FICTION | Nobody here but usby Malachi O’Doherty
“I don’t care if you are gone a hundred years” said the man at the desk, “so long as you have the egg back here in five minutes.”
“That’s the bit about time travel that does my head in”, said Elaine.
“Think of it” said Tom, “as like getting into your car and driving a hundred miles then coming back and parking it almost at the same spot. Only instead of covering distance you cover time. Right?” He was hoping the man at the desk would affirm his metaphor.
He said, “You can live the rest of our lives in the past, so long as the point of time at which you return the egg is five minutes after you took it out.”
“And does it cost extra if we are away for, I don’t know, years?”
“No ma’am, there’s no extra charge if you return it in the condition it was in when you took it out, but people tend not to ramble around the past for years; they don’t like to come back older than they were. Can I ask what sort of holiday you have in mind?”
Elaine said, “It’s our honeymoon. An uncle of mine owned a resort out by Lake Esker. I have this idea of going back to the night before it opened for business and having it all to ourselves.”
“There was a blue moon that night”, said Tom. ‘Comet dust. The Boyle Allen.”
“An excellent choice”, said the man. “We find a lot of our customers want to sample nature, though I warn you, most say you can only have so much of it before you want to come back to normality.”
The man handed them a small card with their travel co-ordinates but showed them how they could direct the egg to other destinations, past and future, with little trouble.
“Have you thought about food?”
“That’s the beauty, the resort will be well stocked and we are going to leave a tip.”
She didn’t tell him that the tip for her uncle would be to buy shares in a small company claiming to offer time travel tours and which was, back then, facing huge lawsuits from families of missing clients.
The egg had just enough room for both of them, their knees touching. Tom inserted the card into the console in front of them and a voice said: “You have arrived.”
There had been no noises or bumps.
Elaine opened the door and stepped out onto the tarmac of a 21st century car park and braced herself against a soft chill.
Tom said, “That’s neat. It’s a good thing it didn’t set us down on the water.”
“What would we do if they had?”
“Just go back, I suppose and try again.”
They stood nervously looking around them. Neither had experienced this much silence before. And then it was not quite silent.
“What is that?”
“Animals”, said Tom.
“Birds. Listen. That squeaky sound. It’s birds. I’ve heard recordings.”
“Do they bite?”
“I don’t think so. But sometimes they shit on you.”
“Well, let’s just hope they stay away from us.”
The path from the car park led to a clearer view of the lake, an almost metallic expanse of still water, ruffled by an occasional breeze, overlooked by ten log cabins. “We can take any one we want.”
“Are we going to swim?”
“That’s what I’m here for”, said Tom.
“I hope that’s not all you are here for.”
They laughed and kissed.
She said, ‘The first clients are coming in the morning, so the cabins should be stocked with food and the beds will be ready. Shall we go and see?”
The facilities were basic. There was little that could really have been called automation in the bathroom and the screen was an old fashioned television that took up just one wall. And it wouldn’t turn on no matter what they said to it.
“How long to moonrise, do you think?”
“About an hour. There will be a clear view over there, and the best time will be the first hour, when it’s low and looks really big.”
“I want us to make love by the light of the blue moon”, said Elaine.
They went down to the edge of the water. They soon shed their fear of the birds, which flew near them but avoided contact.
“Do you think the water is cold?”
“One way to find out.” Elaine undressed on the jetty and shivered a little. Tom, still with his clothes on took her in his arms and rubbed her arms and back to warm her, teasing her skin with the fabrics of his shirt and trousers, knowing from before that she liked the imposition of buttons and buckle on tender flesh. He kissed her neck and she laughed. Her nipples had tensed in the chill evening air. He made a game out of his own arousal but she brushed her hand against the front of his crotch to be sure there was more to it than teasing.
“Get out of those clothes. I can’t do this on my own.”
His underwear snagged as if on a hook. She gripped him firmly with both hands. “There’s enough heat there for both of us.”
He lifted her in a manner she was familiar with, showing off his strength, expecting to lower her in a docking manoeuvre that would finish with him deep inside, his hips bearing her weight. He could get her to come that way – had done before – hardly moving at all inside her, saving himself.
“No, no no”, she said. Not until the moon is up.” She clung to his neck and disentangled herself from him then leapt straight into the lake and yelled. “Yo.”
He was more naked with only the breeze against him but the cold water would assuage the hunger so he plunged in after her.
At home they had only ever swum in managed pools and at first they were uneasy about the rough texture of the earth below them and the flies but they assured themselves that this was all ok and perfectly normal and even desirable for people of this time.
They swam in circles, testing the echo from the hills around them, as the sky reddened in the west and over their heads.
“That’s a sign of good weather tomorrow.”
“We’ll be gone by then,” she said.
“We could just come back to today and do this again.”
“We wouldn’t have it to ourselves though.”
