The River by Jennifer Ellis is a short story about time travel. The 55-page short story published in 2015 has four chapters each with a year for the chapter title. We see the story first placed in 2012, then back to 1990, 1995, and 2003. I liked the dedication statement prior to Chapter One: “ For everyone who has made a mistake…” With that qualification, we may have a short story for everyone.
Paul and Sarah were training partners as runners and contestants in an Ironman competition. There was nothing further going on between them as far as a romantic relationship primarily because Sarah was consumed by a mistake she had made in the past. Her obsession with it and her dedication to ultra-sport training left no room for relationships. Paul, a physicist, part-time inventor, and in training also had no time to spare for a relationship, although he was not averse to making time for one. Sarah had never revealed her secret past to Paul. But Paul revealed his secret to Sarah. He had invented a hand-held time machine. Paul had even tested it in near-time travel as he moved backward and forward on the same day.
Sarah instantly grasped the implication for her own life and past events. She could correct past mistakes. At the same time, she didn’t want to enlist the aid of Paul; she didn’t want him to know her secrets. She had to obtain use of the time machine. A little seduction and outright theft of the machine seemed to work. Tried and true methods are the best. She had the machine, now she had to disappear, otherwise, there would be those a need for those annoying explanations to Paul. Las Vegas looked good. With a time machine, she could build up a solid financial cushion needed for correction of past errors. Who could know that Paul would build a second device and follow her to Las Vegas?
Paul was following her to get the initial device back. He warned Sarah that she was risking possible harm to herself and those around her, a harm that was greater than the electrical blackouts that occurred every time Sarah shifted time. Finally, Paul made the ultimate threat. If Sarah did not stop, Paul would go back in time before his creation of the device and not invent it. Sarah took the challenge and immediately went back in time to one day before the death of her sister, Charlotte, a death Sarah was responsible for. She would go back, alter timelines, and prevent the deaths of Charlotte and, a few years later, the murder of her mother.
Arriving back in her thirteen-year-old body, she retained the knowledge and experiences of her thirty-three-year-old self. She didn’t have the time machine with her because it had not yet been created. While she was able to save Charlotte from the accident for which she, Sarah, was blamed, that didn’t mean life was perfect. Without the time machine, Sarah had no choice but to relive her life from the age of thirteen forward. She would protect her mother. She would go to university and study medicine. She would look for Paul. She knew he would eventually invent a time machine.
Sarah found Paul. That is when this story gets even more interesting. Both Paul and Sarah have partial memories of other times. Their discussions about what to do next will keep the reader engrossed with the problems of time travel. Neither Paul nor Sarah have a solid point of reference in time. That idea by itself should attract a reader to this story.
The story is suitable for all ages. There is the violence of a domestic dispute but it is not graphic. No graphic or offensive sex; there is more romance than sex. And that is a refreshing good thing.