“I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” The lilt of his accent was hypnotic. He seemed trustworthy and roguish, strange in a very familiar way.
I was like scared, and kinda shaking, and all “what the fuck?!”, but I didn’t say any of that. Instead I just said “sure?”.
The man asked his question in a whisper. I could sense his hurry. He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “How can you hold a king, four presidents, and a leaping fish in the palm your hand? You will have thirty seconds to answer”, he added. My hair stood on end, thirty seconds. There was danger on his words. He turned to look at something only he could see. “Your time starts now”, he said.
“Well” I said absent-mindedly. My hands dove into my pant pockets and began fiddling with change. In the palm of your hand.
My mind fragmented in a thousand directions but at the center were the hands of clock ticking. Not being right sat in the pit of my stomaching blowing cold wind into my lungs.
The world fell away from view and thats when the answer came to me. Not in a thought, but a memory.
I remembered crystal blue waters and humid air that warmed my nostrils, faces on the side of a mountain, and the smell of thousands of fish.
When the world came back in view my arm was stretched before me. In my open palm lay three quarters. One from Hawaii, with King Kamehameha on the back. The faces of four presidents lay on the back the other. The third coin depicted a salmon leaping from the Washington Sound.
The man smiled. “Only three seconds. Thats the best time ever” Three seconds. Impossible. I went to those places, and a thousand others too.
He simply smiled again and led me out of the cafe. Just in front was a black taxi cab, the kind that litter London. “Deposit your quarters in the meter. Be quick about. They’ll be here in any second” he warned.
I dropped the quarters in the meter and the world fell away again. Three men, dressed in black suits were yelling “halt” and racing toward us. We jumped in the cab and threw the meter up and the next thing we were in London.
“Well”, said the man with the funny accent, “this is my stop. Been sometime since I’v been home. Want to have a go with the Taxi?” Again my response was “sure”, but with conviction this time.
“Right then. When you want want to go home just come back here, before August 14, 1946. Thats when I die”.
“Will do” I said, “hey, whats your name?” His smile made the hair on his lip dance a bit, “Herbert” he said, “but my friends call me H.G.”.
And that is how I became the proud owner of a time machine.