A story focused on the theme of ‘the future’, by Jordanna Clark. It’s a story that centres arounds Lacie, and her struggle to triumph against time and fate itself. This story was the winner of Albert’s Creative Writing competition in February ’16.
Introduction from the author:
The short story format was different to work with, as I’ve only ever written longer pieces before. It was a challenge to fit everything I wanted in, but I had to make quite a few sacrifices! I wish I could have made the world seem more futuristic, but I had to save my time for the character and their development, so the narrative became much more focused on Lacie’s inward struggle and feelings.
While writing, I like listening to instrumental pieces for inspiration. For ‘Their Time’, I listened to ‘Between the Cracks’, by Nexus, a piano piece that sounds quite anxious and gets more and more intense over its short two minutes. It encapsulated the climbing sort of climax I was aiming for towards the end of the story, and helped me envision what I wanted to convey as I was writing.
When it came to the ending, I wanted to do something that was inevitable with the way the story was set up, but also was understandable and provided closure while leaving a lasting impact. I hope it succeeded!
It had been a week ago that Lacie and Riley had been in the office, picking through their findings on the time travel machine.
“It would seem that some events are set in stone, so to speak,” Riley had decided, keen eyes flicking over the documents he’d pulled up on his touch screen. “No matter what we do, things will always turn out the same way.”
Lacie had frowned at the screen, wrapping her arms around his shoulders from behind. “That so?” she’d hummed, her fingers finding the folds in his shirt. “And we’ve tried it enough times to be sure?”
“Yep. The Forget-me-not growing in the lab died no matter what I did. If I forgot to water it, it died. If I watered it, it was eaten by insects. If I sprayed it, I’d find that it wasn’t getting enough sunlight. If I moved it, it’d somehow end up moved back to its original position.”
“Oops, that might have been me,” Lacie had laughed, kissing his cheek. “I couldn’t see it from where I was working, so…”
Riley had rolled his eyes at that, his lips breaking into a smile anyway. “Of course it was you. It just kept dying…I wonder if that extends to people. Have you ever heard the saying-”
“’It was their time’?”
“That’s the one. I’m starting to believe there’s some truth to it. Of course, I’d need to research it…”
Lacie had laughed again as she spun him around on his chair and dragged him up by his tie. “Okay, but that’s enough research for one day. Let’s go home. No need to waste all of our precious time on work.”
“We could always wind it back and get some more.”
“Please, I’m young. I don’t need to rewind time just yet.”
That had been just a week ago, and here she was now. The yellow caution tape looked foreign next to their workplace. She was frozen while a policeman stood in front of her, trying to explain what had happened. Her frazzled mind barely caught any of it. “Mugging attempt turned violent,” she heard. “We got an anonymous tip…one gunshot wound…Forget-me-not flowers found…reported a woman and two men fleeing the scene…got here as fast as we could…”
A sob erupted from Lacie’s throat, loud enough that she covered her mouth to muffle it. Riley was beyond her view; she couldn’t see his body and she didn’t know if she wanted to. He’d only left for a break. She trembled at the news, the image of the Forget-me-nots found with him. She had some in her breast pocket, their heads popping up like eager birds from where he’d gifted her some cuttings this morning. The person who’d done this had to have known him. Why else would they have left them there?
“I-I have to go,” she forced out as she turned on her heel and fled. The time machine was at the office, in the lab. Maybe she could turn back the clock and stop him leaving.
She ran until her heart was pounding in her chest and her stomach was heaving like an ocean in a storm. The machine wasn’t finished yet, she had no idea what could come from her intervention. She slammed into the office and took the stairs to the lab two at a time, nearly tripping as she went.
The machine was like a large tin can – unrefined and still in its first stages. It was impossible to travel very far back with it; Riley had managed two weeks at most. Lacie didn’t need weeks, she needed hours. Stepping inside it, she turned the dials with shaking hands. That would give her at least two hours to stop him leaving the office.
“I can do this,” she whispered, the words a prayer as her fingers hovered over the start up button. Her breathing quick, she slammed them down. The power button only lit up three times in succession, signalling it didn’t have the required energy.
“No…” she breathed, but of course it didn’t have the power to do that. Riley had been working with it constantly. It hadn’t been charging. Waiting was an option; all she had to do was hook it back up to the mains.
But no. She had to go now. Every second she waited was another second Riley was gone and already she was burning up from the inside out. Calculations began. She probably only had enough power left for two short journeys.
Going back was no guarantee; things could still turn sour regardless of what she did. Instead of stopping him leaving the office, she’d just have to stop the events in the alley.
Heart in her throat, she turned the dials again, and then hit the button. Lacie lurched forward as the machine shuddered around her. It worked by taking the place of itself in the past, meaning that even if she went back, the one with more battery power would be replaced. It also meant that, in the future, when they figured out how to go back further, they would never be able to traverse beyond the day they had created the machine. Riley had always said that it was a good thing, that the main events of their past should never be messed with.
When the lumbering machine came to a stop, Lacie stepped out on her still quaking legs. She looked at the clock, and then looked again. That wasn’t an hour and a half previous to the time she’d left in; it was an hour.
She turned around, kicking the machine with all her might as she screamed. How dare it perform fine when doing all of Riley’s half tests on flowers only to screw up now? God, what was she doing? She needed to be at the crime scene.
The gunshot was like a bell as she reached the alley, ringing out across the street and spreading wide, rippling. Her stomach sunk as she covered her mouth. She couldn’t scream; not when the assailant was still in the dark of the alley.