GOING BACK IN TIME

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Mark looked at the rope dangling from the ceiling fan. It didn’t look as tight as he wanted it to be.

How much do I weigh? he asked himself. The answer came instantly—at least over seventy-five kilos. He glanced at the rope, and wondered if it would bear a man of his weight without snapping in half.

Mark pulled the chair close, and climbed on it to check the rope. The rope was strong, probably stronger than he had expected. The only thing that worried him was the ceiling fan. Now he wondered if his weight would break the fan.

He tugged at the rope. It did not move. He tugged again, this time applying more strength. The rope strained, but remained in place. He then held onto the rope tightly, lifting himself off the chair.

As he remained suspended in the air, Mark held tightly onto the rope. He was gauging to see if it was going to tear under his weight.

Luckily, it didn’t.

As he slowly returned his feet back to the chair, he smiled.

At last, he thought. At last, he had gotten the right knot for the rope. All he had to do now was to make a noose. He estimated the size of his head, and wound the rope around until it formed a fairly big knot.

Still on the chair, he looked around the room.

There was not much in the hotel room he had rented for the night—just a bed, and a table. The television by the side wall was turned off, and the windows were closed. He did not want to be distracted from what he was about to do.

Mark grabbed the rope again. As he steadied his legs on the chair, he put the noose around his neck, closed his eyes, and exhaled, sure that nothing would go wrong.

He bit his lips, and kicked the chair.

The first thing that Mark felt was a searing pain as the rope tightened around his neck, cutting off blood flow to his brain. As it dug deeper into his flesh, he tried not to scream through his clenched teeth.

While his body dangled freely from the ceiling fan, Mark saw his entire life flash before his eyes. One moment he was a young toddler, the next a young boy going to school. One moment he was a teenager in high school, the next he was already a full-grown man. The images flashing through his mind stopped with him walking into this hotel room with a small bag in hand. He saw himself close the door, and open the bag. Inside lay this same thick rope that was now around his neck.

The image of him looking up at the ceiling fan was when darkness crept in.

Finally, he was going to have peace, he thought.

Eyes closed, he waited for his consciousness to cease.

But rather than the peace, and quiet he coveted, he heard a loud creak then the sound of a metal twisting, and bursting loose. His eyes flew open as he felt himself falling. A grunt escaped him as he hit the floor, followed by another loud crash.

He did not need to look up to realize what had happened. The broken fan by his side on the floor was enough explanation.

With a sigh, Mark loosened the rope from around his neck, and cursed loudly.

This was the fourth time this week he had tried to kill himself, and this was the fourth time he failed.

He cursed again. Mark had always hated himself. He had always felt that he was a loser who could never do anything right. What was so difficult about killing himself that he continued to fail at it? Mark concluded that he was a complete failure. His life was not worth living, and even to end it was a problem.

He caught the sight of something glittering on the floor next to him. He reached to pick it up. It was the wristwatch, he had brought with him. It was old, with a worn-out leather strap, and a faded glass face. It must have fallen out of his pocket when he fell.

He recalled what the scientist had told him the day he gave it to him. “It would take you anywhere you want to go. All you need to do is to turn the dial, and choose the date.”

Mark examined the knob by the side, and wondered how this old watch could actually be a time machine. Maybe it wasn’t, but maybe it was.

What did he have to lose? Nothing.

Mark could already feel the weight of depression, and sadness on his shoulders like blocks of lead. Life will always be meaningless, and worthless to him, so it wouldn’t hurt to try to see if this watch really worked. If it did not, he would resume his mission to kill himself through other means.

But, if it did work?

Well, he knew just where he wanted to go. He turned the dial, and counted down the years of his age.

He knew where he was going in time—back to a world long before he was born. Long before he was even conceived. Long before his father met his mother.

After he turned the dial, he looked around the room. Nothing was happening. Everywhere still looked the same. He was still in the same hotel room.

