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Monday, October 14, 2019

Microstory 1211: Irene de Vries

Irene de Vries was a 21st century virologist. She wasn’t a superstar in her field, and that was probably the reason a time traveler named Trinity chose her for a very special assignment. Twelve light years from Earth, there was a star system called Tau Ceti. Despite the fact that there were a handful of planets within the habitable zone of the star, there was only one planet that had the potential to be perfectly suited for human life. Named Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida, it was full of flora and fauna, but nearly everything was deadly to humans. It was Trinity’s dream that it be modified on a molecular level, and for this to happen before Earthan colonists had the chance to even arrive. She secretly recruited a number of experts, and Irene was only one of them. It was her job to use extremely advanced technology to seek and destroy all dangerous viruses on the planet before they could infect its first colonists. Automated systems could do a lot of this work, but Trinity wanted a human touch, to make sure everything was done correctly. Irene took to her job, comforted by the promise that Trinity would return her home only seconds after she first left, no matter how long she spent there. Unfortunately, there was a temporal anomaly on Bida that no one—not even Trinity herself—was aware of. She left her associate near this anomaly for only one week while she flew off to the other side of the globe to work on other things. On the last day of her solo exploratory mission, Irene found the special cave, and decided to take a good look around. She spent only five hours there, which was longer than she had planned, but the organisms she discovered were just too damn interesting. When she finally emerged, Trinity was nowhere to be found. She waited at the rendezvous point for three weeks, but she never saw her again. She resigned herself to the fact she would be trapped on an alien world forever, and this was just her life now. She figured she might as well seek better shelter. She reentered the cave, but this time she went deeper, all the way to the other side. It was here that she found humans.

A little bit of investigation made it clear that she was back on Earth, but many centuries in the past. According to the Julian calendar, it was the year 1128. Despite the fact that this was not what she would call civilization, she decided to stick around. Life was difficult for her there, but at least she was no longer alone. The first thing she had to do was start learning the language. This was England, but so long ago that they were speaking a form of English that was completely unintelligible to her. She fell in love with her teacher. He was kind and understanding, and he didn’t question her about her native tongue, or what she was doing in these lands. He accepted her, and within the year, they were married. Less than a year after that, she bore him a son, who they named Briar. They lived pretty contently for the next few years, raising their child together, and just trying to get by. One day, Irene was taking a walk with Briar when a torrential storm suddenly came upon them. She didn’t want to have to run all the way back home, so she sought shelter in the same cave she used to come here. She stayed fairly close to the entrance, but not close enough to watch the storm. She and Briar fell asleep, and by the time they woke up, Irene didn’t know how much time had passed. When they stepped back out, however, she discovered it to be no less than sixteen years, and the love of her life had passed. She realized that the cave must slow time, in addition to sending travelers from Bida to Earth. Irene finally understood, but it was too late. Her husband was dead, Trinity was long gone, and she had to make a choice. She could either raise Briar on Earth in a bad time period, or alone on Bida. She depleted 140 years weighing her options. Her husband was the only person she could ever trust, and it was because of this that she spent so much time in the cave yet again, trying to decide what to do, and also why she ended up choosing Bida. She spent the rest of her life on a world devoid of all intelligent life but her son, lying to him to make sure he never entered the cave unless it was absolutely necessary, and died an old woman.

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