Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Time Machine

"For a time my brain went stagnant. Presently I got up and came through the passage here, limping, because my heel was still painful, and feeling sorely begrimed. I saw the Pall Mall Gazette on the table by the door. I found the date was indeed to-day, and looking at the timepiece, saw the hour was almost eight o'clock. I heard your voices and the clatter of plates. I hesitated - I felt so sick and weak. Then I sniffed good wholesome meat, and opened the door on you. You know the rest. I washed, and dined, and now I am telling you the story."

"Is that all?" I enquired. "Assuming, of course, that you are to be believed, Mr. ______. I can neither confirm nor deny your tale, entertaining as it is; I cannot, however, rid myself of some sensation that you are withholding on some information - maybe even something you have deliberately left out of your recollections?"

For the first time since he had started speaking some time previously, the Time Traveller seemed perturbed. I fancied I had struck some nerve that he was expecting to remain untouched. After a few heavy seconds, he seemed to regain his composure.

"You are correct," he told me. "There is - there is something else that I experienced during my travels. I will, if you wish it, recount my experience, although before I do so, I must apologise in any advance for profanities. Although I do not intend to offend, in the interests of science, I may do so." And he took a deep breath.

"I have informed you, of course, that at what I assume to be the end of Time, and the death of Earth, I observed no sign of life, save a small, football-sized tentacled creature near the shore of the stagnant sea? In my weariness, my torpor, I could not help but feel a sense, not of fascination, but melancholy. Were this to be the future of our planet, surely some vestige of humanity should live to see it - but there was no sign. I did not, I felt, have the right to be alone for this apocalyptic vista.

"I could have returned to the time I first visited - perhaps to bring some Eloi, or Morlock, with me, to show them what was to happen millions of years hence? However, I rationalised this to be a foolish notion, for neither Eloi nor Morlock would have any vested interest as I did, and I wished to cause no further harm to those rival factions, having meddled as I had during my first visit.

"I returned to my machine and took myself back several thousand years. Once again I found myself looking out at the blood-red shoreline, the steady ebb and flow of the tide oddly calming when compared to the silence I had just experienced. A swift glance around ascertained that none of the monstrous crabs I had nearly fallen prey to were in close proximity. Removing my levers, taking them in my pocket lest an accidental movement by some creature may rob me of my Time Machine, I left the vehicle and set off inland, following the course of a river branching in from the sea.

"For how long I ventured and where I came to, I have very little recollection. I was not expecting to find much: some version of humanity, maybe even mammal life, was not going to be a likely find, in this world ruled by crustaceans and arthropods. But I continued my journey, through curiosity rather than hope.

"Eventually, fatigued and despondent, I lay down upon the lichenous vegetation and fell into an uneasy slumber. My rest was fitful and my dreams somewhat... unfit for mixed company, if you catch my drift. I was, in my mind, reunited with Weena - my Weena. Her stark beauty and the grace with which she moved her body was the stern fixation of my eyes; she was more beautiful and yet more terrifying than the real Weena in my memory, but no less desirable.

"When I awoke, I was delirious with a wanton sense of arousal which I had rarely felt before. My eyes alighted upon a queer sight - the huge butterflies, one of which I had noticed the previous day, were flocking above me, dancing in the thin air akin to a murmuration of starlings. The effect was somewhat dazzling, yet served in no way to quench my desire. I theorised, at that time, that all I needed was relief, and so I was going to have to serve myself.

"I pulled down my trousers and perched upon a rock on to which the lichen had not yet encroached. Taking hold of my shaft with one hand, I felt an unfamiliar - but pleasant - throbbing sensation beating a steady tattoo upon my palm. With a mixture of excitement and agitation, I closed my hand into a fist and began to work my foreskin back and forth, the friction building up only serving to exacerbate the first pleasurable feelings I had had since departing the Eloi complex with my Weena. The memory of her, still fresh in my mind from the dream and undulating in front of my eyes whenever I closed them, caused my heart to beat audibly. The loudest sound, perhaps, in this dying world.

"Ridiculous as this recollection may sound, I was giving in to my baser instincts. My cock - I said," as I blanched, "that I apologised for any profanity, but I must continue my story. My cock had taken control of the rest of my body. The twitch and spasm was too much for me after all my experiences, and the size to which it had grown seemed to be not enough. I felt as if it should swell to double, triple, quadruple its size, and continue to expand, as if to fill all the space in this dull, flat world. For a moment, nothing was quite enough."

There was a pause in which the Time Traveller's eyes glazed over. After five loud ticks from the grandfather clock in the hallway, he cleared his throat.

"I can't explain what became of me," he began, "only that I gave way to my feelings of lust. I emptied myself upon the ground. I was the last, you see, if you assume Onan to be the first." He almost smiled, allowing himself a joke.

"I had expected the butterflies to flee as I cried out, but they did not. I pulled myself together and retreated from my spot, beginning to make my way back down towards the sea, my lever clutched as firmly in my hand as my shaft had been earlier. I was momentarily distracted, however, by the flurry of wings behind me, and saw - with something approaching fascination - that the butterflies had descended to the ground, and were engaged in some sort of tussle, exactly around the spot at which my emissions lay. Interested though I was, I dared not encroach, in case these winged beasts were sapient or aggressive, and briskly made my way back to the beach.

"With relief, as evening drew in, I spotted my Time Machine, untouched. One of the titanic crabs was scuttling along the beach, so I took the last few metres at a sprint, re-attaching my lever and pulling myself back into the stream of Time before it could react."

"Is that all you left out?" enquired the Medical Man. "That you gave yourself over to Onanism in the last days of Earth?"

"There is one more thing," the Time Traveller said, with a hint of admission in his voice. "Before returning to the present, and recounting my adventures as I have been doing to-day, I ventured once more to the spot at the end of the world, wanting one final look out at the red sun over a dark sea. Once again, I ruminated in the silence, and breathed heavily in the thin air. Only this time, I was no longer alone.

"I saw her in the twilight, just before I left. I would hesitate to call her human, but she certainly looked familiar. She flitted across the streaked, dusky sky on glowing white wings, with breasts, legs and abdomen all on show. I watched this angelic creature - a light in a dark world - flutter off until she disappeared over the horizon, checked that the flowers Weena had given me were still in my pocket, and then returned to you to-day.

"To you, of course, that may seem another unreal fantasy. To me, it happened nary an hour or two ago."

*

At the risk of disappointing Richardson I stayed on, waiting for the Time Traveller; waiting for the second, perhaps still stranger story, and the specimens and photographs he would bring with him. But I am beginning now to fear that I must wait a lifetime. The Time Traveller vanished three years ago, leaving but a single note:

Gone to find my daughter.

And, as everybody knows now, he has never returned.

[With apologies to HG Wells, in prudent admiration.]

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