A strange tale of transmutation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: July 08, 2018

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Submitted: July 08, 2018

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He stirred from his sleep inconvenienced by the intense pain radiating from his neck to the middle of his back. He had the habit of sleeping in the most outrageously disagreeable postures known to man. His ever evolving twists and bends could probably give many professional contortionists a run for their money. Slowly rising from his sleep, he turned on his back, stretching his poor aching neck, and rolling his shoulders to get the kinks out. As he opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the light. Forgot to turn the lights off again, he thought still groggy from his sleep. All around his bed and nightstand an assortment of packages, each once containing a variety of sinfully delicious pastries, were strewn about. This is what his life had been reduced to; a continuous binge of equally bad food and entertainment.

His eyes travelled from his nightstand to a pile of papers laying haphazardly on the ground. Their mere sight elicited in him a deep and painful dejection. So much hope, so much hubris, he thought bitterly before closing his eyes to escape the all too familiar sorrow that assailed him every time this kind of rumination grazed his mind. Furious with himself for yet again allowing his wandering thoughts to venture into those treacherous terrains, he swiftly threw his sheets to the side to get out of bed. That is when he realized something was wrong. In fact, it would be right so say a lot of things were wrong, starting with the man quietly seating at the foot of the bed on one of his chairs. Shock and fear came over him like a crashing wave. As he struggled to stand, he realized that his legs could barely move.

"What?....who?" he uttered in confusion.

"Please don't be alarmed, I don't mean you any harm. The sedative will wear off in twenty minutes or so, and you'll have full control of all your faculties again. After all, we wouldn't want you running around like a panicked chipmunk....Ah, yes! I should probably introduce myself," said the man with a smile on his face.

The stranger was wearing what looked like a traditional West African caftan, but with a myriad of strange patterns with exceedingly flashy colours. These designs formed a series of hypnotic arabesques drawing you in as you contemplated their graceful dance. Those thingscould probably trigger a seizure in a small child, he thought as his mind lingered on the  motifs  decorating his visitor's strange, yet familiar, attire.

"I wouldn't look too closely at those moving, flashing patterns if I were you. You might end up with some brain damage. Nothing too serious, I assure you; negligible at best. But why risk it, right?" said the ever smiling man.

"Umm, who are you?" he asked still confused, and now slightly dizzy.

"Salamu Aleikum. My apologies for barging into your humble abode in this fashion, and disrupting your sleep. But, it became quite urgent to intervene," said the man while allowing his gaze to linger on the evidence of his most recent unfortunate binging.

This stranger looking at the leftovers of last night's meltdown made him surprisingly self-conscious. He almost surreptitiously became a hermit in an attempt to avoid the prying eyes of his family and friends, and their looks of pity. The last thing he needed was to be judged by this stranger who knew nothing about his life.

"Look, I don't know who you are or how you got in, but you need to leave before I call the authorities," he said angrily. What gave this stranger the right to barge into his sanctuary uninvited?

"I understand that this is no doubt unsettling for you, but please understand that the decision to intervene was not made lightly," the man responded with that infuriating smile still on his lips.

"Intervene? What are you talking about? Never mind, I don't want to know; just get out of my house before you regret ever setting foot in it," he said while attempting to sound menacing....If that is even possible while wearing pyjamas, he remarked to himself.

The stranger seemed to be studying him closely like some kind of lab specimen. He didn't seem angry, afraid, or frustrated by his subject's belligerence. On the contrary, his face remained as inscrutable as ever. After what seemed like an eternity to his interlocutor, he took a deep breath and very slowly leaned forward on his chair, as if he was approaching an easily spooked prey.

"Well, we've clearly started off on the wrong foot. So, let us start over. While my name is of very little importance, what you need to know is that I've come here to correct what could be a disastrous decision on your part," said the man.

He is working my last nerve with all this enigmatic nonsense, he thought.

"So, you came into my house uninvited and drugged me with God knows what, but you somehow expect me to seat here and just listen to you telling me about some terrible life decision I'm about to make. Is that right?" he asked sarcastically.

"Exactly," responded the man unfazed.

"So this is an intervention? Who put you up to this? Is it my brother? I bet it is him. The perfect son with the perfect life who just loves reminding me of what a failure mine is. This is too much even for him. To allow a stranger with a proclivity for drugging people into my house, what was he thinking? Well, Mr. Therapist you can tell him to mind his own business, and that his help is not required," he said hotly. His older brother never missed an opportunity to reiterate his own greatness by constantly shining a light on his little brother's obvious shortcomings.

"None of your family members or friends had anything to do with this. It will certainly be difficult for you to wrap your head around this at first, but I do believe you are better positioned then most to eventually accept it. I am a level 6 employee of the ministry of labour and social development, or what some people crudely call a temporal agent. I have travelled from the 27th century to help you plan the rest of your life. You, my dear brother have a destiny to fulfill," stated the man.

