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A Time Traveler’s Regret

A mind-bending tale of forgiveness

By DamilolaPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 8 min read
Illustrations by Goodstudio

I was 5 days on a drunken spree when my mother took her last breath 4 months ago. The wind stood still, and the butterflies dropped dead from the poisonous grief in the air. The spring flowers in my garden died on the day she did. But I remember being sprawled out on my corridor, ridden in vomit and singing in an ear-piercing octave as I imagined myself as royalty in another one of my lucid dreams.

I should have been there.

Even though her hands would have been blue and cold, the love buried deep underneath all my guilt and shame might have been a source of warmth. She would have craved my touch and yearned for a kiss on my forehead. Our relationship was abysmal. She was unsupportive of my music career and couldn’t hide her disdain and disappointment. I was the black sheep, and I was drowning in thick black tar, ridden with inadequacy and failure.

The last time I saw her, she wore a subtle look of dissatisfaction on her oval face, her beautiful freckles standing out in the evening golden sun. No matter how mad my mother was, she always maintained an impressive level of equanimity.

Not one wrinkle. Not one hair out of place.

On that day, I told her she would have to visit my sister, alone. I wasn’t going to come along. I had spent approximately 2 minutes with her, as I was only there to borrow her car whilst she was out of town. She handed me the keys, and I drove off, beaming with excitement, at the thought of impressing the girl I had my eyes on.

For years, I was mad at my sister for getting married to my best friend. At first, I convinced myself that it was an inherited paternal instinct. After all, I had spent years with the guy. And I’ve seen first-hand, how he treats the many women—that have had the bad luck of gracing his bed. I knew how many hearts he had broken, and his insensitivity towards their consequential sufferings.

But she never listened. Ambitious, hot-headed and madly in love. Very soon my presumptions turned into misunderstandings and then the misunderstandings turned into a malice-filled monster. 5 years later, I still hadn’t spoken to my sister.

In addition to avoiding my sister and her husband, I was too drunk to go to my mother’s funeral. During her coma, and after her death, I buried myself in bottles of alcohol, drowning in desolation and heaps of vomit every night.

Numb when I’m drunk, guilty in my few moments of sobriety.

At one point, alcohol became my only friend, and I could swear it whispered terrible things to me at night, tormenting me and causing agony to my liver. My father had died in a nuclear weapon misfire during his service 12 years ago, and so my mother’s death left me with no one to call family.

My ego overtook my need for reconciliation with my sister. And I clung to the bottle for solace and survival.

I later changed my number and moved towns, trying desperately to put all my woes behind me. But self-reproach has a habit of following you wherever you go. And so I had always wondered if the universe could break its rules, and I could turn back the hands of time. I would have written her a carefully crafted sonnet, bidding her farewell into the great beyond.

My wish was granted shortly after, as one of my friends came knocking on my door 2 weeks ago. Riley is a familiar nutcase. Usually, I wouldn’t let him in, as I was growing increasingly tired of his requests for my involvement in his ridiculous science experiments.

I had nothing to live for, but at the same time, I had no desire to die.

But this time, he informed me of a project that was going on in the metaphysics department at his workplace. Someone had built a device to manipulate the astral particles in our auras. And by using the antimatter of protons, a portal can be created, specifically designed to revert to a previous auric state.

Using a Bolometer, a device that can monitor electromagnetic radiation, the current colour of my aura can be detected and the new technology would allow it to be manipulated. The only problem—the state to which it reverts the subject is unknown.

I could be back to a time when I was very happy, or to a time when my aura was dull.

No one knew what the side effects would be since the device had never been tested. But my friend who had witnessed my grief for the past months thought I’d be the perfect candidate for such an experiment. It all sounded perilous, and I was signing up to be the scapegoat for a trial in its inception.

But I’d take any chance offered to me to get rid of my guilt, even if it involved a Frankenstein-style experiment.

The day of the experiment approached, there was no way I could prepare, as the current state of my aura was not part of the variables. The only thing I could do was dress in the way my mother would have liked, just in case I went back to a state, prior to her death.

And so I wore the blue hat she had gifted me on my 18th birthday. I also shaved my beard and put on my father’s khaki trousers, the one he gave to me, the night before he went to service.

I sat on the metal chair, and my friend and his colleagues connected the robotic-looking device and taped some wires to my skin. I was given a journal and instructed to repeat the words in it. It would serve as a hypnosis device, and also the portal. The plan was to keep repeating the words whilst simultaneously visualising an opening.

