The 42 Days of Christmas Series from MLR Press continues and today I’m posting an excerpt provided by the loverly Ally Blue!
“I don’t know why I wanted to do a time travel Solstice story. Just being contrary, I guess. I seem to have trouble doing anything the normal way. LOL.” – Ally Blue on Christmas Future
by Ally Blue
Home is when the heart is.
Dr. William McGregor never intended his homemade time machine to strand him and his lifelong crush in the distant future. But building a life there with Tony is everything Will ever wanted. When rescue comes, they must decide if it’s a Christmas miracle, or the end of their private paradise.
Part 1: The Future
No one was more surprised than William McGregor when the time machine he built in his storage shed actually worked.
He clutched the wheel of the riding mower around which he’d assembled his masterpiece and gaped at the wilderness where his cluttered workbench and pegboard full of tools had once been. I’ll have to show this to Dr. Rupert. She’ll have no choice but to give me the Haynes project now.
“Sweet Satan’s granny. What’s that, a projection TV or something?”
William twisted in his seat enough to glance at the man behind him. He caught a glimpse of the wide brown eyes that had captivated him for years and had to look away. “I told you, Tony. We’ve gone forward ten thousand years into the future. Which was your idea, if you’ll remember. And we got here in the time machine you are currently sitting in.”
Tony laughed. “Yeah, sure.” He grabbed Will’s shoulders in both hands and gave him a playful shake. “C’mon, Doc. How’d you do it? I gotta say, I’m impressed. I didn’t even notice the projection equipment. Then again, you could hide Bigfoot in that wreck you call a shed and no one would notice.”
Will shut his eyes and counted backward from fifty by sevens. He’d ask himself why he’d told Tony Prescott about the time machine, but he knew why. Because he was crazy in love with the man and could deny him nothing. Therefore, when he’d come strolling into Will’s shed uninvited that morning, nodded toward the tarp-covered machine and asked what it was, Will had told him the truth as if he had no choice in the matter. Of course Tony hadn’t believed it was really a time machine, which meant Will had to prove it.
He never realized he hadn’t believed it would work until it did.
Which probably said something less than flattering about his confidence in his own abilities.
He really didn’t want to think about that right now.
Will opened his eyes. “I promise you, this is real. This is the future.”
“Uh-huh. Sure it is.” Tony leaned forward until his five o’clock shadow almost brushed Will’s cheek. He pointed out through the makeshift front window of the vehicle, biceps bulging in his ever-present black T-shirt. “How the hell did you do that? Is it a hologram or something?”
Will squinted against the glare of a sun he could swear was slightly larger than usual. His mouth fell open. A flock of winged creatures he couldn’t identify skimmed over the tops of the thin, scraggly trees a couple hundred yards away. They obviously weren’t birds, but he couldn’t tell exactly what they were. He shook his head. “I don’t know.”
Tony laughed. “Man, I’d never’ve pegged you for a practical joker.” Pulling back into the rear seat, he opened the door of the rickety shell Will had cobbled together out of aluminum scraps, duct tape and bullheadedness. “Well, it’s been real, but I promised Aunt Gertie I’d help Uncle El and the cousins hang the Christmas lights. I better book or I’m gonna be late and Jimbo’ll scarf all the cookies.”
Will waited, chewing on the pad of his thumb, while the man he’d loved in silence for most of his life hopped out of the homemade time machine and came face-to-face with the facts of the situation.
For a couple of tense minutes, nothing happened. Then Tony jogged past the front window, headed toward the unusual trees and unidentified flying things.
This was not one of the reactions Will had expected. Heart thumping, he fumbled his door open, tripped over his own feet trying to get out and landed in the softest, most fragrant grass he’d ever had the pleasure of falling face first into. He took a moment to luxuriate in the coolness against his cheek and palms before climbing to his feet and running after Tony.
“Tony! Wait!” He picked up his pace when Tony ignored him. God, he needed to get out of the lab and into the gym once in a while. Not two minutes of running and he was already out of breath. “Tony, dammit, wait!”
Maybe it was the cursing that did it. Will rarely cursed. Whatever the reason, Tony stopped halfway to the grove and stared at the treetops with a blank expression. Will jogged up to him and stood trying not to gasp like he’d just sprinted a mile uphill instead of loping a hundred yards or so across a nice flat field.
“You should work out more,” Tony observed without looking at him.
Will glared at Tony’s profile. “Really? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks.” He mopped his forehead with his hand. Wow, the distant future was hot, even in December. “What’re you doing?”
For several long seconds, Tony said nothing. He continued not looking at Will, which cranked Will’s nervousness level up past eleven and into the hundreds somewhere. Never in the thirty-some-odd years they’d known one another had Tony shown any tendency toward bouts of silent thought. In Will’s opinion, this sudden change in demeanor did not bode well.
Finally, Tony shook his head and turned a bewildered gaze to Will. “I don’t understand. Where the hell is this place? How did we get here so fast?”
“We haven’t moved in space at all. We’re still in my backyard. But it’s ten thousand years in the future.”
“No, it isn’t.”
Tony crossed his arms. “Look, I know I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I’m not an idiot. I know enough about physics to know that time travel is not possible.”
Will sighed. Tony possessed an above average intelligence, but for reasons unknown believed himself to be stupid. His insecurity about the whole thing was aggravating at the best of times. This was not the best of times, and Will couldn’t be bothered to find ways to present the facts while soothing his best friend’s ego.
“Tony, please don’t take offense, because you’re actually one of the smartest people I know and I think you could understand this concept if you took the time to let me explain it to you. But you’re not a physicist. I am. It’s what I do. Time travel is, in fact, possible. I’d show you my equations, but you always say it hurts your brain when I do that. In any case, I’ve been developing my theories for years now, and I have built a working time machine.” He held up a hand to stop Tony’s protest. “We were sitting on a riding lawnmower. You saw it. Did you feel any motion whatsoever when I moved the lever? Anything at all?”
Tony glanced around at the pale blue sky, the green grass, and the grove of trees which looked more odd now that they stood closer to them. The flying things were nowhere to be seen, for which Will was grateful. They gave him the shivers.
His brow furrowed, Tony shook his head. “You know what, I don’t care where this is. Or when. Or whatever. I want to go back. I want to go to Aunt Gertie’s and hang Christmas lights and eat cookies. Take me back now.”
Will studied Tony’s face. The tightness of his jaw, the way the lips Will so wanted to kiss were pressed together, the way his gaze never settled, all announced his fear of this place—this time—as clearly as his request to leave.
Guilt squirmed in the pit of Will’s stomach. He shouldn’t have brought Tony here. Forcing a smile, he nodded. “Yes, we should go back. Come on.”
He turned and started toward the time machine, resisting the urge to try to take Tony’s hand. Tony fell into step beside him.
They hadn’t gotten more than a few steps before Will realized something had gone horribly wrong. He didn’t dare glance Tony’s way, but started running as fast as he could on shaking legs, Tony racing along at his side.
It couldn’t be, it just couldn’t. He’d gone over the return loop protocols until he could recite them in his sleep. All the equations were perfect.
So why was nothing left of his time machine but a fast-vanishing dent in the grass?