Many have opined that this topic belongs properly to Fantasy, but following convention, we too classify it as science fiction. From trite paradoxes to tachyonic effusions of phoenix-like prebirth, there's a lot to work with here. We hope you enjoy.
The sign comes first. It hovers high in the sky, projecting green neon light, and we believe it because we don't have technology like that.
Site of the first ever Future Faire. Mike pushed through the door, closing it carefully behind him. It was cold outside.
"Evening, Joe," he said. Name: Marcus Nills
That field wasn't so tough to fill out. Marcus exhaled and ran his finger down the page to the next section. It's a neutron star, he says to me, eyes always up at the night sky. We know they exist by what they emit.
Nebulas and pulsars and white dwarfs and neutron stars--Emitt only ever speaks of lights in space. Looking out from the front stoop, where he sits on the rock of the steps, he takes in the universe one blink at a time. Then he pops it back out at you in words. The Time Traveler entered Starbucks in a hurry.
There were five of us, the usual. I was drinking a mocha with whipped cream, trying hard to hold the hot cup and not look like an ass. I wondered if I should have shaved. I was going after Jenn, you know, nodding at what she said. I asked, "What did you think of the book?" and all that, and I thought it was going pretty well. I probably should have shaved. I thought my leather coat was good, but just about then I was worrying she might be a vegetarian now, or hate leather or something. Jenn plays all smart like that. When she left him at the Crossroads of Time for the second time, Darrin didn't start to worry until he'd counted to four million eight hundred and ninety-seven. Then he lost count, again, and started to wonder if Ashley was coming back for him. They'd had another big fight, about the dirty dishes or the cluttered front hall or that curvy blonde he'd kissed on Friday night at the Reel'm Inn or any number of little annoyances that seem to pile up the longer any relationship goes on.
But he knew that in a long-term relationship with a Time Traveler, things got sticky on occasion. Last time she'd dumped him here, she'd come back after a count of about a thousand with a smile on her face. Ashley hadn't shared the joke, but she'd taken him home at least. First off, step one--commit a crime of passion.
You shouldn't plan this, obviously. In fact, you can't plan this. The defining characteristic of a crime of passion is precisely that it's unplanned. Oh sure, there are tendencies. There are indications. A crime of passion doesn't have to be a surprise--it just has to be unplanned. The disappearance of the noted science fiction editor Dan Woolover around the 10th October, 1966 was a cause of great mystery, as were the other disappearances in the area of Tubb Street, Brooklyn, around the same time. However, letters discovered recently at Mr. Woolover's office might shed light on the affair.
It only seems like it's always full-moon night at the Tesseract. Even in broad daylight.
I was on the first week of my three weeks allotment of vacation time at the paper. So, early Friday afternoon, I dropped by the pub for a half-pint before taking in one of the matinees at the Mayfair. I was thinking maybe the latest Avengers or else something animated. When my father died, he left behind several hundred pounds of quartz (very valuable), a bin of meteorites (valuable for my classroom), two hundred classic science fiction magazines (maybe a collector would buy them), and a 1970 edition of the Handbook of Mathematical Functions edited by Abramowitz and Stegun (worthless).
After the funeral, I returned to his apartment and found a burglar stealing the Abramowitz and Stegun. He says he can bring your wife back. But on one condition. Then he leans across your kitchen table and whispers to you.
"I won't do that," you say. In 1980 my future self traveled back in time to speak to me. I was twenty years old, sitting on the front porch of my parents' house in Utica clipping my toenails. He was thirty years old, wearing a suit and tie.
"Pay attention," he told me. "You're going to invest in these stocks. Circuit City. Eaton Vance. II Mark IV. Gap...." I lost my father when I was ten. His fault, everyone said. Shouldn't have left a boy of ten in charge of a machine like that. I'd lost my kid sister once already, a child's prank, the first day Pop ever allowed me near the dials, his hands that seemed too large for science guiding mine while Sis hovered in the background. When he'd left the room for a moment Sis dared me to send her somewhere. We found her again, none the worse for her day in an 11th-century Britain that had more to do with mud and skin diseases than it did with the princesses in pointy hats she'd imagined. Pop's settings were more complex. Comparative linguistics meant Jumping between continents and eras. "Track and field for the geeks," he told me before he crawled into the chamber that last time. "Never went out for the team in high school. Now I put the broad in broad jump." He winked. "If they could only see me now." "At no point in the past or future will your life have any bearing on anything, at all," the redheaded, twenty-something time traveler with a sleeve of tattoos tells me. "That's why it's okay to kill you." "Behold!" said Itami when he removed the cover to unveil the device in the middle of the hangar. "The time machine."
