Twenty short trips through time -- Axxón 167, October, 2006
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)
Back in June we issued an open invitation to participate in a special collection of ultrashort stories dedicated to time travel, a theme as dear to and as closely associated with science fiction as few others. The result was nearly a hundred stories, of which these are the vanguard, the first twenty. Want to know what you're going to find? Twists, of course. Paradoxes, duplications and multiplications, but also the odd cryptic tale, several homages and one or another that could be classified as poetic. In other words, the variations on this subgenre are legion and one still can't claim that all of them have been explored in this sampling. Want to know who you're going to find? You'll find several well-known writers, like Libia Brenda Castro, Juan Pablo Noroña, José Carlos Canalda, Hernán Domínguez Nimo, Antonio Cebrián, José Daniel J. Vázquez, José Vicente Ortuño and Claudio Amodeo. But also new writers like Angel E. López Esteve, Hugo José Bano, Carlos Feinstein and Miguel Ángel López Muñoz and a handful who have already popped up in Axxón once or twice: Fabián Casas, Alejandro Ferreyra, Carlos A. Duarte Cano, Diego E. Gualda y Raúl Alejandro López Nevado. Special mention is reserved for the Portuguese Luís Felipe Silva and João Ventura, who had the tact to send us their stories already translated. This is what there is, but that's not all. And considering that we have already sent out a new call for stories, extending the deadline, we suppose that we'll continue traveling through time for some time yet to come. Enjoy.
A CERTAIN RISK
Antonio Cebrián - Spain
"And so, what do you think will happen when we press the button and the machine transports this seat one second backwards in time?" the first of the scientists asked his colleagues.
"Well.... We can ponder as much as we want. For example, it occurs to me that, since the machine will project all the surrounding space backward in time, including its very own position, and when that happens, what is being projected backwards is a fully operational time machine that at that moment is being projected into the past... Therefore this machine will project another machine one second backwards in time, and this will project another machine one second backwards in time, and so on ad infinitum... Given the correction we have introduced for planetary displacement, the result will be various objects superimposed at roughly the same position: Ultra compact matter with atomic nuclei crammed together too tightly. The strong nuclear interaction will cause the nearby nuclei to fuse, forming super-exotic chemical elements with thousands of protons and neutrons in their nuclei. These fusions will produce a colossal energetic chain reaction; a nuclear explosion heretofore unknown. It could form a star right here, although it's also possible that the density of particles will be large enough to form a black hole..."
"I would further add," the third scientist interrupted, "that the recursive backwards projection would cross through all of recorded -- and unrecorded -- time and would reach back to the origins of the Universe. When the mass of the chair is added to the initial stages of the Big Bang, it will cause an imbalance, a lack of homogeneity that will make the explosion irregular, redistributing the mass and energy in radical ways. Millions of galaxies will cease to exist and other new ones will appear. It could be that it changes the current ratio of matter to antimatter in the Universe, and it may even change the very laws of physics as we understand them..."
"Bah! You two are such wussy little wimps," the first scientist replied.
And he pushed the button.
Juan Pablo Noroña - Cuba
The oil lamp flickers, because the hand is shaking, and a young man appears in its light. Not particularly handsome, but certainly well-proportioned, healthy, lacking in physical deficiencies, as if he has never suffered pain or illness.
The man whose house has been invaded is drowning in asthma and fear.
"Who...?" he rasps, "What do you want? I have nothing..." his double chin trembles.
There are bottles on the table, dozens of them.
"Master, this will cure it," the young man points at them. "For bronchitis, for obesity, for the kidneys, for the heart," he raises one container after the other; "this apparatus is for asthma attacks. Follow the instructions on the paper and you will live a very long time."
The old, fat man studies the intruder.
"I don't understand. What is the meaning of all this...?"
Suddenly he feels a warm, expansive bearhug, unhurried, very welcome. Still, he is overcome by too much shock and asthma to fully appreciate it.