He vacillated between amusement and annoyance for a while, not quite sure what to make of this man and his outrageous claims. Is he some sort of crazy person? There is after all an asylum about 15 minutes from here, he wondered. Erring on the side of caution, he decided to play along until he could stand on his two legs again.

"So, you travelled all the way back to the 21st century to help me plan my life? Let's say for a minute that I believe you. Why? What is so important about my so-called destiny?"

"You will allow a young boy to dream of the many wonders that this world holds, and because of that he will become a great scientist whose work is without parallel. That is what makes your destiny so important."

"And how exactly will I do that? Do I travel to the 27th century and give this young boy a pep talk?" he asked amused by this rather fanciful tale.

"The young man in question is from the 25th century to be exact, and your books will do all the inspiring for you."

The mere mention of his books felt like a hot searing dagger stabbing him in the heart. This was his achilles' heel, his greatest passion and his most painful disappointment. He once foolishly thought he could become a famous novelist, and make his living through his writing. But that dream revealed itself to be sheer folly.

"That's it. Get out, I do not wish to entertain you and whatever this is any longer. Leave my house this instant," he yelled at the stranger angrily. His thoughts were going back to those all too familiar feelings of self-loathing and disillusionment, and this time he had this nutcase to thank for it.

"My apologies, I did not mean to vex you. I realize that the subject of your creative endeavours is a sore point with you. But that is exactly why I came here to give you some much needed perspective on all of this. You've convinced yourself that your work is inconsequential, that whether your books exist or not hardly matters. But, I am here to tell you that it does matter. Your stories will spark a flame that will light the way forward to one of the greatest discoveries ever made by our species. I know you are disappointed in what you perceive to be a lack of success. But giving up, becoming a recluse that spends his days binging on unhealthy amounts of calories, while subjecting this amazingly creative mind of yours to tedious drivel is not the answer. Deep down, you know that what I'm saying is true. You've never been happier than when you are seating at your desk and bringing to life those wondrous worlds that exist in your mind: Aisha and the cursed automaton, Tales of the one thousand and one stars, The beast of Pakmari, The invisible Chunk, and of course Shrieks of the Pterodactyls."

How does he know about shrieks of the Pterodactyls, I haven't even completed it?He looked at his abandoned novel scattered on the ground and wondered if the stranger read his manuscript while he was asleep.

"No, I didn't take a peek while you were asleep. I didn't need to, I've read the completed version," the man said anticipating his question.

"You mean folks are still reading my books in the 27th century?" he asked incredulously.

"Oh, God no! We've moved beyond such things. Don't be disheartened by that, Moby Dick is considered a children's book in my time. You see, we are intellectually at a far more advanced stage of human development. Of course, we are fully cognizant of the fact that human knowledge is cumulative in essence, hence why we've created vast archives where everything humans ever produced, from the groundbreaking to the trivial, is stored for posterity."

"I don't understand how my work could inspire anybody in a world where Moby Dick is read by toddlers," he said feeling despondent once more.

"It won't. But, for a young man born into a family of asteroid prospectors in the 25th century, and whose life was rather difficult, your stories became a refuge to escape the dreariness of his existence. Why did he gravitate so much toward your books? No one really knows. Many historians have speculated that it was really a case of sheer coincidence. The 25th century was a peculiar time. Human colonies were established haphazardly across the galaxy, often by private enterprises trying to gain a foothold in the ore rich sectors of space before their competitors. A slew of outer colonies appeared  in remote regions often cut off from the rest of human civilization. I'm afraid the great push forward to establish a firm human presence throughout our galaxy didn't come without blunders. Living on a mining station in the freshly established outer colonies meant this young boy had access to a limited database of reading material. It seems that he found some archival material on a reader containing, amongst other things, your books," explained the man.

"I still don't understand how my books inspired him. What did he invent that is so important anyway?" he asked still feeling a lingering sadness.

"He invented nothing, he is however part of an important chain of events that led to an amazing scientific discovery. For a long time, historians focused solely on important events and individuals without however taking into account the multitude of smaller historical details without which the broader patterns observed in human history would probably look vastly different. Have you ever heard of Fräulein Hilda Gustafsson? "

"No."

"Of course not. Her name appears in none of the historical annals of your century. She, for all intent and purposes never existed despite her notable role in Albert Einstein's revolutionary work on relativity. He had the habit of buying his morning indulgence in the form of freshly baked bagels from his local bakery belonging to the Gustafsson family for more than three generations. Fräulein Gustafsson's oven had a peculiar set of indentations that left long, circular streaks on her bagels. His morning routine consisted of a walk near the river, after purchasing his favourite bagels, and seating by one of the benches on its banks to ponder on his work. It is while staring at those streaked bagels that he contemplated the possible interwovenness of space and time into a single continuum known today as space-time. He noticed that those streaks became distorted as they ran along the curvature of the bagel which prompted him to wonder if the presence of massive objects would have a similar effect in space-time. Fräulein Hilda Gustafsson and her peculiar bagels were an important part of a specific chain of events that led a young Einstein to consider the nature of the relationship between time and space. Much like your own books will play a role in the discovery of time travel," said the man smiling anew.

