Dusty light filtered in through a musty old attic window, floorboards creaking as Jeremy Umbridge surveyed the room. It had been a while since he’d been up here, ten years to be exact. Back then he’d often sneak off from his grandpa in his never-ending quest to find a Nazi scalp or some other undoubtedly cool thing gramps must’ve brought back from the war.
But Jeremy was older now, and his grandfather had just quietly passed away. He didn’t go down in a blaze of gunfire against some hidden neo-Nazi uprising he just knew would spring up any day now, but hey, we can’t have it all.
As the rest of Jeremy’s family was either infirm or faking as much to get out of it, Jeremy was left with the task of sorting through whatever his grandfather hadn’t put in the will. Decades-old newspapers sat alongside boxes of old photographs, nothing out of the ordinary.
But then Jeremy saw it. Over in the corner of the attic, a heavy-looking wooden box practically beckoned him over, “FRAGILE” emblazoned on every square inch of the thing. The nails holding the box together were thankfully rusted out from over the years, making the whole task much easier.
Inside, a rather unimposing little device greeted him. It resembled an old television in every way. Jeremy pulled it out with great care and set it down at once. There was no other paperwork in the box, no instructions. Where a brand name might be on the device, instead was plastered “CHRONOVISION” in lettering that clearly hadn’t been considered cutting edge since the ‘50s.
The usual dials rested on the front of the thing, for changing the channel as well as the date. Wait, was that the date? Sure enough, upon closer inspection there was a dial where one could set the month, another for the day of said month, and four separate dials that each ranged from 0-9 for setting a year. The last dial simply read, “SIGNAL.” That dial’s options were “ME” and “OTHER.” Checking each dial, Jeremy was shocked to see that the dial was already set to “February 14, 1951, me.”
After some scrambling and much worrying that his foot might slip through the rickety floor, Jeremy wrangled the chronovision’s power cord over to a nearby outlet. As he plugged it in, he was knocked onto his posterior by the force of an electrical surge. Shocked, literally and otherwise, Jeremy got back to his feet and switched the chronovision on.
When he did, he was immediately greeted to the sight of: absolutely nothing. No sound came out of the thing either. He smacked the side of the screen until coming to his senses. The dial was set to “ME.” He wasn’t alive on Valentine’s Day in 1951, nor any other day in that year for that matter. After adjusting it to “OTHER,” an image gradually faded in. The screen showed Jeremy’s grandfather as a younger man, aggressively old-timey making out with what was unmistakably a younger version of Jeremy’s grandmother. The sight of it all froze the young man in terror, which gave the image of his grandmother just enough time to whisper sweet nothings to his granddad.
“Out of the skivvies, sailor, it’s whoopee time.”
After yelling as if being brutally attacked by a chainsaw, Jeremy violently swiped at the device’s dials. He breathed a sigh of relief as that harrowing image was thankfully wiped from the screen. In its place was a naked Winston Churchill feeding instructions to an aide while chomping down on a cigar.
“What the fuck, history?!”
Jeremy turned the device off at once, as disturbed as he was annoyed. He sat there alone in the mustiness of the asbestos-lined attic, thinking through the implications of this machine while trying to force what he saw out of his mind before it had the chance to scar him for life.
Soon enough, curiosity had gotten the better of him. He played with the dials, set it to today’s date. He switched the signal to “ME” and turned the chronovision back on. Jeremy’s eyes went wide as he looked on at a small Jeremy that looked into another chronovision, which in turn bore the image of a smaller Jeremy staring at his own chronovision, which… alright, you get the idea.
Anyway, after much miming and checking to see if each Jeremy would move exactly as he did, Jeremy began to get restless. He moved to turn the dial. But before he could, the chronovision had turned it for him, twenty years into the future. The older Jeremy was pudgy, haggard, and conspicuously balding despite his attempts at a comb-over.
Panicking, Jeremy began to look back in time, searching desperately for the trigger to each of his problems. As time went on, however, the musty old attic was no longer an ideal auditorium. He took the chronovision home and devoted his time to scouring what he saw for any clues as to how to make his life perfect.
His day job was no longer ideal, as it distracted too much from his chronovision. A part-time gig at the local supermarket wasn’t glamorous, but it gave him the time he needed. His friends and family were quite obviously possible triggers, so he did what he had to do and discarded them from his life.
But try as he might, years and years after finding the damn chronovision, Jeremy Umbridge still couldn’t find the source of his problems. Just as this frustrating thought crossed his mind, the power suddenly went off. So the electric company wasn’t bluffing after all. His sole focus in life now disabled, Jeremy looked around his house blankly. His eyes finally met something he hadn’t looked into for nearly two decades: a mirror. In it, he was pudgy, haggard, and conspicuously balding despite his attempts at a comb-over.