I had always been an explorer. An adventurer. Always willing to push the envelope of adventurism and set the new trends of travel. And when people called me a “travel pioneer”, it was certainly not an act of exaggeration. I very much deserved this sobriquet.
There was a strange madness to this exploratory nature. This madness of an unimaginable degree and magnitude took me to every nook and corner of this world. I traveled up the North pole, down the south pole, across the vast expanse of Siberia, right through the enormous stretches of Sahara Desert, to the length and breadth of the Amazon rainforest, and the confounding jungles of Sundarbans. I sailed across the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. If that was not sufficient, I gathered courage and scaled the heights of Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Mount Aconcagua, and all other major peaks of the world. I dived down the depths of great oceans and explored the Mariana Trench. I visited all the countries of this physical world. All its major cities and all its major tourist destinations. What was now left to explore?
But my thirst for travel was not to be quenched. None of my experiences thrilled me to death. All my journeys to date could only satiate my senses but not my inner soul. I fancied for this soulful journey.
I was looking forward to the travel of quite a different kind. Travel across time and space. Across the different dimensions of the universe listed by great physicists. An odyssey that no one has undergone to date and which history would remember me to have pioneered.
And this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity knocked at my door, and I readily leaped at it. The European Space Agency, abbreviated ESA, designed a shuttle that could travel to all the dimensions of space and time. The scientific community worldwide called it a great leap in the field of science and regarded it as the most ground-breaking invention of all time. The news flashed in all the major international, national, and regional newspapers. People worldwide were bursting with excitement over the news of its prospective launch and to hear an account of the travelogue of its elite passenger. Based on my phenomenal records as an avid globetrotter and an adept pilot, I was shortlisted for the odyssey in that miracle machine. I had to go through a series of health checks in hospitals and multiple visits to the space agency for undergoing the training for this trip. And eventually, I made it to the final. I was chosen as the first traveler of this time machine.
On 15th July 2010, I reached the venue from where the shuttle was to take off. It was the most complex space vehicle design of its time. It had a length of 150 feet and a wingspan of 70 feet. It weighed close to 1.5 million kg. It comprised of three main components- the external tank, three space shuttle main engines, and two solid rocket boosters. Its double delta wings were aimed for the most efficient flight during hypersonic speeds. The machine was fitted with six wheels.
The shuttle propelled itself towards the sky cutting through the clouds, earth´s gravity, and air resistance, and thrust itself higher and higher up in the sky till it reached outer space, where the three dimensions of time met. Where past, present, and future bumped into each other and where time was like a fluid moving in all three directions. I looked at my watch and was amazed to see that the hands of my watch were moving clockwise as well as anticlockwise in turns, and then staying a while at that place to indicate the present. It was a great wonder to watch. I was getting goosebumps.
Beep! … The machine announced, “Press P1 to move into the past!”.
Beep! … It crackled and said, “Press P2 to move into the future!”
There was not much time to ponder over. I was certainly very excited to foresee my future, but I also knew that any sad event of the future would keep gnawing at my mental and emotional faculties for a long time. I was rather too much excited about the memories of my childhood. At home, I always flipped through the leaves of photo albums and used to smile for hours thinking over my moments of mischief. I recalled how I used to defeat all my friends in hide and seek. And those musical chairs, who could forget it? What absolute fun it was! And the catapult? How could I forget to have aimed at apples and pears with it? Some of these memories had faded over time but this was the golden opportunity to relive these moments, to relive my playful past.
In a fit of excitement, the two fingers – the middle and the index finger dived down towards the button “P1” for the past. The fingers trembled and danced in the air and thwacked the key. As hard as they could.
The machine roared and quaked with the thrust of the engines, emitting a violent squall of gas. I clutched the support handle of my seat tighter. A spasm of fear ran down my veins. I braced myself for all eventualities.
But how was I to know this was a wrong turn?
Zoom! The shuttle swerved violently towards the right. Beep! It announced, “Welcome to your future!”
It was a glitch in the software. The unexpected always happens. I wanted to dive into my past and relive my childhood memories, but the time capsule thrust me into my future. Frantically, I whacked the key “P1” again to the change the course of time, but the key got frozen. With bated breath, I awaited the unfolding of impending events of my life.
The first event popped up on the giant screen that hung before me.
