Joe is a man who dreams of traveling back into the past, and then later of traveling into the future. But what will he do when the opportunity arises? And why do we desire things that we end up hating when we finally get them?
This is a short story, I wrote for my ESL students to help them improve their English listening and speaking skills with the audio for Time Machine Man here >>>
There was a man. His name was Joe. Joe lived in the future. Society was messed up. People were messed up. Joe felt like he didn’t belong there. He wanted to build a time machine. He wanted to travel back in time. He wanted to go back into the past. He wanted to return to the good, old days.
Joe talked about it all the time, but his friends just laughed at him. “Forget it, Joe. If you build a time machine, travel to the future. The future is where it’s at.”
Joe didn’t agree with them. He thought that the future would be worse than the present. Besides, he didn’t know what was in the future. But he did know what was in the past. He loved the past. He lived his entire life thinking about the past. He studied the past.
He ended up quitting his job at a research facility. He became a history teacher. He read about the past. He read about different cultures. He traveled to many different places.
Joe wrote many articles. He gave many speeches about past history and cultures. He became very famous. He consulted for famous movie directors who made movies about the past. He made a lot of money and became very rich.
Joe told everyone that they should build a time machine and return to the past. The past was where it was at. If they could return to the past, they could do whatever they wanted.
One day, a friend of his from the research facility paid him a visit. He told Joe that they had built a time machine. He asked Joe to join them on their first trip. But Joe didn’t want to go. He liked his life here and now. He thanked his friend for the invitation.
“But I thought you wanted to go back into the past. I thought you didn’t like it here. You said that people were messed up. You said that society is messed up. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You should go,” his friend said.
“Nah,” said Joe. “I like the status quo. My life is good here, and I don’t want to mess it up. If I travel back into the future, it might mess things up even worse. You shouldn’t travel into the past. You should travel into the future.”
Joe contacted his famous friends. The celebrities and politicians. They passed a law to ban time travel into the past. They didn’t want to mess things up. They were afraid someone might change things and cause them to lose out on the good life.
There was a huge public outcry. Most of society wanted to travel back into the past. They wanted to change things. They wanted to try and change their lives just like Joe had when he first began. But now that things had changed and life was good, he didn’t want to shake things up. It would be too risky.
There was a huge debate. People screamed. People cried. But celebrities and politicians were firm. The law was the law. If you broke the law, you suffered the consequences.
“You do the crime, you do the time,” they said.
The scientists in the lab didn’t worry about it. Joe’s friends from the research facility traveled back in time. They found Joe while he still worked at the lab before he became famous.
“Hey, Joe. It’s us from the future. The future is messed up. People are messed up. You’re messed up. We came back to pick you up and take you back in time.”
Joe just shook his head and refused to go.
“No, I don’t really want to travel back in time,” he said. “I like it here. I like my life. I don’t want to mess that up. We need to look to the future. The future is where it’s at.”
His friends just sighed and shook their head. They didn’t understand what was wrong with Joe. How did this happen? They didn’t know.
“Sorry, Joe. Our machine can only go back into the past. We don’t know how to make it go forward into the future.”
They couldn’t figure it out. How someone could complain about something all their life, and yet when faced with the opportunity to change, refuse to take it.
“Okay, Joe. Stay here and enjoy your life,” they said. “We’re going to travel back in time to see the past firsthand. We’re going to make history together with those who live in the past.”
And off they went. Joe just smiled. Talking about the past was nice. He loved reminiscing about the good, old days. Joe liked to complain. He liked to think about how things could have been. And yet, he didn’t want to relive the same things over again. He wanted to look forward to discovering what would happen in the future.
Joe began researching everything he could about traveling to the future. He talked with everyone about the future. They just laughed at him and called him crazy.
Joe ended up quitting his job at the research facility. He wrote many articles. He gave many speeches. He consulted for many famous movie directors making movies about time travel. Joe became very famous. He became very rich.
Until one day, he received a visit from his friends from the research facility.
“Hey, Joe,” they said. “It’s us from the past. We discovered a way to travel to the future. Let’s go see what the future holds for us.”
But once again, old Joe refused.
“Nah,” he said and shook his head. “I don’t really want to travel into the future. I like it here. I like my life. I don’t want to lose what I have. I love my friends. I love people. I love society. We need to stay in the present. The present is where it’s at.”
His friends all sighed and shook their heads. They didn’t understand what was wrong with Joe. How did this happen? They didn’t know. How a man who complained all the time refused to change and follow through on what he said.
Joe just smiled as he sat in his old brown chair. He picked up his pen and wrote his first fiction novel about a man with a time machine who could visit the past and visit the future whenever he wanted. But Joe himself never worked up the courage to go with them. He only wrote out the stories that they told him.
Thank you for reading my latest ESL short story, Time Machine Man. I hope you enjoyed it.
If you have questions about any of the vocabulary or expressions, leave a comment below. Let me know what you thought of the story and how you interpret it as well, if you want some extra writing practice.
If you would like the audio file that I narrated to go along with it to listen to, it’s available on Gumroad. Just click the green button below that says ‘I Want This’. You’ll also get the PDF, ePub, and Mobi versions for download as well.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any help
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