Friday, April 22, 2022

Dawn of Time • Episode 3: “Have buckwheat, will travel”


Written by Travis Burnham

Continued from Episode 1 | Episode 2

The story thus far: 32nd Century high school student Dawn Anderson is having a bad day. Needing a better grade in History, she “borrowed” her father’s TimePak to take a short jaunt back to the 20th Century, only to make a perfectly innocent mistake involving a stolen handgun and a too-hot McDonald’s cherry pie. Now, instead of returning home, she is bouncing from bad to worse. Case in point, after narrowly avoiding becoming yet another fossil in the Chicxulub impact crater, she’s landed comfortably on the deck of a luxurious ocean liner, only to hear

“Hurry, Miss, we have to get to the lifeboats. We’re sinking!”

I moved toward a lifeboat, but it lowered away. Scratch the lifeboat escape. The eight-piece band played a ragtime number, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” which rang through the cold, night air. I recognized the song thanks to my Music teacher.

The deck began tipping, followed by shrieks.

I needed TimePak fuel, fast.

Stopping a steward, I asked, “Point me to the dining room?” He eyeballed me as if to say are you seriously hungry right now? But then said, “‘A’ deck. Left at the bottom of the stairs. The Verandah Café.”

Thankfully, there was an à la carte table laid out. Reaching for the food, I noticed a foot under the tablecloth. A foot attached to a girl a bit younger than me, knees pulled to her chest. She had rich dark hair cut into a style that didn’t seem fashionable for the time.

I waved at her. “Hello.”

“Hi,” she replied. She raised her chin high in a display of courage, but her bottom lip trembled. She looked with interest at my time suit and I remembered that maybe I’d been fashionable for 1975, but certainly wasn’t for 1912.

“I’m Dawn,” I said.


The ship listed to the side even more. Stella squealed. Icy water swirled around my calves. The revolver felt heavy in my waistband, but offered no comfort.

I grabbed some buckwheat cakes and rolled in spoonfuls of marmalade, but paused before dropping the food into the slot. Why did I keep ending up in these terrible situations?

A wall of water began rushing forward, picking up a baby grand piano like it was a toy. It was heading right for us.

We’d learned about disasters in History class, but the statistics hadn’t fazed me. Stella wasn’t a number, though. I thought of all the other people on board. They weren’t numbers either any more, but there was no way I could save them all.

I wasn’t allowed to change the past, but there was no way that Stella was going to survive the Titanic, so saving her wouldn’t change anything, right? As long as we returned straight to 3204, we shouldn’t mess anything up.

I used my circuitry loupe and examined the TimePak’s inner workings. “Maybe the Situational Transmogrifier has one transposed diode?” I muttered to myself.

I reached out for Stella and she grabbed me. The past and the future, holding hands. “Hold tight, Stella, this is going to be a wild ride.” Using micro-tweezers, I flipped the diode around. “This is either going to be loads better… or exponentially worse.”

Just as the band above begin the first notes of the hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” I dropped the makeshift McDonald’s pie into the TimePak’s slot.

Flash! Bang!

Wherever we were, the floor was level.

Sirens screeched.

“Exterminate all humans!” a metallic voice blared from some unseen loudspeaker.



Next week: “Episode 4: As American as robots and apple pie”


Travis Burnham’s
work has found homes in Far Fetched Fables, Hypnos Magazine, Bad Dreams Entertainment, South85 Journal, SQ Quarterly, and others. He is a member of the online writers’ group, Codex, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College. He also recently won the Wyrm’s Gauntlet online writing contest. Burnham has been a DJ on three continents, and teaches middle school science and college level composition. He lives in Lisbon, Portugal with his wife, but grew up in Massachusetts, is from Maine at heart, and has lived in Japan, Colombia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.



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