Time to Fly

Eddie is a scientist. He and his colleagues have made an important discovery that could make time travel possible.


1. Time to Fly


SATTLAB Melbourne, Australia 2027 AD



I must admit that now it is possible, the thought of time travel filled me with far more dread than excitement in spite of my lifelong enthusiasm for the concept. Is it necessary to use this technology? Can’t we just amend the research reports to show that the impossible remains just that? The implications of actually being able to travel to another point in time weighed heavily on me and my two colleagues - we are immensely aware that we now have the ability to destroy the whole of history.  You see, as a time traveler, you are able to go to the past and rearrange events. This technology in the wrong hands could wipe everybody’s slate clean.


It has been a long time coming but now it is possible to return to times past - a dream that mankind has cherished forever. I discovered the code in a most unlikely place. Scientists have been barking up the wrong tree for centuries. I actually noticed what we needed in a serendipitous moment whilst surfing the website of the Pompidou Centre. I’m a fan of the surrealist art of the early twentieth century, a particular favourite being the man all the other surrealists took the piss out of.


Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893, Son of a goldsmith. This is very significant in our research; Motifs and designs used on jewellery by Miró’s father were replicated in some of Joan’s huge canvasses and sculptures - designs that were often taken as the ravings of a madman and tellingly, completely misunderstood by his peer group of surrealists in Paris. While Dalí and Picasso were making megabucks as darlings of the international art scene, Miró went quietly about his work, regressing into childlike art that gained critical acclaim from people who totally missed the messages contained therein. Just why is this information on these artworks? How come nobody spotted it?


My family emigrated from England to Australia when I was just three years old. After leaving school in Melbourne, I went straight into uni with the object of cracking the time travel conundrum. My dad and his dad were both fascinated with the notion of time travel and it seems I have caught the bug from them.  Some of my earliest memories are of my dad’s parents. I was spoilt rotten by them. It was a really exciting and loving environment. Surrounded by music and surrealistic art, I thought it was great. As a toddler I recall banging on a drum or tambourine in granddad’s garage with him on the double bass and dad on guitar.


My colleagues in the lab are Joe and Flo. Joe and Flo are also English. Joe is twenty four, same as me. Flo is the baby of the bunch at twenty. We are considered to be experts in the field of time travel and our collective experience is second to none. The lab was secretly set up to monitor and progress the possibilities of visiting the past to collect DNA samples in situ before a crime scene has been spoiled. A valid question at this point might be: “If you can travel back in time, why can’t you prevent that crime from taking place?” Good point but you must understand that would be interfering with history itself and who knows where that would lead? This is what we are worried about with regard to this data falling into the wrong hands. Even small interferences with the past would multiply and compound themselves so our present world would be a vastly different place. We would all be suddenly lost beyond our wildest imaginations. As for collecting DNA from crime scenes - If nobody knows about our little secret, just how is it going to be admissible evidence? Well the truth is, for the moment; we just don’t know! Polygraph tests (lie detectors) and finger printing had been perfected for years before they became acceptable in courts of law. By the way, you can take it from me, visiting the future is something that will always remain in the realms of science fiction. How do I know this? Simply because the future hasn’t happened yet! And if we don’t protect the past, there ain’t gonna be a future.


We finally cracked the code for time travel last year but it was only this week that Flo Sorted out our last remaining problem - our return path protocol. Put simply: You visit the past, you do your business and you return. We had to understand how to return to the present and not to the time of departure. If your voyage had been of any length, just imagine coming back from your assignment older than everyone else! That would take some explaining. One of the trickiest areas of our work lay in the design and functionality of the vehicle. The time machine in popular mythology. That’s our department. Joe and me. The common perception of time travel is of a strange object appearing from nowhere and of people with a crazy sense of fashion emerging from it carrying ray guns or something. The truth is a little bit less obvious than that. You see, when travelling to a previous point in history it is essential not to be observed. People would be totally freaked by your presence so your vehicle has to be as unobtrusive as possible. “A fly on the wall.” you say? You’d be right!


