Saturday, February 13, 2016

Overwritten: The Other 2038 Problem (Part VII)

My children. My life becomes uneventful, except for my search for my kids. I’m not given any information about the people I’m guarding in this special prison for time travelers. The inmates are forced special medication to prevent them from being able to manipulate the spacetime continuum. In the movies, the not-so-crazy person always escapes from the psych ward by pretending to ingest the pills, but secretly spitting them out while the orderlies aren’t looking. That was not an option in this prison. The medication is given through injections, once a week for salmon and three times a week at least for choosing ones. A salmon named Dr. Baxter Sarka jumps into the time period on the regular to dose them personally. We often chat with each other, and he explains what he knows about the whole situation. There are people out there who are capable of jumping through time and space. They’re immortal, lazy, and just complete assholes. They use their abilities to screw with other people who can jump through time. The basic difference between the choosers and the helpless salmon appears to be superficial and contrived. Sure, there seems to be this thing where two activated salmon birth a choosing one, but that’s not the only way to create one, and it doesn’t always happen. The division between these two classes is, any way you slice it, arbitrary.
Being what The Delegator referred to as an “accidental salmon” I was neither choosing one, nor truly salmon. I was not put on no particular pattern, and no particular choosing one was put in charge of me. If I wanted to go anywhere through time and space while I wasn’t on the job, I could put in a request, and someone would be dispatched to ferry me. I spent most of that time in present-day New Jersey, poring through records, hunting for the two kids that I had adopted in the other timelines. But they were nowhere to be found. My son’s parents didn’t have any children in this timeline, and I could find no trace of my daughter anywhere at all. After years of denying it, I had to accept the fact that either Reaver or I had altered the timeline enough to prevent both of their births. I had erased my children from existence by going back in time. I continued to press for someone to take me to the first timeline, but was rejected every time. It’s never been clear whether that means the original timeline no longer exists, or if they can no longer access it. Or—and this is the most likely explanation—the choosing ones simply don’t give a shit.
It’s January 1, 2038 as I’m writing up my final two blog posts, noting what I remember from that first timeline. I can feel the memories slipping from my mind as I type them out. But also, my brain is becoming fragmented and confused, but it’s more than the usual overwriting side effects. I actually feel sick to my stomach, and I’m starting to have trouble remembering pretty much anything that happened to me for the last two decades. I feel myself become nobody, a nothing. I spend the rest of the night and part of the next day in a stupor. I know that I’ve had a life; that I’ve done things, and that I’m real, but there’s nothing there. I’ve been hollowed out like canoe wood. My other brain functions are being compromised as well. I can’t remember which side to hold the spoon, or why food matters, of what food looks like, or what word I just said. It started with an “f”. What? I just had a thought about letters, but I can’t remember what it was. Did I forget something else again?
“Hello, father,” a voice says to me.
Some of my brain function returns to me, but only enough to survive the next minute or so without forgetting how to breath, or keep my eyes open. “Cranberry,” I grunt. Nailed it.
“I do not understand what is wrong with you,” the girl says. I recognize her. I saw her once in prison...I think.
“Me either,” I say.
She continues to speak, but I don’t understand many of the words. Sometimes, my ears turn off, which I didn’t know was possible, but then again, I don’t know much. “...whereas before you were having trouble distinguishing the two timelines, now it’s like you’ve never had a timeline.”
Yeah, I’m a non-person! I yell. I don’t think I said it out loud, though. “Not personing the non-person life as non-people often do with their non-person lives.” I think that’s drool bubbling from my lips. Drool or air. There was something I heard the one time about cyanide or rabies. Or was it rabbits? What’s it?
“Fuke!” she yells. But I can’t hear very well. I think she might have said a different word. People often say different words than they say. That’s just how it goes. It’s it. “I need Baxter.”
You’re a bastard!” I scream as loud as possible.
“That is not quite an inaccurate description, if I do say so myself.” She craps her finger and a man don’t know from having met before appears in a fascist. Flascist. Fla—uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...”
