Author: David Barber

Even grandfathers fearful of paradox— in case squashing a butterfly alters the future—had no cause to fret, because the time engine emerged in low Earth orbit and just took pictures. What could go wrong?

Instruments gazed down on a warm, pristine planet, dominated by behemoths. Sometimes herds could be glimpsed from space. Then one ordinary morning in the Cretaceous, a rock bigger than Mount Everest changed everything.

The impact sends a blast wave round the globe and a killing darkness shrouds the skies. A global catastrophe streamed live. Everyone wanted to watch the culling of the dinosaurs.

Zeroing in on that exact day involved much jumping back and forwards in time, and it was only by accident, something glimpsed out the corner of the eye, that our predecessors at the Time Authority spotted the activity in orbit.

In the century leading up to the asteroid strike, sleek shiny time engines bearing the TA logo were busy launching probes out into space.

Sometime in our future, they had mounted a space mission 66 million years ago, a phenomenal undertaking, which only prompted more questions.

We didn’t know it yet, but the past was beginning to exert its baleful influence.

History waits with sinister patience, so there was no urgency, but eventually we went back to see what they were up to.
We watched the doomsday asteroid tumbling lazily in its distant orbit; we watched those probes rendezvous with it, and we watched them nudge it Earthwards.

Those unfamiliar with time travel keep demanding explanations. But without our efforts, the asteroid would have stayed out beyond Mars in its safe and stable orbit.
This must be the way it always happened, otherwise we mammals would not have inherited the Earth.

Like the return of some guilty comet, each generation is reminded it can’t afford the global effort needed for that mission in the Cretaceous, not with the Melt and the plagues, not with the problems that beset us.

We also know we can safely leave the extinction of the dinosaurs to the future, since we saw them do it.

So many Deniers now, with their magical notions. Why do we need to do anything, when it’s already happened? Words from paradox land.

We are only here because we interfered with the past. It seems we created ourselves. Or we hope we will, though until that loop of causality is completed, our world has all the substance and reality of a soap bubble.

The dire warnings about time travel were deserved, though not in the way people thought.

We know now that our interference with the Cretaceous impact was just the beginning. Academics hoping to solve an ancient puzzle used time travel to stake out the grassy knoll and saw a lone gunman step from a Time Authority craft.

What if we witness our fingerprints elsewhere on history? On births and deaths, inventions and ideas, assassinations and crucifixions?

We no longer worry about accidentally meddling with the past; now we are fearful that the past will compel us to.