radical: [chemistry] a group of atoms behaving as a unit in a number of compounds.
The atoms were all aligned in a promising arrangement the day Marcel took his invention on the time travel racetrack near Death Valley. The one-million dollar payout was part of his motivation, certainly, but more than claiming the money Marcel wanted to claim the record for longest time travel jump at 2.5 million years – back nearly to the dawn of homo sapiens, back to the days of the woolly mammoth and the saber-tooth tiger.
And then there is that moment of disintegrating atoms, the moment of suspension as you fly, no, you hang in suspension above the dusty earth, above the arid sands, when the heat buoys you like a life raft on the ocean’s surface. You briefly glimpse the flattened outstretched wings of the desert condors that glide in ovate patterns above the ground, you see what they see, the world below you laid out like the long dry expanse of a child’s coverlet, like the long times between love affairs, like the length of sorrow over your mother’s death. She believed in you, your mother, when no one else did.
All at once the atoms accelerate, time constricts, you hit the ground in a flash, and it’s all over. You were there, you arrived at your destination, so long ago in the past, and you remember it all in your pounding heart and your memory-soaked brain. You remember it all. Like H. G. Wells’s time traveler you have made a super-human discovery. But in the forgotten era of time past, there are no witnesses to your feat. You alone know the truth.
Years later Marcel’s invention of time travel would be shrunk to a portable time mini-shifter, so that when you’re running fifteen minutes later you can retrieve those minutes at a nominal cost and walk into your appointment on time. You can revisit the kiss of a loved one at their moment of passing, you can replay your daughter’s first steps. The dinosaurs still sleep.