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Thanks to Chuck goddamn Wendig and his Flash Fiction challenge, and somebody else's D10, I have been given the goal of writing a story, in less than 1,500 words, in the style of timetravel romance, featuring a dream and set at the gates of the Garden of Eden.

Easy, right?

Did it in 2 hours. 1008 words, or thereabouts.

Oh, and the challenge is at Chuck's blog here. Go and read the rest of it. His blog, I mean. It's full of helpful arse-kicking goodness.

================

You can only go back



You could only go back.

You could only ever go back.

Of course, it was so simple when you realised it. So obvious. You can never go forwards, because the future has not yet been written.

But the past is finalised, so the past can be visited.

The grandfather paradox? Bah, that's easy when you accept that the past has been written with you already in it!

You can't change what has already happened, which means that what has already happened, includes you happening in it.

Of course he knew that, now. Knew all of it.

But the bitter realisation that he could not return from the past to the future, even to a future that was already, from his frame of reference, a past, had been a horrifying surprise.

He had been stranded - stranded!

More and more feverish experiments had only resulted in propelling him further and further backwards. Energy never seemed to be a problem - somehow, the machine was always charged when he landed. Moving backwards in time seemed to harvest energy for the mighty batteries.

He really should try and work out why that was - why you deplete the batteries with the great thrust needed for travel, and then land with them fully charged. He had the tools. The solar panels, which would have taken a month to charge the machine for travel, could easily run the computers, so he had all he needed to complete as much theoretical work as he had - ironically - the time for, without risking being unable to make any other - increasingly desperate and useless - tests.

But he had more important things to do.

If he couldn't get back to her, she could come back to him.

So he had, in a fit of feverish inspiration, finally resolved the only way to send a message. Using almost all the power normally needed to propel a massive metal monster backwards through time, he sent the smallest amount of energy forwards.

And she dreamt.

The energy to dip a toe into her dreaming mind was barely enough, but he managed it.

In a sleep troubled by concern about his disappearance, she saw him and heard him. He spoke to her, guided her, and she rose from her bed, sleep-walking, and padded to his laboratory.

He had built a small, experimental machine which would be able, with what he now knew, to send her flying backwards to him.

With the last energy in the mighty batteries, knowing it was his last chance, he sent her crystal-clear instructions and, driven by her desire to be reunited, she remembered them perfectly.

There was nothing left for him to do then but wait, and fret, pacing up and down, clad in the tattered remnants of his sole set of clothes which had, over a year of subjective time, worn away, or burned away, or been torn or, in the case of just one sock, lost.

His one consolation was that at least this time he had no trouble finding food, and there did not appear to be any dangers, despite - he swallowed nervously - the monstrous beasts he could see roaming the forests and plains, mingling and grazing together far below him.

He had no idea how accurate his calculations had been, or how well-calibrated his test machine was (will be?). So he did not know if she would come immediately, or ...

The air smelled of ozone and he tasted tin. He looked around wildly. A shimmering patch grew to his left, on the edge of the escarpment.

Wild hope leapt up in his breast. He stayed rooted to the spot, having seen many times what happened in the immediate vicinity of his machine appearing, but had to exert great self-control to prevent himself running forwards in wild joy.

His test machine appeared, settled onto the ground - and burst into flames.

With a cry of horror he sprang forwards, racing to the cockpit, wrenching open the door and finding her slumped forwards over the controls, unconscious.

He grabbed her, hauled her out of the seat and sprang through the door.

The machine was consumed by flames that seemed to leap hungrily after them. He ran, staggering only slightly, and only belatedly did he realise her nightdress was on fire, and so, now, were his trousers.

He dropped to the ground, cushioning her with his body, and rolled them both over. Her dress still burned, so he pulled it off her, tearing the seams, and then had to discard his pants as they continued to smoulder. He used his shirt to beat out flames in her hair and only when it was safe did he collapse onto his knees beside her, weeping with relief.

She stirred, and her eyes fluttered open.

"Oh Adam," she murmured, "I had the strangest dream ..."

Her eyes widened as she remembered he had been missing for three days. "Adam!"

She clung to him as he hugged her, fiercely, lying naked in the grass of a pre-historic world, and they both wept.

"I thought I had lost you forever," he said, finally.

"I was afraid you had died," she replied, "that you wouldn't be able to come back."

He went very still and felt very cold.

She suddenly realised their surroundings, and scrambled to her feet. "Adam! Where are we?"

"I couldn't come back, Evelyn," he said, pleadingly. "It's not possible to travel forwards in time, that's what I had to find out. I had to try and bring you back to me."

"So when are we?" She was still staring around them in shock.

"We're as far back as it's possible to go," he told her, taking her hand in his. "We're at the start. We ..." He swallowed, but forced himself to go on, turning her gently to see behind them and, past the bulk of his machine, the towering, impossibly massive white gates that soared up into the clouds.

"We're in the Garden of Eden."

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j.hepburn

February 2014

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