Martin Chambers

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The Time Machine

This story is available as an eBook, 'Three short stories', at Smashwords

Sonya and I took the new TM to 2009 for a girly weekend. It’s the new one from Timetech and gosh it’s great. It is so smooth, quiet inside even at 100 hours per sec, with a great sound system. We listened to the whole of Prindeville’s third symphony then stopped in a small town on the south coast of Australia. We ate ‘fish and chips’ for just $10 at the wharf with a drink called Margaret River Riesling. It’s a wine made of fermented grapes, it tastes mostly of acid. The chips were very oily and salty. The fish was an odd texture. We ate it with our fingers, just tearing off a hunk and put it in like the locals do. Quite primitive. I could never live like this. Strange to think that we were eating something that was alive just a short while ago. They use real fish that they just take out of the ocean! Can you believe that? The people here also swim in the ocean, right in the same place the fish are. Don’t know what the fish do then. It’s got to be very unhygienic. The water is sort of cloudy with a hint of greeny colour. We stood on the wharf and could look down into the ocean and see the bottom with weeds and things on it. The sky is so far away, a lost blue colour, pale, white near the horizon and darker overhead. Some of the clouds are pure white as well, but near the horizon they are darker, grayish like normal. On the other side of the ocean there are trees, these grow together in a completely random forest. Can’t make sense of it, it’s quite a way away but there must be ten different types of tree! The wharf is made of real wood from cutting down a huge tree. Then they just slice it up. The wood surface has an interesting texture, a bit oily and rough. Warm, almost like it was still alive. We even took our shoes off and walked along it, up and down just to revel in the feeling. 

Sonya and I have just got back from visiting the town. I was sitting writing this diary when a guy came up and offered us to join his Heritage Walking Tour for $45. He had seen us walking up and down the jetty (it’s called a jetty not a wharf) and giggling. They use wood for lots of other things, like the side of the building here, but often they paint it. Everything is so full of texture and shape. I counted seven different types of paving material. They use them just to get contrast. It is so interesting but wasteful. It’s the same on their buildings, full of interesting inefficient shapes and colours and corners and things. He took us on a walk all around the town with several other people. Sonya and I kept stumbling, what with looking up at all the things and then the path not being smooth. One type of path, called Brick Paving, was made of these small foot sized bits laid flat on the ground, so there are lots of edges. Makes a really interesting pattern, and not every pattern was the same. Some are red and others orange, or off-white, or grey. So much variety for no reason. It looks great though’, but you won’t understand me saying that. He took us to ‘Devonshire Tea’, a sort of ceremony where we all drank a bitter warm liquid made from tree leaves, and ate these little cakes full of jam and cream, very fatty. It coats your mouth and tongue and takes some getting used to. Then you wash your mouth with the bitter tea and it’s really quite good. 

Greg, the guy who does the walking tours, came back and offered to buy us a drink. We weren’t quite sure what that meant but we went to a ‘pub’ with him. This was a public building but dark inside, where they do more food and drink. Inside was more like a house from our time, lots of plastic made to look like wood or something else, but really smelly. A sort of salty, earthy, human smell. The carpet was all patterned, a swirling complex series of flower shapes, with circles and lines, all sorts of colours but the overwhelming effect was dark reddish. Greg told us it was wool, you know, from sheep! But we think he was fooling with us. Beer is a sort of broth, tastes a bit like Promeal, that food drink they grow from bacteria. We didn’t realize it until later, but is has alcohol in it. We both got very funny. My head went dizzy and I was suddenly talking more and louder than I usually do. Later, a band was playing with old fashioned instruments, actually making the music as we where hearing it. Such a full and warm sound, you could feel it in your body as well as hear it. It really made me want to dance. Then they did a slow one and all of a sudden both Sonya and I got all sad. We ended up in the toilet hugging each other. She said she misses something but doesn’t know what it is. I said it was the toilet, we seemed to have to use it a lot. Then we ended up on the floor laughing hysterical, until I noticed the tiles. Some had little flower patterns painted into them and they were only a few cm across. All those joins. I couldn’t believe so much work just to make a toilet wall. We stayed at Greg’s place last night. It was amazing. Firstly, at the front of it there is a thing called lawn. It’s made of lots of little plants, all the same type that he waters every few days with pure drinking water and then cuts it to an even length. You walk on it, or lie on it. It’s like a living greeny carpet, cool and smooth and prickly softer than carpet, and smells so earthy. It’s wonderful. I wish we could all have some. Inside the rooms are so large and he’s got seven of them. They creak as you walk around, the whole house is alive with noises. In one of the rooms there is a fireplace where he burns wood. Yes, real wood from real trees. It makes such a warm glow in the room, reddy and more orange and sometimes a hint of a blue flame, not at all like our picture heaters. The smell is unbelievable and dry. It is the smell of all the things you can’t put a name to, a smell of things you once knew but have forgotten. Good things. It felt like I was connecting to a primitive self from my ancestors. The fire is mesmerizing even though it does nothing, we sat looking at it like we all sit around the multimedia unit. We talked and talked into the night about all sorts of things. Occasionally Sonya or I would say something and Greg would look at us strange, or laugh. He has all these little bottles of drinks. One made from potato that tastes like raw heat, one made from Aniseed that tastes chewey, one called coffee and cream, my favorite. Another tasted like hot oranges. Liqueurs, he calls them. Today we are going with Greg to visit the country farmland. 

