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The Future of the Past

The Time Weaver's Quest

By Harmony KentPublished about a year ago 11 min read
Top Story - February 2023
The Future of the Past
Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash

Kaiden O’Neal steps through the portal. The strange sights and sounds of Leonding in 1902 Austria leave him disoriented, but only for a moment. The time weaver is no stranger to jumping between the fabric of spacetime and leaving the marvels and technology of 2135 far behind. If he fails in this task, though, this will be his last mission, and no future will exist to which he might return.

His target, a serious-looking 13-year-old lad, walks through the town alone, his eyes focused on the ground. The tall, slim boy has an angular face, a prominent chin, and dark brown hair frames a low forehead. His deep blue eyes and intense gaze lend him an aura of severity, but the young teen has a mischievous streak and a quick wit, which the time weaver hopes to use to his advantage.

A master of disguise, Kaiden can blend into any situation with ease. Totally committed to his cause, he will do anything to make his mission a success, no matter the cost. He slips the portal controller into a deep side pocket of his long, brown trench coat, removes his sunglasses, and slides them into the opposite side pocket. Time to approach the boy and attempt to make friends with him.

A dark purple bruise accentuates the lad’s right cheekbone and mars his youthful attractiveness. With his usual attention to detail, Kaiden reaches the child’s side at the exact time a bird’s piteous cry catches the focus of the troubled teen. As though synchronised, the two—man and boy—crouch side-by-side and examine the injured creature.

‘Broken wing, I’d say.’ Kaiden nods toward the misshapen, ruffled feathers.

The boy startles and stares at the stranger. Compassion darkens his eyes to an almost midnight hue, and he lifts the Thrush in a cradled palm. ‘Who did this to you?’ he murmurs and strokes the bird’s head with soft, careful movements.

Kaiden smiles. ‘We can help him.’ He waits for the boy to process the possibilities.

‘I can’t take him home. My father …’ The child’s face clouds and betrays a hint of who he will become if Kaiden fails in his mission to alter the course of history.

With a forced cheer, the time weaver pats him on the shoulder. ‘We’ll take him to my place.’ The boy sends a glance full of eager hope his way. ‘I have a room with Mrs Gruber.’

The lad’s eyes light up in recognition. ‘Yes. She’s a kind lady, and I bet she’ll give you milk for him.’

‘Also something to make a cosy nest.’ Kaiden fuels the newly born enthusiasm, pleased his guess of a shared bond over an injured animal is playing out. ‘Shall we go and find out?’

With the Thrush encased between the boy’s cupped palms, the two set off toward the town square, where Mrs Gruber’s rooms are to be found.

Despite knowing all there is to know about his young companion, Kaiden asks, ‘Do you attend the Realschule at Linz?’

A wince flickers across the lad’s features before he composes his expression into something which resembles studied indifference. ‘Yes. The second year.’ A telling pause ensues and the boy makes himself say the rest in spite of his evident shame. ‘I failed physics and mathematics.’ He shrugs as though the information is of no importance.

‘You strike me as an intelligent young man.’ Kaiden waits.

The teen’s lips curve up briefly before dropping back into their habitual straight line.

The time weaver pushes a little more, ‘History and the arts were my best subjects.’ He gives a self-deprecating chuckle. ‘Numbers were never my strongest area.’

‘I bet you did well in physical education, though.’ The boy’s grin shows his innate mischief and sense of fun.

‘Would you believe me if I told you I used to be skinny?’ With an air of light mockery, Kaiden uses his hands and eyes to indicate his tall, muscular body.

A surprised laugh bursts from the teen before he can censure himself. ‘You look so athletic.’

‘Hard work, my friend.’

The kid’s whole posture and attitude warms at the use of ‘friend’.

After a couple of minutes of companionable silence, they walk around a corner, and the cobbled square comes into view. In the middle is the town clock tower. On the far side, stands Mrs Gruber’s three-story boarding house. Her husband perished in June 1900, while storming the Dagu Fort at Tianjin, during the Boxer Rebellion, fighting for the Austro-Hungarian forces. The widow now makes a living by hosting boarders and hiring out her bread oven to those townsfolk who don’t yet have one of their own.

Precisely as Kaiden assessed she would, the homely older woman takes immediate charge of the injured bird and his rescuers. As soon as the creature lies settled and nestled—having been fed and watered—in a soft towel pressed into a deep tea tray, the widow makes hot tea and buttered black bread for the three of them.

The conversation flows freely, and soon the boy hangs onto Kaiden’s every word. Finally, he shares something deeply personal—an opening the time weaver waited for patiently. ‘My brother died. He was only six years old. That’s why … the bird … we have to make him get better.’