“Yes we would.”
“No, we would see ourselves here. And isn’t there a rule about that?”
“They used to think it would create anomalies that would change the future. Now they think it never does. The future has already happened and can’t be changed.”
“You’re confusing me again”, she said.
They watched the sun melt into the horizon and disappear as in the east the moon, huge and astonishingly blue, was born.
“Oh my God, it’s amazing. What does that?”
“Cobalt dust from the comet.”
“I don’t think I want to understand it”, she said.
They waded out of the water, helping each other as they stumbled on the stony ground and settled on a patch of soft plastic grass. “At least they have got something modern here”, said Tom.
“Now I want us to make love in a way we will never forget. Lie back”, she said. “I’m going to kiss every inch of you.”
She started with the tender flesh of his inside thighs, her hair draped over his belly, her cheek brushing pretend-accidentally against his erection as it twitched anxiously waiting for her lips.
“Come astride my face and I’ll lick you at the same time.”
“No”, she said. “I want all my concentration.”
And she tongued the tip like one cock fencing with another, before admitting it to the warmth of her mouth and deeper into the shocking firmness of her throat. She drew back then and straightened herself. “Don’t you dare come yet.”
But he rolled over and laughing spread her legs and watched her gasp as his spittle drenched shaft slid deep into her.
“Now”, she said, “I think I am just seconds away.”
So he held her fast by the buttocks rubbed her pubic bone against his own, watching her writhe helplessly until the rapture engulfed her and she screamed loud enough to scare the birds from their evening rest. Then he had only to move a little himself as she flailed, to trigger his own magnificent and crippling completion.
“Do you know what I would like?’ she said as she recovered. “I would like to come back here every time we need to be reminded how much we love each other now.”
“You think we’ll forget?”
“When might we?”
“When we are fifty and as used to each other as a brother and sister.”
“Well, why don’t we go now to when we are fifty and lend them the egg to come back here?”
“Is that possible?”
“The man said it was.”
“How will we tell them where to go?”
“It will be us and we will remember.”
“Could we do it for every ten years of our lives?”
“How will we find them?”
“Anywhere we chose to go they’ll be waiting because it will have been their decision and they’ll remember.”
Tom keyed in the co-ordinates and the egg said: “You have arrived.”
They stepped out into the bedroom of their apartment. Elaine thought for a moment they were back at the lake and then realised that their older selves had set the screens to show the lake scene, probably from recordings she had yet to make. They went into the adjacent bathroom and waited quietly. After a moment they heard their older selves laughing and then there was another moment of near silence. Then they were back.
He was saying, “I’m not quite as fit as I was then.”
“Oh you did fine, my lovely man.”
The older ones left the bedroom and Tom and Elaine got back in the egg.
“We don’t have to go back to the lake yet. We could hop forward another ten years.”
“I’m afraid”, said Elaine. “I don’t want to see if we break up.”
“OK, but just one more.”
“You have arrived”, said the egg.
Again it felt as if they hadn’t moved, for the recording of the lakeside was all around them. Then they noticed it was different and they were in it.
“Oh my God. We’re fucking. They recorded it. How could they?”
Tom laughed. “We did it – or will.”
They had a view of Elaine crouched over Tom, her bottom raised, his hand reaching up over it. They watched fascinated and saw Tom turn her over and come into her from behind.
“We didn’t do that.”
“Not yet, anyway.”
They went into the bathroom and let their older selves take the egg if they wanted it. They heard them arguing. Older Tom was saying: “Keep your voice down. They’ll hear us. We said we’d do this, so for their sake, let’s do it.”
“OK”, said Older Elaine. “What the fuck anyway. It’s not going to change anything.”
Tom and Elaine in the bathroom held each other close. “Oh dear.”
Moments later Older Elaine called out, “Thank you both very much. We needed that. And we saved you the trouble of going ahead and did the next two ourselves, so go back to the lake now and enjoy your honeymoon.”
When they got back in the egg the air was mustier and there was dust on the panel, as if it had been gone for weeks and not cleaned.
“You’re going to have to explain this to me”, said Elaine.
“They’ve jumped ahead too and lent it to our even older selves, and who knows what they have done?”
They walked back down to the lake, saddened by the glimpse they had had of their future, knowing they would stay together even through times when they would not be happy, wondering if that was the best they could do, but neither voicing that thought.
They brought food and wine from their cabin to the water’s edge and sat and feasted together.
“My goodness, look”, said Elaine.
The lights in all the cabins were on. This wasn’t just their own selves come from each decade of their lives. There were more visits. At some stage in their lives they had arranged perhaps to come here every year, or maybe several nights in a row to refresh their love for each other by watching their younger selves making love by the lake under a blue moon.
“This is how we save our marriage”, said Tom.
“I feel like we’re putting on a sex show for them.”
“It’s ok love; there’s nobody here but us.”
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