Books & Beyond

The Benjamin Chronicles: Relativity by Matthew DiConti @MatthewDiConti

Posted on: November 7, 2013


There was a brightness in front of Conal’s eyes, a white light, almost as though he was staring directly into the sun. But his eyes were closed, squeezed tightly shut against the pain throbbing in the back of his head.

He heard someone screaming in the distance, it sounded as if the voice he heard was coming from under water. He opened his eyes slowly, and his head began to spin. He was nauseous from the pain.

“Conal! Conal!”

The voice was hysterical.

His head rolled in the direction of the sound. His vision was blurred; he could only see blobs of shapes and colors. What was the one moving toward him? The voice got louder as the blob moved.


A familiar face, a pretty face floated above him.

I know her. The face was a comfort, an image he had seen many times before. She seems worried. Why?

It all came back to him as his vision began to clear. The tunnel of light, the shock as he grabbed the handle, the shaking levers, Abby.

“Abby.” Relief shone in her eyes as he wheezed her name.

“Oh, thank God. Conal, I need you to wake up. I don’t know what’s happening. Where are we? I don’t know what to do.” She convulsed in tears, her sobs wracking her entire body.

Conal struggled to sit up, fighting off waves of nausea and the overwhelming desire for sleep. “It’ll be all right, Abby. It will be okay.” He swallowed his words as he surveyed his surroundings.

In truth, he fully expected to wake up on the floor of the gymnasium, humiliated from having hallucinated the entire thing and passing out.

He could not have guessed where he had ended up. His heart was pounding at the possibilities.

And then he was vomiting, his head exploding as his stomach retched and he clutched onto cobblestone in a futile attempt at finding stability.

Clearly he had been knocked out when they landed, or whatever it is that you do in a time machine.

Even a concussion could not keep at bay the sarcastic chuckle under his breath. He hardly dared to let himself imagine that this had actually happened.

The scent of horse manure carried lightly to him on a chilly breeze and he began to gag again. “Oh my God, okay, that’s disgusting.” Don’t worry about me. I’m fine, he thought to himself

Abby cringed bitterly as she helped him to his feet. “I’m sorry, I just don’t do well with throwing up. Are you going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine.” I don’t have a choice. “Just shaking the cobwebs loose.”

“So do you have any idea where we are?”

He stared at the road, then looked all around in amazement and disbelief, reluctant to speculate until he had further confirmation. “I have no idea, Abby.”

“Well, what happened? I don’t understand. That machine wasn’t supposed to work. It’s never worked. It was just supposed to be some gimmicky thing that Tristan’s dad’s company was willing to sponsor as part of a PR stunt—‘look how wonderful we are! We’re bringing Einstein’s treasures to life!’ What happened to us?”

Conal heard what sounded like horse clatter in the distance. “All right, look, if that thing, that…machine, actually did what it was supposed to do, and given that we’re not on the stage being harassed by Tristan anymore, I’m going to say that it did, then I’m going to go out on a limb and say that maybe… we just traveled through time?”

Abby’s eyes widened. “That’s crazy! This can’t be happening.” Her face went blank, and she looked unnaturally pale, almost colorless. “How could that possibly have happened? I know we were at a time travel exhibit, but this can’t really be happening, can it? There’s no such thing as time travel actually working. This doesn’t happen to people. It’s impossible. Okay, I just need to relax. We’re going to be okay. I mean, at least were both alive, right?” Abby did her best to reassure herself.

“To tell you the truth, it sounds like a far likelier scenario that we have somehow died and both ended up in some sort of purgatory, than us traveling through time. However, we’re still conscious and speaking. Either way, afterlife or another place in time, we’ve got to figure this out.”

She nodded, biting her lip. “You’re right. So can’t we just get back on the machine and go home, and forget that this ever happened?”

“You can forget it if you want, but I’m not going to.”

“You aren’t terrified?”

“I’m a little scared, sure. But Abby, if we really traveled through time—if that machine actually worked…do you know what that means? Do you know what we’ve done? We’re the first people in the history of the world to have traveled through time. Don’t you get how incredible that is?”

From the frigid look on Abby’s face she didn’t have it in her to share Conal’s enthusiasm. Her shoulders drooped as she summoned up the energy to rub her arms till they began turning pink. Then she began to rave. “So many things I haven’t done yet. Why is this happening? I’ve never even been to an opera, or flown in a hot air balloon or, or—” Abby was thinking so quickly now her words couldn’t keep up. “—or seen the Golden Gate Bridge, or children, I don’t have any children. That’s because I’ve never even been married! Ugh! There so much I wanted to do and now I…I’ll never get to do it.”