Mrs Gruber squeezes his hand. ‘We’ll have him flying about in no time. You’ll see.’

Kaiden nods and rubs the lad’s arm. ‘Getting the little Thrush back in the air is my new mission in life.’ He holds the boy’s gaze. ‘Together, we can accomplish anything. And you, my friend, are the most wonderful animal whisperer.’ He grins. ‘Yes, from now on, this will be my name for you … my young whisperer.’

The widow lifts her teacup. ‘I’ll drink to that.’ They all chuckle and sip their brews. Hope fills Kaiden at this sealing of the bond between man and boy.

All too soon, the town clock strikes the fourth hour, and the time weaver offers to walk the lad home. At the end of the road, within a few feet of the child’s residence, they arrange to meet at Mrs Gruber’s boarding house in the morning, after the Sunday church service.

By Ethan Ball on Unsplash

Over the ensuing weeks, Kaiden works hard to undo the years of damage done by the boy’s overbearing and abusive father. With only a small window available to affect any chance of change, he works quickly and pushes more than he would prefer. He does his utmost to encourage the natural compassion the teen often tries to deny, alongside praising and strengthening the boy’s love of literature, art, and music. The father wants the boy to pursue a different path, though, and follow him into civil service. Determined to save the future, the time weaver works to shape the young man’s world so he might steer him from his current path of frustration, growing hate, anger, and ever more frequent violent outbursts.

Unfortunately, as the weather turns colder, so does the lad’s attitude, and despite the time weaver’s attempts at gentle persuasion, their walks occur less frequently, and the teen grows more sullen. The daily beatings and humiliation the boy receives at the hands of his father prove too strong for this budding friendship to overcome, despite the joy and companionship they share when the Thrush heals and flies to its freedom. At this moment, Kaiden has never seen his young protégé so happy. The jubilation doesn’t last, and slowly, the teen grows distrustful and even disrespectful around his recent adult acquaintance. Perhaps, if the mother would show more interest and intervene … however, grief after losing three children to diphtheria keeps the woman subdued to the point she even cooperates in her son’s subjugation.

Eventually, even with his knowledge of the future, the harsh realities of history force the time weaver to admit that dynamism far greater than any one man can influence continues to determine what will come. Though Kaiden’s intentions are of the best, and he’s come armed with knowledge and a solid plan to reshape the child through kindness and example, the fabric of spacetime refuses to bend to the weaver’s will. His mentors had cautioned him not to attempt any major changes, but with the future of the human race at stake, he had no other choice. Surely, to turn a sullen child into a happy one isn’t too much to ask of the universe? Now, he faces the biggest dilemma of his life—stay and continue his mission to alter the boy’s fate, and risk tearing the fabric of spacetime wide open, or accept the inevitable and leave history to its own devices.

Tomorrow, the father will die and, after the burial, the grieving teen will leave Leonding to live in a boy’s boarding house near his school in Linz. At that point, the weaver’s influence would vanish as he wouldn’t be able to follow. The limits imposed by the portal technology demand that any traveller stay within two miles of the entry point and must return to their own time within a maximum of seven weeks. Kaiden chose his window with the greatest of care, and it's all been for nought. At most, only minutes remain when he walks with the young Adolf for the last time. Distracted by an outburst from his companion at the moment he’s about to decide whether to disable the controller or let it run its course, Kaiden fails to act.

The fatal blow comes when, in a fit of temper, the boy repeats words spoken by his father throughout his young life. Adolf and Kaiden haven’t seen one another for a whole week, much to the weaver’s chagrin, and the boy is in trouble at school for playing pranks on the teachers. ‘They are so Jewish,’ he yells and stomps on a snail in the grass. The crunch is sickening.

Nauseous and disgusted, the weaver bites his tongue, takes a deep breath, and, in calm tones, says, ‘Jewish doesn’t mean bad. It’s a religion just like your Catholic faith.’

The boy scoffs. ‘What would you know? Bloody foreigner.’

Kaiden uses his penultimate moments to try to nudge the boy toward a kinder and more open outlook, ‘I know your father calls everything bad “Jewish”, but that doesn’t make it right. And it’s a long way from being accurate. You show so much tolerance for your friends’ choices and beliefs, so why not in this? Why repeat ignorant words blindly when you have intelligence enough to make up your mind for yourself?’

Time stands still. The Earth ceases to turn on its axis for that split second. The pivotal moment arrives. Which path will the child-man choose? Has Kaiden done enough to counter-balance the past 13 years of abuse and ridicule? Every possible parallel universe exists in this minuscule instant. So many potential outcomes. And they all depend on what happens next.

