This is the eighth finalist in Young Post’s 2016 Summer Story Competition, which has a grand prize of a Samsung Gear VR headset and a 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7! Each week, we’ll publish one of the finalists’ stories, with the winning entry appearing in Young Post on August 27
Gwen swiped her fingers across the boat’s control panel, trying to get it under control. The storm had been going on for five days now, and the children were taking turns directing the boat toward Hong Kong.
Gwen glanced up to look at the clock, but something in the window caught her eye. She stared at the horizon, where a ring of dots could just be seen through the blizzard. Sudden realisation hit her like a tonne of rock and she yelled with surprise.
“Guys! That’s Hong Kong!”
The other three crewmembers clattered noisily onto the deck.
“Really?” asked Sienna.
“Are you sure?” James demanded.
“It could be some other island, you know!” said Avery, sceptical as usual.
Everyone spoke at the same time.
“Yes, really. I’m sure it’s Hong Kong. It’s not another island. I checked the radar.” Gwen pointed to the large screen at the front of the room. It showed that Hong Kong should be right in front of them.
The boat hurtled along the sea, waves crashing on the deck and drenching the children as their whoops of joy echoed across the water.
After what seemed like a few hours, the little boat ran aground on a small beach. Avery pulled a small GPS out of his pocket and looked at it for a few seconds before saying: “Guys, we’re on Repulse Bay beach.”
“That’s odd. When we left, this was the most popular beach on Hong Kong Island! It was never empty! And there used to be a swimming net! Where did all that go?” Sienna wondered.
“Never mind that now,” James interjected. “What we need to do is get these chips off of the boat and into my workshop so that we can fix the time machine. C’mon, help me with these, and then we can get a taxi.”
They helped him drag the heavy parcels of electronic chips out of the storage cabin, slung one over each of their backs, and scrambled off the boat. As they walked up the beach, they tried to figure out why the beach was empty, but in vain.
When they finally reached the top of the beach, all four of them stopped dead. Where the road used to be there was only dirt and mud, and where flashy sports cars used to zoom past, there were now people panting and groaning under the weight of sedan chairs.
“Oh, no! We’re too late!” cried Gwen.
“It’s okay, this is exactly what we prepared for!” James reminded her. He hoisted his pack higher on his back. “All this means is that we have to work faster.”
They all quickened their steps towards their destination: James’ workshop in Wong Chuk Hang.
“Ugh, we’re finally here,” moaned Avery. They had been walking for what had seemed like hours.
“We don’t have time to rest, guys. Come on, let’s get to work,” James urged.
Everyone immediately busied themselves at the long work tables, and in a couple of hours, they were done. They all took a step back to admire the finished product – the world’s most technologically advanced time machine.
“OK, guys,” said Avery. “This is great, but we’re not done yet. We still have to figure out what year Hong Kong is in right now, zap the whole world back to that time, and then get it back to 2047.”
“I’m pretty sure it was 2044, Avery,” said Sienna.
“No, it wasn’t. When we left, it was 2044, and it’s been three years since then,” Avery replied.
“Really? It took us three years to find all the missing chips?” Gwen was shocked.
“Yep. That’s why we have to hurry up now,” James cut in.
“Okay, so let’s think. Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842. Until then, it was just a fishing village. After two years of being a British colony, Hong Kong became one of the richest countries in the world. So that was 1844,” reasoned Sienna. “This could be anytime before that! Oh, it’s hopeless!” She threw her hands in the air in frustration.
“Actually, it’s not!” said Gwen. “On our way here, I noticed some people that seemed to be protesting against something. It seemed like they were protesting against the UK, because they were carrying banners with crossed out British flags on them.”
Sienna perked up immediately. “That reduces our time frame to less than three years! Let’s go check it out right now!”
Deciding that it was too much work to walk all the way back to Deep Water Bay Beach, where Gwen had seen the protesters, the group decided to take a rickshaw. A couple of minutes later one finally appeared on the road. They clambered in and told the runner where to go. Soon they had reached Deep Water Bay Road. James handed the man a heap of gold, and the four children scrabbled off the rickshaw.
“There seems to be a commotion ahead. Why is the traffic not moving?” Avery asked.
The children jogged along the sides of the path, their feet sending up huge clouds of dust. Sienna coughed and folded the corner of her sleeve over her mouth.
Just then, James stopped so suddenly that Gwen and Avery bumped into him.
“What is it?” asked Avery impatiently. Sienna looked over James’ shoulder and gasped.
There were British soldiers marching off ships and onto Deep Water Bay Beach. All over the beach, Hongkongers were shaking their fists and yelling abuse at the oncoming ships. Some had actually picked up stones from the beach and were throwing them at the soldiers, but with no effect; the soldiers kept marching.
“Come on! We have to get back to the workshop right now!” cried Gwen.
