By Martin Jardon
I watched as my white down comforter began to move and writhe and a humanoid form began to take shape beneath it. This is what I had wanted from the beginning. It had taken six months, 10 Mac hard drives, and some incidental medical tubing I’d scored from the local hospital, but now my wish had come true.
As I watched the tussled pink hair lengthen from beneath the edge of the covers, I knew it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly. In less than five minutes, I was going to be reunited with the woman of my dreams, and I was going to crack the online dating world wide open. Eharmony, you just opened a can of complete chaos; Match.com, you’ve met your match; Plentyoffish, you can’t top this catch.
My mate was straight from 1987, my favorite year, plucked right from the front row of an R.E.M. concert in Chicago. I picked the ideal moment in our romantic history: twenty-four hours after we met and just seconds before she would be lost to me forever.
As a green solution flowed through the IV tubing and ballooned her tattooed forearm to full size, I sighed as I remembered what a die-hard she was for alternative music. She was exactly as I remembered her, plus I could fill her in on the ten or so albums R.E.M. hadn’t even written, yet. My system was so perfect it was scary.
As my dream girl continued to complete the rough transition into the year 2011, I heard a groan from down the hallway. I looked out. It was my roommate Ben, who was just getting home from a night of partying without meeting someone — as usual. Now was the perfect time to break the news.
“Hey man,” I called to him. “No luck last night?”
“Yeah,” said Ben. “It’s just so hard to meet women, these days.”
“Well, you’re gonna love this,” I angled my head back toward the bedroom door.
Ben rubbed his eyes with his palms, as though suddenly plagued by a headache.
“Not that time travel dating machine, again,” he groaned.
“No, it’s really working. In fact …”
He waved me away with his hand. “Just leave me alone and let me get some sleep,” he said.“You don’t understand,”
I lowered my voice and pointed to the bedroom. “She’s in there.”
Ben squinted at me, trying to grasp my words. “Who’s in there?”
“Miss R.E.M. 1987,” I whispered.
“You mean that nameless chick you took to the concert and have been trying to track down for two decades?” Ben laughed.
“How’d you find her after all these years?”
Just then, a woman’s voice broke the air. “Where the hell am I?” she called, her voice thick, almost inhuman.
I looked at Ben. “No, I’m serious. She’s really from 1987, 29 years old, and as beautiful as the day I met her.”
Ben stood frozen. “You’re really starting to freak me out. Is this some kind of joke?”
Suddenly, the walls of the apartment reverberated, as though being slammed with a large object.
“What freaking thing did you create?” asked Ben, his voice shaking as he backed toward the door.
“Now hold on, I didn’t create anything, just a little alternative transportation, that’s all …” I put my hand out to his shoulder reassuringly.
Uneven footsteps began to echo down the hall, as something in my room began to lumber toward the doorway. Ben moved back fast, dodging my hand completely.
“Whatever that is, it’s far from natural, and it sure as hell isn’t human.”
“Just give her a chance,” I said soothingly. “She’s just trying to get her bearings, that’s all.”
The footsteps grew louder as they neared the hallway. A twisted leg, cupped by a lime green high heel, stomped out onto the wooden floor.
Ben grabbed me by the shoulders, holding me fast as he spoke.
“You never read The Monkey’s Paw, did you Dave? You never read The Monkey’s Paw!”
With that, he fled, stumbling through the doorway as he tried to look back at the apparition in the hallway and down the stairs in front of him at the same time.
Once I saw Ben had made it safely to the ground floor, I turned back toward Miss R.E.M.
“Sorry if I scared your friend,” she said, clearing her throat and bringing back its human resonance. “I lost a shoe at the concert, last night. Must have sounded like I was walking funny.”
She shielded her eyes, trying to perceive my form in the silhouetted dawn. “I must have been really drunk. I could have sworn you had more hair.”
“Strange,” I ran my hand over my forehead, elongated by time.
“We can see R.E.M. again tonight, if you like,” I said, quickly changing the subject.
“That would be awesome,” she said smacking her gum.
I hesitated, then took her hand, leading her back to the bedroom.
“Just so you know, Michael Stipe had a rough night, too, so don’t be surprised if he looks a tad older.”
*No part of “The Time Travel Dating Machine” may be used without the author’s express written permission.*