The wires taped to me would then alter my brain waves, connecting neurones that are otherwise detached.

In this state, I’d be able to use the journal as a portal to access a previous auric state and in turn, be able to travel back in time. Once disconnected, I’d be back on the metal chair.

15 minutes was all I had, 15 minutes to fix my mistakes.

The words I chose were the last words my mother said to me before I drove off in her car.

“I need to talk to you about Bethany,” she said, in a delicately lilting soprano cadence.

To which I replied coarsely, “She can clearly take care of herself mum!”

Those were the haunting words I repeated 5000 times before the timer went off and my body entered into an unfamiliar zone.

The hypnosis started as euphoric and psychedelic, a far cry from the sharp contrast that was to come. In an instant, my body transformed into an enclosure for burning lava. It was almost like acid was the only component of my bloodstream. The last thing I remember is a feeling that can best be described as my body being pulled apart into thousands of magnetic pieces.

The cells in my body soon merged with the atomic composition of the journal in front of me.

I dissolved.

I found myself back at my mother’s house, at 6 p.m. on the day she died. Only, I had missed her by 7 hours.

I had always wondered why she was rescued from the crash at 3:57 p.m. The flight to my sister’s house was around 5 hours. Strangely, she was still on the plane 2 hours after her scheduled arrival. Nonetheless, I was dejected. My reason for a travel back in time had failed and I was engulfed in anguish and an even worse feeling of regret.

I started to feel very faint, the burning acid effect had carried on through the portal. And so I went into the house, using the emergency key my mother usually left underneath the mat, desperate for a sip of water. The house was exactly how she left it. The cushions were sat at a certain angle, the floor was squeaky clean, and everything was intact.

I walked towards the fridge to grab a bottle of water, but my eyes soon caught a suspicious looking small box, wrapped in brown paper, sticking out under a bowl filled with fruits. She must have kept it there before she left for the airport I thought.

Out of curiosity, I opened it, and to my surprise, it contained a few items. A cheque for a huge sum of money addressed to my sister, and a few greeting cards. At first, I was angry, this behaviour is very typical of my mother. The best I could get from her when she was alive was a few quid to supplement my meagre food allowance. Yet this was a lot of money left for her faultless princess, the only child deserving of her monetary affection.

Regardless, I wasn’t going to leave the box behind, in the case of a burglary, which I suspected might have happened, seeing as I never heard of the cheque after her death.

And so I picked up the box and ran out of the door aware of the ticking clock. My mission had failed, and I hadn’t been able to say a proper goodbye to my mother, but at least I got something out of my visit.

5 4 3 2 1

I found myself back on the chair.

Thankfully, the reversal process wasn’t as excruciating as I had expected. My friend and his colleagues greeted me with a huge sigh of relief on their sweaty faces. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, they screamed out loud.

“We did it!”

“You need to send the reports straight to the professor,” Riley chimed in, pacing around like a little kid excited for Christmas presents.

“Do you mind if we take pictures, Sean? We are also going to need a statement for our research papers!”

I could hear their voices, but my spirit was back at the house, back in the moment I arrived, before I checked the time and realised I was 7 hours late.

“Guys! Guys! Guys! that’s not going to happen today, I could do with a shot of tequila and a plate of roast por—”

Before I could finish my sentence, I heard a loud knock on the door. The whole house trembled and for a moment I thought the ceiling would cave in. I ran straight to the door hoping to unleash my anger on whoever was knocking so loudly.

It was an ill-mannered postman.

Luckily for him, he had dropped off the letter and hurried off to the next house, before I could explode in anger. I rarely receive letters, and so I was instinctively curious to see what the contents were.

It was a letter addressed to me from my brother-in-law.


We’ve been trying to get hold of you for months. I’m very sorry to inform you that Bethany has passed away. She died about 3 months ago of terminal cancer.

Your mum was on a return flight to pick up the cheque she forgot when the plane crashed. It was meant for Bethany’s treatment. We tried searching the house for it, to pay for the surgery. But it was gone. It was supposed to have been carefully hidden in a small box wrapped in brown paper.

The neighbours said they saw a man with a blue hat and khaki trousers come out of the house around 6 p.m., on the day of the crash, do you know anything about that? Please write back.

My jaws dropped and bubbles of perspiration began to trickle down my aghast face. I removed my blue hat to get some air, staring into the distance at the box containing the cheque I had brought back from my travel.

I had killed my sister.

science fiction

About the Creator


poet, wanderer, writer.

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