Rikon > Short Stories > Second Chances

Second Chances

Mark sat up and looked around the still dark bedroom. His wife, Jan, was still asleep.

It seemed that he had been having a dream. A particularly vivid dream in which he finally understood each mechanism for the time portal and was able to finish it. In fact, in his dream he distinctly remembered falling into the portal just as the dream ended and he awoke.

There was something else about the dream, something which seemed even more important than the portal, but it wasn't clear to him what the message might have been.

But the portal, finally present in it's completed form in his mind in all details, was very clear. In a single gestalt realization he understood now what he must do, what steps he must take.

Despite the clarity of the dream, the thought of getting even more involved in the portal project made him worry for his marriage. With all his late nights at the institute, then bringing home piles of work to pour over even later into the night, he had been having trouble with Jan. She worried that he was spending too much time on the portal and letting his love for her wane. In some ways he admitted that was true. It had become his life's passion and now, with the finished portal revealed to him by this dream, he knew he was nearly done.

Mark had been assuaging his fears with the confidence that when the portal went on-line, Jan would see that it had been worth it. Still, something about that rang in his mind and wouldn't go away, some nagging thought that perhaps there was something about his dream he was missing, something that he couldn't place.

The missing piece was indistinct and background in the dream, something to do with Jan. In the dream there must have been some pain or agony that he knew he could dredge up from his recent memories, but he also knew if he didn't write down what he had learned about the portal in his prophetic dream he might lose it, so he got out of bed and, dressing in yesterday's cloths, drove to the institute and began work.

Mark's dream had been more than prophetic, it had been dead on. He worked like a man possessed, replacing entire conceptual portions of the portal until the entire mechanism purred under his supervision. He and his small staff became legend as they worked around the clock to keep up with Mark's frantic pace.

Finally, Mark sighed as he finished the final adjustment to the portal's controls and the systems powered up in their first production run. 'We're done, John' he said, turning to stare into the shimmering portal; so like his dream. 'We can go anywhere we want to, within the constraints of the system.'

'I don't know who would ever use it, though.' John shook his head and stared at the doorway to the portal, it's surface shimmering with colors that danced just outside of his perception, swimming up to ultraviolet and descending back into deep blues that danced for a moment, then faded into the swirling skin of reality.

'Yes, it's sad really' Mark agreed 'We can go anywhere we want to in the past, but only if we've already been there.' Mark sighed and sat back in his chair; 'Time travel, the greatest invention of the human race, and it's worthless.'

'Well, not completely worthless', Paul replied 'You can't take your body with you and you have to give up your future in this time line. That's a major bummer. But your discovery of the personal nature of time means that anyone can go back to themselves at any time. You can sacrifice what ever future you might have had to go back with the knowledge that you have today and keep yourself from making a mistake, or invest in a good stock or something.'

Paul grinned at Mark, 'Who knows, maybe if you keep going back your potential future will keep getting better and better.'

Mark shook his head and downed the last of his cold coffee. 'I think you're over rating the usefulness. Remember, the test runs have shown that you merge with your former self, and the memories you take with you are no more real to the person receiving them than a dream - you don't know what yourself at that time will accept as important and what will be discounted as a silly dream.'

'There have to be some circumstances worth the risk, though.' Paul persisted, 'For example, you could go back and keep yourself from breaking up with Jan. You could save your marriage'

'No.' Mark sighed and, deviating from his prophetic dream, turned off the portal. 'I'm afraid I've already tried that.'


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