"My name is Gary North. I'm going to try and write this down as quickly as I can. So please forgive me if I make a few errors. I have to get this down, while everything is still fresh in my mind. I'm not sure how long I am going to be able to hold onto the events I am going to relate to you."
Growing up as children, we all have our flights of fancy: space exploration, invisibility, performing magic, and even time-travel. Isn't it strange how we, as humans, find ways to make our flights of fancy a reality? My father talks about a time when they used to listen to music on ten inch vinyl disks, instead of the three and a quarter inch lazer cd's that we have now. The sci-fi of the present, has a way of becoming the reality of the future.
I think I was in Junior High, when we started manned exploration of space beyond our moon. While I was in High School, someone figured out how to bend the fabric of time, making time travel also possible. Another oddity about us humans, is that we find ourselves adapting easily to anything new.
In a short time, everyone had accepted time travel and space exploration, as everyday occurrences. It became dull and mundane. We soon found how restricted time travel had to be, to be viable. Please don't think me too ignorant or uneducated, when I say that I don't understand how time travel works. After all, I'm not asking you to explain how your computer works, beyond you operating the mouse and the keyboard. Most of us have no idea why or how a computer does what it does. Besides, now that we have time travel, how it works isn't important, except to those that do the maintenance on the equipment. What is important, is what we do with it, now that we have achieved it.
I guess this is where I come into the story. You see it was discovered that time was so sensitive, that it needs to be monitored for changes. The 'Time Commission' was formed, and travelers were hired to police time, to prevent devastating alterations. I became a Monitor, after two years of college. It seemed that education wasn't as important as the ability to withstand the affects of 'time alteration', and the psychological effects of coming back to an altered present.
I get asked about my job on a regular basis. I try to give an example that most people would understand. You see, as much as we might like to; we cannot go back and prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, President Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., nor the World Trade Center disasters. Those events are too firmly woven into the fabric of time. They are an important part of our present.
Even though I was fascinated by time travel as a child. My true interest and knowledge of time travel came to me when I took a position as a Monitor. I guess I understand how changes in time affect those around us better than most people. The best way I know of to describe time and what happens if someone changes the past is like this...
Firstly, imagine if you will, a calm and still pond. There is not a single ripple upon the water. Now imagine yourself tossing one small pebble. It lands in the center of that pond. That pebble will cause small ripples that race to the shore. Those ripples cause small, hardly noticeable changes to the shoreline, though minute items may have been shifted or moved.
Now imagine that the pond I described is Time. Every time someone makes a trip back into time, and changes anything, it is like dropping something into that still pond. It is our job as Monitors to make sure that these changes are no larger than the pebble. On a good day nothing noticeable is changed. Now imagine that same pond sitting there just as calm and someone drops a boulder the size of Colorado into it (Hey, that's pretty good... 'Boulder, Colorado'. I guess I still have my sense of humor after all. Okay, so I won't be doing any stand up at the local improvisational club, but I bet it got a smile). Anyway, that boulder is not only going to destroy the pond but the water will be displaced and sent out like a tidal wave wiping out everything in it's path. If that tidal wave was time, everything in the path of the wave would be changed, and a new totally different present would soon take its place, as the water (or time) returned to encircle the boulder or perhaps never to return at all. That is exactly what would happen if you changed a crucial event such as the Kennedy assassinations.
While in the past, one has to be careful. Even pulling someone back, who is about to step in front of a bus, can have unforseen manifestations. Something most of us would do without a thought can have devastating effects on the present. The pond explanation is the simplest explanation that I have heard to explain how sensitive time is. I use it whenever one of my friends or family asks about my job and wants to know why the Time Commission doesn't change a major event. It is difficult for them to understand why I can't alter something that they think would make the present better.
Most of them walk away scratching their heads, even after I explain it. My wife doesn't even ask anymore. She claims that it gives her a headache just thinking about it. I think she has heard enough, because of the changes I have told her I see. As a Monitor I see what occurs when we have gone back and made changes, where everyone here changes, as the ripple passes through. For a while, we Monitors live with dual memories of the same events. A memory of what was, and a separate and just as real memory of what is, now. Eventually, either time or your mind tends to block out the previous reality, and it ceases to exist, even in memory. The techs at the commission call it a time loop. Something about time having to loop around a second time to erase the memory of a past that no longer exists.
If you ask me, I think we just block out the past reality that doesn't fit, anymore. I guess if you thought about that long enough, it would give you a headache. I try not to think about it too much. That is part of what allows me to be a good Monitor. I just go in, do my job with the Time Commission, then come home and concentrate on being a good husband and father.
There are a couple of things I should mention here. First of all, because of the inherent danger of time travel and the possibility of destroying the present time, the travel is carefully controlled. I couldn't even begin to explain how. I just know that the Commission has the most elaborate equipment in the world. Also, because there is such a risk in traveling to the past, there is little recreational travel allowed. Most of it is for escorted vacation packages under carefully controlled conditions, or for scholastic studies.
Even as carefully as those are watched, ripples could still be caused. Just imagine this, you go to the past walk into a malt shop and buy an ice cream cone as you are walking out the top scoop slides off the cone. Innocent enough, until the future president walks around the corner, steps in the ice cream, and slips and falls. He suffers a concussion. His goals change, and he now wants to be an attorney to represent accident victims. In that case a Monitor would have scooped up the ice cream and disposed of it in the trash, or stood in such a way that the future president had to walk around the ice cream. As you can see there is little glamor in the job I do.
Of course, as in all things, there are those who travel illegally. Recently there has been a surge of illegal travelers. They do it for fun, profit or adventure and these are some of the hardest cases to Monitor.
It is a good thing that it was discovered that people who travel back in time, leave a very unique signature. You see, man is constantly evolving, so the DNA of a person from the present, is different enough from a person in the past. That's how they can be tracked.
There are also some personal benefits to being a Monitor, as well. Working with the Time Commission, Monitors are allowed to request a personal trip. Maybe to satisfy a personal curiosity, or to research an event that interests us, or to change something non-crucial in their past that won't affect the future. However, each trip has to be approved by the Commission. There has to be a 'stand by' Monitor, just in case one of us inadvertently changes something that causes a time tidal wave, or at least that is how I think of it.
I have been with the Commission for ten years now, and have never made a personal request. I guess there was never a reason that I thought was important enough for me to go back. After all I go back in time nearly every day as part of my job. That all changed after a conversation I had with my dad a few months ago.
Dad had been watching my wife playing with our children. I noticed the tears forming in the corner of his eyes. Dad said in passing as he wiped his eyes how much he wished he had known his own mother. He did not elaborate, but that simple idea prompted me to start asking some questions. Questions that I never asked while I was growing up. I mean as a child I never gave any thought about the absence of a grandmother. I knew that other people had two grandmothers, but when someone has never been there, you don't miss them. There had only been granddad, when I was growing up.
Granddad had never remarried, when I talked to him about it, he claimed that he loved his wife so dearly that there was no one that could ever take her place. I understood this statement all to well. I feel the very same way about my wife, Sheila. When I asked my dad he insisted that my grandmother had died in childbirth. Well I had to do some really thorough research, if I was going to turn my idea into a proposal to the Commission.
.... There is more of this story ...