There and back againAs he ran through the alley, a warm blast of air hit his face. And just like that, he was back in 2014, in the front porch of his house
As he entered the strange world, the air immediately got crisper, cooler. The fact that he had expected it didn’t change how it affected him every time. The hair down his spine stood straight and he grabbed onto his jacket a little tighter. He was already out of place with his pair of jeans and blue button-down. His only hope was that the jacket shielded him against the oddity. Being transported to a new timeline was always strange. And the fact that he was always transported to the same date, July 28, 1914, even stranger.
As he shuffled out the alley, he knew exactly what to expect. Just like the other times, a woman came walking down the street with a kid. He always narrowly missed stumbling into them. So today, he made it a point to take a pause before entering the street. He was learning, despite the fact that he didn’t know why or how he got sent to the same date again and again, and by whom.
The whole thing was bizarre. The first time he got transported here, he’d been trying to get to work in the morning. As he walked out the door that day, he had found himself in the same alley. There was no plausible explanation. Still, he hadn’t feared the unknown. It’d felt like someone had finally used the correct key to unlock a door. He felt completely out of place yet right at home. He had felt a little frightened too because life around him was completely different than what it was in 2014. The clothes were different, the streets were different and the people. He was curious to know more about the people but was afraid to engage. The fact that his clothes were different was bad enough; he couldn’t risk being seen as an outsider so he decided not to talk to anyone at all. But, he had known it even then that there was more to this than what meets the eye.
As he got to this point in his detour, he always felt a strange tinge of nostalgia. He always knew where he had to go and it was always the same place, to the same person. He kept his head low and walked along the cobblestone street. He was almost there.
As he turned a corner, a park came into view across the street. When he saw her entering the park, his breath got hitched. She had always had that effect on him, ever since the first time.
He followed suit and quietly entered the park without attracting any attention. He trailed behind the lady, reminding himself every few seconds that he shouldn’t engage. As she took a seat at a park bench, he went as far away from her as he could, without losing sight. He sat under a tree 10 ft away from her.
She was an attractive woman, contours of her body visible beneath the long dress she wore. She didn’t exactly have many distinctive features but she, somehow, stood out. Like a firefly under a night sky. He never could look away from her. As she sat on the bench reading a book, he observed her features minutely. She looked somehow different today. As if her eyes were too big for her face.
But that was impossible. When he time travelled, he always travelled to this exact date, into this exact moment. But how was it that he had never noticed how tense she looked. Surely he couldn’t have missed it.
Something was wrong. She was fidgeting in her seat. All the times he had been there, he had only known the woman to be calmly reading her book. He had the slightest inkling that it all linked back to him. He retraced his steps in his mind. He tried his best to remember what he had done differently today.
He was about to go for brunch with his family. And just as he had touched the door, he had been transported to this day. He had been thinking about going back though, as he hadn’t seen her in over a week. But not so much that he could’ve triggered it somehow. He had not yet learned the trick to make it happen. After he had gotten here this time the only thing he had done differently was not stumble upon the mother and her child on the way to the park. Could an encounter so minor change the way the events unfurled so drastically?
In the present timeline, fear poured into his bloodstream like lead. His mind started racing in sync to his heart. He had to get out of there, and fast. He stood up swiftly and tried to get away from there, from her, as inconspicuously as possible.
As he stood up, so did the two men sitting across him. He figured: He was being followed. He tried to act like he didn’t notice it. But the two men were quick to race up to him. Turning on his heels he ran out of the park as quickly as he could.
He tried to run without stumbling onto anyone but that was quickly becoming impossible. People were all over the streets taking an evening stroll. He had to get to the alley, and fast. But the two men on his heels were a great dilemma. The portal to the future only ever worked for him when he was alone.
If he got stuck there, he knew there would be no going back to where he came from. So he put his all into keeping a distance between him and the other two. But, as he was reaching the alley, his jacket got stuck in a mail box. Quickly deciding to abandon it, he ran into the dark alley. Unsure if he’d make it.
As he ran through the alley, a warm blast of air hit his face. And just like that, he was back in 2014, on the front porch of his house. He collapsed on the floor. After laying there for several minutes, he finally stood up and decided to cancel brunch as he was in no state to go. As he was walking into the house, his feet stumbled onto the newspaper.
As he picked up the paper, he saw the words ‘World War’ sprawled out on the front page. He straightened it out only to see ‘World War I—a century old tale’ as the headline.
As he checked the date of the paper, a chill ran down his spine. July 28, 1914.