My name flashed in newspapers, magazines, and science journals worldwide. In an instant, I became a household name. The front cover of all these newspapers, magazines, and journals read:
One Alexander conquered the world, the other triumphed over time.
I beamed a wide smile. This was indeed a crowning glory. Fame always tastes sweeter than honey. And this sweetness would linger forever.
The screen was up for the next event.
It would be no exaggeration to say that I had a glimpse of the most delightful event of my life. She stood on a pedestal. Adorned in a white shimmering gown with a sparkling pearl necklace hanging around her neck and pearl earrings swaying gently above her neckline. It was Jenny. My heart, my soul. I walked up to her, knelt on a knee, and raised a stalk of a bright red rose in its full bloom. Ah! That glance into the future warmed the cockles of my heart.
I started feeling that my fears about the prospective days of life were without foundation. The future does hold a basket of beautiful moments. I was now eager to reach out for all these moments of glory. I wanted to fondle all the blooms from the garden of the future and smell their scent, which would linger in my senses forever.
Oh! I fell into disfavor with my future. On an expedition to Monte Blanc, the highest peak in continental Europe, I slipped down on sloppy terrain while hiking. All happened in no time. My ankle twisted and my right leg snapped. My face and body were bruised. And most of my skin chapped. I was gasping for breath. I was soon airlifted and transported to the nearby hospital.
A crackle. The screen turned black and came to live again with a flash.
This event lifted my spirits. In a hospital bed, I saw my wife tired and still in a very cheerful mood. She was smiling and cuddling a toy. Fondling its cheeks. And stroking its hair. It was a teddy bear. But a live one. In flesh and blood. Swaddled in a white cloth. My teddy bear. My daughter. A bundle of joy arrived in my life.
The shuttle swerved left. Beep! There came again an announcement, “Fasten your belt. There are heavy clouds around. The machine is facing disturbances”. I looked at my belt and it was already fastened tight. I looked through the windows and saw white fluffy beautiful clouds all around, like foams in the air, like wads of cotton hanging in the sky.
And then again, another event appeared:
It seemed life is playing the game of snakes and ladders with me. I knew that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. But this came as a pure shock to me. I saw a woman. On her bed. Covered in a white blanket. Her hair disheveled. Her lips parched. A unique calm on her face. Her body turned cold. She was no more in a coma but out of the coma. She was silent. On the edge of the bed, I was sobbing and crying. The scene of my mother´s death jolted me. I bit my lips and broke into tears.
The machine zoomed past the clouds. I peeped through the window and saw an open sky again. It steadied itself and was now flying smoothly in the sky. The autumn sun was up in the sky.
I was quite thirsty and took a swig of water gurgling down my throat. Suddenly I heard the laughter of a child. I looked at the screen. It was a rain of colors. They fluttered their wings. Some perched upon twigs. In blue, purple, white, orange, black, yellow, and other colors. Butterflies. Beauty-flies. One butterfly hovered and alighted on my cupped palms. A girl with a ponytail stood nearby. She smiled and giggled at me. My teddy bear. My daughter. It was truly a joy to behold. A moment to wallow in. I kept gazing at the screen…
But the spectacle vanished into the thin air, followed by the crackle and buzz of the electricity.
Beep! The shuttle announced, “Bad news. We have lost connection with the control station in Europe. Stay calm and be seated!”
Yikes! What would happen now? Would I ever reach back home? I trembled with fear and anxiety. My face reddened and I started sweating profusely. My heart started pounding and throbbing violently and forcefully. The fear of getting lost in oblivion gave me heebie-jeebies. I almost fainted.
The voice crackled and announced again, “Hurray! we got the connection back with the control station. Cheers!”
Oh! It came like a new lease of life. I thanked my lucky stars.
The plane swerved left and right, moved up and dived down, and flew across the dimension of the future, while the screen flashed the events of my life one by one. Some made me happy, and some made me sad. Some made me both. Some made me none. It laid bare the entire spectrum of my life.
And then it popped up yet another incident. With mouth agape and eyes wide open, I stared at the screen. It frightened the hell out of me. My heart jumped out of my chest. I sweated profusely. My shirt and trouser turned completely wet. Without losing a moment, I whacked the key “Home” and the shuttle lurched, swung, and finally dived down towards its destination.
