May 25, 2009

When you find out you’re going to be the guy to go back into the past with a critical piece of information, you think about it, and you think about it like you think you would. That harried-yet-determined thing that all guys who show up and say “I’m from the future, and I’m here to…” seem to have doesn’t come naturally. No one is just like that, especially not us, most of us are scientists and technicians and things and not given to be overtly theatrical, but it’s not just a movie convention, you do have to be very forceful and commanding and burst in with steam trailing behind you and simultaneously convey that you are not lying or kidding, you really are from the future, and take charge right away. For complex reasons I won’t go into here they almost always have to send you back to right before the thing you are trying to prevent with your actions or critical piece of information happens. Logically, you’d think you’d want time to sort of settle into the past and establish your credibility as a guy from the future and THEN prevent the thing you need to prevent, but it doesn’t work that way. You’re almost always thrust headlong into rapidly unfolding events, and there isn’t much time to prove your time-traveller status with shows of advanced future-tech or things like that, you kind of have to do it all with your voice and your eyes and maybe MAYBE the quasi-futuristic cut of your clothing, though honestly we aren’t typically going back to times where the fashion is all that different. One of my co-workers likes to wear a bandolier of large bullets to send a “I came from a post-apocalyptic wasteland” signal, but it’s really just for show and in actuality it’s sort of deceitful because we aren’t in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, largely thanks to our pastwork.

So when I got drawn to do my first jump, I really psyched myself up. I am the absolute opposite of take-charge so I really had to work myself into a pre-jump frenzy hoping I would hit the past at a real high point, really adrenal and high-strung. It wasn’t enough that I was making my first actual jump, it really wasn’t: I had nerves but not the kind that make you hyperactive or particularly effective. I wished that I could make a running start from here in the present then into the rift and back to the target moment, I wished that you didn’t have to be standing entirely still lest your very being be separated from the timestream and scattered among infinite dimensions. I drank like four cups of coffee. I actually slapped myself. As I stood in the chamber and blue streams of light enmeshed me my last thought in the present was “Shit, my mouth is really dry,” and my first thought in the past was “I should not be thinking about how thirsty I am, I should be charging bullishly into that cloning facility, and I should be shouting all the things we rehearsed,” and I started to do that, and by the time I had my legs underneath me and I was about to hit the double doors I felt like I really had something going, I could really do this, I do not need any futuristic gun props, I will do a lot with posture and emphatic gestures and repetitions of the admittedly too-cutely-ironic phrase “THERE ISN’T TIME!” And that is why when I went through the doors and there before the glowing cloning vats the scientist was standing already being addressed by one of my co-workers, Evan, not the bandolier guy but still not my favorite guy in the office, I was pissed and frustrated and bummed out. I had really worked myself up into something and Evan was already halfway through the same spiel I was about to give, actually doing such a transfixing job that the scientist never turned around when I came in. And when he, the scientist said, “My God, you’re right,” and walked dramatically towards one of the cloning vats Evan looked at me and made a slashing motion across his throat with his right hand, I was doubly pissed because yeah, Evan, I know, I wasn’t going to break the moment, we’ll figure this out later, and I backed out of the doors again very quietly and slumped against the wall in the hallway and reached into my pocket and pressed the little button on the remote that sends a signal rippling through the fabric of spacetime to let my co-workers know that I’m ready to be recalled. I knew I was supposed to stand completely, almost impossibly still but I couldn’t help making my lips move and form the words “Fuck, shit, fucking Evan.” And I thought how sad it would be if I got scattered across all dimensions just because I wanted to swear at Evan under my breath but I had all that energy at that moment and no place for it to go. It turned out to be a paperwork thing. Found that out after I got back to the present and I went and peed for like twenty minutes.

Posted by DC at May 25, 2009 09:46 AM
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