THE FUTURE OF LOVE.
By David Stevens.
‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents’. The book slammed down onto the bed clothes with a decisive slap, closely followed by a heart-felt sigh.
Three months ago she ‘had it all’ or so her friends told her, a handsome gallant husband, a large house, servants, in fact everything a young lady of quality could ask for, or expect, and then it had happened!
A cold evening out taking in one of the new plays, the carriage ride home with her new husband, an evening to look forward to snuggled tight in his arms, feeling his passion and knowing that she pleased him. Then she heard the creak, followed by a loud crack and the tilt as the front wheel of their carriage collapsed.
The noise of the driver shouting exploded across the carriage, the horses bolted, snapping the hafts, everything twisting and turning around them, catapulting them both from their seats. The blanket wrapped around her legs against the cold became a binding, pivoting her, his arm around her shoulders torn away forever. The accident happened, an irresistible force which led her to tragedy.
She relived it every night in her nightmares, always she was haunted by the single male cry of pain and then the silence. Dark shrouded voices filtered into her world; there was no pain, no sense of anything more serious than a harsh jolt, followed by a long tumble, how wrong she had been in her understanding, as she lay in the road like a discarded rag-doll.
Her wonderful life as she had known it, her life as she had looked forward to it becoming, of the children she wanted desperately to bear for him. Her husband of a few months all had been removed from her, shattered from her reach, their love ended for all time.
The doctor told her the awful truth, he shook his head, frustrated that there was little he could do for the young, very beautiful lady before him. The paralysis is permanent; she is crippled and will need constant help just to survive. He knows that in time she will catch a cold, that pneumonia will settle on her lungs, and that he can do little or nothing to avert the sad future. Within a year he expected to be signing her death certificate, her life over.
Good and willing as the doctor was, he could not even begin to contemplate the true nature of the life that this woman would have to lead as a bed-ridden cripple. Nor could he conceive of the events and changes in her life that will be in store for her, If an unknown man from a distant time and place can act as he intends.
“Computer. Search through quadrant 3, identify subject, intersperse date relating to personal history, display as projection and mark. Commence.”
“One file located, subject F124344 1800-1890 search.”
“Display file as projection.”
The centre of the room mists for a second, exactly as Researcher 6 expects it to, prior to forming into a three dimensional projection, each created by multiple laser emitters combining to reveal the content of the quadrant 3 data search.
The scene is a dull day, in a cold winter, in the year 1879. Location: German Empire. A single woman stands looking down at a grave stone, holding a bunch of cheap flowers. Not the scene that Researcher 6 had hoped to locate, a quick glance away confirmed the date of nine months after the carriage crash he was tracking. The grave must be the husband involved in the crash, he decides.
“Halt and search previous data.”
The image cleared revealing a newspaper dated March 1879, written in German.
“Translate to Federal.”
The image flickered once then appeared stable and readable to the Researcher.
OBITUARY (November 1878.)
‘Pauline Koch, died of a broken heart after the death of her beloved husband Herman’.
“Cancel. Search all references: list life details in date order from marriage.”
February 1878, Marriage.
Son born March 1879.
Subject Died, November 1878. Subject additional, listed cause of death heartbreak.
Search interruption: ‘paradox detected,’ urgent level one cronoclasm imminent.
The alert had just sounded as the history lab door opened and in walked the Senior Researcher for this institute.
“Cancel all.” The image projections vanished revealing the empty space in to which all such images are projected.
“File, Researcher 6 said. “Open file 2397, hold sequence.” Researcher six turned away from the viewing area, towards the unexpected interruption, his thoughts racing, had he closed her file fast enough and in a casual enough manner not to raise suspicions with Senior Researcher 3? Hopefully he would not have heard the instructions.
“Good morning to you Researcher 6 and what time period are you interested in today?”
“Nothing specific Sir, just running random date transfixes, searching for suitable study information and locations.”
“Very good, let’s hope you don’t discover anything obtrusive to the time flow!” He started to turn as though to leave, before adding.
“Of course if you do, you will remember to report it directly, won’t you?”
The threat behind the words was light, almost nonexistent, but Researcher 6 felt its presence as a sharp barb, digging deep into his flesh. What Researcher 3 would say or do, if he were to discover that just seconds before he had entered the time lab, his junior had not only discovered a flow interruption, but had in fact actioned a condition one cronoclasm alert! A situation in which failure to report would normally never even be considered, but in this case there were other reasons, reasons Researcher 6 would prefer not to disclose as to why, for now at least, he failed to declare the potential.
Once his senior had departed, Researcher 6 closed the hastily opened file and ordered the computer to track back to his original search, but not to declare the potential cronoclasm, it complied as instructed.
February 1878, Marriage.
Son born March 1879
Subject Died, November 1878. Subject additional, listed cause of death heart break.
The reason for the previous alert became obvious, once Researcher 6 looked again at the computer generated history of his subject. According to the data, she gave birth to a son, but also she died four months prior to giving birth! A situation which could not happen! He decided to trace not her death, but a new search subject.
“Search data on child born to subject, present life history in document form.”
The computer proceeded, but it took far longer than any normal search should take, clearly, he thought, there is a vast amount of data to compile. There was; the computer presented page length after page length. Document after document appeared, creating the complete life of the boy who should not be. A quick glance down the endless seeming list, and Researcher 6 realised the importance of the boy, he also realised the simple fact that if life in his own time was to continue, the boy would need to be born. This in turn meant that the woman he had become tantalised by could not be allowed to die.
He desperately wanted her to live, and now he had a real and valid reason to ensure her survival, but how, is the question? He could pass along the time tube and step out in her presence, then perhaps save her, but he would only get one chance, and if he failed then everything would change from that instance onward, becoming irreversible. Mankind and its future would be disastrously damage! He had to make absolutely certain that his interruption could not fail, and that meant only one thing, he would have to travel back and become the husband, thus he could guarantee to avoid both the accident, and failure.
