Wednesday, March 29, 2017
My time traveler
I've always been a fan of time travel stories, but I never thought it was possible outside of books or movies. There are just too many logical problems with the process. But one morning recently, to my surprise and delight, as I came downstairs in my house a box blinked into existence before my foggy eyes. As I approached the mysterious box a man popped into existence as well. He was old, with a faint air of oddness and exoticism and an alarming frizz of silvery hair coming out of his ears. He looked delighted to see me.
"Hi, I'm from the future." He exclaimed. "Love the blog" He stuck out a wrinkly, gnarled hand that looked like the root system of a tree growing in rocky ground.
"Really?" I replied, shaking the hand. "What blog posts in particular are you keen on?"
"You don't want to know about the future?"
"Oh, sure." I said. "What ends up happening with my blog in the future?"
"I can't tell you." He replied chuckling. Apparently I'd done something humorous.
"Is this one of those time travel conceits where you have to follow a bunch of convenient rules?" I asked.
He gave me a sideways look. "Not exactly. It's like, no one agrees to stay on the planet and not just spin off into space. It's spontaneously enforced, you know, by gravity."
I nodded at him to proceed.
"All right." He said. Then, surprised by something, he held up his hand for a time out. He hacked up some phlegm for awhile, then, unphased, continued. "So it turns out that time travel, while possible, is super finicky. We can travel to the past, but the course of history is unchangeable. If you try to change it it won't let you. You can go back into the past and do things, see stuff, talk to people, but if anything you do has any kind of ripple effect on the future it simply won't happen."
"I don't understand. How does it "not happen"?"
"On the big scale, the time machine simply doesn't work most of the time. If someone wants to go back for the wrong reasons, or to the wrong place or time, as far as changing history is concerned, then the time machine simply won't work. At least that's the theory. But it's a pretty sound one. And if someone does go back and starts to say or do the wrong thing, like if I told you an essential future event, I'd pop back to the future before I could do it. In fact, that's how my return trip works. The time machine only goes backwards. I go back to my present simply by trying to change the past on purpose. Neat, huh?"
"I guess." I said hesitantly. "So what brings you to me?"
"My blog?" I asked. "Does it get important and famous?"
"Who knows?" He said. "Well I do, but I'd probably disappear if I tried to tell you. And you have to take anything a time traveler says with a grain of salt anyway. A person can't stay in the past for more than two seconds without learning to get cagey about the truth."
"So, my blog..." I encouraged.
"Right. Well, sometimes there are loops." The time traveler said.
"Yeah. So sometimes there are incidences where it is clear in the future that something in the past had to have been affected by time travel. If that's true then it is possible to go back in time and make it happen."
"Weird." I said. "So is that happening now?"
He put a finger against his knobby nose, tapped, and nodded. "You write a lot of blog posts where you do these interviews with people that you couldn't have done without using a time machine."
"But are you sure I didn't just make them up?" I asked. "It totally sounds like something I'd make up."
"Well, I'm here, so, oddly, that kind of seals it." He said.
"But what if you didn't come? Why did you come? What about free will?" I asked, confused by all these issues at once.
He shook his head in a bemused way that reminded me alarmingly of myself. "I think the sad thing about time travel is that it's no different from any other exciting new technology, like the Internet. It seems miraculous. It is miraculous. But it ends up solving nothing. It provides no real answers to anything important. And it's only just barely entertaining enough to be irresistible."
"Aren't you a ray of sunshine." I said smiling. I rather liked him.
"Chip off the old block." He replied grinning. Then he vanished, with a slightly surprised look, into thin air.
But the box was still there. It had a nice stocking cap in it. You could type instructions in the inside of it, on an odd sort of mini cloth keyboard, like where and/or when and/or to whom to go to. Then you put the hat on and it takes you there, sort of. It weirdly interprets your inputs a good deal of the time. And actually it only works at all like once out of every hundred times. I think I'm supposed to interview celebrities in it.
So far I've only managed to get to Shakespeare.
I could barely understand him. He didn't seem to much appreciate the blog posts I gave him to read. But I may have misread his body language.