One morning he came home from work looking ten years older, with faded scars where there were none last night, but his skewed grin was just the same, if not wilder. He burst through the door and grabbed her arms, and through softly stinking breath said, “Put on a pot for me, dear?” Then he collapsed into the easy chair.
She, the sweet and irritable housewife, made to her duty. With a pot swiftly rushing to a boil in the kitchen, she timidly came back into the living room and stared at her husband. “What happened to you? Your face!”
He looked up with haunted eyes that spoke of hardships and suffering that could not have been experienced in a single night working at the docks. His eyes, as pained as they were, smiled. His grin jagged his rough face and he tenderly took her hands again, “Dear, what I am about to ask of you may seem strange…” He drifted off for a moment, resumed, “…but humor me. You have to do it. I’ve influenced too much.” He sat back and closed his eyes, but not his mouth.
She looked at him and nodded numbly at his mumbling features, straining to retain in memory his requests: a bicycle in the living room, old work boots in front of the door, pencil on the floor at his feet, crook that hung picture frame, that jug of moonshine reserved for his side of the family on the television, turn the lock a quarter clockwise, open the drapes three inches wider, and place a vase on the floor by the door.
She did what he asked of her then brought the steaming pot of tea and placed it on the end table. She tentatively woke him with a warm hand on his shoulder. He blinked. Surveyed the living room. Looked at his watch, the pot of tea, and smiled, “Perfectly on time! You’re lovely. Now go smell the flowers you picked this morning, my dear. Go on.”
As she left down the long hall to the bedroom bloom of hydrangeas dying slowly and beautifully in its crystal vase, the Time Traveller bared a grin to regain composure and glanced at his chronoscope. It was go time. Dark visors glinted behind the drapes and he smiled tiredly through the waves of deja vu.
Thud, the forthcoming sequence of events was a bright map in his mind, memorized from hundreds of failures, and thud he would not fail now. Thud. He could not! He steeled himself for the ballet to come as the door shuddered and splintered. Thud! It cracked and split, the lock in its current angular position breaking through the cheap door to stave the black clad MP first through the door in the groin. He lurched forward and crashed into the vase, a piece cutting jagged under his visor to slice through a cheek, into an eye. He bled and howled.
The Time Traveler was up on his feet, pot of hot tea in hand, and hurled it at the next man to come through the door. A cloud of steam filtered the morning sunlight as the MP thrashed onto his fallen comrade and the door’s momentum was halted by the now violently squeaking work boots, placed there earlier by his wife. The door, its full swivel limited, bucked and bulged with the frustrated, frantic efforts of the remaining MPs. Finally, a round of gunfire shredded the door and tattooed the far wall.
The Time Traveler knew his wife was crouched under the bed, weathering the storm with tears of dismay and confusion. She would be okay. So far. He kicked the bicycle over and watched the following MP leap over his feebly struggling teammates, only to trip onto and through the twanging spokes. The other soldiers swarmed behind him, and he, struggling with the bicycle, sent a round through the ancient television set.
The Time Traveler smiled. It was all according to plan. The alcohol leaped like ghost plasma to wrap itself onto the remaining MPs with blue fire. The last MP in line ripped off his helmet, now crackling and blistering, and hurled it to the floor where it bounced to a stop outside the door. He fell backwards against the wall and just above, the crooked hanging frame, a family heirloom, broke loose, slipping its sheet of glass downward to precisely curl the flesh from his red-burned face.
The Time Traveler was on all fours, watching, huddled on the floor and grinning like a madman. He lapped at the moonshine unlicked by flame. His face capered, tongue agog. His eyes rolled drunken paths in their sockets. He chortled, barked. Furiously, the soldier in the bicycle wrested himself free and with a roar leaped at the source of his misery. A solid jackboot met the pencil and lost its friction. The MP went down at a bad angle and did not move again.
The Time Traveler swiped at his glistening brow, his normal demeanor returning. He had done it! In each and every iteration, there was a miscalculation. A life lost, hers, or his, almost. He had to hurry. The unknown was spread ahead now, an entirely new vista, and he had no desire to rehearse life further. A sobbing from behind, wafting in the atmosphere like the scent of freshly rotted fruit. In his moment of triumph, he had almost forgotten the reason he had suffered so. He turned tenderly towards her.
“H-how did you know this would happen?” his wife, lovely despite all that blubber, gasped. He bent his head. This was different; she was watching! Did he make her perplexingly brave, courage seeping through the seams of experience from all these repeated moments? “Trial and error, babe. Mainly error,” he said, looking at her with so much anguish that she wanted to cry again. Then his grin split open again and her slit tingled a smile into her face.
The Time Traveler stretched his arm out and took her hand. He was still smiling when he said, “The world is as clay. The wonders I have to show you!” He kissed her hand, and a line of saliva glistened like spider silk in morning dewlight. A question dangled from the eyes that peered up. “Will you come with me?”
Shell-shocked, doe-faced, slack mouthed she, hands a-clasped at her breasts, nodded. His smile seemed to race higher through the frequencies, and she almost had to squint. He spun on his heel, and did a crazy little jig. A soldier, groaning awake, raised his head. The Time Traveler’s boot caught him square on the forehead, and it returned to the floor with a solid thud. She giggled at the cartoonish open-jawed expression of surprise that had replaced the elation on her husband’s face. He sobered up, spread his arms out, and his smile lazily returned. He spoke softly.
“Narcissistic reality, paralyzed with its own beauty against its own waters. The hall of mirrors. A gigantic vanity, woman’s dream. Come. Time is just not a dimension, you see; it’s also a place, a plane of places. That being said, we got a plane to catch!” He chuckled, peering into his chronoscope. “How I crack myself up!”