Five More Minutes
Liam listened to the spiel on the time-travel devices absently. He was only here because of Robin, who said he was too scared to do anything outside his pampered enclave. “You’ve never gone beyond the gates, even for schooling.” He’d show her. He wasn’t afraid — there was just nothing in the current world of any real interest.
Had it been a set-up, all along? He didn’t think she’d mentioned time-travel, but when he arrived at the sales floor, the salesman seemed to expect him, even calling him by name. Maybe that was just part of the mystique — send the records from the end of each day back to the start. It was a neat trick, anyway.
The salesman fixed earnest blue eyes on Liam. He looked vaguely familiar, which probably meant Liam had run into his family in the enclave, even if Liam hadn’t met the salesman himself. With that chin, the salesman might even be a cousin Liam had never met. “You’re sure you understand how the recall works? And the time-delay circuit?”
Liam stifled a yawn. There were exactly three buttons on the device — go, recall, and delay. Go sent him into the past, recall returned him if he wanted to come back sooner than programmed, and delay extended the duration in the past. Simple. He could have operated this when he was still a toddler. “I’m sure.”
“I have to ask,” the salesman said apologetically. “There are rules.”
Of course there were.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Now he thought back on that encounter. He hadn’t expected to fall in love while in the past. He’d never heard of such a thing. Yet here he was on a bench in New York’s Central Park, watching joggers and dog-walkers pass, waiting for Angela, and worrying about how long he had.
The programmed return time from the past wasn’t always convenient — it would never do for a traveler to disappear in front of people. Hence the time-delay circuit. The device would vibrate and flash a minute or two before recall, giving the traveler enough time to press the delay button if necessary.
Liam had already delayed twice. He wasn’t ready to leave Angela; he wasn’t sure he ever would be.
He should have paid more attention to the details. Now he turned over the device in his pocket, trying to remember how the failsafe worked, how long he could continue to delay.
He’d been distracted, hadn’t noticed Angela’s approach. He stood up to greet her, smiling as he met her cerulean eyes. “Sorry, my sweet. I was just thinking about the future.”
Her perfectly arched brow raised. “Oh?”
She was too much of a lady to ask whether that future included her.
In his pocket, the device vibrated again. Liam slipped his hand around the device and pressed the time-delay button for the third time. Just a little longer.
The metal crumpled in his hand. He pulled it out and looked at it.
“What’s that?” Angela asked.
He shook his head and tossed it into the trash can next to the bench. “Nothing.”
That was what he’d missed in the salesman’s speech — the device wouldn’t work indefinitely. He’d have to leave an “I told you so” letter in trust for Robin to read. Later. Right now, he had exactly what he wanted — more time.
The rest of his life with Angela.
— THE END —
My blog is participating in the Forward Motion Flash Friday Blog Group, a weekly flash fiction exercise (not that I’m managing weekly!). Check out the other participating blogs for more flash.
This week’s flash was inspired by my desire to stay in bed this morning. (Of course.)