“No need,” James replied calmly.
“What do you mean, no need?! We know what year to go back to now! There were hundreds of people killed when the British entered Hong Kong. If we go now, we can stop that!” Gwen exclaimed.
“I know! That’s why I brought the time machine with me!” James said. He took off his backpack and dug his hand inside. Looking around to make sure no-one was watching, he slowly pulled out the time machine. Ignoring the others’ yells of shock, he set it on the ground and opened the door. “After you,” he said with a sweeping gesture of his hand. “Its an extendable bag. Anything will fit in there,” he said apologetically, seeing the looks on the other’s faces.
James shut the door behind him, and pressed a button on the wall to activate the control panel. Gwen pressed the button that would enable them to go back in time. Avery entered the year 1842, and selected “whole world time change”.
“Get ready, guys!” Sienna’s face was glowing with excitement. “One ... two ... three!” On three, she slammed her palm against the button and zapped them into the past. Instantly, the children felt their whole bodies jerk.
“Shut your eyes, guys!” Gwen shrieked over the others’ screams. Even through her closed eyelids, she could feel the glowing that meant that time was being altered. Suddenly, she felt another jerk, as the time machine landed in the year 1842.
Gingerly, Gwen opened her eyes. Her limbs felt heavy and she felt as though she had not slept in days. Judging by the looks on the other’s faces, they all felt the same way. They climbed out of the machine, and looked around. It looked the same as when they had left. The soldiers were still making their way up the beach.
Of course, that’s because Hong Kong was already in 1842 when we changed the time, thought Avery.
“Okay, now we know the time machine didn’t malfunction or anything. Now we have to go back to 2047, taking the whole world with us,” James said briskly.
“I still don’t see why we couldn’t have just invented an option that just changed the time of a particular city,” grumbled Sienna. “That would have saved us a whole trip in the time machine.”
“You know perfectly well why. We don’t know how much of Hong Kong had been zapped back in time, and plus, a time machine like that would have taken a couple of years to build, not a couple of hours like the one we made.”
“Alright, alright, Captain Time,” Sienna joked.
They got back into the time machine, and this time, Avery selected ”go forward in time”. Sienna entered 2047 for the year, and once again selected “whole world time change”. Gwen pushed the button to zap them forward in time, but immediately, something was visibly wrong. There was a much stronger jerk this time, and as the children opened their eyes, the walls of the time machine were starting to smoke.
“Oh no!” Avery cried. “We’ve been zapped into oblivion! We shouldn’t have tried to use it again so soon!”
“Now what?” Gwen dissolved into tears.
“I have an idea, and I know you won’t like it, but I’m going to do it anyway.” James’s voice was grim.
“What’s the idea?” Sienna asked him.
“I’m going to climb outside, find out what’s wrong with the machine, and fix it,” he told them.
“No!” the others yelled.
James grinned lopsidedly. “I knew you’d say that,” he said.
“James, it’s too dangerous! If we’re somewhere where humans aren’t meant to be, then if you go outside you might be knocked unconscious or even killed!” Sienna exclaimed.
“Well, me dying and saving the Earth is better than all four of us dying and not saving the earth!” James shot back.
It took a lot of persuasion, but the others finally agreed to let him take a shot at fixing the machine.
“The spare chips are in my bag,” said Gwen. She took them out and handed them to James.
“Guys, remember. When I open the door, don’t look and don’t breathe,” said James.
“Good luck!” Sienna, Gwen and Avery chorused. James grinned, took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped out.
He climbed out onto the roof of the machine and opened the safety hatch. He knew that the time machine was simply overheating; if he could cool it down, it would go back to normal. James pulled a wrench from his bag, and started to rewire the machine’s motherboard so it would cool down. Within a couple of minutes, he felt his air getting stale. He worked furiously, trying to finish working before he ran out of oxygen.
“There!” he muttered to himself. “Done!” As he closed the safety hatch he could already feel the machine cooling down below his feet. He was climbing back down to his friends when he slipped and banged his head against the metal wall of the machine, and then all he felt was falling, falling, falling ...
James slowly opened his eyes. Judging by the softness of whatever he was lying on, he seemed to be in a bed. Slowly, his memories came back to him. He had fixed the time machine and then banged his head. He had fallen into the endless space beneath him. He sat bolt upright, and immediately his head began to throb. He felt hands push him back down into a lying position, and heard sighs of relief.
“James!” Sienna gasped. “We were so scared you were dead!”
“What happened? Did it work? Did we go back to 2047?” James asked.
“Yes, we did, all thanks to you.” Avery reassured him.
“How did you do it?” Gwen wanted to know.
“I can’t remember. My memory is really hazy. I think I just rewired the motherboard,” James said.
“But anyway, that doesn’t matter now,” said Gwen. “All that matters is that you’re okay, and that we’re back in 2047!”