Time Travel

Bartholomew “Dutch” Doobin, a man whose name seemed perpetually on the verge of dissolving into a cough, stood there, knees wobbling like malfunctioning gyroscopes, at the “bottom” of the world. The air, a fistful of shattered diamonds, stung his lungs with each gasping breath. Below his crampons, the white expanse stretched, a canvas upon which the Antarctic wind scrawled cryptic stories in swirling snow. But Dutch wasn’t here for the scenery, no sir. He was here for the time, or rather, the complete lack thereof. Here, at the South Pole, all meridians, those cruel rulers of our existence, converged in a grand, mocking point. Here, a man, so Dutch fervently believed, could step outside the tyranny of the clock.

He shuffled a nervous foot forward, the crunch of his boot echoing off the desolate horizon. A tremor, subtle as a butterfly’s wingbeat, snagged at his gut. Had he…crossed a line? Was he, in this bureaucratic wasteland of longitudes, a smuggler of stolen seconds? He squinted at his chronometer, a relic from his grandfather’s rum-running days. The hands remained resolutely glued at 3:14 pm. Frustration, a familiar companion in Dutch’s life, gnawed at him. Was it all a hoax, some elaborate prank by the goddamn penguins?

Suddenly, a voice, distorted by the howling wind, materialized beside him. “Looking for a temporal transgression, Doobin?”

Dutch whirled around, heart hammering against his ribs like a frantic bird. A figure, bundled in layers that defied definition, stood there, a spectral grin splitting their frost-encrusted face. “Who the hell are you?” Dutch rasped.

The figure chuckled, a sound like wind chimes in a hurricane. “Think of me as a custodian of these desolate crossroads. A shepherd of lost moments, a purveyor of misplaced tomorrows.” The figure extended a gloved hand, revealing a single, glowing eye in the palm. “Care to step outside the bounds, Doobin? It’s a bit drafty, mind you, but the price is right.”

Dutch stared at the pulsing orb, a primal fear battling with a desperate yearning for something more, something beyond the relentless tick-tock of his life. He took a shuddering breath, the South Pole wind whipping at his exposed skin. What did he have to lose, really? With a trembling hand, Dutch reached out and grasped the offered eye. The world dissolved into a blinding flash. When his vision cleared, he found himself…well, that was the question, wasn’t it? The adventure, it seemed, was just beginning.


The world solidified into a kaleidoscope of mismatched realities. A bustling marketplace hawked wares alongside towering chrome skyscrapers. A horse-drawn carriage clattered down a cobbled street, dodging a sleek, levitating delivery drone. Dutch stumbled back, his head throbbing like a drum solo.

“Welcome to the Chrono-Souk,” his guide boomed, the voice echoing from everywhere and nowhere at once. “Here, time is a commodity, traded like spices or used socks.”

Dutch squinted through the swirling chaos. A wizened figure, draped in a shimmering robe that seemed to shift between tapestries of ancient Egypt and holographic advertisements, beckoned him closer. A sign above their stall, in a language that defied translation, displayed a single, enticing word: “Yesterday.”

The guide chuckled, a sound like ice cracking. “Careful, Doobin. Nostalgia can be a fickle beast. You mess with the past, you might just unravel the present.”

Dutch, overwhelmed by the cacophony of displaced moments, yearned for a simpler time. A time, perhaps, before the chronometer betrayed him, before his wife left, before life became a relentless march towards a future he dreaded. He felt a tug on his sleeve and looked down to see a young girl, no older than ten, clutching a worn teddy bear. Her eyes were wide pools of fear and longing.

“Mister,” she whispered, her voice barely audible over the din, “Can you take me back? Back to before…?”

Dutch knelt before her, a strange kinship forming. He saw in her reflection of his own fractured past. “Where do you want to go, kid?”

The girl pointed a trembling finger towards a booth festooned with faded photographs and dusty record players. A sign, this one in a language he recognized, read: “The Nostalgia Emporium.”

Dutch swallowed the lump in his throat. Perhaps, he thought, some doors are best left unopened. But the girl’s hopeful gaze held him captive. With a sigh, he helped her to her feet and, with a final wary glance at the one-eyed guide, steered her towards the Emporium.

As they entered the dimly lit shop, the cacophony of the Chrono-Souk faded, replaced by the melancholic strains of a crackling phonograph. A kindly-looking woman with hair the color of spun moonlight sat behind a cluttered counter. She smiled at them, a smile etched with the wisdom of ages.

“Welcome, travelers,” she said, her voice as soothing as a lullaby. “Lost something precious, have you?”

Dutch exchanged a hesitant look with the girl. He wasn’t sure what he was searching for, or even if it could be found here. But one thing was certain: his journey through the fractured landscape of time had only just begun.


Dutch watched, mesmerized, as the woman in the Nostalgia Emporium conjured a shimmering scene from the girl’s memory. Tears welled in the girl’s eyes as she reached out, fingers brushing the holographic image of her younger self, laughing with a lost friend.

He felt a tap on his shoulder. The one-eyed guide stood there, a sly smile twisting their lips. “Touching scene, Doobin, but sentimentality is a luxury we can’t afford here.” Their voice held a sharp edge now. “This little escapade has attracted unwanted attention.”

A ripple of distortion spread through the shop, and figures materialized from the swirling chaos. Tall, gaunt beings, their features obscured by swirling shadows, materialized, their eyes burning with an unsettling blue light.

“Temporal trespassers,” the one-eyed guide hissed. “Seems you’ve snagged yourself a Chrono-cops detail, Doobin. Not exactly the souvenir you hoped for, eh?”

Dutch felt a surge of panic. He’d heard whispers of the Chrono-cops, enforcers of the temporal order, their methods as ruthless as their efficiency. The girl whimpered, clinging to his arm.

The lead Chrono-cop, his voice a chilling rasp, addressed Dutch. “You have violated the First Law of Temporal Transit. Your presence here disrupts the flow of time. You will be neutralized.”

Dutch looked at the girl, her fear a mirror to his own. He wouldn’t let them take her. In a desperate gamble, he lunged towards the swirling vortex that had brought them here, the one-eyed guide shouting a warning behind him.

The passage pulsed with chaotic energy, threatening to tear him apart. He squeezed his eyes shut, picturing his own past, a time before regret choked the life out of him.

The world dissolved into a maelstrom of sound and light. When he stumbled back to consciousness, he was sprawled on the unforgiving white expanse of the South Pole, the biting wind whipping at his face. The chronometer on his wrist, miraculously unbroken, displayed the same time it had before: 3:14 pm.

He looked around, searching for the girl, the guide, the Chrono-cops. But there was nothing. Had it all been a hallucination? A desperate fantasy conjured by the harshness of the environment?

He stood there, a lone figure against the vastness, a shiver wracking his body. Maybe the past couldn’t be changed, the future remained uncertain, but something had shifted within him. The desperate yearning for escape had been replaced by a quiet determination. He wouldn’t let time, or the guardians of it, dictate his life anymore.

Dutch pushed himself to his feet, the South Pole wind howling its timeless song. He may not have become a master of time, but he had faced the consequences of defying it. And in that desolate expanse, he found a strange kind of peace, a newfound appreciation for the relentless, unyielding present.

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