The Time Traveler

A dusty smell filled the small, dark room. The room's entrance had been hidden by a portrait for years and, judging by the smell, had not been accessed for ages. Young Phillip, who was lucky just to be permitted entry into the house, was digging around the old room frantically, holding only a candle for light.

He remembered the ordeal he had gone through outside.

"Who are you, and why should you be granted permission to enter the Franklin house?" The old, snobbish guard had asked him.

Phillip, who had anticipated the question, replied. "I am Phillip, the illegitimate, unknown son to my father, Benjamin Franklin. He does not know me, but he knew my mother well on his diplomacy trips to France. I have come to this estate to verify whether he left my mother anything upon his departure from this world."

The guard did not smile. Nor did he take Phillip's story seriously. "The noble Ben Franklin would never be found guilty of such lechery! I should have you hung and shot just for trying to defame character of one who preached so morally."

Phillip grinded his teeth. No one knew his father's little secret. But these people couldn't possibly know the life he had lived as the son of a French Prostitute and a favorite client of the famous American diplomat Benjamin Franklin. Phillip felt a strong urge to punch the man right then and there, but restrained himself.

"Sir," he said, "If you do not allow me to enter this building, I shall have to do it forcibly."

The guard backed down. Despite his job, he was unarmed. And even if he had been armed, he did not have the motivation to fight such a man on this day. "Fine, enter the house," He conceded. "but take nothing. I shall search you upon your exit to make sure that you have not robbed Franklin's heirs of any possessions."

Phillip could have, right then and there, hollered at the guard about how Franklin had robbed his mother of all the goodness and human dignity she once had, how he had used her as a sex object and then forgotten about her, and how he had left her bankrupt and with a child, but he held his tongue. He had gained entrance to Franklin's house, and that was all that really mattered now.

The faint light from his candlestick revealed what appeared to be a chair of sorts in the center of the room. It had a metallic structure around it. Phillip thought for a moment that this room was perhaps not the best place to look for Benjamin Franklin's Last Will and Testament, but his curiosity had gotten the best of him. He looked in the corners of the room, and shed his light on every shadow, only to turn up with nothing. Exhausted, he dusted off the odd looking chair with his hand and took a seat on it, hoping to take a moment of rest to re-catch his breath.

Electricity flowed through the metallic object above the chair. Phillip was taken by surprise, and tried desperately to get up, but he could not. The electricity, which now lit up the entire room, was keeping him from leaving the chair. Then, the room around him disappeared.

Where the room had been was now black space. Flying past him he saw the scenes of ages. Wars, nomads, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and horrible, futuristic images which started him greatly.

One of these futuristic images eventually covered him, totally replacing where the wall had been. Phillip took a moment to digest the scene. He was in a totally new place, a totally different place.

From behind his chair popped an eccentric looking old man. He had a thin layer of balding gray hair, a mustache, and wore bifocals, much like the bastard's father. The old man seemed to be squirming with excitement!

"Who are you, who are you!?" He exclaimed.

Phillip began his lengthy explanation. "I am Phillip of France, the bastard son of Benjamin Franklin."

The old man seemed so excited that Phillip thought his wrinkled old head was going to explode.

"What year, boy, what year?"

"1790."

"AD, boy?"

"Yes, sir. Now please, stop talking to me like some kind of slave." Phillip pleaded.

The old man gave out a great, heartfelt chuckle. "You have a lot to learn, boy. Slavery has been abolished. Lincoln made it so over a hundred years ago."

Phillip looked rather annoyed. "What are you talking about, sir?"

The old man pushed up his bifocals. "Here, let me show you." he reached down under a desk, pulled out a VHS tape. "This is what I've been waiting for for almost my entire life, ever since I discovered that another time machine other than my own existed."

"Time machine, sir?"

"Why, yes." said the old man. "I invented it. Or, at least I thought I did. But, you see, the problem with my time machine is it can only travel to other existing time machines. I knew there was one somewhere, but I wasn't sure where or when. So I built this thing and waited and waited and waited until the day someone would travel on that machine to my machine. Where are you from, boy? Williamsburg?"

"France, sir."

"No, no, no! That's not what I meant. I mean, where was this time machine located at?"

"Benjamin Franklin's house in Pennsylvania."

"What year?"

"1790."

"Ah-ha!" The old man celebrated. "I guess I have a little bit to fill you in on, then, don't I?"

Phillip was becoming impatient. "Sir, I would rather like it if we forgot about this whole thing and you let me return to my own time."

The old man seemed to not be listening to him. Instead, he took the VHS tape and put it under a TV so that Phillip could watch it. The movie came on and the old man darkened the lights.

"What is this?" Phillip asked. "Magic? Witchcraft of sorts?"

"Silly me, no!" The old man replied. "Don't worry about what it is, you couldn't possibly understand. Just watch."

Phillip sat, his eyes glued to the TV. On it was a documentary describing the Civil War, specifically the actions which led up to it. Phillip watched horrified at the conflict which would tear the Union in half in less than a century.

"What is the meaning of this?" he said.

"This," the old man began "is the struggle your nation will face because your leaders, with the exceptions of your very own Ben Franklin, did nothing at all to try and solve the problem of slavery in your time."

"I am totally against slavery! As are most of my friends and companions!"

"Then do something about it now," the old man said seriously "or your history will share the bloody conflict mine faced."

"But how, sir?"

"That is a question you will have to decide for yourself. Thomas Jefferson writes upon the matter, and when he does I suggest you listen with open minds and ears."

"Jefferson is a slave owner!"

"That he was. But he, like you, did not believe slavery was right. He considered it a necessary evil. And, like you, he for some reason was too afraid to admit this." The old man turned to the screen. A pictures of President Lincoln being assassinated was being displayed on screen. "If you wish to avoid this conflict, heed my words!

"The men of my time, like the men of your time, are far from perfect. But, you most always make decision with the good of the hole, and the future not just of the union but the future of all men in mind with every action you take. Every choice you make effects the future in some way- every bloody battle can be avoided. The choice is yours. But remember that it will not be you who is forced to be held responsible for the actions of your time- it will be your children who must face the consequences. You must ask yourself this question: 'what kind of world do I want for my children?'.

Phillip sat back in utter disbelief. "Show me more!" he demanded. What other surprises is mankind in for?"

"I will not." the old man said.

"Tell me, or I'll-" but the old man had already sent Phillip's time machine back to 1790 AD. Phillip had the knowledge. The responsibility to bring change now rested on his shoulders.