Conal shook his head, and wiped a small bead of sweat that had begun to form on the left side of his brow with the back of his hand, forcing himself to focus. Nerves. Get it together, man. I’m not a teenage schoolboy anymore. I’m a grown man. I have a life. A small, routine one, but a good one. I’m more than capable of saying hello to an old classmate.
The nerves and excitement dancing in his stomach said otherwise, but Conal forged ahead.
“Ahem, excuse me. Abby?”
For one heart-stopping moment, she stared at him, searching his face for something familiar.
Great! She doesn’t remember me. Way to go, genius, she’s going to think you’re a stalker. Ought to be calling for security any second now.
“Oh my goodness! Conal Benjamin. Wow. How are you? What are you doing here?”
She sounded as flustered as Conal felt. Her friendly smile and eager to please attitude belied her cool, professional appearance.
“I went to school here and heard they were showing this exhibit. I’ve always been kind of a science nerd, couldn’t resist checking it out. How about you? Do you work here?”
“Oh, no, I’m just helping out with the exhibit, actually. Conal, it’s been so long. The last time I saw you was in high school, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, yeah, I think we were outside in the student parking lot. Weren’t you crying or something?”
She looked at him quizzically.
Nice one. Come across as a stalker, and now we can add tactless and utterly socially inept to the list. You’re batting a thousand, Benjamin.
“Well, how’ve you been? You kind of disappeared after the last time I saw you. I was worried about you, actually.”
Before Conal could answer, a booming voice cut in.
“Abigail! What’re you doing? You’re supposed to be backstage. We’re on in ten.”
Seven years evaporated in that moment. Conal watched as once again, Abby went rigid at the sound of that voice, a look of sheer panic flickering across her face.
“Tristan, this is Conal. I’m not sure you two have ever met. Conal and I went to high school together.”
Tristan clasped a huge paw on Conal’s shoulder. The two were similar in height, but that’s where it ended. Tristan had to be at least thirty pounds heavier than Conal, chiseled, and was built like some kind of demigod. “Nice to meet you, buddy, but the lady and I have work to do. You should come check it out. This shit will blow your mind.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Conal said, dismissing the thought immediately. “Which exhibit are you showing?”
“You ever heard of Einstein’s theory of relativity? The guy thought it was possible to travel through time. Pretty cool, even for a weirdo. Well, apparently he even built himself a time machine and we’re going to reveal it today. I’m the spokesperson for the exhibit.” Tristan mistook the dumbfounded look on Conal’s face for being impressed. “I know, it’s cool, right?”
You gotta be shitting me! This tool has my dream girl and my dream job.
He looked almost exactly the way Conal remembered; only now his hair was pulled back into a slick black pony tail, and he was obviously spending upward of the national debt at his local tanning salon. There was a faint line around his eyes from where his tanning goggles sat.
“So, Tristan, you’re a scientist?”
“Nah, man. My father runs the company sponsoring the exhibit, said it’d be good for their corporate social responsibility reputation, or something like that. He suggested I present the exhibit, since, let’s face it, I’m a lot more appealing than some nerdy scientist.
Abby caught the look on Conal’s face as it twisted into contempt and disbelief.
“It’s a really interesting exhibit, Conal. We should probably get going, the opening presentation is soon, but you should check it out. I think you’d be really interested in it.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard a thing or two about it. Maybe I’ll see you there.”
How could she have not learned after all of this time? It felt as though someone had sucked the life directly from Conal’s soul. Of all the cruel tricks of fate. Let him come within an inch of what it feels like to have everything you’ve ever wanted, only to watch it be snatched away by some Fabio wannabe with a greasy hairdo.
Someone slid an arm around Conal’s waist, holding him tightly. The sharp scent of her perfume announced her before he even saw her face.
“Hey, you took off kind of quick. Not trying to sneak away from me again, are you?” Colleen grinned at him, a look of teasing merriment in her eyes.
“No, sorry, Coll. I ran into an old classmate from high school.”
“Oh? He or she?”
Colleen’s quickly put her hands on her hips in a pouting manner. “Dammit, Conal, just when I think I’ve got you pinned down, another woman swoops in to grab you away from me.” Colleen stuck out her index finger, poked Conal in the chest, widened her eyes, and emphasized the next three words: “Not…this…time! We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” Colleen grabbed Conal’s arm, squeezing his bicep like a child hanging on to a new toy. “But first, the opening presentation for the big Einstein exhibit is about to begin. I know that’s right up your alley and I don’t want you to miss it.”
