"The present is the point at which time touches eternity"
The Professor stepped in, and the door closed behind him. He lay down on the padded bed in the extremely cramped room, face down on the raised pillow, and thought for twenty three seconds:
Why should anyone be scared to do this? It was something humankind had dreamed of for so long, and now it was possible. It was incredible! The potential was daunting.... So, there was a risk involved, but if it had worked with monkeys, why not a person? He knew he should either feel ecstatic or petrified, but he felt - well... overwhelmed. All that work, all that training, all that research, and he was finally there.
His twenty-three seconds were up. He fell immediately unconscious.
He dreamt. His dream was of a dragon, hiding in a cave, high up on the mountains that every man wanted to scale, but no man dared to try. There was a knight. The knight wanted to go up the mountain. He persisted in his attempts to climb it. He tried for days, weeks, years, lifetimes, while others only imagined trying. Until eventually he succeeded. He found the dragon. He saw what no man had seen before. Then it turned into a nightmare. The knight tripped on the tail of the dragon.
The Professor woke up with a jolt. He had some vague recollections of a dragon burping. He cleared his head and remembered where he must be. Not another place, but...
Back at the laboratory, lots of scientists with horn-rimmed glasses jumped about joyously as though they had just discovered a new element. Their shuttle had successfully reached the Speed of Time without any hitches. They had sent a Human through time.
They cheered twice as much when, two minutes later, the shuttle returned, slightly blacker, and with some scratch marks from the Ďlumeric boomí, but otherwise undamaged. One of the scientists donned a mask and started laser-cutting the door back open. The room fell to a suspenseful hush. Would the Professor come out alive? What had he seen? So many questions to be asked! So many theories to be quenched!
The door creaked. The fizz of the cutter stopped. The molten metal hardened, disfigured. The door fell slowly open, to reveal a crouched figure behind it. The figure stepped forward out of the shadows and straightened itself up.
The Professor had a haggard look on his face. The scientists looked worried. The edge of the Professorís mouth twitched. He smiled.
An uproarious cheer arose from the small crowd, and the Professor was asked hundreds of prepared questions, all at once. The room filled with a sense of victory, of achievement.
They had done it.
They had defeated Father Time.
The Professor had to do it again. By this time, sending people to the past was a regular fixture on their schedule. Every quarter, or whenever they could afford it, they sent another scientist through the time barrier. He wanted to see the past again.
At the moment, they had only been going to one place. A place in what is now Israel, which they knew was uninhabited. It was one of the few places which had a long enough stretch for the shuttle to get up the speed it needed to return.
Of course, once in the past, no-one was allowed to leave the shuttle for fear of a paradox - which could be disastrous; but the cameras on the shuttle were quickly upgraded and developed so the image of the outdoors was greatly enhanced. And the images from the actual journey through time became known world-wide, often used as a commercial logo. As common as the picture of the Globe from outer space. All it was was a ride through lots and lots of days in order or reverse order, depending on which way you were going. It was known as the Time Animation.
The Professorís mind searched through the last two years. How he had risen to fame and then become merely yet another historical name, not attached to a face. All the spin-offs from his original journey through time flattered him, but he wanted more. The feeling of being in the same world but a different dimension was something that he cherished too much to let go forever. He could not leave it to rest as a mere memory.
He wanted his second journey to be the last thing he ever did. He would do something outrageously risky so he could sacrifice his life for the benefit of science. For example, people may want to know if time could be changed. He could exit the shuttle after the trip and change something. Nothing would go wrong, he thought, because Fate had already made the present turn out like this. It was set; unalterable. But he thought he had better not. If a paradox is as bad as itís meant to be... he couldnít risk harming others.
He would go to the future. They had postponed that because the risk was too great due to some abstract technical difficulty. Thatís it: the future! Why should he live in the present for the rest of his life? Why live today? He would go to the tomorrow that never comes!
The scientists waved goodbye to the Professor as he entered the capsule again. This time there were no cheers, a smaller group, less anticipation. They were sending him to the past. Boring routine. The first man to go through time twice. No adverse effects so far...
They didnít know he had altered the program. A very simple alteration, so simple it would not be noticed. They hadnít allowed him to go to the future, so he would make them do it. He had reversed the process. He made the computer think it should be sending him forwards then backwards instead of the other way around. Thatís the wonderful thing about a world controlled by computers: they are so easy to manipulate. The change was so obvious it was overlooked.
He launched. With a smile on his face.
An old man in his nineties sat atop a mountain on his electronic rocking chair in his old-fashioned wooden house, surveying the domed cityscape below him. He watched as a flying car hummed by. He listened absently as the news on the holovision announced that a man suspended in cryogenics since the 20th century had been released.
He held a book about the first time traveller. He looked at it with a smile of satisfaction on his lips. And laughed!
"Time wastes our bodies and our wits, but we waste time so weíre quits"
About the Author, in his own words: I am Charles Sundt. I am a 17 year-old, currently suffering my A-level years at Reigate Grammar School in Surrey (England). My GCSE results lived up to my expectations, thank you very much. I am vastly intelligent, and therefore cynical and slightly insane; as well as being unsurpassably modest. One of my favourite pastimes is writing (and occassionally reading) fiction. Which there isn't enough of on the Net.
Charles has a website featuring his and other writers works: Charles Sundt's Fiction on the Web
Return to the Aphelion main page.