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1066; A Time Traveller's Nightmare.
It was yet another ordinary Saturday morning for me. I didn't know, however, what a nightmare I was going to get myself into. I got up and started playing a few games on my iPod, occasionally responding to a few texts. I soon got bored however, and stood up, stretching, and wandered through my house to where the attic retracts. I had left my headphones there the previous day when I was putting some Christmas decorations away. I pulled down the ladder and quickly climbed up, grasping my headphones. I peeked over the top, and saw a massive structure, covered with a tarp, that was never there before. I quickly uncovered the gargantuan object, and discovered that it was none other than a time machine! The possibilities were limitless! I quickly calibrated it to go into the past, adjusting the switches and typing in the month and year, and I sat inside the cramped pod, absolutely humming with excitement. I put a hand over the button, but I stopped. What if this was a joke? What if this was a trick? Were my friends hiding behind the “machine” waiting to scare me or something? What if this is lethal? What if this kills me? I tilted my head to one side and cocked an eyebrow. Only one way to find out, I guess. Before I could change my mind, quickly I pressed the button to start it.
I regretted it instantly. It was the worst feeling I have ever remembered in my life. Imagine yourself suddenly growing taller and taller, and then your entire body feels like it's been put in a taffy pull. Then slowly, your entire being begins dissolving, like a candy put in a vat of acid. The entire world around me was suddenly pitch-black. So dark I was suffocating in its fiery isolation. Its disjointed unsettlement. I was broken out of my reverie with a start to the sound of a voice, barely an echo, yet ominous and booming. Sounding in my mind so faint, I can barely hear it. With a wisp of wind, the black nothingness that surrounded my formless body swirled, and two, stark-white eyes formed from nothing. They gazed straight at me, piercing through my skin like it was nothing, and stared into my very soul. They blinked once, slowly, and the voice spoke again as the eyes flashed straight through me again with their eternal gaze: You have three chances. Use them wisely. . .
* * *
. . . I screamed, unable to help myself, tumbling into the abyss of the time portal. My body in a freefall, leaving my entire life behind. Slipping away from everything, and careening towards nothing. . .
* * *
. . .Then, in an instant, it was over. As suddenly as it began, it vanished. I was still, miraculously, in one piece, and so was the time machine. I was a little rattled by what just happened, but I ignored it and gathered myself. I did a quick inventory to make sure that everything was where it was supposed to be, then I popped the seal on the hatch and stepped outside. . .
. . . right into the midst of a mob of people, dressed in no more than rags, holding pitchforks, torches, hunting knives, and other various assorted sharp objects. I realized I had made a very bad mistake. I tried to call out to them, but it didn't seem like they understood me. I looked around, and quickly realized that I was a lot farther back than I had intended to go. I checked the calculations, and it turns out i made a slight typo when I plugged in the destination. Instead of hitting 1966, I hit 1066. Oops. I quickly dug into my store of knowledge from history that I learned in class, and tried to remember what era this was. 1066. a time of change was about to come or had already come. This was the year that the Normans had conquered the Anglo-Saxons in a series of battles, and if I was right, judging by the landscape, I was right near the site of the battle of Stamford Bridge. This was where the Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, defeated the Vikings with only losing 300 men. There was no sign of a battle brewing or of one that had occurred. This was good. I quickly began forming a plan that had the slightest chances of saving my life. I began speaking to the crowd, saying that I had come from the heavens, and have astounding news to bring them. They would be attacked by the Viking warriors right near here, but they would prevail. Not only will they prevail, but with less than 500 casualties. Their victory would be short lived, however. They knew of the armies marching towards their small riverside town, and I told them that if I fought in this battle, and they let me go free, I would reward them with many descendants and power. I had no intention to do either of those, or any idea how, but it worked. I was then hailed as a god-figure. Just great. I had altered the entire flow of history. I might not even exist now. This was just fantastic.
They took me down from the time-machine with great hesitation at its power, then took me to the small town nearby. I was wined and dined with the finest they had until a horn sounded outside of the city.
