The Jaws of Time

Image of Short Story
I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. It was all a misunderstanding. I never should have messed with the time machine without Dr Chen. Before I explain how we got ourselves into this mess, I’d like to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Valencia Soto, and I’m a student at UT Arlington. I’m a petroleum geology major, but I’m interested in physics. My best friend is Tara Klein. She’s majoring in English and she reads way too many sci-fi novels. We are two sophomores who are in way over our heads. To explain our situation, let’s go back to where it all started.
It was 12:20 and my paleontology class just ended. I walked to my professor, Dr Johansen, to ask a few questions about Cretaceous fossils. She was a stout woman with shoulder-length gray hair. She looks intimidating, but she’s very kind and passionate about her work.
I was about to ask a question when someone behind me yelled, “ Hey Valencia!” I turned around and saw Tara jumping with excitement. “What did you find this time?” I asked knowing how excitable she is.
“Come!” she said as she took my hand and tried to pull me out the door.
“Could you please give me a minute so I can ask a question?”
“Oh ok,” Tara relented. She tapped her foot impatiently while I was talking with Dr Johansen.
When I finished Tara said, “Ok, let’s go now,” and she pulled me halfway across the room.
“Wait,” Dr Johansen said. We both stopped. She had a concerned look on her face. “Be careful,” she told us before addressing the next student.
Tara ran so fast that I could barely keep up with her.
“Come on, let’s do this!” she squealed. Her black curls gleamed in the sunlight. I stopped, and she nearly pulled my arm out.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked her. “If I understood Dr Chen’s lecture from Friday, then many things can go wrong.”
Tara rolled her eyes. “If this really is a time machine then we can solve all the mysteries of the world, we could get rich, and so much more! Don’t you realize the potential here?”
The look on Tara’s face told me there was no arguing with her. “Fine,” I relented. We went inside Science Hall and up two flights of stairs. We ran down the hallway and stopped in front of a door with a radiation warning, Dr Chen’s lab.
“Ok, let’s go in!” Tara said, a mischievous look in her eyes.
“I already made my objections clear, but by all means it’s your funeral,” I said as I put in the code and opened the door.
Inside, the countertops were cluttered with papers and glassware.
“Are you sure it’s in here?” Tara asked.
“It’s in the back room,” I said pointing to the other door. I walked over and opened the door.
It was dark inside. Using the light of my phone, I found the right buttons and turned the dial. The room hummed and glowed blue.
The glow faded and the room got quiet. In a daze I walked out of the room into the hallway. My gut instinct told me that I was still at UTA, but everything was different. I walked outside and realized that many of the buildings were missing. It was strange how a place that was so familiar could be so alien. I walked around until I found myself standing in front of the UC.
A boy was handing out the Shorthorn. I took one and looked at the date. My stomach dropped to the floor. The year was 1962. How was this possible? I only meant to go back to last week!
I stared dumbfounded at the paper until someone behind me said, “Are you ok?” I turned around and saw a pretty girl with brown hair wearing a blue dress.
“It’s ok, I’m just lost.” I replied. The look she gave me was strangely familiar. “I’m Valencia” I said offering my hand.
She shook and said, “I’m Caroline.” Then she walked away saying, “I have class, I’ll see you later.”
“Wait, which class?”
“I’m in that class too! Do you mind if I bring my friend with me?”
Caroline gave me a funny look. I looked behind me and was hit by a wave of pure panic. Tara was missing.
“Tara?” I asked tentatively. How could this be? She should have been right behind me. As my mind was buzzing, Caroline walked towards the Geoscience Building. I went the other way. I looked for Tara everywhere, but in vain. I noticed people giving me funny looks as I was searching. It occurred to me that I must look really out of place with my jeans and F1 shirt. I eventually found myself in the Geoscience Building having all but given up. A bunch of students walked out of the room across the hall, and I decided to walk in having no better idea. It was the same room that my paleontology lecture had been in not too long ago, or really 60 years from now. Goodness, time travel makes things complicated. The projector was gone, and a chalkboard was in the place of the white board. I couldn’t find Tara, but I saw Caroline getting up to leave.
She saw me and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for my friend, but she isn’t here. I’ll go look elsewhere.”
I turned to leave when Caroline said, “Wait, maybe I can help.” She walked outside with me. A tall, handsome guy came and hugged her.
“Eric! I’m so glad to see you!”
“Hello Caroline, you’re as beautiful as ever. Who’s this new friend of yours?” he asked looking at me.
“I’m Valencia, and I’m looking for my friend.”
Caroline said, “This is my boyfriend, Eric Johansen. Maybe he can help us look.”
Before I could respond someone yelled, “Valencia! Over here!” I looked to see Tara running to me.
“Tara! What happened? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
“I don’t know! When the lights dimmed you were gone. I thought we were only going back to last week.”
“I thought so too, but I clearly misunderstood Dr Chen when she said...” I trailed off as I noticed the blank stares from Caroline and Eric.
Caroline finally broke the silence, “So you two are from the future?”
Tara blushed, “Um, I guess so.”
“That’s so cool!” Eric exclaimed. “How did you do it?”
“Well,” I said hesitantly “there were these two parallel plates and a negative core. The energy generated can tear a hole in space time. I’ve been helping Dr Chen with her research, but even I don’t understand what she was working on.”
“Are you really from the future?” Caroline asked.
“Yes, we came from UT Arlington in 2022.”
“Actually, this is Arlington State College.” Eric responded.
“I’m glad you found each other, but we have a date tonight at the football game!” Caroline said. “Go Rebels!”
We stared at them. “That’s impossible! There’s no football team!” Tara remarked.
“No football team! That’s not a good future!” Eric remarked.
“Anyway, let’s get back to the time machine so I can fix this,” I said.
“Wait,” Eric said, “Can I see it?”
We stared at each other. “Sure, but be careful,” I told him.
“This sounds dangerous,” Caroline said.
“How many times will you get to see a time machine?” Eric responded.
Caroline relented and followed us to the Science Building. We went up to the room from before. I tried the door, but it was locked. Unfortunately the keypad was gone and instead there was a key hole.
“Well, how do we get in?” I asked.
“Richard showed me how to pick the lock,” Tara said pulling two thin rods out of her bag. A few minutes later the door opened.
We walked to the back room, which was the same as before. Eric was admiring the whole set up. “I can’t believe it! This is so amazing!”
“It’s also incredibly dangerous,” Caroline added.
“It was nice meeting you,” I said, “but I’d like to go home now.”
“Of course,” Eric said. He and Caroline walked out the door.
Just before she closed the door Caroline looked at us with concern and said, “Be careful.”
With a shock I realized why she seemed so familiar. She was Dr Johansen! Or she will be in the future.
I turned the dials and prayed that I was doing it right. The room glowed and hummed.
Something’s wrong. The lights dimmed and there was a rancid smell. I opened the door and ran out coughing. We were surrounded by weird looking trees. I heard a hum, and I turned to see the time machine disappear. My heart stopped. We looked at each other as reality hit us. Home was millions of years away.