Dr. Darren Guillet's eyes widened. The red-painted machine looked like a riding lawnmower. It had a plain looking control panel, one seat, and a large dish to its rear. "On August 6, 1930," said Mona, "Justice Joseph Crater stepped into a taxi in New York City and was never seen again."
"Are you still stalking the guy across the street?" said Daryl. I'm forty-three, well beyond my years for needing a nanny. Yet Nanny is in the audience. Of course she is. After all, it is Nanny I am taking the fall for. And like all the times before, she has a plan. But first we wait. There are a few cases ahead of mine.
"Case #1201. Miz Gravona," says the judge. I look at the docket and see that I'm Case #1203. I watch you commit suicide for the fourth time. This time I almost have you talked out of it. But something happens, I don't know what. And the gun's in your mouth and you've pulled the trigger before I can even react.
I scream out your name, but it's too late. You're falling to the floor and the wall behind you is a gory mess. Just like the other times. "Dad, do you think time travel is possible?" Billy asked. "Like on Space Cadet Jake?"
"Probably not the same way it happens on television." Father tousled his son's hair and adjusted the telescope. The sky was darkening rapidly. Venus and Jupiter blazed overhead. Even Mars was visible now. Father pulled the small plastic kitchen stool from the trunk of the car so Billy could stand on it and see through the eyepiece. Billy always liked Jupiter the best. Through Father's telescope you could see the bands, the four stars that were really Galilean moons, and sometimes even the Great Red Spot. Though it was only red in the pictures. Through the telescope the entire planet was yellow. Squatting on the curb in front of a boarded-up duplex, a woman rocks back and forth, arms crossed, arguing with herself.
"You were driving too fast!" The people in my head seem to have been there for a very long time. I can't remember how long, because I can't remember anything but the cheery, pastel-painted hospital room I awoke in. The doctor, a large man with flamboyant moustache and grey hair, says I have amnesia. He is my oldest friend, in that he was there when I awoke and came to see me every day thereafter. I don't remember how many days it's been. Doctor Pulbarton, that's his name. I have a name too, apparently. Randolf. The doctor won't tell me my second name; I think he's hoping it will come back to me.
The people in my head aren't really there, he says. Mason leaned in to kiss Andrea. His first kiss ever. His heart pounded and he closed his eyes as her warm breath brushed his lips. He shivered, lifting frosty fingers from the cold porch, hesitating, not sure where to put them. Not on her, certainly.
But it didn't matter anymore because his lips were on hers. A flush of heat tingled his face, every inch of himself like lightening. She let out a soft moan and he leaned in again. Jack left the restaurant with red wine blooming through his shirt and Kristine sobbing into napkins. Tears had run tracks down her makeup and he almost, almost felt bad for her. But he'd cried just as hard eight months from now. No, harder.
"Do you recognize me?"
Thomas glanced at the man who bumped into him. The cheap bottle of wine bought to celebrate his promotion nearly slipped out of its brown paper bag. Thomas juggled it and then looked again. The man standing in front of him had unmistakable bright blue hair. Grace heard the knock on the door, but she did not recognize the man on the other side. He wore a crisp dark suit and close-cropped hair. He had a vague, forgettable face and a bland tie.
Everything about him screamed, "Eraser-man." The last time one of those had arrived on her doorstep, it had been... well, she couldn't remember exactly what happened. She only had the vague memory of someone that she had loved disappearing forever. A brother, maybe? I watched the boy lift the faux-fur lined hood of his Parka coat up around his red-cheeked face and pull the weather-beaten door closed behind him. The wind pushed against his tiny frame as he hurried along the sloping grass embankment outside the short row of council houses. Twice the cruel wind whipped about him, and he stumbled like a drunkard at midnight, but he righted himself and began the hard trek up the hill beside the Priory ruins. Those familiar sandstone remains of tumbled ancient structures were like half-buried bones rising from the grass along the cliff top bluff; broken and twisted by the spite of time.
I felt the cruel January chill, though my encapsulation field protected me from the atmosphere beyond my enviro-suit. I could taste the salt on the air as the waves crashed onto Haven beach, though my lungs breathed pure filtered air from the breather tanks on my back. As I watched the boy wearily clamber the winding path beside the ancient cliff, pulling his school bag up onto his shoulder, I turned away. I did not need to see any more. The sounds of half-tuned electric guitars blasted from the doorways of Manny's and Sam Ash, dueling across the grimy patch of 48th St known as Music Row. Magda waited until the group of time tourists she was following had turned the corner, then plunged her arm into the nearest garbage can. Her hand encountered something slimy.
"Ugh," she said, not for the first time that day. She wished she could wear gloves, but they weren't part of her new uniform. I clean the time machines. It is a brute labor job, but unionized, so the pay and benefits are not half bad. Particularly for someone with little education and, like me, a record holding a few early abrasions with the law. What can I say? I had an interesting youth.
