“Alright. This is it.”
Monica sets the time of two watches before handing one to me.
“When your watch starts beeping, it’s time to come back.”
“Right,” I say, stepping up to the platform. The watch weighs heavy on my wrist, its frame bent with circuits and cogs. We bought them years ago, and any resemblance to how they were back then had since been lost.
Time travel isn’t something everyone wants. As the platform begins to hum and the gadgets around our lab spin into motion, I think of what it took to get here. The protests. The sabotage. The death threats. The government paid well, but nobody ever told us why.
The stress was taking its toll on all of us. The economy had plummeted, and with scarce resources remaining. The most common form of heating was the flame of a burning barrel surrounded by middle-class vagrants. Our last resort was to scavenge from the past. I was standing on the platform that would decide our fate.
“You’ve got half an hour,” Monica says, setting a timer on her watch. “Remember, all you have to do is find a presentable sample and bring it back. If it’s in one piece, we can get funding and go public.”
“Should I come back in one piece too?”
She smiles. “Preferably.”
The room shakes and streaks of lightning flash across the lab. I close my eyes, blinded as the hum of electricity grows, and grows, and grows….
Into silence. I open my eyes and find myself in a dense forest. I stand still for a moment, admiring the dense foliage and soft light filtering through the trees. Birdsong, deep and warbling, echoes through the sea of green.
To my left, a long-extinct butterfly rests on a tree coated in moss. I gently walk towards it and scoop it into a large net. I check my watch: twenty eight minutes remain. I might as well explore while I have time.
When I emerge from the woods near a river, I hear rustling. Three large, sweaty specimens of Cro-Magnon brush through the dense leaves, shouting and grunting when they spot me. I panic when they produce makeshift spears and present my recent catch. Understanding it as a gift, they relax, and before I know it I’m being dragged deeper into the forest.
They take me to the mouth of a cave decorated with various scribblings and animal skins. There are several more people, women and children, gathering sticks and playing amongst each other. When we arrive, they jump and shout with excitement. One of them places the butterfly on a stone pedestal where children gaze at it in awe. Witnessing their immense curiosity, I feel a surge of warmth I nearly forgot.
They light a fire, and as their recent kill begins to cook I smell the meals of my youth. I am pushed into a circle of men and urged to dance. The movements are simple and rigid, but the sense of kinetic connection propagates an intense camaraderie deep within.
As the fire grows hotter and the chanting grows louder, the stress of abstract issues and agendas begins to fade. Laughter bubbles up from the children as they run around the flame. Small families share their portion of tender meat with care. Gazing into the eyes of my ancestors, I feel like I truly belong. The rhythm of chanting and dance stirs my soul with a depth I had never known before. I grow lost in the love of people, dancing to music so loud I can barely hear the beeping.
Kacey Willow is a Canadian writer based on Vancouver Island. She is currently reading the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.