Hi everyone, it’s Phoenix here and today I’m going to share a short story with you that I wrote quite a while back. It’s about a crazy scientist and his seven year old daughter, Liz.
The time machine
My father is a scientist. A great one. He renovated our front room which was massive, peeled down the maroon wallpaper and replaced it with an icy white. It made it look a bit like a bathroom. He stuck up sheets of equations and blueprints.
Father dragged out our butter soft sofas and made worktops. Then he hung up a sign on the narrow ivory door saying ‘ NO ENTRY’ in bright green capitals.
Although he let me in.
As an only child, I spent the days utterly bored and compared to that, father’s lab was magical. It was a place you could go to for a school trip, a heaven for any seven year old who wished to see incredible things. And believe me when I say, it was truly incredible.
Father had built identical, funny looking robots, no bigger than my head and they lined the shelves with a look of pride that illuminated their metallic features.
Bare light bulbs dangled off the worktops attached to multicoloured wire. A homemade computer balanced on two wooden planks and beeped and whirred.
He had cluttered the thick rug, that Gran had bought him from Turkey, with boxes and boxes of all sorts of junk he found. Cogs and screws, bolts and spanners and hammers, mirrors, glass and door handles.
The worktops, made of marble, were wiped clean every day by Father as on them stood his tall glass cylinders brimming full of colours and chemicals.
“See how they bubble Liz?” father said one day with a wink.
“They’re every bit alive as I am and every bit as clever.”
I nodded carefully and he placed his wrinkly hands on my shoulders.
“Let me teach you something Lizzie. Chemicals are very important and so is matter, a physical substance that consists of particles. Particles may be molecules, atoms, or subatomic bits.”
He took a breath and I snatched my chance.
“I’m seven and a half.” I told him with a look of fake frustration plastered onto my face. “I tell you every day”
Father smiled and tapped his head with a finger.
“Sorry Liz. Have to delete memories to make space for more or I’ll forget what leptons are” He said with a pointless chuckle.
“What does that even mean?” I exclaimed dumbly.
He shook his head. “Never mind. Now grab me a cup of tea, and whizz back here, I’ve got to show you my latest invention.”
There was a sparkle in his emerald eyes and so I knew that it was important.
I rushed down the corridor, almost tripping over a box of springs lying in the middle of nowhere and skidded into the kitchen. The kitchen was more of a mess than Father’sa lab, it has been for two months, since Mother died and nobody bothered to clean it up. The two of us simply lived on tinned beans, cold pasta and takeaway pizza.
When I say a mess, I mean a mess. Dirty plates were piled high on the tea stained countertop. The lime green paint was peeling off, scattering flakes onto the checkered floor. A film of grease lay around the stove, there was unrecognisable food splattered on the microwave, the window had become almost opaque with a collection of pure filth. Rotting, mushy fruits waited in the fruit bowl, the air reeked of dampness, the light bulb flickered desperately, the fridge beeped, the tap dripped, and the small mahogany dining table was a heaven to spilled food and pizza boxes.
Grimacing, I pushed aside an old open tin of baked beans, swung open the cupboard and tried my very best to smile at our large selection of chipped mugs. I grabbed a black mug, which was the only one with a handle and set it down on the countertop.
Dirt squelched beneath it with an unpleasant sound as I got a rosehip tea bag, placed it in the mug and drowned it with hot water from the kettle. After a minute, I plucked the teabag out and threw it in the bin, stirred the tea, put the mug on an also chipped saucer with two rock hard digestives and carried it back to Father’s lab.
He was squinting into a microscope and lifted his black mop of hair as I walked in.
“Ah Liz, I’ve been waiting for you for absolutely ages!” He exclaimed and sighed. “And here’s my tea, just how I like it?”
I nodded, handing the saucer to him.
“Just how you like it, a black mug, the biggest tea bag of rosehip and hot water up to the top. Placed on a chipped saucer and stirred while reciting the periodic table, not too quietly and not too loudly”
Secretly, I only knew the word Helium, but Father didn’t know that and he never will.
He wiggled his eyebrows like two black caterpillars.
“Want to see my latest invention then?”
“Definitely” I grinned, showing several gaps between my teeth.
He laughed, wolfing down his stale digestives and slurping his tea noisily. Father ruffled my mousy hair, took hold of my hand and almost dragged my skinny body to the other side of his lab where a big white cloth covered his creation.