Conal’s heart sank again. Here was a woman who actually wanted to be with him, a beautiful woman who knew his interests and actually cared what he thought, and all he could do was act like a petulant schoolboy, pouting because a girl, who had until a few minutes ago forgotten he existed, was here with another man.
He let Colleen muscle her way through the crowd to the exhibit so they were sitting close to the front of the stage, vaguely wondering if Abby would notice the gorgeous blonde at his side, and more importantly, if she’d be jealous. Not that it mattered.
Tristan was already speaking, gesticulating grandly as he described the many achievements of his father’s company while grinning toothily at the audience. He was a good corporate spokesman, Conal admitted, but there was no way he was going to pull off acting like he understood anything about this exhibit.
Relativity was far, far beyond this guy’s ken.
Abby was on hand to field audience questions, but had a tough time interjecting in the Tristan Show.
“Not now, Abby.”
She turned back to the audience. “Those who have questions can line up behind the mic in the center aisle, and I’m sure Tristan will be happy to answer your questions before the unveiling. Tristan, I think we have a question over here.”
Visibly agitated, Tristan covered his mic, lowered his voice and turned to Abby with a smile on his face but coldness in his eyes.
“No, I won’t, Abby, dear. People can wait until after the presentation. Besides, I’m sure I’ll have answered all of their questions by then. I’ll call you back up when I need you.
“So what was the point of even asking me to volunteer and help out if you’re not going to let me?”
“Oh believe me, Abby, you’re helping.”
Abby looked at Tristan, puzzled.
“You’re eye candy for the audience, Abby. Come on, babe! Did you honestly think I needed your help with anything else? Look, let’s not make this a big deal, okay? If you really want to be useful, why don’t you fetch me a bottle of water? I’m parched up here.” He shooed Abby away with his hand.
Anger and disappointment flooded Conal’s system. He’d had enough. His entire life had been neat, orderly, and above all things, lonely. For years, he had dulled this pain with memories, doped up on his dream of Abby, and in the cruelest, sickest play at dark humor, life had given him this. The woman he thought was the love of his life was still with this…worthless jerk-off who talked to her like she was nothing more than a damn trophy wife. He would have loved to go up there and throw Tristan offstage by the seat of his pants, but that would make him no better than Tristan.
Conal pulled a dollar out of his wallet, dropping it on the kid’s lap sitting next to him, grabbed an unopened bottle of water from his hand, and stood up. “Actually, Abby, there’s no need for that. Here you go, Tristan, I have an extra bottle of water.”
“Hey!” the guy started to speak.
Conal ignored him and stepped up to the edge of the stage as Tristan reached down for the bottle of water. “Let’s hope you know more about time travel than you do about manners.” Eyes blazing, he stared hard at Tristan.
Colleen, who had been sitting with her arm linked through his, had sensed his tension and was staring at him with a look between bewilderment and concern.
Conal slowly released the water bottle to Tristan. Losing his mind over his high school crush wouldn’t play well with this crowd. Besides, he already felt guilty enough about Colleen. There was no reason to terrify her with his misplaced anger.
Tristan looked as though he was struggling with a similar battle, clenching his lips together, and noticeably hiding the tightened fist he had just made behind his back.
He stared at Conal for a long moment before he turned his toothy, stomach-churningly sweet grin back to the audience. “Forgive me, ladies and gentlemen. I forgot myself. That was totally inappropriate on my part. It’s no excuse, but this is the first time I’ve ever spoken in front of such a distinguished audience. Abby, my apologies.”
The look on Abby’s face made it plain she didn’t believe a word dripping from his tongue, but she held hers, out of fear or for the sake of propriety, Conal couldn’t tell.
“Moving on,” Tristan said, giving a pointed look in Conal’s direction.
Colleen gave Conal’s side a little pinch and grinned at him.
“I like that you stood up for her,” Colleen whispered.
Conal nodded, a twinge of guilt slicing through him.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me add that light really is not a factor in time travel,” Tristan said. “In fact, it is my opinion that this idea has gone so far as to actually misguide some of Einstein’s experiments.”
Conal shook his head, fury giving way to astonishment. Who the hell is this guy? Where does he come up with this stuff? Conal chuckled out loud. “Tristan, if Einstein were here today, he would be the first to tell you the opposite of what you just said,” he called out. “Light is far more effective at twisting space and time than anything else.”
