The Resident (part eighteen)
The example always used is a vinyl record. You know what that is. [Nods.]
Students of some eras need props. [Wissary, to this possible laugh line, issued a modest hur uh. Then linked his hands and looked at them.]
Right. The needle drops into a groove, a particular song plays. The needle drops to another track, a different song plays. The needle, as an object, remains itself. The record retains its integrity, a whole containing multiple realizations.
Time experiments on the particle level had been an ancient thing, begun much earlier than 2018. Ancient…yes, Debra, bearing in mind our Tithonian view begins a thousand plus years later than this current present.
Clarifying, Debra murmured.
Physicists had noticed anomalies, been excited these might prove displacement, or simultaneity, if not the chance of time travel. In the bunkers following the cataclysm, successful experiments in time switching were done with molecules.
The chronosynthesists understood the mechanics, by then…they’d made great progress for overcoming the first hump. Within a century, they could make single-celled organisms disappear. And bring them back, once they’d crafted control of a limited timescape. But single-celled organisms don’t wear clothes.
No, Deb, accoutrements are the essence. If I could send an apple back in time and return it, that wouldn’t prove the safety of some other apple, theoretically displaced. Displacement once had seemed the less magical theory. Or I should say, a strong school of scientists favored it. Old particle experiments seemed to suggest a finite number of ‘things’ in the universe, where, like a bucket filled with ping pong balls, shoving in one pops out another. But if that were so, time travel was impossible. How could a fully clothed human go back, displace a myriad of atoms composing sneakers, jeans, tee shirts, glasses, tattoos, scents, flesh?
Still, the experiments felt imperative. Two thirds of the human population had died, vast numbers of animals were near extinction, plants were plummeting in diversity. If the groove could be found…
So then, if I wait a day for the dispatch of an apple, sent two days ahead, and if my apple is sliced and arranged on a plate that has two chips in the ceramic, simultaneity proves itself. Halfway.
Within limited timescapes, we bide with our apple, and a fellow experimenter soon arrives with the original. The apple, its configuration and dimensions after slicing, the plate and its chips, have duplicated. Why is this not more magical than displacement?
I will disappoint you and say, we know it’s true because it happens. Displacement, as I’m sure you’ve seen, is impossible. Say we send a Tithonian to 1910…the clothing can’t displace, not even if we unearth an original Singer, and stitch up a shirtwaist as period as can be. Not just because the cloth would be modern, the thread would be modern, et cetera…broken down to the atomic level, the thing can be imagined…
But because slipping into the groove is not a kind of decomposition, where atoms are snatched and assembled into a facsimile of a person who can’t tell the difference. Time travel is a literal going from one place to another. We don’t know how an atom comes into being, how the smaller parts than an atom come into being, what fills the spaces between subatomic particles…no, we haven’t learned, even in our own millennium…
We don’t know if multiple universes are real, are stacked or spiraled; if thousands of nearly identical us are available for transporting when a gap opens, if the whole thing is circular and somehow perpetual… But a Teconieshe sent to 1890, who returns to base in 1970, and goes again to 1945, will coexist with the first Teconieshe. The two can meet each other.
Without tragedy, Des said. Each Tithonian has training. Each will know not to ‘keep company’ with the other. Or with any new Teconieshes that turn up.
(2022, Stephanie Foster)