The camera flashed a screen of static and revealed a dim lit room. The room was big and open with stacked crates lining the walls. Low hanging lights dangled over two metal tables. One was full of a tools and trinkets while the other one had a peculiar machine the size of a car engine. It seemed to be an abandoned warehouse.
A pair of khaki pants and a lab coat swooped into sight. A hand adjusted the camera. It now pointed to the face of a man in his early thirties. He had dark slicked back hair and scruff on his chin and jaw. He had brown eyes with sign of very little sleep in them.
“Hello, this is Dr. Steven Ashe.” the man smiled. “Test runs of my invention will begin with none other than myself. What might I be testing you ask? A time machine of course! I’m too excited for an explanation-- I’ll give it to you later!”
Steven backed away from the camera. He snapped a pair of safety goggles on and started punching buttons on the machine. “I will be sending myself five minutes into the past! If this works, I will be right in this spot before my past self walks through the door! I can’t let myself see him of course, as handsome as he his. Time paradox and all that!”
The doctor flipped some switches, “Without further adue, I give you...the past!”
Steven pushed a final button. The machine hummed with otherworldly power. It shined a brilliant blue; papers and tools flew around Steven and his machine. Steven let out a laugh matching that of a mad scientist’s. The room went completely white then the entire warehouse rattled with a boom. Steven was not sent into the past but into a nearby crate. The machine went silent.
“Houston,” Steven grunted from inside the crate, “we have a problem.”
The camera cut out then played again. A woman the same age as Steven guided him to a chair. She was a petite woman with short black hair and soft green eyes.
“Please, use rats next time, honey.” she lowered him into his seat.
“Naomi! I’m not plaguing the future with...the plague!” Steven exclaimed.
Naomi folded her arms and scowled at him, a ring visible on her finger.
“Fine. I will. I do need to make some adjustments to the machine.”
“Can you please explain this to me, again?”
“I’m glad you asked! Is the camera on?”
Naomi peered at the camera. “I think so.”
Steven wheezed as he stood up and wheeled a chalkboard into view. He drew one line across it. “This is time. To put simply, my machine is powerful enough to rip a hole in time, allowing me to travel through it.”
“You talk about going back in time, but can you go forward?” Naomi cocked her head to the side.
“No, not yet at least. For now, the future is undetermined or doesn’t exist.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Naomi frowned while nodding her head.
Steven drew a line from the one across the board, “Each time I go back in time and change something, a new timeline is made. It could be my timeline or future changing, it could be yours, it could be the world’s! Anything can be drastic enough to change the future. I also figured out that whoever time travels keeps the memories of each timeline that they encounter even if their timeline changes.”
“This is scary...what if you screw up? What if you change something so we never meet? What if-”
Steven wrapped his hands around Naomi’s. “I would never imagine changing this life we have together. If I do mess up, I can always fix it. No matter what happens, no matter what part of space time we are in, I will always love you. Time travel is very confusing and scary--I’ll admit that. But you have nothing to fear because my love for you goes beyond time!”
Steven spun her around and she giggled uncontrollably. The camera went black for a few seconds before playing another video. Steven set a tray of dead rats down on a table before facing the camera.
“The trials to test the limit of moving back in time was a success. After a few failures, I have concluded that two weeks is the longest one can go back before you start suffering casualties. Three weeks to a month, you will start contributing nosebleeds and headaches. Five to seven weeks, the symptoms continue. Beyond that you will die. Your brain stem will snap due to the force and energy from the rip in time.”
The camera cut away to new footage. Steven held a white rat with a stopwatch around his neck up to the camera.
Steven smiled triumphantly, “See! Scooter’s watch here reads five minutes earlier than the current time! I’ve sent him back days and weeks! Human trials will begin tomorrow!”
The camera went blank before revealing Steven and few other people. One was a man that was Steven’s age and boy who looked to be in college. Naomi stood next to Steven.
“So when’s the wedding?” the older man asked. “The best man’s gotta be ready.”
The man had short blond hair and round glasses. He was sharply dressed in his shirt and tie. The boy had a Batman shirt on and ripped jeans. Atop his mop of black hair was a Star Wars flat bill.
“We haven’t quite set a date yet, Collin. Maybe Steven can go into the future and figure it out,” Naomi smiled.
“That’s not how it works, dear-” Steven started before Naomi playfully shoved him.
“Shut it.” They exchanged grins.
“You made fun of me my entire life for being into Science Fiction and comic books, Sis. Now, you’re marrying the world’s biggest nerd!” the boy remarked.