"If you would be so kind to explain yourself," the old man pushes away from the young man.
"There is no time, Master. Stay alive, until you get better. Stay alive, so that you can put them all to shame... stay alive for me."
"Put them all to shame...?" and he could not say anything else to the young man who had just disappeared, like vanishing smoke.
Frightened, the very old man sat at the table, staring at the bottles, and allowed the breaking dawn to wash over him.
Sergio Gaut vel Hartman - Argentina
"Our greatest philosopher, Tlopan," the alien intoned, "claimed that time was the dynamic image of eternity." He let loose a belch through the mushroom-shaped appendage at the end of his respiratory tract and lifted his eyes, baiting the speaker. But it went ignored.
"It only mimics eternity," he replied. "And it unfolds in cycles, according to several circular theories of time." He was a bartender robot, a design especially created by Man before He went extinct. The arrival of the booze-loving alien had rescued him from a funk that had threatened to overwhelm him.
"Up to a point," the alien replied. "Time is a measure of the motion of bodies through space."
"Is time reversible?" The robot briefly exceeded the frictional limit and the glass shattered. Under other circumstances one would have said he was nervous.
"And if it were?"
"It would be funny. That’s all," the robot added nervously.
"I get it," the alien said. "Those creatures of legend... Men. That's what they were called -- Men -- right?"
"They must have been twisted. A robot philosopher is a such a tasteless joke."
"I don't agree. And in any event it doesn't matter." He rested his chrome hands on the bar and pressed down firmly. "They say that you people are able to travel through time. You're not kidding me?"
"What reason would I have to kid?"
"You have consumed several liters of heavy liquor."
"I'm a well trained drunk. Where would you like to go? The future?"
"No. The past."
"The past." The alien took one last swig and moved his limbs ponderously. "All right. Doesn't matter to me. Not my planet."
"Wait just one minute," the robot said, bustling around like a man possessed. "I'll grab some cells... we'll return... we'll take them... and plant them... in... in... I'll be right back."
"All right. All right. No hurry." He waited till the robot disappeared behind the curtain and took a long swig, right from the bottle. "Same old story: a slave's loyalty never dies. Even that runs in cycles."
Angel E. López Esteve - Spain
"All right, Luisa. You ready?" The emotion of the moment shone through Doctor Federico Prieto's tone. "We're going to be the first humans to travel through time." His tone changed abruptly. "Now you understand that you can't remove the time machine on your wrist under any circumstance."
"Easy, Federico, remember that I contributed to this project too, even if it was only informally," Luisa said as she shot him an suggestive smile that made perfectly clear exactly what her contribution had been.
"You can have the honor," Federico made an exaggerated imitation of a bow. "What destination would you propose?"
"October 3, 3122," she said without a hint of hesitation.
"You've thought this out?" He was surprised.
"No, it's my birthday," Luisa replied. "That is, give or take two centuries, of course."
"Of course." Without another word he hugged her and activated the time machines on each of their wrists.
Furniture, office, walls and ceiling disappeared, replaced by lavish vegetation and a shiny sun above their heads. Next to them there were three men and two women chatting excitedly. None of the five were surprised to witness them appearing out of nowhere.
Nor did it surprise them to watch one of the men in the group disappear, nor to watch their clothes change at random intervals. A little further along, next to a tree, a couple was surrendering to their passion, engaging in wild public sex, although none of the others paid them the least bit of attention.
Federico was dumbfounded, surprised, not so much from the fact of having traveled through time, but from all the things that were taking place there. He turned around, expecting Luisa's conspiratorial gaze, but instead he found her staring at him, pointing something at him that, he was certain, was a weapon.
"What is the meaning of this, Luisa?" he asked in stunned amazement.
