Author: Helena Hypercube
“I sense a disturbance in the space-time continuum,” the old Master said portentously.
“Does that actually mean anything?” her impatient young companion asked.
“Yes, youngster, it does.”
“What does it mean, then, Master?” asked young Gavin.
“It means trout for dinner!” she half-skipped gleefully across the dark little room, picked up a piece of the odd paraphernalia scattered around, and made her way out of the door of the little hut. Young Gavin followed her, wondering if his mentor had finally lost what was left of her mind.
He blinked in surprise as he exited the hut. His eyes watered in the bright sunlight, and water flowed across the ground in front of him. Yolinda was crouched on the ground, one hand in the flow, feeling around in it.
“Is that safe?” young Gavin asked doubtfully. Some rain burned when it touched, and it was always better to shelter until it could be determined if this was a good rainfall or a bad rainfall.
“Yes, youngster,” she chuckled, “It’s safe. This is called a stream. The timestorms brought it to us. Or us to it; it really is all the same thing. You can argue about who’s moving and who isn’t, or if we’re all moving, but in the end, it all comes down to the same thing.”
“Trout for dinner!” she crowed triumphantly, pulling a strange, squirming object from the stream.
It was like nothing young Gavin had ever seen before.
“This, youngster, is a trout. It is very good eating. These,” she pointed to some odd slits on the side of the creature, “are gills. It’s how they breathe oxygen from the water. It’s flapping around like that because it can’t breathe air and it’s suffocating. These are fins and the tail. That’s how it moves around in the water.”
Gavin looked at her dumbfounded, with new respect. “How do you know that?”
“Because I’ve lived a long, long time, since before the timestorms started.”
“There was a time before?”
“Yes, youngster,” she sighed. “And there will be a time after.”
He shivered. “How do you know that?”
“Because when Time first failed us, we know that it tangled up a hundred years, and no more.”
“Why did Time fail us?”
“Because we failed it. We weren’t content to let it be; we had to try to trick it.”
“We built a machine that could see into the future. What we could see, we affected by seeing. We thought Time was linear, but we managed to tie it into knots. The weather went bananas.” She stopped to peer at him. “Do you know what bananas are?”
He shook his head.
“Well, no matter. We used to be able to predict it. Not perfectly, but we generally knew what was coming days in advance. Now, we’re lucky if we can get under shelter before a bad rain starts. Everything else went with it. Communications – we used to be able to communicate across the globe at the speed of light. No coherent time; no communications. No real movement of goods. Nothing. We live in huts and hide from the rain. But that device could only see for a hundred years. A hundred years of time tangles, and then Time will sort itself out. We can only pray that future is a good one.” She reached into the stream to pull out another struggling fish, having placed the first one in the net at her feet. “But it the end, today, it all comes down to the same thing.”
“Trout for dinner?”
She smiled. “Now you’re catching on.”