Oh my God. So much to write about I just can’t get it all down. My pen is too slow. We ate real oranges and real apples and saw live sheep just wandering around a field. Hardly any factories, Greg says most of the food here comes from farms where it just grows on trees or the sheep and cows that just wander around. Sometimes they die in the fields and they just leave them there! There was a kangaroo killed by a car and they had just left it to rot by the side of the road. The smell was disgusting. Greg said we were gross when we said we wanted to stop and look at it. It had small while grubs living in it and birds pecking at it when we left. Oranges are about the size of a ball with a waxy tough skin. You peel that off and then eat the inside. It is very messy, sugery sweet to taste. The juice squirts out into your face or eyes, onto your clothes, but it is divine. Such intense pure orange flavour. Apples are harder, green, tart and sweet and you just eat them, first you polish the outside on your shirt, then just bite into it. You have to take small bites or it is too intense and juice froths out of the side of your mouth, like it starts not sweet or juicy and then you’ve got all this sweet apple juice in your mouth. We had so much fun. We went for another walk around town. I must say we are getting used to it and we both feel totally safe. We met an old lady walking down the street. I just stopped and stared until Sonya snapped me. This lady was so old, all wrinked, no surgery or anything. They do have Botox but she obviously didn’t use it. What got me most tho’ was that she had this frame that she leant on as she walked. She would lift it up a little, slide it forward, shuffle up to it, rest, the do it all again. How she didn’t stumble on all the uneven paved paths I don’t know. Imagine being that old that you need a frame like that. I nearly cried, it was so tragic, no-one to care for her. Tomorrow Greg is going to take us to an old Whale Station, where they used to kill whales and then cut them up. So barbaric. 

