"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.
What I found out through my research and my long talks with Granddad, was that my grandmother had actually died, prior to my dad's birth. I know that sounds really strange, but I found that bit of information in the computerized medical data banks. Although some of the details are a little sketchy. It appears that my grandmother was eight months pregnant on a hot summer night.
My grandfather Vince had convinced his wife Amelia to go swimming so they could cool off a bit. Even though they had been married for nearly two years, Amelia's eyes sparkled like a newlywed bride when she agreed. Even though his wife was eight months pregnant Vince had never seen his wife look more beautiful or sensuous. Perhaps it had something to do with the look in his wife's eye. They had been together long enough that he knew she had more in mind than a midnight swim.
Vince loaded some towels, and a bottle of wine on ice into the car. For some reason he didn't understand he grabbed his cellular phone, as he and Amelia headed out the door. Vince knew better than to ignore an urge like that, even if it seemed odd at the time. Though he wouldn't understand until later why grabbing his phone was so important.
Vince drove to an abandoned strip mining pit, where he and Amelia had spent a lot of time when they were dating, and even more while they were newlyweds. It had been more than a year since they had been here last. Their lives had just been too busy to find an opportunity to sneak away.
Unfortunately, both Vince and Amelia were unaware that the city had been doing their best to fill the strip mining pits around the area. Recently, the city had been dumping the rubble from a high-rise they were demolishing. Perhaps if they hadn't been stealing hungry amorous looks at each other while they were driving, they might have caught sight of the new signs posted on the fence, which stated clearly: no swimming and no trespassing. Or they might have noticed all of the fresh tire marks from heavy trucks, but they were too occupied with each other to notice these, either.
Vince backed the car up near the strip pit. Then he walked hand in hand with Amelia, still stealing flirtatious looks with a blanket under his other arm. Vince spread the blanket out on the ground, and helped his wife lower herself to it. He returned to the car, and grabbed the towels, the wine, and unconsciously shoved the cell phone into his pocket. When Vince returned, he saw his beautiful wife staring across the pit, watching the moonlight dance across the water. He began to set things down on the blanket. Amelia turned to look up at him.
The moment her eyes fell upon him a thrill shot through him. Her eyes then wandered to his hands as he arranged things on blanket: the bucket of ice with the wine in it, the glasses the towels. As he pulled the cell phone from his pocket and tossed it onto the blanket, she looked up at him questioningly. Vince just shrugged his shoulders and gave her his "I'm not sure why" look. Amelia smiled tolerantly, and turned back to the water.
A light breeze started to blow. Not enough to cool things down, but enough to cause small ripples across the water. The moonlight danced and winked at them across the water as though it was trying to entice them into the water. Vince had gotten beyond the point where he was amazed by how few words the two of them needed to exchange, sometimes, to come to a complete understanding of one another. Sometimes he and Amelia communicated more with a comfortable silence than with awkward words.
Vince uncorked the bottle of wine and poured them both a glass. Amelia was very conscious about being pregnant, but did allow herself a glass of wine once in a while. Of course she made sure to clear it with her doctor. He assured her it wouldn't do her or the baby any harm, as long as it was just once in a great while. Vince handed her a glass and set down close to Amelia. They sipped their wine, and watched the moonlight as it continued to dance across the water.
Vince stole glances at his wife every so often, and reminded himself just what a lucky man he was to have found her. The emotions rose in him. There were so many things he wanted to say to her, even though deep down he knew she was aware of how he felt. He just wished that he could find a way to express them to her. Then he realized that words would spoil the moment they were sharing, especially his inept ones, so he remained silent.
He reached over and caressed her swollen belly. Amelia turned and smiled at him in a way that made him love her all the more.
"So," he said to her in almost a whisper, afraid to spoil the moment. "If it is a boy, we are going to name it Franklin, after your father?" he asked, already knowing the answer. She smiled even wider, "Yes, my love. And if it is a girl, we are going to name it Karen after your mother."
The doctors had offered to test for sex for them, but being a little old fashioned, they had refused and decided to wait. Their parents had waited 'till childbirth to find out the sex. Perhaps they were romantics at heart, but for them it was the right thing to do. Though they sipped the wine slowly, their glasses were soon empty.
Vince offered Amelia a second glass. She refused and patted her swollen belly. Vince poured himself a second glass and replaced the cork in the bottle. Vince was about halfway through his second glass of wine when Amelia stood carefully and took several steps toward the water. Vince watched her form highlighted by the moonlight. After a moment or two Amelia began to shed her clothes. After the briefest pause she dispensed with her bathing suit as well.
Vince couldn't keep himself from staring at her. It didn't matter how many times he had looked at her naked body, he always felt entranced by it. Her legs were long and shapely; her still narrow waist that had not thickened much with pregnancy, and her firm breasts required no bra for support. From behind you would not know she was pregnant. But to him even her swollen belly made her all the more beautiful to him.
Amelia looked back at him teasingly, over her shoulder, and walked surprisingly quickly to the water. That was all it took to snap his self-control. Vince gulped down the last of his wine, and began running toward the water stripping off his clothes as he went. Amelia was already in the water. Vince dived in after her. Vince came up next to her and they wrapped their arms around each other in a tender embrace while treading water with their legs. After a long moment of looking into one another's eyes they shared a passionate kiss.
Vince felt his body reacting to hers. He was surprised that he had an erection, even in the cold water of the pit. The impish sparkle had returned to Amelia's eyes. She slipped out of his arms and under the water, and disappeared. A moment later she surfaced behind him and sprayed him with water with water from her mouth. Vince spun around and grabbed for her. He was rewarded with an armful of empty air for she had disappeared under the water again.
A moment or two later she had appeared again spraying Vince with water. This time she was well out of his reach so with a powerful kick he swam toward her. She was gone again by the time he reached where she had been. He spun around and was ready to grab for her when she surfaced again.
Several moments after he thought she should have resurfaced, she still not come up for air. A cold panic spread through him. Vince took three quick breaths, and dived under the water. After a moment or two he began to see the huge chunks of concrete and the tangle of reinforcing rods sticking out haphazardly at odd angles. A moment more of searching, and he located her. Her legs were caught in the tangle of reinforcing rods.
He went to her and signaled that he would be right back. He quickly kicked to the surface and took several quick deep breaths to enrich the oxygen in his lungs. Vince dove back down. He motioned for her to release the air out of her lungs. She complied and he put his mouth over hers and exhaled his air into her. Vince quickly surfaced and refreshed the air in his lungs and dove back down. This time he went for the tangle of steel that had his wife's legs trapped. He was able to budge a couple of concrete reinforcement rods, but not enough to free Amelia.
Realizing Amelia was probably close to being out of air, Vince surfaced and filled his lungs with good air and went back to her. After giving her some good air he used a form of sign language to let her know that he was going to make one more trip to get her air, then get to the cell phone and call for help, she nodded her understanding. He reached the surface gasping for air. Vince knew that exhaustion was over taking him quickly. Once again he filled his lungs with fresh air. Vince dove to his wife one more time filling her lungs with more fresh air. He hesitated not wanting to leave her. She shooed im away, she had to know that time was getting quite short. He swam to shore with all his strength. Vince hit the shore and dashed to the blanket and snatched up the cellular phone punching 911 and the send button as quickly as he could.