In 2008, Ms. Canolli Capalini of New Babbage's R.F.Burton Library in Second Life sponsored a flash fiction contest of under 600 words for the theme of Steampunk TimeTravel and, in an hour or so I set down the first draft of a story I called "Dialogues". Some small editing and I submitted it to win two thousands dollars and my piece became the title of the published anthology.

Of course, this is in Second Life where the exchange rate made my prize about $7.50. Not enough to count towards SFWA membership.

In any case, I'll present my story below.


Dialogues

I am unlikely to ever know how the ancient letters came to be folded into a copy of Ignatus Doinnely's recently published “Antediluvian World” but there can be no doubt that what followed was nothing short of prophesy. A Latin translation of Proclus Lycaeus' translation into Greek of a transcribed letter in Phoenician, repeatedly retranscribed into convolution yet, as soon as I sat down to decipher the text, I deduced the kernels of a truism that shook the very foundations of reality.

Time was a thing.

Not merely the sequential occurrences of existence, but something of both form and substance. More tangible than a cryptic mathematical formula, not so manifest as the luminiferous aether, yet irrefutably as real as anything. And, as with all things over which man has dominion, given the proper tools it can be shaped to man's will

It took nearly two decades of intense study for documents gathered and decoded from dusty museums and forgotten libraries to become intricate, heretical formulas and then to become a singular device that took those ephemeral thoughts and gave them substance. An intricate mechanism that formed and shaped time itself, as a blacksmith might forge a billet of softened iron.

And yet, for all my exacting attentions, the implementation of my plan was disastrous. When I first set out to test my machine in making modest chronological displacement, the barest fraction of a moment later, I found myself and my machine falling into the ocean. I failed to take into account the nine hundred miles an hour rotation of the Earth, its nineteen miles per second passage about the sun, its untold increasing vectors of our passage through the universe and the waves and wakes that its passage makes through the medium of time. It was a miracle that I was on Earth at all rather than hurtling though the vast, suffocating gulf of space.

By the barest of chances, I was within sight of an island and was able avoid the watery grave into which my machine plunged. Whenever I was, I was there to stay.

I found the large island to be inhabited by an tribe of primitive but ingenious fishers and mariners. Using only wood and stone tools, they had formed a stable and vibrant community on the cusp of becoming civilized. My intellect and technological knowledge quickly allowed me to become a respected guest and without having to fear for my survival, I was able to turn my attentions to the pressing questions of into where and when I had fallen.

Twelve millennia.

A blink of an eye had returned me to the dawn of history itself when my own primitive ancestors struggled under dire conditions. When much of Europe and North America were crushed beneath massive glaciers and giants still walked the Earth.

And it is here that I come to the realization that I had been afforded a tremendous opportunity. Here at the beginning of history, I can write the future of the world. Engineering. Physics. Mathematics. These higher concepts could be the foundation of a great civilization. Medicine. Chemistry. Even such modest modern knowledge of Pasteur's antibiosis bread mold, taken for granted in my former life, could give these people overwhelming advantage. Philosophy. Theology. Where before I built intricate clockworks to manipulate time, I might now leverage my modern knowledge into building the infrastructure of a civilization.

How easy it now seems. How perfect. My lifetime's destiny laid out before me. Atlas with the world upon my shoulders.

But first, I have a letter to write.



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