We are in the restaurant, Omolara and I, sitting at a circular table. She is saying something, but I’m not listening. I am gazing into her eyes, and then her lips, and then her nose. She is so beautiful and radiant, I can’t get my eyes off her. It’s our first date, and I already love her. You see, I don’t love easily, because everything’s fleeting in time; people get old and die, houses spring up and collapse…
I met Lara on the first day of class. We both attend the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The way she walked into the lecture hall that day, it was as though she floated on air. For a girl in the Physics and Astronomy department, she was so full of life, so irresistible. What made me fall more in love with this angel was her intelligence. I was the best in class but Lara was better than me (figure that out). We worked closely with each other on assignments and projects, but we promised not to date until our final year.
“How do you feel?” Lara asks me.
“I don’t know what I’m feeling, Lara, it’s like I can’t feel my feet. I mean, it’s our first date, we’ve waited like forever for this,” I reply.
“I know, right? I can’t stop talking,” she blushes.
“I don’t want you to stop.”
Our eyes lock, and for a moment time pauses. My heart beats so hard it aches. She opens her palm and instinctively I place mine on hers. Immediately, I feel the voltage of a thousand thunderbolts course through me. It’s like I’m levitating. I don’t know if this is supposed to happen, I’ve read so many books on first dates, but nothing like this. I love this feeling, I never want it to end.
“Dan,” she whispers.
“Yes,” I reply, barely recognising my own voice.
“The project, we have to finish the last part today.”
“Argh, I hate how you’re able to keep a cool head when the rest of the world is spinning out of control. It’s unfair,” I say. She winks at me like she’s got a super power I don’t have.
I pay for the food and we both walk out of the restaurant. The car is parked in front, dad had to let me borrow it, he knows how important today is to me. I unlock the car and open the door for Lara, but she’s behind fumbling for something in her bag. I begin to relive my experience in the restaurant, I still can’t feel my feet. I guess this is love, but the books I read didn’t explain this. How can anybody explain this?
I signal to Lara to be fast. She signals back, maybe she forgot something inside the restaurant. I drift back into daydreaming, this date has to be the first of many. Lara and I are always so serious, doing project after project. I begin to think of our future together. Something catches my eye, a van speeds past me. The glass door of the restaurant is shattered. I walk towards the scene. Lara is on the floor, the security guard is on the floor. She’s not moving. This is all too fast, my head feels light. I crouch low and lift her head but no signs of life. I check her pulse, nothing.
Lara is dead.
There’s noise around, people are shouting. This is all too much, my head is heavy. There’s broken glass around. There’s blood. I pull out a shard of glass from Lara’s face. Someone grabs my shoulder and pulls me up. I can’t see clearly, everything is blurry. There’s a sound in my head. Someone is talking to me.
“Hey!” the person says as he jerks me, “Are you injured?” he asks.
I shake my head in reply. I’m still holding the shard of glass from Lara’s face. I’m not thinking straight. I drop the glass and get into the car and drive home as fast as I can. I park the car in front of the house and run to my room. I cry for some minutes. I roll the carpet to expose a trapdoor. The trapdoor leads to an underground basement.
You see, besides our final year project, Lara and I were working on a side project, we had been working on it since year 1 — a time machine. I can go back in time, I can save her. We were suppose to solve the last part of the equation together, but I have to do it on my own now. I can’t believe Lara is dead, I must save her, I can save her.
I turn on the lights and uncover the time machine. I pick up the Quantum Physics text book, a pen and a sheet of paper. You see, I must calculate the shrinking quotient which is the ratio of my actual body size to the size of an electron. I pull off all my clothes and step on a digital weighing scale and record my current weight down to the fourteenth decimal place. It reads 75.27614911093024 kg. I search for some constants in the textbooks and derive the shrinking quotient equation. This takes me an hour. I pick up my phone and open the app Lara and I programmed together — Time Liner 1.0 — to double-check. The time liner app sends a signal to the receptor which controls the speed and direction of the magnetic wheel. I open my laptop and program the shrinking quotient equation into the app. There are two hollow magnetic wheels, each is a metre in diameter and two metres apart. The wheels are powered by seventy truck batteries which serve as backup in case of power outage.
Lara and I had plans for our invention. We were going to patent it and run tests on the prototype using inanimate objects. If the objects were able to shrink to atomic size then we would know that the time machine was working. This time I have to run the test on myself, it’s a risk I must take if I’m going to save her. I set the dialler on the app to dial the receptor in 60 seconds, and I stand in the middle of the two magnetic wheels. This is the moment of truth. Clockwise rotation of wheel 1 means I’d travel into the future and anticlockwise rotation means I’d travel to the past. My only business is with the past, to save Lara. There is a hitch though, which is that I can’t choose how far into the past or future I’d travel. Lara and I planned to work on the programming so that we could choose the exact time into the past or future we wanted to travel to.
The magnetic wheel is heating up and rotating the high intensity laser lights. It’s approaching full speed now. I can’t move, it’s like a force is pressing down on me in all directions. The wheels are spinning even harder, faster and faster. Hold on a minute, I’m shrinking! I’m getting smaller, I can feel it. This is real. We did it, Lara, I’m coming for you. I grow even smaller, smaller, and smaller, and even smaller to the size of an electron. My God! You wouldn’t believe what I’m seeing until you see it for yourself. I’m the size of a photon, more than ten million times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair! This is beautiful! Everything is vibrating. My God! Reality is so different on this scale. Everything on this scale is literally disappearing and appearing, it’s like they are alive somehow. I’m moving, I’m being dragged towards wheel 1. The magnetic wheels have formed a wormhole. Each side of the wormhole is like a cone that expands infinitely. It looks infinite to me because, well, I’m the size of an electron when in reality the cone is only a meter wide. I’m dragged even harder into the infiniteness of the right side of the wormhole. I feel elastic, like spaghetti.
Whoa! It worked! All of a sudden I’m at the table with Lara, just at the moment our palms touched. The time machine brought me here because this was the moment of highest electrical resonance. I can still feel the voltage coursing through my veins just like it happened some hours ago.
“Dan,” she whispers.