Saturday, August 4, 2018

Fervor: Monkey Boots (Part V)

Hilde and I turn around when we hear people behind us. A man and woman are standing a few meters from us in the lobby. They’re wearing extremely outdated garb, and looking around. “Hello,” Hilde says, as brave as Slipstream. “This might be a strange question, but what year is this?”
The man looks at his timepiece. “We were to understand it would be 2030.”
“That’s five years in the future,” I point out.
“It would be five hundred and twelve for us.”
“You were trying to go to the future?”
“Well, we weren’t really trying,” the woman answers. “We’re salmon, so it just happens to us. The math checks out. We should have jumped today.”
“Let’s go outside,” Hilde suggests, “before the other people in this building find us.” We step out and see nothing but trees and plants. The air is crisp and fresh, completely free from human pollution. We’re standing next to a wall of lavender. “I don’t think it’s 2030, or 2025. I think you’re still in...uh”
“1518,” the woman says. “By the Julian calendar.”
“That’s exactly what year it is,” another woman says, having walked out from the building. “Who are you people?” It’s a younger version of Jesimula Utkin. Is that good or bad?
“Paige,” I respond, not wanting to antagonize her just yet, or let on that we know something about her personal future.
“Samwise?” Jesimula questions? “Like in Lord of the Rings?”
“What year are you all from?”
“2025,” Hilde says. “We hitched a ride in your magical building.
“1994, originally,” Laura answers for the two of them. “I think your building interfered with our latest attempt at a salmon jump.”
“I think your salmon jump interfered with our building,” Jesimula counters. We were trying to get to 1491.”
“I think the powers that be wanted this to happen. That explains the time pigeon we received, telling us to come to these coordinates.”
Jesmula breathes to center herself, then redirects her attention to the two of us. “What were you doing in my building?”
“We were just looking for directions. We have nothing to do with this,” I lie unconvincingly.
“That’s bullshit. If you weren’t time travelers, you would be freaking out right now. Who are you? Are you trying to stop me?”
We don’t say anything.
“Answer me!”
“Yes,” I finally say truthfully. “We’re trying to stop you. We have witnessed the future you look forward to,” I say untruthfully. There’s no reason to bring Future!Jesi into this. “It does not end well. You should return, and cancel all of your plans. Try doing something good for the world.”
“I am doing something good for the world. I have no clue what future you saw, but I assure you that I have nothing but good intentions.” She gestures to her building. “This facility is in a unique position to study diseases and potential cures across all of time and space.”
“Have you never worried about cross-contamination?” Laura asks.
“We do,” Jesi affirms. “Which is why you four being here is such a problem. You’ve breached our safety protocols. Maybe it is you who creates the virus that spreads through the future you claim to have seen.”
“We didn’t say jack about a virus,” Hilde remarks.
“I guessed, based on the purpose of my company.”
“The virus isn’t from the past, it’s from the future. Everybody’s future.”
“Are you sure?” Jesimula asked, suddenly dead serious.
“Who told you this? How did they know? When in the future did it come from? Be specific.”
“We don’t have specifics,” Hilde says to her. “We can tell you only that we can’t tell you everything, because it violates a rule of time travel.”
Jesimula shakes her head. “That’s not gonna fly. You’re all going to the hock until we get this sorted out.”
“You have your own jail?” I question.
“You don’t?” she asks rhetorically.

