Well, I finally got my time machine built. The instructions said to use only military grade parts, but they can cost up to twenty times more than their equivalent commercial ones, so I opted for the cheaper parts. The motors came from Johnson Electric. I bought the hardware from Greenville Hardware, Atwoods, and Tractor Supply. The high frequency, high voltage transformers were from Amazon. The instructions went into great detail about calibration procedures, but I figured I’d just wing it—in hindsight, it wasn’t my brightest decision.
I know what you’re thinking. “What if my time machine was stolen by an evil super-villain?”
I hurt my arm patting myself on the back for my clever design of an anti-theft add-on. I implemented a simple count-down timer that had to be reset every day or it would run down to zero. If that happened, the machine would hurl itself into the Pacific Ocean near the Solomon Islands. I picked the Solomon Islands because…uh, well…I just like the name.
I thought I’d covered all the bases, but these bases were on the wrong side of the court and things didn’t go as planned.
(Editor: If Mrs. Harmon, my seventh grade English teacher, brings it up, tell her Johnny intentionally threw an incongruent set of sports metaphors in this already convoluted article just to see if his readers were paying attention.)
With the machine finally assembled, where would I go? I was hesitant to jump into the future—what would happen if I went past my own death? Who’d write these newspaper articles?
As I thought about it, from nowhere an old Doris Day song popped into my head: “Qué será, será,” which is Spanish for “What will be, will be.” (Already learned something new didn’t you?) The song says, “Whatever will be, will be” twice with the first line in Spanish for some reason (probably so we ignorant one-language folks wouldn’t know the song writers couldn’t think of another line—The poor guys could’ve asked for my help, but I was only five-years old in 1956 and they may not’ve heard of me yet.) The song continues, “The future’s not ours to see.” I agreed with all that wisdom and redundancy and decided to go back in time rather than forward. But I’d have to go back before my birth or I’d be in two places at once. Shoot—what if I got stuck back there? My parents would naturally want the old me to help raise the younger me. Whoa. Made me dizzy just thinking about the consequences.
After getting un-dizzy I decided to ride my machine to New York City so I could interview Nikola Tesla after he’d built the world’s first hydro-electric power plant at Niagara Falls. His brilliant alternating current motor and generator were instrumental in propelling the world into our current era of power transmission. I planned to submit the interview to the Greenville Herald Banner for a big bonus.
I set the machine for New York City, Monday, May 15, 1911. On that day Tesla gave a lecture in the Association of Electrical Engineers building so I knew exactly where he’d be. All I had to do was find the building, get my interview, and return. Simple right? But as Robert Burns said, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley” (whatever that means).
When I got to New York I saw some men working on the road and approached the supervisor.
“Excuse me. Do you know the building where Nikola Tesla will give his lecture tonight?”
“Hey, Tesla,” he yelled.
One of the workers set down his shovel and walked toward us. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Nikola Tesla! I suddenly remembered that for a short time after leaving Edison’s company Tesla did manual labor before Westinghouse hired him. I realized with a start that although my machine had gotten me to the right place, it had taken me way too far back. Maybe I should’ve calibrated it.
“Yes. What do you want?” Tesla asked.
“Well, I’m from the year 2019 and I was planning to interview you for the newspaper I work for.”
“Interview me? A ditch digger? And why should I believe time travel is possible? You got a time machine?”
“Where is it?”
“Behind that red brick building.”
“Show it to me.”
I hadn’t counted on that, but he was insistent, so I led him to the machine. He sat down in the passenger seat. I sat in the driver’s seat and showed him the controls which I’d already set to get me home.
“How do you operate it?”
“Just push this…HEY STOP!”
Before I could stop him he hit the GO button. In a blink we were back in my garage. Tesla jumped out and started looking around at my woodworking machines while I set the time machine to take us back to his time. But everything was complicated with this guy. Before he agreed to go back, he pointed out that it wouldn’t hurt to look around before returning to his own time. Against my better judgment I agreed and I showed him the time machine’s construction manual and schematics which I absently put in the machine’s glove compartment. Then we walked into my house. He took great interest in my PC, so I brought up the internet. I was fixin’ to “google” Tesla when I remembered, “Qué será, será, the future’s not ours to see” and showing him his life would be showing him the future. So I pulled up “Twenty Things You Didn’t Know About George Washington.” He was mesmerized.
I left him for a short bathroom break, but unfortunately, like many people, I underestimated Nikola Tesla. When I returned to my office the scientist was missing. I raced to the garage but Nikola and my time machine had vanished. Since there’s no mention of a time machine in the history books, I’m guessing my anti-theft timer ran down and the machine splashed into the Pacific Ocean more than a century ago. If you want to look, it should is five miles due north of Honiara, Solomon Islands, but I suspect it’ll be a bit rusty after a century in the salt water.
In case you want plans to build your own I can’t help you. All my documentation was in the machine’s glove compartment. Worse yet, Acme Time Machines, Inc. went bankrupt after being sued by the second Mrs. Millbury after Mr. Millbury returned with his first wife who’d been dead for twenty-two years.
Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at GHB.JohnnyHayre@gmail.com.