From all the mentions of a wife and the fact I’m saying “Hey guys, I wrote this to propose” it’s a fair assumption that you know how things went.
She said yes. We’re now married. We’d bought the ring together, but I still managed to surprise her – both in when I proposed to her, and how. The book (and I’m going to call it that) was a complete surprise to her, and for all the fandom references that would appeal to some, there’s special references (as I alluded to earlier) that are really just for her. Sometimes it’s just a line, and it’s all it needed to be. Anyway, it’s pretty damn special to me.
The inside of the dome became less tangible to her, as though it was fading. A bright flash hastened the disappearance of the cogs, and of Avery, yet the light itself didn’t fade.
“Are you alright in there?” she called out. She heard the steady beat of ticking, and a dull humming from within the dome, but no answer from Avery.
She breathed in sharply, and turned back to the final crank – pushing it around slowly, inching the final misaligned tick closer to an equilibrium, and then finally uniting with the others as one solitary beat.
Grace exhaled with her entire body; her head turned downward, and her shoulders sank.
“Alright. Now what?” she asked.
The absence of Avery’s voice made her turn away from the controls, and look around the chamber. There was no sign of him amongst the thick copper pipes, or grey stone walls.
She hurried to the doorway leading inside his dome, and pulled it open. The green mist had dissipated, allowing her to clearly see inside. There were only gears. He wasn’t here either.
She rushed back to the controls and looked up at the glass, hoping she would catch a glimpse of him. She didn’t.
“Time machine, right?” she thought aloud, and nodded with determination. Avery’s warning echoed in her mind, but she turned it anyway; pulling the first crank, and starting its movement anti-clockwise.
The first tick of the machine came with another burst of light from inside the dome. She saw a hand thud against the glass, and without hesitation, ran to the door. She hadn’t seen Avery yet, though the instant the door was ajar, she heard his voice.
“What have you done?” he yelled.
She looked at him and shook her head, “I don’t understand.”
“You turned it back again. I needed your help Grace, but I didn’t want this for you. Not again.”
Grace looked at the machine’s controls, but he spoke again before she had taken a step. “It’s already too late. Bear with me. I won’t have any answers.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked, her voice straining to stay composed.
She heard the tick again. The door pulled away from her hand with impossible force, slamming shut with a noise that knocked her to the ground.
She awoke with a gasp, finding the room darker than it had been before, but otherwise the same. She couldn’t recall having been close to sleep.
“Take your time.”
Grace turned her head to the side, and saw Avery staring at her with eyes that seemed a brighter blue than she remembered.
“What is it you were saying?” she asked.
Avery continued to stare, but didn’t answer.
“Stop that. It doesn’t suit you. And did you switch back to ‘Avery’ spectrums while I was out?”
He took a step back from her and looked around. “The entrances are closed. Who are you?”
Grace felt her stomach sink, and a tingle in her lower gum. “Oh no.”
“I trust you know what you’re ‘Oh no’ing about. Would love to know the details, and the whole of how and why you’re here to begin with.”
She pressed her elbow against the ground, propping herself up. A wave of dizziness struck her, almost causing her to vomit. She bit the reflex back, and focused on him. “You called it The Clock. I might have… turned it backwards.”
“That was a mistake, but it was ours to allow it. They never should have been built to work that way. It was unwise.”
There was a moment of silence between them, during which Avery gritted his teeth. He broke it with a question.
“I don’t know. You looked the same. Mostly.”
“I always have,” he replied.
Her gaze poured over his features, taking in everything that she could. No, those eyes were definitely different. Younger. Brighter. She would have remembered them otherwise.
“What year is it now?”
“Above is different, though somewhat linked.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve stopped counting birthdays yet,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“Not at twenty-eight. Maybe when I hit fifty.”
“Or one hundred,” countered Grace. The words tasted bitter in her mouth, a realisation that her time was somewhere past seventy years in the future.
“It will be okay,” said Avery.
“How do I go forward again?”
“The only way I know of. One day at a time.”