“Nate, you’re the nerd here. He’s a scientist.”
Nate shrugged with a smile, “Makes no difference to me.”
Collin stepped forward, “Steven, did you call us here for what I think you did?”
Steven smiled wildly, “You remember my ramblings in college? The thing the institute didn’t want to fund?”
Collin went wide eyed, “No way.”
Steven stepped back and pulled the sheet off his machine. “A reverse switch through time, ready for human testing. And who better to travel through time than the closest beings in my life.”
“I don’t know if I should be flattered or terrified for my life,” Nate narrowed his eyes. “This things safe, right?”
“As long as you follow my lead, you will be safe.” Steven clasped Nate’s shoulder.
“Where shall we go?” Naomi asked.
“The real question is when!” Steven exclaimed, wrapping an arm around his fiance.
Collin shuffled through some papers on one of tables, “Two weeks is the limit?”
“Correct, my old friend! Any ideas?”
Nate opened his mouth but was cut off by Steven. “No college parties; they’re a waste of time.”
“We have a time machine though,” Nate pointed out.
“How about that festival that was in town a week ago? You were held up in here, and I was writing my articles while it was going on,” Naomi raised a finger.
“Since I did not make any major finds that day, I don’t think it will affect the time machine’s creation at all,” Steven stroked his stubble.
“As long as there’s chicks,” Nate said aloud.
“I married a genius!” Steven boasted.
“Engaged.” Naomi corrected him with a smile. “We’re not quite there yet. I haven’t even told my parents.”
“What are we waiting for? I’ve been dying to do this since college,” Collin smiled.
The camera caught away before appearing in grass, on its side. Nate grunted, got to his feet, and pulled the camera up. Collin was already on his feet while Steven helped his fiance up. Nate panned the camera, they were on top of a hill overseeing a park filled with rides, games, and all sorts of attractions. Steven rushed over to the machine on the ground, checking to see if it was okay. When he was assured that it was fine, he hid it in and old tree on the hill and covered it with branches and leaves
“Oh yeah,” Nate said before the camera caught away, revealing bits of footage.
First, Collin meeting his favorite band. Second, Nate getting rejected by girls. Third, Steven winning a stuffed bear for Naomi. Fourth, Nate getting rejected by girls, again. Fifth, Steven and Naomi sharing cotton candy. Sixth, Nate getting rejected by girls, once more.
Nate was filming Steven testing his strength at a game. Naomi snatched the camera from his hand, tilting it to the sky.
“Hey, what are you doing with that?” Nate tried to make a grab for it.
“I wanna do my own filming,” Naomi said while marching to the hill whence they came from.
The camera went black and came back to life as the warehouse exploded with light. The time travelers dropped to the ground. Nate rolled over, pointing the camera to the ceiling.
“I better get going,” Naomi said, walking past Nate. “I have to get ready for the conference discussing the peace treaty for the nations tomorrow. I’ll be at my apartment tonight, Steven.” She slid the warehouse door open.
“No goodbye?” Steven grinned.
“Until our next hello,” the warehouse door screeched shut.
“That was...awesome,” Nate grunted.
“Careful with that, Nate!” Steven stood over the cameraman. “That camera has all my findings on it.”
“There’s not even a- this thing has one percent battery.”
“Turn it off!”
The camera went blank but shortly snapped back to Steven arranging his tools and papers. A small TV was by his time machine. It was playing a newsreport of the conference that Naomi spoke of.
“My fiance is going to be on national television! She’ll be interviewing the most powerful people in the world!” Steven looked over to the television. The president of the United States was leaving the conference with the other leaders on a recess. Steven smiled with pride as Naomi came into view. “I wonder if she’ll interview me if my machine ever-”
A loud bang erupted from the television. Naomi dropped to the ground. The president was rushed out of sight. More gunshots filled the air until the newscast cut out.
“No. No. No!” Steven grabbed the TV and started shaking it. The camera blacked out again.
Steven was fiddling with his machine. “I can fix this. I can fix this.” Steven was shaky and sweating; it was clear that he was holding back tears. He covered his face with a bandana and sunglasses. “
“Just in case,” he said.
The light of the machine flashed. Steven grabbed the camera, but nothing was clear. The camera was filled with static. The camera showed choppy images of Steven moving towards Naomi who was waiting to talk to the president. Steven grabbed Naomi and pulled her away as the president walked out of the door. The camera turned off as the gunshot sounded.
