The name once held meaning to me. Morris. What was once my last name echoes through intangible walls of eternity, spoken by thousands of voices, from childhood to my last days in nineteen eighty-six.
The day the temporal radiation caught up to me.
In my previous existence, I remember that I was the chief engineer for VisionPark’s World of Time attraction. Walcott had conjured the idea after a late-night drunken viewing of George Pal’s The Time Machine. While Walcott’s imagination wrestled with how to bring the experience of traveling through time to the Odessa, Texas masses, my mind was on what Yvette Mimieux was wearing under her pink dress.
“Surely, underwear would be phased out in a utopian future, no?” I remember asking.
I remember asking …
I remember asking how severe the radiation in my body was. I had only stepped through the tear and into the future for a moment. It couldn’t possibly be enough to kill me. I remember the doctor’s face, a blend of confusion and genuine worry. I remember his answer: “I don’t know, Roger.”
My name was Roger …
I remember …
“What are his options?” my wife asks. When the doctor fails to give her any, I submit all my saved sick leave, and spend the remaining months of my life wasting away at our vacation home in Corpus Christi.
Is there anything I can do for you?
I remember my wife asking that. Numerous times. Over the last months of life in this form. All she could do was provide meals, comfort, and tell me stories of our time together, as my memory began to fade, the radiation ravaging my body.
My beautiful wife. Aging yet ageless, as I hurtle through time. I see her young. I see her older. I see her as my angel and redeemer. I see her as my anchor.
At my bedside. Holding my hand. The feel of her warm, soft skin. The smell of her perfume. She wore my favorite every day. Towards the end.
Peale visits often. As does Walcott.
I remember asking …
“Is it because I went through?”
Peale nods. I knew my hands-on approach to creating a theme park ride worthy of H. G. Wells himself would backfire. We created a relative facsimile. A quantum of true time travel.
The tunnel itself allowed an experience that, to our workers handling the ride and to those enjoying it, appeared staged, through a mixture of animatronics and screen-projected imagery.
I remember …
“Can they tell the difference?” Walcott asks, watching the first few people through the ride. They had an adrenaline high and were exploding with excitement.
“They believe what they want to believe. There’s no limit when it comes to the magic the human mind can conjure,” I said, listening to the positive feedback of the park’s first few visitors through The Time Tunnel.
I remember asking …
“Where is the tear?” as I stand inside The Time Tunnel, over a decade of wear and tear to the material of the structure itself. It had been abnormally hot in the tunnel, and I took it upon myself to investigate, after a few of our staff complained.
Walcott was with me, and once I traced the source of the split in the seam between the tunnel’s outer structure, comprised of conductive metals, mostly alloys in an effort to harness and focus the tachyon emissions required to make the tunnel work. The fabric-nylon composite material we used was meant to be tear-resistant.
This was not the case.
As I investigate, I notice another tear. This one, through time and space itself.
Though the ride was shut down, and no electricity surged through it, a spectacular light and heat seemed to explode from the paneling beyond the one-foot tear in the protective seal between the ride itself and the actual time apparatus.
Intense, unfathomable heat beamed through. Human desire overwhelmed me. I had to look upon the world beyond with my own eyes. I had to see the future for myself.
I cracked the code. It seemed only fair.
I stepped inside …
One imagines something of a shock stepping from one reality to another. Some sort of friction that overwhelms the heart, the mind or both.
Gravitational forces stressing the body far beyond it’s possible limit.
There were no gravitational forces.
There was a passing notion of friction. There was heat.
And blinding light.
Intense light, and impossible color, as though a box of crayons melted in the summer sun, swirling around me. The madness disoriented and confused, but it was momentary. I slipped through the gossamer threads of dimensional nebula and found myself on the shore of a great purple ocean.
This part of the ride was always the younger kids’ favorite. There is always a direct correlation between the age of a child and their obsession with giant, terrifying monsters.
The future …
The vast violet sea raged. I could almost taste the salinity of the ocean, and looking around, I remember soaking in the sights of impossible creatures.
The sun, hanging low, singed my skin, and I felt an almost immediate sunburn begin to singe my flesh. Sweat began to form on my temples, and when I wiped my brow, my sweat seemed to be the same color as the raging waters before me.
I watched as a cluster of enormous mantis shrimp stalked and killed a crab roughly twice their size. We knew the future would be terrifying but seeing these creatures only a hundred yards away was something else entirely.
The shrimp glowed in almost-neon brightness on the shore, blue, red, some green and purple, not unlike the ocean roaring mere feet from me.
I trembled at the enormity of the creatures.
I feel fear for the last time …
I am sitting in a chaise lounge near the pool in Corpus Christi. My wife is beside me, holding my hand. My breaths are labored. Speech is impossible. I have a vague recollection of pain, but my body has learned to ignore it.
