I started Travelling when I was five. My father strapped me into a machine, told me to take a deep breath, entered a few lines into his computer, and I was off. My body remained behind while my consciousness travelled to the past.
It was both beautiful and terrifying, the past. Strangers flitted back and forth, intent on their own lives, their own stories. People walked past me, through me, without a single flinch. Everything was familiar, yet vastly different.
My heart raced in excitement and dread.
It lasted only fifteen minutes before my father finally pulled me back from the abyss. I took one look at him and burst into tears.
He didn’t comfort me.
Today, I will Travel for the last time. I decided it years ago: on my fiftieth birthday, I will stop Travelling for good. Will start living my life for myself, and not for the masses of strangers I visit almost constantly.
When I was six, I Travelled to the future. It was both better and worse than the past: entirely unfamiliar, yet that unfamiliarity lent a sense of peace, like a new friend.
Strange metal buildings rose toward the endless sky, gleaming in the harsh sunlight. The air itself was gray-tinged with what I would later learn was smog.
There wasn’t a single plant in sight.
The people were the same, though: strangers in strange clothes, living out their own lives and finishing up their own stories and ignoring the invisible little boy lost in the midst of it all.
A man walked through me.
This time it took me two hours to finally calm down.
My father just sat there.
I close my eyes, allow myself to sink onto the hard bed. The years were not kind to my body. I wonder if it’s from all those years of not using it.
At age thirteen, I learned that I could Travel without the machine. Residue from all the times I had done so throughout my short life, I guess.
I managed to hide it for about a week before my father found out. It took roughly a month for him to build yet another machine in which to strap me down and take measurements. This one didn’t force me travel; he did that on his own. Threatened me with no food that night if I didn’t comply.
(Years later, I came to realize the threats could have been much, much worse.)
Still, I didn’t mind Travelling these days. I had done it often enough that it no longer fazed me, the strangeness, the familiarity.
The strangers had become friends, of a sort. They at least knew where they were going, what they were doing. I had no idea at all.
I take a deep breath.
I was sixteen before someone finally caught on. It was inevitable, I suppose. I knew more than I should have; things about the past, the future.
I hardly knew anything about the present.
Teachers wondered how I knew so much about the lives of 18th century poets, yet next to nothing about the simplest bits of technology. Fellow students wondered at my inability to understand the most popular references.
I was taken away from my father, placed in a facility. Strapped to various machines, day in and day out.
Soon I began Travelling just to escape.
Sink my mind far back into my unconsciousness.
#By the time I was twenty-eight, I knew more about the lives of complete strangers than I did about my own. Their stories blurred together into a long and convoluted narrative, their lives distinct yet indistinguishable.
I could tell you exactly what a poor man living in 15th century Russia did for a living, what technologies were available to the masses five hundred years from now.
And yet I could barely remember my own name.
By this point, time travel was common knowledge. The scientists had no need for me anymore, had let me free nearly five years ago.
I continued Travelling. It was all I knew how to do.
And I Travel.
Eryn Lee is a zoologist with a passion for birds of prey. She enjoys reading, writing and photography. She currently lives in Kansas with her two dogs.