Thanks again to the cool and crazy folks at Write It Up! for helping me craft this story of love across time and space.
My Dinner with Émilie, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 618
Blue lightning crackled around me. I stared out the porthole at the swirling vortex of Time itself. Cosmic energies swirled in and around my vessel like the gentle flow of a warm summer breeze. Then, as the generator’s hum died down, I shielded my face from a shower of white-hot sparks that flew out of the nearest console.
Goddammit. It was always something with the insulation.
I straightened my tie. Once the sparks fell away, I pushed the door of the time machine open. When I stepped outside, I cast a critical glance at my surroundings. Judging by the decor of the living room where I’d landed, I’d say that I was somewhere near the middle of of the 18th century. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with Late Baroque art and furniture, you know? No one needs that much ornamentation on what is essentially a coffee table.
I heard someone shouting down the hall in French. Smiling, I poked at the button on my auto-translator hidden inside my shirt collar. The smooth European tongue morphed into the familiar iambic English that was my bread and butter. I spun around in time to see the doors open, and an elegant woman enter.
She wore a gray wig, as was the fashion of her time. Her ornate dress swirled around her ankles, but it wasn’t her attire that captivated me. It was her face. Her calm, bemused expression. Those cool, analytical eyes running up and down me and my machine.
I’d found her at last.
“Aha!” I clapped my hands together. “Bonjour! Madame Émilie du Châtelet! Mathematician, physicist, and bon vivant! Just who I wanted to see!”
True to her form, she didn’t seem too alarmed. Émilie leaned past me to examine the time machine resting on her carpet. “Most curious, Monsieur. I hope you have a good reason for intruding.”
“I do! I’m here”—I executed a swift bow—”to ask you to dinner.”
“You’re presumptuous, Monsieur.”
“No, the restaurant is. Well, more pretentious. Trust me.”
“And where is this restaurant?”
“Paris, approximately 400 years from now.”
“400 years?” The Frenchwoman frowned. “Impossible.”
“Not if you have a time machine.” Angling back, I patted my hulking vehicle on the cooling chassis. “Which I do.”
At once, her eyes lit up. Oh, but how could anyone blame Voltaire’s desire when you saw a face like that? “You can travel through time? Through time? The equations alone would be outrageous! I must know how it’s done!”
Like a true gentleman, I offered Émilie my arm. “Come with me and find out.”
One hop and skip through the vortex, we arrived in the parking lot of La Cambuse, with plenty of time to grab our reservation. This upscale Parisian restaurant had been built out of the broken-down caboose of an ancient locomotive near Bonne Nouvelle. It was pretentious, gaudy, and overpriced for a typical dining experience. But at least the wine list was excellent.
As Émilie rambled on about how my machine would revolutionize our understanding of time and space, I stole a drinking straw from a nearby waiter. While she wasn’t looking, I slipped the straw into a slot in my generator. That would replace my burnt-out insulation for at least a few more trips, I figured.
Then came the pièce de résistance: me, walking into La Cambuse with Émilie du Châtelet. And sitting with his wife in the lobby was Professor John Curtis from Stanford University, slack-jawed and staring.
I didn’t miss my chance. As we passed by, I leaned over and declared, “Why, hello, Professor! Good to see you! By the way, did you know you lost the bet? I’ll take my twenty bucks now…!”
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