Disguised as an insect or a housefly is how visitors from the future can unobtrusively witness the past. (This is another reason why we won’t be able to interfere too much with the past - the time travelers themselves are shrunk with all their equipment to fit inside this insect.) The codes to all this technology are contained in Miró’s childlike artworks, I’m just amazed that no one else has spotted it. What about the time traveler’s own protection where no one can hear you scream?  As a visitor to the past you can have no contact with anyone from your own time apart from your fellow travelers and one’s immune system is massively vulnerable to any ancient viruses. It goes without saying that your vehicle must be able to shield you from infection.


The SATTNAV is what our time travelling fly has been christened. This is a bit unfortunate as we’ve just found out that SAT NAV was the name given to a dodgy old SATtelite NAVigation gadget that was popular with motorists at the turn of the century. SATTNAV or Space And Time Travel Nanomolecular Assisted Vehicle to give it its full title is a sophisticated machine with many fail-safe items of equipment on board. On travelling to a point in the past, SATTNAV becomes the size and shape of a common housefly. An ultrasonic protection system then engages to shield it and its occupants from proximity with any disease. In short, the SATTNAV keeps bugs at a distance of thirty meters by emitting a low hum they don’t like.


We’re starting to write the constitution on the use of time travel, even though we can’t yet share the information with the world at large. We have covered all known worries of how to covertly visit the past without disturbing it. As time travellers we have to be unnoticed by our hosts and we have a duty to protect history itself. Our manager had advocated destroying Miró’s artworks until I pointed out that there are millions of reproductions of the pictures and ceramics in books, posters, fine art prints and postcards with all the codes in full view to anyone that cares to look. The best course of action is to divert attention from Miró by talk of crop circles or whatever!


Our maiden retro-voyage would be to Rugby, England. I would lead the expedition as I have had previous experience of the target. “You will be going back to Rugby, 2006, the week after you emigrated to Oz,” explained the boss. “We are currently experiencing a virulent strain of MRSA that appears to be from an ancient source that was thought to be extinct. It seems to be resistant to treatment. As you all know, the bloody thing’s rife. It’s affecting people’s hands. We have to find an antidote before it decimates the population. According to his records, your old granddad was at that time diagnosed with MRSA. You and your team are going to collect a sample of granddad’s infection and bring it back here for us to analyse.” She concluded “Remember, this is an exploratory trip. Take it steady. We don’t want you putting yourselves in unnecessary danger. Good luck and see you next week.”


As co-designer of SATTNAV I’ve been through the retro procedure on many briefings. It still came as a shock to be at the sharp end of things - to be actually going back! All the systems were checked, the equipment that will send us to our destination in a former time AND return us safely back here again. Let the countdown begin.


Now you may think that time travel is a doddle in the same way as travelling on a train is a doddle. Well it will be, but not just yet. In the beginning someone had to invent and develop the whole railway; The locomotives, the carriages, the signalling system, the stations. Teams of surveyors and navvies had to knock the whole thing into shape. We’re talking about travel, the art of going from one place to another. Geographical travel. Whether you go on a boat, plane, train, hot-air balloon or rocket ship, you are travelling geographically. Aside from the fact that your chosen mode of travel has been developed to take you in comfort to where you wish to go. Time travelers need to know that they can travel safely back to then . Get it? It’s two journeys. You have to get where you wish to be geographically and you have to get back to then in history. Then when you’ve done all that, you have to return to here and now!


As sophisticated as SATTNAV would appear to anyone lucky enough to get a glimpse, it is the first true time machine and we can already see it as being old hat. In just a few years we are going to see leaps and bounds in the technology as we practice and hone the science of time travel to perfection. In trips to come, we’ll hopefully be able to take a mobile lab and all the necessary kit with us on the geographical leg of our journey but we’ve not yet perfected many aspects of our breakthrough just yet - roll on the day when we can just sling our gear into an overnight bag and set up at our geographical destination.

