Imagine a time machine. Yellow and red lights blink. The air crackles from a rift being torn through the fourth dimension. A hiss and the door opens, waiting for you to enter. Do you dare, time traveler?
A strange path takes you somewhere. Ahead is wide open blue sky. Around you is fragile earth that threatens to erupt into a boiling spring or sulfurous gas. Was time traveling a mistake? You press on, a daring trek into this frontier.
Ahead is a river, its white waters churning. It catches you and carries you along. There’s no stopping yourself. Cold river splashes your face. A hollowed rock ahead slows down the frothing water. It’s your only hope.
When you finally catch your breath and look around. Nothing is the same. A wood and stone opera house sells seats for a nickel. A horse-pulled carriage trots by. And a man wearing a a black rancher’s hat gives you a strange look. Time traveler, you’re not from around here.
There’s more to see. Bison graze the valley and plains. Brown elk are on the move. And you are always on the alert for bear and wolves who might be startled by your sudden appearance. Keep alert, time traveler, because the wild lands can be dangerous for the unwary.
Then you climb higher. 6,000 feet, 8,000, almost 10,000 feet altitude. Time traveler, your breathing is labored by changes in air pressure. The height is dizzying. The vastness of sheer rock and deep caverns inspires awe.
But you feel the time rift closing. You make many switchbacks, but it’s a slow descent. Quickly, time traveler! Return to where you came from. As you step out into the present, the time machine breaks down. It cannot be repaired.
You prop your feet up and relax. Rye whiskey warms you. You think back on your visit in time. How vast, so big and so wild. Montana has been an adventure. Will you once again see its looming mountains and sprawling valleys? Even without a time machine, the old west still waits for your return.
Michael is the author of several collections of short stories. Under pen name M. Duda, his titles include We Dream at Twilight and Whispers from the Grave.
His most recent story, “The Sound of Blue,” won Silver Honorable Mention from Writers of the Future. This has fueled his passion for writing fiction.
He lives in Ohio with his wife, three dogs and two cats. He writes because his cat hates him.
You can find out what he’s up to at authormichaelduda.com.