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When I was little, my father was a scientist. Others called him mad, but I admired him greatly, and loved to watch him at work. I remember those early years quite clearly, and with great fondness. It was the only time my life was simple.

I crept into his workshop one night when I was eight years old, hiding behind a chair to watch him. I didn’t realise that the chair was his inert test subject, and so when he activated his machine I was caught in the effect, giving him a human test subject much earlier than intended.

I was thrown forward, and found myself in a high school chemistry test. I could do no more than guess at most of the answers, although some I knew from watching my father. As we handed the test papers in I blinked and hiccupped and found myself in bed with a grown woman beside me. She smelled of vanilla, and I remember being relieved that she was asleep even after I realised I had an adult body.

Thankfully I was an astute child, and I realised quickly what had happened. I developed my own way of telling time, an internal calendar that I used to mark my inner age whilst jumping non-sequentially through my life.  As time passed my jumps settled down; I could spend just over a year living sequentially before I suffered another jump. I kept quiet as much as possible, in order to be sure I would never accidentally betray “future” information or my ignorance of the “past”.

The cats were important. We had always had a cat in the house, and I now insisted that each cat be significantly different to the others, and made sure they spent much of their time with me. In this way the cats would allow me to quickly narrow down what part of my life I was experiencing. The black cat was before I married; the tabby meant it was after. The white cat was after our divorce, since she insisted on keeping Tabitha. I chose each cat personally; at least, “chose” is how it appeared to those living sequentially. In fact most of the time I merely sought out the kittens who would become the cats I already knew.

That I married at all surprised me, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I had lived through many of our worst arguments beforehand. I proposed anyway, because by that time I felt I had to. Having already experienced our divorce and marriage, I feared I might damage the very fabric of time if I should fail to cause something that had already affected me.

Many years ago I experienced the very end of my life, in a hospice bed with just a few family members by my bed. I heard one of them say I had had a good innings. They told a nurse how old I was, and that is how I know that I am now approaching the very end of my life.

It seems appropriate then, that it should be here, behind the chair in my father’s workshop. This is the only year I have not experienced; a year in which my father disappears from my life never to be mentioned again. Soon I will find out what happened to him.

But first I have to tell him what he has done; I have to tell him how his time machine works.

© Kari Fay

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