Story time: Guests from the past

Miracles started happening right after my dad completed the construction of his ‘Short-Range Time Machine’, a bulky apparatus with a small fridge-sized cabin inside it.

Dad immediately set off to test his invention as we — me, mom and grandpa — watched. He climbed into the cabin, travelled back to the day before yesterday (mom’s birthday) and returned five minutes later with a cake that we had finished yesterday.

I literally felt chills run down my back, but mom and grandpa remained sceptical. Grandpa grunted that dad should feel ashamed of getting involved with such nonsense at his age, whereas mom was sure dad had a few more cakes hidden somewhere in the machine, thus the joke was not worth so much fuss. Grandpa was not convinced either.

Offended, dad boarded the cabin again and after a while arrived with the lamb roast we ate a week ago. I believed dad straight away. I had helped him assemble the machine and I knew how many parts of old TV sets and computers were used in its construction. And, thirdly, who else should one trust, if not ones own father? The next day when mom and dad left for work, and as soon as the entrance door closed behind them, grandpa winked and nodded towards dad’s study.

“But you do not believe!” I said.

“Well, I doubt it,” grandpa replied. “You have seen so little for your 10 years that you easily believe in anything. But I am 61 years old and I cannot believe in time machines or flying saucers.”

In the study, grandpa examined the device and cautiously entered the cabin. “Hmm, shall we try?” he asked.

“Yes!” I got excited. “Press those buttons with numbers.”

I closed the door of the cabin and something loudly buzzed inside the machine.

Then grandpa was inside for so long that I started to fear that he was stuck in it or whichever time he had travelled to.

At last, the door opened and grandpa stepped out. I was about to ask the reason of the delay when in the corner of the cabin I noticed another person, the exact copy of my grandfather! The second grandpa left the machine and stood next to the first.

“Here, I found a new buddy,” said the first grandpa with a sly smile.

“It can’t be true!” I said and closed my eyes.

“It can,” said grandfather. “You have seen so little for your 10 years, that you have no idea what wonders are there in the world.”

After forbidding me to approach the machine, both grandfathers left to play chess. In the meantime, an idea came to my mind. I sneaked into the study and climbed into the time machine and pressed two buttons: ‘Yesterday’ and ‘9.00’. When the buzzing stopped, I opened the door. Nothing had changed in the room.

“Hey!” I shouted. “Is anybody there?”

There were some footsteps in the hall, and then I saw myself entering the room. What an expression I had... rather he had! “Come here now, or grandpa will come,” I called.

“Grandpa is absent. He disappeared. He was around here but not anymore,” the boy answered puzzled.

“He hasn’t gone anywhere,” I told him. “He is with my grandfather; that is, with our grandfather playing chess tomorrow. Tonight my dad, he’s your dad too, will complete the time machine assembly, and tomorrow you can go back to yesterday — the same way as I did today. Now, let’s hurry up!”

I jumped out of the machine, caught my hand, or rather his hand, and dragged him into the cabin. Amazed, he only managed to mutter “Where yesterday? What tomorrow?"

I again pressed the same buttons and, after a while, opened the door. Having instructed the second me to remain in the cabin, I slipped into the room. I had travelled to day before yesterday this time. Grandfather was having breakfast in the kitchen, while I, that is the “day before yesterday” me, was still asleep. I woke him up and immediately covered his mouth with my hand as he was about to scream. After explaining the situation to him, we both returned to the study. Over there, I introduced the “day before yesterday” me to the “yesterday” one, and then we all huddle in the machine and departed for the two days before yesterday and so on until there was no room left in the machine. Then we went back to the day when our two grandfathers were playing chess.

“Let’s go for a walk!” offered one of us. What fun was it! On the way we met our neighbour, Aunt Maria, and she almost fell with shock. Imagine how she was stunned to see six of me! All passers-by were eyeing us as if we were monsters!

We walked around a bit and when we got tired of shocking people, we went back home. Mom opened the door. She looked at us, yelled and started to sink on the floor. Dad appeared at the doorstep and said, “This is cooler than cakes and mutton roast!”

“See what you and your machine have done to my son!” mom exclaimed, almost in tears. If I were in her place I would feel exulted — after all, we all were her kids, only from different days.

At that moment both grandfathers came out of their room. They looked at us and broke into laughter.

“Oh! Two of you too!” mom gasped. “That’s too much!”

“Let me drop you all in your respective days,” suggested dad. “We are surely looking for you already there. Who is from which day?”

“Why not leave everyone here?” I said. “It’d be so much fun. And the second grandpa is not a problem at all. So what? They both will get their pensions.”

“It is not a matter of pension,” dad said. He took one of me by hand and asked, “Which day are you from, boy?”

“What boy?” I got offended. “I’m your son from today.”

Dad got confused and took the hand of another one, “And you? Which is your day?”

“I’m from today as well,” said the other I.

“It is turning crazy!” Dad burst. “How can one sort it out? I’ll transport and bring five more of my selves, and let them figure out who is whose son.”

“No!” Mother protested, “For Goodness sake! You’ll gather a whole garrison of men here, they’ll all mix up, and I’ll have to feed them all.”

It took quite a while to sort out ‘where to send whom’. But when dad was coming back from his last trip, something hissed and sparkled in the cabin, and thick smoke filled the room. I quickly opened the door and dear dad crawled out of the machine.

Behind him suddenly Dolly, Aunt Maria’s cat, emerged from the cabin. She was immediately followed by another Dolly, and then one more, and more.

“She wandered in yesterday, remember?” Dad turned pale. “But how did they get in the machine and why there are so many of them?”

“Nine cats,” I counted.

The cats scattered all over the apartment, and we rushed to extinguish the fire in the machine. Though we managed to put the fire out, the machine was destroyed. As for the cats, we are still busy lodging them with our friends. Six are already accommodated, while three still live with us, and whenever Aunt Maria sees them, she shakes her head in disbelief and states, “A copy of my Dolly!”

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