Steven was back in his warehouse with his camera on the table and his machine under his arm. He placed it next to the camera and pulled out his phone and started dialing. He held it to his ear as he switched on his television.
His heart dropped as he stared at the TV. Naomi’s voice mail greeting buzzed in his ear. Everyone had opened fire on one another. The man who shot the president was Korean. America and Korea had had weapons secretly pointed at one another for quite some time. All the guards and security fired upon one another. Many innocents had died.
“I can’t let this happen,” Steven said. “I need a different approach.”
Steven wheeled a chalkboard into view. He drew a line across the board. He labeled it time line zero.
“The timeline before the time machine and the minor changes,” he said aloud.
He stemmed one from it, “Timeline one, I save Naomi and a firefight breaks out.”
His eyes desperately darted around in thought. He drew another line from timeline zero.
“I can fix this,” he muttered.
The camera cut away to Steven standing at the board again. Many more lines were stemmed from timeline zero. Steven was muttering inaudible words.
“A war starts, a school blows up, Naomi dies, Naomi dies, Naomi DIES!” Steven screamed and threw his chalk at the board.
A single tear escaped his eye, but he swiped it away. The camera went black again but flashed to life in Steven’s arm as he lead it to the warehouse. A fierce storm was raging on giving the camera a blurry picture. The wind was howling and the rain came down like bullets. Steven stumbled to the warehouse door and pulled it open. He closed it behind him quickly and turned to his board only to see Nate and Collin. Nate had his head hung with tears streaming down his face silently.
“What are you doing here?” he asked quickly, putting the camera on the table, pointing to the three.
“What did you just do?” Collin fired back.
“What do you mean?”
Collin gestured to the chalkboard.
“I called Naomi and convinced her to stay home with her parents,” Steven answered.
“Does she feel it? Each time she dies?” Nate asked through sobs.
“I don’t know. Each Naomi is different from our Naomi.”
“How do we even know if we have our Naomi? What timeline are we in, Steven? Are we our original selves?” Collin stepped forward
“It doesn’t matter! I finally fixed this! Naomi lives, and the conference gets called off because of this storm.” Steven through his hands up with a smile.
“It’s not just a storm.” Collin turned on TV and scenes of destroyed cities panned across it. “Volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, everything nature can muster.”
Steven ran a hand through his hair.
“I’ve been studying your travels and notes carefully. They all end with a catastrophe if Naomi lives-”
“What are you saying?” Steven snarled.
“I’m saying you can’t play God like this!”
“I’m saving my fiance!”
“At the price of innocent lives, at the price of nations!”
“She wouldn’t want that,” Nate whimpered.
“You don’t think that I feel guilty?” Steven shouted at Collin.
“Timelines are starting and stopping as we speak. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s nature, the Universe, God, or a higher power, but this going against them. These disasters are here to settle the score. These disasters are here to kill Earth. These timelines cannot coexist. Reality is falling apart.”
Steven took a few paces away from the two. He paused before saying, “I’ll go back and destroy the time machine.”
“That won’t work. That won’t stop Naomi from dying. It isn’t her fate or your fate. It is the fate of the Universe. You can’t change that.”
“This is the love of my life. I’m-I-I’m just supposed to let her-”
“And she’s my sister. Is there another way?” Nate asked.
“No. Steven, you have to go back to the original timeline and let Naomi accept her fate. The other timelines will form together into the path that was meant to be.” Collin laid a hand on Steven’s shoulder.
The doctor shuddered with sobs, “I can’t!”
“You have to. It’s what she would have want-”
The wall exploded with a car barreling into Nate. The storm had a launched car into the warehouse. The wind blew the table and camera into Collin, hitting him in the head.
“No!” Steven screamed into the storm. He rushed to the time machine; he held it tight to his chest and punched the numbers in. With a flash of light, he was gone.
The camera cut away to Steven sobbing in front of the TV. The newscast title read: “Journalist Shot and Killed. The Nations Now Stand United.”
The camera went blank for a long time. Longer than usual. The camera flashed to life. Naomi was sitting on the hill. It was the night of the festival. Naomi smiled sweetly at the camera.
“Steven, before I met you I never really believed in anything. I never believed in a god or science or even myself. But now I believe in you. I believe in us. I believe in the future awaiting us, and I welcome it with open arms. Even if it isn’t a happy ending, I’ll accept it because I was with you in the most important part of my life: the present. Just know that I’ll always be with you. Because my love for you goes beyond time.”