The Viking warriors had arrived. They settled on the other side of the bridge, sprawling out around the surrounding forest. They looked menacing, even from afar. It was a massive show of force to this small town, and they knew it. If Harold's army didn't arrive soon, this would all be a bust. The townspeople resumed the feast in my honor, trying to ignore the massive army of brutes sprawled out on the other side of the river. I sucked in a breath, and looked over the horizon on our side of the river. There, I saw a blue streak of armored bodies. Harold's army had arrived. I saw so many archers, and so few swordsmen that I actually got worried for a second. Arrows don't win wars, blades did. Arrows were just for thinning out the ranks. Then I remembered. Harold's army defeated the Vikings with so few casualties because of the archers. Their combination of a hail of arrows and a small number of skilled swordsmen holding the small area that was the bridge had quickly dispatched the Viking army. I quickly ran over towards the marching army, shouting. They lowered their shields, unsure of what to make of me. I was still wearing my school clothes from the future. They would probably think I was a threat, and were ready to gut and skin me like a deer. I kept running anyways, lifting my hands to show I was unarmed, and then stopped before them. I saw Harold instantly, surrounded by his guards. An astounding man, he was very tall and very muscular built. His armor gleamed in the evening sun and he projected an air of a man who knew what he was doing. I bowed to him and quickly repeated my story about coming from the skies, leaving out the part of the Normans. The men who overheard were shocked, and several startled gasps erupted in the silence. A few soldiers dropped to one knee, lowering their heads. There was a silence that hung over the entire group, broken only by the clank as a man shifted position or bowed. One even shouted that God himself had blessed their army. Then, Harold himself bowed to me, which took me completely by surprise, and quickly ordered one of his men to bring forth a sword, a shield, and some plate armor. The man he ordered to do so scrambled to obey, but I didn't even notice him. My astonishment quickly turned into dread. I was going to be on the front lines?! All of the 300 casualties came from the front lines in this battle. Barely half survived. I gulped, and the army continued marching.
We finally made it to the bridge, and began fortifying. We stuck spikes into the bridge between the stones, and archers strung and tested the pull of their bows. I struggled into my armor, which was just a touch too small, and cut off my breathing in the chest somewhat. Swordsmen began sharpening their swords, spearmen their spears, and so-on-and-so-forth. Then, with an order, the army began to stop what they were doing, eat a quick, cold dinner, and head to sleep.
I couldn't sleep until very late at night. Pre-battle jitters acted like an anti-sleeping agent better than any drug, or any dose of caffeine. I eventually succumbed to my utter exhaustion and slept lightly, in a dream filled slumber.
King Harold himself tapped me on the shoulder, saying to me that it was time to fight. I gulped, and then asked where I should be stationed. He responded by pointing to an empty spot near the middle of his very own personal guard. Great. I was a King's Guard now. What's next, Dragon Rider?
We took up positions at the bridge, and blocked it off from any traffic whatsoever. The archers slowly set themselves up on the banks and far behind the army. On the other side of the river, the Vikings were doing much the same, except that they contained far fewer archers, and far, far more people ready to beat our heads in with their hammers, hew us to pieces with their battle-axes, and others with various gruesome methods of rendering us as dead as the rocks we stood on. I was shaking so badly that I could barely lift my broadsword and shield, but then a horn in the distance sounded, and both armies scrambled to get ready. The archers on the other side of the river took up positions. They drew back their bows, and pointed them to the sky. The air was so tense you could have cut it with a butter knife. Both armies waited, ducking behind shields and readying themselves for the assault.
Silence. Dead, sickening, ominous silence. A shout from the opposite bank broke the silence, and the Viking archers fired. All of the warriors ducked underneath their shields. Me? I was cowering under mine. Completely god-like of me. The arrows hit, and most of them embedded themselves into shields or the ground, but some hit home. A man behind me screamed and fell, clawing at his face. After about five seconds of struggling, he went still. Then, King Harold shouted to his commanders, who then shouted to their respective brigades of archers. Slowly, they stood up, dropping their shields, and with a few more shouts from smaller captains, in unison they drew and strung their bows. They notched the first arrow, rearing back and waiting for orders. Three arrows launched, by either slips or over-eagerness. Then, with a shout from Harold, the archers fired.
The cloud of arrows was so massive, it completely dwarfed the Vikings’ earlier shot. They barely had time to duck under their shields before the arrows landed upon them, tearing through their ranks and reducing the ground to a red, muddy mess. Screams from the Vikings echoed over both banks of the river as the arrows continued their lethal rain. Over 1/5th of their entire army had been killed by a single arrow burst from our archers. The Vikings gathered themselves quickly, trying to get over the shock of what just happened. They started marching forward, shields lowered and weapons ready. Filled with an icy surge of energy, I ducked behind my shield, sword extended, ready for whatever they had coming. Even with our archers, we still had to fight them hand-to-hand. The Vikings charged. Our archers weren't even doing anything. They should have been firing at will by now, but they weren't. They were waiting for orders, blindly following like sheep to a shepherd. Harold was busy giving commands to the foot-soldiers, so, hoping the King would forgive me for the breach in protocol, I looked back at them, shouting “Fire at will!”