“Take it easy, Abby. Breathe.” Conal motioned his hand in a circular breathing motion. “You’ll get to do all of that. I promise. Hang in there. Look at this as, sort of a vacation. Take a couple breaths and keep thinking vacation, vacation.”

Conal could see Abby taking the breaths and silently repeating “I’m on vacation.” She opened her eyes, a little more relaxed. “I’m okay, I’m okay.”

“You’ll be back home before you know it.” Conal had no idea if they would or wouldn’t make it back home from wherever they were, but he didn’t have much experience in comforting women, and that was the best he could do at that moment.

She walked over to where Conal was examining the machine.

“So you think we can get back?”

Conal evaded that question. “I don’t know how it worked the first time, but my guess is that it’s on some kind of power source and we drained that during our little road trip.”

“What does that mean?”

“There is a meter on the side of the machine. When I was up on stage, it was completely full, there were about forty bars lit up on this meter. Now look.” Conal tapped his finger against the meter. “It’s empty. Not even a single bar lit up, and from the looks of it, it’s not going to be charged any time soon.”

Abby glared at him. “Maybe we should try to find someone who can help us.”

“Maybe. But first, we need to hide this thing. There are some stables over there. We can put it there for now.”

The stables looked abandoned and reeked of dried manure, mildew, and rotting wood. Whoever had used it had left behind saddles, horse blankets, and more than a few bales of hay, all of which were put to use concealing the contraption Conal had come to accept as a functioning time machine and their ticket home.

“Listen, even if that thing recharges itself, it’s probably going to be awhile before it’s up and running again,” Conal said. “Wherever—whenever—we are, we’re probably going to have to spend the night here, so we should probably try to go figure some things out.”

Abby was staring at him with narrowed eyes. “You’re excited about this.”

Conal laughed nervously. “Yeah, a little bit. If we actually traveled through time, I would at least like to know when I traveled to and what’s going on.”

Abby nodded, more intrigued than she wanted to let on. Her responsible nature took over, the part of her that had always had to plan ahead for everyone else. She never had been able to trust anyone around her that easily. She liked Conal, but sighed in resignation. She wasn’t going to get anything different here. He was so excited about having possibly traveled through time, he’d probably like to stay weeks investigating this utterly bizarre and most unfortunate situation. Abby was going to have to keep him on track if she ever wanted to get home.

Still, it was getting dark and she was cold. They had to do something. “All right, Conal, let’s go check this place out and find out where we are.”

“And when.” Conal grinned.

Abby couldn’t help but smile back. “Yes, and when. Do you think we’re still in Santa Barbara, just…in another time?”

“No clue,” Conal said. “But we need to stick together. Who knows what or who we’re going to find.”

They walked along the cobblestone road in silence for a few minutes, heading in the direction of the faint sound of voices. The scent of burning leaves mingled with the pungent odor or rotting garbage. Fog began to roll in, and somewhere between all the gloom and fog, the sun was beginning to set. Sounds of chattering, some belligerent yelling, and more horse clatter in what appeared to be a livelier part of town lay ahead.

“Abby, listen, before we go any further, you remember what I was saying about if time can be changed?”

“Yeah, anything we do could change some major part of history, and even our own existence. I got it. We’ll just try to blend in.” Abby shivered as the road behind them was disappearing in the growing fog.

She hugged her arms around her torso and clamped her lips shut to keep her teeth from chattering. Whether it was from the chill in the air or her own nerves, she was beginning to shiver. “And don’t forget the way back to the time machine,” she continued.

“Sheesh, you’re starting to sound like my mom.” Conal smiled at her.

Abby wasn’t smiling back; she was visibly cold and concerned. “I’m making a note of it too, but just in case we get separated, I think it’d be best if we both knew how to get back.”

“Relax, I’ll remember,” Conal assured her quickly. “But let’s make sure we don’t get separated.”

Darkness was falling quickly, and the thickening fog made it difficult to see far down the road. Many of the facades were fading with patches of overgrown moss and ivy covering them. Loose shingles flapped quietly on every other roof.


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Genre – Paranormal Fiction

Rating – NC17

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