I cannot write anything to describe today. I want to scream. Greg drove us to the old whale station. A museum, pictures and movies of killing and slaughtering whales. The little ships would go right up to whales, who didn’t attack back or defend themselves. But the most amazing thing today you are not going to believe. Greg said lets go for a swim, so we said yes. When he asked us if we wanted to go to the textile beach or natural, or course we chose natural because that’s what we are here to see and I didn’t really know what a textile beach was. I expected it would be some sort of manufactured indoor beach like home. We couldn’t believe it. Everyone was there without a skerrick of clothing on! So, we took ours off too! I was shaking, excited, scared. I wanted to hide but eventually got used to it. The sun felt warm all over my body. We lay on the sand and let it warm us. Little tufts of breeze caressed us. We had lazy conversation, lying there in the nude like it was nothing unusual. But then! Greg said lets go for a swim. Still in the nude! I felt like I was flying, soaring, totally free. The water was clean and cold and touched me everywhere. I almost had an orgasm, I swear it. Unlike the baths at home, the water is moving, swirling back and forth and you can feel it touching your skin. Little waves wash up and down the beach and we went along in them. The water grabs at your hair and skin and tickles and chills, but eventually you just forget the cold and it is so much fun. I wanted to do it forever. Greg said we had better go back as our skin was so pale and we would get sunburn. We walked back up to the carpark and then he said that Sonya and I had better put our clothes on, but it felt so nice that I didn’t want to. I noticed that everyone else in the carpark was clothed again and they were looking at us, so I waved. Greg got all ashamed and held a towel around me. We had Devonshire Tea again this afternoon. This time I had a thing called Muffin with Coffee. The muffin was sweet with chocolate bits in it. Coffee is sort of chocolate, but milky and a little bitter, earthy. It is excellent to have a bit of coffee then a bit of muffin. At the Tea House the old lady with the walking frame was there by herself, so we sat with her. Her name is Edith. She told us all about her early life. She’s 86 years old and came here in 1952 with her husband. He died 12 years ago so she’s all alone now, her children have moved to the city and only visit at holiday times. I told her about my first nude swim and she said she can remember her first nude swim too. Only hers was 60 years ago in South Africa on the way to Australia with her new husband. She said that was what got her pregnant and so I told her you don’t get pregnant that way. They still have the democratic voting system. Every three years Edith gets to vote, along with everyone else she has an equal say. We were always taught it was such an inefficient three yearly change of government. There are also regular public meetings and there is one tonight that Edith has told us about, so were going to go. Anyone can go and have their say! She is trying to get a crosswalk over the busy road so that people can cross safely. Incredible as it seems but it made so much sense! 

Last night you should have heard all the yelling and anger. And yet we felt completely safe. Even Edith got up and said stuff. They had several votes and now they are going to build a crosswalk, and not chop down some old trees, and put a safety fence along the cliffs near the old whaling station. All because people demanded it! The room was alive with people, the air inside was warmer, thicker and despite all the anger and raised voices it was great. I couldn’t sleep last night I was so excited. I was wondering why we don’t do this at home and then I was wondering how I could start a meeting like that. And then I realized I wasn’t looking forward to going home because we live in a world of efficient sameness. Here, the air is grittier, smellier. We walk outside into the sun and it burns on our skin, we feel the wind in our faces and it blows our hair about. It chills us like a thousand icy needles, tiny skin deep pricks of cold. But the wind carries also a curiosity to get around corners just to see what’s there. Wind is not a machine movement of air, it is haphazard, swirly, it gusts into every nook and cranny. We wear local clothes made of rough fibre that scratches the skin, but it makes you tingle to feel it. Then we take them off and run into the ocean and your whole body wakes up to a whole new thrill. Everything has more texture. Foods made from animal and fresh vegetables in an amazing variety. Prepared and eaten in subtle combination of colours and tastes and textures. Fruits that are so sweet and juicy. Every moment is an adventure. It is not only that it is all so new to me. Living here there is so much choice. Yesterday, Edith couldn’t decide if to have a muffin or a cake with her tea. I bought her both, and she said it was ‘wicked’. I love being wicked. But more than any of that is the sensational feeling that people can affect the world they live in. And if we affect the world we live in now, what of the future world? I mean, suppose Edith hadn’t gotten the crosswalk approved, and someone got killed by a car, so in the future they didn’t marry and have children, and that those children who may have been, would have been if Edith didn’t get up and have her say, those children might have been my great grandparents. Perhaps the future is not as certain as we are taught. I’m trying to get my head around this, but suppose I could do something here to preserve this life into our time, so we can eat those fresh foods and swim in a cool clean ocean and all the stuff they do here. Perhaps we can all have a wonderous and sensuous life, enjoy the pleasure of variety in so many things. Am I going mad? Just to think that? 

Sonya and I argued last night. We never argue, but I was trying to explain things and it just got out of hand. Like at that meeting, I suddenly felt it was important to say what I was thinking, and I wasn’t scared of the anger so it all came out. She has to go home for work so she’s taken the TM and left me here. By the time you get this letter, well perhaps you will never understand, perhaps things have already changed and you didn’t notice. Enjoy life, feel things, speak up, try newness. Maybe you already do. Or maybe I failed and nothing has changed. Whatever way, know that I am happy to have tried.