By the time I make my first step into the portal, my anxiety has given way to pure eagerness. I leave behind any doubts about the accuracy of my calculations. With greatness at hand, I allow myself to pause so that I may bask in the glow of accomplishment. I have done it! I have achieved a goal dreamed about for as long as men have dreamed. My fame will be at least as great as any of the most revered in all of history. No one will be able to speculate on the greatness of Newton, Einstein or Hawking without adding, ‘Ah, but they merely questioned time. He conquered it.’ No one is even close to the level of impact I will have upon the world of Man. I have succeeded where others have failed, where so many have even failed to dream, and when I complete my first excursion as my treat, my reward, as it is my right to be first as the discoverer that time travel is possible….
Still, I can’t help but wonder why. It was difficult at first, true, but not impossibly so. Why has no one managed it, why have I never seen a mention of it in the news or even the journals? Why are there no revelations of the truth of JFK’s assassination? Why has no one come forward to provide first hand testimony, even if it is not accompanied by photographs or other indisputable proof, of the resurrection of Jesus? Did Moses really part the Red Sea for the thousands of his fellow slaves to flee Egypt? Did Atlantis exist? Where was it, that expeditions may be launched to recover relics of that fabled land?
My second step takes me through….
Cold—bone freezing cold!
Floating adrift in enveloping darkness!
A confusion of distant points of lights…very distant…infinitely distant!
Panic impales me as frigid reality grips my gasping lungs. After several jarring thuds of my pulse pounding in silence, I recognize the surroundings that parade before me in my slow rotation. My first attempts to deny their implications evaporate along with the irreplaceable wisps of vapor bleeding from my lungs. With the burning cold of empty space sucking away my body’s heat, it becomes ever clearer to me, this realization that I have miscalculated. Might it have been so simple as a misplaced decimal? Whatever, from the effect, I understand, now, the cause all too well. Whether one goes into the past or the future, it’s a one-way trip. The horror of comprehension hammers at me with the shock of everything in its new perspective.
The procedure has turned out to be doable, but am I really the first? Without question, I am the first to go into the past unless they were very brief trips…but what about the future? Surely, it has as much attraction as the past. Has someone made that journey? And, if so, how far? Unlike my own regrettable destiny, the nature of their fate would depend on how far into the future they ventured. It would be fascinating to ponder such a thing if I had the time. Time! I can almost laugh at the irony. If only…. But, now I can’t get past the idea that if I had made the future my choice, only I would have suffered from my error. Even as my vision grows dim when my eyeballs freeze-dry, I watch in dread at the consequences of my decision to venture, instead, into history.
With understanding, fascination seizes me at the moon’s approach. My first instinct is to flail my arms and legs, to swim myself away, as if it were even possible to move about in a vacuum in such a way. Besides, what could be more futile? The gravity of my body so near that tiny, fragile orb is as though Jupiter has suddenly moved in close. I’m like a voracious black hole, and no effort of mine will even slow the moon’s terrible acceleration from so near. When it smashes into my hip in a blinding flash, the searing heat against my frigid flesh is almost welcome.
My slow spin brings into view a beautiful blue and golden-brown globe striped with swirls of gauzy white. I’m tempted to reach out and take it in my hand, encircling my fingers around it like a peach. But I visualize the catastrophic destruction across continents and ocean basins alike from even the most delicate caress of my fingertips, and I withhold it. Ever the scientist, though, I wonder, if only for a moment, how the crust would withstand a probing nail. Would it burst open at the first touch like an overripe tomato, encasing my hand in searing magma, or would the strength of the granite and basaltic crust be more like that of an egg shell, rigid and unyielding under my caressing fingers until it shattered?
I can’t help but imagine the effects of such indelicate handling, and I watch in horror as, ever quickening on its altered course, Earth closes the distance between us.
I thought I had accounted for the supposed paradoxes. Perhaps I did, but how will I ever know? How could I have not considered the tangential possibilities from such a commonly accepted concept as the expansion of the universe? What additional calculations might have established that the size of a thing in its own present is a universal constant? Why didn’t I consider that the universe of my past would be smaller, and that even if I could go into the past, I would not be at my previous relative size? Why didn’t it occur to me that my present size and the universe of another time might not be compatible?
Will I know? When my microscopic grandfather, as a young child seventy years ago in the past of my time, is obliterated while watching JFK ride through Dallas, will I simply wink out? Will I be the only thing to wink out, or will the earth…?
I cannot help but watch in awe as I did at the closing moments of the moon’s existence, and I wonder what the view is to anyone looking skyward from Dallas about now. I wonder if he can see me.
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