Late Night Traveler

by Jamie Burns

    Luka stretched his neck back and forth, leaning back in his chair. He had been at his desk a solid six hours. Dr. Luka Banton’s commitment to his work always leaned toward the path of obsession. The only thing holding him back from going over the edge was asleep on the lounge chair to his right.  

    Luka looked over at his daughter, fast asleep, her book held askew from when she nodded off. She was coming up on her twelfth birthday and every day that Luka looked at her he saw more and more of her mother. It was a beautiful but painful feeling. As anyone that has lost their soul mate will tell you, no amount of time can dull that pain. It had been over six years since Luka’s wife died and his pain was as fresh as an open wound.

   Luka’s mind dropped all his work and thought only of his wife and daughter. He rubbed his eyes realizing how tired he truly was and looked at the clock. He hadn’t realized it was so late and had the familiar feeling of being an irresponsible father. He scooped his daughter up gently and carried her up to her room. Once she was safely tucked in, Luka quietly walked out and closed the door gently. Normally he would have sent her off to bed hours ago but sometimes he was too wrapped up in work to notice a silly thing like time.   

   Just as the door clicked closed a noise came from down stairs. Luka’s head snapped toward the noise and he made his way carefully back down stairs. “Hello?” He called out once he was at the bottom of the stair case. Luka was a scientist, brute strength was not a trait he could boast. The thought of a fight had him feeling less than confident. He looked around the living room and found nothing, then moved back to his study. He looked the  room over from top to bottom to see that nothing was out of place. Once he confirmed that, he relaxed slightly and sat back down at his desk.

   In the closet across the room, a man watched through a crack in the door. Luka dragged his hand over his face and was trying to decide  whether to call it a night or to trudge on with his work. The papers on his desk were filled with theories and equations that he needed to solve and prove.

   This was not what the man in the closet had planned. Really, he didn’t have a plan. Now he thought to himself how stupid that was. If he was caught here the consequences could be dire. On the other hand, he might be able to explain his presence. If Dr. Banton didn’t think too hard about how the man had broken into his home, snuck around his office, then hidden inside of  his closet like a criminal. Maybe he could come out now and explain the situation or maybe that would make the universe explode. It was difficult to tell, as the man in the closet had yet to master the minutiae of time travel.

   The man in the closet pressed the button on his watch and it lit up telling him it was three thirty in the afternoon. It was most definitely three thirty in the afternoon at some point in time, many points of time, actually. But it sure wasn’t right then, in that closet. He felt stupid for forgetting to reset the watch when he arrived. He peered through the crack trying to read the clock on the wall but it was just slightly out of sight.

   Luka sat at his desk and started to pick up a pen again. The man in the closet tried to push the door open just another centimeter to see the clock. The resulting squeak from the hinge against the quite room might as well have been a gunshot. The man in the closet froze. Luka dropped the pen and stood. The man was still hidden in the darkness within. Luka took a step forward and the man in the closet stopped breathing. This is it, he thought, this is how he was going to meet Dr. Luka Banton. Not his best first impression.

   Luka took another step and reached his hand toward the door knob.       

  “Daddy!” A yell come from upstairs. Luka’s attention was immediately drawn to  the sound of his daughter’s cry and he rushed out of the room.  He rushed to her bedside and wrapped his arms around her.

  “Olivia, what is it sweetheart?” he asked.

  “I had a horrible dream.” she said through sobs.

  “It was only a dream dear.” He held her tightly.

  “I lost you!”

   “I’m right here.” He reassured her, as he stroked her hair. Her cries slowly diminished and they sat together hugging. Luka was a world class scientist. He had working for years making breakthroughs in his field, teaching courses, winning multiple grants and awards. Vastly successful by anyone’s standards. But the thing he was most proud of in his life was  fatherhood.  

  Once his daughter was back asleep Luka walked back into his study, having just about forgotten the squeak he had heard. Until he saw the closet door was now open. It was empty of course, and nothing in the study was missing. Luka checked the rest of the house thoroughly and found nothing. In the morning, he would call the police and have them look for fingerprints. They too would find nothing.  

    This was just the first instance of Luka and Olivia Banton’s lives being disrupted by travelers. And really, it was one of the more pleasant ones.