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An Amateur's Guide To Time Travel

Marian Rosarum is an editor and graduate student who divides her time between Colorado and Miami. She is accompanied on her journeys by her familiar, a black cat named Colonel Brandon, and the many fictional characters populating her imagination. Her work has previously appeared in Ideomancer, Mirror Dance, and Abyss and Apex. She can be found blogging at marianrosarum.com and on Twitter @marianrosarum.

***Editor's Note: This is a work of fiction. Please don't attempt time travel in this way***
The best way to time travel is to fall.
You must be brave. Jumping from a swing or down the last three steps on a stairwell will only take you back a few seconds. You may have the sense that you have been here, in this moment, before. But you will dismiss the feeling and go about your day as if nothing extraordinary has happened.
A bridge is, by far, the best tool at your disposal. The drop is much further than any mere window ledge has to offer. The more momentum you build as you plummet, the more years will slip between your fingers like rainwater.
More importantly, you must have faith that your bones will remain unbroken when you jump, but you must also be prepared for your heart to shatter with the force of the impact. You see, time travelers often have broken hearts--or no hearts at all. You cannot walk through history and remain untouched by wars, disease, random acts of human kindness and cruelty.
Do not worry.
Time travelers have long since forgotten how to cry.
Time travelers do not make good lovers. But it is only natural that you should want companionship; you are still somewhat human.
Your first lover will be a girl, the strength of her city fading as enemy tanks creep towards it, their process slowed only by the harsh winter winds. You will be captivated by the snowflakes collecting on her flushed cheeks, each as bright as the promises she makes to you. You do not understand that the red star stitched on her cap is the same shape as the bullet wound that will soon steal her from you.
Your second lover will pull you on to the dance floor without warning, his dark hand engulfing yours. You will be drunk on forbidden gin and the impossibility of your own survival. You have come through a siege now and want to be closer to the living than to the dead that night. He will gladly comply.
You will have a hundred other affairs. Some will be consummated centuries from home amid unfamiliar sheets that smell of cardamom and sunburnt skin. But many infatuations will never move beyond longing gazes exchanged between greasy playing cards and cups of steaming tea.
You will marry once.
You will regret it later.
But you must not blame yourself. Time travelers do not always know their own futures.
Time travelers are excellent catalysts.
You will give poets their first lines and playwrights their finest characters. You will rouse dreamers from their apathy and send them onwards towards the crown and the noose alike with a kiss.
You will, occasionally, say something profound and be recorded. Decline to be quoted by name; anonymity is its own power.
You will make at least one ill-advised attempt to kill Hitler. Do not feel guilty when you fail. Remember, you would have felt worse if you had not tried.
You will leave offerings for Ereshkigal and Persephone and Loki, and learn all the names of the singular godhead. You will lose them, just as you lost the girl with the red star and the boy who taught you to dance. Religion is difficult to master for the solitary--and you are too afraid of being worshipped yourself if you accidentally speak of the things to come.
You will measure the slow passage of your life in regime changes and outlast languages, mourning them as if they too had been your lovers.
You will watch stories twist into great and new things, including your own.
You will learn to forget.
As a time traveler, you must.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Author Comments

Being a time traveler is often romanticized, but I imagine it would be a lonely profession. You would, after all, constantly be interacting with people whose fates you already knew, and you could never reveal the truth about yourself. This story came out of a novel I was working on several years ago that attempted to address those ideas and a workshop challenge at my MFA program.

- Marian Rosarum
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