She smells like heaven.
I pray for the last time …
The radiation is contained in my body. Of that, the doctors and scientists are certain. They are, however, less certain of what type of radiation this is. They’ve referred to it as “chronal” or “temporal,” with the obvious implication that it has to do with passing through the threads of time and space.
I am thankful that the tests have indicated that my wife has shown no trace of the radiation that is coursing through me.
They do not understand why …
My wife, beautiful in a way that is beyond words, looks into my eyes. She wears sunglasses to hide how puffy and red her own eyes are. Tears are common for her these days.
My tear ducts have gone dry. The drops I am given to keep my eyes moist are oily and leave white streaks down my cheeks once it dries.
I am stricken with an insane thirst which never gets quenched.
In our church, where our son was baptized, the same one we stopped visiting not long after, I sit alone in a pew. My wife waits outside in the car. I walk with a cane and resemble a seventy-five-year-old man, though I am only forty-two.
“What a time to be struck with religious terror,” I say aloud. The radiation has not yet claimed my ability to speak. I am not yet beside my wife by the pool, struggling to breathe.
I think of Wells. I think of Bradbury. I think of Irving. I think of Heinlein. Creative minds, like Walcott, who worked in the realm of time travel. All I did was step through a tear. I was only in the future for about twenty seconds.
I stare at Jesus on the cross.
That twenty seconds …
I am staring at the Time Tunnel. It is nine months before the opening of VisionPark. Walcott is worried it won’t work. We had successfully sent our ride vehicles through eighty times, each time with a camera to record the sights and sounds. Each time, we reviewed the images. Each time, the machine worked.
I remember asking …
“And so what if it doesn’t? We have the animatronics on standby, it’ll be fine, Walcott, you’ll see …”
We had cracked time and space. Standing on the shoulders of giants, we did it. Nuclear physics, combined with the astrophysics, mixed with a little theory and metallurgy and boom, time travel.
I am passing through time …
I am alone. Standing in the spot where I first entered the future. The tunnel is dark. The Realm of Time is closed. Time has ravaged the park. Nature has begun to reclaim the area. Cracks in the concrete and broken glass allow air into the ride where no openings existed previously.
Walking slowly, my footsteps echoing through The Realm of Time, I find discarded pamphlets, maps and gift shop items. Some have digital displays on them. They resemble alarm clocks, but not like anything in nineteen-eighty-six.
I see signs written in English, Spanish and other languages.
Advertisements for businesses I don’t recognize.
I am not breathing …
In the chaise lounge, my heart begins to seize. A great pressure forms in my chest, and my eyes go wide, as though they, too, should be able to take in air to remedy the raging pain in my upper body.
My wife is inside, getting a glass of water.
Staring into space, I see the tear. I clutch my chest, squeezing hard, but the tear becomes wider, hovering a few feet away from me. I feel the intensity of the heat. I see the ocean of purple. I hear the sounds of impossible creatures roaring.
Silently, I thank whatever god is out there that my wife isn’t here to watch me slip away.
I take one final deep breath and lean back in the chaise lounge. As I exhale, the pain evaporates from my body, and my eyes begin to lose focus, the outer edges of everything in my view becoming soft and dark.
The light of the tear washes over me.
I am gone …
I am outside The World of Time. The sky is dark. The desert stretches around me. The coldness of a Texas night feels good, even though I no longer have skin.
I am pure sensation.
I am a memory.
A memory of a man. An engineer. A man who worked hard to create a ride about time travel and through sheer luck, created time travel for real, even if in a limited capacity.
They’d never believe how real it all was …
Walcott would say that often. We’d share a beer after work and he’d marvel at how our team was able to truly create a way through time.
“Walcott, does it ever worry you? What we created here in VisionPark? What does that mean for us?”
I remember …
Walcott finishes his beer, wipes his face and smiles at me. “Roger Morris, my good man, it means only that you are still sane.”
Roger Morris …
A name that once held meaning but has since vanished. To time, to space.
My lifeless body sits in a chaise lounge by the pool in Corpus Christi.
I am approached to build a ride at VisionPark.
I create time travel.
The desert stretches before me.
The purple ocean stretches before me.
I watch my wife give birth to my son.
She sits at the bar, waiting for me. It is our first date.
I lift her veil on our wedding day.
I shake hands with Walcott for the first time.
A great expanse of white surrounds me. Color, unfathomable, bombards me. It is breathtaking in a way I have never experienced.
It is warm.
And I am whole.
Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, NY. He delights in the creepy. He can be found online at SpookyHousePress.com, or on Instagram (@RobertOttone). His collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night are available now wherever books are sold.