“No way…,” Justin flipped all the switches on his machine to the ‘off’ position and stood from the single seat. His time machine was built from a bike frame; it had square wheels instead of round ones. He had a control panel atop the handlebars with half a dozen lights and switches.
His square tires would look out of place anywhere but, the bike looked extra ridiculous in the center of a stone room. He started the machine in his living room. It had off-white, yellowing linoleum floors and off-white walls. Both were replaced by what seemed to be heavy stonework. His first instinct was to guess that he somehow landed in a castle of some sort. His ratty brown couch was replaced by two bales of hay and a thick wool blanket. Wooden slats replaced the red curtains that once decorated his window.
“This isn’t right,” he said. “I was supposed to go forward.” He looked down at the control panel to check his settings, but he was startled by a loud banging on the door.
“COMING IN!” a vaguely familiar voice said. Justin had trouble placing the owner; he didn’t know anyone in the past. Justin was still trying to decide what to do when the door opened. His landlord, Lou, walked in next to his best friend, Gladys.
Lou glanced at Justin, then grumbled and turned back around to leave. Gladys looked relieved.
“Why the hell have you been ignoring me?” she asked. She gestured at Lou as she closed the door behind him. “I thought you were dead in here,” she looked around at the stone floors and hay bale couch. “What have you been doing? This place is as default as it gets. I thought you’d have everything all sci-fi’d up by now.” Justin watched Gladys wander over and sit down on his couch. He wondered why she wasn’t more surprised.
“What year is it?” Justin asked as he sat on the hay next to her. Despite its uncomfortable appearance, it felt as comfortable as his normal couch.
“What?” Gladys asked with a giggle.
“What year is it?” he asked again. He gave her a nod to let her know it was a sincere question.
“2020, why?” Gladys asked.
“Really? What date?”
“September 10th,” she replied.
“Well that doesn’t make any sense,” Justin said to himself. “It’s the right time; I was only gone for a week.”
“Yeah, where have you been all week? I’ve been calling you.”
“Impossible,” Justin said. Though it was more a comment to himself than addressing Gladys. “If I’ve only been gone a week,.. why aren’t you more surprised by .. all this?” he gestured at his stone floors and walls. “Unless.. I didn’t time travel… I’ve found an alternate universe!” Gladys burst into giggles.
“What the hell are you talking about?” she asked.
“Look, you’re not going to believe this…,” Justin said with a serious tone. He hoped this Gladys trusted him as much as his regular Gladys did. “I tried to build a time machine and I wanted to test it by hopping forward a week. I just landed right before you came in with the landlord. But I guess in this universe my townhouse is part of a castle.” Gladys’ laughter grew in intensity until she was guffawing at his observation about the townhouse.
“Wow,” Justin lamented. “I knew you wouldn’t believe me.. but you don’t have to laugh quite so hard.”
“I’m not laughing at you!” Gladys said. “I mean, I am, but not why you think,” she added. She managed to calm herself down after a few moments, then she smiled at Justin.
“You did it, she said. “I can tell you that you 100% traveled through time. Because you missed the most important event in our history. When did you leave? Wednesday?” she asked.
“Tuesday,” Justin replied. “What do you mean the most important event?”
“Last Thursday a woman named Dana Sharp showed up. Dana Sharp is from an alternate universe and she shared her technology with us. Super advanced technology that makes your place look like this,” she gestured at the hay bale couch. “Or anything you want really; this is the default appearance. So, now that I’ve tracked you down we can make our AlterNet characters.”