"This is my world," she replied in an even tone. "Even if everything happening around us is your fault and yours alone. More than a thousand years have elapsed from the moment you invented the time machine, and in that time it's become much more popular, so much so that now everyone carries one on his wrist. At first the trips were short and hardly anything important changed: people were too worried. You know, all that nonsense about paradoxes. And then we began to notice that hardly anything had changed. You know what happens if you travel to the past and murder your grandfather? You disappear and your grandpa is dead, but that simple act unleashes a series of temporal waves, like the ripples in a lake when you toss a stone, and you can produce important changes in all the world, and if you thousands of other ripples every day, this is what you get. A world in constant flux, where people don't stay the same for very long, where it makes no sense to start a family or even a relationship when your partner might vanish the next second. When I traveled to your time determined to meet you, this was a megalopolis of 200 million people. Now it's a tropical jungle.
"I brought you here to eliminate you. I've decided to bring an end to all those changes. If I kill you the time machine will not be invented at all, and my world will be stable. But first I wanted to find out what it's like to live in a predictable time like yours, and I wanted you to know why you had to die.
"I'm sorry, darling." A tear welled up from her eye as she squeezed the trigger.
Federico fell, wounded in the heart. Once he had breathed his final breath, Luisa blinked out of existence, just as everything changed for the last time.
There were no more changes.
Carlos Daniel Joaquín Vázquez - Argentina
Everything was done precisely at the Institute. Jean Paul Millé was shaved, disinfected, vaccinated and probed. He was then measured to within a micron and to the nearest hundredth of a milligram. They kept him in a sterile environment at the edge of Greater Buenos Aires for three days while the chronoship fully reconnected in space-time.
Sicne it is not easy to travel through time, much less to travel so far. One must account for the movement of the Earth, the dance of the sun and the slow shuffle of the Milky Way. Nobody had ever ventured more than one hundred years, and never more than five months using the machines of the Institute. For that reason, now that Jean Paul Millé was to travel a little more than a thousand years, he would be a hero. To be aspire to the same level of precision as the Institute's, one should state that Jean Paul Millé would travel sixteen hundred years, nineteen days, two hours and eight minutes into the past. No more, no less. And he ought to appear in the same spot, although all that time earlier, and from this location he would be rescued after observing the Pampas long before all that civilization arrived.
The bit about the rescue never actually happened. And nobody could explain why, in fact, Jean Paul Millé would be found dead.
Just as no one had been able to explain why, twenty-three years earlier, the people who leveled the ground to construct the Institute had found, beneath the thirty meters of dirt they had removed, the torn-up remains of a modern European.
NO WAY BACK
Libia Brenda Castro R. - México
Every time that I've gone, it has been to witness extraordinary events: I was able to bow in front of Queen Nefertiti; I was seated two meters away from Oscar Wilde, watching him eat; I even attended the first moving picture show by the Brothers Lumiere after spending a month piloting a Viking ship. My life was fabulous, I could go to any place, any time. But it was all undercover: I never intervened in any event. I limited myself to observing brief periods of time and then returning. My trips became longer and longer, and my friends knew that I was away because of work, and they never said anything to anybody, because that would have been a mistake. The thing is that suddenly they all began to tell me that I "looked a little dejected", or said "Don't work so hard". Then my boyfriend looked at me, worried, and said, "Darling, you look wrung out"; and finally, after a very long stay in the second decade of the First Century, I returned and I noticed that people were surprised to see me, and were even scared of me: I was so much older than any of them.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE IMMORTALS
Fabián Casas - Argentina
The list was enormous. Starting with Christ, Newton, Battuta, Leonardo, Marco Polo, Darwin... "Interviewing History: Every Wednesday at 10:00pm on HBO. Join us for this trip through time. Experience the Sermon on the Mount from backstage. Attend high school with a teenaged Einstein and accompany Leon Trotsky to the Russian Revolution! The greatest men and women in history, live, direct, and and only on HBO!"
It would be a smash hit.
25 billion dollars to close the deal. The network would get ten years' exclusive rights to the first time machine.
