Time, and time again, the man failed to force the door open as the beast closed in on him. He looked over his shoulder in time to see the monster open its shark-like mouth, with rows of razor-sharp teeth, closing them on his arm!
His screams echoed through the ruins of the city long ago destroyed by nuclear war. His cries for help went unanswered. Those that heard his tortured cries stayed hidden, hoping the monstrosity wouldn’t find them.
Huddled in a row of nearby buildings, Leo stayed calm, and listened. His younger brother Joe sat next to him, patiently waiting for the sign that it was safe to move. Like most of the survivors in what was once, Los Angeles, California, the men used sign language to communicate. Talking was too risky. The monster that preyed upon them had extremely good hearing, and a bloodhound’s sense of smell. Minutes crawled by, turning into hours before Leo felt it was gone, and gave Joe the safe sign. They crawled out of their hiding place and stretched their cramped limbs while keeping alert eyes peeled for the nameless beast that stalked them.
The only reason the men went into the ruins, and didn’t stay in their forest stronghold, was they had to forage for food. Canned food. Dried food. Sealed food that wasn’t contaminated. It was too risky eating the remaining wildlife because of radioactive contamination to their systems. It was generational, causing hideous deformities. Food was finite. Someday there wouldn’t be any to scavenge.
It was in this dystopian nightmare that Leo and Joe were raised. Their parents, long gone, taught them basic life lessons like where to find eatable food. Their generation did not have the opportunity to learn how to read or write. The last world war saw to that. People were forced to fend for themselves in small groups. There were no large communities or gathering places where humans could put together the framework of a new society. No organizations, or armies. No governments. Just scattered survivors trying to avoid the monstrosities that roamed in the ruins they were forced to scavenge in.
The brothers decided to call it a day. They both had found a few cans of food. Enough for a couple of days, so they headed back to the forest. On their way, a strange thing happened. A man dressed in a strange-looking suit and hat, suddenly appeared out of thin air right in front of them! His white hair stuck out from beneath the brown fedora he was wearing. He didn’t see them at first, and stood there tinkering with a small device in his hand. They watched in stunned amazement as he talked to himself. Finally he looked up and saw them.
“Good day gentlemen!” he said in a cheery voice, “I’m Professor Thistwhistle. Who may I ask, are you two?”
“Not very talkative chaps, I dare say. Just as well. You do understand what I’m saying, right?”
They both nodded, and said, “Yes.”
“Very good. I was hoping the English language had survived. I’m not sure I recognize what type of animal skins you chaps are wearing?”
“Wildcats and big rats,” Leo said.
“They look a bit odd,” the Professor suggested.
“How are they supposed to look,” Joe asked, his curiosity aroused.
“Well, for starters both species are only supposed to have four legs. Looks to me, the blighter’s you skinned had more than that. But forgive me, I’m sure you’re curious how I got here?”
They both nodded affirmatively. Eagerly.
“This device in my hand is a Time Machine,” he proudly declared.
He quickly realized their blank looks meant they had no idea what he was talking about. “Do you chaps read, or write English?”
“No…our grandfather told us about things like books and writing down things so everyone could read them. We never got to see any books though. It was just talk about them. We know they were powerful things once,” Leo replied.
“Quite so…” the professor agreed. “They are repositories of knowledge. But, I digress. Would you chaps show me around? I’m going to write a book describing what the world will be like in 2102. That’s now, by the way. I don’t suppose you chaps use a calendar do you? Days of the week, and all that?”
“I don’t know anything about a calendar,” Joe said, “but we follow the sun and the moon.”
“It really doesn’t matter right now. Just being conversational. Would you show me where you live,” he asked.
“Not much to see, but we’ll show you,” Leo agreed.
The brothers led the professor to their home which was forty feet above ground in a tree. Leo scrambled up the tree and when he reached the platform he tossed down a rope ladder. He watched as Joe and then the professor worked their way up, one rung at a time. There was a crude shelter built on the platform and they all went inside it. Serviceable, but crude, stools and a table were in the center of the room. It was all the furniture they had.
The professor spent a short time examining the construction of the furniture then plopped down on one of the stools.
“What is a time machine?” Leo asked.
“Good question. Put simply, it’s a device that allows you to go forward or backward in time.”
“How is that possible?” Joe asked.
“I don’t mean to sound condescending chaps, but you wouldn’t understand the science behind it. How could you? You’re living in the end times for mankind. Without access to knowledge there is no hope,” he firmly stated.
The brothers exchanged looks.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Leo said, “You have knowledge that could save us.”
The professor, caught off guard by the remark, hummed and hawed for a few moments trying to form a suitable reply.
“I can’t help you,” he said, with a tinge of sadness in his voice.
“Why?” the brothers both demanded.
“Because it goes against the rules of time travel.”
“Rules?” I don’t understand Leo said.
“There’s certain scientific rules we time travelers have to obey, or we’ll upset the natural order of the universe, turning the solar system into a never-ending chaos.”
“So why are you here?” Joe wondered.
“As I mentioned earlier, I’m writing a book.”
“A book on us?” Leo asked.
“Yes, you and the world you live in.”
“So you can’t help us, but you expect us to help write your book?” Joe suggested.
“That’s putting it a bit sharply lad,” the professor retorted.
Leo got up from his stool and walked over to a corner of the crude hut. He picked up a club that was resting against the wall and walked back over to the table.
“There’s something you should know professor,” Leo said, “we are survivors. It’s the one positive thing in our miserable lives. We never pass up a food source.”
Before the professor could respond, Leo swung the club savagely, crushing the professor’s head in one practiced blow! Afterwards he tossed the bloody club to his brother.
“You get to tenderize the meat.”
As It Stands, time travel presents many dangers.