I love time travel, I really do. Ever since I discovered it, I have been making small or large tweaks to the timeline for small benefits. I feel this is the right course of action. As if I were to be too selfish, I may ruin the entire timeline. I know this by experience… This is the story of how I failed at saving 9th president William Henry Harrison, the greatest man I have ever known.
It was a tiring night of paradoxes when I decide to take a break and read through Wikipedia. I came across the page of President William Henry Harrison. Charmed by his character but horrified by his very short term as President. I made a plan to go back in time to try to prevent his death.
I woke up, got dressed in my period clothing, dialed my time machine back 10 days before William’s death, and set off. It was a cool morning in Washington, spring on the east coast is something wonderful. A little tired from the trip, traveling through time can take a bit out of you. Having time and space move past you at the speed of light seems to take a bit of your energy with it. I have yet to figure the phenomenon out; I believe it’s still sitting on my desk somewhere. I found a nearby inn and checked in for the next week. I found a bit of food and had my fill.
Back in this day; one could simply knock on the Whitehouse door. I did just that, I introduced myself as a Whig party supporter. I was taken to a study where William was sitting in a leather bound chair sipping on scotch. I thanked him for meeting with me; he said it was his pleasure. He smiled and his handshake was that of a healthy man. We talked about his decision of having a Democrat as his vice president. As he said. “A man is not made by is politics, but by his actions.” He laughed after he said this. We shared stories of past experiences. Mine, of course, plagiarized from Mark Twain, a bit… Several hours passed, in which he said he needed to get back to work. I shook his hand and wished him a wonderful evening.
I retired for the night at the Inn. As I walked down to take a stroll through town the next morning, the person that ran this Inn approached me with a letter in his hand. “This came for you early this morning.” He said. I tipped him and read through the letter. “Good Morning Karl, I enjoyed our talks quite a lot yesterday and would be pleased if you join us for supper this evening. Your President, William Henry Harrison” Surprised by how quickly this was moving, it was decided that I needed new clothes for such an event. It’s not often one gets invited to eat with a dead President.
After purchasing some finer threads at a local shop, I took the long walk back to the Whitehouse careful not to dirty my clothes on the muddy roads. I arrived roughly Ten minutes before 6pm. I was greeted by William himself and shown to the dining room. Of course, somehow it appeared I was late. William introduced me to everyone at the table and motioned to where I was supposed to be seated. I sat down and dinner was served. We were fed a meal that would make eating 5 Big Macs practical. After eating and a lively discussion we retreated to the lounge, Where William poured me a glass of 12-year-old scotch. We drank and were merry. We made plans for next week. I walked up the front lawn and dialed my time machine a week ahead.
I appeared on the front lawn at dusk, I felt a little inebriated from the drinks earlier. I really should have sobered up. Well, I walked up the gravel path to the White House, this part is a little gray. I recall being ushered into his study, he offered me another drink. I refused but he poured one for me anyways. He asked me if he could be plain with me, I nodded. He spoke of his age and how tiresome the Whig party has become. I really didn’t get my senses back till he told me he wasn’t going to be president for much longer. I asked him what he meant. He said we couldn’t speak here and we should go out back. We walked for some time without speaking. We were a good distance from the house when he began to speak again. “I am an old man Karl, frightfully too old to lead this country. If I was a younger man, if I was young, I would gladly give more to this country. Regretfully, I have no more in my coffers for this land.” He coughs a heavy cough. “Pardon me.” He said with a wince. I handed him my handkerchief. “Thank you, as I was saying. I have given most of myself to this country, this government.” He wipes the corners of his mouth. “It’s time for me to stop giving.” He said. “What do you mean?” I asked with a bit of a slur in my voice. “I plan on retiring of sorts.” I repeat myself once more “What ever do you mean?” He takes me by the shoulder, “Quite simply, I am going to fake my own death.” Everything was pretty much clear as day at this point. “I understand, are you sure this is the best course?” I asked. “Indeed it is Karl, I want to retire.” We were making our way back to the house at this point. “I want you to understand Karl, I am telling you of this in the strictest confidence.” He hands me a piece of paper with an address and directions to a farm in Ohio. We made our way back inside. We bid each other farewell; he makes an odd statement of looking forward to seeing me a few months. We shake hands and I leave the Whitehouse. I walk out of sight from the house and dial back home.
I get home, shower and sleep off the remainder of my buzz. A week or so passes by while cleaning off my desk to start construction on a ship in a bottle I find the note William had given me. Quite excited to what my friend William was doing with himself now that he retired, I got dressed and went back three months after his “supposed death”.
I arrive just outside the farm house, a couple more feet and I would have ended up in a wall. I go to the front door and knock. No answer, I knock again. I hear a voice from inside the house saying that they’ll be right there. The door opens and a kind woman stands in front of me. I ask if William is there, she tells me she doesn’t know anyone by that name. A man’s voice comes from the back of the house asking who was at the door. She informs him that I’m looking for a man named William. I hear shuffling feet then my dear friend William appears in the doorway. His beard was much longer now. He tells the kind woman that he’ll deal with this. He steps out and closes the door behind him. “Sorry for the formalities, I cannot go by my birth name.” I asked him how he was holding up and how everything went. “Perfectly.” he said with a giant smile. “I can breathe far better out in the country.” He said as he let out a cough. We sit on his front porch; the kind woman brought us some tea to drink. Talking at this point seemed irrelevant: we just sat and enjoyed the clean air and the gentle breeze. He seems to be in a better place now, I guess once the weight of a nation is off your shoulders everything just becomes easier. I make plans to return again sometime in the future and bid him a farewell. I walked into the tree line and go back home.
Sometimes in trying to help someone, we can discover that they are completely capable of helping themselves.