The tour guide? Murray "Rock" Fernandez, the only reporter capable of getting at the human side of the imortals. Who better than he to be in charge of this momentous task of getting the real, inside story behind history, aboard that "unpredictable" time machine? Refined, witty, the perfect mix of impetuous youth and thoughtful maturity. Very few were in Murray's league: the erudite locution, the skillful rapport, the learned tone. The era of bald professors on TV is dead. The viewer wants science, sure, but he refuses to watch it reported through a set of incomplete or yellowing teeth. Murray "Rock" Fernandez, godlike and tanned, in a meteoric rise from mere newsreader to chronicler of history!
Some words needed to be spoken. The entire dialogue with the historical personalities could not be left in the hands of his three scientific advisors. The way they had rehearsed it for months: Greek, Aramaic, Sanskrit.... lost languages that nobody knew how to properly pronounce. But in the end it turned out to be a useless waste. Shortly before the trip he realized this.
The network scientists were puzzled: the architects of human civilization all spoke perfect English. Even Hammurabi.
Plus, they proved unwilling to let themselves to be interviewed about history on camera. On the fourth try, one of them took pity on Murray and his team.
"Stringbean," Siddhartha said to him, puffing on a pipe that lent its odor to the Himalayan sunset behind him. "You people weren't the first ones to invent the time machine. Trust me."
And then the Buddha waddled off to continue his ministry in the high plateaus, barren still of all television.
Alejandro Ferreyra - Argentina
"Idus Martius!" I woke and I dressed. I shivered a little from the cold floor. "I'll never got used to it... Whatever." I put on my boots and left.
I left the domus and walked to the edge of the neighborhood.
The sun, which had just started to emerge, shone over the crowd that had arrived at the market, carrying sacks and geese and hens. They advanced along the road, raising a cloud of dust mixed with threads of mist. The noise of the crowd around me buying and selling puzzled me. Where were the peaceful stacks, the fluttering screens and the murmur of the students?
A finger sternly poked my right shoulder.
"And so, Kevin Ichi, if I were to ask you how to get to the agora, what would you tell me?" Standing at attention under a layer of skins and with his other hand resting on the handle of his sword, my professor of Ancient European History had just asked the first question of my final exam.
"Well, I would look at you funny and I would ask you where you're from."
"More effort than that if you wish to pass. Now go pick up some food at the Market so that your mother..."
"Excellent! That is, so that your matrona can prepare lunch..."
I ran and slipped into the crowd. In two hours I would be returned to the University by the Professor and the TP assistants among the crowd. Whether I passed or not depended on the success of my "temporal immersion".
I ran and bumped into a blonde girl, a little older than I.
"Move, asshole!" the kneejerk insult shot right out of me.
"Idem infaceto est infacetior rure!" the girl screamed.
I found myself surrounded by a crowd of young men who threw me through the fauces of the nearest atrium, where an amber light emerged from a side mirror.
The professor, standing at the side of the mirror, exclaimed, "Beware the Ides of March!" and the world vanished.
Carlos A. Duarte Cano - Cuba
The sun was setting as She-hi-laa watched her parents dissolve into a haze (finally!) in their travel chamber. She slipped into her parents' room and opened her father's private panel with her "Decoder-V'. There, shining, the Cronifalcus she had been itching to use awaited.
She could barely control her shaking as she carried it to her room. She felt the thrill of the forbidden in every pore of her body. There was nothing that could compare to it, at least nothing that any of her dreary girlfriends would be doing on a Saturday night.
She put on her dress and the shoes she had carefully saved for these occasions. In front of the mirror she put some finishing touches on her makeup and put on the delicate tiara. She entered the password into the machine and then, with utmost care, the coordinates in six dimensions. The temporal whirlwind masked her features as it always did, with the effect vanishing within five seconds of her arrival. "Back in the saddle again," she thought. She hurried outside, climbed the scarlet carpet and entered the palace.
