Monday, January 10, 2011


By Jason Campbell

Dressed? Probably a good idea, you think to yourself as you slide the door open one more time. The three men haven’t noticed the time machine yet, but it won’t be long until you’re in full view. The compartment with the clothes slides open easily enough. Once you have the clothes spread out, you begin to rethink the idea of getting dressed.

“Pantaloons? Frilly shirts? Where the hell are the Nike and Christian Audigier?” You ask Thomas.

“Don’t you think you might stick out just a little wearing modern clothing in the 1700s?” He responds with his usual snobby attitude. “You really are a douche, aren’t you?”

Ignoring his remarks, you dress yourself in these God-forsaken clothes. It’s only slightly better than being naked. Outside the machine you can hear a horse neigh nearby. The three men are getting closer.

Avons-nous côté avec le roi?” asks one of the men.

“French? They’re speaking French!” you say, holding the transmitter to your mouth. “How the hell am I supposed to communicate?!”

Did you forget my warning not to fuck up history? No talking to anyone!” Nubleman’s voice explodes from the speaker in your pocket. It’s a little unnerving to hear your crotch talking to you. “But on the off chance you have to, second compartment down from the clothes you’ll find what looks like a small bandage. It’s a universal translator. Stick it to your neck and it will not only translate what they are saying, but it will translate your Neanderthal speech to them.”

The voices are even closer now; time is running out. You slap on the translator and prepare to step out the door to try and hide the machine. It’s then you realize that there is no material close by with which to disguise it. You glance around the side of the machine and realize that you are precariously balanced at the top of a tall hill. Without giving a thought to how this might turn out, you step back into the Time Machine and begin rocking it back and forth.

“Please don’t tip forward,” you whisper.

What?” comes Thomas’ voice dripping with concern.

“Ahh…nothing,” you say as you slam your shoulder into the back of the machine. You feel it begin to tip backwards. Everything seems to be happening in slow motion. The heads of the men appear at the top of the hill as you punch the button to close the door. Your vertical world is all of sudden diagonal, then horizontal.

“Oh shit!” You shout as your body slams against the back wall. Gravity is a bitch and now she is taking her vengeance on you. Tossed around like a two-dollar salad at the local buffet, your body is pitched back and forth across the machine as it rolls down the hill. The blood stain of some poor critter appears on the outside of the glass walls.

Damn, I hope that doesn’t affect the space/time continuum, you think to yourself.

The machine continues to pick up speed and so does your stomach. It lurches once, twice, and then you feel the inevitable kick of your stomach trying to empty its contents. Swallowing, you fight back the gag reflex. That would have been nasty.

The machine seems to have hit a flat spot as the bounces don’t seem quite as violent. You try and catch a glimpse of the landscape but all you see is a blur of green, then blue, then green, then blue. This ride has to stop soon. As if someone heard your silent wish, the machine rolls to a stop…and then begins to fill with water.

“You’ve got to be shittin’ me! Can anything else go wrong?”

What, WHAT?” Thomas is screaming into the speaker, “What have you done to my machine?”

“Nothing, why?” You respond while desperately reaching for the door button. The door slides silently open and you hop out and into a foot of water. The machine comes to a rest at the edge of small pond. Slipping behind the machine and about a foot deeper in the water, you begin pushing the machine out of the water.

Why do I hear the sloshing of water?” Thomas asks in a panicked voice.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m dealing with it.”

Dealing with what?”

Ignoring Nubleman’s wailing, you manage to, with some effort and a lot of grunting, roll the time machine out of the pond and behind a stand of bushes. Stuck in 18th century France, you wonder what to do to kill an hour. I’m sure if Nubleman was here, he would just be sitting hidden in the trees, observing like some sort of voyeuristic bird-watcher. You seemed to have rolled to a stop in the middle of some peasant’s farm. Walking over to the fence, you hear the distinctive sound of metal crashing against metal. Could it be? Swords? A duel? They had those in the past right?

You vault over the fence like some fourteen year old Olympic gymnast and take off at a sprint towards the sound. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot the three men that you saw earlier. It appears at some point they have dismounted their horses. Maybe you didn’t get away as cleanly as you thought. They seem to be walking with a purpose straight towards you. Somewhere around the next corner the sword fight seems to be taking place. You pick up the pace and disappear out of sight of the three men.

With a fist pump and a mental Yes!, you find that there is a duel happening. The younger of the two men is dressed like the three men from the hill. The other is a little older and is dressed somewhat similar but in darker colors.

“Is a girl really that important to lose your life over?” Says the older man.

“I plan to ask for her hand in marriage,” replies the younger man. “Now let’s begin.” Without warning the older man’s blade flashes out, but just misses as the young man snaps his head to the side. The younger man thrusts back, cutting through a layer of the other man’s coat. It’s like a car wreck; you just can’t stop watching.

A sound somewhere behind you reminds you that the three men are still following you. It looks like today’s entertainment is going to be cut short. You figure with a quick jog you can get around the next curve, slip back up the hill and back down to the time machine without the three men being the wiser.

What is that sound?” Nubleman interjects as if he just woke up. “Tell me it’s not the time machine. It sounds like a sword fight. Tell me you didn’t start a sword fight!”

“Shhh…” you whisper at your pocket. “There are people around!” Your warning comes seconds too late as the older man is distracted. The young man takes advantage of the interruption and skewers his opponent. The life in the older man’s eyes disappears. At the same time the three men come around the corner.

“Stop!” They shout in unison at you -- or you are assuming at you. The young man is confused and turns to you.

“You saw, it was a fair fight. Tell them it was a fair duel.” He pleads with you.

“I think they want me,” you answer.

“Why, what did you do?”

“Nothing I know of.”

“Come with me,” he says, “I might be able to help. By the way, my name is Napoleon.”

Bonaparte?!” Both you and your pocket say.

Will you...

A: Take your chances with trying to outrun the three men following and make your way back to the time machine later?

B: Pick up the older man’s sword and prepare to fight your way back to the time machine?

C: Follow Napoleon and hope that your interference doesn’t change the course of history?