Ronan knew when he used it, the very moment his fingers touched it. He was changing everything, he was risking everything but he had worked every moment since his graduation towards this moment. This was to be his reward, wasn’t it? He had been working at it every night for who knew how many hours? Sometimes dawn came before he stopped and sometimes, he would be asleep sitting in the chair.
He had had no life for the last few years because of this, his girlfriend of the time had left him because of his obsession, his family had suggested therapy, counselling. They kept saying that it wasn’t right, that he had to live, that this….this couldn’t be the only thing he could think of when asked about his life. There was more to life. His friends never called him anymore.
All for this moment.
He remembered the exact moment he had been enchanted by the idea, how it had taken root and never died.
His mother had gave him a book about time-traveling. It had been a funny, little book, talking about how a bunch of teenagers got their hands on an alien machine. And how, when they tried to use it, it sent them to the fiftieth century and how much fun they had. Something about that book had made him a little obsessed with time traveling, so he had taken up with science with one goal in mind. He had graduated and had a masters by the time he was twenty five, it helped that he had a bright mind, he supposed but it was all spent in search of the ever-elusive time machine.
He was thirty six now and he had a sponsor backing him with his experiments, he was lucky, he supposed. His mother cursed the sponsor everyday, he knew because she would do it while standing next to him. His sponsor was the reason he could realise his dream, there would have been something absolutely mundane for him to do if he hadn’t had the grant when he had. Harry was a good chap.
Ronan knew that when he touched the buttons, it would work. He knew it as much as he knew himself. Crystal clear. Now, the thing was, Harry had asked specifically that they should be visiting the past, there was something he needed to see, he’d told Ronan. Ronan had agreed to that, he had been too fucking happy by the grant to deny the man anything. Now, though, the moment of truth was here and he was…hesitating.
Because something about the book’s plot had come back to him. How the teenagers while trying to come back to their time had messed up and gone further back than they had intended. How they had introduced future technology too early and how they had ripped apart the very fabric of time.
So, at the dawn of his perfect tomorrow, there Ronan sat with a conflicted mind. There was nothing to it, he had worked almost a decade on it and he knew how every little inch of it worked but the doubt remained and his hand trembled.
“Let’s get this thing started then, shall we?” The soft, cultured voice of Harry Chapman came to him. He stiffened in surprise and almost jumped. Looking around, he saw that Harry had entered Ronan’s room with his usual charm. His clothes were immaculate, not a hair out of place and his eyes, cold and clear gray, looked calculatingly at Ronan. His face very quizzical.
Ronan stumbled back from the machine and wrung his hands, feeling the panic skittering all over his skin. Like a live wire, he could feel every bit of it, every second. He could feel the hysteria coming over him, there was nothing stopping Harry from using the machine. Absolutely nothing, Harry owned the machine, fuck, Harry owned Ronan too for that matter. Ronan tried to come up with some excuse as to why they shouldn’t do it immediately but nothing came to his mind.
For once, his usually cluttered mind was ominously empty of ideas.
He stuttered, “Wait! I…I need to recheck the calculations, we have to be sure, Harry. If I fuck up and you are hurt or worse…we can’t have that, Harry. You know, we can’t.”
Harry simply smiled and murmured, “Ah, Ronan, you always did care for me so much. Don’t you worry, my boy, it’s all taken care of. I have already delivered my will to my lawyers. There’s nothing left to do but use the machine.”
Ronan moved about the lab uselessly, aimlessly. Fluttering about as if the very strings holding him have been cut off. Harry waited a few moments but impatience was obvious after a few long minutes. He started tapping his foot against the floor and asked, his voice lightly snide, “Have you suddenly started to fear your creation, my dear Ronan? Is that it? Are you afraid of what would happen? You wouldn’t know till you try it. I hope you do know that.”
Ronan looked at Harry, his dark green eyes wide with panic. Harry tutted and moved towards Ronan. Ronan almost backed away, Harry reached him and patted him on his shoulders.
“Let’s go, Ronan. You know I don’t like waiting. I have already waited far too long for this. You took your time, I was patient, I never snapped at you, did I? Now, do not test my patience. You wouldn’t like it.” With those comforting words, Harry pushed Ronan towards the machine.
Harry looked at him pointedly and Ronan numbly followed the instructions. He had written and re-written them so many times in the last decade. Sometimes they blurred and sometimes they were clear as a lake under the summer sky.
He pressed the buttons, and the machine started to hum lowly. After a minute, the hum turned into a loud snapping sounds and Harry grinned at him widely, his eyes almost manic. Ronan was just about to ask the date when the machine snapped and they vanished from the lab.