There she spotted him, sitting next to the throne, as handsome as though he were the only one in all of space-time. Leaning on a tapestry, she waited until, as on so many other nights, he would discover her and be entranced by her strange beauty. Then there was that spinning around together to the rhythm of the music, drinking in his eyes and ignoring the march of time in the euphoria of his love. In the garden, their lips had hardly touched with the timidity of two teenagers kissing when, as so many other times, she was caught unawares by the bells.
With no time left for anything more than running away from the astonished prince. Coordinates entered and then back home to put everything back in its place before her parents returned. Or nearly everything, because in her hasty retreat she had lost something.
In some parallel universe, one to which She-hi-laa could never again return, a handsome prince grasped within his inconsolable hands a shoe crafted of some strange glass.
THE DEATH OF CAESAR
João Ventura - Portugal
(From Conceição Cruz's translation to Spanish)
Laughing hysterically, Caesar, Brutus and three other senators bounded out of the Senate, stumbling, clearly drunk. One of them was telling an dirty joke that involved a matron, her daughter, and a Nubian slave. The sentries lined up and Caesar responded with a sloppy attempt at a military salute.
Brutus and Caesar continued walking, staggering, arm in arm. One of the others followed, drinking from a skin he was carrying, and the wine ran down the corners of his mouth, staining his white tunic violet.
The chronomobile, which had been set for a 15 minute interval that included the death of Caesar at the doors of the Senate, had activated the microcamera that recorded all the details.
Julius Caesar walked a few steps further, bent over and began to puke. The others laughed.
The Supreme Council of Historians listened to the Time Traveler's presentation. One of the council members asked, "So there was no assassination then? Brutus was innocent?"
"Precisely. Attempting to straighten up, Caesar had fallen flat on his face. The others tried to help him get up, but they were too drunk to manage. He drowned in his own vomit..."
"And you, colleague, what do you intend to do with this information?"
"Write an article for the International Journal of Verified History, of course."
"That's what I was afraid of," the Council President said and, pointing a laser pistol at the Time Traveler, fired a single shot.
As the cleaning robots carried off the body, he sighed, "The nerve. Trying to change History by checking the facts in loco....!"
THE THREE CAVEMEN
Diego E. Gualda - Argentina
Three cavemen find three objects left behind from the future: a laptop, an inflatable doll and a large mozzarella pizza. One of them develops an upset stomach. Another turns into a babbling loon. The third one evolves into the first modern human. The question is: which one grabbed what?
José Vicente Ortuño - Spain
"Mr. Wells," the stranger said, "I have something very important to tell you."
"I'm very busy, Mr...."
"Professor Polycarpus Uchronus," the man said. "I'm from the Polytechnical University of Valencia.
"I've never heard of that university," Herbert George Wells said as he tried to put further distance between himself and the strange character who had been following him.
"Well it's just that... well, the way I'd put it is," the professor stammered, "it's just that it doesn't exist yet."
"Ah, well!" Wells exclaimed. "Then send me a note when it is to built; I would be enchanted to deliver an inaugural address. Good-bye, good day."
"Allow me to tell you something," the professor insisted, "then I'll leave you in peace. I promise."
"All right," Wells conceded, tired. "Let us sit on this bench for a few minutes. Then I must return to work, you know."
"Thank you, Mr. Wells, I won't take any more of your precious time than necessary." Professor Ucronos laughed as though he had said something funny.
Once seated, the scientist from the future began to explain, "Look, Mr. Wells, I come from the future, from the Twenty-fifth Century. I happen to know that in 1895 you will publish a book entitled 'The Time Machine'. This novel will become the inspiration for generations of scientists.
"Really?" Wells said with an interested look.
"Of course. I myself, having read it as a child, became obsessed with attempting to construct a similar machine. Finally I succeeded, and I have come to meet the person responsible and to thank him."
Wells rose, smiling, and extended his hand to the visitor from the future.
"Thank you professor. I thank you for having bothered to come from so far... from the future. I will think of you as I write my novel," he said amiably, and he walked away with long strides.