He sighed, and held his head in his hands. He should have known better than to trust a complete junk. No wonder the scientist had been so willing to offer it to him that day, right before he was about to jump in front of the train tracks.

 

***

 

“What are you trying to do?” the man had asked, holding him back.

“None of your business.” Mark had retorted as he struggled with him.

“You want to commit suicide? Why?”

“None of your business?”

The scientist had pulled him away, then offered him a wristwatch. “Here, take this. With it you can go back, and change whatever it is that makes you feel so lost, and depressed today.”

Mark had collected the watch, and stared at it. “A time machine?”

“Yes. You can use it to go wherever you want. Go on. Take it, and use it to correct your past so that you can be happy in the future.”

Mark had taken it, but he didn’t yet had the time to use it, since he had already made up his mind to try one more attempt at taking his own life, and that was going to be by hanging.

 

***

 

He looked at the rope by his side. Well, that had not worked as he had planned.

And what about the time travel device?

He gazed at it, and realized that it was glowing.

Mark sat up, both frightened, and fascinated. And that was when he realized that everything around him was slowly disappearing.

First, the rope vanished from his hand. Next, the broken ceiling fan, then the chair, the bed, and the other furniture. It was as if someone was erasing them all from the hotel room. In no time, his surrounding became bare, completely empty.

The hotel room!

Eventually that too, disappeared. The floor he had been sitting on was gone. In its place he found a bed of green grass.

Mark stood up, and looked around himself, and discovered he was now outside of what appeared to be a field with tall trees. There were also benches, and flowers around him.

A smile crept to his mouth as he looked at the wristwatch again. The device did work after all.

He waved at a man who was walking close by. “Excuse me. What year is this?”

The man stared at him. “Are you lost, or drunk?”

Mark shook his head. “Neither, I am just trying to confirm something.”

“It’s 1967, of course. What year did you think it is?”

Mark did not respond. He glanced at the benches. If the time travel had been successful, then he hadn’t only travelled into the past, but to the exact spot where his father would soon meet his mother.

Mark looked around. He did not have to search too long through the people seated around. Spotting his father was very easy. He sat on a bench alone, with a book in his hand.

Mark remembered the story his parents had told him about how they met. His father had been sitting on a bench, all alone, when his mother walked up, and asked if she could join him. After a short while, she had taken an interest in the book he had been reading, and from chatting about the book, they would eventually develop an interest in each other, and the rest was history.

But Mark wouldn’t allow this to happen. He would stop them from meeting each other. He began to walk towards where his father was seated, planning the best way to disrupt the intended meeting between his parents.

He was a few feet away from that particular bench when he saw her—the woman who would eventually become his mother. She was looking around, obviously for a bench to sit.

Mark knew what was going to happen next. She was going to spot his father alone, and decide to join him, but this was not going to happen today, not if he could help it.

Mark ran up to her. “Excuse me, miss.”

The woman frowned at him. “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Mark nodded. “I was wondering if you had an idea of what are some of the best places one could go on a date in this big city of yours.”

She smiled. “You want to take someone on a date?”

“Yes, but I am new in town.”

“That is easy. You can bring her to this park.”

“This park?”

“Yes, a lot of women love to come here because it is quiet, peaceful, and very romantic.”

“I see. So, if I brought her here, would she be appreciative of my efforts?” Mark asked as he glanced towards his father.

She laughed. “Appreciative? Of course, she would appreciate your effort.”

“And what about snacks?”

“Snacks?”

“Yes, something to eat, and drink. Should I bring those with me? Or buy them here in this park when she is with me?” 

Mark wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying. Rather, he was watching his father, hoping that he would soon get up, or that someone else would come, and sit on the bench with him.

“Did you hear what I said?”

Mark blinked at her. “You were saying?”

She sighed. “You seem distracted.”

“I am just thinking of the best way to give her a treat, that’s all.”

She smiled again. “That is okay. You should, and about the meal, you can wait until you get here because there are lots of food trucks around as you can see.”