All he needed to do was pop back, occupy her husband’s mind temporarily, and avoid the accident, and time could then continue as it was intended. Yet deep inside of him he accepted the fact that he did not want to occupy the husband’s mind for a short while only, he really wanted to become her husband, and live out his life with her!
Every time he so much as looked at her picture, or read of her wonderful nature, he fell deeper in love with her. He desperately wanted to become a part, an important part, of her life. He wanted to share her life, to love her, to be a part of her, and doing anything of that nature would instantly destroy his life in this, his own time.
Researcher 6 like all of his contemporise had attended the ‘LifeTrainingUniversity,’ so named after Professor Hubert Life, who utilized the mathematics that eventually led to the creation of the time travel tube.
During his first year, Researcher 6 was assigned a research project, the aim was to teach him the reasons why time-travel could exist, but must be carefully monitored, or as his instructor put it ‘this is really going to confuse you.’
His project was a book, written in the aeons of the past and called ‘The Art of Courtly Love.’ Reading the available pages was difficult, understanding them on the surface of the words was easy. The book was nothing more than a series of detailed instructions concerning the romantic interactions of men and women.
He discovered in some related search material, stored by the computer in associated files, and incomplete, but with enough context remaining for him to recognise an importance to his training.
It seemed that certain enlightened scribes and followers believed in rebirth, a second life to live, where the deceased became born again. They also believed in love at first, second even third sight!
According to his research a man and a woman can be destined or preordained to fall in love, and when separated by death, their re-born selves remember that first love and search for it throughout their second or even third rebirth. This is their perfect love, and as such can be used to explain the concept of love at first sight.
Researcher 6 thought long and hard about this concept and realised that if it is remotely accurate, then to some degree, time and human interaction are preordained, or if they are not then love of this type could not happen, and he knew that it did. His own parents were beneficiaries of just such a happening, having fallen in love with each other at a lecture on physics, and across the auditorium at that, a story they often regaled!
He believed that the magnetism that drew him to this woman, she who lived so far across the time lines, was this love at first sight. That some time previously, they had both lived and loved at the same point in time, and somehow had been parted, and now he had found his true love once more, love at second sight! Time was inextricably drawing them together again, forcing their meeting and love to exist once more.
Direct interference with the past presents dangers, and is forbidden without special need having been shown, investigated fully, and decided on by the highest strata of his civilisation. What he wanted to do would never be acceptable officially, so he was faced with fulfilling his desires and saving the woman, and therefore the son, and time itself on his own and without permission! Such an involvement would be complex at best to do, possibly impossible, as he did not want to be traced and pulled back to face trial and punishment. This level of involvement had never attempted before he believed.
He would need to study every aspect of her life, of the family’s’ lives, right up to their deaths, and in the case of the boy, even beyond. He would need to understand her perfectly, and the boy implicitly. As for the husband he intended to replace, him he would need to be able to become, and without noticeable change, at least initially. As time passed, he would be able to alter slight patterns of behaviour to a more personally acceptable style.
She of course would love him initially, because he would be the man she married, and therefore loved, but would she remain in love if he altered, even if those alterations were for the better!
What followed was nearly a full year of studying them, of learning and understanding, of plotting and planning his intervention in their lives. With each visit he fell more in love with the woman, and even the child. He decided that his wishes could come to fruition, there is a way he discovered, but it is permanent.
Once the path is started on there can be no turning back, he will become permanently imbedded in his past, a part of history. He will become the husband of a woman that can never know that he has replaced her true love. She must always believe him to be the man who asked her to marry him, but at the same time, she would be the woman that loved him, and for Researcher 6, being loved by this woman was reason enough to risk everything!
The little lake in the centre of the park glistened as I sit looking out over the view, remembering my encounter with a young gentleman earlier this morning. He had been so very kind and courteous when my hat had blown off whilst I was waiting for a friend (despite three hat pins securing it). He, without being asked, had rushed out into the road and picked it up, turning to face me (I had to smile at the remembrance), for with a deep theatrical bow first, and then a smile (which lit up his face) he did return it to my hand, saying.
“Yours I believe Madam.”
To which I of course, as is right and proper of a young lady meeting a gentleman to whom she has not been formally introduced, replied.
“Miss, Sir, and thank you for recovering my hat.”
I looked down at it, wanting to distract myself from his handsome countenance, only to gasp involuntarily in horror at the sight of my now blackened and dirty, but once beautiful lemon yellow bonnet.
“Perhaps if you would allow my impertinence, I might purchase you a suitable bonnet to replace this one?”
Without stopping, or allowing me to reply, he continued.
“Why there is the perfect shop, just over this road, eagerly waiting for you to grace its interior. Miss, I would very much take it as a complement if I might escort you to the premises, and there assist with replacing your sad loss, for wouldn’t you agree, a lady should always have a suitable bonnet, don’t you think?”
I was not quite sure of the etiquette of the situation, or accepting his fine offer, but I now have no bonnet and this fine man seems both quite respectable, and eager to replace it for me. What harm can there be in accepting such a fine and generous proposal, from a clearly gallant gentleman, and all in public which is quite safe.
“That is very kind of you Sir, I will accept if you are quite sure?”
“Quite sure, it would be a delight, an absolute delight my dear.”
He offered his arm, which I deemed quite forward in a way considering we had not been formally introduced, but I let it pass in the light of his intent.
My new bonnet rests in my lap (but held tight less I lose it), I watch a lone swan glide effortlessly across the surface of the distant lake, thinking.