“He is not well,” the dog says, admittedly. That baxter dog. He’s not a dog though. That—I didn’t say that.
“That, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, that, than, that cat, then bat.” Prat, I mutter to my mind.
“Sarka, what the hell are we gonna do?”
The man looks in his back blag. “I’ve not been given the equipment I would need to help him. This is an unsanctioned appointment.”
“Well, what do you have?”
“Literally nothing, see?” He opens his cat and shows it. No blood, he was right. Good boy, baxter dog boy.
“Where’s your fur, you feather plucker!”
“Lincoln,” a calming voice claims. “It’s okay.”
Don’t kill me, bull!” Idiot. “BULL!” Bad dog. “Bull-goddamn shit!” Dammit. “Shit! Shift!” I slam my fist on the table to demand order. “Heyoooooooo!”
“Please try to remember who you are,” my lovely daughter, Melly says.
“Dotter Thracker Snorkel.”
She either rolls her eyes or make a sad face, whichever is which. “He’s trying to say Doctor Baxter Sarka.”
“Yeah, I got that,” the dog replies with friendly, deadly confidence.
I stand up and try to run into the wall, but I just trip and fall asleep on the table for two years.
“He’s losing it, getting worse,” the doctor says. “I can’t do anything to help him unless somebody puts a goddamn thing in my medical kit.”
“I can try something,” Melly fries.
I wake back up and watch her. She closes her eyes, exhales deeply, and twists her neck to prepare. She puts her palms together in a prayer position before ceremoniously lifting them up and placing them softly on her beautiful head. She slowly drags her fingers down over her face. The face changes. The placement of the eyes, the shape of the nose. Nothing changes too dramatically. She still looks like her, but fresher, with softer skin. She presses on her chest and her breasts disappear. She places one hand on her head again and forces it down before pulling on her wrists and shortening her arms, one after the other. Little by little, she adjusts her body, regressing her age ever downwards. When finally she stops, she’s a little girl, only a few years old.
“I didn’t know you people could do that,” the doctor dog says. He is stunned, and a little scared. And also.
“They can’t,” she says, still sounding like a woman. She coughs and chirps and whimpers while tapping her fingers on her throat. He voice becomes that of her young self, “I’m the second most powerful of all.” She turns her attention to me. “Daddy.”
My eyes begin to water as I look upon her. “Where have you been? Where are you?” Who are you?”
“I’m your daughter,” she answers.
“You’re the one who took Reaver back in time. You did this to me. You made me lose you. You ran away, and you ran from my thoughts.”
“I am the daughter of Leona Delaney and Horace Reaver, two salmon. I was placed in your care after some time in the system. Choosing children cannot be raised long by their salmon parents. Nor can they be raised by some regular guy. Once I turned three, I was taken away to live somewhere else. This would have happened whether I was with my parents, or with you. I’m sorry for leaving you, but I had no choice.”
“But you’re from an alternate timeline.”
“And you prevented your own birth; your own existence.”
“Essentially, yes.”
“Then how are you here? You’re not here.”
“I am here. Choosing ones have the benefit of surviving any temporal adjustment. It doesn’t matter that a version of me doesn’t exist here. In fact, there can be only one of one person anyway. I was born, and I’ll always exist. Like I said, I’m not like the others. I’m more powerful, and because of that, I can’t be killed by any means.”
“Why did you push your birth father to the past?”
“I was trying to get him to make things better.”
“Things are not better.”
“But they are. What happened to you was an accident. I did not intend on that, but you’ve had a greater effect on the outcome of events than you realize. Horace Reaver has attempted to kill people, this is true, but he’s not succeeded. You’ve made him a better person just by being around. He’s not great, and they’re still gonna lock him up, but you’ve helped the world by sacrificing your life and being at his side. His technological advancements have saved more lives than they’ve ruined. You’ve created a balance, and the timeline thanks you for it.”
“I don’t remember any of this. I remember that I’m supposed to remember. I remember what I feel, and I know what I feel now, but I do not recall the events leading up to this moment.”
“I know, you’re sick. It’s because you’re not genetically predisposed to time travel, as most humans aren’t. We avoid shifting their time placements for this very reason. About the most a normal person can take is a quick teleportation. Anything beyond that and we end up with this.”
“So I’m going to be like this forever? A nonperson?”
“Not if you come back to me. I’m going to help you, but you have to trust me.”
I’m not neurologically capable of declining the offer. “What do we do?”
“We start...with a hug,” Melly says melodramatically.

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