We spend a few hours being watched in the J.U. Mithra jail cell in the basement before the ad hoc guard gets tired of it, and leaves. As soon as the door closes behind him, we hear the flapping of wings from the floor, along with bird coos. “They must be studying bird diseases, or something,” I guess.
“I don’t think that’s it,” Samwise says.
I lean forward as the flapping and cooing continue, until a bird suddenly appears from the stones, as if they were nothing more than a hologram. It nearly takes off my face as it flies around, bewildered by the abrupt emergence into close quarters.
“Catch it!” Laura whispers loudly.
I try to go for it, but it’s way too fast. Then Hilde stretches her arm out, and the thing just lands right on it, like it’s finally found home.
“Are you a wizard?” I ask her.
“I have some falconry experience, believe it or not,” she answers as she’s unraveling the note attached to the pigeon’s leg. like it’s no big deal. “Birds just know this.” She clears her throat, and reads the note, “Paige, take a picture of the wall outside the cell. What the hell?”
“Should I do it?” I survey the group. They all just shrug, so I take out my phone, and snap a photo of the wall, because it sounds innocuous. Immediately afterwards, another version of me appears in front of the wall, shocked and confused. Shocked as well, I look back down at my phone and tap the little thumbnail to open the photo I just took. I get a strange sort of burning sensation in my eyes, and then I find myself on the other side of the bars, looking at the past version of myself. I then watch as she looks down at her phone, and disappears to close the loop. “What in the world just happened?”
“Have you never done that before?” Laura asks me.
“I thought you were a time traveler.”
“I was a stowaway. I’ve never done it myself. I didn’t know I could.”
“Hilde,” Laura says, “show her the note.”
“My God, it’s in my handwriting,” I realize when Hilde hands it to me. I flip it over. “And it’s written on the back of my receipt for coffee this morning.”
“Yikes,” Samwise says, “you just bootstrapped yourself.
“I beg your pardon, I’m fourteen.”
“No, I mean if you don’t write that note, you may inadvertently create a temporal paradox.”
“You mean another paradox,” Hilde reminded him. “The bootstrap itself is already one.”
“What boots are we talking about?” I’m getting a bit angry being left out of this.
“It’s an ontological paradox,” Hilde starts to explain. “If you write that note, then the only reason you wrote it is because you’ve seen the note come to you from the future. But the only reason the note came to you from the future is because you wrote it.”
“So...?” I ask patiently.
“So, who came up with the idea to write the note? You didn’t. You’re only gonna write it because you know you’re supposed to. There’s no actual cause. It just comes out of nowhere.”
“They do that on 12 Monkeys all the time,” I bring up. “They meet someone one day who talks about having seen them years ago, so they go back further, to that moment years ago, and meet them again...for the very first time.”
“Yes, well that works because it’s a piece of fiction,” Hilde says. “This is real life.”
“Is it, though?”
“Just write the note,” Samwise says with his foot down, “and let’s get past this.”
“Well, how do I get that pigeon back here?” I ask as I’m taking the present-day receipt out of my pocket, and starting to write the note.”
Samwise and Laura give each other this look before she starts to answer. “Okay, well, it’s a little weird—and neither of us knows why it works this way—but you have to find a podium, or a podium-like object. Then you have to stand over it, and say, if he or she does their schoolwork seriously; does well, takes school.
“It’s not even a real sentence, but that’s what you have to say,” Samwise adds.
“It might not be a pigeon,” Laura says. “It could be an owl, or a dove, or even a finch. Any one of them can take your message to wherever and whenever you want them to.”
I look around the room. There is no podium-like thing around, and certainly no podium.
“You might have to go somewhere else,” Hilde suggests.
“No, this is stupid. I can write the note anytime. What I need to do is get you three out of there.” I look around again. “The keys are usually on a hook on the other side of the room, just outside of reach of a rope made out of clothes tied together.” As I’m scanning the walls, we hear movement on the other side of the door.
“The keys aren’t gonna be in here,” Laura warns. “But you need to go. Get yourself out. Use another picture, if you have to.”
“I’m not leaving you,” I argue.
“Paige!” Hilde starts to say, but then the guard comes back in the room. “Run! Now!”
“Hey!” the guard shouts.
I turn to run, but I don’t get far. Something pokes me in the back, and I suddenly can’t move a single muscle. My phone slips out of my hand, and I fall to the floor. All I can see is my Blue Marble homescreen. My eyes start burning again, and before I know it, I’m on the ground, outside again. The pain has subsided, and I’m able to stand back up. I get into a crouch and gather myself before looking around. I see tall buildings, and old cars driving around. The people, their clothes, and everything around me; it all just screams 1970s. At the very least, I can safely say I’m no longer in the early sixteenth century.
A woman kneels down and helps me up. “My God, are you okay?” she asks in what sounds like a British accent.
“I’m fine, I just need to get back,” I tell her as I’m scouring the ground. “My phone. Where’s my phone?”
“Back at your place, I would imagine,” the woman says. “You couldn’t take it with you.” She laughs.
“Oh crap, I wasn’t holding it. I have to be holding it!”
“Okay, it’s okay. Where are your parents? Do you know where you’re staying? I assume you’re not from South Africa?”
“This is South Africa?”
“What year?”
“Paige?” I hear a sickening voice I am all too familiar with. “Is that you?”
I close my eyes, and slowly turn around, hoping this is all just a nightmare. When I open them, however, I find that it is not. It’s just my nightmare come to life. Standing before me is my awful birthmother. Behind her is my just as bad birthfather.
“It is you,” my mother says in awe. She almost looks like she’s about to break down in tears of joy, but I know her too well. 
“It’s nice to meet you,” the woman who was helping me says with her hand open. “My name is—”
“Paige Turner!” my mother scolds me, ignoring the woman. “It’s been over a year. Where the shit have you been!”

No comments :

Post a Comment