Her nurse knocked at her bedroom door prior to entering, the beautiful memory of the first time she had met her husband faded, as reality returned. She was, as now-a-days she always is, sitting propped up by pillows in her marital bed, alone. Paralysed from just below her ribs (by the coach crash that had robbed her of the love of her life) waiting for death to take her, as all expected it to shortly.
Women with the type of serious injuries she had sustained (even in these most enlightened times) rarely survived long, and to have no husband, because the same accident had also widowed her. Apparently widowhood in her situation also lessened her chances greatly. At least, well, until the time finally arrived, she has her memories; they are the only things that in her situation make her living for one more day, tolerable.
‘Death will be a blessing of sorts, both an end and a new beginning, as I will again be with my true love and throughout eternity this time.’ A quote she liked, from the diary she now kept daily.
The diary had remained in the archives, not in book form but electronically, each page neatly filled in, with beautiful flowing script, all written by her own hand. Researcher 6 loved the doorway it provided him with into her thoughts, reading her words added depth to the images and experiences he felt whilst tracking her life. It was through those words and thoughts captured in ink, by her hand, in her bedridden state, that some how had pushed his interest in her from the academic into the romantic, which had led him to this point, and the actions he was taking to ensure her survival, and he desperately hoped their love to be again. The more he read or saw of her the more he believed that they were fated to be together, that love at second sight was intended for them.
Using the diary as a source of accurate dating Researcher 6 located the second meeting of the couple. For each trip back through time he had to spend a considerable time computing the mathematic formula into dates and place locations. Travelling distance in both time and place was not an exact science, to lock onto the thoughts of a single person and then translocate ones- self across the barriers of time, took extreme care, and hence a long period of careful planning.
Later after locating the point of interception he intended to use, and had successfully computed, with all of the relative settings prepared. Now all he needed was the time in which to travel.
Time is relative for the traveller, an hour in the past is an hour in his present, so a visit has to be very carefully arranged, especially in the light of the consequences of being caught!
His time arrived two long weeks later. The lab was intended to be closed for a national celebration, he would have a full day in which to travel and spend in her time, 24 hours of time, less the set up and return periods for which he allowed exactly two hours and twenty three minutes to complete.
With the co-ordinates programmed, the lock-on engaged, he stepped into the centre of the lab. Laser light suffused and swirled around and through his body, he vanished, not in a puff of smoke way like a cheap magicians trick, but just there one second and gone the next!
He watched as across the room a butler stood smartly attired by the main entrance, introducing the guests as they arrived. He watched through the eyes of the man he had become, soon he thought, she will walk through that door and then we will meet again. Soon, he could feel his anticipation growing, along with his doubts, is he in the right place? Will she arrive as his research indicated that she would. Could he make contact as her future husband had? Would she recognise him, and most important of all, would she be attracted to him as she had been to her husband (when they had met for the second time), at this charitable gathering? His attention was so transfixed on the butler that he failed to notice the approach of a woman (with a chaperone trailing along behind her). She stood to his side first looking in the direction he was, and then reaching out, she gently touched his arm, saying.
“She must be a great beauty to cause you to stare in such a direct manner!”
He jerked in shock at her words, turning swiftly to see the woman he had been so desperate to see, now standing by his side and with a slight smirk caused by teasing him floating carefree across her beautiful face, her eyes he noted, sparkled as though all the joys of life existed within their confines, for him they did. He also became vaguely aware of another woman standing behind her, trying not to pry, but making her presence felt. Of course he thought she could not attend this function alone, propriety would require that she be accompanied by a chaperone. This was something he had not thought about.
“Ur, I mean, please excuse me, um, what a pleasure to meet you again.” He mumbled rather incoherently.
“I do hope that I am not intruding?”
“Certainly not. It is you that I am waiting for!”
“Why sir, how could you possibly know that I would be attending this party, after all even I did not know that I would decide to accept my invitation until only a short while ago, therefore it seems to me that you must indeed be either mistaken or a fortune-teller, which is it Sir?”
Realising that he had already made a mistake and desperate to cover it over, Researcher 6 smiled at her and with a light-hearted lilt he replied.
“I do not need to be a fortune-teller to know that the most delightful woman in this fair city, would decide to brighten up an event like this by her presence.”
Hastily he added. “Might I be honoured by being allowed to fetch you and your companion a rather moderate glass of wine or perhaps a glass of punch?”
She went on to introduce her friend and companion to him but also went on to say.
“Well if it is as you say, if I am indeed the most beautiful of women here, then sir such praise deserves much honour, but not wine if you do not mind, but cordial. I believe that they have ice, and perhaps a slice of fruit on the rim would make for the perfect finish to such a welcome drink for us both.”
The evening passed in perfect harmony, she was as interesting in person as he had expected and during the evening he found it hard to concentrate on anything but her, her friend was also very tactfully unobtrusive. His eyes soaked up the image after first burning it into his memory, loving just the simple pleasure that her company provided him. Time though was ticking ever onwards, and soon he would have to return to his own time and his own body, leaving behind this alluring and intelligent woman.
Time travel is quite simple in essence, step into the time-light tube having selected the location and person’s body the traveller intends to occupy, and then without fuss or feeling everything changes and you have travelled in milliseconds.
Returning is slightly more complex because the traveller needs a key source, which in essence is anything from his own time with the ability to emit a simple signal. In this case Researcher 6 had sent a pocket watch complete with chain and fob through the tube before him, which on his arrival he had recovered from a carefully selected bush near to his chosen location. With the watch firmly ensconced across his stomach all he had to do to return to his own time was open the gold cover and press the button inside twice, and he would be instantly drawn home with the watch. A bit like a railway carriage pulled by a mag-train in his own future time.
Researcher 6 did not have to worry about the person he had become, as fate decreed that this woman would marry the man that he currently was, what he did have to worry about was the fact that he should under no circumstances be standing in front of her at this or any time and especially as he took over or departed from the man’s body, but she fascinated him. He recalled the first time he had read the phrase love at first sight, and realised that like his parents before him, he too was a victim of its allure. He discreetly opened the watch cover, his thumb locating the button now revealed and with a last lingering look he returned to his dull world.