Scientists, politicians, civil servants, engineers, doctors, laborers, and people from all walks of life welcomed my homecoming. They showed up to take selfies with me. Some requested for autographs. Others floated a bunch of balloons in the air to mark the arrival of the first ever time traveler. There were cheerleaders all over creation. I was really touched by this hero’s welcome.
The newspaper flashed the news:
One Alexander conquered the world, the other triumphed over time.
After a few years, I got married to Jenny. She wore a shimmering white gown on the wedding day. A pearl necklace adorned her neck. Pearl’s earrings swayed gently above her neckline. I did kneel before her and offered her the stalk of a bright red rose.
A bundle of joy soon arrived in our lives. Our daughter Mia was born.
And then came the tragic death of my mother. She died of cancer. She died before my eyes. She died a slow and painful death. I sobbed and cried on the edge of her deathbed.
Mia loved butterflies. I always took her to the butterfly park. There she played for hours with those creatures of alluring beauty and charm. She looked at them in awe and surveyed their thorax, wings, antennae, abdomen, and scales. And when she tried to catch them, they fluttered their alluring wings and drifted away.
12 years have passed since I rode that capsule. I am quite honored to have the first crack at this odyssey of time. I saw my destiny unfolding before me like the leaves of an album, turning one by one. All the events of the prospective days of life rolled out before my eyes. I am a lucky one indeed. Or perhaps not a lucky one.
I had an account of all the future events of my life. Every day passed as if I had lived the moment before. There had hardly been any anticipation of extreme joy. Your heart bursts with joy when an unknown good happens to you. Is there not a lot of charm in that surprise factor? And without surprise, life becomes deadly dull. Indeed, my life has turned dull as dishwater.
But I also toyed with the idea of extracting as much essence as possible out of any beautiful moment. Since I knew that the occasion would come, I geared up for it and strived to delve deeper into that moment of pure delight. I wracked my brain and looked out for the most innovative ideas to spice up that upcoming magnificent moment. But the irony was that – I could only enjoy the moment to the degree the time machine warranted it for me. Everything is destined to happen the exact way, in the exact place, and at the exact time. There can be no additions or changes.
However, I must speak about the event that cast the lasting shadow on my life. It unnerved me like no other scene. It shook me in my boots. I never revealed anyone what forced me whack the “Home” key. Jenny nonetheless noticed that I started remaining aloof. She saw something hidden in the depth of my eyes. A dark secret. A despairing secret. An excruciating one that I would carry to my grave.
On 2nd June 2035, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off from Kennedy airport and headed across the Atlantic towards the city of Paris. While midway above the Atlantic Ocean, an unexpected formation of a supercell, which is an extremely violent form of thunderstorm made the plane lose control. The engine failed and the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All passengers on board died.
I hankered to erase a part of my memory. I visited and consulted many doctors on both sides of the Atlantic. But neither the American doctors nor the European doctors could come to my rescue. It was still a mystery which part of the brain held the memories of the past and which stored the memories of the future. A selective cleansing of facts was like finding a needle in a haystack. Any operation would lead to the complete loss of memory, and I would turn into an amnesiac for all my life.
Every day I lived with a strange sensation of Déjà vu. And when on my birthday, Jenny brought the black forest cake, decorated with whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings, I hardly got excited. And as I blew the candles one by one and passed the knife on the cake, with a lump in my throat, I recalled what I saw the last in that time machine. I heard the footfalls. Coming closer and closer. Footfalls with diabolical designs. Ready to swallow someone…
The footfalls are earsplitting. The sinister shadow was now looming large. With its threatening claws, it was inching closer and closer and one day would surely uproot the prey from the bed of life and gobble it down its throat.
I cried my heart out. I sought solace everywhere. But there was no relief in sight. I lived with a millstone around my neck.
On 3rd June 2035, while Jenny was leaving for her office, the television flashed the tragic news:
Boeing 787 Dreamliner from New York to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All passengers on board killed.
She shrieked and fainted. Hearing the loud cry, Mia dashed out of her bedroom. She embraced Jenny in her arms and tried to console her.
Mia grew up to become a great explorer and adventurer like her father. She turned into a celebrity. Every year on the 3rd of June, she visited the tomb of her father and lighted the candles in his loving memory. And when she saw a butterfly on his tomb, she would fold her arms in prayer and implored with all her heart to take her message to her father in the other world.
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