She vowed to be his to the end of time! [Weird Tales Contest Winner]
|"How can you do this?" Myra Richter snarled at her husband. She planted her feet in the doorway to his lab and bunched her tiny fists. "I'm your wife! You love me!"
"My dearest," Dr. Reinhold Richter retorted, "that is something I never said." He thrust her aside. "It was your mother who said I loved you. You were always too credulous where she was concerned."
"But a servant-girl," his wife whimpered. "It's so common! So low!"
Myra's eyes flashed, and she hurled herself between her husband and his latest invention, which looked very much like a refurbished Model T, for that's exactly what he had used as a shell to hold machinery of his own design and construction.
"Ill!" Myra spat. "I'm not a child, Richter! I know what goes on! Don't think you can sneak away—!"
"Does it look like I'm sneaking?" He seized her by the shoulders and moved her four feet to the left. "Doris needs a medicine that hasn't been invented yet, and I'm going quite openly to fetch it. And don't think," he added sharply as he mounted his time machine, "to make mischief in the meantime. There won't be any meantime."
"You can't throw me aside," Myra howled. "I'll follow you—"
Dr. Richter pulled a gear shift, pressed an accelerator, and shot forward a hundred-and-twenty years.
He had to skip around a bit before he found a drug that would answer to his needs, but he timed his return to the second.
"—to the edge of creation!"
Without a word, he stalked past her and out the laboratory.
His wife, her frog-like eyes bulging, swelled with rage. Divorce was a loathsome word for a vile concept, but it held no terror for her, for she didn't believe in it. Her one fear was that his inventions would give him the money he needed to abandon both her and the inheritance he had married her for.
Myra wheeled on the chronovelociter. If there were a hammer within reach, she might snatch it up and—
She caught herself, panted hard, and went rigid all over. She glared at the machine, but her gaze seemed to bore through it, not at it. She wasn't an intelligent woman—her husband had told her that any number of times—but she had a cunning he would have been well advised to watch more carefully, as one might watch a snake glimpsed in the wood pile.
For nearly ten solid minutes, Myra Richter stared at and through her husband's time contraption. But her sight was directed along the temporal axis, not the spatial.
Then she slowly turned her eyes on the cabinets where he kept his notes and blueprints.
A hard smile creased her face, and her eyes glinted.
The laboratory was empty when Dr. Richter returned to it from administering to Doris. His wife was in fact quite wrong to be jealous of the girl—she was even more simple than Myra, and it was pity, not love, that moved the doctor to christen his machine with an errand of mercy. But Myra's wretched display had not left him unmoved. On the contrary, he was now almost frantic to leave her.
He rubbed his hands as he remounted his machine. He hadn't invented it to get away from his wife, but it would serve admirably just the same. Seventy years hence should do, he mused as he grasped the controls. Myra would be safely underground by then. Other men had to run away from their wives. But he—O Fortunate Man!—could run forward where she could never catch him!
Had he been more mindful, he might have remembered to pack his patent applications before springing forward seven decades. He might also have noticed that the horsehair seat beneath him was warmer than it ought to have been.
His first thought, on rematerializing and looking around, was that he had somehow arrived inside a showroom of Model Ts. Then he recognized that they were all copies of his own machine. Only in different colors.
Myra, not five feet away, was sitting in one that was pink. Her face turned black with malicious pleasure when she saw him.
"Surprise, darling," she spat. "We're rich!"
"Myra?" Dr. Reinhold Richter gaped at his wife. He looked around. A purple flush crept up his cheeks as he made certain inescapable deductions. "The devil! Did you take my schematics into the future and—?"
"Yes, darling. And don't worry, I didn't cheat you. I sold them in our names!"
"How clever, my pet," he ground out through clenched teeth.
"Yes. And patents last a thousand years now!"
His heart leapt. "How thoughtful," he jeered. "I am much obliged!" He pressed the temporal accelerator and shot forward another fifty years. The showroom vanished—
—but Myra was still hunched in her machine when he arrived. She chortled: a viscous, bubbly sound.
"You're famous, Richter!" she gloated. "You would be, with your invention! They know all about you. Ten million years in one direction and ten million years in the other! I know! I've been to find out!"
Her husband wasn't listening. With a snarl he shot forward another twenty years.
She was still there, and now she brandished a book at him. "They know everywhere Columbus went, Richter! He was a famous explorer too, so of course they took notes! Just like Magellan! And Captain Cook!"
Again, Dr. Richter fled forward.
"They've written books on you!" his wife screamed, "and made maps of where and when you went!"
With trembling hands, Dr. Richter jumped nine hundred years into the past.
"It doesn't matter where you go, Richter! Or how long you stay!"
A knight rode out of a mist, and raised his visor to blink at them.
"You can't get away from me, Richter!" Myra shouted over the roar of a triceratops. "Wherever you go—!"
Her cry echoed a thousand-fold around him.
"—I'll be waiting!"
Entry for the Weird Tales Contest: January 2019.