You know, when I was little, one of my favorite games was ‘time travel.’ I’d get together with my brothers, of my friends, and we’d go up into the old hayloft of the barn. That was our time machine—it was cleverly disguised, of course. I’d push some knots in the wood—buttons—and make some noises, and then declare that we were two hours in the future.

We’d go exploring, and the idea that we were somehow out of phase gave loafing around the same old places a new sheen. My parents were good sports about it, feeding the hungry time travelers juice and cookies. When they asked why we chrononauts weren’t running into ourselves, I’d always say that we simply hadn’t gotten back yet—we’d gone two hours into the future, and our trip lasted two hours, so it all worked out perfectly as far as I was concerned.

After all, how much can a lazy summer afternoon change in two hours? The shadows get a little longer, the air a little cooler, but what’s that to a kid who’s been running all day? I think I secretly wished it was that simple, and in many ways it was; we kids believed in an innocent sort of way that we were in the future, and one had only to look as far as Uncle Walt to see someone stuck in the past.

Sometimes the game was interplanetary travel to a planet that was, by an astonishing coincidence, just like ours. That was even more exciting; my eyes tear up with nostalgia when I think of our journeys to Htrae. Would that it were that easy. Even then, deep down, I knew I’d never make it into space for real—eyesight too bad, expenses to great.

Still, that was the last time I felt anything like this—like things were malleable, like there was a world waiting to be explored in every dandelion’s shadow or twinkling point of light.