The doorknob on the machine was higher up than it was before he turned it on. That’s how he knew it had worked.
As he opened the circular door, smoke curled out. He trudged over the lip of the door in pants that were now too big for him. He didn’t think that far ahead. But he had thought enough to leave a small mirror on the work desk. He was staring at his 12-year-old face, one that he had not seen—except in photos—for three decades.
Gone were the worries! The troubles! The doubts! There were problems in the world, he still knew that on some level, but the grown-ups would handle them.
And while they were busy taking care of everything, he would do what he came to do.
Grabbing chips and soda, he plopped down in a beanbag chair. His wife and kids were visiting her family for the weekend so he finally had the entertainment center to himself. He hadn’t watched the newest Star Wars yet because he wanted to watch it through the eyes of a child. From the first notes of the orchestra keying up the iconic theme, to the final frames of CGI glory, the movie washed over him like the Force. Sound effects he’d heard a thousand times—a blaster striking a Storm Trooper’s armor, a light saber warming up—echoed in his soul.
The next day, he watched classics from his childhood, Krull and Beastmaster, without the irony or criticism that infects an adult mind. In between movies, he broke out his son’s video games. With younger reflexes, and a mind for weaknesses and combos, he dominated them in a way he couldn’t when he was older.
But all good things must come to an end. As Sunday evening crept in, and the pizza ran out, it was time to return to his home body before his family came back. He cleaned up his fun stuff and returned to his lab. When he stepped into the machine that made it all possible, he looked at the mass of buttons and levers and had a startling realization: He didn’t know how any of it worked. The technology to change a person’s age was only known to by his adult brain.
He heard the front door open and his son’s voice call out, “Dad! We’re home!”