“Do the honours, Elizabeth” He smiled with a bow. I couldn’t control my excitement.
I grabbed a corner of the white cloth and yanked it hard. It fell down very gently, curling at my feet, releasing a billowing smoke that rippled around me. When the dusty fog had cleared I was able to see the magnificent thing my father had made. My eyes bulged out, my face paled, eyebrows shot off to my hairline.
“A time machine” I breathed. It looked like the ones we watched in films at Christmas time.
Father beamed. “How do you like it?”
“Best. Surprise. Ever.” I managed to say, my eyes glued to the amazing machine. It was circular, with crooked nails hammered around it. It had sparkling windows, a narrow door with a set of steps leading up to it. It was painted carefully with different hues of green and a tinge of blue, the kind I would associate with the seaside. Along the top were painted the words: Liz’s time machine
Father saw me staring at it and rocked on his heels nervously. “Of course we’ll both share it, you know, there was no space to write my name so…Well Lizzie girl, have you lost your tongue? What’d you think?”
“It’s perfect” I gaped.
“Of course it is, I made it.” Father laughed quietly.
“It took exactly two months and three hundred mugs of tea”
“Three hundred and sixty one” I corrected him.
“Genius” Father muttered. “And one year of planning.”
He gave me a mischievous look, the look on an adult after they’ve stole a child’s sweets.
“Wanna take it for a spin?” He questioned.
“Could we really? Are you one hundred percent positive that it’ll work?” I exclaimed then narrowed my eyes. “I mean, I don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere..”
Father waved a hand in the air. “Neither do I Liz. But aren’t you exited to try it out?”
“Yes!” I yelled in reply, making him chuckle.
“Well then, we’d better pack some stuff, but pack lightly, okay?”
I used the toilet or what Father would call “Facilities” and dug through my chest of drawers and dragged out an old battered backpack. I filled it up with a top and a pair of jeans, packets of gum, and money. Then I shook my head. If we were going back in time, we needed the right money which we could trade for…… Gold. But where could I find gold?
Then something in my head clicked. Mother had a safe in the corridor. I ran there and punched in the code. 14080. It was mine now, and she trusted me with it before she died.
It swung open with a somewhat satisfying hiss and there lay boxes and jewelry and three gleaming blocks of gold. I snatched up the gold, put it safely at the bottom of my rucksack and grinned.
The very thought of having an adventure like the heroes in my books thrilled me and I was bubbling full of excitement like the chemicals in one of Father’s glass cylinders.
I pulled on my rucksack.
“You okay? You look like a donkey!” Father sniggered. He had a backpack of his own which bulged. “Food and maps and all that boring stuff.” He said when he spotted me staring at it.
Then I gasped. “I forgot Nemo!”
Nemo is my cat. He has white and ginger stripes like a clown fish so mother christened him Nemo.
Father rolled his eyes. “Not the cat. Please not the cat!”
“Yes the cat” I insisted.
“An extra mouth to feed, a naughty furball that vomites everywhere.”
“He’s not naughty.” I snapped.
“Sorry – crazy. A crazy cat tagging along with us.” Father groaned.
“Cats can have adventures too.” I protested.
“Oh double cheesy cranberry crackers!” Father exclaimed. I laughed inside, he always said that when I won an argument or when he gave in.
I went to my bedroom, scooped up the sleeping Nemo and cradled him back to the lab.
“Shall we go now?” I asked, the gold pushing me down a little.
“Yep” replied father with a sigh as he eyed Nemo in my arms. He took out a brown small notepad.
“Here are the rules” he read. “Do not do anything to mess up history. Do not come in contact with any of your ancestors or yourself. The time machine will come when you really want to go.”
“Alright.” I nod. “Pretty simple – I can do that.”
In less than five minutes we were seated in two comfy red leather chairs at a control panel adorned with levers, buttons and screens.
“Hello Maylee.” Father said.
“Who’s Maylee?” I asked him.
“My computer, she’s a bit like Siri, just a thousand times better!”
“Put on your seat belts.” Maylee croaked.
Click. I did as I was told. I pulled the belt over Nemo, trying not to wake him up.
Father grinned as the strange voice erupted again.
“Welcome Elizabeth. Where would you like to go?”
“Pick any date” said Father.
“I am not that good in history” I pointed out.
“Just say anything that comes to your mind”
“Alright. 1645.” I declared randomly.
“Month.” asked the automated voice.
