They were sitting together in silence as the birds came to eavesdrop, tweeting up the windless evening to act as if nothing was amiss, to act as if the geomagnetic storms weren’t a sign of the immediate downfall of life on Earth. The tree hard against their backs, the grass soft underneath their feet, with the plain fields stretching out forever these nights. The sky had been lit up by the aurorae ever since they came through, stepping into their new time field, their new lives.
“We still haven’t found anything resembling human life.” She said it as much to herself as to him, looking down at her shoes lying untied and tumbled over next to her bare feet. “No cities, no buildings. Goddamnit, not even a fricking bench to sit on. We might as well be walking on a different planet. I mean…” she knew the hurt she inspired by saying that, and retracted it as soon as it left her mouth, “I know the Time Field Traveler worked, I mean, I know it works. But don’t you think it’s eerie? All this open landscape. All these hills and valleys, rivers, fields. Everything looks exactly like I recall, just with the word “human” scratched out, and all signs of us obliterated.”
He looked at her face from her right-side profile. Even if “human” had been scratched out, he thought, her face was still carving its way through the landscape, etching itself onto whatever memories he’d be having of this place. He looked away as she turned her head, casting a glimpse back on the aurora. It was a sensitive thing, looking at the other person here, now, like this. In such a vacated world with no chance of finding a mirror, you never really knew how you yourself appeared. And every look could be taken the wrong way. It was, he realized, very much a leftover feeling of insecurity from a world where your looks were always up to you to correct and maintain.
Feeling his way through his bag, he pulled out a green apple. Now all that was up to you to maintain seemed to be the lingering hunger. Taking a bite, he offered her the apple. “Even if there’s no trace of human activity here, we can’t be sure there are no humans. I mean, I know we’ve searched a great deal, but still, on the scale of the Earth, we’ve hardly scratched the surface.” His fingers unconsciously digging through the dirt as he said this. “We have to keep an open mindset, stay positive, believe that we’ll find the breakthrough around the next corner.”
“The breakthrough? Stay positive?” she looked at him with mock defeatism on her face, “look, I’m sorry if I’m not overly positive all the time, but I have to admit I’m starting to lose sight of the purpose of our expedition. Are we here to search for humans? Are we here to explore a world without them? And it’s hard to stay positive when we’ve just left everything behind, and getting farther and farther away from the Time Field Traveler with each day’s work. Who knows how long my husband will have to wait before I get back from this land of the past? I’m sorry, but it’s just not quite the mission I expected it to be…” she sighed, picking up her shoe only to throw it away, trying to find some way, any way, to let out a scrap of her anger.
“Do you think we overshot the landing?” she asked him. “Like, maybe we’ve gone further back than Y2K? To a less populated era? And so we’ve just hit on a piece of land that’s not yet in use for human purposes?” Her face expectant, hoping for a positive answer, or any answer, really, that could see them aborting the mission and return home safely.
“Maybe.. yeah, that might be,” his eyes trying to stay on her’s as he answered. Seeing her face calming with the vague reassurance, he felt worse than ever.
Or maybe we’ve gone further ahead, he thought, and this is what the future holds for us: plain fields and the humans erased by mother nature. Looking over his shoulder he could still see the mountain by which the Time Field Traveler stood waiting. Looking over his shoulder he knew they wouldn’t get it to work again.