“We did it! Oh, Mister Harker, we actually made it!”
Indeed they had. The Krawk and his housekeeper had arrived at Aren’s house – on the first day of Swimming in the Neopian Y19 – over two years ago.
“I was just supposed to send you back, though. I accidentally brought myself along.”
“It’s no problem, Aren. At least we know that it works, and we can easily hop back to the future.”
“If you say so, sir.”
“Alright – here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll find the version of you existing in this time and tell him to be careful about what he writes in his letters to your brother. Then we’ll pop back to the year we came from and see if it worked.”
If Harker was nervous, he didn’t show it. In fact, he seemed remarkably calm for someone who had just travelled back in time.
Finding the present (past) Aren wasn’t difficult. He was inside his study, sitting on his large swivelling chair with a plush blanket covering his legs. In his hands, he held a thin paperback.
“The Pea from Outer Space! I remember that book. It ended on a cliff-hanger.”
Past Aren glanced up at them and dropped his mouth into an o shape.
“Hello, me.” Aren gave his other self a small wave, which the other Lutari returned, looking dazed. “Time travel.”
Past Aren raised an eyebrow at them.
“Time travel, huh? Is it common in the future? Also – who is he?” He gestured at Harker with his paperback.
“Oh – we must have arrived before you started working for you.” Aren said to the Krawk, who nodded vaguely. He was preoccupied with the unopened envelope atop Past Aren’s desk.
“Is that from your brother?”
“How do you know about Jorge?” Past Aren looked at him suspiciously. “Oh right – future.” His features relaxed as he glanced at the envelope the Krawk was staring at. “Yeah, that’s from him. He just got locked up in Meridell for . . . well, I’m not really sure what for, to be honest.”
“I’m still not sure to this day,” Aren replied ruefully, shaking his head. “He’s always been in and out of trouble. This is Mister Harker, by the way. One day soon you’re going to apply for a job at his mansion. We’ve been working there for over five years now.”
“I look forward to it,” Past Aren smiled at his future master. “As lovely as it is to chat with myself – why are you here?”
“For the same reason you haven’t opened that letter from your brother yet. He’s a thorn in our side, too.”
“You’re here because of Jorge? What did he do?”
“A great number of annoying things, to be sure. But there’s one in particular we came here to avoid.” Harker picked up the envelope from the desk and turned it over in his hands. “You write to him in prison and one day you say something that seems innocent but starts an entire chain of events that leads to a very bad ending. At least it would have if we hadn’t intervened. That’s why we’re here.”
“To intervene? With what?”
“You.” Harker placed the letter back on the desk and fixed the other Lutari with a cool stare. “You must never mention anything about a book to your brother. Do you understand?”
“No. What book?”
“Any book. There’s one in particular in my library right now that requires absolute secrecy regarding it. You can talk to your brother about whatever you like except for books.”
“Not even the one you’re reading right now, just in case. Absolute secrecy.” Harker repeated, and Aren nodded his agreement. Past Aren blinked at them.
“It must be bad – whatever Jorge does in the future. It is, isn’t it?”
“Not if we can prevent him from ever learning about the book in the first place.” The device around Harker’s wrist started beeping rapidly. “I don’t think it’s supposed to do that. We should go. Aren!”
The Lutari grabbed Harker’s arm, giving his past self one last wave.
“Good luck, past me. Remember – never mention any book to Jorge. No matter what!”
They were gone before Past Aren could reply and landed with a tumble onto the large Oriental rug in Harker’s library.
“Did we do it, sir?” Aren helped the Krawk to his feet and dusted off his shoulder. They both glanced up at the bookshelf where the book lived. It sat in its rightful place, nestled between two large cookbooks.
“I guess we won’t know for certain without speaking to Jorge. I think it is safe to assume that we did it, though. We left the book on the table – surely it would have still been there if we had failed.”
“Mister Harker,” Aren began, biting his lip. “I don’t understand much about time travel. I’m just a housekeeper. But if by going back in time and stopping myself from writing to Jorge about the book . . . I’m sure we would have created some sort of paradox. Because if he never learns about the book in the past he wouldn’t have tried to steal it in the future, and we would never have gone back to the past. Oh, my head.” He gave his temples a massage.
“I think the universe can compensate for a certain amount of change.” Harker was fiddling with the knobs on the device on his wrist and not really paying attention to his housekeeper. “If we don’t change anything too drastic – I suppose the rest just falls into place around it.”
Aren wasn’t convinced and was quite concerned about the expression on the Krawk’s face.
“Mister Harker – you are putting the machine away now, aren’t you? We really should lock it away, just in case.”
“Lock it away?”
“For safekeeping. For all we know this is the only working time travel device in existence. By rights and due to our own intervention we should be the only two people who know about it – but still, it’s a priceless item. It should be locked away.”
“I can’t lock it away. I still have one more trip to make.”
“One more trip? Sir – we really mustn’t. I have a really bad feeling about this.”
“You needn’t come with me, Aren. There’s something I have to do.”
“Enough! I’ve made up my mind. Now that I know the machine works all I require is for you to send me back. I have the date and time already programmed in. I think you came along on the last trip because we were holding onto each other at the time of activation. This time, I want you to send me alone.”
The Lutari looked at the small device unhappily.
“As you wish, sir.”
Harker looked nervous for the first time, his eyes darting about the place. He clasped and unclasped his fingers while the Lutari took the time machine in his lap.
“Are you ready, sir?”
Aren flicked the lever, and Harker was shrouded in darkness once again.
“We did it, Mister Harker.” Harker whispered to himself under his breath as he stood on the long wooden jetty leading out to sea. The salt air stung his face and he glanced up at the bright sunny sky. It was a warm day, with soft white clouds and a dazzling bright sun.
The perfect day to set sail – except that Harker knew what was coming. Within the hour the weather would turn and a fierce storm would rip across the ocean, taking down boats and ships in its wake.
“Jiselle!” Harker felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of the Draik, her sparkling turquoise wings folded neatly behind her. She turned to look at him.
“Harker! You said you wouldn’t have time to see me off, you liar. What are you doing here?” She leaned in to graze his flushed cheek with a soft kiss.
He reached out to grasp her hand, feeling the solidness of her.
She’s really here.
Harker pulled her in for an embrace, wrapping his arms around her so tightly she let out a squeal.
“Brother – what’s wrong?”
“My sister. My sweet twin sister.” He murmured, drinking in the sight of her.
“Harker, are you alright? They’re boarding now – I have to get moving.”
“No!” He flung a hand out to grasp her wrist. “You can’t get on that boat.”
“Why ever not? I’ve had this cruise booked for months.”
“Jiselle – listen to me. You cannot get on that boat. It’s going to sink and you will – I’ll never see you again. Don’t ask me how I know this – I just do. You can’t get on that boat.”
The faerie Draik gave him a frown.
“Tell me how you know.”
“I literally just said don’t ask me.”
“I don’t care. If you know something I don’t – you tell me right now. Or else I’m getting on that boat!”
“Because all of this has already happened. I’m from the future, Jiselle. I built a time machine to come back and stop you getting on that boat. Because if you do – you’ll never come back.”
To be continued…