Dispatches from the wilds of Proseambique – Knots

You learn to fold time on itself, bending it like a reed, twisting and tangling it for your own amusement. But the past cannot be changed, so you satisfy your curiousities and soon tire of it – when you can skip all the boring bits, the history of civilisation is short indeed.

And so with that uniquely human skill of making the extraordinary mundane, you settle back into a life of routine, passing your days not all that differently than you did before.

Except that you tie your life into knots, flitting around as you see fit – visiting winter from the balmy height of summer, enjoying spring days from the coldest depths of winter, thwarting the cliff-hangers of your favourite shows, skipping from end-credits to sequels in a heartbeat, unbeholden to publication dates, release dates, the intractable rotation of the firmament.

And when you are hungover, you are visited by yourself, and they cook you breakfast and rub your shoulders. And on days when you have nothing to do, you visit yourself on a day when you had nothing to do and amuse yourself.

And your life may be uneventful, but it is satisfying and pleasant and you are happy. What more is there than that?

Published in: on September 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dispatches from the wilds of Proseambique – Soak

The man who ran to the end of the Earth

All know of Archimedes, of course, and what he found in the bath – but Archimedes is not the only brilliant man to ever live, nor the only one to ever take a bath. This, then, is the story of another such brilliant bather.

It came to pass one day that this man, having finished his bath, noticed that a great deal of time had passed while he bathed – it was as though time had slowed for him, whilst it continued to rush by like a surging torrent in the world around him.

Many have noticed this of course, but few ever think much of it. This man, however, was an inquisitive sort, and set out to understand it better. He set up timepieces and took bath after bath, carefully testing different temperatures, and types of bath, and soaps, and bath salts, and everything he could think of.

And lo and behold, he discovered that time did indeed pass more slowly within a bath. Try though he might, he could not explain this with science or mathematics, but it was an unquestionable truth that time in his bathtub passed slower than it did in the outside world.

This startling revelation was just the first step on a journey that would take him to the end of the world.

For if time passes slower when one is in a bath, what happens when one is in a bath that is itself in a bath? Setting his inquisitive mind to the task, he discovered that this made time pass even more slowly – and so on for each successive bath-within-a-bath. But there were constraints to this; the water within each tub must be of a perfectly warm temperature, or else it would not work.

So the man built a set of dozens and dozens of baths, each just a little larger than the next, one resting inside the next, like a collection of nesting dolls. To these he connected a great and complex machine that heated the water that filled each bath, and kept it warm, and around all this he built a great iron shell that would protect the baths and the machine  and himself from the ravages of time.

And in this great bath-chamber he intended to visit the future. And so he held a dinner, and bade fond farewell to all his friends and loved ones, who he would never see again, for he knew of no way to reverse the flow of time (an experiment with cold showers had proven that he could slow time significantly, but not stop it in its tracks, nor send it back from whence it came.) but he accepted this price, for he was an inquisitive soul, and was eager to see the wonders of the future.

And when he had fare-welled all whom he loved, he entered his great iron chamber, and sealed the door, and set the heating machine to work. And when all the tubs were filled with hot (but not overly so) water, he clambered in to the innermost tub, and turned over his minute-glass, and when all the grains of sand had fallen, reluctantly pulled himself from the warm water. Although only a minute had passed for him, when he opened the door to his chamber, true to his calculations, he found the world a century older than he had left it.

And there, waiting for him, were the great-great-grandchildren of his friends, for they had told their children of the man travelling in the great iron chamber, who had told their children, and so on, and so they had come to greet him on his arrival. And they showed him the world, and he saw the tombs of his long-dead friends, and was sad, and he saw all the beautiful and wondrous things that had been created in the meantime, and he was pleased, and for a time he explored this wondrous future, and delighted in it, but soon his curiosity grew once more, and he could not help but wonder what another century might bring, and so once again he bade farewell to his new friends, the great-great-grandchildren, and sealed himself within his chamber, and climbed into his tub, and a minute later once more reluctantly pulled himself from the warm embrace of the water and opened the door to a strange new world. And once again he was greeted, this time by the great-great-grandchildren of the great-great-grandchildren of his friends.

