Contest rules: here
A matter of time (Seat 14 C contest)
I understand why my beloved Cynthia hates to fly. Considering her condition, it’s not easy to support occasionally turbulences and people complaining about that. Or hearing same passengers wondering if we landed at SFO or elsewhere. For Christ’s sake, there is a ton of technology in the cockpit; and our pilot is not Christopher Columbus.
“This is captain speaking. We’ve just been informed that disembarking is postponed due to a medical check that needs to be done onboard. We apologise for the unexpected discomfort.”
Again, moans. Why? We’re on solid ground, safe. After all the hours spent in a long-distance flight from Tokyo, what matters some more minutes?
I try to check email, but Internet connection is not available. Strange, this is a first on ANA flights. But I am old enough to remember other methods of killing time, such as reading a newspaper, as the one abandoned right near me. I begin searching something worth reading, among dozens of boring articles; finally, something about the new president of France retained my attention. To my disappointment, it was mostly outlining the fact that his wife is 25 years elder.
So what? Is the same situation for the president of the USA, and also for me.
Cynthia is 26, I am 47. We love each other; this is all that matters, isn’t it?
After few minutes, I folded the newspaper and put it in the front chair’s pocket. Just in time to pay attention to the lady that appeared from nowhere, standing in front of me; she recommended herself as a psychologist, then begins to tell me a lot of strange things.
“We’re in 2037”, she says. “Mister Thorton, you spent twenty years in one-day trip”.
“Look on the window. Anything strange out there?”, she continued.
“Nope.”, I said. “All strangeness is here, on this plane.”
Finally, we are allowed to disembark. I must admit that SFO is not the same I used to know. Some of the planes are looking odd, too.
This must be a social experiment, I said to myself. I must behave properly, maybe it is a prize in this game.
Inside the terminal, a lot of people were waiting for passengers of the ANA flight #008. In the air, tens of buzzing mini-drones were surrounding the newcomers, probably recording their arrival.
I must admit, I am impressed. There are lots of special effects here. Maybe a big prize is at stake.
In the crowd, nobody I used to know. Or… wait, that woman looks like Cynthia! But something is strange about her look… She looks older; maybe the effect of a makeup necessary to make that 2037 hoax believable.
“Hey, darling, did you missed me?” I asked with a loud voice.
“You have no idea, Mike! Welcome home!” she answered.
I must play this game. If Cynthia accepted it, I must do the same:
“After twenty years, you look unchanged. How is that possible?”
She didn’t respond immediately. With her right hand, she took off the dark glasses and said:
“Well, not entirely unchanged. These glasses are no longer needed, I used them to help you recognise me. I hope you don’t mind I used this trick. Good news, now I can see, thanks to the modern science.”
And indeed she was looking at me. With incredible blue eyes. I think that shocked me a little bit.
“If you don’t like blue, it can be arranged,” she says, blinking often. Her eyes were now green, like two emeralds.
“It doesn’t matter the colour, is great that you can see now”, I said, convinced that somehow it might be possible to be somewhere in the future. She wouldn’t lie to me, for no contest in the world.
How was that possible? I don’t believe in time travel since time is nothing more than a social convention to enforce people work, or in modern times to know when taxes are due. Under no circumstances, a person can travel back and forth in time, like driving a car on a highway!
But somehow, I just did it. And my Cynthia is now the same age as me, healthy as never before. And still mine… I felt a cold chill crawl up my spine.
“How’s that you’re still single, after all those years?”
I saw the sadness conquering her soul, and instantly I regretted the question.
“Well, don’t think that I am kind of a Penelope. When I met you, because of my medical condition, I associated your voice, touches and presence with the image of the most attractive man that ever stepped on this planet. Then, when I begin to see and meet other people, I become extremely picky. But let’s step over these melodramatic details. You have a lot of fantastic things to learn about.”
A large smile rise on her face.
“Remember how you taught me the position of the furniture in our apartment, to avoid injuries? It’s time to return that favour”, she says.
“Let’s take a cab and go to doctor’s office. He’s waiting for us.”
“But I am not sick!”, I tried to protest.
“I am sure of that, but you must get as soon as possible the neuronal interface implanted. Without it, you might get sick or get a stroke, and nobody will know. Safety comes first.”
I was surprised to see the taxi having a driver. Not self-driven cars? Cynthia explained to me that what was an encouraging experiment, went wrong when mass production was in place. Cars without drivers were very slow in urban areas, often unable to predict complex situations in traffic.
Trucks and other vehicles designed for highways are autonomous, able to travel in the queue. But inside cities, they are not allowed.
After all, the human brain seems to be yet competitive.
The doctor, a small, stout man, appeared to be a rather an IT guy than a person that studied medicine. I was invited to sit in a comfortable chair, then he begins to switch some buttons, focused on a holographic screen full of numbers and graphs.
After few seconds, I felt a pinch in my arm, followed by numbness. A metal arm walked in front of my eyes; I felt it touching my temp, without any pain. After a short while, it began to move again, in a sequence that made me napping.
“Wake up you lazy bones”.
It is Cynthia’s voice, strangely heard inside, not in my ears.
“We’re now connected, my dear. More intimate than we were ever before.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re connected. The neuronal interface is there, under your skin. For now, you are connected only with me, till you’ll get familiar with that form of communication. In a couple of days, I will extend your connectivity to the entire Ultranet.”
