My time machine will not be something physical, like Doctor Who’s Tardis. Instead I imagine it to be more like Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. I can wrap myself in its secret veil and use it to spin me back through the stars, calibrating the Earth to pause just where I want.
I will stop by a Sussex stream to observe my medieval swineherd, camping out with his pigs at pannage time in the woods. I can sniff at his dinner cooking over the fire, taste the texture of meat and gristle in his rabbit stew, note the way he wears his cloak casually flung about his shoulder and the colour of the rough stone in the clasp that secures it around his neck.
He will have no hint of his presence before I leave his side to journey in a gnat’s breath, the blink of an eye, the hoot of an owl to a Yorkshire valley where I come upon my mill girl as she walks the rough path to work early in the morning. I know why she is sad, why the stream in the valley is high and foaming brown with the rain coming off the moors, but why is her basket so heavy and what does it hold by way of lunch? At Christmas, is her cottage decorated? If she weds, will it be in a church? Can she write and if so, would her letter be in an envelope or folded? Does she post it in a box and if so, where?
When her servant sister goes to work in York in 1903, what sort of train carriage does she travel in? When her sweetheart goes to the Front in the Great War, what does he expect to find there? And what does he actually find? Can I travel with him to see for myself?
I do have a time machine, of course. It sits on my desk, slim and silver, and I can be drawn into it and lose a minute or two, an hour or a whole day travelling back into the past. If I so wish I can find answers to all those questions without leaving my chair. And for the answers I can’t find it can put me in touch with people all over the word who might be able to help. It can lead me to places that I really need to visit to add authenticity to my work and help me discover things that I would never even have thought of including.
My time machine for travel into the future is different. I carry it around with me wherever I go and the best thing about it is that no-one can tell me (yet) that I’ve got my facts wrong. It’s the best type of time machine of all, for past and future, and one that we all have: our imagination.
This is my entry for Week 2 Thanet Creative Writers Competition