Mostly the job is scratching stray seconds and the occasional minute out of the rigging, sucking up a misplaced nanosecond that somehow got into the cockpit. I have been told stories of people finding entire days wrapped around a stabilizer manifold, but I am not so sure that I believe it. "Jordan, it's over here." Ella stood on the banks of the river.
Jordan descended the rocky slope to stand by Ella. "Did it work?" I call down into the gravity well, which is really just an 8 x 5 x 4 hole we dug up in Billy's backyard. No answer from the cylinder. It sits in the center on its side, gleaming dully, its forward lights blinking. We installed the lights to show when the machine is running. Also to make it look cooler. I consider going down, but before I can move, the cylinder's hatch cracks open. A slim white hand emerges, grasps the hatch door, and shoves it aside. Then my best friend Billy pulls himself up and out, unfolding his lanky form from the tiny space within.
"Well, did it work?" I shout again. Billy glances over his shoulder and gives me a half-assed thumbs-up before sliding down to land next to his machine; then he begins making his way up the side of the hole to where I stand. When he nears the top, I reach down and grab his wrist, helping him climb the last few feet. Pack extra unmentionables. In the future, many women clothe themselves scantily. It is impossible to get a proper foundation garment; most clothiers have no knowledge of whalebone corsets or bustles.
Stay in the prescribed routes. Certain areas of the future are safe for time travelers because the natives try to preserve history by pretending it is the past. Here, travelers can blend into the future with least discomfort. "Did you know the Earth formed through planetary accretion during the formation of the Solar System approximately four-point-five billion years ago?" These words greeted Nome as she stepped out into the basement laboratory, pulling her workplace-mandatory goggles on over her short brown hair. Wires and cables crisscrossed the room, taped to the floor or wall, and hung from the ceiling like technological vines.
"Uh, sure," she said. "Second grade, right between state capitals and long division. Why?" "This wasn't at all what I expected," said Helen of Troy.
The man behind the counter nodded, an expression of professional empathy pasted onto his face. Her expression tells you everything even before she speaks, and your world comes undone.
Then she confirms it: she tells you that her mission is a go. She is so excited, her face is radiant with possibility, and her eyes sparkle with the light of distant stars. You manage to smile, and it is the hardest thing you've ever had to endure. Professor Jennifer Magda-Chichester stood on the stage of Stockholm Concert Hall, smiling proudly into a sea of tuxedos: "It is a great honor to receive this most prestigious of awards," she said, a cluster of ubiquitous nano-microphones reproducing her every word in perfect fidelity, in the minds of a million listeners worldwide. "A very great honor, the greatest that any scientist can ever hope to achieve. I am very proud of my team, and of course I am indebted to all the brilliant minds who laid the foundation for my work. If I have seen further than others it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
"And yet, my near-perfect happiness on this day is tainted by the tiniest speck of regret. I am an old woman and, as you all know by now, the device can only travel backwards through time. I therefore stand here before you today in the full knowledge that I will never live to see my invention reach its full potential. I can only imagine all the wonderful uses that future generations will find for the thing. Did Alan Turing imagine all the benefits of today's sentient quantum computers? Did Neil Armstrong imagine the wonders of Luna Colony Alpha?" The front window of the diner had a nice view of the playground and that wasn't pervy because I never interacted with or talked to the kids--especially the little blonde girl. In fact, I never interacted with anyone, at least I tried not to. I needed to kill myself before I did that.
"Ma'am? Warm up your coffee?" the middle-aged waitress said. I deliberately didn't look at her. I ran hard from Billings Place to the East 2nd school yard and saw the sniper at the gate, shooting me in the gut, where I fell, died. It hadn't happened like this before; coming back, I'd changed things. I'd been a survivor of the massacre. Shit. I had no time to think about the ramifications of this change. Like a ton of bricks, I threw myself at the sniper before my kids were among the first casualties splattered all over the green top. I severed his spine with a bowie knife. When he fell forward I kicked his assault rifle away from his body, and grabbed my kids and ran from the yard, pulling Sarita and Manny hard behind me.
Hysterical, they looked up at me, "Dad? B-but?" I'd just died in front of them, but here I was, gray haired, 15 years older, saving them. Nadia woke in the time spiral.
"Time is only a line, a curve, a wave of the hand, and its course is moved," said the man with the silver finger. But that was years ago, eons ago, minutes ago. She no longer knew. The Creationists rejoiced: the theory of Evolution was dead. Buried in sediments seventy million years deep--the time of the dinosaurs--the unmistakable fossil of a human being. Studied, tested, corroborated, error-corrected, it was confirmed by fifty-four renowned academic institutions and counting. The finding was not disputed.