Professor Ucronos, satisfied with having turned one of his dearest dreams into reality, returned to the 25th Century. Wrapped in an aura of scientific bliss, he sat down at his desk, on which he had left a copy of "The Time Machine". But his satisfaction turned to dismay as he examined it. The title had changed. The cover now read: Cooking recipes for refined persons.
AN OLD TIME MACHINE
Raúl Alejandro López Nevado - Spain
It was one of those strange objects which invites one to mistake technology for magic. Its function wasn't known, all that was obvious was that it functioned. And so he handled it carefully, afraid that the device's delicate mechanism might suffer some mishap that would cause those fascinating sensations to disappear.
It was, of course, a time machine, a kind of chronovisor that permitted him, with only a few movements, to relive scenes from the dawn of history or from the most distant future.
He remembered his first trip: Plato and Socrates chatting calmly in the Athenian night. The image of the former was clear and brilliant, that of the latter, however, had a kind of fuzzy, gray indistinctness to it. He pressed onward: an empire that grew and collapsed, echoes of Ptolemeian Egypt, another empire, Mare Nostrum, and the distant splendor of Jerusalem. Eventually he came to Christ, who seemed like a wise and energetic man, and yet, something about him, too, appeared unfocused. He discovered that this mist covered others as well: a hazy Copernicus laboring long years ordering the heavens, the later years of the abandoned enfante terrible, Rimbaud, the ancient solitude of the giant, Nietzsche, writing for posterity.
Spurred on by this enigma, night after night he continued investigating the secret that united these men. Perhaps he would solve it one day.
He placed the device carefully on his knees and opened it in two unequal halves. A little later, memserized, he turned the first page.
THE FIRST TIME MACHINE... AND THE LAST
José Carlos Canalda
When his vehicle came to a complete stop and he could read the time counter, the Time Traveler was stupefied. He was in the year 802,701!
Stifling a shudder, he stepped outside, discovering with a shock that he was no longer inside his laboratory, but in the midst of a vast meadow. Taking a look around him, a building in the distance came into view, the only obvious clue that civilization continued to exist in this distant epoch.
After removing some levers from the Time Machine to prevent some intruder from activating it, he headed for his destination, bristling with anticipation. What would the people of the future be like?
The building was an enormous parallelepiped lacking any redeeming aesthetics anywhere on its bulk. There were no windows, and only a single gigantic door, locked and bolted, could be seen adorning its walls. Above it was a sign with a message that could be easily deciphered despite the strangeness of the characters in which it was written:
MORLOCK MEAT INDUSTRIES
QUALITY IS OUR MOTTO
In a room inside the building, two strange beings with pallid skin, reddish gray eyes and long blonde hair studied the visitor on a television screen.
"I told you to be careful!" muttered the one who appeared to be in charge. "And now we've lost yet another one of our herd!"
"I don't understand how this could have happened...," the other figure excused himself. "Before you tied them up in the corral you assured me that they were all inside, and I know I closed the gate well... although they're too dumb to open it anyway."
"Still, there it is: that one's loose."
"Round him up immediately... By the way, have you noticed how strange its clothes are? Those aren't the tunics that we've been supplying them with."
"And where could it have gotten them?" he sneered. "They're obviously not from the past, or from the future... Come on, cut the crap and get it back to the stockyard: the next shift at the slaughterhouse is about to begin."
