The door of the capsule closed behind me and my transport receded into the past. Eventually it would run aground in some distant age, beyond even prehistory. It hurt to have let it go. The machine was by far the finest of my devices.
I had arrived in the early evening. Green mist swirled around me, concealing the distant forms of the future. The first time that I had come here, there had been bomb shelters. Later, there were shafts leading down to subterranean complexes that hummed with power. For now, all that I could see of those shapes of things that had come was a wasteland in which towering, multi-headed plants had taken root. From somewhere came the sound of bird song and running water. Although civilization had taken a stumble, nature was working hard to fill the void.
It was a cold night. Far colder than I was used to in my own time, even if the air smelt better. I was glad of my heavy overcoat and leather gloves. I began to walk, taking care where I put my feet. If wars were still being fought, it would be all too easy to tread on some discarded weapon and blow myself to bits.
On and on I went. There was more mist, more broken stone ground and more of the imperious plants. I could see what looked like piles of rusted machinery. For all I knew, these might be a form of outdoor art and worth a fortune.
The monotony began to wear on my spirits. What if things had really gone wrong this time? What if there was nothing of humanity left? And I would be trapped here, the last man, marooned by an impulsive, romantic gesture.
I heard a tinny sound from beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw a small silver tube, with headphones attached. Cautiously I reached down, picked up the device and placed the headphones over my ears. Mozart. I closed my eyes and let myself be lost for a while in the melody. Things had not changed so much. Music still survived.
When I opened my eyes, Nate was standing in front of me. Behind him, an open manhole cover.
‘You came’ he said.
He was exactly as I remembered him. Extremely tall and thin, wearing the black, funereal clothing that was apparently to become fashionable. Around his bone-white face, long brown hair hung down to his shoulders. His dark eyes seemed to bulge from his skull. There were blotches around his mouth and when he smiled, his teeth were grey.
‘Of course’ I said. ‘How could I not?’
I took him in my arms. Held him close. He smelled intoxicatingly of metal.
My travels back and forth through time had re-written history so often I had lost count. In some of those histories I had been a hero, in others a monster. Having created the future that contained this strange and beautiful man, I would never let it be lost.
Damian Mark Whittle