into the mail for delivery, turned off the lights, and then walked out to the shed that housed his time machine. He hesitated for a few minutes, then unlocked the door and stepped inside, pulling the door shut behind him. The walls and ceiling had sheetrock on them two layers thick, the floor tiled with ceramic and covered with a thick rubber mat. The metal shelves were all grounded to a rod Sam had driven deep into the earth beside the building. Everything was set and ready, he just needed to double check and make sure it was right.
He knew everything would begin to short out and burn one minute after the particle accelerator activated, but it was shielded enough to give him thirty seconds he needed. He had also set up a fire suppression system that would begin to discharge sixty seconds after he activated the machine. His body would be exposed to some heat and burns, but it would be minimal. Not that it mattered, he would no longer need this body. He would begin to transport after the first five seconds, and his trip would be complete after another twenty seconds. It would then take the accelerator thirty seconds to wind down and stop.
That was it, fifty-five seconds, but the heat generated when it shut down would become intense and ignite anything flammable in the shed. As a safeguard, Sam had used a capacitor system to deliver the huge amount of power he would need. It would handle the drain but it would be discharged in exactly sixty seconds, shutting down everything electric when the fire suppression system activated from the intense heat.
Sam looked at the setting, the day before Thanksgiving, 11/03/1932. The time was set to 20:01, the last known time his dad had been seen walking into an alley. He looked at the coordinates and hoped they were precise. He had located the exact spot on an old map of where his dad was last seen and then estimated how far apart the two men had been, based on the report of Jack Dempster. Everything was set, this was as close as he could get. If he was off even a couple feet, he would end up in the man his dad was with instead of in his dad, but either of them would serve his purpose.
Sam walked back to the house, went to the phone and dialed 911. When the operator answered he gave his name and address. When she asked what was the nature of his emergency he replied, "There's an accident in my shed, send a firetruck and police to the scene. One person inside is dead. I'm going out there now." He hung up despite the questions she was asking and walked out the back door to the shed, went inside and closed the door. He stepped onto the quartz panel that was centered on the floor. Reaching over to the control panel he flipped three switches and heard the capacitors hum as they charged, when all three showed green lights, he grabbed the lever next to the switches and pulled. He had just five seconds on the timer and quickly reached up and pulled down the coils of the particle accelerator that hung above him like a giant slinky. They snapped into position on the quarts and he dropped his hands to his side as they began to glow with energy. A loud buzz started in Sam's ears as he closed his eyes against the intense white light of the coils and then he was in hell.
He felt like he was being pulled inside out as he spun through nothingness, yet at the same time, he was being crushed by intense pressure all around him. He seen multicolored particles flashing as they passed by him at super speeds and felt them burning right through his body. The pain was intense as he spun out of control through hours, maybe day of nothingness. Even though he was screaming, he could hear nothing except the deafening hum of static around him. Then, as quicly as it started, it ended and there was nothing.
Sam became aware of a voice, then it was cold and wet against his face. It was still dark, but a light shone in the distance and there was someone standing next to him. He was trying to focus his eyes and look around but he couldn't. Something had gone wrong and he was in some kind of coma.
The voice continued to speak but it was like it was just outside the door. His vision was also limited but it moved around. He was able to focus more, but he could not control his range of vision. Then Sam realized, he had done it, he was back in time and inside either his dad, or the man his dad was last seen with. He was hearing through another's ears, that's why it was so muffled, and he was looking out through another's eyes, but they controlled where they looked, not Sam.
The other person started to come back into view, then something black covered the other person's eyes. Sam could feel the other person being jostled around, then he was knocked over. He felt himself moved around, then he was right side up again. More movement and then he was sitting. It was quiet now, except for a faint rumbling sound. As the seconds ticked past, Sam became more and more accustomed to using the other's ears. It was different than just hearing, he had to focus on hearing and draw it to him. Now, he could hear the hum better, a door opened and then he felt himself move again.
The door shut--it was a car door. Again he was moved, this time downward. He felt a slight twinge in his knees. Then the cover over the eyes lifted and he was looking out at a rainy night. It was like looking out of a porthole at the world beyond. He focused on what he was feeling, but everything was muted. He couldn't feel much but he could hear the rain, he could see the dark street and the building beyond, he could see some kind of old truck. Then someone stepped in front of him. It was Uncle Gus.
Gus looked down at Sam, or was he Hank now. "You know too much, Hank, I can't have that."
Yes, he was in Hank, and Gus was telling him he knew too much. But, Sam didn't know what Hank or Gus knew. Hank answered and then Sam knew the rest. "Gus, I always suspected you was moonshining. It don't make no difference to me, we're family."
"It's true our wives are sisters, but you and me aint related and I can't have you knowin what you know, Hank. It aint me, you understand, it's my boss, Mr. Capone. He don't like no one knowin his business, Hank, you just come along at the wrong time. See, Mr. Capone was in the car and knows you seen the drop. He says you gotta die, so you gotta die. It's either you or it's me; it aint gonna be me. Don't worry, I'll take care of Molly, she'll be alright, Hank."
Sam wasn't sure if it was the rain or if his dad was crying. He could feel him shaking and when he opened his eyes again, Gus was pointing a gun. There was a flash and then it went blank. Sam stood in the rain looking down at his dead father. Gus wrapped him in his coat and shoved him into the back seat, then drove off.
Sam stood alone in the rain and watched the taillights vanish in the distance. He knew the truth finally, his own uncle who raised him had murdered his dad. Sam screamed into the dark and wet night, but no sound came out. He didn't feel the rain anymore, either. In the distance a light began to glow and he walked towards it. It grew as he got closer, and then he seen Molly standing just inside the circle of light. She reached out her arms to him and smiled.
Sam looked around, the city was gone, there was no rain, just a grassy yard and a shed that looked like it had been on fire. There were police talking to a crowd of people Sam should recognize, some fireman wrapping up a hose, and two men with a stretcher. There was someone in a body bag on it--he had returned after all. He turned again, Molly was still in the circle of light, arms out to him, waiting. Someone else was came and stood beside her. Sam smiled, then walked to join his wife and meet his dad.