Regrets. Oh the regrets… An entire career built from mistakes and regrets (and timelines and DNA). Every day I regret all the hysteria and hubris that drove us on in our researches. But mostly I’m resentful. Yes, I resent the quirk of fate which meant that once I finally had to face up to my looming nemesis it was such an insulting and preposterous face it dared show me.
But I digress (digressions are the only hobby I have left, all I can turn to whenever I’m not working). So, back to work –
Point 1: Timelines and DNA are inextricably linked.
Point 2: That link was the key to our researches.
Point 3: That link enabled us to begin identifying the resonances of each individual’s germ cells beyond the current moment, in effect to plot a course into tomorrow (yes, that summarises the theoretical standpoint, admirably; and I do so need to keep a grasp of the theoretical standpoint, so as to progress the practicalities).
So, to the practicalities (shall I begin at Point 1 again, to maintain a valid separation between theory and practice, or continue to Point 4? Erm…) –
Point 4: The researches and lab work spanned two decades, after which a prototype Descendant Proximity Apparatus (DPA) was constructed.
Point 5: The DPA was designed to facilitate a “reunion” between an individual and those traces of his or her germ cells that persisted into the future.
Point 6: Animal testing had ascertained that a subject could be projected towards that “reunion” of their latent and pre-existent germ cells, and then safely extracted. But animal subjects are incapable of authenticating the specifics of such tests (rabbits are dazed and confused and horny in the present; they are dazed and confused and horny when returning from the future; rhesus monkeys make me self-conscious; they insist on chattering about us whenever our backs are turned; rhesus monkeys are blackguards; chimps are anarchists at heart, otherwise they wouldn’t have evolved into homo sapiens; they’re prone to revolt and can’t be trusted).
Point 7: A human test subject was required.
Point 8: Naturally, as director of research, I volunteered. Two more years were invested as I studied all the white papers and quasi-regulations regarding the hypothetical safeguarding of the space–time continuum; attended endless psych evaluations/counselling designed to minimise the mental and emotional “jetlag” of humanity’s first post-chronological journey. Even so, when I finally engaged the DPA receptors that had been implanted along my forearm, I had little notion of what lay in store. I adjusted the settings that were grafted onto my skin so as to direct the genetic homing beacon in my cells towards a 24th century location.
The time travel blurred by almost instantaneously. I lurched to a stop with a new era spinning round me. Already, I felt the trace of my descendant nearby; the “reunion” had succeeded. Queasily, I brought my vision back into focus and looked to see where I’d landed – it was a towering auditorium filled to the horizon with chanting crowds. Flashing screens that were storeys high informed me (every six seconds or so) that an interstellar talent show of devout significance was taking place. Finding myself watching from backstage, overawed and out of place, I had no reason to doubt those screaming omnipresent screens.
Then I witnessed my progeny’s progeny’s progeny’s progeny take to the stage: he sang, a beautiful baritone; but that wasn’t entertainment enough; he juggled as he emoted that soulful melody; he juggled three little piglets, which kicked out their trotters to form star-shapes as they reached the apex of their flight; but that wasn’t entertainment enough, and the piglets joined in with the song, providing captivating harmonies of operatic squeals; but that wasn’t entertainment enough and (well, this is where the story of my voyage enters its tragic phase)…
As I say, it wasn’t enough for a beautifully baritoned man to mount the stage to sing and juggle a mini opera of piglets. No, and so, technically, it wasn’t a man who sang since, by some grotesque miracle of 24th century surgery, my descendant’s human skull and features had been replaced with those of a horse. And it was the horse’s head that sang (beautifully, I admit). Maybe it was the deeper equine vocal chords which lent that sonority to his performance. I don’t know. I was too appalled by what I witnessed to consider the question in any depth. Those appalled feelings of mine reached a crescendo as the performer ended his song. No doubt realising that the scene thus far hadn’t yet been entertainment enough, my descendant proceeded to tug at a cord around his waist, which promptly caused his trousers to swish smoothly down to his ankles, revealing his nakedness and not only his nakedness; also revealed was the fact that the miracle of 24th century surgery had succeeded in grafting other horse parts to his anatomy, which dangled repulsively and impressively around his shins. The crowd erupted with joy.
Beside me, backstage, the next artiste was already preparing to go on. I’d been aware of her last-minute honing of her extraordinary knife throwing act in the rehearsal area and I’d observed her from the corner of my eye hurling all manner of projectiles, from darts, to serrated daggers, and even small axes. But simply throwing those projectiles towards a target in the traditional manner wouldn’t have been enough entertainment; so, she first inserted and then shot each weapon, with stunning velocity, from what can only be described as her volcanic vulva. That woman’s lower abdominal strength was a wonder to behold (as was the accuracy of her aim).
Begging her pardon, I grabbed the least moist axe handle I could find and promptly charged onto the stage, determined to cleave any trace of that crooning-horse-monstrosity from my timeline forever. All around me chaos erupted. I was intercepted by a posse of security guards wielding electrically charged batons. The stage became a riotous scene of near-medieval carnage, awash with arterial fountains of blood, shocked and spasming bodies, flying noses, ears, etc. In short, my impromptu performance won the galactic vote that ended the show and I was crowned Interstellar’s Most Talented.
The DPA, which should have facilitated a swift extraction to my own time, was shattered in the melee of my arrest. Though elevated to instant celebrity status, I was also instantly imprisoned. At my trial, which was beamed onto those same storeys high screens, viewers with the heads of squids, reptiles and kangaroos, revelled in my “rants” about space-time and rhesus monkeys. Religious observances are held in my name to this day.
Why this society lacks any culture of timeline manipulation, I’m at a loss to say. Maybe the failure of this maiden voyage of mine saw the project derailed and our researches locked away in a deep cocoon of bureaucracy. Now I work when I can, frantically, in secret, on an Antecedent Machine to steer me back home and erase my intrusion here. I utilise whatever poor scraps of technology I can gather in prison and try my best to rectify my mistakes. I still have hope, but the timelines don’t help… timelines are amoral.
This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Wordle Challenge #35 at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the wordle at the top of this post. The rules are that at least 10 of the given words are to be used. This time I referred to all of the words.