The lab was empty when he arrived back in his own time, he had expected it to be but there is always the chance that someone would want to speak to him or just nosey around, checking up on what he was engaged on.
“Computer, projection time actual, date as per.”
The dance floor came into view, she was now dancing with the man that would become her husband, they seemed to be getting along perfectly but something was not quite right, she kept looking around as though she had lost something. As he watched she glanced about again, then because she was concentrating on other thoughts she tripped over the flowing hem of her dress and crumpled delicately to the floor. He partner and future husband bent consolingly down, intent on helping her arise, but she could not, something was clearly wrong but what, thought Researcher 6.
“Computer, Diary entry of this evening. Project.”
The vision vanished as light flickered forming a book, the pages opened as an invisible hand might open them. He read her words, the very words she had written after the party. There was no mention of the fall, no mention of being hurt, or of twisting her ankle, the only mention of the evening said.
‘The wonderful attentive man who has previously bought me a new bonnet I met again tonight.’
And then went on to say.
‘His strange change of personality during the evening.’
‘It was almost as though he left and a stranger had taken his place, I must be going mad, though if this is madness, I would prefer the first, to the latter! Hermann can be different so quickly. I am not sure which Hermann I prefer, the kind and attentive or the typically German with his attitude of correctness and rigidity!”
Researcher 6 read and reread her diary entries, searching for clues as to the meaning behind her words, but failing to find any. She noticed some difference between himself and her intended husband: he had again slipped up there. His own, and his counterparts personalities were different somehow, despite his best efforts to blend the two. He could not allow the detection of any difference, but equally he found that the drive to be with her, to save her, was impeding the decisions he really should make. Logically she should be nothing to him, of course there is the cronoclasm possibility of her dying prior to giving birth, which could not happen in theory, but obviously can happen given the vagaries of time travel.
He should have reported his findings immediately but he hadn’t. He still should report his findings, but he knew that he was not going to. He instead would work on improving his link with her future husband, and therefore saving their lives. The more he thought about his predicament, of the massive risk he was taking, the less he found he cared! Only she, the woman lost to him through time, mattered, and of course the boy yet to be born.
”Computer. Time sequence 3. File 0,1,0. Picture 3. Project.”
Four seconds ticked off on the lab clock, before the air in front of him shimmered to reveal a large print photograph. holographically projected. It showed a man and a woman, she in the white dress of a bride, he in top hat and tails, frozen flitters of confetti hung all around them like snow flakes forever frozen in time. She glowed with a radiance, her eyes sparkling even in the black and white of the photograph. The dress hugged her perfectly, cutting in at her slight waist, then tapering out to enfold and twist around her hips before dropping to the ground.
His suit was of the finest quality he could afford, his beard had been neatly trimmed, his top hat sitting upon his head at the perfect angle for smartness and effect. He was looking not at his bride but into the camera lens, the vaguest trace of a smile lightening his stiff regimented severity. Researcher 6 sensed rather than saw that he had just turned away from looking at his wife, only to satisfy the needs of the photographer, but that he would turn back to face her once the photo had be captured.
Clearly he loved this woman now his wife, Researcher 6 understood the feelings he felt for her, as those same feelings raged in his chest, and invaded and controlled his thoughts also.
Frustration and impotence burst upon Researcher 6’s thoughts,
he realised that there was nothing a sane man could do about the situation. Then thoughts of the boy swamped out his feelings, draining his frustrations away, as the realisation that something must be done, something must be interfered with, if time as he knew it was to follow the correct path. No boy, no future, the thought hammered at the mental walls of his sanity. No boy no future and therefore no present. No him. No nothing. Everything would change, much would vanish, people would disappear never having been born. Sanity be damned, he had no choice, no boy no present, he had to go back and save her, he had to go back and stay.
The picture shimmered and shattered as he looked up. Before he could speak to challenge the computer, it shimmered once again, reforming, before him it hovered, the same image but now different, time has already been changed, time has sent him a message
He looked at her image; it remained exactly as he had seen it before. He looked at her husband’s image, his top hat was now held in his hands, clasped tightly by the brim, held in front of him, as he smiled at the camera. His smooth, clean shaved face glowing with evident pride, as the photographer took his picture.
He looked at the eyes, they glistened, sparkling with joy. The nose has changed, it is thinner, longer, more regal somehow, the mouth and its smile now seemed more familiar.
It was only when he looked at the whole image that he recognised the man before him, he knew the face that now stared out at him from the past. He knew this face well, having looked at it each morning as he shaved, it was his own! It was he standing proudly beside the bride, he that is now the proud husband!
Clarity swamps away his concerns, time has changed permanently the second he made his decision, from this point on there existed in time no husband other than him, the man who’s body he had selected and occupied for his visits, was no longer a part of the time-stream. Hence when he had decided that he had to step back permanently, giving up his life in this time, to spend it as the husband of the woman he loved in her time, the picture had changed.
He would now be the only man in her life, though she should never become aware of the change. Time would alter her perceptions of him and everything should seem exactly as it had always been to her. Only he would know of the differences his replacement had engendered in the time flow.
He also realised that the picture changing meant that no matter the difficulties, somehow, someway, he would succeed and return to her time and remain there.
It is clear to him now what he has to do, if not exactly how he is going to achieve it.
My unification into Herman passes smoothly, no one seems to notice the change in my appearance, time had done exactly as I expected, it had smoothly and seamlessly accepted my insertion.
