Monday, December 27, 2010

Guest Writer: Harris Tobias

Time Traveler

The future hasn’t happened yet
And the past has come and gone
There isn’t much a man can do
To mess around with time
You can’t go back and alter
A single word you said
You can’t undo the things you did
You can’t speak to the dead
You can wish that things were different
You can wish upon a star
But time is locked and shuttered
That’s just the way things are

So how do you explain this thing
I built inside my room
From bits of old computers
And a cell phone from my mom
I hooked the thing together then
I plugged the damn thing in
I thought that nothing happened
So I switched it on again

It flashed and popped and chattered
Then smoked and made a spark
I thought I’d popped a breaker
Cause everything went dark
I started down to check the fuse
To see what I had caused
But halfway down the staircase
I turned around and paused

Nothing looked the same
As it did an hour ago
It looked more like a house
A century old or so
What lamps there were were kerosene
Or maybe they were whale
The whole room looked like it came
From grandma’s garage sale

I went back upstairs and looked inside
Another room instead
Two people I had never seen
Were in my parent’s bed
I didn’t dare to wake them
there was nothing they could do
I was starting to get worried and
As my apprehension grew
I went back into my room
And quietly closed my door
I saw the lifeless pieces
Of my machine upon the floor
Without electric power,
I knew my goose was cooked
I’d never find an outlet
No matter how I looked
I guessed that I was stranded
A century in the past
I wanted to get out of there
And I had to get out fast
Before the household woke up
And forced me to explain
Exactly what I was doing there
They’d think I was insane
Even then they knew
Time travel was a dream
And who ever thought a kid
Could build a working time machine
The only thing that came to me
It popped into my mind
Was to gather up the pieces
And leave the house behind

I was leaving through the kitchen
When I noticed on the door
A calendar that gave the date
As 1894
I shut the door behind me
As quiet as a mouse
And walked through foggy streets
Until I could not see the house
I walked until I noticed that
The streets I walked down
Were not the streets of Philly
But of foggy London Town
Talk about a pickle
What was I to do
Lost a hundred years ago
In a place I never knew
I wracked my brains
I walked the streets
I didn’t have a clue
Then I had a bright idea
That rang some mental bells
There was one man in London then
His name was HG Wells
I’d read a lot about him
He wrote The Time Machine
He knew about time travel
He might have a scheme
To get me back to Philly
Back to mom and dad
I was getting desperate
Perhaps a little mad
I wandered aimless through the streets
How long I could not tell
I stopped and asked a bobby
If he knew of Mr. Wells
He didn’t but he helped me
Find the address in a book
He gave me directions, then
Walked off without a look
I don’t know if you understand
My predicament was strange
I dare not tamper with the past
Or the future might be changed
Just by talking to that Bobby
The fabric might be torn
And the future could be altered
So that I were never born

I walked through crooked streets
Gaslights relieved the dark
Several times I blundered
But I arrived at Regent’s Park
I found Hanover Terrace
And I knocked upon his door
It was late and he was angry
At least that is what I saw
I hurriedly explained my plight
He seemed to understand
He asked me in and offered tea
And made his one demand
“I want to see what brought you here
This device of yours
It’s hard to credit how it works
All the science it ignores.”
I showed him all the pieces
And how I thought it worked
When I mentioned electricity
I noticed that he jerked
To attention. Electricity it seems
Was something he was toying with
To power his machines.
It was something new he said
And was gratified to learn
That the future held such promise
Then he said that in return
For helping me get back home
I’d have to tell him tales
About my life in the future
And leave out no details
We talked all night, I told him
Of a world that was to come
He filled his notebook up with notes
And when we were done
He took me downstairs to his lab
And what a shock to see
So many strange devices
To produce electricity
I saw a Tesla coil
And some other things he had
I couldn’t name but I’d seen
In my High School physics lab
He hooked things up and turned things on
It stood my hair on end
He shook my hand and waved goodbye
I felt I’d made a friend
There was a mighty crackle
Then a flash and I was glad
To be back inside my Philly house
With dear old mom and dad
I couldn’t ever make it work again
No matter how I tried
The original would never work again
All the pieces had been fried.

It wasn’t till years later
When I was reading Wells
I marveled at how accurate
A future he foretells
I knew the reason he could see
A future so sublime
He had the notes he made that night
When I traveled back in time.
The future hasn’t happened yet
And the past is done and gone
There isn’t much a man can do
To mess around with time
You can’t go back and alter
A single word you said
You can’t undo the things you did
You can’t speak to the dead
You can wish that things were different
You can wish upon a star
But time is locked and shuttered
That’s just the way things are

© Harris Tobias 2010

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.


  1. That was, without a doubt, impeccable. At no point whatsoever did I feel your rhythm to be forced or stilted. I read this aloud to a family member, who was most entertained. I think everyone who sees it should read it aloud to someone else, and experience that special pleasure a poem of this type can bring. Puts me in mind of "Casey At The Bat".

  2. A M A Z I N G, without a doubt. The tone you set, the rhythm of the piece, all of it, freaking amazing. All I can say is that I feel honored that my piece could be featured with two others that put mine to shame.

  3. Harris, this is a masterpiece. Such clever rhythm. I couldn't read it fast enough. Thanks for sharing this with us.


MDJB at GoodReads

Michael D. Brown's books on Goodreads Bastille Day reviews: 2 ratings: 3 (avg rating 5.00...