Claudio Alejandro Amodeo - Argentina
For most people, the world is a mess. Still, for poets and dreamers like me, it is simply beautiful . You takes no more than a few steps before you come across an unimaginable rainbow of sensations and lose yourself in an infinite collection of marvels thrown together in random combinations: an almond tree intertwines its crowded branches with a Masai hut, and thick blocks of baked mud and dung hang from its branches; a bird with butterfly wings floats above the hot air and above the white smoke that spews from a carriage in flames, burning through the street charred by the stifling sun; a sun that shines only in the portion of the city just mentioned because the rest of the city is engulfed in the densest of darknesses, swallowed up in a geological hole that might have been nonexistent for millions of years. The sky above my head is purple, and within it something slippery and fast moves as if swimming among the rarefied gases, playing with clouds of iodine and ammonia. Below, above the stone pavement and metallic remains of some moving sidewalk that I have never known, on foot through a quagmire of decaying organic tissues that had once represented one or more human bodies, I stand, watching and admiring all these extraordinary and changing things, with no regrets or fears. I know everything. I know about the failed experiment and about the ongoing back and forth of time and matter, but at this moment, one both eternal and ephemeral, nothing can take rob me of the absolute certainty of enjoying this atemporal landscape, asymmetric and anachronistic, unique and unrepeatable. And that fills me with joy.
PRISONERS OF ETERNITY
Hugo José Bano - Argentina
ARTICLE APPEARING IN THE GAZETTE OF THE UNNAMABLE, OFFICIAL VOICE OF LOVECRAFT UNIVERSITY
"A flood of alumni, graduates, and colleagues of Professor Archimedes Dementti overwhelmed the seating capacity of the Grand Hall of the Faculty of Inexplicable Sciences last evening, drawn by the speaker's address on a highly controversial subject which, with his customary humor the renowned scientist had entitled "What the Heck is Time?"
"A self-described 'Terrorist of the Establishment', this controversial scholar was demolishing one by one all of his shocked audience's preconceptions about this theme and demonstrating that Time does not exist, at least not as an independent entity, but that, together with Space, it is a mere manifestation of matter.
"In an attempt to make his thoughts more accessible, he provided the following metaphor: just as a snail carries its own home around on its back, we bear our own time on our shoulders.
"Not content with this and to the horror of the distinguished listeners, he then affirmed: trying to describe Time by means of Mathematics was the same as trying to explain Love using Trigonometry.
"Not without first advising the romantic admirers of Science Fiction to abandon all hope of time travel, since they could no longer go to a When that no longer exists nor to a Tomorrow that does not yet exist, he concluded his lecture by reciting this poem taken, according to him, from that disturbing book, the Necronomicon:
"And so, we are marks in the sand,
"Feeble traces that the lightest breeze must needs erase:
"Prisoners of Eternity.
"From that infinite instant composed of forevers
"Corrosive Time erases us..."
THE FIRST TIME
Hernán Domínguez Nimo - Argentina
"What? Who are you?"
"Can't you tell? Look closely. Don't you recognize the face?"
"Oh my God! You're...! You've come...? From what year...?"
"I'm 35. Do the math."
"You don't look..."
"I know. They’ve invented some very nice pharmaceuticals. Shame they only last twenty-four hours."
"And how did you get here? Did they invent...?"
"Yup. I invented it."
"You? That means... me?"
"That's always been your dream, right? To study at Balseiro, to major in quantum physics..."
"Yes, of course! But it was only a dream...! I still haven't passed my entrance exam, and now you tell me I'm going to invent a Time Ma....!"
"Yes, yes, all right, all right. But that doesn't matter right now..."
"What's with that syringe?"
"I'm going to have to put you to sleep for a few hours."
"NO! IMPOSSIBLE! In ten minutes I'm going out...!"
"...with Karina. I know. And although you may not believe it, tonight you're actually going to score with her..."
"No way?! Dude! And how come you want to mess that up? It's going to be the most glorious night of my life!"
"The most glorious five seconds of your life."
"That's how long it's gonna last. Karina’s got your balls wound up so tight that you're going to shoot your load the second you touch her. Messy. The experience is going to be horrible for her. And that means it's going to be a disaster for you too. Your entire life will be marked by this night's failure. All my life, all my career, I've been searching for a way to travel through time, to return to this moment, to make things right. Now I have the experience. I've figured out how to bring her to new heights of ecstasy, to get her off twice, three times if I want, instead of blowing my wad before I even begin. And so we'll stay together forever and..."
"But I've been waiting all my life for this night! You can't take it away from me! You already lived it! I haven't!"
