We would be perfectly justified in going on the right hand side if (a) we knew that the rule was to go on the left hand side, and (b) we were in a country peopled by super-anarchists who always on principle did the opposite of what they were told.
THE TIME TRAVEL DIARIES
Foreward: I wrote this journal about all the things that happened to me, away from the Mardi. I wanted to keep a record, just so I could tell someone about it when I got back, and if I got back. For a while I didn’t think I would. Thankfully, I can sit at my desk, in my little bunkroom, and sort out the mess of the past three weeks. Here is most of my first entry, which was written on the backs of pamphlets with a stolen biro.
None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t been tinkering with the time machine. I only wanted it to work, I didn’t want to use it. Ok, maybe I wanted to use it. I have a problem.
As the weeks and weeks since my last time travel began adding up, I started to feel restless, and distracted. Like I could only concentrate so well on things, like I couldn’t really focus on what people were asking me to do. Like there was something missing. I knew the machine was broken, and I knew I couldn’t fix it, and even if I could, that I shouldn’t. But still something nagged at the back of my mind, and lured me to the Engine Room on sleepless nights. I couldn’t think about anything else, or anyone else. All I thought about was the machine, and the feeling of flying through space and time to some other place.
So I began fiddling with the wiring, unscrewing and replacing. I had no idea what I was doing, but I got these feelings, like hunches, or like that game you play where you close your eyes and try to find something, and someone says ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ depending on how close you get. It started piecing together.
On the night of the Atom Band gig, I was meant to be on tech support, but I was late. I was in the Engine Room again, lost in the zone and by the time I realized the gig had started, I had to run down to the Basement to watch. I watched the first couple of songs, and the sound hit me. For the first time in weeks I felt like I was in the present, and the haze had lifted a little. What had I been doing all this time? I couldn’t even remember anything I’d done yesterday, or the day before…
The band started the third song, and suddenly everything slowed and the only sound I could hear was like something being pulled through a rubber tube. I could feel a pulling on my insides like I was being inverted.
I tried to close my eyes, but I wasn’t even sure I had eyes anymore. It felt like everything was wrong, and my body was being twisted and transposed into particles, or liquid, or… things I couldn’t explain.
The sound came rushing back to my ears, and the world grew in front of me. And then I was sitting, my self again, on a dusty road. The sun beat down and I could breathe again. The road led on down a hill I was apparently sitting on, to a town below where I could make out people, pulling carts and tools around with them. It looked like a mining town.
The Time Machine was beside me, unsurprisingly, looking as dead and broken as before. ‘What the crap…’ I muttered to myself, rubbing my eyes. This must be my fault, but how? I wasn’t even touching the machine when I was pulled all the way out-
It was like an electronic buzz in my head, behind my eyes, sounding out the words. And then, all on its own, the machine fired up, crackling and flickering dangerously.
‘Erm…hello? Did you just…’
##Yes, this is my voice, and I am the Time Machine.
‘Great, just great. Well, I guess you know a bit more about what’s going on than I do. I shouldn’t really be surprised, should I?’
##Not really. I will tell you everything now.
##While you were playing with my circuits, you-
##Quiet, I don’t know how much time we have. And I don’t get it.
‘Hahaha, ok, I’ll shush. Hehe.’
##While you were tinkering, you short circuited me. But instead of destroying my components, it jolted me back into consciousness. I used to be conscious, in another world, but in yours I have always been solely mechanical. I think it might have been when you tried to hook me up to the ship’s electronic system, and somehow the power that Niko uses combined with my own.
Do you see that town below us? It is the town of Trent. It is where I was made, or at least my raw materials were. We are on another timeline, in another time. During the late 1800’s in your world, a company named Helia discovered, through some accident or person, how to time travel. The people who did it only ever arrived in one place, and that was this town.
It wasn’t a town when they started coming here, it was a lush green world of woods and growth. The native people were living, as they thought, primitively. They started communicating with them, and realized why they kept arriving here. The minerals beneath the earth had the property of allowing time travel. Somehow, it was calling travelers to it.
The natives warned against touching or using the mineral for their own personal use, but the Helia travelers paid them no heed. All they could see, in this world, was money.
They began to bring mining machinery and built a town around the deposit. They exploited the people there by making them work and paying them in alcohol, which apparently didn’t exist on their world, and so they’d never tasted it before.
The mineral was hard to mine and ultimately poisonous to human touch in its raw state. A lot was needed to build a time machine, and they only ended up building 200 before this world was ruined. The people were all dead from work and drink, or dying from the poison. The sky had turned permanently grey, and what once used to be lush green fields was now wilted, dead and dusty. The people from your world had never understood this world, and the physical connection it’d had with the people living in it. The earth had felt its people dying and so it had died too, from sadness.