My bride is standing next to me on the steps of the non-conformist church we had chosen for our service. She lifted her veil, the dress looking exactly as I had last seen it projected by the computer in my own time. I am wearing the top hat and tails, I am holding the hat in front of me at waist level, and at a guttural sounding call for attention, both I and Pauline look into the camera lens, a flash, a puff of smoke and the lens cap is replaced, the photograph taken.
Time has reasserted its self, time for now at least is back on an acceptable track. The future might have changed slightly, but nothing like it would have done had I not made the decision I made, and then acted concisely upon my decision. I have become an integral part of both my own history and more importantly a part of the relationship with the woman I have grown to love. I am quite content so far.
Our wedding night passed in the joyous way that most wedding nights pass, our love for each other expressed in sexual union, and contented bliss. The sheer pleasure of our first night as husband and wife, the rising demands of our passions as darkness covered the world. The gentle combined touching of our naked flesh beneath our bed sheets. All culminating in an animalistic lust and love for each other expressed through our coupling.
The days blur in passing time, we walk, laugh, kiss and spent far too long in our bedroom, and all without a care in the world, until a week after our marriage. It was then that a threat to our happiness appeared amidst us, in the form of Researcher 3.
“The park I think, then tea at the Imperial and perhaps a show for the evening?”
“Perfect my love absolutely perfect.” She replied to my suggestions.
With our day planned out we departed from our home. The sheer pleasure I felt at holding my wife’s hand, at walking beside her, nodding at the odd known passer by, smiling at old Mrs Schubert as she sits in her front patio chair watching the world pass her by, crocheting a pair of babies booties, then holding them high so that we might see them. Pauline blushes delightfully I notice, reading a different message into Mrs Schubert’s actions than I.
We had just stepped between the open gates into the park, when a policeman approached us from the left. He stopped in front of me, removing his helmet to my wife, before turning to face me directly.
“Sir, might I beg a moment of your time?”
I looked into his eyes, startled with shock, and quickly glance around me, half expecting to see a small army charging towards me.
“Darling, if you will excuse me I am sure I will not be long.” I said to Pauline.
The officer and I watch as Pauline strolls across the path to sit on a suitably empty bench. His, the policeman’s hand touches my shoulder, turning me away from my seated wife.
“You cannot be here, you will be doing un-countable damage to the time line, think man, you know what might happen, so far it hasn’t but that does not mean that it won’t if you remain a single second longer.”
Thinking quickly I shook off his hand, then grasping his shoulders and looking, then speaking directly into his face.
“I am married to her! I have to be married to her, here.”
He cut across me not allowing me to continue.
“You can’t be married to her.”
He sounded quite shocked at the thought, he continued.
“You must return right now!”
“Listen to me, I am married and nothing has happened, and nothing will happen that shouldn’t. Go away, go back to the future, and once you are there, read my files. Look at everything, look at her history, and when you have done that you will understand why I must remain here in this time, with Pauline as my wife and later with my son. For god’s sake, for yours and everyone’s sake, look man, read carefully. Now get out of here and leave us alone!”
They will send others more capable of forcing you back you know, and soon!”
“They won’t, not if you do your job thoroughly, now go!”
With my parting words said I released him and half turned, he like an old duffer had already pushed his return device and vanished back to the future. Pauline, if she has been looking our way will have seen him disappear.
She seems to be quite peacefully sitting on the bench, she doesn’t seem to have seen the policeman disappear, so perhaps no further harm has been done!
Researcher three pushed open the laboratory door and entered, his mind was fixated not on where he is currently, nor even who he is going to see inside of this lab, but on a niggling, self- absorbing problem with his wife, and her very annoying sister.
He entered, dragging himself away from his own concerns and immediately saw the body lying prone on the floor in a comatose condition. It was Researcher 6, and clearly his body was empty, which immediately told Researcher 3 that 6 was travelling. That of course did not mean anything in its self, he is allowed to travel if the correct paperwork has been authorised. As it required Researcher 3 to authorise any paperwork, and he was certain that he had not, his mind jumped out of its own reverie and into a situation which he had no control over.
Three minutes later and the lab was teaming with assistants, orders were flowing from Researcher 3 and being acted upon by his juniors. The computer had been activated and was being interrogated by one, whilst 3 looked back over the travel logs. The last he noted was to a wedding somewhere in Germany. A picture transposed its self into the room, 3 looked at it closely recognising the distinct nose and features of his junior in the image of the groom.
An hour passed before some sort of events chain had been constructed of the situation, then three days of talking and hunting through time records located an interruption point, and an hour later Researcher 3 stepped into the time travel field and instantly became a policeman. His aim is to return with his junior and allow time to return to its normal preordained patterns.
He failed, he returned alone, his junior remaining locked in Researcher 3’s past, as a part of the time flow, and as a threat 3 believed, to all history and possible future life from that point in time onward, including his own.
He reported the conversation to the ruling council immediately on his return to his own time, and then remembering Researcher 6’s words, he began to research the situation. It was not long before he heard the alert siren, and the computer reported a potential chronoclasm!
He reached out for her hand, she smiled, taking his, and , together they walked towards the distant lake and its duck population.
“O look an Ice-cream salesman.” She said, smiling and looking like a little girl, all happy and excited at the thought of a sweet cold treat. How can I ignore her, her enthusiasm fills my heart with love and if all it will take to make her happy is a penny-lick then a penny-lick she will most certainly have. We walk over and ordered two of his finest.
Penny-licks are a new thing in this time, they are not like ice-cream in other later times, they are served in small, solid, made glass containers, with a shallow depression at the top which is filled with a spoonful or two of hand-churned ice-cream, and quite a treat in this time.
We took ours and strolled on, later we would return the glasses to the vendor to be re-used, but for now, we just enjoyed the cold taste and the beautiful weather, and of course each others company.
With the last smidgeon of ice-cream licked clean from the glass containers we turned to face each other. I half expected a kiss instead I got a simple but shocking question.
