I’ve been working on a sci-fi novel of late, was hunting through my hard drive to find some stuff I’d written previously. It took me some time to locate it, but in the process I found one story I’d started that, frankly, I have no recollection writing. I know it’s my writing, but I have no clue when I wrote it — aside from the filestamp, which says it was May 7, 2003 at 2:24 PM.
Anyway, I found it thoroughly amusing, and I’ve been wanting to write something that I could send off to sci-fi magazines and start getting myself published. It’s not done yet, but I think I may put some time into it and finish it, rather than proceeding with the novel, so I can start filing rejection letters.
And here it is.
Behind this LJ cut thing.
I had always thought that the most convincing argument against the possibility of time travel was that no one from the future had ever showed up in our time. That was what I used to think, until around noon on a very strange day.
That day is tomorrow.
A few things about myself: I’m not a scientist. I didn’t do very well in math and sciences in school, either. I passed my high school chemistry class, but that was mostly because I cheated. And I didn’t even cheat very well.
Don’t let that fool you — I have very strong morals, and a good work ethic. It’s just that I also have a very strong recreational ethic. Watching television took precedence over studying chem.
But I managed to graduate, and went on to study communications at Sarasota Junior College, where I got involved with the broadcast program. I took a minimum wage job manning the school’s weak FM station — when I say “weak”, I mean you better not be trying to listen if you’re leaving the parking lot — and from there I moved up to becoming an actual DJ at KROK 89.9 FM. Never did finish my degree, and never saw the point. I was working in a decent job, and wasn’t that the end goal of college?
Now, like I said, I’m no scientist. I enjoy the occasional sci-fi flick, though I’ve never dressed up in costume to go to a movie. I know about “paradoxes”; theyâ€™re the big reason why time travel can’t happen. If the traveler killed his father before he himself was conceived, then… then… then we’d all get headaches.
And let me point something out here. It’s not the time travelling that causes the paradox. It’s the patricide.
I’ll get back to that.
So, tomorrow, I was doing what I normally do, which is taking requests during the commercial breaks, while snacking naughtily on a submarine sandwich over the twenty thousand dollar sound board. Bill, my producer, doesn’t like it, but he has long since given up on glaring at me through the soundproofed glass.
A reflection in the glass meant there was a visitor coming through the open door behind me. Not a face I recognized, but then my commercials were over, so I had to get back on the air. I announced a song from Depeche Mode, muted my mic, and turned around.
The stranger was gone.
Wrong station, I thought. There were six stations broadcasting from these corporate headquarters — yeah, the suits owned us — and it wasn’t uncommon to have a hip-hop or country star wander into the studio, lost.
Bill cut through on my headset. “I’m going to the john. You want anything?”
“Yeah, can you bring me back a squirt of that soap?” I deadpanned back.
“You got it.”
He left, and I went back to my sandwich. When I looked back up, the reflection of the stranger had returned. This time I turned around.
He was obese. That was the first thing I noticed. I thought he might be Tongan or Samoan — his features were vaguely native-looking, for lack of a better word. Full lips, flat nose, dark olive skin. I’m Caucasian, so I worry a lot about coming off as racist — especially when twenty-thousand of your listeners belong to minorities.
So, in an effort to be politically correct and/or sensitive, I tried to take my mind off his obesity and his indiscernable racial heritage, and stared at his clothes.
They were, in a word, weird.
No seams, first of all. You donâ€™t really notice seams until theyâ€™re not there. It looked like one big — and I do mean big — jumpsuit, except it had no zipper or fasteners. And there were folds that didn’t seem natural, and the brownish hue was very glossy.
When he later told me he was from the future, I was sure he believed it.
“Can I help you?” I asked, perhaps a bit condescendingly.
“I need to meet with you,” came a voice. It didn’t match his lips, and it didn’t come from him. It was almost like it came from the air around me. I was bit unnerved.
“Okaaaaay,” I replied, now worried I had a legitimate psychopath on my hands. How had he gotten past the front desk?
“Route three-oh-one, mile marker seventy. After you leave here.”
What do you say to a five-hundred pound behemoth that you never hope to see again?
“Three-oh-one. Mile marker seventy.” Again, the voice came out of nowhere — though at the time I was ready to dismiss it as the peculiar acoustics of broadcast studios, mixed with the dizziness that came from watching a man that size balance on two legs.
Now, I need you to understand, I do not do drugs. Never have, never plan to. I’ve been known to drink, but I almost never get drunk, because my dad was killed by a drunk driver, and I hold all drunks accountable. I need you to understand this, because in the next moment, the big guy vanished.
It wasn’t all slow, Star Trek-style, nor was it instantaneous. It took a full moment — what’s that, half a second? — as he faded from view.
If having a five-hundred pound man in your vicinity makes you dizzy, having one suddenly not be in your vicinity will do much more so. I reeled. I blinked. I shook my head. I finally stood up to see if he was just in the hall, and I’d blacked out momentarily.
It was the speaker in the studio. Bill was back at his seat, frightened to see me away from my spot.
I gestured to him, and mouthed “Did you see that?”
“What?” He tapped his headphones.
I sat back down at the mic, and cut to his room.
“Did you see that?” I repeated, out loud.
“That guy that was in here?”
“No, what guy?” He was duly concerned; I could feel how pale my face must have been.
“Some guy…” was all I could manage to get out. But the song was ending, and I didn’t have the next one ready. I went through the motions reflexively, loading up the next tune, all the while trying to process what had happened.
Bill left his booth and came around. “So what guy? What’d he do?”
Well, Bill, he talked, but his voice didn’t match his mouth, and then he vanished.
“He was huge,” was all I said.
Bill was momentarily relieved, then he slapped me on the back of the head. “You scared the crap out of me. I thought some guy came in with a gun or something.”
I slapped him back, reflexively; even in my stupor I couldn’t let a slap go unretributed. I tried to wipe the shocked look off my face, as I decided not to relate the truth to Bill. He went back to his booth, and I to the studio, where I finished my sandwich, and eyed my Dr. Pepper suspiciously.
Florida, despite what you may have heard, is not like California. California, for example, doesn’t have a minority group called “people under 70”. There’s not a lot to do for the young crowd, unless you live in Orlando, or perhaps Miami, where youth can join gangs for fun.
What I’m saying is, I didn’t have any other plans. And thirty miles isn’t that far. And perhaps my curiosity was getting the better of me. Whatever the reason, I was driving down Route 301.
At mile marker seventy was a dirt road that connected to the pavement, and I figured I couldn’t very well stop on a two-lane road, so I headed off-road. My little Honda isn’t made for dirt roads, but only hicks and construction workers buy trucks in Florida, where the biggest hills are speed bumps.
I drove maybe a hundred yards on the little road, six-foot-high grass on either side, when I came to a dead end. A sort of cul-de-sac in the field. I turned off the engine, took my cell phone from the cup holder, and said a word I canâ€™t say on-air.
I had planned to at least let someone know where I was, and say something like “If I don’t call you back in five minutes call the police,” but I saw I had no cell phone reception whatsoever. I repeated the epithet a few more times. It helped very little.
I started the car again, frustrated to have come this far only to chicken out at the last second. My retreat would have to wait, however, because the fat man was standing beside my window.
After barely containing my bladder, I spoke to him. The window was up, but I figured he could hear me well enough.
“You scared me.”
I heard two responses; one was in another language, and one said “I am from the future.” My first thought, no lie, was that there must be a lot of fatty food in the future. The English was coming from a hidden speaker on his person somewhere, and the foreign language was what his lips were saying.
“Okay,” I said, still intent on acting cool.
“I will use your broadcast,” he added. “You will tell the world about me, and what I will show you.”
You mean Tampa, I thought, but didn’t say. I didn’t want to say yes or no to his little proposal yet, either; for all I knew he had a gun hidden under one of those folds. “What are you gonna show me?”
“First, proof that I am from the future. I am the only one to ever come from the future, correct?”
I wanted to make a joke to ease my nerves. Say something like “Jimi Hendrix was way ahead of his time,” but I couldn’t. “Yeah,” I said, conceding for the moment that he really was what he said. “Why is that?” I added.
“What do you mean?”
“Why hasn’t anyone else done it before you?”
“Because it’s very difficult to do. It takes a lot of energy.”
Now, I’m not sure why I kept asking questions — I suppose I was trying to gain some ground, put him on the defensive. Looking back, I think it was a reaction to being nervous for the first time in years — being a radio personality had given me enough faux confidence to be able to chat with supermodels without breaking a sweat.
“How much energy?” I prodded.
He seemed to think about it for a moment, deciding whether I really wanted a figure in gigajoules, or just a rough estimate.
“I destroyed a star,” he said, his translator’s tone blaisÃ©. It took me a second to see that he was giving me an answer — it took one star destruction’s worth of energy to travel through time. So, yeah, a lot.
The previous vanishing trick aside, I was now gaining confidence that I was simply dealing with a run-of-the-mill nutcase. But he hadn’t shown any belligerency, and didn’t seem threatening. I was sure I could outrun him if it came to it. I was fairly certain I could outwalk him, for that matter.
“Wow,” I said casually. “Why?”
“Mankind’s technology curve is too slow,” he said. “Thirty thousand years from now, we won’t be prepared for war, and we will be decimated.”
Hate to break it to you, pal, but we’re barely getting used to the idea of doing stuff for our grandkidsâ€™ sake a hundred years from now. Earth Day and recycling already test our patience. (I didn’t say that.)
“So what do you wanna do?”
“I will show advances in technology to the world, but they must not be used to perpetuate war among mankind.”
I laughed out loud at that one. “Should we just make them promise to be good?”
His translator seemed to put an edge on his voice; he probably understood being laughed at wasn’t a good sign. “Much of the reason for war will be null with the science I will show you.”