"Time travel? Wow.....Wait, isn't dangerous that I know all these details about the future? Doesn't it create some sort of time paradox?" he asked now completely enraptured by the stranger's story.

"Temporal paradoxes are a lot more complex than what science fiction would have you believe. There are no time-loops to trap you in an endless repetition of the same events, nor will you die if you were to meet your counterpart from a different era. Such fantasies make for great stories, but that is all they are: pure fantasy. While by your century a basic understanding of the space-time continuum has been acquired, its inner workings still remain a mystery to you. In the upcoming centuries humanity's grasp of those fundamentals will improve, and because of that our understanding of human history will change drastically."

"How does my....destiny fit into all of this?" he asked more intrigued than ever.

"Explaining accurately the theory of temporal pliability in relation to time travel would entail a series of complex partial differential equations, which you obviously wouldn't be able to comprehend. For the purpose of our current discussion on your destiny, what you need to understand is that we've discovered the existence of strands in the space-time continuum that display a certain rigidity, which renders them a fixed point in time. These are not only the building blocs of the tesseract that allows time travel, they are also indispensable to historical continuity. Level 6 employees, such as yours truly, are entrusted with the important task of protecting the integrity of these fixed points. You happen to be a part of a such a strand. In the 25th century, a young boy growing up in a mining colony in sector 2580 stumbled upon your books and became quite fond of them. His great-grandson found his reader while sifting through some of the packages his mother labeled family heirlooms. Certainly out of childish curiosity he started reading your books and developed a great nostalgia for the past. This desire to revisit the past compelled him to work on the nature of time as a scientist. His theory of temporal pliability became the cornerstone of a whole new branch of physics which eventually led to the discovery of time travel a century later. Any changes that could endanger this succession of events would have a disastrous impact. You and your books are as important to the discovery of time travel as Fräulein Gustafsson and her peculiar bagels were to the discovery of general relativity."

"What about multiple timelines? Is that a thing? What would happen if I stopped writing books all together, will this create a different timeline?" he asked truly fascinated by the subject.

"Not quite. There is always only one real timeline. However when disruptive events occur they tend to create an adjacent pocket reality where the initial corruption causes a chain reaction that eventually leads to its inevitable collapse. These collapses create areas of great instability within the tesseract that can render time travel dangerous. This is why only temporal agents and historians with special dispensations are allowed to partake in time travel in order to limit any tampering that could create disruptions."

His head was swimming with conflicting thoughts and emotions. For the first time in his life he was left speechless. His lingering despondency was being eclipsed by a renewed sense of purpose. He rapidly shoved this blossoming dream aside, afraid of letting himself hope too soon. Can this be true?he wondered.

"Will I ever know success as a novelist in my own time?" he asked hesitantly.

"You will never be the next Hemingway, Achebe, Roy, Mahfouz, or Dostoevsky. Your work will never be considered as highbrow literature. But you will continue to publish a steady stream of books that will find a small but dedicated readership. The importance of your destiny has nothing to do with you finding commercial success in your lifetime, but everything to do with fulfilling your role as a writer of wonderfully fanciful and creative tales," his visitor answered.

Hearing that he will toil in obscurity as a writer of lowbrow speculative fiction would have sent him over the edge earlier. But now, he found himself looking for a silver lining in all of this. A small but dedicated readership, he repeated to himself already picturing his future meet-and-greet with his devoted fandom. A flurry of new ideas assailed his mind, stories were already taking shape and characters coming to life. Lost in the effervescence of his creativity, he barely noticed that he could once again move his legs.

"I see the sedative is starting to wear off. Remember dear brother that there is no such thing as a trivial destiny. We were all born to play a role in this life. While your books may not be for most, they will be indispensable to the right ones. It has been a pleasure and an honour to make your acquaintance," the man said.

His voice sounded strangely weak as if it had travelled through a great distance. The patterns on his caftan replaced their previously graceful dance with a frantic movement creating an increasingly shimmering light. His entire being seemed to be gradually fading into the background. Soon, nothing other than the empty chair remained of his strange visitor's passage. The silence in the room was deafening. I didn't even ask him his name,he thought. Able to stand again, he took a few steps toward the manuscript thrown in anger against the wall the previous night. He picked up a few of the pages laying on the ground and started to read them aloud.

"Not too bad for lowbrow literature," he said smiling.

 

 


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