They obeyed, the arrows flying and buzzing through the air, angry hornets with a lethal sting. The command probably saved my life. The Vikings archers had opened fire again, and arrows began colliding in midair. Any one of them could have had my name on them, but they fell to the ground or were split into pieces. I ducked behind my shield again. Most of the arrows landed harmlessly on the ground. I looked back at the Viking army, just in time. The Viking's ranks slammed into ours, and I was pushed back by a massive amount of pure force just from the weight of their army hitting ours. The fierce clang of metal on metal was the only thing I could hear. My eyesight grew five times as sharp, and pure energy coursed through my entire being. I screamed, surging forward towards the nearest enemy and swinging my sword. It clanged up against the Viking's shield, and left a sizable dent in the wood. He swung in retaliation, his ax gleaming with blood lust. I deflected it with the flat of my blade, and kicked him in the nether region. He doubled over and I brought the hilt of my sword down on his neck. With an audible crack, the man fell to the ground and lay still. I felt a tingle, faint yet firm. A shadow of a voice inside of my head began whispering.
Huh? I heard a low whistling noise, and lifted my shield over my head just in time to deflect an arrow that was falling straight for my shoulder. The feathered end of the arrow was completely missing, and only the tip and half of the shaft remained. The arrow had been split and fell straight down. I cursed the archers silently and kept going. An instinct I never knew I had apparently had come alive, and it was softly aiding me. Whispering where the next attack was coming from, and moving my sword with the mind it possessed.
I paled when I saw my next opponent, a massive man lurching forward. I swung at his ankles and managed to nick him on the shinbone, bringing him to his knees, and, taking advantage of the man's momentary lapse, I beheaded him. I almost threw up, but I pressed onward.
I am killing people. I am killing people. . . the ominous cry echoed through my head over and over as kept the attack up. Me and my new mental voice friend, whom I now recognized was none other than the voice I heard during the jump back in time, pushed my conscience down, forcing it away to stop clouding my judgement. I lowered my shield and charged forward, shoulder first, straight into a Viking warrior, who staggered backwards. I swung down at him, but he deflected the blow with his shield. I bashed him in the knee with my own shield, but then took a blow to the face from his. I stumbled backwards, stunned. The man stood up, charging at me. I had no time to react, and I was finished. He knew it, and so did I. Still reeling, I prepared myself for the final blow, looking into the man's eyes. Then, out of nowhere, a sword sprouts from the man's open mouth, stifling his scream (but not mine). The sword withdrew and the man fell, revealing King Harold, sword bloodied and a small cut on his finger, but otherwise uninjured.
I took a moment to recover, and then, as soon as my head stopped swimming, I charged forward, taking man after man in a wild frenzy. I was fighting for my life once more, and nothing could stop me. After a long while, the tide of enemies seemed no less, and whenever I brought one Viking down, three more took his place. We were hopelessly outnumbered. The archers weren't doing enough. No matter how many archers we had, and no matter how many they took out, if we didn't clear these men soon with our blades, our entire army would be destroyed. I looked over, towards the center of the battlefield, and saw there a man wading through our forces, slaughtering man after man like we were no more than insects under his massive steel-spiked boots. To this day I have no idea what possessed me to do this, but I charged forward, battering at the man's defenses. I was no match for him, and he knew it. He laughed, and started beating me back, his massive war-ax slowly reducing my shield to splinters. I grabbed my sword with both hands, desperate, and started swinging wildly, howling. I managed to make him backpedal a few steps, both of us surprised at my new-found strength, and a surge of hope rushed through me, enlightening me to take even greater risks. Parry after parry we fought, and some of both armies stopped to watch us. Our blades locked, and I twirled my sword, twisting my body and tore the man's ax from his grip. I flung it away, over my head, and walked up to the man, raising my sword for the final strike. I started my swing, and then, a strange feeling of detachment came over me. I could no longer feel the sword in my hands, nor my feet on the ground. It was like my body had deserted me, and my head was the only thing left of me. The world started to tilt backwards, and I was falling. I bounced across the ground, and as I started rolling, I realized what had happened. I came to rest straight up, and I watched my own headless corpse crumple to the ground. I saw the Viking swordsman who must have beheaded me disappear into the crowd, re-starting the fight. The last thing I saw was King Harold slash the man I fought in the stomach with his sword. My vision clouded, and my mind withdrew into itself. I started to fade, and I was falling again. Falling. . .
. . . The darkness surrounded me once more. Falling away. The eyes flared once again and stared. Just stared. The voice finally boomed inside my head, clear and ominous, like a rumble of crisp thunder. Your first chance has expired. You have used it poorly. You have two more. Use them wisely. . .
. . . I awoke, sweating and shaking in my bed. I looked around. Everything was normal. It was Saturday morning. I tried to calm myself, but to no avail, for the dream had been so vivid, so real, that it really felt like I had gotten killed in battle. It was so realistic. Your first chance has expired. What had that meant? Taking a deep breath, I sat up, removed the sheets, and walked towards the attic. I had to know. I pulled down the ladder, and walked up. The dusty, cobweb-filled ladder creaked with every step. I looked over at the spot where I first saw it, and there the time machine sat, ominous as the voice that had boomed inside my head. . .
. . . use them wisely . . .