In the pocket of Kaiden’s trench coat, the controller vibrates, and before he can disarm the device, the threads of space-time wrap tight around the weaver, pull him from 1902, and propel him toward his native era. His anguished cry of ‘no!’ disappears with his body. Talk about bad timing. He wasn’t supposed to transition while with his target. What effect will his sudden and inexplicable vanishing act have upon the already unbalanced child?

Without the guidance of the weaver, Adolf's life may still follow the same path that led to the Second World War. However, there remains a chance Kaiden sparked a sense of goodness in the boy, and hope may yet ignite and offer a different future. Time will tell.

Only if Kaiden returns to 2135 will he learn whether he failed or succeeded—whether the metallic ball at Earth’s inner core remains intact. If the warring powers he left behind deployed their ultimate weapons and destroyed the planet, the most likely hypothesis says his essence, trapped within the warp and weft of spacetime, will expand with the universe until the Big Rip tears apart everything from galaxies and planets to individual atoms and even time itself.

The portal seals behind him, and the time weaver crosses his fingers.


[Author’s note: I hope you’ve enjoyed this short science-fiction story. My inspiration for this tale comes from the oft asked question: ‘What If?’ In the spirit of spinning a great yarn, you may have noticed I’ve made use of a small amount of artistic license here and there, but most especially around the theories of spacetime and the hypothetical Big Rip, which both fascinates and terrifies me! 🤓 If you enjoyed this bit of fun fiction, I’d be delighted if you could heart it and share it on Twitter, tagging me with @harmony_kent. I’d be even more overjoyed if you could leave me a comment to share your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading. Hugs, Harmony 💕🙂]

Short StorySci FiHistorical

About the Creator

Harmony Kent

The multi-genre author who gets write into your head

I began writing at 40 after a life-changing injury. An avid reader & writer, I love to review & support my fellow authors.

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Story Empire

Amazon Author Page




Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

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Comments (20)

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  • Michele Jonesabout a year ago

    If only.. But would that one change create something even worse? Lots to think about.

  • JBazabout a year ago

    I really enjoyed your take on the 'What If " part. A more humanizing structure. I chose to believe he succeeded. Well done

  • Robbie Cheadleabout a year ago

    Hi Harmony, this is a clever story idea. Well done.

  • aly suhailabout a year ago

    That's an amazing story, very unique.

  • Gwen Planoabout a year ago

    Brilliant, Harmony. You humanized a well-known villain through the innocence of a child. And by doing so, you've helped us consider those we hate or dislike through a different lens. The choices we make shape the person we become. ❤️

  • Jan Sikesabout a year ago

    You took a historical figure, a boy that would become a madman, and made me care about him. Nicely done, Harmony. It certainly makes one question whether or not history can be altered.

  • Tina D'Angeloabout a year ago

    Oh, this is superb. Lots of good research went into this. Very, very good.

  • Joan Hallabout a year ago

    Amazing. Having just watched Casablanca (again) I've been giving a lot of thought to what the Jewish people in Germany and other countries had to endure at the hands of a madman. Your story makes one wonder if his life might have been different if a kind and caring person had taken him under their wind. Amazing job, Harmony.

  • Stephanie J. Bradberryabout a year ago

    I didn't see that character development coming. It's interesting because I'm reading a book right now by Malcolm Gladwell about how different people interpreted Adolph's character. I don't know how I wasn't Subscribed to you before, but I am now!

  • Jacquie Biggarabout a year ago

    You've done it again, Harmony- so good!

  • Mae Clairabout a year ago

    I thoroughly didn't anticipate your twists, Harmony. You completely caught by surprise with this intriguing story. If only...

  • Samia Afraabout a year ago

    I loved the surprise in finding out the young man was young Adolf. Good use of character development.

  • Superb story with some fantastic images and a great challenge entry. And yes I wasn't subscribed but I am now

  • Donna Reneeabout a year ago

    Struggling with how to comment on specific parts without giving any hints to readers haha…. I’ll just say….That was really nicely done! 😁

  • Staci Troiloabout a year ago

    That's always the fear, isn't it? Can you alter the path of an evil person, and if so, what are the consequences? Nicely done, Harmony.

  • Dana Stewartabout a year ago

    I don't want to give it away, but that was very suspenseful. Wonderful read.

  • Sarah Stuartabout a year ago

    A very clever story, Harmony. I enjoyed it. Hearted and tweeted,

  • D.L. Finnabout a year ago

    I love this, Harmony! You kept me in suspense who the boy was until the end. I hope he did make that change.

  • John W. Howellabout a year ago

    See I don't see your time tear as license. I see it as logic. A terrific story, Harmony. When I saw the prompt I had hoped someone would tackle old Adolf. You did a wonderful job.

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