“Dan,” she whispers.
“Yes,” I reply.
“The project, we have to finish the last part today,” she says.
“Yes, we will.”
She looks at me as if puzzled by my reply. I guess what she was expecting was, “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.”
“Something is different about you,” she says.
“Everything is okay, Lara, I’m just so happy to see you.”
She smiles. We get up and I pay for the food. As we make for the door, I remember Lara was searching her bag the last time like she forgot something, so I glance back at the table. Her phone is on table. I guess we were caught up in the moment enough for her to leave her phone behind.
“Wait, Lara, your phone.”
We walk back to the table to get her phone. At least now there’s no reason for her to stay back at the door searching her bag. I hold her hand and together we walk to the car. We get inside and reverse. This is good, now she’s in the car, we can go home safely and complete the equation together and I’d pretend not to know much about it.
I think I’ve been hit. The airbags are out. Damn, someone rammed straight into me. Lara… I turn to the side. Jesus! There’s blood all over her and her neck is broken. I force the door open and stagger out. Everyone’s shouting and pointing. I don’t understand, I made sure no car was coming before I drove into the road. I walk past the collision. The driver of the other car is still alive but badly injured. I board a taxi and head home. I can’t be at the scene, too much time is wasting. I must go back and try again. I try to get the graphic images of Lara off my mind. This is the second time I’d see her so badly impaired. Jeez! Why? Why does it have to be so bloody?
I get back home to the basement. I don’t need to spend an hour deriving the shrinking quotient equation since I’ve done it before. But I must record my weight again given the circumstances. I open the Time Liner app on my phone and dial the receptor. I step in-between the magnetic wheels and then it powers up. The lasers glow against my teary eyes. And before I know it I’m shrinking again to the tiniest possible size you can ever imagine. The wormhole forms (thanks to Albert Einstein’s field equations) and I’m drawn like spaghetti to one side, to the past. I’m coming for you, Lara, we’d find a way, a way without accidents, a way without blood. I’m going to save you, Lara.
I’m in the restaurant again, right at the moment our palms touched. I feel it, I feel the love coursing through me. But I can’t let it distract me. I’m here to save Lara.
“Dan,” she whispers.
“Lara, there’s no time, I need to tell you something–”
“Sir, you need to move your car, you’re blocking someone,” the security man interrupted.
I excuse myself and head to the parking lot to move the car. I get in and start the car.
Jesus! All the alarms are blaring. My God! An airplane just crashed into the restaurant. There’s fire everywhere. I don’t understand. What are the odds? Lara is gone again, burnt in the flames. This is the second time I’ve tried to save her. I don’t know what next to do. I have to see Professor Chidi.
Professor Chidi is the HOD of Physics and Astronomy at the University. I drive to the departmental building and head up to his office. Thank goodness the professor is on seat.
“Ah! Daniel, my best student. Where’s your partner in crime?” the prof asks, elated to see me.
“She’s dead.” I reply bluntly
The professor almost falls off his chair.
“You say what?”
I explain everything to him; how we went on our first date, how she died the first time, the time travel machine, how I used the time machine to go back in time to save her, how she died the second time, how I went back again to save her, and how she has now died the third time.
“Oh no!” he laments, “But I have to say I’m pretty impressed. I mean, a time travel machine? How did you guys come about that? What field equations did you use? How were you able to keep the wormhole stable?–”
“Professor?” I querry.
“Yes-yes-yes, of course-of course, this is not the time for such questions. So… yes, how to save her,” he pauses, “I’m sorry, but you see, you can’t save her.”
“What? Professor, you don’t understand, I have to save her, I don’t have a choice.”
“Hey-hey, look, this is time travel we’re talking about, you don’t just play with time. You don’t just travel to the past and change things just like that. There are rules.”
“But then there has to be a way,” I reply.
“Look, do you know why the accident, do you know why the plane crash? Each time you go back in time to save her, the manner of her death becomes more vicious. Time itself is fighting you. Hey, you can fool physics, but you can’t fool time.”
“But the security guard died the first time but didn’t die the second time. And so many people died the third time that didn’t die the first and second time. So why Lara?” I ask, puzzled.
“Hmm… that’s a tough one, but there’s an explanation. What you’re witnessing is what is called a time loop, like a circle you can’t break out of. And each time you try save her from the loop, the repercussions are even more so grave.”
“But why her?” I ask.
“I don’t want to sound like a fortuneteller with her crystal ball here,” he says, “but let’s put the physics aside for a bit. She dies because of your love for her.”
“Yes, think about it. You love her, right?” I reply. “Good. Daniel, you are the one sustaining the loop. You see, time knows all. Time knows that you are going to travel back to save her each time she dies. It is your frequent time travels that sustain the loop.”
“So you want me to stop trying to save her?” my heart breaks as I ask.
“Not me, Daniel, time. You’re playing time’s game now. Only time will tell. Now I sound like a fortuneteller.”
“But Professor, is there a slim chance I could save her?”
“Uh… I’d say one in a million chance. But if truly she’s gone, don’t try saving her. It’s not worth it, Daniel. You’d have to learn to let–”
I leave his office as he talks. He doesn’t understand. What he’s asking me to do is suicide. I can’t let her just die like that. He said there’s one in a million chance that I could save Lara. I have to take it, I have to try.
I get back home, to the underground basement and power the time travel machine yet again.
I’m with Lara again, at the time our palms touch.
“Dan,” she whispers.
“Look, Lara, there’s no time. I’ve got to save you, you have to trust me,” I say in a haste.
“What are you talking about?” she asks, perplexed.
Before I can reply, Lara starts coughing from a belch. The gas from the soft drink she took came up too fast.
“Lara, are you okay?” I ask.
But she keeps coughing. I get up and support her.
“Somebody get her some water!” I yell.
The waitress throws me a bottle of water. I put the bottle to Lara’s mouth and she takes a gulp. Immediately, she vomits and the coughing gets even worse. I tap her back and chest to see if it’ll help, but nothing, she keeps coughing loudly. Everyone gathers, trying to help her out. We force some more water into her mouth, but she vomits the water with most of the food we just ate. Lara keeps coughing and vomiting until she faints. After a short while, she dies, again.
I go back home to the underground basement and power the time machine again.
“Dan,” she whispers.
“Lara, you’re going to die, I have to save you.”
“Hey,” she says, “No one is going to die. What we are both feeling are just chemical reactions in the body.”
“No, Lara, it’s not that. It’s–”
White noise in my head. Something blew up. I’m on the floor. My vision is a bit blurry. The tables and chairs are scattered and broken. There are people on the floor trying to get up. I help myself up. My God! It was a bomb. I think the person on the chair behind Lara had a bomb in his briefcase. She was at the centre of the impact. Her right leg is missing. She’s on the floor, dead.