"That's your problem. Your whole life adds up to just fifteen miserable years. And only five years that you've known Karina. This has been keeping me awake nights for twenty years, reliving that horrible nightmare. And this is the only way I can get it to end like it began: magically. And anyway, you should be grateful to me for sparing you all those nightmares..."
"But...what if this changes everything? And what if your reason for inventing the machine disappears and I never study physics?"
"Like I said: your problem. Now, go to sleep...! Okay. Now, off to the bathroom with my stroke mags to take the edge off, then I'm off to find Karina.
Miguel Ángel López Muñoz - Spain
When the centurion ordered her to search for the Lantura there was no way she could refuse. She had spent years as the soothsayer for a nearly extinguished cult that continued to exist thanks only to Caesar's good graces. The time had come to pay off her part of the bargain.
As Homer pointed out, the Lantura could be attracted by the Chimera's blood under the light of a full moon. The creature resembled a slender man, but its left hand was rough and old as an oak and the other was vigorous and young like the murmur of the sea. The Soothsayer trapped it and gave it a piece of bread. It grabbed the bread with its right hand and it transformed into a mass of flour and yeast.
Against her better judgment she brought it before the centurion, who was more interested in its other hand. It touched a combat chariot, which collapsed, rusted and rotten. The centurion smiled.
The centurion won countless battles with the Lantura, but the creature wasted away as the years passed, both inside and out, and so did the soothsayer.
One night she went to the cell where the creature was held and freed it. The Lantura smiled, and she realized that the creature could have escaped at any moment, but that its affliction was one of the heart. It approached her and kissed her wrinkled face, stroking her cheek with its right hand. He pulverized the wall with his other hand and departed. Adolescent tears fell from the Soothsayer's eyes as the Lantura departed, never again to return.
THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE
Luís Felipe Silva - Portugal
(From Luís Felipe Silva's translation to Spanish)
Eighteen months of exploration on a distant system unknown to the human species did not make up for the ten years traveling there and the ten years returning. Nor did their having been the first to visit or their future place in the history books make up for the relativistic sacrifice of knowing that time would fly by more quickly on Earth, so that they would return to a changed planet, a world of the future for them, true strangers from the past. But if they had been asked to do it all over again, they would have. Even if the principal and unspoken reason for his departure was no longer...
"Commander, we have a surprise for you!"
"Hello, sweetheart! Happy to see me?"
But how, how...
"Well, shortly after you left, there was a revolution in gene therapy. You have no idea what they are capable of doing with plastic nanosurgery nowadays. Looky here, not even a hint of a wrinkle; and look at how firm these girls..."
You appear even younger...
"Well, you know, my new husband loves how I look. By the way, it's his patent. If you think I look good, you should see him. As young and virile as a Latin bull. If you want, I could ask him to give you a discount. I hate to say it, but you look like you could use..."
How wonderful for the two of you...
"Yes, we travel all the time! We've just been to Mars. He bought up half the planet. He has so much money he can't even count it."
I have to leave....
"Calm down. Look at this."
And what is this document?
"It's a bill for two hundred fifty years of alimony. Time to pay up, buster. Or did you think you could get out of it just because you're an astronaut?"
I awake; my bronze bed creaks, changes shape and transforms into wood; my slippers escape, turning into giant slugs that leave a shiny, sticky trail. My garden is now an enormous lake in which a whale expels a riotous jet of water.
I fix myself a cup of coffee, which changes into a tea and then into some otherworldly liquid. I remember my past, my childhood in Boedo, no, it was in Alaska. A vivid memory hits me, from my childhood: running through the Po valley.
I turn blonde, hairy, female, single, blind, green, male, athletic, mute, filthy rich, married, polyglot, poor, dead, inexistent, existent, I grow another arm, I look like my twin brother, I disappear.
The wall clock has not yet reached 8:05. From the bottom of my soul I curse the day we learned how to travel through time.