Make no mistake, the act of time-travel itself is a breeze compared with the geographical journey from Oz to England. It takes a whole day - that’s twenty four hours just to get there. Now this might not seem much in the comfort of a jet plane but it’s a nightmare shuffling along in our SATTNAV machine! We have a two stage journey to complete before we reach our target in the past. Firstly there’s that unavoidable twenty four hour trip from Melbourne to Rugby (Even time-travelers need to obey the laws of physics!) Then all we have to do is take the trip back to 2006. This takes a nanosecond, a wink of an eye. Both trips are taken in a parallel dimension so we won’t be needing passports. The geographical trip is the one that we’ve all been dreading. Only nineteen  hours to go. Are we there yet? On a jet plane there’s at bit of comfort and legroom, you can walk up and down the aisle to stretch your legs; There’s a pleasant smile from the trolley dolly as she serves you tea or wine. There’s the in-flight magazine and feature films and there are two refueling stops. Great amusement can be had by secretly taking the piss out of your fellow travelers by studying their noses. (Try it. It really works!) All these  things help the geographical traveler to get through his trip. Apart from the noses, we’ve no such luxuries aboard SATTNAV. The mood is calm as we sit in our cramped cabin checking all our systems. We know that in spite of our groundbreaking voyage, boredom  will soon set in. A boredom laced with anxiety. We can’t communicate with anyone but each other. Our fears are practical and focused as we know that a successful maiden voyage would be simply to return safely to our own time.


“Are you awake, Eddie?” Flo’s soft voice meandered through my fitful doze. I yawned and looked in the mirror.  My face always looks like it needs ironing when I first wake up. “We have to run through this,” She continued without waiting for me to speak. “Old granddad. He was a railroad worker.”  We were analyzing possible causes of granddad’s MRSA infection and we’ve had to collect all sorts of data on him. His lifestyle, job, hobbies - as full a picture as could be had in order to ascertain the origin of the strain which we are very certain is the same one that is now endangering Australia. “Yes he was. Freight train driver. Diesels mostly. The old General Motors class 66.” “He lived for years with that MRSA bug. It affected his thumbs. They were like over ripe plums at times - he’d just have to touch something, not necessarily sharp, and they’d pop open! What a sight! I remember when we visited Chez Granny and how he had to wear surgical gloves to perform basic everyday tasks. He had to give up cooking and preparing food. I mean, you wouldn’t want him rolling out your cheese straws in that condition would you? He loved preparing food, he’d add garlic to everything, he’d conjure up some dinkum chow.”


Flo had started a chart on her iPad with all sorts of cross reference possibilities. She had details of the old boy’s instruments - he was a hobby musician, he loved rock and roll, the 60’s and revival folk music. He had a collection of instruments from all those genres of music. He was no expert but was the archetypal Jack of all trades and he loved the sounds of some very strange olde worlde things. Tabor pipe, jew’s harp, autoharp, washtub bass, a bowed psaltery can you believe?


“Did he talk with you much about his time on the railroad?” Flo continued. I thought back to my childhood, granddad’s visits and of some of the fun we had. I remember being impressed by some of dad’s photos of the railroad in twentieth century England. The environment in which granddad worked must have been hellishly noisy and smelly. “He’d tell us about it alright; The shiftwork, long hours, the dust from stone and chalk quarries and coal mines, the stench of container loads of London’s garbage being snuck to landfill sites in rural Bedfordshire. Of little bastards throwing house bricks at you as you roll by and hoping to get home in one piece. He would tell us to stay away from the bloody railroad and get a proper job!”  With the occasional suicide and the effects of the asbestos that still prevailed - any of these things could have been a cause of ill health and there were a few dodgy substances just a little too close for comfort. We went through the musical instruments, nickel coated guitar strings and toxic art materials that he used regularly but nothing we could see could be attributable. We looked at lifestyle food, drink, clothing but could see nothing. All that remained was to get back there and observe the old boy in his own environment in real time with access to actual samples from his world.


I had turned Joe on to Miró. I don’t know whether he actually got into the aesthetics of those fabulous abstracts or he just became interested because of the revelations I’d been able to bring to the party. All the same, Joe had become quite the expert on all things Miró. “Did you know that Miró’s father once visited England?” He asked me. “No, I didn’t. Where’d you get that?”

