Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Cheese: the catalyst for the end of the world?

I worked for the Temporal Institute, investigating anomalies caused by our limited access to time travel. Now, everyone knows that time travel is proscribed by the Shibe, the mysterious entities who refuse to show themselves, but demonstrate an almost prescient ability to prevent mankind’s efforts to be naughty – be it big guns, rockets, bombs or time travel devices, we are not allowed access without ‘adult’ (Shibe) permission. Which we rarely get.

I’ve seen the history programmes, the mess we made in the twentieth Century and the horrorshow we made of the twenty-first. The Shibe decided that we were not going to have the chance to turn the twenty-second into our last.

The Temporal Institute was established so we could study time and the effects of time travel in a controlled manner. The bear named Causality was not to be poked. We could go back and witness, but going back to intervene was forbidden.

It was all going well until I came back with a wedge of Stilton caught in my coat. When it fell onto the floor of the changing room I nearly fainted with terror. The Shibe were very keen on making examples of transgressors – artistically painful examples that were hung in parks, so people could be sickened while wondering just how you could do that with a human body.

Nothing happened. I and my Stilton were undisturbed. After a short while, I picked it up, took it home and ate it. It was delicious.

The Shibe only allowed us temporal travel due to a quirk of causality – because we had not been born yet, we did not exist in the places we visited. Therefore, anything there that could see us, did not. ‘Causalic Invisibility’ allowed us to witness the gamut of history. Mysteries and hearsay could be clarified. But had I ruined it all?

Apparently not. I ate the cheese and the universe didn’t die. The next trip, I tried some wine. The trip after that, I came back with more cheese. Then, I discovered bacon: eating dead flesh may be taboo, but it just smelt so good. Gradually, I became an illicit sampler of the victuals of history. But only the ones I could recognise. And nothing that moved.

I was in the bedchamber of Cleopatra VII when I had to try the wine, as the ‘trysting’ I was observing suddenly involved things I had never seen, even on the erotic relief feeds. She’d given herself to Augustus, along with her retinue, and he was taking advantage in a moment probably omitted from recorded history on censorship grounds.

As the spectacle continued, I discovered that the snakes roaming her chamber were purely decorative. The wine was poisoned.

And here I lie, dying unseen in a corner of Cleopatra’s bedchamber, an invisible impossibility that will cease to exist the moment I stop breathing – or I’ll cause a paradox that will collapse reality.

I never thought I’d be hoping to be discovered, caught and executed by the Shibe.

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