“What’s Ultranet?” I asked, scared of the perspective of becoming a cyborg.
“Kind of an Internet, but bigger. And faster. Don’t worry, you will use it only when you want to do so. It is not intrusive.”
A day passed since I landed at SFO. Except for the hours when I was asleep, I’ve been continuously collecting info about the technical and scientifical progress and wondering how is possible such an enormous advances in individual domains – such as space exploration and health care – and slow changes in others, like road transportation or food preparation.
Cynthia was helping me a lot. It’s strange how in a relationship where I was the elder one, now I am staying and listening to her as a student is listening to his teacher. Sometimes I am still wondering if this is not a well covered social experiment; if it’s not, then all this experience must become the subject of a book.
I was so astonished by all the news, that I forgot something essential.
“My parents, do you know anything about them? They are still alive?”
“Yes, they are. Don’t worry, they are doing fine. The eighties are the new fifties, so are the doctors saying. Your flight appeared out of nowhere, they even didn’t know you’re here.”
“Let’s call them, please”.
“Sorry, we have to wait for a week. I already tried to contact your parents, but they are in the middle of the geriatric treatment. Which cannot be interrupted, their health will be seriously at risk, especially with such a significant emotional shock as hearing that you are alive and well.”
“Okay, we’ll wait. Do you have any idea how can I get in touch with my work colleagues? You know, I was in Tokyo to attend a lung cancer conference. That’s funny, I thought I will bring news with me, but I guess the news is already here. Maybe cancer is no longer a health issue?”
“It still is”, replied Cynthia. “There were several announcements that it has been cured, but none exact. Remains the greatest threat of the health condition. As far as I know, scientists reached the conclusion that is not even a problem of health, is something above that.“
“I am afraid I don’t understand.”
“You will, soon. There is still a significant amount of information that you have to assimilate, before getting in touch with your former colleagues. But I am here, I will assist you in this process. I got off my job for two weeks. ”
“What are you doing for a living? You surely finished history studies, are you a teacher or something like this?”
She smiled. Her new look, more mature, close to my age, make me feel in love even more than I used to be.
“Nope. I work in research. Neo-egyptology.”
“You lost me. Please explain”
“Neo-egyptology is the science that studies the pyramids from Egypt, from a brand new perspective. You know what? It’s time to get acquainted with the Ultranet. I will connect you, please browse for info on this subject till I prepare the dinner. Then we will discuss .”
I felt the moment when she activated the connection as a time when you woke up suddenly in the middle of a highway, with cars passing very close with high speed. So much information, so easy to access…
“Use the holographic device, Mike. Is better to visualise the info, don’t try to digest it directly.”
I opened the device just by thinking on this. Anything I wanted to look for was displayed directly on the three-dimensional screen, and the sound was directly in my head. Fantastic invention!
So I started getting info about what Cynthia was working on.
Twenty years ago, a short time after our plane disappeared, a group of scientists were thinking to do a breakthrough experiment. They considered stepped pyramid structure as being an electrical device, with each flat platform as support for conductors, making it a sort of coil. Connected to a power source, it generates a magnetic field strangely shaped and with unknown properties.
So far, they experimented on smaller structures, trying to understand which is the optimal proportion between dimensions and current intensity. But the progress is significant, in next couple of years, a full sized experiment is scheduled on Giza Plateau. I saw some pictures, with thick copper cables, wound around a pyramid. Pure madness!
“Dinner is ready!” I heard her voice, and at the same time, I felt the divine smell of food coming from the kitchen.
With full stomachs and a good glass of wine in hand, we continued the discussion. She was very excited to have this opportunity to talk about her work, so she talked for many minutes without being able to interrupt her.
It was interesting info, but also I enjoyed her enthusiasm. Slowly, the new present absorbed me, and I dissolved into it without resisting.
“… and you realise how well it was for me to work on this important project, a few months after I thought I lost you. Moreover, I was delighted to be able to work on the first experiment’s team, on this platform in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They chose an isolated location to avoid interferences with other magnetic fields. And somehow, the destiny picked this place. You know… right in the area where your plane was thought to have collapsed. I imagined I was closer to you.”
I saw a tear coming to the corner of her eyes.
“Hey, don’t get sad. After all, here we are, together. It was a happy ending story, right?”
One thought rose into my mind.
“When you said that there were the first experiments?”
“A couple of months after your disappearance.”
“Is there any remote possibility that they started earlier?”
“I don’t think so, but I cannot exclude the possibility. When I got there, the installation was already mounted.”
Was my turn to get excited.
“Cynthia! What if… let’s just imagine this… first experiment took place earlier when my plane was passing over that platform! Triggering the time shifting!”
“Oh, my God!” she exclaimed.” If that’s true, the implications are immense! It would be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of mankind!”
“I would not be so sure. We have not discovered anything, just reusing the discoveries of others.”
We spent the entire night talking about the ancient Egyptians, pyramids and the opportunity of time travelling. At one point I was convinced to quit research on cancer treatment, preferring to join the team that my girlfriend was working on. After all, the purpose of these experiments was more palpable, and by communicating with the past, the future, or maybe with other civilisations that were light-years away, we could also find a cure for cancer.
At the sunrise we fell asleep embraced, dreaming of the discoveries that await us, somewhere among the stones loaded with history of the Giza plateau.