Author : Glenn Blakeslee
Two people sat in the observation room, side by side, their fingers intertwined.
From behind a two-way mirror my associate Maria and I watched the man and the woman. We were sociologists and, recently, biological partners intent on parenting a child. The man and the woman in the observation room were there because together they’d exhibited unusual behavior, and confused authorities had thought our expertise might shed some light.
One of the subjects Maria and I studied were memes, cultural ideas that propagate through behavior and media. Since the spread of the anti-meme six decades ago this study was a lost art. The anti-meme was an overarching idea which blocked the ability, in those infected, to absorb other infective ideas.
So we lived in a rational world. Gone were the reactionaries, the revolutionaries, the radicals who passed sometimes violent and cataclysmic ideas to others, and acted upon them. We held logical and reasonable political discourse, worshipped without dogma, and raised our children in a civilization gone quiet with stability and measured growth. Advertising was dead, popular music was no longer popular nor galvanizing, and we dressed according to our environmental needs.
Maria and I sat watching the man and woman. The room was quiet, environmental controls sighed, the microphones in the observation room relayed no talk between the two. They sat there only gazing at one another, holding hands. Maria and I spoke about our attempts to reproduce, and quietly agreed to organize our schedules to increase our couplings and the likelihood of success, when we noticed a change in the observation room.
The man moved his arm to the back of the chair the woman sat in, and then up along her shoulders and over her arm. The woman slumped to the side of the man, her head tipped forward, and their foreheads met and touched. The man released the woman’s hand and moved his other hand to her face, cupped the side of her neck and jaw, brought his face up and his lips to hers, and they kissed.
“I love you,” the man said. “I love you,” the woman said, looking into the man’s eyes.
I looked at Maria, she at me. This was the behavior we were looking for but it no longer mattered. Maria’s eyes sparkled, her skin glowed, and I wanted to have children with her. I wanted to put my arms around her, to hold her to me and to not let go. I knew then that she was my life, she was my world. She smiled and I knew it was so for her, too.
If love is an idea, then let the idea spread. Let the whole world be engulfed in this fashion, this passion, in all things.
Author : Adena Brons
The sign at the border assured them that the wait would be “no time at all.”
Literal, but misleading. Garam looked at the lines of chronocars in front of them. They were so far back; he couldn’t even see the gate. With a word to Sarah, he stepped out of the car and strolled up the lane marked 1300-1400AD. He passed a couple vans pulling horse trailers – Reenactors. It was a popular holiday among those with a passion for the Middle Ages to pop down for a weekend tournament and be back in the office on Monday. Someone that dedicated would have a Timepass and be able to use the express lane. There was the odd run down car, overloaded with hippie kids, who smoked tobacco and talked about living off the land. They probably didn’t even have their immunizations. But most of the cars were people like him and Sarah, lower middle class, with enough money for a lower middle chronocar and a streak of independence that would lead them to another time.
It was incredible, he thought, looking around the enormous time crossing, how much had been accomplished in the last fifty years. Time travel had been invented nearly a century before, but had first been reserved for governments, meaning armies, and had only slowly filtered down for use by the general public. The Public Release, 47 years ago, had created a wave of emigration as other times were suddenly opened to those seeking other lives
“Word is,” he said, returning to Sarah, “it’s a middling century. There’s a fair bit of room coz of the plague but there’s no one outgoing so they can’t go crazy letting people in. I think we’ve got a good chance. A few Reenactors in our line and they’re only weekenders and won’t cause us trouble.”
She leaned over and kissed him. “We’ll get through. We have our visas and you have that certificate from the college. They can’t turn us away.”
He returned the kiss, “Then a real life with the sky overhead and children underfoot.”
“Children?” Sarah asked, giggling.
“Children,” he said firmly, pulling her closer.
“Dim the windows. No one will see.”
They tumbled into the backseat as the windows went black.
In what would have been forty-five days if they weren’t stuck in line in a timeless other dimension, Sarah and Garam reached the border guard.
