This story is by Kayla Aldan and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“What’s going on?” Gahrryn barged into the meeting hall of the Time Council. “Why can’t Myleha return home?”
The light conversation came to a halt as scattered groups of men and women turned toward the direction of the disruption. The Head of the Council, Ellienna, appeared from behind one of the groups with a stern gaze, “Gahrryn, I wouldn’t have thought you’ve been absent from these halls long enough to have forgotten how to address the Council upon entering.”
Gahrryn flinched, “I’m aware of the fact that I overlooked protocol, but this can’t wait. I can’t leave her there—it’s not her present. I need to bring her home.”
Ellienna’s eyes narrowed, “so why have you come here?”
“I need your help. There’s something wrong with her Watch—”
“She has a Time Watch?” Gahrryn’s stomach turned. “You were raised with the knowledge that ownership of Time Watches is strictly regulated, Gahrryn.” He could feel her gaze boring through him. “Besides, you’re well aware that when using a Time Watch to travel to the past, its link to the owner’s present will allow the traveler to return, regardless of how damaged it is. The fact you’re asking for help to bring her back indicates you’ve broken our law and taken her to the future. Am I wrong?”
Gahrryn sighed, “no. I brought Myleha to the future…and I humbly ask for your help to bring her home.”
Ellienna took a step back and addressed the room, “members of the Council, I’m inquiring about the matter that was under discussion prior to Gahrryn’s interruption. Have you all cast your votes?” Nods and murmurs of agreement rippled through the room. “Then I shall proceed with the sentence.” Ellienna tapped lightly on her hand-held device before looking up at Gahrryn, “the Council has unanimously voted against you. Punishment for presenting an unauthorized Time Watch to a commoner and traveling to the future with her is for her to live out the rest of her life from that point on—”
“You can’t do that! It’s not—”
“Silence!” Ellienna’s voice echoed in the high ceiling. “The ruling of the Council is binding.”
Gahrryn took a deep breath, “none of this is her fault!”
“You’re right—it’s yours.”
“Then punish me, not her!”
“This is your punishment. We disconnected the unauthorized Time Watch’s connection with its tethered time to prevent the person who stole it from traveling again. We expected that to be the last of it; however, your outburst here demanding our help to bring back a commoner who should not even know about the existence of Time Watches has made this an unusual case. She will remain in the future as a reminder of the decisions you made.”
Gahrryn clenched his fists, “please…let her come back. She doesn’t deserve this.”
“Her well-being is not our concern. Your punishment is, and our decision is final. You are dismissed.” Ellienna waved her hand toward the ornate double doors.
Gahrryn stood a moment longer before dropping his head and turning to leave. He took a few steps before looking back, “what’ll happen to my Time Watch?”
Ellienna smirked, “while I expect you might have guessed, I’ll spell it out for you. We’re allowing you to keep it. I’d imagine you’d use it to travel to the past to watch the memories you shared with that commoner—”
“Her name’s Myleha.”
Ellienna crinkled her nose, “I’d imagine you’d travel to the past to see her or travel to the future to be with her.”
“And if I choose the latter?”
“Your Time Watch will be disconnected as well.”
Gahrryn nodded and turned once more toward the exit. His watch was already set, and he disappeared from the room before reaching the doors.
Gahrryn appeared at the edge of a lush, private garden inside an enormous glass dome. He followed a winding path through dense foliage and blooms in an array of colors while looking for every possible place she’d sit—up in trees, under low-hanging branches, under a vine-covered arbor overflowing with fragrant blossoms. It had been later in the morning when he arrived, but the sun had still been in the eastern sky. It was directly overhead when he found her.
“Hey…” he paused, “is it alright if I join you?” She gave no response. He sat down, “I have to tell you something.” She was tossing pieces of grass into the pond and watching the fish bite at them. He took a deep breath, “it’s my fault you’re stuck here.” By now, she’d stopped feeding the fish. When she didn’t say anything, he decided to keep talking.
“We’re forbidden from traveling into the future because it hasn’t happened yet—it’s not fixed. There was a time when it was allowed, but too many people took advantage of it—many got addicted and refused to make any decisions until they saw every possible outcome with every possible variable. Then, Time Watches fell into the hands of some dangerous people, and this led to outlawing travel to the future and the regulation of Time Watches,” Gahrryn paused.
Myleha tossed a stone in the water, “I remember you mentioning this.”
Gahrryn made a small smile, “every decision we make has an impact on our future. You could decide to go for a walk this morning or eat a muffin instead of eggs for breakfast, and it would have an impact. You can also make more significant decisions like opting to change careers or choosing whether or not to kiss someone. That’s why they outlawed traveling to the future. Try to imagine the emotions of a person who’s seen at least twenty possible outcomes, good and bad, of kissing a crush for the first time.”
