Traveling the Road Back

old car

© Al Forbes

William Shaw was pulling the modified 1902 Cadillac Runabout behind his SUV to an abandoned country road where he would be unobserved.

He’d purchased it from an elderly widow, her husband’s pride and joy, but the old man lacked stamina and finances to restore this beauty.

Shaw unloaded the Cadillac at his destination. Appropriately costumed, he got in and activated the controls. He’d spent a century building wealth and the time transmitter so he, an immortal, could go back and correct his worst mistake. This time, he’d arrive in Southampton and prevent his beloved wife Julia from boarding the Titanic.

I wrote this piece of flash fiction in response to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers challenge using the accompanying photo prompt, and attempting to write a complete story in 100 words or less. I managed exactly 100 words.

To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

I am somewhat manipulating the plot from the 1980 film Somewhere in Time starring the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

In this case, William Shaw, an immortal, or at least very long-lived person, met and married a woman named Julia in the very early 20th century. They had a falling out for some reason, and she left him. She boarded the RMS Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912, and died when it sank early the morning of the 14th.

Shaw is an immortal, but he can’t go back in time. However being an immortal, he has nothing but time and patience in amassing wealth and eventually inventing a method of time travel that could be incorporated into a vintage automobile (no, he doesn’t have to travel eighty-eight miles per hour).

In the original history, Shaw didn’t go after Julia and she died. This time, he intends to prevent her from boarding the Titanic and save her life. They’ll spend however many years they can together, until enough time passes and she finally dies of old age.

He creates one critical problem, though. Now there are two of him in the world, and from 1912 on, there will always be two of him.

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35 thoughts on “Traveling the Road Back

    • I think I needed to write the explanation for me, Dale. Flash fiction, while a lot of fun, feels very limiting sometimes, because these characters and their situation are so much more complex than 100 words will allow to describe.

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      • Ahh… well that’s the point of the exercise. Learning to tell as much as we can with such a limited amount of words…which you succeeded, by the way…

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  1. Such a sad story. Like Dale said, your story stands on its own merit. I appreciate the summary of Somewhere in Time though. I saw the movie and didn’t understand a darn thing that was happening. It really irritated me at the time. I’d forgotten the female lead was Jane Seymour! Of course, I’d never forget Christopher Reeve. He’s probably the reason I watched it in the first place. 🙂

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    • Well, sad and happy, Kecia. Shaw can finally return to his beloved Julia, separated by a century and by death, and save her life. I wonder though, how this will affect the original Shaw who allowed her to go? After a century or so, will he still choose to travel back in time? Interesting thoughts. Actually, after I published the story, I realized I could have added a caveat that time travel removed his immortality, thus he and Julia grow old together in the new history. However, what’s done is done, so this involving time travel, is it?

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      • “Shaw can finally return to his beloved Julia, separated by a century and by death, and save her life.” Which brings up the question of who really suffered in the first scenario. Not Julia; she died. In one interpretation, William’s act is one of pure selfishness, his desire to live a life in which Julia lived alongside him. He has no way of guaranteeing her happiness in the alternate life he devises for her. It’s such an interesting story. Thanks for sharing your version.

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      • That’s an interesting take, Kecia. One I hadn’t considered. Yes, it could be selfishness, but it could also be guilt. Let’s say that when Shaw and Julia met and married, he concealed his nature from her. Time passed (I didn’t say how long they’d been married) and he finally admitted being immortal.

        I can only imagine that would be difficult to live with, the idea that you will continually grow older while your spouse remains ageless.

        She leaves him, unable to deal with the dissonance, and Shaw’s anger and pride inhibit him from going after her and trying to reconcile. After all, he’s married before and watched wives and children die while he lives on. I gave him the bad habit that people are always temporary.

        Then, she dies tragically and he realizes he truly does love her and that he was a fool to let her go. But she’s dead, his one true love over the centuries.

        From his point of view, he’s trying to put things right, but that hardly makes him perfect. To quote Stanly Elkin, “I would never write about someone who was not at the end of his rope.”

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      • This reminds me, too, of Highlander. I think it was in the first movie, but it’s been a while since I saw any of them. Duncan McLeod lives his life with his first love. He never grows old, but she does. They live apart from the rest of the world, and he’s with her when she dies of old age. It was so terribly sad, so…poignant. My impression was that, though he had had relationships (marriages?) with many other women through the centuries, she was always “the one.”

        It’s a gold mine of story material. 🙂

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      • Actually, I saw the film once and recalled that scene when I was writing my story summary. Of course, science fiction and fantasy is replete with tales of immortals. There was a TV show on between 1969 and 1971 called The Immortal starring Christopher George as Ben Richards. He discovers he his blood renders him immune to all aging and disease factors. He can give transfusions to others, but the effects don’t last for them, only him. Of course, an aging and powerful billionaire finds out about him, and Richards has to go on the run to prevent him from becoming a permanent lab rat. He’s also seeking his long lost brother, who may also have the immunity. Kind of a “Run For Your Life” scenario.

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  2. Nice story James. I enjoyed it more before I read the problem of there being 2 of him in the world – time travel problems like this make my head hurt. Let’s not start on the logic in Back to the Future or worse, the Terminator films!

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  3. Dear James,

    I enjoyed your hundred word story and really think it stood on its own without explanation. In fact the explanation confused me. Is this a book you’re writing or were you rewriting Somewhere in Time? At any rate your story is delightful…by itself. 😉

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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    • Neither. I was reminded of “Somewhere in Time” when I conceived of the idea for the story (actually, as I was writing it). As I mentioned before, I wrote the afterword more for me than for my readers. I process information and emotions by writing, so it helped me find “closure” with the story. I might expand it later and change things around. The concept is full of possibilities. Thanks for reading and commenting, Rochelle.

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    • Not sure a time machine would have saved everyone, unless a time traveler could have disabled the engines to prevent the ship from departing until a day later.

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      • That certainly would require a lot of research on my part and open up a moral can of worms. If you can use time travel to avert one disaster, why not use it to avert them all? Also, by changing one major historical event, what else do you change? If everyone who was aboard the Titanic lived to reach New York, perhaps even a few of them could have impacted history significantly. The time traveler would effectively be appointing himself/herself as God.

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  4. An interesting take on the prompt, though I’m not much of a time-travel fan. I didn’t see the film, though I’m wondering whether this was the film whose theme tune was a particular favourite of my brother. Nicely done, however, and it seems to have sparked quite a lot of discussion.

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    • It seems this is one of those stories that could be expanded quite a bit, Sandra. Time travel isn’t for everyone and I didn’t think the Christopher Reeve film was all that good. I only thought about it after I’d written the story. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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