Time Twisted Destiny
By: Peggy Gerber

The champagne flowed freely as cheers of jubilation erupted in the government's secret laboratory. After twelve grueling years of hard work the time machine had finally been perfected, and today the long-neglected families of the science team were invited to join them in celebration. As a reward for their dedication, the government was allowing each of the scientists exactly one hour of time travel, with the restriction that they were forbidden to alter history. They were giddy as they debated which of their heroes to meet. Would it be Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr.? There were just so many. The decision would be excruciating.

Dr. Charlotte Goodman strolled up to stage amidst applause and set her computer down on the podium. The time machine was her brainchild and her teams' family members were excited to hear her speak. Charlotte turned to face her audience, put her hands over her heart and said, " On behalf of the whole team, I thank you for all the sacrifices you've made so that we could complete our project. Without your love and support we never could have gotten to this point. And congratulations, this is your accomplishment too. Her lips curled into a mischievous smile as she added, " Just beware, you will be seeing a lot more of us now."

As a mixture of cheers and groans arose from the audience, Charlotte's expression became grave, "I want to remind you about those non-disclosure agreements you signed. Time travel can be a slippery slope, and the time machine is classified. Do not betray our trust." Charlotte's eyes swept over the audience as she watched everyone nod their heads in agreement. Satisfied with the response she continued, "I'll start by giving you a brief explanation of how time travel works and then I'll take questions." A grin lit up Charlotte's face as she opened her computer and clicked on the first page of the PowerPoint. There on the overhead screen was a picture of Michael J. Fox sitting inside a DeLorean with the caption, "Don't believe anything you've ever seen in the movies. You can't time travel in a car."

There was a shout from the audience, " I love that movie."

Charlotte laughed, "I love that movie too. But the fact is, it is not possible for your physical body to travel through time, only a projection of your body. And you can only travel backwards, not forwards." Charlotte clicked to the next page and explained, "The time machine works by taking your image, bouncing it off one of our strategically placed satellites and projecting it back in time. The speed at which the projection travels determine how far back you will go. For example, if you were the time traveler you would take a seat inside the time machine, we would set the date, time and location and the computer would calculate the speed at which your projection travels. In a manner of moments, your image would arrive at the proper destination and at that point you would be able to interact with people as if you were physically there. You would control your movements with a special joystick as if you were playing a video game.

Charlotte looked at her audience, "Think of it as your own personal avatar journeying through time. You can't physically kill Lee Harvey Oswald, but you might be able to meet with somebody that can. But don't."

Olivia raised her hand and asked, "Charlotte, how did you come up with the idea for the Astral Projectinator?"

Charlotte closed her eyes, momentarily lost in thought. She began, "I actually came up with that idea when I was still in high school. It's kind of a bizarre story. As some of you might have guessed, I've always been a bit of a high achiever and a perfectionist.

One of her teammates snorted, "That's the understatement of the decade."

Charlotte glanced at her co-worker and snorted back." She continued, "As I was saying, when I was in high school, I spent my entire senior year working on a special project for the science fair. While other kids were going to the movies and preparing for prom, I spent every evening and weekend in my basement working on my project. I lost all my friends."

Charlotte stopped for a moment and listened as murmurs of sympathy spread like a wave through the audience.

When it was quiet again, she took a deep breath and continued. "The night of the science fair, I stood proudly by my project, confident I would win the college scholarship. But I didn't. I came in third place. I felt like a complete failure. I was exhausted, sad, and so disappointed I impulsively rode my bicycle to the Bayliss Bay Bridge intending to jump off. To this day I still don't understand what I was thinking."

A single tear leaked out of Charlotte's eye as she continued, "Just as I was climbing up a girder, a woman burst out of nowhere and started shrieking, "No Charlotte. Don't jump!" I turned to her and froze like a statue. She looked so much like my recently deceased grandmother that for a brief moment I thought it was her ghost. Then the mystery woman started begging me to climb down and I did. I can't explain it. We spent the next hour talking and she told me she went through a huge disappointment too, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she became more determined to win the next competition. When she told me she won the Einstein Award for Science Excellence I became energized. I wanted to win it too.

Amy jumped up and asked, "What does that have to do with time travel?"

Charlotte glared at Amy and furrowed her brows, "I'm getting to that. As the two of us were chatting it became clear we were both science geeks. We started talking about our favorite inventions and she was the one that gave me the idea for non-physical travel. She lit a spark in me. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I started researching it right away." Charlotte sighed, "It's funny, this woman saved my life, and I don't even know her name. I searched for her for a while but it's almost like she never existed. I can still picture that cobalt blue butterfly dress she wore. Every time she moved it looked as if the butterflies were taking flight. It was mesmerizing."

Right on cue Charlotte's daughter Emily skipped up to the podium laughing and handed her mother a package. She chuckled, "Mom, you've talked about that stupid blue butterfly dress my whole childhood. When I saw this dress in the store, I couldn't resist buying it for you. Is it similar to the one she wore?"

Charlotte ripped open the package and gasped. It wasn't a similar butterfly dress, it was "the" butterfly dress, complete with an identical coffee stain on the collar. She never told anybody about that. Emily watched her mother rub her fingers over the stain and apologized for spilling her coffee that morning, offering to take the dress to the dry cleaners. Charlotte bellowed, "No" and kissed Emily on the cheek, grateful for her daughter's clumsy moment. Now she knew. She had invented the time machine to save herself. Maybe one day in the future she would meet Madame Curie, but for right now, she had to see about a girl.



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