He could see the corner of her lips curling into what he hoped was a smile. “I understand why they put a stop to it. But isn’t traveling to the future like traveling to the past? We can’t be seen here, right?”
Gahrryn’s heart dropped, “when you have a working one, you’re not visible in the future or the past, but others with Time Watches can see you. You can go back and see the past, but your present self cannot be active in it, so you aren’t visible there. And, the future isn’t set yet, so you can’t be seen there either.” He paused, “the problem is our Time Watches are no longer tethered to our former present, which means we can be seen here—this moment forward has been set.”
“But we don’t belong here. I mean, if we had traveled a week or even a month ahead, I’m sure we’d have managed fine—but we’re 100 years out of our time. While you were gone, I found out that flowering plants are artificially pollinated by robot pollinators because there are no more bees or butterflies. There’s no more honey. Bananas, pineapples, coffee, and cacao don’t exist here because the remaining plants were wiped out from disease decades ago. I don’t want to live here–I want to stop this from happening.”
Gahrryn put his arm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. They sat in silence for a few minutes. It was only when a crow cawed that Gahrryn remembered something and decided it was worth looking into, “Myleha, are you up for a walk? I remembered something I never thought I’d need to.” She nodded, and the two of them stood up and began heading west. “If he’s where I think he is, we should be there before the sun sets.”
Gahrryn and Myleha came across a plot of barren land not far from the domed garden. Signs saying “KEEP OFF!” and “NO TRESPASSING!” were scattered around a weathered shack. Gahrryn could feel Myleha’s discomfort, but he assured her he knew the owner and that everything would be all right. When they reached the door, Gahrryn knocked. What sounded like a shotgun blast went off inside followed by a verbal warning, “get off my property, or the next one’s through ya!”
“Gahrryn, I really think we should go,” Myleha was backing down the steps.
Gahrryn shook his head and smiled, “Meezahr! You forgotten what day it is?”
There was a pause followed by scrambling, shuffling, a muffled thud, and a “son of a bitch!” before the door was opened by a man with disheveled grease hair and a ragged silk suit, “Gahrryn, you bastard! I told you you’d need me the day they banished me! You thought I was crazy! Haha! Damn, it’s good to see you!” He gave Gahrryn an enormous bear hug, slapped him twice on the back, and pulled him inside. Then he turned to Myleha, “hello, Myleha. I know you’ve had a rather depressing day. Not that I’m trying to bribe you, but I have a slice of banana cake with chocolate icing and a fresh cup of coffee in here for you.”
Myleha opened her mouth to protest just as Gahrryn came to the door with a plate of cake and a mug, “he’s here to help us fix our Time Watches. Back in the day, he built them.”
“So…is all this for show to keep away people who shouldn’t come near you?” Myleha gestured to the surrounding area.
“Oh deary, you haven’t seen half of it—I’m completely crazy.” He winked as he held out his hand. She smiled politely and declined to take it. He bowed then stepped aside, and she went in. Once inside, Meezahr gave them a crash course on Time Watches—every single one has an override switch that can counteract the Master Watch’s control system, and he’s the only one who can operate it because he put it there. The problem is once the switch activates a Watch again, it alerts the Council, and they input a self-destruct sequence, which will destroy the data that needs to be transferred.
“So, what I have to do is remove the sequence with the last recorded present location and transfer it to one of these new ones,” Meezahr said as he lifted a Time Watch from a box filled with them, “these ones aren’t connected to the Master Watch, which means you can travel to the past and future whenever you want, and they’ll never know.”
True to his word, Meezahr got them working Time Watches, and they returned to their present. Myleha was walking into her house when she turned to Gahrryn, “aren’t you coming?”
Gahrryn looked at her, “there’s something I have to do first.”
She smiled, “hurry back.”
Gahrryn arrived at the meeting hall knowing what he needed to do. Meezahr had shared confidential information in addition to outfitting their Time Watches with extra perks. Gahrryn thrust the doors open and entered while pushing a button on his Watch. He headed straight for Ellienna through the frozen council forest. Her eyes blazed in her contorted face, and her arm was extended toward him. When he reached her, he put his hand in the front pocket of her robes and pulled out her Time Watch.
“Who would have thought you’d have the Master Watch,” he turned it in his hands, “and not think to have Meezahr install a program to stop time before you banished him.”
Gahrryn pushed a button on his Watch and grinned when Ellienna jumped back screaming. Chaos and confusion spread through the council members as they tried to figure out how he made it from the door to Elleinna before orders were given for his capture. Gahrryn disappeared. He had to return the Master Watch to Meezahr so the Time Council’s Watches could be disabled. After that, arrangements had been made to meet at Myleha’s to start putting together plans to prevent the future they saw from becoming real.