This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 846 words.
As they were leaving, Emily walked up and touched Roger’s shoulder. “Please come back tomorrow, you can telephone the house and Riku will collect you, or just drive over anytime”.
The drive back to Delia’s house was quiet. Yamada didn’t say anything, and Delia sat holding Roger’s hand very tightly. When they got back inside her house, Roger asked why she had wanted to leave.
“If what she is telling us is true, then she knows everything. Wars, famine, disasters, even the dates we will both die. I don’t want to know all that my love, I don’t want to sit anticipating terrible events, knowing they are going to occur when she told us they would. It is too much, it really is. I wish I had never heard what we have already been told. I feel drained, can we just go to bed and go to sleep now?”
Delia was genuinely exhausted and was soon sleeping soundly. Roger was far too excited to sleep. He had not questioned a thing they had been told, because he instinctively believed it was all true. As an historian, he had spent his life looking back into the past, but now he could do the opposite, he could know what was going to happen, not just what had already happened. And if they had been travelling back for centuries, imagine the depth of the first-hand experiences they might have. They could have stood on the Forum in Rome, or watched the Pyramids being constructed in Egypt.
He was going back, and nothing would stop him.
On the morning of Boxing Day, Delia was calmer. As she served up some breakfast, Roger told her he was going back as soon as they had eaten. He expected an argument, perhaps even a tantrum. Delia gently stroked his face. “You go, my love. Go and discover what you need to know, but please come back to me tonight and tell me some of it. But not all of it. I don’t want to know about any more terrible things, and I definitely don’t want to know when I will die”.
The gates were already open, so Roger drove straight in. Yamada opened the door and waved. “She’s waiting for you”.
Emily was standing in the hallway wearing pyjamas with a penguin pattern. That made her look much younger. There were no formalities or pleasantries. “You must want to know how it works, so follow me and I will show you”. Yamada remained in the living room. They must have decided that Emily had no need of a chaperone. Along the corridor where the doors had been locked, she opened one and he walked in behind her. The room was around twelve feet square, and empty. When she passed her hand over the blank wall at the back, a blue light came on, shimmering and cascading. It reminded Roger of a waterfall, but made no sound.
“This is a portal. It leads back to when I was eleven in my own time. We can only bring through what we can carry, but we can make unlimited trips. The main thing I have to explain to you is the difference in time. Not just in years, but in the way it works. I have been living in your time since I was eight years old, so just over three years. But in my time that is a moment, a heartbeat. When I go through the light and back into myself at the age of eleven, it is as if no time has passed. And there is another portal there that takes me back to any time in my life I choose, and eventually back to my older body, in stasis. Once I choose to return to that, I live again as a woman of eighty. Do you understand?”
Roger was nodding, but inside he was still trying to grasp what she was saying. She sensed that.
“Look at it like this. I have aged three years in your time. I have grown up, and gone from the ages of eight to eleven. But all I have actually done is to inhabit your time as myself at those ages. In reality, I have not aged here at all, and never will. Where I come from, age is relative. Our bodies age a little, but not as people do in your time. There is no disease, and regeneration by foetal cell implantation is usual. Before travelling back, we have to undergo extensive vaccination procedures, as we otherwise have no resistance to the diseases of the time we choose to go to. If we die in the past, we do not exist in the future. That is our dilemma, and the risk we must take”.
The pounding in his head was becoming something like a migraine, and Roger tried to fight the discomfort. Emily mistook that for confusion. “You do not seem convinced. So I will show you something that might help you to believe me”.
With that, she walked through the blue light into the portal and disappeared.