And again they showed him all that had changed, and he saw much that pleased him, for life had become easier, and many beautiful works of art and literature had been created, and the families of his friends had grown and prospered, and he was happy. And so he lived there for a time, but eventually he found the itch of curiosity grew stronger and stronger, and soon enough he sealed himself once more within his creation, and dipped once more into its warm waters.

And when he emerged once more, the great-great-grandchildren of the great-great-grandchildren of the great-great-grandchildren of his friends were waiting for him, for the story of his travels had continued to be passed down through the generations, and they welcomed him like family, and showed him all the new wonders of the world.

And truly, things were greater and more wondrous than they had ever been. And the families of what had once been a collection of just a dozen friends had grown to the size of an entire town, and the stories of their lives and their happiness filled him with great joy. And the town in which he lived had grown into a great city, with vast glittering spires that reached towards the heavens, and for a time he was happy there.

But soon enough curiosity drove him once more into his chamber, where he stoked the fires of his mighty machine and slipped once more into his great bath, and as he lay back in the warm, comforting embrace of the waters in the dark, silent chamber he felt a calm slipping over him, and his eyelids drooped, and he fell into a slumber that lasted ten-thousand years.

When he woke in the darkness, he knew not how much time had passed, but he felt the wrinkles upon his fingertips with a great shock, and knew that it had been a long time indeed. He clambered out of the bath, and dried himself, and with a great heave he forced the door open, which was quite stuck, for time had not been kind to its hinges, and it had been a long time since the descendants of his friends had come to oil them, and when he stepped outside he beheld a vast desert that stretched endlessly in all directions. The great and magnificent city that had once stood there was completely gone, and there was nought but sun-baked sand as far as the eye could see.

And so he walked for days, until he came to the mountains, and he climbed them, higher and higher and higher, until at the very peak he beheld as much of the world as the human eye can ever hope to see, and he saw that in all directions there was nought but featureless desert, stretching in all directions, and his mighty time-chamber was but a tiny black speck in that sand, the only sign of humanity at all.

And so he scrambled back down the mountain, and he trudged back through the hot sand to his chamber, and the sun beat down mercilessly on him, and his feet burned, and his throat parched, and his eyes stung, and when he stumbled through the door of the chamber into the shadows, he felt as though the very life had been dried out from him. And he dragged his weary body to the tub, and he drank.

And he drank, and he drank.

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dispatches from the wilds of Proseambique – Narcissus

His irises contract to burning pin-pricks of rage and fear. His dying scream bursts up at me, an explosion of bubbles filled with fury and desperation. He thrashes like eels making love. Furious love. Self-destructive, end of the world, break-up-sex love. I feel the tension in his neck, the ebbing of his pulse beneath my hands. As his heart stops beating I become aware of mine, pounding like artillery in my head. His eyes, finally, go dull.

I realise I’ve been holding my breath, as though from some reflexive sympathy. I exhale an explosion. It’s as if my lungs want to throw up at what I’ve just done. They’re not alone. I collapse into the water, sitting beside his floating body. They say most people drown in water less than three feet deep. As my head stops spinning, the metaphysics of it starts to swirl through my mind. Is this murder, or suicide? Is it either, if I’m still alive afterwards?

Contrary to what you may believe, the past cannot be changed, even with time travel. Oh, you can try, but all you really do is cross over into a parallel universe – one that bursts into existence the moment you step back; one where your presence in the past, and the change you made, are simply how it always was. This seems like a trivial distinction – the sort of thing that doesn’t really concern you while you’re designing flux capacitors and growing miniature black-holes in your basement. It’s only when you return to the present that you realise what it really means. You haven’t changed your reality; you’ve side-stepped into another one. One where you never needed to travel back in time. One where you’re surprised, one day, to hear your front door open and find another you walking into your perfect life. Because that’s what you have to do, if you want to keep the change for yourself; you have to walk into this other self’s life.

Disposing of a body is difficult, but it’s made easier by the fact that no-one will ever be looking for it. You’re home and showered just in time. You look up from the book you’re pretending to read as you hear the door open, and smile as she walks back into your life.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 3:55 pm  Comments (5)  
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