Uncle Webster gave me the formula
for the time machine, where x = the growl
of a strawberry-eating bear, and y, the dust
found in pockets of winter coats that
have been under the bed all summer.
I built the base from an old crate
painted scarlet, with bicycle wheels fitted
for extra velocity. It’s a blustery day,
leaves blowing every which way,
when I persuade the bear to crouch in the bow
and utter his sky-juddering growl.
A scatter of dust and we’re off,
blizzarding between eons
like a double pennant gale warning.
My aim? To visit Hadrian’s Wall at its beginning;
I have an essay due on Monday about the Roman Empire.
But spelling was never my strongest subject.
A typo sends us spiralling to the Hadean era
– more than a billion years prior
to the first multi-cellular life on Earth.
I hold my breath; the bear lets loose a howl.
Past travesties and calamities we spin,
to the end of all things and back again.
Homework forgotten, one goal remains.
We pause briefly in the 21st century,
collecting two new passengers,
Theresa and Donald.
They huddle on the bear’s warm lap,
eyes and lips streaming with fright.
Backside to the Hadean era we soar,
and on to the Devonian at the very moment
when the first clammy amphibians appear.
And there we leave them to evolve, or expire,
hoping for a brighter future for us all.
Judy Darley writes fiction, poetry and journalism. Her words have been published in literary magazines and anthologies. She’s read her short fiction on BBC radio, in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Judy blogs about art and other things here.