~ Voyager ~
Mason leaned back in his chair and tried to focus on the pastor’s droning voice. His back hurt. He shifted his position again.
“And we know that Christ has promised that all of those who believe in Him will be with Him for eternity,” the pastor said, his voice rising. “And our brother James Devlin was one of those believers. He is, even now, with his Savior in paradise…”
Did anyone really believe that? Mason let his gaze drift up to the ceiling. He refused to let his eyes rest on the wooden box displayed at the front of the church.
Mason clenched his fists. James was dead. He wasn’t in any happy, rosy paradise full of butterflies and gold dust. He was dead.
Mason leaned forward wearily and rested his head in his hands. His memory floated backwards… back four days, to when James still lived…
“Wanna go for a bike ride Sunday?” Mason asked his cousin, pulling bags of groceries out of the trunk of his mom’s van.
James shrugged, “I’d love to, but I’m busy. I’ve gotta go pick up some missionaries from the airport after church.”
“Why not go biking before you pick them up?” Mason pressed. “Just skip church.”
James sighed. “Listen, Mason, I know you don’t think church is all that important. But it is to me. God says to remember the Sabbath. He comes first.”
Mason groaned. “Can’t you find a replacement to pick up those people? We haven’t gone biking in ages.”
“I’m actually already the replacement,” James said with a grin. “I’ll go with you next Saturday. Deal?”
“Sure,” Mason said. “Don’t forget!”
But next Saturday never came for James.
In a hospital room on Sunday afternoon, Mason stood staring at his cousin’s broken, unconscious body. Sobbing people filled the room. And there lay James, half-dead and barely breathing. All because some stupid driver wouldn’t drive the speed limit.
The walls seemed to close in. Mason couldn’t bear it. He dashed out of the room, ran down the hallway, and collapsed on a bench.
Why couldn’t James have stayed home? Why couldn’t they have gone on that bike ride? They’d be out having fun in the woods right now, in the cool shade, bouncing over roots and rocks, whistling and yelling and scaring every squirrel within ten miles.
But they weren’t. Why did James have to go pick up those wretched missionaries? If he’d had the sense to skip church, he’d still be standing on his own two feet. If God really loved James, why would He reward him by letting him get hurt?
Mason didn’t know how long he sat there on the bench, with his head in his hands. He snapped back to reality when he felt his mother’s hand on his shoulder. Looking up at her crumpled face, he knew without words.
James was dead.
The house got stuffier and stuffier as the days following the funeral dragged by. Finally, Mason could bear it no longer. He had to escape, if only for a few hours.
He sighed as he wandered aimlessly through the woods behind his neighborhood. If only there was some way to fix it! Some way to keep that car from hitting James. But James was still dead. And there was nothing he could do to change that.
Something rustled under a nearby bush. Mason froze. A dark shape moved in his periphery. Slowly, he turned his head.
He found himself staring into the empty eyes of a chicken.
Empty. “You’re lucky you don’t have to think, birdbrain,” he muttered.
The hen gurgled indignantly and tottered away through the underbrush. With a shrug, he followed it through the woods.
Suddenly, Mason found himself in a little clearing, facing a ramshackle hut, overgrown with weeds. “What on earth?” he muttered. He had never seen this old place before, but he figured that whoever owned it probably didn’t want visitors. He slowly turned and walked back towards the woods, trying to appear nonchalant.
Hinges creaked behind him. “Hey!” a voice called out. “What are you doing out here, kid?” Mason turned to see an old, bald man with bushy grey eyebrows.
“Just out for a walk,” Mason called back, as casually as he could.
“You’re the Erold kid, aren’t you? Didn’t your cousin just die? Car accident, right?” The man’s eyebrows raised. “Is that why you’re out here?”
Mason blinked. “Uh, yeah, my cousin just died. And I didn’t mean to come here. Sorry, mister.”
“Ken Hackett,” the man supplied. “Why did your cousin die, kid?”
“He was picking up some missionaries for church,” Mason spat.
“Troy Booker’s church?” Old Ken asked, a flicker in his eyes.
Old Ken grinned. “If you could keep your cousin from dying, kid,” he said. “If you could get him away from that church of his, if you could change what happened — would you?”
Mason’s head swam. “Of course,” he replied. What on earth was this crazy old hermit getting at?
“Alright then,” Old Ken said, straightening, “I can help you do just that. Come inside for a minute.”
Eyebrows furrowed, Mason followed the man up the creaky porch steps and into the house. When his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw a hulk of metal that seemed straight out of an 80s science fiction movie. It looked like the Millennium Falcon welded to a gigantic tin can, plastered with colored wires and buttons. Dim green screens the color of pond scum slept on the sides of the contraption.
“What on earth…?” Mason breathed.
“I call it the Voyager,” Old Ken said proudly. “It’s a time machine.”
Mason blinked. This guy had to be crazy. “A time machine,” he repeated, staring at the unbelievable hulk before him. “Are you serious?”
“Of course I am,” Old Ken answered. “And I’ll let you use it to go back in time and save your cousin.”
“Does it really work?” he asked, trying to quell the sudden, wild hope that had sprung up inside him.
“Yep,” Old Ken replied coolly, tapping a few buttons. The screens lit up. Light flashed from the seams of the giant tin can. The contraption hummed eerily. “I’ve gone back a hundred times.”
“Why would you let me use it?” Mason asked. “You don’t even know me.”
Old Ken looked at him for a minute. “Look, you’re a smart kid, and you deserve a chance to get that cousin of yours back, right?”
“I guess so.”
“Fine! Then it’s a deal,” Old Ken announced, pressing buttons on his contraption. A door opened on the side of the tin can. Mason half expected steam to rush out of the doorway, but none did. The inside looked like any other giant tin can lined with wires. “Be my guest,” Old Ken said, holding the door open invitingly.
With a quick glance at the sunlight outside, Mason stepped in. What did he have to lose, anyway?
“When do you want to go?”
Mason thought for a moment. Before Saturday. Before James had agreed to pick up the missionaries. “Friday,” he answered.
“Alright,” Old Ken said, stepping inside and sealing the door, “Last Friday it is.”