“January please.” I said, as it was my favourite month.
Then the next second an alarm blared, causing Nemo to jump onto my shoulder and I winced as he dug his claws firmly in my skin, his feathery tail swishing in my mouth.
I spat it out then screamed. I was twisting and turning, my eyes fixed on the control panel which lit up. Then I was shivering in my chair, my heart beating rapidly, nearly cracking my rib cage. My stomach churned and spun like a washing machine and Nemo was howling horribly. A swirl of colours appeared, burning my eyes, they were about to pop out, like jelly when the colours disappeared and it all went dark. I decided I didn’t like time travelling after all. I ran my trembling fingers through Nemo’s thick, warm fur, not knowing who I was trying to comfort, Nemo or myself. Father was wheezing beside me, his breath rattling and shallow. Through the ebony darkness, his hand found mine and he clutched it tightly.
“It’s alright Liz, are you okay?” He panted.
“I’m fine” I lied, breathless.
“You’re a strong girl, I hardly survived it”
“Uh huh” I closed my eyes tightly.
Then I heard father lean over to the window and he called me.
“Hey Liz, come see this”
I leaned over and smirked as I saw blue sky.
We were twirling down to reach the ground. I can’t believe we made it. Even Nemo was purring jubilantly.
Then as I looked down I saw a large crowd, mostly men, with funny hats, bristly beards and pitchforks.
“What the……” Father muttered, pushing both hands against the window.
Then Nemo started growling and I knew something was wrong. I grabbed him and peered out. The air was decorated with huge amounts of smoke coming from a big bonfire and as we prepared to land, the smoke cleared. The men were scowling, stamping their pointy pitchforks into the sun baked mud. Their eyes were blazing with fury, fixed on a stage at the front.
The time machine hovered down slowly.
Father choked back a cry.
On the stage were three women with thick ropes around their slim necks. As we neared, I saw they were floating, no, hanging, their legs dangling in the warm air.
Their faces were small, meek, innocent and they wore looks of pure pain. That’s when I realised, they were dead.
The time machine landed with a thump, out of the smoke smeared window, I could see all eyes turn our way, they gaped with surprise, the fierce look still plastered on their faces.
“You’ve reached your destination.” Maylee said, quite happily. Father clutched me tight and I clutched Nemo.
The narrow door hissed and flew open and there, the crowd stared at us curiously.
A scary looking man stepped forward, his pitchfork over one shoulder, yellow hair escaping beneath his filthy hat, teeth broken and eyes resting on me. He dropped his pitchfork, leaned into the time machine and grabbed my shaking shoulder, dragging me away from Father’s arms. Father looked at me desperately but we both knew that he wouldn’t mess with this giant of a man. It was brighter outside and I could see the crowd more clearly. All the men had pointy noses and piggy eyes and big faces like squashed pumpkins.
“Ey. You.” the giant man growled.
“Yeahhhh.” I barely whispered.
“Your hair black, you come in magic.” He boomed.
“It’s a time machine, not magic” I stammered meekly.
But the man did not understand. He got a fat finger and prodded me.
“Liar, I say it’s magic, so it’s magic.” He roared. “Black hair, white face, come in magic, and you is short.”
“So?” I said.
The man wrinkled his nose.
“This your cat?”
He put a grubby hand on Nemo and I fought the urge to spit on it and slap it away.
“Listen to what I says so, this is your cat?”
“Yesss.” I managed to drag out the word.
The man’s face turned scarlet as he eyed Nemo furiously.
Then two men pulled me and the crowd split like I was Moses. I was hauled onto the stage, my Father’s angry cries ringing around me and Nemo hissing in my tight grip.
“Hang her, burn her, drown her” the indignant crowd chanted much to my horror.
I was placed near the three dead women who were still swinging.
“Kill!” the giant man bellowed.
“No. No. No, no, no!” I pleaded. ” Nooo. Why?”
The man tied me tightly to a huge pole and glared.
Then I knew why. I learnt a little about it in school.
Come by ‘magic’.
With a cat.
I was in the time where folk believed innocents as horrible women.
I was in the time when they believed in witches.
Then the crowd screeched, “Kill her, get rid of the witch!”
And I took a deep breath, squeezed the shivering Nemo and closed my eyes.
Ok, that was a bit long. But I do hope that you have enjoyed it! I’d love feedback or honest opinions on how you found this story!
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Thank you for reading and stay safe!