The dry stench of dust wafted through the air, invading Logan Crofter’s nostrils. His nose scrunched as he trudged towards the shelves. Blue eyes behind glasses looked over the thick backs of old books, analyzing their titles, most of which he recognized from shelves of his own.
His chubby fingers gingerly probed through the collection, parceling away the familiar copies. Logan stopped at the touch of something different; something newer. He hadn’t seen this one before, nor its peculiar name.
‘The Unofficial and Unsuccessful Guide to Time Travel, written by Joan S.,’ it read.
Logan tugged it into his hands and flipped it onto its back. It continued, ‘I’d like to try my best.’
He pursed his lips. Then frowned. Then drew his mouth in a tight line as he shifted the peculiar book under his arm and fished out his wallet. Logan shuffled towards the cashier with a sigh.
“You told me there was a special place in Hell for unprofessional non-fiction writers,” said Gerson, the graying middle-aged man who stood behind the counter every morning. He also happened to be Logan’s only friend.
Logan handed over his money. “ Firstly, I was being hyperbolic. And secondly, I highly doubt that this is non-fiction. Time travel isn’t real, after all.” He adjusted his glasses.
“If you say so,” laughed Gerson. “How did the first day of high-school treat you?”
“Inconceivably and in need of new books.” Logan pocketed his change, “And I implore you to restock your shelves more often, Gerson. You are my only hope of survival.” And his feet took him out the door as the older man chortled.
That night, Logan sat on his desk and leaned over his new possession. He flipped through the pages. And spread across the thin papers were black and white photos of crooked contraptions adorned with various knobs and dials, with bits of wire poking out; lengthy paragraphs that spoke of the creative process accompanied each image.
The way the author, Joan, worded their sentences and conclusions lead Logan to believe that the book was not at all fictional.
He ought to scoff.
Despite that, his curious eyes stayed glued onto the content while the figurative gears in his brain grinded with intrigue. The bespectacled boy skimmed to the final page, and met a list of causes to all the explosions that had occurred.
Logan paused. And he reached for his matching blue pen and pocket notebook.
It was an understatement to call majoring in physics difficult.
Logan groaned and thumped his forehead against his textbook, and threw his pen against the wall. An important exam was due the next day and he was nowhere near prepared.
“You should take a break, L," said a voice from the doorway.
Logan turned and saw his roommate, Virgil Glumm, who had jet black bangs that draped over caramel eyes.
“Nope. Do something else. I wanna jam out to my songs and I really can’t handle the sound of your suffering bouncing around the walls.”
“Then I suppose. . I should continue yesterday night’s experiment?” Logan’s lip twitched upwards.
Virgil ran a hand down his face, smudging a bit of his eyeshadow. “Oh, Jesus Christ, not that either. It's literally the reason you procrastinate on studying! Just read a book, for fuck's sake. . .”
“I have decided,” Logan said as he retrieved a small metal box with wires strung around it, a static screen flickering on one side. Then he grabbed another metal box, this one had less wires and more buttons. And he took one more metal box, and this one looked like a broken radio. He hunched over as he lined them all together. “Now, which one of these was on the verge of imploding?”
Virgil had already left the room.
Logan dropped his screwdriver and rubbed the sweat off the top of eyebrow, and he sighed. Professor Joan’s newest book; ‘Help, Time Travel Is Hard As Fuck’; sat wide open in front of him, along with a bulky watch with many loose knobs and wires. He tugged at a red wire, and the watch began to fizzle and jitter, before launching off his desk in a burst of smoke.
A cough tore out of Logan’s throat as he scribbled down the results into his pocket notebook. The watch was his most hopeful project after thirteen years of trial and error, and provided many solutions to Professor Joan’s dilemmas. He named it the ADOTT, short for Automated Device Of Time Travel.
Logan was reaching for the ADOTT when the opening theme to BBC’s Sherlock chimed from his phone. He fished it out his pocket and pressed it to his ear.
Logan answered the call, knowing who it is without having to look at the name. “Yes, Virgil?”
“Wow, that was quick-” Virgil mused. “Anyways, happy birthday. . You're twenty-eight now, how’s one year closer to dying?”
“Ever the more daunting as it decreases my chances of building a successful time-travelling machine. But. . Thank you. You were the only one who remembered this year.”
“Nah, dude. Patton wishes you a happy birthday too. He wants all of us to meet up at the usual café today, that okay? He- We have a surprise for you.”
“A surprise?” Logan tried to stop the smile creeping onto his face.
“Just come on. He doesn’t want you to spend another birthday alone, and I don’t either.”
Logan looked at the ADOTT, then to his book, and then he fiddles his tie, ". . I’ll see you in thirty minutes."