Mitzy stared at the screens filled with blinking lights which followed no pattern she could discern. They sat in the control panel of the XL35 Time Manipulation Enabler which was a thing of indescribable ugliness; a great block of metal flashing constantly and giving her the beginnings of a headache.
“You’re sure this works?” she asked the sales clerk for the umpteenth time, he gritting his teeth behind a plastic smile
“Absolutely. Our scientists have broken through the barriers to time manipulation and it can be in your home by close of day for the incredibly low price of…”
“Yes,yes, you said.” Mitzy muttered, considering, but her hand was already on its way to her purse, and that evening her home was lit up like a cheap Christmas display. She’d resorted to donning dark glasses to ease her head whilst reading the reams of paperwork which had arrived with the XL35. It included glowing reviews from supposedly satisfied customers, but Mitzy was having trouble psyching herself up to turn on the big square ‘On’ switch.
“What if it doesn’t work, Axel?” she asked her cat, who continued to ignore her, “What if I end up stuck back there? What happens if I die? Does that mean I’m dead here too?”
She shuffled through the papers some more, carefully reading the parts that assured customers there was no way to change the past, that it was written in stone and nothing they did on a visit could change the future. Mitzy looked at the calculations she’d written on chalkboards all round her lounge. Her figures gave a very different conclusion, one she’d already programmed into the machine, but the only way to find out who was right was to hit the switch…
Axel got up, stretched, and leapt onto the XL35, his paw precariously near the switch. Mitzy leapt for him, tangled in the rug and fell forward, her elbow depressing the switch even as Axel jumped clear and shot off to the comfort of his food bowl. There was a great deal of whirring and clunking, a blinding flash of blue light and then silence. Axel pondered briefly on his human’s odd behaviour, but decided sleep was more important, curling up by the increasingly hotter machine in delight.
On the morning of October seventh 1987, Mitzy materialised in the maternity wing of the Albert Memorial hospital. She felt sick to the pit of her stomach and her vision was blurred forcing her to cling to the wall for a couple of minutes until the world came back into focus. Knowing her time was limited to just ten minutes in the past before the machine yanked her back to the present on a pre-set, she sprinted down the corridor, skidding to a stop in front of the nursery. Her heart contracted so hard she thought she was having a coronary when her gaze fell on the bundle of baby in his blue blanket, his face peeking from the cocoon already taking on a similar hue.
“Not this time, Max” she whispered and plunged through into the regimented rows of cots, pelting to where her son lay dying, his breath stopped for reasons no doctor had ever been able to explain for her, a crib death. She snatched Max out of the crib and shared breath after breath with him, oblivious of the passing nurse who took one look and then ran off to call for help with the crazy woman in the nursery. By the time she came back, Mitzy was crooning to Max, his colour once more rosy, his blue eyes fixed on hers. She laid him gently, reluctantly back in the crib and let a single tear fall when her son gripped her pinky with his strong grasp. Then the light came and she was back, crying quietly, leaning against the XL35 with Axel purring about wanting to be fed.
Mitzy got herself together, fed the cat and made arrangements to return the machine the next day, grateful for the 24 hour grace period in which customers could return their purchase, most too afraid to hit the on switch. Turning away from the computer she noticed the light blinking on her answerphone. She didn’t recognise the voice, how could she, but the message told her all she needed to know:
‘Hey Mum, it’s Max. Me and Susie will be bringing the baby to see you on Saturday. Love ya.’