Dirk Sanders ran into his dad’s laboratory. “Dad, is the time machine finally working?” he asked excitedly.
Dr. William Sanders turned around. “The boxes of methane you found for me last week were a great help! We finally have enough energy to send one person back in time by thirty years maximum,” said Dr. Sanders enthusiastically. “And preliminary tests indicate that it should be working fine. In fact, I think I can send you back by tonight.”
Dirk’s face brightened. “It’s time then?”
“Yes, it’s time, son. Now, go to your room and pack your essentials.”
Dirk skipped back to his room, happy at the thought of travelling to the past.
They finished the evening meal of Nutri-Mix that the robot kitchen had prepared for them. It tasted horrible, but Dr. Sanders could hardly remember how good food tasted like anymore to consider it with a gourmet tongue. Dirk was too young to know the joys of food prepared with loving and creative human hands instead of cold, calculating automated instruments, and gobbled it up hungrily.
Now, Dirk,” reminded Dr. Sanders, “You must be extremely clear about your purpose when you travel to the past, because you won’t have an opportunity to return, and I won’t be able to constantly remind you about your mission. The world then was vastly different from the world now; we had all sorts of enjoyments and pleasures, not like the world today. Our world is almost uninhabitable, but their world is like a paradise, a utopia. When you get there, you would probably feel like you’d just travelled from hell to heaven.”
“Weren’t you already alive in those times?” asked Dirk curiously.
“I was, but I didn’t experience that age of prosperity for long,” his dad sighed. “The taste of chocolate ice-cream is one memory I still miss very much, to this very day. By the time I grew up into a man, fresh out of university with my Ph.D, the third world war had just begun and the effects of global warming had spun out of control.”
“So you started building this time machine so you could go back in time to prevent it all from happening?”
“I started to build this time machine with my other scientist friends a few years later, when we realised that no matter what we did, we could never restore Earth back to its former state,” said the doctor. “We had passed the proverbial turning point. Now, our earth is a toxic, radioactive wasteland, the human population ten percent of what it used to be, and more than half of us are sick.” He coughed.
“Are you okay, Dad?” asked Dirk, concerned.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just choked on some Nutri-Mix. Are your things packed?”
“Yes, dad,” said Dirk as he finished the last few scoops of Nutri-Mix.
“I’ve prepared you for this moment for months now,” said the elderly man. “I’m old and weary, but you, I’ve made sure you’ve grown up healthy and strong enough to survive the process of being transported through time. From what I can tell, it will be quite harrowing.”
“Do you think I would be able to find you?” asked Dirk. “Maybe talk with your younger self? Or mum when she was still alive?”
“I don’t know what would come out of that,” he laughed. “I guess you could. Even tell him his future self sent you back from the future. Although I think your mum and I would have met you then, if you manage to. Ah, time is a rather strange thing. Even though I constructed the time machine, I cannot say for sure what your actions in the past will mean for me. If you succeed in changing the past, you would change the future, which means myself, as I know it, could no longer exist in your timeline.”
“You? Gone?” Dirk’s voice quavered.
“At least, the me you know. I will miss you too, but we have to sacrifice our relationship for a greater purpose. But let’s not think too much about such things.”
He brought Dirk to the laboratory. He flicked a few switches, and the time machine started to hum. The air in between the metal gate started to shimmer, distorting the image of the lab behind it.
Now, Dirk,” began the doctor, turning some knobs to indicate when Dirk will be travelling back to, “It’s not going to be easy convincing the people there of what will become of Earth. Even the scientists then, with all their simulations and extrapolations of things to come, were often doubted, laughed at, or simply ignored by the people in power and the masses who wanted to just live in the moment. But if you’re able to convince them that you really are from the future, and show them the photographs and writings and other evidence, maybe, just maybe, they will believe you and start listening to the scientists.”
Dirk shouldered his backpack and walked up the steps towards the metal gate. “I really hope we can change things,” he said. “Goodbye forever! I will miss you very much.” He quickly ran down the steps and hugged his dad tightly. Tears streamed from his face, wetting his dad’s shirt.
“Now, now,” Dr. Sanders patted his son’s back. “I have faith that you will succeed, Dirk. Just don’t get distracted.”
I’ll stay resolute, Dad,” promised Dirk, and they parted from their embrace.
Dirk stepped through the gate. There was a flash, followed by a sucking sound, and he vanished. The time machine sputtered, and powered down. The air in the gate stopped shimmering.
Dr. Sanders slumped into his chair. “Bye, son,” he whispered. “Godspeed.”