The day the inevitable happened was, surprisingly, warm and sunny. I’d always pictured it as forebodingly dark with a torrential downpour of historical—nay, biblical—proportions. Since I knew it was of course coming at some point, I suppose it was comforting to think of it as somehow dramatic or noteworthy. But this was just another day, and quite a lovely one at that. Go figure.

The feeling started to come on during my morning shave, took form in the shower, and slapped me upside the head over breakfast. As I said, I always knew it was in the offing, but even when you know something is looming it can still reach out and grab you with a jolt of unpredictability, like the old jack-in-the-box toy where you’d turn the lever knowing the obvious result and yet still get a mild start when that damned thing popped out. For many people, the abstract notion of “the apocalypse” is probably a bit like this, something that feels inevitable but is viewed amorphously—until the moment when it all goes down before your eyes. I guess having a general idea and seeing the real thing are two very different processes. Continue Reading

The car zipped through an opening the size of a doorway, narrowly missing the other three vehicles vying to move in the same direction, adjusting to their presence with precision coordination and lightning reflexes that no “Drivers Ed” school could ever teach. Accelerating smoothly, we careened onward through the city’s dizzying traffic, without a concern for either safety or timeliness—both of which were guaranteed by the central operating system and the supercomputer behind the wheel.

Well, actually, as a technical matter there was no one behind the wheel. The vehicle was its own operator, of course, part of the first generation of truly “emancipated motorized units” (or EMUs, for short), and sold on the market as a new class of transportation devices called the Autonomobile. These vehicles were allowed to proceed without a driver per se, but they could not do so without a passenger. So the oddity was that the technology had simply moved the rider to a different seat in the carriage. Continue Reading

The phenomenon only lasted long enough to get a short message through, but unpacking the implications of the response will take far longer. The science of radiometry behind the capacity to send information across space—and thus, by definition, through time—isn’t what I want to focus on here; as a scientist, there will be many opportunities to try and replicate the process and publish on the results. As a human being, however, and as a parent with a liberal sensibility that includes concern for the future, I am mostly preoccupied with the reply. My query is as follows, and below is what I received back:

To whomever receives this transmission: I am a scientist living in the year 2017 and have found a way to open a “pinhole” through time by which to send a message. I know this may sound unbelievable, but I’m hoping that anyone capable of receiving it in your time would have sufficient knowledge to understand. I can only offer as proof the internal logic of my message to you, which is one of deep concern. Our world is beset by violence and conflict, and our environment is rapidly destabilizing. Our political systems grow more venal each day, and the culture is plagued by shallow media and poor education. I know this sounds grim, but I am hoping that from your vantage point in the future, things look better. If you receive this, please use the same wavelength to send a reply—promptly, as the portal will soon close… Continue Reading

Dear Polemis,

I have reviewed the archive thoroughly and am pleased to report that I have uncovered some previously unknown information that illuminates the context of events in the relevant time period. This is a remarkable text, the authenticity of which has been verified. I am ascribing its authorship, for the sake of ethnographic integrity, to the character we have been identifying as “Dante” and welcome your insights on how best to present this artifact in the context of our overall preliminary findings about that era in prehistory. Here then, is the text of the original document in full, as we have unearthed it.

Respectfully,

Lemastar, 1 May 4891 Continue Reading

This is an alternate reality, Phillippe reminded himself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. He had to keep affirming this in his mind, or he could easily step on one of two related but opposite landmines: he could fail to take the dangers here seriously and thus perish at their hand, or he could become too invested in them and become trapped by the logic of this place. He had to be vigilant during his stay.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the province, Sam skulked along on the sidewalk as traffic zipped by at its usual frenetic clip. Sam and Phillippe were ostensibly here together, but rarely interacted in this timeline in order to avoid being taken for coconspirators. Which of course they were, but conspiracies are more effective when their members work autonomously. Still, it made her feel anxious and alone.

Since they had uncovered the portal, everything had felt this way for both of them. The growing wave of their budding romance had been put on the back burner as they first doubted what they had seen, then came to investigate its workings, and finally learned to manipulate its effects in order to try and set things right. It had been almost a year since they stumbled upon the phenomenon — far too long. Continue Reading