“Will you have to go back?”
“I said, will you have to go back. They came for you didn’t they? The Policeman, the one that talked to you so earnestly and then vanished, he wanted you to return with him, to vanish like he did, to leave me didn’t he?”
She was struggling to overcome her fear of losing me I presume, I had to quell her concerns, and then deal with my own later if I could.
“No, no, never, I will not go, I will not, I cannot leave you my love, no, never, I am here to stay to share my life with you. I love you my darling so I will never leave, believe me!”
My heartfelt denial filled the air between us. Her words, her understanding, the simple power of her phrase, her question filled my mind. She knows, and I have made a promise, one I can only hope that I will be allowed to keep. Our walk has brought us to the low fence which lines the large lake, ducks swim, paddling hard beneath the smooth surface towards us, churning the water in the hope that our presence meant food, they are to be disappointed, I on the other hand was to be amazed by what I received.
We watched the ducks milling around, quacking out their disgust at the lack of food offered to them. Pauline remained silent, so likewise, I did the same. The air around us felt loaded with tension, a tension that would soon have to shatter either by conversation and truth or by us leaving.
She reached out and grasped my hand, then with a distinct look of paranoia she twisted and turned to study our surroundings. I got the feeling that she sort of expected us to be disturbed, her paranoia spread to me and I too looked about us, there was no one of interest or even near to us. A nanny walked her young charge through the park, pushing the pram and cooing to the unseen baby within the carriage, but apart from her there is no one, we are alone.
“I want to tell you something.”
“It is I that needs to explain to you darling!” I interrupted her.
“No listen to me. I need to tell you this, as I need to know if I am going insane, or if the impossible has or is occurring, so please listen, let me say what I must and then you can tell me how things really are!”
Her voice sounded as though it was on the edge of cracking, her face looked far too intent, it didn’t suit her. I am not looking at my happy Pauline, but at a woman deeply troubled. I nod letting her have her say, and at the same time wondering what she might be thinking, and how I can explain everything she has seen, without telling her the shocking truth of her impending death.”
“You remember when we first met?”
I nodded in reply not wishing to shatter her courage, and knowing it would be enough for her to continue.
“My bonnet blew off and you saved it for me and then purchased another?”
Again I nodded, adding a smile at the image of her hat flying and the dirty dishevelled state it was in when I returned it to her, that was the day I first knew that I had fallen in love with her.
“That was the day I knew!” She said.
“Knew what my love?”
“That was the very day I knew that I loved you, that I wanted to share my life with you, that someday you and I would be married and my life perfect in everyway!”
She finished talking and hesitantly looked into my face. There is nothing I could say to such a declaration, so wisely I think, I said nothing.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” She asked me, looking down to avoid eye contact.
“Yes I rather think that I do, in a way.”
“I fell in love with you right then and there, it was as though I had known you all my life, it was as if we were destined to be together.”
I squeezed her hand and smiled, nodding slightly.
“Then something strange happened, after we left the shop, you changed!”
She looked up searching my face for something.
“It was as if you were no longer with me and that you had left a stranger in your place, a stranger that I did not love, but was still you somehow. I know it sounds insane, and I have thought about it many times. Then we met again and again and each time you left and the stranger remained.”
How could this be possible, the First Law of Time Travel says that as a traveller departs, freeing his host, time reasserts its-self, in a way that the people of the past are unaware of, as it is their present and should not change in any way. How could she be aware of my coming and going, it should not be possible for her to be?
“The more I thought about your leaving and the new Herbert replacing you, the Herbert I did not love, the more certain I became that I loved you when you are you, and liked him when he is him, but as time passed, I became convinced that if being with the man I loved, meant also being with a man I only liked, then to spend sometime in your presence is worth spending the rest in his, do you understand?”
I understood, and my simple squeeze of her hand reassured her I hope.
Then we were standing on the steps of the church and the change happened again. I had just married him, then suddenly it was you standing next to me, and this time you had changed physically, as well as mentally. I didn’t understand the difference or the reason why, but I sensed that something monumental had just that second happened. I remember looking around at the crowd trying to see if anyone else was aware that the man I said I do to, was not the man I now stood with for our wedding photographs. No one seemed to have, or to see anything strange, no one pointed at you, or shouted, or fainted in shock, in fact no one but me seemed to know that anything had changed!”
“Not quite my darling, I knew.”
“So I am not mad, you really are a different man to the other, you really did change. It is not in my imagination, it is real?”
“Yes it is real, I am different but it will take a lot of time to explain and may cause you some concern, but if you love me then it will all be worth it, as I love you. Like you, I fell in love with you on our very first meeting, unlike you I have an explanation of sorts as to why, but that will have to wait. There are things you need to understand and accept.”
She is very quick, far quicker and deep a thinker than I had expected!
“Yes the policeman, though he was not a real policeman, well he is most of the time but not then.”
“He changed like you changed, he sort of, well, became the policeman for a short while, then he vanished, but how, why? When you changed, the other you did not vanish?”
“He vanished because he did not exist in that place, in that time, he had been pulled into it by the arrival of the man that became the policeman so he could talk to me, and still not look out of place. When the visitor departed the policeman returned to the time and place he should have been in, or as you saw it, he vanished!”
“Shush there are people coming.” She whispered, again looking around us.
At least she realises that the subject we are discussing is not one for public conversation. With that I stood up and reached down to help her up.
“It is getting cold darling, and besides the man will be wanting his glasses back, after all we do not want him to think we have stolen them, do we?”
She smiled at me, then with a teasing lilt to her voice she said.
“We may be quite odd in some way I believe, but thieves! Surely darling, we do not look like common glass thieves, do we?”
We returned the vendor his glasses and left the park arm in arm looking distracted, just like every newly wed couple should look in each others company. Once we return home the conversation will flow again, but for now, we will both just enjoy the sheer pleasure of being in each others company.
