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Time Travelers have Deadlines, Too

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It was a mistake, really.

It was the final night of dissertation topic proposals and the girl still hadn’t thought of anything useful or important, something that would catch an employer’s attention and make her resume stand out. It was hard enough trying to get hired with a physics degree, let alone one without a good dissertation.

She sighed and laid her head on the desk of her dorm room, frustrated and lonely. It was always better to bounce silly ideas off of her roommate instead of just brainstorming alone, but, since the girlfriend entered the picture, the girl’s roommate was no where to be found.

Head on her arms, she ran a finger along the spines of the textbooks propped up on the desk in haphazard piles. The girl paused, finger hovering over an H.G. Wells classical her psych-major roommate must have left intermixed with the nonfiction.

Curious, the girl pulled it out of the stack, nearly toppling the textbooks on top of her. Flipping through it quickly, she realized she had never read this book, and, in reality, had never read much fantastical fiction.

The first rays of the sun were starting to peak through the window curtains as the girl closed the book. She looked at it thoughtfully; it was a kind companion for a girl who could not think alone.

Suddenly, her alarm went off, and she jumped. Forgetting to sleep during the night wasn’t unusual, but not having her work finished was.

Quickly, the girl dressed and threw her scratch notes into her bag before hurrying out the door.

She’d just have to think of an idea while watching the others pitch.

The moderator announced that, to be fair to all who were on time, random names shall be drawn to determine the order.

But the girl wasn’t quite listening enough to hear this, still off in her own mental world trying to think of something, anything, for a physics dissertation.

Someone tapped her on the shoulder, bringing her out of the world of imagination to inform her she was selected to pitch first.

The girl inwardly groaned and gather her sketch papers, determining just how many steps she had to think of something.

19…..14….5….2….SHE HAD IT.

Dropping her scratchwork, she launched into animation, describing the machine and the quantum mechanics behind it.

“So it’s a time machine?” The moderator questioned. “That has been tried and failed.”

“No,” The girl countered. “It’s a time machine retriever. It catches what is sent.”

The moderator nodded thoughtfully, “Alright. Continue to the written proposal. Next!”

The girl wasn’t quite sure just how many hours, weeks, or months she had spent in the basement laboratory.

Brushing her hair out of her hair with greasy fingers, she stepped back to admire her work.

With a deep breath, she turned on the recording camera and hit a button.

The lights began to flicker as the machine whurred, but she has been expecting that. The backup generator she had requested was too expensive for the grant, and the building was old.

A few moments later, the machine stopped, and a soft, salty smell filled the room.

On the receiving panel sat a single yellow banana.

The girl slowly smiled.

Over the next few weeks, the girl would turn the machine on for short intervals, waiting until small objects broke would appear on her panel.

She hadn’t been intending to leave it on for so long; it was a mistake, really.

Just as the girl was about to turn it off, her phone buzzed with an SOS from the roommate. Sighing, she stepped out of the noisy lab and answered, proceeding to listen to the sobs of an imminent breakup, suspected cheating, and appropriate emotional revenge. As a psych major, the roommate should know how fruitless all of those would be, but, to be polite, the girl listened and murmured, ‘mhm’ at the appropriate times.

She did not notice how long the call had lasted, but realized the machine had been running for much longer than her calculations had shown to be safe. Quickly, she hurried back to turn it off, not noticing the panel.

Once the machine’s whurring had stopped, the girl ran her fingers through her hair, worried if there was significant damage to her apparatus.

When she finally looked over at the receiving plate, she noticed a boy who looked absolutely terrified.

“Did it work?” He asked her, a slight lilt to his speech. “Is this… the future?”

The girl looked at him, “How… did you get here?”

The boy grinned goofily, “My time machine, of course! Nothing was coming back, so I just decided to go myself. I mean, the dissertation is due tomorrow, and I have no real results to present, so… I came myself.”

The girl just continued to stare at him.

“Well,” He continued, beginning to look nervously around the room, “Now that I know it works, I’d like to return home to study the lasting effects. If I may just borrow your time machine, I seem to have… misplaced… mine…”

“I have no time machine.” The girl said without emotion, as processing was still too much. The boy’s face began to melt into one of horror as she continued, “This is only a receiver.”