They made me tea. That was nice. Nobody makes tea anymore. I haven’t finished it though. They are watching me, impatient. I put my tea down.
The family of three sit on the sofa. I hold up the helmet.
“Okay, so, you plug in the date here. The location here. Have any of you time travelled before?”
The wife shakes her head for everyone.
“Okay, well, time travel is kind of like swimming through a lake of rapidly freezing water. The further you go, the harder it becomes to change anything; go back too far and you become a shadow of nothing. All you can do is observe. A ghost, if the comparison helps. See, there are laws for time just like the rest of nature.”
I hold up my fingers and tick them off as I go.
“One, you can only travel backwards.
Two, if you go back too far you cannot interact with anything around you. You can shout “Paradoxes be damned!” and go looking for your grandma but, it won’t work, so don’t try it. Even if she is a looker.”
I pause. Not even a smile. That one normally gets at least a smile.
“Uh, three, you cannot go back to the same place at the same time you’ve been before. Believe me, people try it all the time.
Four, you cannot bring any objects back with you. Time is much more of a mental exercise than a physical one. Physically, most of you stays in the present.
Five, any attempted action that would cause too much of a ripple will rip you back to the present. Time alterations are best left to the professionals. You know, spies, scientists, stock brokers, etc.”
I chuckle. But them, not a twitch. Just blank stares.
“Okay, well, not only is getting ripped back unpleasant, the company will not refund the remaining time and you will be banned from travelling for six months.
There are additional rules, of course. You can’t even go back to a malleable time without a permit. No average citizen can get one of those. You’ll be laughed at just for trying. Stricter consequences if you actually change anything. The minor details are in the pamphlet.
Oh, and remember. Nothing goes back with you, even your clothes. So, be polite to other travelers.”
I wink at the son. He just stares at me.
Bunch of damn sociopaths, I think.
“Well, that’s it I suppose. Any questions?”
They just sit there. Like mannequins. I move forward and hold out the helmet, awkwardly. The wife looks at the husband. The husband takes it. I step back.
“Thanks for the tea, you have no idea how inhospitable some folks can be,” I say. “Okay, well, enjoy,” I say, picking up my tools and heading for the door. The husband stands and follows. At the door, he shakes my hand. I look into his eyes. They are sad eyes.
“Have a good one,” he says.
“You too, pal.”
I walk back to the car, my blood warming in the sunlight.