Retroactive Time Machine by Ted Reynolds

There were 12 witnesses to the incredible invention. The doctor wanted to disprove it. The Silent Man sought to understand it. The mayor tried to forget it. Griffin was after the blueprints. Filby stole the prototype. Hillyer planned to correct the past. A novelist was already writing The Time Machine up as fiction. H. G. Wells never knew half what was going on. So here it is.

[At an informal weekly Thursday gathering of acquaintances in a London suburb in 1895, the host (AKA the time traveller) expatiates on the nature of time, demonstrates a small model time machine which disappears (into past or future?), and states that he intends making personal temporal voyages on a larger machine. The six guests depart somewhat bemused. {See H.G. Wells The Time Machine, chapter 1}

A professor, intrigued by the psychology of their host, and a doctor, rather wishing to debunk the host’s claims, decide to invite a mutual ratiocinative acquaintance (later known facetiously as Mr Whom) to the next Thursday meeting, as he is “interested in intellectual puzzle.

Phillip Filby, a professional dilettante, at a suggestion from Garth, his coachman, visits the time traveller’s house the next morning, and pilfers the model time machine, which was set to return to normal time in a few hours, thus saving expenses. He himself then tries to send it on a trial run, but accidentally sends it towards the past, thus losing it forever.

An aspiring writer (nameless) seizes upon the host’s ideas, and at once begins to write a fictional account based upon them, which he plans to title The Time Machine” Griffin, a very young and ambitious medical student is fascinated by the possibilities inherent in time travel (including some morally questionable ones) and determines to get a look at the time traveller’s designs for the machine. And a provincial mayor, although consciously utterly uninterested by the host’s invention, has a run of very unnerving dreams about manipulated histories.

At the following Thursday meeting a Silent Man (Mr Whom) appears among the guests, but the host himself appears very late and disheveled. He tells his guests that he has just returned from a far future (802,701 AD) in which vicious underground Morlocks prey upon degenerate simple-minded Eloi. The next morning he and his time machine have both vanished. The aspiring writer claims that he actually saw them disappear, but the others tend to doubt his account.

Comparing notes afterwards, the three professionals (the doctor, the professor, and Mr. Whom) each note contradictions in the host’s story. To their surprise, these independently suggest that a destination date of some 2000 years in the future fits his reported observations far better than 800,000. However, the host’s manservant, Hillyer, and his housekeeper, Mrs. Watchett, are firmly convinced of their master’s veracity. Indeed, Hillyer has already been promised use of it “to visit a young lady a few years ago, and propose to her in a more suitable manner than I did before.”

All guests agree to attend the next Thursday gathering, in expectation that their host will again be there. The very skeptical editor, Dugald Blanc, is persuaded to be present by his credulous reporter, Fred Dash, by the latter’s insisting: “There may be just one chance in a hundred that this man did what he says he did . . . but if he did, and we do not report it, we will have missed the most important news scoop in twenty centuries!”

Enough spoilers. The story continues.

About Ted Reynolds

I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a teen-age daughter and son (with all the admiration and despair that entails) and one fat cat and one sweet cat. And a wife. They all tolerate me. I have a scruffy beard, a bad right foot, and much too easygoing a nature for my own good.

It wasn't always so leisurely. I've climbed a twelve-thousand-foot-high mountain twice. I navigated a small sailboat around the world, and saw Bora-Bora, Bali, and the Galapagos before they got globalized. I swam in 6 Seas, trod 50 oceanic islands, went through several typhoons. I was pulled over by the Coast Guard for trespass in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I got questioned by the Stasi on the wrong side of The Wall, and then crossed the Soviet Union on the Trans-Siberian Railroad on a protest mission. I’ve been charged by a rhinoceros and bitten by a badger. Then I turned 25 and had to settle down and get a job. In my spare time I stubbornly wrote stories about cruising the galaxy and a novel about killing God but all that paid zilch. Still, I've somehow earned my living, seen amazing sunrises and sunsets, known amazing people, and raised amazing kids.

Lately I retired and things got dull, so I’m writing again. Wish me luck.

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