Million Years Past, Million Years Future

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The time machine was a shimmering egg, barely taller than she was. It looked out of place tucked between the obsolete quantum-bit computers and the liquid helium shattered interferometers. She wondered if the tousle-haired Scientist, busy shifting from one moccasined foot to the other, had invented it or merely discovered it. Had the portal popped fully formed into being within his dusty basement? And was that any more or less likely than the stark reality of its impossible existence?
None of that really mattered. What mattered was what it offered her: escape. From her failed career. From her failed relationships. From her failed life.
"Where will it take me?" she asked.
“When,” he corrected. “A million years."
She frowned. "Past, or future?"
"One or the other."
"You don't know which?" she asked, incredulous.
He raised his chin and for the first time let his eyes meet hers. They were, she was oddly thrilled to note, a blend of green and brown. Hazel; though she couldn’t remember ever seeing anything quite so startling.
"Time travel is a macro-manifestation of the quantum world,” he explained. “At the very smallest scales, time is not how we experience it. Imagine a recording--a video--of an egg being dropped onto a hard surface. It’s obvious whether the video is playing forward or backwards. But repeat the trick with a spinning electron and you have no way of knowing. And so it is with time travel."
Was that why the egg was so difficult to focus on? Was it too spinning?
She glanced down at her few possessions. Was she mad? Was she truly contemplating leaving everything behind? Stepping into the unknown with nothing more a small backpack and a graphene-film tent.
“Why a million years?” she asked. Her brain was screaming “GET ON WITH IT, STOP PROCRASTINATING!”, but she paid it no heed.
“The portals. They grow the further the entanglement stretches. Or rather, we need to stretch the entanglement far enough to create quantum coherence on the macro scale. Or a side-effect of the need to prevent causal loops.” He laughed, embarrassed. “In reality, no-one really knows. Quantum mechanics makes absolutely no sense, to me or anybody else. But a million years--give or take a few millennia--is the minimum size portal capable of carrying a human.”
She nodded. She’d read up on some of this. Fritz London’s theories on superconductivity, on superfluidity. Idle curiosity; until she’d seen the Scientist’s online message. She knew the portals were one way, single shot. The entanglement collapsing as you stepped beyond the penetration depth and, presumably, observed where and when you were.
She knew that the entangled particles should, like anything else on Earth, remain bound by gravity to this rocky planet. Otherwise, any time travelling device would most likely deposit you in the cold blackness of space; a space that had only been occupied by your departure point for the briefest of moments.
There were no guarantees, no returns, no refunds. All that was certain was she wouldn’t have to live the life she was currently living. The life that had sucked the joy, the reason, the soul from her existence.
But still; would she have the courage to take that decisive step? There are only two possibilities: yes or no. Stay, or go. Little wonder she prevaricated.
A million years ago humans were an endangered species, with a population smaller than the faded coastal town she’d grown up in, sharing their hostile environment with the Neanderthals. In a million years would mankind have returned to the same perilous state? Or would they have spread in countless number beyond the stars?
“Why haven’t you used it yourself?” she asked. Half of the world’s scientists had vanished since the portals began appearing, shortly after Einstein’s note from beyond the grave. The one that had finally joined the dots, but in such a way the great thinker had balked, sealing his last theorems in a time capsule; not to be opened until seventy years after his death.
The other half seemed disappointed they hadn’t conjured a portal up, many of them suddenly deciding that perhaps theoretical physics wasn’t the career for them.
His eyes evaded hers again, skittering over the cluttered room like spilled mercury. Then he breathed deep and slow, gazing at her with a sadness that brought a lump to her throat. “I’ve been waiting. For you.”
“For me?”
“Yes. I... I didn’t want to go alone.”
She remembered the oddly plaintive wording of the Scientist’s forum post. Had thought it a hoax, had thought of ignoring it. But then, what did she have to lose? Peering into those dusky emerald eyes she felt a giddy lurch as the cosmos shifted.
“Together?”
“Together,” she agreed, stepping hand in hand into a new tomorrow / into a new yesterday.

About the Author: 
Liam Hogan is an Oxford Physics graduate and award winning London based writer. His twisted fantasy collection, "Happy Ending Not Guaranteed", is published by Arachne Press. Find out more at http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk/, or tweet @LiamJHogan