art by Steven R. Stewart
by Kenneth S Kao
Mason leaned in to kiss Andrea. His first kiss ever. His heart pounded and he closed his eyes as her warm breath brushed his lips. He shivered, lifting frosty fingers from the cold porch, hesitating, not sure where to put them. Not on her, certainly.
But it didn't matter anymore because his lips were on hers. A flush of heat tingled his face, every inch of himself like lightening. She let out a soft moan and he leaned in again.
He waited, leaning in more. Puckering his lips. He heard a mechanical whirl break through his thoughts. He opened his eyes.
He was naked on a cold metal table with a pile of clothes underneath him. A machine that looked like a gatling gun was pointed right at him with spidery needles angled in, surrounding him. The date was written on the ceiling in big red numbers.
But Andrea, she was no where to be seen. An iron door as thick as a bank's swung open and a woman rushed in. She looked about forty, but her hair was white like a grandmother's.
"Mason?" she gasped.
He stared at her, she seemed familiar. He covered himself awkwardly, pulling at the clothes under him. "Who are you?"
She paused, looked at the date on the ceiling with blue eyes, and didn't answer.
"Where am I?"
"You don't know," she said, like a statement.
"How did I get here? Where's Andrea?"
The machine's whirl quieted, the spidery appendages that stuck out at him like bayonets withdrew. She shuffled between them to reach him.
"Tell me the last thing you remember," she said.
He blushed, still uncomfortably exposed, he pulled the oversized pants on. "I was kissing my girlfriend."
She nodded, slowly. "You don't remember anything else after that."
"After?" he said. "Like… the future?"
"Yes," she said. Her face was deadpan, serious.
"We're in the future?" He felt a wave of panic. Andrea, he would never see Andrea again. Or his parents. His friends.
"Maybe," she said. She stepped around him, helping him sit up. He shivered, feeling colder than out on Andrea's porch. "Mason, your future self--my husband--invented a time machine. When he did, he discovered that since the future doesn't exist yet, the only way to travel through time is backwards. This," she waved her arms around them. "Is your machine."