The time machine rematerialized with a sound of thunder.
Startled, Jake Marley staggered back, rubbing his eyes. The sign on the wall quivered as if viewed through moving water.
Experience Christmas past with Present Time, PLC
Remember, parents, there is no time like your Present.
Jake checked around the room and glanced outside the window. The trial run had produced none of the changes to the present time they had feared. That meant a go-ahead for commercial operations.
A door hissed open. Jake's partner stepped from the machine, dragging a sack of parcels.
'What's going on, Eb?' said Jake, inspecting one of the parcels. 'We were licenced for viewing only – strictly no contact. Now you've endangered everything, bringing this stuff back to the future.'
'Quit bleating, Jake,' said Eb Scrooge, seizing the parcel from Jake. 'Why transport rug rats to gawp at the Nativity for peanuts when we can make a killing? Do you realise what people will pay for classic toys in original boxes?'
Jake snatched the parcel back. 'Where did you get these?' He drew it close to his face, eyeing the label. 'This says "…with love from Daddy and Mummy". You stole presents from children – probably broke their hearts. This must affect our time.'
'Nah. Back then parents wasted their lives playing games with children, going for walks, reading stories. Their brats didn't miss a few toys.'
'Wait a minute.' Jake fumbled for his spectacles. He reread the label: To Jake… 'You bastard,' he said. 'This was meant for me. I remember the year burglars stole my presents, but Mum and Dad made sure we had the best family Christmas ever.'
Jake rechecked the wall sign. There was something curious about that last line, but for the life of him he couldn't think what: Remember, parents, there is no Present like your time.
(With apologies to Ray Bradbury 1920-2012 RIP)