A Long Way From Home

By J. W. Wright

The lock wouldn't budge. Was he sure he had the right house? Joseph checked his key ring. He was certain this was the right key... and it was definitely the right house. After all, he did live here for twenty years. 

He tried the key again. Nothing. He grabbed the knocker on the door and pounded as hard as he could. Michelle would be sleeping, he thought.  He always came home late from the laboratory, and she would be sleeping. Tonight was no exception. 

He knocked again. This time he heard rustling, followed by footsteps.  "Michelle, my key won't work, and I'm locked outside! Can you please come and open the door?" yelled Joseph as he looked around, worried his knocking and bellowing might wake the neighbors.

The footsteps patted over to the door. He heard them stop right behind it. He heard the lock jingle and then the door flung open, nearly knocking Joseph off his feet. Joseph jumped back, nearly falling backwards off the front porch steps. He looked up at the door. Looking back at him was his wife Michelle. In her hands she was holding an extremely large shotgun, and it was leveled at him. Joseph gasped in horror.

"Who the hell are you, mister, and why are you banging on my door this late at night?" Joseph recoiled at the question asked by his wife. Had he heard her correctly? "What? Michelle... It's me! It's Joseph! Joe! Your husband! We've been together for almost twenty-one years!"

Michelle lowered her weapon at this. She looked at Joseph, his eyes were welled with tears. He could honestly not believe what she was saying. "Honey, I ain't never been married, and don't ever plan on it. You're a handsome man but what you are saying is crazy. Now go on back home

to your wife. You got the wrong house here. But don't make no funny business or I will ensure you never get to see your wife again!"

Joseph cringed at the thought of his own wife shooting him. What the hell happened to her? She used to be so sweet, so caring. Now she didn't even know who he was?

She clearly didn't recognize him at all. Perhaps he would go back to the lab, and sleep there for the night. Clearly, he was just tired from a long night of research and he was imagining all of this.

He walked back to the laboratory. It was a long walk, he always enjoyed it though. It took him nearly thirty minutes, but it gave him time to think. He always got most of his thinking done when he was by himself. 

Oftentimes, when he actually was home, he would sit in the bathtub for hours, thinking to himself. His wife had grown to hate their time apart, and he longed for the time when they both truly loved each other.  

Recently, it seemed that they were falling out of love. And this very fact is what drove Joseph and his research. As he reached the laboratory, a stale glow illuminated from the building, the single lightbulb didn't do the large building justice. It was Joseph's own building, he had procured a large warehouse and devoted all of his time to fixing it up into the laboratory it now was. He completely redid the entire layout of the warehouse. It wasn't a big empty space anymore. He created labs, and storage, and even a break room. And of course, the living quarters. He spent a lot of time here. He wasn't always a handyman, but he learned through trial and error, how to build things. So the once run down warehouse now stood as a testament that not all of the time he spent away from his wife had been in vain.

He walked to the front door, and entered his code into the keypad. He was met with a series of cheerful beeps as the door slowly swung open. He walked forward a few more steps and came up to another door. This one had a retina scanner, and he placed his eye up to the scanner, being careful not to blink. Upon recognition, the machine greeted him and the door unlocked. He pushed the door open and came to a long hallway. It seemed to stretch on for miles. A series of lights began to illuminate, when the motion detectors saw someone enter. Soon, the entire hallway was bathed in light. At the end of the hall, there was a large vault door. Joseph approached the door with an air of caution. After all, he didn't want to accidentally step on any of the tiles he had linked to the security system. The last intern who did that didn't have such a fantastic time. Dispatching security robots with machine guns for arms was not something Joseph needed right now.

He walked up to the vault door. A cheerful female voice spoke "State your entry code." Joseph smiled as he spoke, "Very well then." As he spoke the machine analyzed his answer, and deeming he was indeed the real Joseph, chirped and opened the lock on the vault, sliding it back into the wall, clearing his path. Joseph stepped forward into the laboratory. It seemed darker than he remembered. He reached out for the nearest light switch and turned on the lights. His lab became bathed in a sickly yellow glow. Had he always worked like this? He sighed to himself and walked over to his console. He keyed in a few codes and than the screen showed him the results of his work.

Joseph specialized in time travel research. He had set out to create the perfect reality where he and his wife truly loved each other once more, and his son never went out driving that night... when the drunk driver... he didn't want to remember that scene. But still, he had to push on and each day he got closer and closer to his goal. No one knew what he was up to. In fact, he always told his interns he was just building a machine to measure changes in the atmosphere. They all believed him. He hated lying, but he needed the help. He needed them to volunteer. They never really knew they were volunteering for time travel, but he assumed they'd figure it out eventually. Assuming they weren't the first ten interns. Those tests were complete failures. One of his interns turned into an abomination with a strange mouth where his chest was supposed to be. Joseph always kept a pistol in his pocket after that night.

He reviewed his results of tonight's test. His wife didn't remember him, and his son wasn't back either. The locks on his house weren't even the same. He would have to plug in a new equation and hope this one led him to the reality he craved. He keyed in the numbers to the machine and stepped inside. He hit the button on the machine, and a strong blue light flashed, nearly blinding to him.

When the light died down and he could see again, Joseph tried the lock. It wouldn't budge. Was he sure he had the right house?