“Destination?” he asked, as he scanned their passports.
“Sussex,” Garam answered, trying not to sound too nervous or too hasty. From the look Sarah gave him, he wasn’t succeeding.
“Can I see your chrono-adaptor for the car?”
Garam hurriedly rooted around in the glovebox for their insurance certificate. He handed it to the guard, who laboriously pecked at the keyboard.
“Adapts to: …One Horse and Wagon. Seems to be in order sir,” he said as he handed it back. “When you depart the border zone, please inset these coordinates into your chronocar’s positioning system. I’m sending you to August 26th, 1314. Local time 06:24. Enjoy your stay.”
A machine spat out a card with the coordinates on it and the guard passed it to Garam through the window.
“Yes sir. Thank you!” Garam said, rolling up the window. He gave the card to Sarah and slowly rolled out of the gate. There was a parking lot beyond the border crossing, where he pulled over and crushed Sarah in a bear hug.
“We made it! We’re through!”
Sarah grinned shyly as she whispered, “All three of us.”
Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
“Cledus, why is the porch door open?” bellowed a heavy set woman wielding a flour covered rolling pin. “You’re lettin’ the flies in.”
“Relax, Thelma. I just put Duke out, and I didn’t want to git up to let’m back in. Now, hush-up, Junior is fixin’ to pass Kyle.”
As his wife headed back toward the kitchen, Cletus hear a soft voice from the other side of the sofa “Greetings, earthman,” it said.
Startled, Cledus turned toward the empty cushion and exclaimed “Who the hell said that?”
A second later, a miniature spaceman materialized next to the “I heart Elvis” throw pillow. “Sorry, earthman, I had forgotten that I was cloaked. I hope I didn’t cause you any distress.”
Cledus stared at the two foot tall alien wearing a shiny metallic spacesuit, and then glanced at the six empty beer bottles toppled over on the coffee table. “Damn, I must be hearin’ and seein’ things,” he said. “I have to start cuttin’ back,” he added as he finished off the seventh bottle and turned back toward the TV, “…tomorrow.”
“Excuse me, sir, but I could really use your assistance.”
Cledus rubbed his eyes and looked at the alien again. “Shoot, it’s real. What the hell do you want?”
“It seems that my spaceship sank in a swampy bog a few miles from here. I was hoping that you could use your tractor to tow it to dry land. I’d greatly appreciate it.”
Never one to pass up a potential opportunity, “What’s in it fer me?” asked Cledus with some degree of anticipation.
“What would you like?” inquired the little alien. “I can provide substantial compensation.”
“Kin you build me a contraption that will turn water into beer?”
“If that’s what you desire, consider it done.”
“Cledus,” yelled Thelma from the kitchen, “who y’all talkin’ to?”
“Quick,” whispered Cledus, “disappear until I gits rid of the misses.”
The alien disappeared and Cledus reached for another beer. “Uh, oh, no one sweetie. Just watchin’ the 500. Must have been a commercial.”
Thelma scowled as she approached her lying husband. “Don’t lie to me, you lying buzzard,” she threatened. “I know you’re up to somethin’.” Then she plopped down onto the empty side of the sofa.
“Aaagggghhh,” screamed Cledus as he jumped up and started pulling on her arm. “Git up you ornery cuss. If you squished him, I’ll…”
“Squish who?” asked the confused Thelma as Cledus finally managed to get her upright.
He scrambled past her and started feeling around the cushions looking for the flattened alien. “Don’t you never mind,” he snapped. “Now, git back to the kitchen and make my supper. And be fast about it. I’m gittin’ hungry.”
“Well, you’re just a dang fool,” replied Thelma as she indignantly hoofed off toward the kitchen. “I should have listened to mamma when she warned me… Now what’s goin’ on out there,” she said as she paused at the open front door. “It looks like, Beau and Duke are havin’ a tug-o-war with a ‘possum covered in tin foil.” As she watched the two animals rip the small creature apart, she suddenly realized what they had done. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed. “This is awful, Cledus, them dumb dawgs just stole the neighbor’s dinner right off the grill.”