I'd assembled my time travel device of circuits, microchips, and clever wiring; but the gods or magic or fate controlled it. Perhaps an inventor who loves to read puts too much of himself into his creations. Or perhaps a literati who engineers cannot separate his own blended DNA.
When I activated it the first time, a blink, a shudder, and a screech wrenched me from my control chair, and I found myself standing in a dark room. Had I gone forward or back? Light leaked through a barred window, revealing a ragged, bedridden man, his eyes sunk deep in his head, gasping in what surely must have been his ending breaths. Beside him sat a second man, dressed in a soiled jacket, writing by candlelight at a small table. Before the man with a gun entered the convenience store, Grace was sitting alone at a sticky, soda-splattered table, her broken arm throbbing like a heart, the roof of her mouth burning from the coffee she had drunk too quickly. It was nearly two in the morning, and there were only three other people in the store. The cashier sitting behind the counter was playing some game on his phone and having an expletive-laden argument with it. There were two guys facing each other at the table behind her. She had glanced up and had made a swift assessment (cute, also cute; dead-tired and wary, alert and looking like he's making lists in his head) when they came in earlier, talking about a cab driver who had tried to swindle them or something. One of them, the alert-looking one, was wearing a mauve rubber wristband. An Institute guest, so the other guy probably worked for the Institute.
Grace knew about the wristband because she and the rest of her class wore it when they toured the facility last month. Researchers from the Institute made her nervous. Who knew what kind of experiments they were doing up there? "Professor Thomson, I'm here to save your Plum Pudding theory."
J. J. Thomson looked up from his desk. The stranger wore gentleman's clothing, but they were dirty and disheveled. His deep-set gray eyes sparkled with intelligence. Gyroscopes whir and hum around me like celestial music. "Prowl the air," I mumble, head spinning. I come to, contorted and cramped into some tiny space, my nipples brushing the tops of my legs through my thin blouse. Where...?
Oh yes. I am tucked into the center of the seven spinning globes of the LevoGyre. Though the device is as large as we can make it, it is barely big enough for tiny me to climb inside with curled arms and legs. Today I also had to strip off my sweater and boots. "I remember dying," my husband tells me. "Everyone I know comes to visit my deathbed."
"It will be nice to see everyone," I say, forcing a smile. I don't bother to remind him that what he remembers hasn't happened yet, at least not for me. We only have a few weeks left, and I don't want to spend that time on explanations. Instead we take a long walk in the rain, huddled together under one umbrella, and then we come back home and huddle even closer to get warm.
Many have opined that this topic belongs properly to Fantasy, but following convention, we too classify it as science fiction. From trite paradoxes to tachyonic effusions of phoenix-like prebirth, there's a lot to work with here. We hope you enjoy.
by Dustin Adams
Published on Jan 21, 2014
by Edoardo Albert
"Ring the bells. It is dawn, and this day at least, God willing, we will endure." I watched the man scurry from the room. The bishop stared out of the window as if by sheer force of will he could force the barbarians from the walls of his city. "Write this down. Take it with you to Possidius and see that it is added to my Confessions." Augustine turned to look at me. "I want to tell how I lost my son."
Published on Oct 15, 2010
by S. R. Algernon
Dear Customers of Quantum Polytemporal Interactive Dating (popularly known as qPid): It has been our goal for over five years (meta-time) or five millennia (world-time) to provide you and your loved ones from whatever century with reliable service and to ensure a positive user experience across the timeline. Recently (in a five-dimensional sense), an uptick in complaints has put our support staff under considerable strain. Some of these reflect basic misunderstandings of our services. Others are, sadly, beyond our capacity to solve. So that we can continue to offer diachronic dating and chat, we ask your cooperation in reading and acknowledging the following guidelines before opening an account.
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***Editor's Note: This is a work of fiction. Please don't attempt time travel in this way*** The best way to time travel is to fall.
Published on Jul 9, 2015
by Josh Rountree
,***Editor's Note: Adult Story, Adult Language***
Before this place becomes a bowling alley, a rock and roll dive, a karaoke bar, a Tex-Mex joint, before this place becomes the spot where the only girl I'll ever love escapes the world, this place is a roller rink, a hangout for middle school kids mostly too afraid to do more than hold hands as they take another unsteady spin together, maybe sneak a kiss in the wash of red, blue, green strobe lights. Maybe not. I'm really not sure, anymore. The roller rink is where I desperately want to be. I know that much. But this place has a whirlwind nature and I often find myself sucked in by the music and the lights and taken to other whens that aren't nearly as great as this one.
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For my Earthdad Each time he comes home, his face changes. He is an old man at her birth, a youth at her third birthday party, and a fifty-something when he walks her to her first day of kindergarten. She hears the adults mutter about how Clare's mother can't keep a husband longer than a year, and Clare can barely suppress her giggles. You don't get it. All those men--they're all one husband.
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