The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate (Chiang)

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The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A wealthy merchant, troubled by past regrets, uses a time-travel gate to revisit his past, leading to the revelation of intertwined tales involving other users of the gate.

Fuwaad ibn Abbas, a successful fabric merchant from Baghdad, experienced emotional turmoil despite his wealth which wealth or charity couldn't soothe.

Fuwaad ibn Abbas — the narrator; a prosperous fabric merchant from Baghdad; inwardly troubled, thoughtful.

One day while buying a gift, he met Bashaarat, another merchant who sold intriguing wares and claimed to practice alchemy.

Bashaarat — owner of a magical shop; an alchemist with keen intellect and insight; kind, patient.

No, my lord, I have never met a djinni, and if I did, I would not trust it to do my bidding. This is a form of alchemy.

Bashaarat had a mysterious device named the "Gate of Years" which could transport people twenty years into the past or future. Intrigued, Fuwaad decided to use the Gate. He traveled to Cairo to access a similar gate that Bashaarat's son managed and journeyed twenty years into his past. Fuwaad hoped to prevent an old tragedy - the death of his young wife, Najya, in a mosque collapse which occurred while he was away on business, resulting in long-term guilt and unhappiness.

However, despite reaching the past, Fuwaad's efforts were futile. He reached Baghdad too late and was unable to avert Najya's death. Devastated, he ended up in jail after breaking the city's curfew, where he relayed his tale to the authorities who, fascinated, brought him before the Caliph.

But we cannot know them more fully.

Fuwaad acknowledged that the past couldn't be changed but the experience had provided him a much-needed catharsis, enabling him to accept and find peace with Najya's death.