Something a little different this time. This post is a short story that I wrote this whilst on my summer holiday. A few months back a magazine that I help with was doing an issue on time travel, and I came up with this. I haven’t written properly for a while, so it is a little rough.
All Clara wanted to do for her eighteenth birthday was to out drinking with her friends. Her mother however insisted that the pair would got to Clara’s favourite restaurant. “It’s a school night,” explained the older woman. “You can go drinking with your friends during the weekend. Anyway, I’ve got a surprise planned.”
The meal itself was enjoyable, with none of the embarrassment of random strangers singing at her. The surprise from her mother was a rose gold formal watch. Inscribed inside were her initials and date of birth. It was beautiful, but Clara didn’t want to admit that she couldn’t read an analogue clock.
They got home from dinner, with Clara glad that she was forced to spend the evening with her mom. As she started to bounce upstairs to go to her bedroom her mother shouted out. “Wait a second. I’ve got something that your father wanted to give you on the dining table.”
Clara stopped mid bounce, almost falling over. Her father had died when she was seven, and she had only a few memories of him. They were of a gentle man who just smiled at her as she rambled on about everything and nothing. She ran down the stairs and stepped into the dining room where a large box was sitting on the table.
She almost pulled the box apart attempting to open it. Piled inside were four smaller boxes, with an audio player with a faded note on it saying, “Play me”. Clara pulled her earphones out of her pocket, then got frustrated as they wouldn’t connect with the player.
“It’s not working.” Clara said clearly disappointed. Her mother laughed out loud, “That’s a dozen years old. It’s not wireless. Use the ones in the box.”
Clara then spotted the headphones, which took her two attempts to plug in. Afterwards, she pressed play.
“Hi Munchkin!” Until that moment she would never have been able to describe it, but she knew it to be her father’s voice. “Actually, you’re too old for that now. Instead, hello Clara.” The voice began singing “Happy Birthday” to her, and tears started to build in her eyes. “Happy eighteenth” he continued and Clara heard another voice saying “I’m not eighteen. That’s old. I’m four and a big girl now.”
Clara pressed pause in shock. She had no recollection of anything like happening. Was she really in the room? She pressed play again and was transported back in time.
“I know that you are a big girl. You’ll be starting school soon.” Her father started, “I’m talking to you in the future right now.” Clara bounded over to her father. “Why for?” Her father picked her up “Because I want to give you the bestest present ever. Do you see these boxes?” Clara nodded, “They contain everything that you’ll want to know about me.”
He reached for one of the boxes whilst putting his daughter down, “This box contains everything that you made for me. Each painting, birthday card, and trinket.” He picked up another box and opened it. “This one contains, pictures and things from when I was your age.”
Her father handed Clara a picture of a very serious looking young boy wearing a black and blue chequered suit. “That’s ugly.” Said Clara sticking up her nose. “That’s from my first communion, and in the early nineteen eighties it was the height of fashion.” Her father was grinning manically at her. He took the picture, putting it back in the box. He then closed the container, and picked his daughter up, again putting her on his knee.
“Daddy, can I have my present now?” He shook his head. “You’ve already had presents for your birthday. This one is for another time.” The little girl hugged her father saying, “I love you daddy.”
“I love you too. Munchkin.” Replied her father holding her tightly.
When Clara opened her wet eyes, she was embracing her mother, not her father. As they parted Clara noticed that there was a sad look on the older woman’s face. “He had only one regret, that he would never meet you as a woman. So, he made his capsule.”
Clara took the box and took it to her bedroom. She found his first communion picture and just stared at it while lying on her bed. The suit was definitely ugly. After a while, she examined the player and realised that there was a playlist for each box. She randomly played some of the recordings, and soon realised that they all had one thing in common.
She was always there in the recordings. Sometimes, Clara could hear herself pottering around in the background. In others, she would be questioning her father as he spoke. She would never have admitted to it, but there was one where she was clearly snoring in his arms as her father spoke.
There was one final playlist which she hadn’t examined called conversations. When she pressed play, and she again felt herself going back in time.
She ran into his arms exclaiming “Daddy”. Her father looked at her and Clara felt that he was looking at her eighteen-year-old self. “So, this is the woman you’ve become. I’m so proud.” Clara just opened her mouth and the past eleven years just came out. As she spoke, he would be the one asking her about her life, her dreams and her triumphs. Clara never wanted the conversation to end.
Eventually, she felt herself opening her eyes. Clara found herself still clothed, lying on her bed with the alarm crying out. She was exhausted, but hadn’t felt so comfortable with herself for a long time. She rewound the audio file and it went like her dream. Even her voice was that of a young woman not a child. How was this possible?
Over the years, Clara would randomly listen to a track in that folder named “Conversations” and each time she would be vaulted back to her old living room to talk to her father. She recognised her own voice on subsequent listens, and it was always her as an adult. She tried copying the files to another machine, but then it was like any other audio file.
It only happened on that old player. Her own personal time machine. So, she would always connect with her father.