“Yes, that is true. Are those any good?”

“Yes, they are wonderful.”

“By the way, I was wondering about something else, as well.”

“And what would that be?”

Mark touched his forehead. “I can’t seem to remember what it was. Let me see. Was it about gifts, or something else?”

“You don’t remember? Well, I must be on my way then. Good luck with your date,” she said.

But as she turned to walk away, Mark held her arm. “Wait, where are you going?”

“I want to take a seat, and relax,” she was surprised by his sudden action.

“Is that why you came to the park?”

“Of course, that’s why I am in the park. What kind of question is that?” She seemed irritated now.

He let go of her arm. “Actually, I was thinking, and realized that I might need someone to tell me more about this city.”

“Your date can tell you anything you want to know.”

“Yes, but before I meet her, would it be possible for you to tell me something?”

“Okay.” She nodded, seemingly calmed down. “I could tell you more about our city. But we cannot talk while we are standing, can we?”

“No, I guess not. Let us find somewhere to sit.”

Mark spotted an empty bench. As he led them to it, he glanced at his father. Another woman was already setting with him. He was happy. He stood abruptly. “You know what?”

“What?”

“I think I’d rather give my date the opportunity to tell me about your city instead.”

She frowned at him. “You are really confused, you know that?”

Mark nodded. “Yeah, I know. Thank you for your time.”

“Sure. No problem. Have a nice date.”

But Mark did not leave the park immediately. He walked close to where his father sat with the new woman, laughing, and chatting happily. In the opposite direction was the woman who would have become his mother. She sat alone for a while before two other women came to join her. As they all began to talk, Mark rubbed his hands together. He had succeeded. Now he was sure that his father was going to marry a different woman, and give birth to a different child.

But he needed to be sure. Mark walked to a bench, not too far away. He sat, pulling out his wristwatch. He dialed a couple of months away from that day. This time, the time travel was instant. One moment he was seated on the bench in the park, the next he found himself in front of a big cathedral.

He looked around, and saw a wedding procession coming out of the church. The groom was none other than his father. And the bride was the same woman who had come to sit with him on the bench.

As the small crowd outside the cathedral cheered, Mark smiled to himself. He pulled out his watch again, and dialed four years, and seven months after that date. Again, he travelled through time quickly. This time he found himself on a wide street. In front of him was a big house. The door opened, and a man stepped out of it—his father.

“Honey, we are going to be late for the picnic,” he heard his father say.

“I am coming, dear,” a woman said from inside. “I am still looking for one of Emma’s shoes.”

“So, what happens if you don’t find that shoe?” his father asked. “Are we going to cancel the picnic?”

“Darling, you know that she loves this particular shoes.”

“Why not just give her another one to wear?”

“But she doesn’t want another one to wear, honey.”

Mark saw his father sigh, and shake his head. He leaned against his car, and folded his arms across his chest. “Okay. Fine. I am going to be here, waiting until you can find her shoe.”

At that moment, the door opened, and a little girl stepped out, accompanied by the woman his father had married. She had only one shoe on her right foot.

“Dad, have you seen my other shoe?”

Mark’s father gaped at her. “Really? You think I would have worn it for work, or to go, and play with my friends?”

Mark smiled, and turned to walk away. His mission had been a success. His father had married a different woman. And they now had a baby girl, one that was not him. He knew now that he would disappear. He had never been born. He would no longer grow up to be unhappy, depressed, and suicidal. He was going to cease to exist.

He pulled out the watch, and dialed a new date, set to return back to the present from where he came. He took one last glance at his father, his wife, and their daughter Emma, then everything around him fizzled out into nothing.

He blinked his eyes open, only to find himself standing in the middle of a living room screaming from pain.

“Oh my God Emma, your water broke, come on we have to rush to the hospital,” a man said to Mark.

Mark looked at his belly, and the puddle of water beneath him, “SHIT,” he screamed.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar