1. Postmodern Chemistry: Time-Altering Compounds

William was always very intrigued by the idea of time travel.  More accurately, it was the very concept of time itself that bamboozled him.  The only time travel William had ever done was traveling forward through time at one second per one second (time’s most traditional speed, known as 1s/1s), the very rate that was set forth by the very existence of time, as devised by the relationship between the sun and the earth and the certain being of both said giant star and inhabitable planet.

Etcetera.

William is a graduate student in biochemistry.  He and two other students, Thomas and Adrian, are experimenting with certain compounds that interact with time, specifically tri-hydroglobin and deoxyribonucleic sulphur.  The former, when injected into the blood of a test subject, allows the subject to break free from time in its most traditional sense of motion, and travel at its own speed.

“But the speed in this sense is still 1s/1s,” William notes.

“Not necessarily,” replies Thomas.  “The speed of time here is more accurately one moment per one moment, which we will refer to as 1m/1m, naturally” (See Fig. A).

Thomas begins writing on the white board.  Adrian scratches his head.

In a glass cage on their lab table are two rats, each of which has been injected with tri-hydroglobin (H3gb), and each of which is experiencing time at a rate of 1m/1m.

Thomas continues, “What we are watching here are two rats, living random moments of their life in no particular sequential order.  One moment they are enjoying the comfort of a clean cage- which hasn’t been cleaned for weeks, may I remind you- the next moment they are enjoying a meal, which they may have eaten months ago.”

One of the rats sniffs itself.  The other eats a carrot.

“Valid observation, Tommy,” adds Adrian.  “However, we have not known these rats for long, and we do not know what moment they may be living or when it may have taken place.”

“True, my friend,” says Thomas.  “But that is because they are living this moment, with us observing them, as they do on their own account.  Unlike these rats, the three of us are permanent in time and live at a rate of time that is out of our control.  These rats can jump to any moment and return to this one at their own pace, thanks to H3gb.”

There is a moment of silence.  One of the rats sniffs itself.

The latter of the two time-altering compounds is deoxyribonucleic sulphur (DRNS), and is a very unstable compound.  It can only be contained at temperatures between 60 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.  At first, this compound appears to have no actual effect on time, but that is because the effects of DRNS are to actually erase time completely from the moment it is raised past the designated temperature.  These effects have only been discussed by scholars in theory, but never actually proven.

A piece of solidified DRNS sits motionless in the containment chamber.  As Thomas raises the temperature of the chamber above 82°F, time is erased.  And so it appears as if he cannot raise the temperature at all, because the DRNS continues to erase time circularly until they decide to call it quits.

“No luck again with the sulphur,” says Adrian.

“Or,” rebuts Thomas, tapping his forehead, “great luck.”

2. Accidental Time Travel

Several days later, something very intriguing happened to William.  Perhaps it was due to an overexposure to H3gb and DRNS, or perhaps it was because the locker he was re-assigned to when he forgot his lock combination contained a wormhole bridging nearly all of spacetime.

(William would later find out that this wormhole is referred to in the year 12,540 A.D. as a Hexa-Peripheral TimeSlap Reversal.  This means that William would be dropped in six different random points in space backwards through time for a few minutes at a time.)

Unfortunately for William (and for you, the reader), none of these points in time were exceptionally outstanding or worthy of much narration, so I’ve made a brief graph of William’s travel through spacetime instead (see Fig. B).

3. “TimeStop”

However, of very much interest to all was William’s final leap in time.  This particular time-jolt was so far backwards, that somewhere in his nanosecond subspace travel, the throat of his wormhole connected to the oesophagus of another, more commanding wormhole­­­­- one that operated outside of time- one that had been created in the year 8994 by scientists that finally learned to manipulate time as if folding two points together on a student’s 8th grade timeline assignment.

This second, man-made wormhole carried William to the year 12,540 A.D. and gently placed him in a chair at the dining room table of what looked like his house circa 2009.  At the opposite end of the table was some form of a man, wearing a suit and tie (courtesy of Ralph Lauren, 2037), with the neck and head of a giraffe.

“William,” said the giraffe.  “We were expecting you.”

William opened his mouth, but only a small cloud of dust emerged.

“Allow me to explain.  My name is Ne.  Your TimeSlap has taken you so far backwards, that you have arrived here, in the year 12,540 c.e., the final stop in your Hexa-Peripheral, which is also ironically the final point in Time.  I’m a trained expert in history and twenty-first century English, so I am here to introduce you to 12,540, something we refer to as ‘TimeStop.’  Naturally, William, I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

William was suddenly excited and terrified.  He felt like a computer from 1984 trying to run Windows 7.  Finally, his brain stopped on the words: “How did you know I would end here?”

Ne explained, “You are not the first to stumble upon this wrinkle in time.  TimeSlaps became quite common in the sixty-third century, which lead to much revolutionary research.  Being the official TimeStop Initiator is my nine-to-five job, as someone from your time would be, say, a plumber, or an assassin.  How was your TimeSlap, by the way?” Ne asked.

“Surprisingly disappointing, actually.”

“Yeah, we’ve been getting that a lot.  I’ll see if there’s anything we can do about that.”

“What do you mean?  Was this time warp man-made?”

“Not necessarily.  But we have come a long way.  Experiments in time in the late eightieth century allowed for humans to control spacetime.   This was perfected nearly four thousand years ago, around the time of the construction of Third Earth.”

William cleared his throat.  “So people can control time?  Man, I’ve been trying to do that for weeks.”

Ne leaned back in his chair.  “I assure you my friend, we think very differently about time than your kind.  Even your language’s grammar is such a primitive understanding of communication.  Twenty-first century English is such a waste of energy.  I don’t get paid nearly enough for the work this job requires.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly are you?”

“You people always ask that.  I’m exactly what I look like.  But don’t worry; I’m at least sixty percent human.  It’s literally an organic implant of a giraffe’s head on a human’s body, something that is attributable to the one-hundredth century (or C-Century)’s Techno-Organic Revolution, simply known as ‘Grafting.’  I also have wings on my back, but you can’t see those right now.”

“For what purpose exactly?”

“To fly, obviously.”

“No, I mean, the giraffe head.”

“Giraffe’s are the most evolutionarily advanced creatures on nineteen planets.  Do you have any idea how big my heart is?”

William scratched his head.  “Is it… heavy?”

“Are you serious?”

William shrugged.

“Let me show you something.” Ne blinked once.  Suddenly they were no longer in William’s recreated dining room.  They were now on top of some sort of office building in what appeared to be a cubicle among several other, each separated by transparent, light green walls.  There was no roof and in front of them was what seemed to be a solid black sheet of metal, like a desk with no legs suspended in air.  William could see out onto the city: acres of large clusters of black, impenetrable obelisks shooting up over enormous trees.  There were no roads, probably because travel was now by a very different means, and several of the buildings were connected through mazes of sleek black tubes.  The clusters climbed their way to the horizon, disappearing beyond the edge of whatever Earth they were now on.

The image of the city prodded William’s brain for memories of a year 2009 city.  Apart from a lack of roads and vehicles, the city appeared as if it was a mild enhancement of some (now anciently) historical city from a time which William suddenly found himself trying desperately to remember.

“This is where I work,” explained Ne.  “With modern technology, we are able to travel freely through spacetime as we desire.”

“This is your office?  Where’s your computer?” William asked.

“William, you have such a primitive way of thinking.”  Ne grabbed the piece of metal as if it were weightless and raised it to a visible position, as if effortlessly mounting a television to a wall.  An image appeared on the screen that was a solid white line, with two noted points on either end (Fig. C).

Ne explained, “Think of time as a two-dimensional line.  Because it has a beginning, it therefore must have an end, where we are.”

“That actually exactly how I have always pictured time,” William said.

“That’s impossible.  Anyway, time, like all things, is finite.  At the most basic level imaginable, time has not really stopped, as you may have been lead to believe, but instead has been completed. There is nowhere else left in time.  Hence, TimeStop.”

“I think I follow.”

“Good.  You probably won’t understand most of what I will show you, but you need to try to break free of primitive ways of thinking, like ‘mathematics’ and ‘logic’.  Both are so constricting and religious.  Now…”

Ne blinked again and they were taken to a large room, about the size of a high school gym.  All the walls were decorated with what looked like photographs.  Each photograph displayed a different animal, the majority of which were recognizable in the twenty-first century.

“This is j7, where Grafting occurs.”

William looked closely at the pictures and realized each wall was actually some sort of giant computer screen, with what appears to be little or no pixilation.

There was an abrupt sound behind him, like an opera singer being kicked in the gut.  He spun around and saw a man, built like a professional wrestler, who appeared a few years younger than William.

“William, this is Doctor Ich’te.  He’s speaking a modern form of English.  I don’t know if you could make out any of the syllables, but he said, ‘The images are a perfect resolution, one that your primitive eyes do not see.'”

William squinted at the images.  They did appear quite realistic, as if William was looking through several tiny windows to see the actual creatures a hundred yards away.

“We can change that if you like,” Ne said.

“You can change my eyes?”  William touched his eyes gently as if to cover their ears.

Doctor Ich’te let out another sound, this time resembling a car sulking under the weight of one too many passengers, at which Ne chuckled and replied with another sound, like the strings of a piano clattering from a sudden impact.

“Relax,” Ne said.  “It’s a pill.  Humans are perfect now, you should know.  Medicine doesn’t exist anymore.  All life is immune to disease, whether alien or primate.  You do want to live forever, right?  I mean, everyone does in TimeStop.”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.  Is it… mandatory?”

Ich’te said something and then disappeared.

“He’s off to another point in spacetime.  Grafters are busy people these days.”  Ne sized up William.  “You’re how old?  Nearly two centuries?”

“Uh, twenty-one.”

“Oh.  I had no idea people aged so quickly back then.  I assumed people were sustainable three-hundred years or so that long ago.  How long did people live in 2009?”

“Eighty maybe.  Sometimes a hundred.”

“That’s rather sad.  Even robots are infinitely sustainable now.  Microsoft has come a long way in the last millennium.”

“Oh.”

“You sound tentative.”

“It’s just a lot for me to process.  Where am I going to live now?”

“Anywhere you want.  Space is yours to create and discover.  I can take you back to your house for now.  I really would recommend becoming perfect.  Take this with you.”  Ne handed William a small black tablet.  “That tablet contains twenty years worth of sustenance.  It’ll give you some time to think it over.”

“What about my family?”

“We can easily manufacture exact replicas if we get a sample of your DNA.  A single DNA molecule contains your entire family tree timeline, past and future.”

William paused for a second, and then looked around at the bizarre room full of photographs.  He plucked a piece of his hair and handed it to Ne.

Ne said, “Give me a few hours.  Here’s my card.”  He handed William a small clear piece of plastic that read:

Ne
v8.0
72{12f&bc}

“This is your number?” William asked.

“We don’t really use telecommunication the same way you did,” Ne replied.

“A lot of things are apparently not the same, as you’ve made very clear.”

“Here.”  Ne removed a small pamphlet from his jacket pocket.   “This might help.  Some light reading to help you understand our organic merge with machine.  Soon enough, you’ll understand how to call me.”  He tapped his head.  “You already have everything you need.”

“Call me when you want the head of a lion or the jaws of a shark.”

And suddenly, William was home in the year A.D. 12,540.

Copyright (c) 2009 Joshua Nichol.  All rights reserved.

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