Author : Dennis Gray
“Where’s that gurney? Get it in here now!”
”Alright, hook her up, quickly! Forget the hand unit; let the gurney scanners do the work. Got the spinal lock in place? Good, seal it up and let’s move.”
The doctor kept shouting orders all the way to Medlab; with the Commander, Dr. Fatah and I following close behind. The Commander tried to follow the gurney into surgery but the sani-field snapped on as he reached the door, keeping out all except authorized medical personnel. As we watched through the observation window a crowd of technicians, soldiers and other personnel started to gather around us. The full force of the Commander’s tension lashed out as he span around.
“Don’t you people have jobs to do? I want answers and I want them now…”, his head snapped around to Dr. Fatah and I, a finger stabbed the air, ”…starting with you two. What the hell happened in there?”
Fatah’s reply echoed slightly in the now empty hallway, “You were there Commander. Right now, you know as much as we do.” A technician handed Fatah a terminal pad.
For years now we had been trying to create an artificial worm-hole. Dr. Fatah had demonstrated the theoretical possibility, but it took three governments to make the attempt a reality; and from the look of things we finally succeeded. Minutes ago the “switch” was thrown, the projectors powered up and an event horizon glimmered in the concrete pit we called ‘the bunker’. Military grade sensors probed their way down through the whirling darkness. Thousands of petabytes of data was collected then processed by the quantum computers into a video image on the monitors. That image was…
“Myra Benson – that’s who it is all right.” The doctor rejoined us a scant ten minutes later, “and she’s dead. Her whole body’s been affected by passing through that damn thing; massive cell damage, every organ shut right down.”
“But how can the body of a woman who died 172 years ago be here, now?”, the Commander asked no one in particular.
“Well,” Fatah scanned the telemetry on the pad, “it seems all that time-travel theory isn’t science-fiction after all. According on the data the worm-hole tunneled across time and space and did indeed open in the home of the United Nations president, 172 years ago. She apparently saw the anomaly, reached out to touch it; and, when her hand crossed the event-horizon she was pulled through and dumped out here.”
“So now what do we do?”
I thought the answer was obvious. “We send her back”, I said.
“Send her back? How?” The commander shook his head and added, “Doesn’t matter, even if we could, I am not sending back a dead UN President!”
“Look,” I explained, ”the techs are keeping the worm-whole open, locked on the same co-ordinates; we just put her in and let quantum physics do the rest. Besides, you have no choice! One hundred and seventy-two years ago Myra Benson’s aids walked into her office and found her dead body. No doors or windows compromised, no alarms triggered, nothing that gave any clue as to what happened.
“The whole planet went into mourning and as a result her campaign to dismantle the weaponized satellite network not only went ahead, it succeeded. The only unanswered question since then has been, ‘what happen?’ Who and/or what killed the most popular politician of all time?”
The Commander’s face went from worry to stark terror as he realized where I was going.
“Well, now we know; send her back.”
Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
We failed at time travel.
We created an engine that would theoretically propel the automated craft forward in time. It started properly when we turned it on but instead of snapping the craft forward in time, it folded four years of time back into the craft. The ship rusted and weakened right in front of us, giving a little shudder as four years of time ran through it like a train.
That’s as far as the experiment got. Nothing we tried could make something actually go forward in time. But we could age things.
The experiments that were done on people brought the military back to a whole new dark age. The Nazis would have recognized the gleam in the eyes of the scientists that were given political dissidents and random homeless people to play with.
We couldn’t make it go in reverse. We tried but in only created a reality-feedback loop that drove the subjects insane.
What was fascinating was what happened when we pressed fast forward on people. They’d go from twenty-six to thirty right in front of our eyes and when they opened their eyes, they’d have four more years of memory. Memories of the life that would have happened if we hadn’t tied them to the chair and hooked them up to the temporal engine.
