Something went terribly wrong with Dr. Vincent Van Buren’s time machine.
The first time he used it, in 2018, everything went well. He took a quick visit to North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1950, the year he was born, and returned in the allotted ten minutes to San Diego, California.
There wasn’t much room in the time machine. It was basically a round ball with a seat inside and three collapsible legs to stand on outside.
Van Buren was a genius. All the technology he used was far in advance of anyone else in 2018.
World scientists were aware of some of his work, but the majority thought he was a well-educated eccentric with delusions. His papers on time travel were jeered by his colleagues.
He never let the naysayers get him down. He prepared all of his life for this moment…when he would become a time traveler. That time was now as he readied himself for his next visit to the past.
He wore a black jumpsuit that had pockets in front, down the sides, and in back. In them he carried things like a compass, a pocket knife, length of rope, dried meals, nutrition bars, first aid supplies, a magnifying glass, and an extra battery for the taser gun he wore on a utility belt.
When he sat down inside he had just enough room to put two canteens of water between his feet. All the controls were within his reach. There was a small monitor that was hooked up to a camera on top of the time machine, providing a panoramic look outside.
This time he set the controls for ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom period (2686-2181 BC). He chose the Great Sphinx of Giza for his destination point.
Then he was there.
The time machine was just a few feet away from the enormous Sphinx as he looked at the monitor. It was night, but a full moon lit the desert landscape as Van Buren pushed a button and the hatch door opened.
The interior lights profiled him as he stepped out in time for two Egyptian traders to see him. He could hear shrieks of terror as they urged their camels on to greater speeds!
“They either think I was a god, or someone really evil,” he thought while walking over to the base of the Sphinx. His studies told him that it was located on the west bank of the Nile, near Cairo, and that the sphinx was believed to be the pharaoh Khafra.
Van Buren marveled at the traditional blue and gold horizontal bands on the nemes headdress. The body was red. The face was yellow, a traditional color for men in ancient Egypt.
The Sphinx’s black beard was striking. In Van Buren’s time archeologists had just recently discovered the broken-off beard buried in the sand.
He lost track of time while walking around the Sphinx, but his wristwatch beeped, reminding him that it was time to get back. A few minutes later he settled in and waited for the auto pilot to take over.
He was still waiting an hour later!
Something was horribly wrong!
He tried not to panic. It wouldn’t help anything. He pulled out an emergency tool kit and started to dismantle the main panel when there was a bright flash and he was thrown back in his seat!
The sphinx was gone. He could see a primordial jungle outside. Then he saw a sight that made his blood run cold! A Tyrannosaurus rex was chasing a smaller dinosaur and they were coming his way!
In his moment of terror, a part of Van Buren’s brain recalled that it must be the Late Cretaceous period in what was in his time, North America. One of the dinosaurs slammed into the time machine and sent it spinning down a slope!
The Tyrannosaurus rex let out a roar of victory when it caught the smaller animal. For the first time in his life, Van Buren thought about death. He suspected he was close to it right now. He watched through the monitor – the camera was still miraculously working – and saw the bipedal carnivore rip his meal apart.
The stabilizers were still working or he would be in an even more awkward position. Suddenly the curious carnivore saw the time machine. It started moving in his direction when…there was a flash, and he was somewhere else!
It was raining outside and he couldn’t make anything out. His heart was still beating fast and he felt faint. He reached into one of his pockets and pulled out a nutrition bar. As he chewed on it he tried to organize his thoughts.
He was afraid of stepping outside in case the time machine decided to move on. Why it was happening mystified him. Then it happened again.
This time he saw sunshine.
He was in the middle of a field of wheat. He looked at the monitor and idly wondered where he was now. He was as startled as the man who stepped into view swinging a sickle!
He stopped and warily moved towards the time machine. He was divided between curiosity and fear while looking at the camera. Van Buren guessed he was a European peasant from his clothing, pock marks on his face, and blackened teeth. The antique sickle fit with his guess.
“Sacrebleu!” the man cried out in surprise.
Then, in a flash, he was gone!
When Van Buren was able to focus his eyes again on the monitor all he could see was snow. The time machine was sitting in an arctic tundra with no civilization in sight. He was glad that the climate control inside was still working.
Hours passed this time. He quit looking at the monitor. There was nothing to see but whiteness. He wondered if this was finally it? He couldn’t get the controls to work properly, and he was at the machine’s mercy.
Exhausted, he nodded off.
When he woke up he was in his laboratory! He immediately pushed the button to open the hatch and crawled out. His legs were numb from sitting. His elation at this turn of events was short-lived however, as the time machine disappeared again!
All of his work was gone! Who would believe him now? A sense of despair gripped him and he slunk into a depression. Family and friends couldn’t get him to leave his lab for anything.
After a while they all gave up. The courts said he wasn’t crazy and he could do what he wanted. All Van Buren wanted, was for his time machine to return again someday! He’d be there waiting.
As It Stands, time travel can be a tricky thing.