Phil Krupa climbed into the time machine and turned on the power. He’d just laced Tom Milford’s oatmeal with laxatives, an hour before his Don Quixote audition. Phase one finished. In this new timeline Tommy wouldn’t beat Phil out for the role, and it would be Phil’s career exploding instead of Tommy’s.
But Phil was unsettled. Something about the trip here threatened his triumph with dread. Ronald Barth, the head of the program, had warned everyone to only take small leaps in time, but he wouldn’t say why. Before Phil’s unsanctioned trip, the longest one had been a few months. Phil thought it to be excessive caution, but he felt changed somehow when he arrived. As if he had deeper insight into his soul. He felt more godlike, even magnanimous. After all, he’d intended to kill Milford, but talked himself out of it.
If anything was true about Phil, though—he followed through on his plans. On to phase two.
He adjusted the time destination. Phase two would go back three hundred and forty-two years to the day the stone barn’s foundation was built on his father’s estate in England. For it was under this stone barn that the police found the body, five years dead. She was a hitchhiker that had overnighted in the loft. Phil had buried her in the fallen down corner of the building, knowing that they would rebuild the wall over the top of her, which they did—and Phil had helped.
There was one stone that they never moved. It was perfectly situated to anchor the rest of the corner. Phil thought about going maybe ten years back, but the more he thought about it, better that he gets the cell phone in situ right from the start so he was certain not to disturb it and change how they built around it.
It was a burn phone in a Ziploc bag, something a hitchhiker might do to keep the rain out of it. The phone was a few years old from where he’d come. And to find it under the body would prove it was buried less than two years before—long after Phil had moved to the States.
The destination trajectory was a few minutes away from synching, so he lit a cigarette. It calmed him, and he smiled at his cleverness. Normally he was cold and calculating, confident and purposeful, but he indulged his emotions a bit, considering the life he would return to. Illustrious career on Broadway and assured freedom. He brushed away the image of Jonathan, his brother, the pinnacle of honor and service. Johnathan would be horrified by the things Phil did. How self-serving and shallow they were.
The sync finished, and he reflexively hit the start button. For a moment he saw himself as his brother did and scoffed. Then he saw his beloved sister, Sarah, who adored the honorable ways of Jonathan. How would she see Phil?
The time machine engaged. The cigarette smoke froze in place. As did his mind.
Dread is a physiological emotion, but it is intimately linked to the spirit. The spirit, because of its eternal nature, doesn’t process dread like a brain—it simply knows it. It neither remembers nor forgets, but the spirit knows about remembering and forgetting because the Creator linked it so extremely tightly to flesh. In the time machine flesh comes to a stop. A hard, unrelenting stasis that cannot be overcome.
And though the spirit doesn’t remember, it knows its eternal experience where the flesh then forgets. Phil’s soul now knew the dread of five years travel it had done, immovable and frozen with the last thought that was in his brain. What had been a fleeting moment of sympathy became the one thought experienced by his soul for five years, forced to experience the entire passage of time.
Now his soul would wait, experiencing every second of three hundred forty-two years, his mind set for that entire time on how ashamed his sister would be of him.
What changes a soul? What of those changes linger in the body as it takes over and forgets the experience because it was not part of it? Phil didn’t know. His spirit wailed in eternal heartbreak.