I was not there but I felt the beating physically and mentally. I knew immediately what had happened and I ran to the park to find my father. When I arrived the paramedics were loading the gurney into the ambulance. They tried to restrain me but when I told them who I was they let me ride in the back with him. As the paramedic worked to stabilize my father I felt then unknown emotions gathering in my chest like pregnant storm clouds. I was too young to properly express what I was feeling so I screamed. It startled the paramedic and caused my father’s eyes to snap open. He pushed the paramedic away and beckoned me closer. I fell to my father’s side with tears in my eyes. He only had enough strength left to say one thing to me; “Continue my work.” And then he was dead.
It would be a year before I would understand the meaning.
On my 10th birthday my mother gave me a key to the basement. I had never been allowed down there due to it being my father’s rehearsal space. I approached the door with a mixture of excitement and mounting dread. I was terrified by the thought of being repulsed at seeing my deceased father’s studio. Since his death I had grown to love the man I knew so little about. I didn’t want the feelings of acceptance and unconditional love to be washed away by an overwhelming wave of remembered hatred and shame. I knew I had to keep moving forward so I set aside my fears, unlocked the door, and descended the stairs. What I found was not what I was expecting. At all.
The basement was a precast panel fabrication with cubicle like partitions set at regular intervals along the west wall. The south wall, which the stairs ran in front of, was completely covered by a mirror. The east wall held all manner of equipment. The equipment, to my 10 year old eyes, appeared to be computers towers set on their side and bolted 5 high into racks. 15 of them. The cubicles held drafting desks covered with blueprints and all manner of markings and then unknown equations. The last cubicle held a commercial grade refrigeration unit that looked like a car motor. Extending from this unit was black flexible tubing running under a curtain that bisected the final third of the basement. I knew that whatever was behind this curtain was the “work” my father wanted me to continue. I pulled back the heavy curtain and set my eyes upon the thing that would change my life forever.
The machine was 2 meters tall by 1 meter wide by 2 meters deep. It consisted of solid metal with a keypad positioned midway up the front of the machine. I pushed a random button and was greeted by a red light and an angry buzz. I needed a code to enter and I spent a few moments thinking of what it could be. My heart raced as I inputted the sequence I had decided on, my date of birth. The sound that accompanied the soft green light was like a warm but delicate hug. A previously unseen door slid open revealing the interior of the machine. Inside was a small bench molded from steel. Upon the bench was a small leather bound book. I opened it to see what it could be and was greeted by a familiar scrawl.
“To you, my son, a part of me that will endure.”
The tears fell effortlessly and silently. I wiped them away with my sleeve and began reading what would turn out to be step by step instructions for completing my father’s work. Thus began my obsession.
As I grew in years I grew in knowledge. Eventually the blueprints, equations, and instructions revealed themselves. My father had done the unimaginable. In our basement sat the first ever Time Machine. There was only one unfinished equation and I dedicated every fiber of my being to resolve it.
I dropped out of high school in my senior year. I’d had enough of the teasing and provocation. I didn’t fit in anywhere. The jocks terrorized me, girls ridiculed me, and the nerds ignored me. My complaints were registered with an exasperated sigh by the school counselor. He couldn’t help me. No one could. I was different, singular in my obsession. While my classmates got drunk at parties and went to prep rally’s I was in my basement.
It’s been 2 years since I left school and I have no regrets. I believe that I have solved the final equation and am currently preparing to enter the time machine. This was my father’s final request and I am shaking with the anticipation of honoring it. I set the coordinates to the moment of my birth. I plan to befriend my father as a fellow aspiring entertainer and be a guiding voice to his unbridled passion. I believe I can steer him onto a different path. No mime performances mean no beating and no death. I also plan to help the younger me by teaching lessons I’ve learned in my 20 years of life. I enter the machine and sit on the bench. I use the interior panel to close the door. I press the only other button inside the machine and hold my breath as I feel the very air around me gel and suspend all movement. The sound of my breathing is replaced by a soft whirring that builds to an almost uncomfortable wail. I feel the transformation take place as my hearing returns and my previously suspended movement continues in its momentum. I pitch forward on the bench, resting my head on the cool steel of the machine’s door, I punch the button without looking up and it slides open.
I exit my father’s invention expecting to see a totally different landscape. Instead I am greeted by my familiar basement. I move to exit the machine but find that when I extend my hands they are stopped by some sort of invisible barrier. I move my hands up and down trying to find the edge of the barrier but fail. I start to panic but find I have no voice to call out with. I move towards the stairs. As I ascend the stairs I see my reflection in the mirror. As the confusion ebbs I recognize my features beneath the white face paint and beret. I look down at my clothing for the first time since leaving the machine and see the red neckerchief and stripped shirt. Horrified I realize my mistake.