Joe glanced up with a grin - “Here, page 5.” He passed me a small booklet entitled The Time of the Surrealists. Something rang a bell at the back of my mind. The picture, the picture that had clinched it for me.  When I was a little kid I’d seen a reproduction of it in granddad’s house!  The picture Miró had called Calle Ida y Vuelta There and Back Street? “There And Back Street?” I mumbled. “I know a There And Back Again Lane.” said Joe. “It‘s the shortest street in Bristol; and with one of the longest names - In my home town! The very place that Miró’s dad visited.” Spooky! “Joe, the picture that completed our code is called Calle Ida y Vuelta - that’s Spanish for ‘There and Back Street.’ You’re telling me that there is actually a street with a name like that?”   He raised his eyebrows; “There And Back Again Lane, BS8.”  It’s off Berkeley Square, near the uni. The rumour among some of the art students is that every Christmas Day some sort of apparition makes an entrance - It looks like the giant fly in your picture! Hey remember we’re talking about art students, they’re not the soberest bunch at the best of times, but on Christmas Day?”  


It looks like we are not the first time travelers after all - Miró and his father had beaten us to it. We‘ve spent a lot of time and effort on this project only to realize we know less than we thought! If the sightings in Bristol are true, then Los Mirós ARE visiting the future!  And they’ve given the rest of the world the opportunity to do it. But why? Why them? As if my senses weren’t reeling enough, Flo had picked up Joe’s booklet.

“Eddie, did you know that Miró’s name comes from the Spanish verb Mirar? - To look at. Miró’s name actually means I looked at!” I certainly had.

One thing they never tell you about time travel is how blindingly boring it is; you’re mostly observing mundane stuff all in real time. Unlike a movie, you can’t just scroll to the juicy bits - you have to sit it out and be ready to capture the info you came for. You are not allowed to influence anything, one wrong move and you might even cease to exist! There is also the constant danger from your host environment where you are very vulnerable, so you’ll have to keep your wits about you and spend a lot of your assignment looking over your shoulder. You must leave the scene exactly as you found it without a shred of evidence that you and your equipment were ever there.


Rugby, England 2006

It is an incredibly hot summer. The talk in the media is of global warming. The world’s population has wasted its natural resources and we have to face a future of drought and ever-increasing temperatures. I have to wear surgical gloves because our doctor tells me I have MRSA. As I prepare dinner for Suze and me, I cant help thinking that 2006 would be a great year to visit if I were a time traveler; we are on the cusp of cultural and technological revolutions with our multicultural society and the internet. We have some international conflicts to survive, with the British and American governments kicking off wars with anyone that dares not to agree with them. We have people still alive that remember the two (so far) world wars. We have a Royal Family, stars of stage, screen and music from our fab 60s heritage and the ability to fly in a jet to anywhere in the world in one day!  Indeed, our son George and his family did just that only last week - They upped and left and emigrated to Australia. Door to door in twenty four hours. They have only been gone a week and Suze is missing them like crazy The front room is covered with photos of little Eddie. I promised her that we will try to visit them next year in Oz and meanwhile well subscribe to Skype.


Suze thinks Im a dreamer. Shes right. Having reproductions of Joan Mirós art on our walls helps! I have often played with the notion that time travel is something that Id love to do, nostalgic visits to my own past, places and people that Id known as a child rather than the adventure of witnessing famous events. Glancing at one of my many pictures, I think Id love to visit Miró himself before his tragic death at Christmas in 1983. Itll never happen. I tell myself with a bemused smile as I recall the wisdom of the quotation If time travel was ever going to be possible wed all be inundated with tourists from the future.  If I was clever enough to invent time travel, Id like to think Id be clever enough to disguise that fact from the era Im visiting. My time machine would need to go unnoticed - unobtrusively appearing as an insect perhaps?


The onions are blanched enough to start adding the shrimps for our starter gambas al ajillo as the Spanish call this delicious garlicky dish. I absently brush a fly from my arm. Strange! In spite of the Mediterranean weather we have had in England this summer, there are very few wasps or flies around just now. The kitchen windows are open and we only have one fly. I add the shrimps to the sizzling pan and replace the splashguard. I notice the fly rest on a nearby cupboard top. With a deft flick of the tea towel I connect! Gotcha!


Terry! shouts Susan, Do you have to?  Were running short of clean tea towels and now youll have to put that one in the wash: And wipe up the remains of that fly.


I reach for the disinfectant spray and a square of kitchen roll. The fly has split into two pieces with not a drop of blood to be seen. On inspecting the tea towel I find not a mark. Weird I think, as I scoop up the bits of fly and chuck them in the compost bin.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...