We sent people further and further forward, interviewing them when they opened their eyes. We aged one person 70 years. He ‘came back’ with a new heart, new hips, and partial brain implants. He remembered another world war, ten presidents, and two emperors.
The only real problem we encountered is that no two people that we sent forward came back with similar memories. That was still under investigation. We couldn’t get accurate future predictions if no two subjects agreed.
Plus the process was irreversible. For a while, our black ops sub-basements churned out seniors by the dozen every day until we realized it was fruitless.
Never let it be said that the military will let anything go to waste, however.
We invented a temprowave weapon. It was a focused beam of the time-propellant collapsed waveform. It aged whatever it hit and it aged it as long as contact was maintained.
We only used it in one battle. I’m a veteran of that battle. I have scars of sixty-year-old skin that criss-cross my thirty-year-old chest. I wonder if the cells in that skin have another thirty years of memory. Timebeam scars.
My left hand has liver spots. I have a patch of grey hair. Shrapnel from a time bomb.
If we turned the beam on to focus on someone for a long time, their heart would age and die.
It was too unwieldy in the end, though. Bullets did the job quicker.
The ‘time guns’ are in a basement with the other failed experiments. I go down and look at them sometimes, nestled in amongst the other failed weapons deemed too complex or esoteric for battle, wondering what I would see if I sent my own mind into the future.
Author : John Eric Vona
She opens the car door and superheated air rushes out like blood from an open wound. Across the dying lawn, he stands just inside the house, watching her go. The doorway frames him poorly, a picture shoved off-center in too large a frame. He wears only plaid pajama pants, and even at that distance, she can make out the lines of his chest, the faint shadows and contours of ribs like demonic fingers gripping his innards. He could never keep the weight on once the ozone deteriorated, pouring cosmic radiation into their atmosphere.
“That’s why I have to do this,” she silently reminds herself. “Because if I don’t, he never will.”
“Drive safe,” he calls to her, always the worrier of the pair, making what she must do all the more difficult. But she never likes to worry and doesn’t, even as she leaves for the first of many surgeries. She is a woman of action. Typically swift and unabated, but now she finds herself frozen in the pounding heat, her straw hat providing too small a shield against the sun’s brutal cast, held by the thin thread connecting her to her husband, a long glance of long lovers’ eyes. She hesitates.
Just last week she woke thirsty in the middle of the night and he was right there with a glass of water. Before she fell back asleep she felt his lips on her back and he said, “I’ll always be here to take care of you.”
How is it the hollowest of promises are always the sweetest?
For years she’s been watching him die, seeing the signs of cancer and age in both their irradiated bodies. She could feel ‘always’ slipping from them.
When they saw the first modded humans walking through the mall, the little orange creatures half-machine, half man’s reimagining of God’s image, they were both disgusted. But secret even to herself, she admired their courage and it wore on her with the beating of the cosmos on the planet, as modding went from elective to doctor recommended, as more people seemed less like people, as his body shriveled before her eyes.
But still he recoiled from it. He loved her and he was afraid that somewhere between surgeries, one inevitably leading to the next, their bodies shrinking to be more compact and efficient, the insertion of genetically enhanced organs and plastic blood vessels, the network of bio-monitors and their army of corrective nanites, the new, resistant skin and the silica neural pathways that would replace her primitive mushy brain, that they would lose each other.
But her fears mattered too and she feared one day he wouldn’t be there in the night and even more so that neither of them would be.
“Will you give up your humanity to live a longer life?” He’d once asked her, but now, he calls across the lawn again, “drive safe.”
“I will,” she calls back and then to herself, “if it means keeping you.”
She wishes the moment could last forever, even with all its imperfections: the feel of sunscreen thick on her skin like lard, the heat inside the car reaching equilibrium with the heat outside, her husband standing too far away to be touched or even really talked to. But she knows they can’t stand there forever, that even the longest of glances must end and even though she’ll hold the memory of his eyes into the future, the present must become the past. She gets into the car and pledges to herself to hold fast to that memory, fade as it slowly, surely will.