The ‘snug’ as I like to call my office, seemed to me to be the perfect place in which to discuss our situation, it being private, cosy and with the fire banked up very snug. We sat facing each other, each occupying a slightly over stuffed arm chair, each nursing a glass of something. She watched me, waiting, ready to listen and understand what I had to tell her.
I told her about my world, about seeing her, about reading her diary at which she baulked, saying that is private and quite intimate, I explain to her that it is also, or rather, was also, quite old by then, and held in the computer’s memory, so it wasn’t like opening her book to spy on her. Once she grasped the concept of a computer (which she did surprisingly quickly), she ignored my invasion of her private thoughts.
She asked me rather pointedly.
“How do you get back to your own time? What makes you travel and how?”
I told her about the mechanism, about the device and its single concealed button. I explained that I sent the device through time before I arrived here, and how I collected it from the place I had sent it to, and then used it when I needed to return to my own time.
“Your watch, it’s your watch!” She said, looking at my waist- coat.
“I wondered where that had gone, but didn’t think to ask, now I know, you left it behind didn’t you? You do not mean to return, so why should you have a device designed for that purpose only.”
“She smiled when I had to agree, she had worked it out and correctly.
I struggled, but eventually decided to tell her the whole truth, including the events that led up to her death. She looked shocked, until I explained that I am here to change that, I also said that she should not have died prematurely, that history has already been altered, and that to avoid the tragedy now, all we have to do is not go to the play and definitely not get in to that carriage.
“What will happen if we do not get into the carriage?” She asked, continuing before I could reply. “I suppose the accident won’t happen, and all will be well.”
I hadn’t thought more about that, she had rather acutely discovered a problem, one that the more I think about it, the more it concerns me.
“I don’t know.” I admitted to her. “I suppose that sometime the wheel axle will break and the carriage will collapse.”
“If the accident is going to happen and we are not going to be in it, then that must mean, well most likely, that someone else is going to be hurt or killed.” She went on. “Logically if someone else dies instead of us, then surely that will affect the time line you have been talking about, won’t it?”
“Well yes it could I suppose.”
“Well I do not know about you, but for me the thought of someone else getting hurt because we did not do something about it, even though we knew it was going to happen, well, it seems wrong!”
Again I had to agree, which raises the question of exactly what she thought we could do, so I asked her.
“We could stop people getting into that carriage, or we could tell the driver what is wrong and will happen, or we could even call a policeman!”
“I’m not so sure that it might not be difficult to explain how we know that a particular carriage is going to crash!”
“Think, we don’t need to know, only to see the damaged bit that is going to fail, so all we have to do is see it and point it out, then the accident is averted, and time remains the same, and no one needs to get hurt.”
It took half of one second’s thought for me to agree with her, and in the remaining half of that second I wondered why I had not foreseen the situation myself. Her astuteness has just saved lives and taught me to listen to her, and to realise that she is one very intelligent lady.
The theatre looked empty from the outside, but we knew that inside a show would soon be finishing. A single line of stationary carriages formed up as we watched, each waiting to collect and take home the theatres occupants.
Pauline and I stood on the far side of the road looking at the carriages, trying to divine which one would shortly be involved in the accident. They all looked much the same, there was of course the odd double team carriage, these we dismissed, as the one we need to locate has only two horses, not four pulling it.
“Well she asked?”
“I don’t know, I only saw it in a photograph and didn’t take much notice of the actual carriage, only the accident and its effect.”
“We better get closer, there is no way we can tell it apart from over here.”
We crossed the road, passing behind the lead double team and a single pony hack. Neither fitted my memory of the carriage. We walked along shaking our heads at the driver’s offers of transport. Always looking at the front wheel and axles, but seeing nothing. Six carriages later we were approaching the end of the line and still with no luck, or even idea as to which one we were seeking.
“Where to Sir?” The driver called down from his seat.
I started to shake my head when I glanced down and saw the split in the wheel mount bar. Pauline and I looked at each other, she smiled, squeezing my hand as I turned back to the driver pointing with my free hand at his wheel.
“Look man the wood is split and cracking!” I said expecting him to climb down and take a closer look, he didn’t. He, for some reason ignored my warning, shaking his head at me, then he said.
“That’s nothing to worry yourself about, its been like that for months!”
“Months! Are you mad man, that will split tonight and kill someone!”
“Of course it won’t, as I said it’s been like that for months, now if you don’t want a ride, then move on and let someone who does in.”
“Pauline listened to my conversation, I felt her hand slip from mine as she moved away from me, she was leaving me to talk some sense into the driver, and I was clearly failing to do that. She had spotted something or someone and had just stepped away, I half turned to follow her with my eyes when he spoke again.
“Are you going or what?” He demanded of me.
I tried again to warn him, but again he just shook his head, and this time in no uncertain words told me to get lost. Pauline returned, accompanied by a policeman, for a second my heart stopped beating until I realised that it was a real policeman, not one from my future attempting to get me back there.
The policeman looked down at the split wood of the wheel haft then up at the driver, who I noticed had now fallen silent.
“This will never do, the young lady and sir are quite right, this carriage is unsafe, now get it out of here and get it fixed before you carry any more passengers.” He said firmly.
The driver swore I think under his breath, before flicking the reins and turning his carriage out of the waiting line. If looks could have killed he would have fried me on the spot with the glare he gave me, but at least he moved the carriage out of the line and removed the imminency of the accident happening.
He turned in the road and with a growl and flash of leather reins he drove his team forward.
We watched as the carriage sped up the road, at the distant slight bend, just where I had seen our accident happen in the future, the carriage let out a loud carrying crack as the wood failed, the wheel flew off, and the whole vehicle collapsed and tipped to the left. The driver was catapulted off his bench seat and flew through the air until he hit a tree trunk. Then he collapsed to the ground, unmoving.