Tristan was losing his patience. “My friends, we appear to have a scholar among us. Please, Mr. Benjamin, do tell, why would Einstein say that?”
Glancing over at Abby, I could see she was absolutely stunned at the interplay between Tristan and me. She looked curious.
“Well,” Conal powered on, “If you were to use a very powerful beam of light and moved it in a circular motion fast enough, it could twist space, and close time into a loop. You just need a source of light that would be strong enough. This would create a wormhole. In Einstein’s theory, a wormhole is kind of like a black hole, only far smaller, and on earth rather than in space. I’m guessing by the looks of your machine here, that he may have been trying to do just that.”
“A wormhole; light—are you serious?” laughed Tristan. “Listen, little man, why don’t you sit back and let the experts explain this?”
“Space and time are connected,” Conal forged on, his vision blurring around Tristan. “A very powerful source would do it. It would have to be extreme light, like a star, or a bolt of lightning, something of that nature.
“Think about it like this, Tristan. Say you’re traveling through space at exactly half the speed of light. Now imagine that I stayed here and fired a powerful beam of light past you. How fast do you think you would see the beam of light pass you? You’re probably thinking, half the speed of light, right?”
“Obviously,” Tristan replied, his eyes rolled.
“Wrong! It would pass you at the same speed it left me, the full speed of light. Your speed through space would make no difference whatsoever to the beam of light. Even if you turned around and traveled back into the direction of the oncoming light, you and I would both be seeing the light traveling at the same speed. So if both you and I see the light traveling at the same speed, then something else must be changing.”
“Time?” one of the observers called out, emboldened by Conal’s assertiveness.
“EXACTLY!” Conal called out. “It’s pretty simple when you think about it. So, by this example, it proves that time can be manipulated, which is the basis for time travel.”
A murmur of conversation sprung up among the crowd.
“Well, well, well. It looks as though we have ourselves a bit of an expert,” Tristan said snidely. “Since you know so much about the subject, please illuminate us with your expertise. Why don’t you come up and give us a demonstration?”
Conal and Tristan stared at each other, tension boring between them. From the corner of his eye, Conal could see Abby looking on, wide eyed, and uncertain.
“No, really, Mr. Benjamin,” Tristan said. “Why don’t you go ahead and take the floor? Please, a demonstration, if you would?”
Conal was fully aware Tristan was pining for him to make even the smallest mistake.
“Conal, get up there!” Colleen hissed. She shoved him out of his seat toward the stage. “Come on, Conal, do it.”
Conal glanced back over his shoulder as he moved forward. “Thanks, Colleen!”
He could hear his inner voices swirling. This is your opportunity to do something big, something she’ll really remember—The time is now. Fate is giving you a second chance.
“All right, Tristan, if you’re sure it’s okay?”
“Really, Mr. Benjamin, do you need a written invitation?”
Someone had to have Abby’s back; Conal took a deep breath. If shutting you up on stage is what it takes, then so be it… He trotted up the steps to the stage, like a new contestant on some kind of game show.
“Thank you, Tristan,” he said facetiously. “I don’t mind if I do.”
Conal felt his confidence grow as he spoke on parallel universes, and the dangers of going back in time and changing events of today by small changes we make to the past.
In defiance of Tristan, Conal had taken center stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I must admit to having been an avid follower of the great Albert Einstein, having read all of his published works again and again, and being a physics teacher myself. I have never attempted to travel through time before, but I’ll safely demonstrate how to turn the machine on and walk you through what I believe the great Einstein would do to time travel.”
Thoughts were swirling in Conal’s mind as he turned to look at Abby.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, I can’t do this alone, so I would like to call up the lovely and extremely intelligent ABBY! Abby, if you don’t mind, I could use your help.”
Abby looked at Conal, shocked, then for a split second, glanced at the audience applauding her. She gave Conal a playful smirk. “Yes, of course.”
Conal watched her gracefully walk up to the stage.
“Is this safe?” she whispered.
“Yeah. Everything should be fine. I’ll shut it off if it starts getting weird.”
For a moment, Conal felt like a Las Vegas magician with Abby as his assistant. He could see it so clearly: Abby in a sequined dress that showed off her ballerina-like legs, her smile wide and beautiful, only for him. His heart ached for a moment, the muscles tightening in his chest. He needed to concentrate on the task at hand Focus! Watch what you’re doing.