Helia didn’t care. Once they’d mined as much as they could, they got their top scientists to create the Time Machines, which could allow you to travel to places and times of your choosing. They sold their time machines for ridiculous prices to royalty and the extremely rich. They lived the rest of their lives like J.K. Rowling.
For a couple of generations, everyone who had a time machine was greedy and didn’t want anyone to steal it, so they didn’t tell each other or the world about the machines, only using them to get richer and exploit more people on different worlds for their own benefit.
One day, a young prince named Saleh was tending to his father, on his deathbed. The King told everyone to leave the room, and explained to Saleh that he had a Time Machine, and where the Time Machine was and how to use it. He told him how to use it to exploit people on other worlds, in other dimensions, who had never seen technology and how to use them for whatever resources they had. Saleh nodded and nodded, and his father died happily knowing his line would continue as important and rich.
Little did he know, Saleh was secretly an anarchist who had been writing these books that all the kingdom were reading, called ‘Don’t You Fuuuucking Tell Me How To Live My Life’. The King had tried a hundred times to have the writer found and killed, to have the books banned, but somehow he never caught the author, and somehow people obtained copies. They were more popular than ever.
As soon as Saleh became King, and to the dismay of the rest of his family, he opened the palace gates and abolished all kinds of Monarchy and Government. But rather than plunge into chaos and poverty, all his people had read his book, and knew what a good and just person he was. They all decided they would live harmoniously with one another, never letting anyone go hungry or be exploited. A few businessmen and gang leaders objected, but they soon found something strange – their threats were being ignored, and their attempts to put other people in their debt were met with loving but firm silent treatment. With hardly anyone left supporting them, most left their lives of crime and hate, and started anew, and everyone welcomed them. The last few who really couldn’t bear it, left for other cities where their ways would have some affect. But they were really only a few.
Since Saleh had also abolished private property, he felt bad about keeping the time machine a secret. So he set up a house, which turned into a kind of space, where anyone and everyone could use the time machine, meet other people who were into time travel, and also just hang out. Over the years, its reputation grew and grew as the other people with time machines, and people who for other reasons entirely unknown could also time travel, knew it as the place where they could congregate. They built a basement downstairs, and turned that into a bar at night time where everyone could party on, time travel style.
And that’s the story of how time travelling became available to the masses.
‘So how come everyone doesn’t know about it?’ I asked.
##Well, everyone on your world doesn’t know about it. Saleh’s world is a little different. We went there, remember? To the time traveller’s convention.
‘I remember. Actually, that makes a lot of sense. That world was the most fun, and the most beautiful, and everyone was the nicest.’
##Yeah, most everyone agrees that world is fucking rad. Your world is ok, it’s got a lot of problems. If you think about it, it makes sense that the public don’t know about time travel. They know of the idea of it, but they think of it as fantasy and escapism. Most people wouldn’t believe you if you told them about it.
‘Yeah true. Anyways. Is this the mine where they mined the time travel metal? And made you?’
##Yep. It’s kind of my birthplace, although a sad one. You can’t change anything though.
##I won’t show you how it turned out, you already know that. You should just remember it this way.
I feel that sickenin pulling again, and know where going somewhere else. Time travelling usually doesn’t feel anything like this, and it feels like dragging rather than jumping. When it stops, we’re in the snow somewhere, and it’s very still. I’m wearing pretty warm clothes from our recent Antarctica stint, but I’m still a bit cold.
‘What are we doing he – ’
A huge bear rears up in front of me, and lunges for me. I lift my arms up to my head in instinctual reaction, but before I feel the weight and teeth I am sucked back to another place, where there are buildings and people all walking quickly, and above the sky is full of machines flying past –
And then I am lying in a field with rolling hills around and slightly startled cows mooing nearby. I take a minute before I speak, incase we travel again.
‘What the fuck? Was that a fucking bear?’
##I’m sorry. My wiring’s all messed up and I feel like I’m glitching. I have no control over when and where we’re going.
‘Well how are we going to get back? And I thought you took me to that mining place on purpose?’
##No, that was an accident too. Maybe my programming sensed something…I don’t know. I was drawn there.
I could see a town in the distance. ‘Ok, well do you feel like you’re going to jump again?’
##I really have no idea.
We sit there for half an hour, maybe a bit less, before deciding that we’d take a chance and walk into the town we can see. It’s getting towards late afternoon and I figure maybe we could find somewhere to sleep, or at least meet some people. I strap the machine onto my back and start walking.
‘So do you have a name, like Niko does?’
##Yes. My name is Charlie Kaufman.
##Just kidding. I’ve had many names. You can choose one for me, I don’t really care.
‘Ok…Charlie it is.’