The policeman ran, Pauline grasped my hand gasping in shock, I just looked, unable to see anything but the prone driver, lying still, looking dead.
“He will live, I have read the reports.” Spoke a voice behind and to our right. We turned as one to face the smiling face of my immediate boss Researcher 3. I reached out and grasped Pauline’s hand, ready to run, but something about my boss held me in place. It took a second or two to realise what. He looked exactly as I remember him, not changed, except perhaps a little younger looking in the face, and that was the point. He shouldn’t look like himself, he should look like the person he adopted for this visit, and he didn’t.
Pauline stared at me, then at him, and then back at me, before saying, “What is it darling, what’s wrong?”
This is Researcher 3 my love, and I think he has something to say!”
“Professor, my dear, we haven’t been called Researchers for, well many years. I am Professor Sorrel, of the University Faculty into Space and Time Research, and I am pleased to meet you properly at last.”
Words fail me. Professor. University Research, none of it makes any sense, the last time I had seen him he had been Researcher 3, at the Foundation for Cosmic Monitoring, so why is he claiming to be something else, and looking like himself, something strange is going on. He turns away from Pauline looking at me again, clearly he has something on his mind, but what I do not have a clue of course, but I think it might bode well for us and our future.
“Time, as you stated in your report would prove or disprove your thesis, and it clearly has proved you right my boy.”
“What thesis?” Asked Pauline, looking at me.
I shrugged my shoulders and smile my confusion at her.
Professor Sorrel looks at us both and then realises something has changed. You do not know what I am talking about, do you?”
That is obvious to us all, but I still shake my head in confusion.
“You wrote a thesis on the chronoclasm you discovered, and then were sent back to enact it, because you wanted to, and because you love this woman.”
“I did not write a thesis, but I do love Pauline!” I said vehemenently.
“You do love me don’t you darling?” Pauline looked more confused than I felt, and that is beyond belief.
“Yes my love I do love you, but for now let’s listen to Reserc… I mean the Professor.” I hastily corrected myself.
“Why are you here Professor, what do you want of us?”
“Want of you, why nothing, this is just a courtesy visit to tell you that your thesis is correct, and that all is well in our time and yours. The chronoclasm has been avoided, and your son will be perfectly all right from now on. Of course, I also need to check that you still want to remain in this time, as you stated to the Regional Committee, just for my own piece of mind you understand.”
“Son, our son, we don’t have a son, and why would he not be all right if we did have one?”
The Professor looked confused; he was about to say something, to explain, I think, when I cut across him deliberately.
“There is a problem, Pauline was and is aware that I am not from this time, she realised it after our first meeting, and that set me thinking. How? I think I have the answer now, and you Professor need to know it, if it is not to happen again. When I first came back I used the time watch as a return device, but I sent it 24 hours further back in time than I intended to arrive at, and I think that…”
“Well of course the Da Vinci problem, you must remember learning about it at your induction to the University. Da Vinci had contact with one of the first travellers, and the result was that he gained information from the future he should never have had, and then he drew pictures and diagrams he could or rather should never have been able to, like the parachute for instance, prior to aircraft invention. That was a mistake, but we corrected it, well as much as was possible, and time was not seriously interrupted or altered, much like your relocation to this time has had no real effect, so don’t worry.”
No real effect! I mulled over his words and realised that a very real effect has occurred, but it seems to have changed things for the better, at least as far as Pauline and I are concerned. Nothing about my return to her is now being treated in anyway other than with full official permission! We are going to be allowed to live out our lives together, to have our son and to watch him develop. Safe in the knowledge that time remains constant and secure.
I think Pauline, who is at least as smart as I am, has realised the situation, for she is smiling and her death grip on my hand has eased off.
“Well I should take my leave of you both, I depart leaving my best wishes for your future, and I hope that one day we will meet again. Keep writing your diary my dear.” He added before vanishing.
“So you can keep reading it, I think not Professor.” Pauline said to the now vacant air. She turned to face me, her free hand reaching up to gently touch my face.
“So we are going to have a son are we!”
“It would appear so.”
“That will be nice, but I hope we can have a daughter as well.”
“Only time will tell my love, but for now, we, like everybody else, will just have to wait and see.”
“It’s a boy, you have a healthy screaming son!” The doctor called down from our master bedroom. The midwife would soon bring my son out to see me, but I decided damn to convention, I want to see my wife. I climb up the stairs two at a time. Pushing past the doctor, who tries to stop me entering. I ignored the look of shocked disgust on the midwife’s face, and approach the bed- side. My wife, the love of my life is propped up in our bed, looking drawn but equally excited. The midwife bustles between us and places our baby, now clean and wrapped in a towel, into Pauline’s arms.
“Your son.” She says then she steps back out of the way, allowing me, us, to see the boy for the first time. I look down at him, feeling all the parental pride that fathers through the ages always feel.
“Do you have a name for him yet?” Asked the doctor.
Pauline looked at me and I said.
“Albert. His name is Albert.”
Well congratulations to you Mr and Mrs Einstein, and welcome to the world Albert.” He added. “Now I must go.”
Pauline looked up from our son and smiled, mouthing the name I have given him, I smile back nodding.
History for me is now almost as it should be, the boy Albert has been born, my wife is healthy and happy, and I am a proud father to boot.
Somewhere in the far reaches of future time a scientist using mathematical formula to be developed by my son, will invent time travel, and I, we, have played our part in his being able to do so, for without my son being born, nothing in the future would remain or have been discovered at the correct time by the correct people.
Many simple steps forward would never have happened, inventions that people from the future look back on would never have been invented. Something as simple and common as flight would not have happened, without the mathematics to develop wings and engines. Let alone computers, and where would our future be without them!