Postcard From The Future #10

Our final postcard from the future comes from Professor Saul Deveraux himself, inventor of the Retro-Temporal acceleration technology being deployed at Geneva’s ‘Even Larger Hadron Collider’ to send messages back in time…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed the previous nine messages over the last nine months. The same time as the gestation of a human child, perhaps not coincidentally. You see, the Retro-Temporal Postcard Program is very much my baby, my lifetime’s work, albeit so well assisted by thousands of other dedicated scientists, the world over. I thank them all.

Will you people of the early twenty-first century believe that these messages are real? –That we in the 23rd century, really have mastered such incredible technology as to be able to send information back in time to you? As I write, there is no evidence in any of our libraries or history annals that these attempts were successful. But I confidently expect to go to the same data sources tomorrow and find that history has updated itself. Of course it will. But will I know? This paper I write on would have to disappear into thin air, in order for me not to know, and that seems unlikely. So history is going to change and we’re going to see it change, almost instantly before our eyes. How extraordinary. That has never happened before in the history of our planet. Or has it? You see the irony?

The previous nine postcards, which I’ve read and vetted myself, all contain clues as to various fatal mistakes that you folks are destined to make. Will you take steps to try and avoid these, thus changing your future, and potentially making me disappear, or me and everything else here at least change form and substance so dramatically as to constitute another dimension, albeit that the previous one might cease to exist in its favour? Am I losing you? Am I losing myself? You see the irony?

Again this seems unlikely. Our view from here of our past must already incorporate all attempts to stop it happening. Not that such attempts are not worthy and noble, of course they are, it’s just that they won’t work. You will blow yourselves up with carelessly constructed nuclear fission technology. You will raise the water level of the entire planet due to runaway global warning, thus drowning numerous cities and costing the lives and livelihoods of millions. You will melt the ice caps and shut down the gulf stream. You will overuse antibiotics and fail to develop phage alternatives in time, thus allowing genetic plagues to wipe out further millions of lives.

If I know you won’t heed our warnings, then why am I warning you? Well, in a way, I am simply returning the favour. You people warned us after all, with your wonderful books like 1984, We, and Brave New World. Did we listen to your advice, did we try to avert the crises that you warned us of? Well, we tried very hard, and we really listened, I can say that much. Your visions of the future did not incorporate our having read your warnings, and for that reason of course, they were all somewhat off the mark, but we have carved a better future in the enlightened shadow of your dire foretellings.

The inversion is perfect. Because looking back in time from here at this moment, it seems to us that you did nothing to heed the warnings we are sending back. In other words our past, your present, is merely a fiction, a satirical fiction, poorly constructed by a writer of great ability, perhaps even a shred of genius, but whose skill and vision falls sadly short of the grand parameters of the challenge he has set himself.

Thus do I, Professor Saul Frederick Deveraux, hereby declare our entire human past a fiction as mutable as the future, and resolve to hereby change it for the better. Thus, the present, past and future, have always been much more malleable and alike than any human being has dared hitherto to dream.

This is the last and most important of the ten postcards, the one that I predict will finally work, and visibly change the past around us, proving that our technology worked and that it’s safe for us to send some human beings back next time. I am giving you all permission to change your world, to change your present, by giving you the knowledge that this is possible, that there is nothing to stop you.

Why do you hesitate? Now of all times, when you are so close to freedom, when what you have always needed is at hand? Are you afraid to open the door after all and let the demons of the future come rushing in with me at their helm? Am I, are we, so frightening? Have I sounded so unreasonable? By keeping quiet you condemn us to eternal ignorance of our success. Don’t do that to us, to me. Let us come back and help you. We are nothing to be afraid of. We are only yourselves after all, taken to extremes, tried and tested across a hundred further generations than humankind has already endured. Are you so afraid to look in the mirror, to finally meet yourselves?

Or am I missing the point somehow? Are the people of the future, who rise successfully above the barbarism of the 21st century, by definition so different, so alien, as to be unrecognisable to the people of the past?

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

~

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About Douglas Thompson

Douglas Thompson’s short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, most recently Albedo One, Ambit, Postscripts, and New Writing Scotland. He won the Grolsch/Herald Question of Style Award in 1989 and second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007. His first book, Ultrameta, was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, nominated for the Edge Hill Prize, and shortlisted for the BFS Best Newcomer Award. His critically acclaimed second novel, Sylvow, was published in autumn 2010, also from Eibonvale. A third novel Apoidea has recently been released from The Exaggerated Press and a fourth Mechagnosis is due from Dog Horn in June 2012.

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