He tried to work by instinct, trying to identify the switches and their functions by what he had read in Einstein’s books and where he would have put them if he had built the time machine. Funny, this thing looks like a stereotypical time machine. It’s almost like what I read in the Wells novel. I would have thought Einstein would come up with something better than this. Conal scratched his head in slight disappointment.
It was kind of like a small space-aged sleigh. Two six-foot-long curved metal rods protruded from a power source. Electrical charges shot back and forth between them. They were welded to the machine.
Abby sat with uncertainty in what appeared to be the passenger seat. She grabbed two nearby handles. The time machine had an energy meter on the side with about forty bars lit up and in big green letters the word ‘CHARGED’ was blinking. The machine was glowing like a small float in a Disney Electrical Parade, and the drumming of its engine was drowning out the sarcastic comments Tristan was making to the audience.
“This one’s shaking!” Abby shouted nervously, her hand wrapped around one of the handles.
The time machine sounded like jet engines firing up and it was vibrating rapidly, the entire control board shook. People in the audience began to back away.” Shut it off!” someone cried.
Still, Conal was determined to make this a success. “Let me just make sure nothing is coming loose here!” He was standing outside the machine and delicately reached across Abby’s lap to check the opposite handle, finding himself nose to nose with Abby. It was impossible not to catch her scent, a warm perfume and shampoo smell that made his heart ring in his ears. She was looking at him anxiously.
Conal tried to avoid looking directly in her eyes, hoping she wouldn’t see through him, not thinking twice about his hands, and wrists that were once again a glowing bright red up to his elbows. Hell, his leg could have been on fire and he wouldn’t have noticed it, and for a very brief moment, he imagined what it would’ve been like to kiss her. He knew this was unequivocally the best moment of his life.
Conal reached for the handle to pull himself back up. At that same moment, he felt a spark shoot through his fingertips.
“Ouch, dammit!” His fingers throbbed from the shock and Conal fell awkwardly on Abby’s lap, slipping to the floor, and coming face to face with Abby’s legs. For a split second, he looked right up Abby’s skirt. Awkward. Realizing this, he instinctively grabbed onto her legs. His head was beginning to swirl with embarrassment and confusion. For the love of God, let go of her legs! Holy shit! My hands are actually on Abby’s legs!
Before he could get his feet underneath him again, a sudden sound thundered, like a sonic boom, only stronger. Winds were swirling, lights were flashing erratically. Abby grabbed Conal’s hand.
“What’s going on? This isn’t supposed to be happening! Turn it off!” Abby yelled through the hurricane-like winds. “We have to get off!”
“We can’t! It’s too dangerous!” Conal yelled. Abby was already buckled in. Conal glanced at the other safety belt, but instead wrapped his glowing red arms across her, holding her to the seat. The lights were flashing faster now, so bright Conal and Abby had to shield their eyes. She buried her head in Conal’s chest, her screams muffled.
The scene was nothing more than blur now. Whatever was going on, the audience, the gymnasium, everything had disappeared, and the only thing below them was space and lights. With another massive jolt the machine bucked Conal right off Abby, forcing him to cling to the rail.
Conal glimpsed the light turning into many, stretching and bending; it had formed itself into a huge funnel.
Conal understood, but couldn’t accept what was going on. Somehow he knew what was happening, however improbable it seemed. Years of studying and imagining this very thing were coming together now, and the knowledge gave him a sense of calm. He and Abby were hurling through a wormhole.
Conal Benjamin never let the love of his life Abigail Bradley know of his romantic feelings for her. Years of living with that regret haunted Conals life and left him with an emptiness in his heart. In one serendipitous moment they are reunited at an alumni science exhibit giving Conal a second chance but in a cruel twist of fate Conal’s triggers an unexpected chain of events sending Abby and himself through a wormhole to 1888 Whitechapel, London, the time and place of one of the most horrifying serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper. With the time machine lost and Conal and Abby separated, the fate of both of their lives hang in the balance. Nothing is what it appears to be and it’s up to Conal to unravel the mysteries that await him, before it’s too late.
“I could not put this cleverly crafted paranormal fiction novel down. I can’t wait to go on the next time travel journey with Benjamin! It would make for a great TV Series/Feature Film. Out of 5 stars I give it 6!” – Kelly V. Dolan, NBC News Radio
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Paranormal Fiction
Rating – NC17
More details about the author