March 12th 2176
I am to be reborn, though not through the spiritual interruption of death. But through the art of science. My cells have been cloned. My memories recorded and stored. I and some of my memories will be reunited directly, an inheritance, the others archived.
Tonight is my last night. I don’t feel like a damned prisoner awaiting the ultimate penalty. I cannot feel like that. I volunteered. This will be my third and final mission. You can only hand-feed an untamed beast perhaps a half-dozen times before the beast turns and bares its teeth.
As I wait, I muse upon my first undertaking. My gift is one that even in these progressive times can not be explained by the cooperative minds of the supreme circle of scientists. It can be proved. It just can’t be explained. I have insights; I can see the futures of a person. Not just one conclusion, but countless.
I have to touch them. If I were to lay hands upon a person now then I would feel nothing more than you would feel if you were clasping the hand of a friend. You would feel the warmth, the grip of the shake, but nothing else.
My talent is latent. Only when used in the past does it come bubbling free from its dormant state.
It was stumbled upon solely by accident. I was one of the original testers of riding the past. It is a perilous thing, not something to be treated with folly.
We both went back to the same time. It was decided by the Circle that we should go back to a time where the populace was, to put it respectfully, a little backwards when it came to understanding. Though not too much, for our findings needed to be chronicled.
We rode the past to the year 1888. It was a year on the cusp of what is even now considered the utmost century for human technological development. As you know Past Riding, you ride the time and not the distance.
It was providential for all concerned that that predicament had been debated as a strong possibility. If I were to ride time right at this minute, this very moment. To head back before the year 2081 I would be dead within seconds. For the Moon, was a vacant waste-land.
That first ride to the past was the only time I had been down to the planet of my ancestors. The first time any one had since the Exodus. There was nothing to see. Humankind had destroyed it. Child-like tantrums thrown by people who wielded too much power. When told they could not have something, they decided that no one could.
Hopefully. . .maybe that can change.
The atmosphere of Earth is sinister and choking, the Ozone is gone and radiation is rampant. To breathe the air is to inhale death. The half-life of Earth was calculated at four million years. Who can wait that long?
The footing was dusty and rock-strewn. Gravity was the only thing from the time of civilisation to linger. That was the only difference between traipsing the terra-firma of Earth and that of the Moon. There was nothing to see, everything flattened, razed by the hand of aggression.
The craft re-launched. We watched it depart and then we readied the Temporalamotives. We activated the ten-second timer which would dislocate us from time. Displacement was at a ratio of one-second per century. In reality the ride for the time migrant was practically instantaneous. Unless you wanted to go back to a foolish time that served no real purpose other than to risk bringing destruction to the world sooner than it all ready had.
That first time whilst counting down the seconds I stared at the moon. I knew that I would not see it again in its given colonized shape, not through this body anyway. The future is out of our grasp, you can not stay on the fortieth floor of a hotel that has not yet been built.
And then. . .displacement momentarily occurred and we were there.
There was nothing to see, night was in control. I sat on the ground. Slightly giddy at the touch of grass and loam beneath my fingers and the scent of life, true, rich life. Life not courted by chemicals and laboratories. The man who rode time with me did not fair so well. Somewhere, somehow an error had occurred, a fatal one. I reached out and touched the fabric of his clothes. My hand travelled, seeking skin and finding it, or a version of it. It was blistered. The skin ruptured as I probed. I turned and vomited as the stink of the rotten puss filled my nose. I rolled away, clawed at the ground to drag myself away from the toxicity of the gas.
I lay there, staring up at the heavens. It was too cloudy for the stars and the moon was in hiding. It was strange to think of the moon, up there on its lonesome. No one living up there. No one loving up there. No one warring. The only time I smiled that night was when it hit me that I had thought the same thing when I had stared down at the ravaged Earth from the sanctuary of the Moon.
As the night became passive and allowed the dawn promotion I was shown the true horror of what the ride had done to him. He was very nearly dissolved. The fabric I had fingered as I had traced a route to his face was actually leathered skin. And where it wasn’t leathered it had blistered and burst. The flesh beneath poisoned, the skull powdered like pencil-carbon.
There was no fear of his remains being stumbled upon and there was no way I could burn or bury him even though the trip had done a half decent effort at the first.
If everything had gone as planned, London was only a mere twenty-five mile walk away. I picked up the Temporalamotive from beside my fallen ride companion and thumbed the destruct button. Tossed it like a grenade and watched it explode and become reduced to nothing. That was another of the things that had been indoctrinated within us, never to leave anything. There was no returning home, but you could not leave the Temporalamotives intact. They could only be used once, but they were made out of materials that had no place in the Humble Years as the Circle referred to them. I treated my own Temporalamotive in the same manner and made my way using the new sun as a compass towards the infant city that according to the history files was a sprawling wonder of stone and vision.
It was not how I expected it. It was grim and smudged, there was also something sullen about it. The way the city moved as two separate classes of people, very much like home. The rich on the light side and those that dwelled upon the dark-side. The ones that have and the ones that do not.
These Haves with their top hats, pocket watches and waxed moustaches. All busily bowing and hand-shaking with other well dressed men. Hand-kissing the ladies and riding in carriages. Then you had what I could only call the downtrodden, the beaten and the starved. They gave way to the gentry, their betters.
They looked for things to steal as they coughed and tried to cease their bellies from rumbling. The whore on the corner with rags for a dress and sores for lipstick. The drunken men all filled with belligerence and wanting to brawl. That was not what I had expected. That was not what I had been looking forward to. It seemed somehow undeserving for my death. For death was what I would know here, all I would know once I had made my account and stored it in the Finding Place. Death would be my payment.
Death would be quick. Faster than anything offered by the 19th Century. I’d be given a paupers grave and forgotten about. That first trip they had decided not to waste antique treasures from the Earth days. All I had was what I rode with. Just some clothes tailored to meet the age and nothing else. That was the only safe way it had been decided whilst they broached time’s hymen.
I had not been within the city for more than five minutes before I realised that I had a gift. An urchin ran up to me with his hand out. Begging and wanting something for nothing. I’d seen the gentry clip him about the ear as he had pestered and hounded them. Then the boy had come at me. I had nothing to give. He had probably eaten more than I had that day. But the look of desperation in his eyes startled me. The wondering whether or not he would see a new week was present within his stare. He was missing a month of baths and more than likely diseased. I still held out a hand to him. He looked with hope at my fist, perhaps an errant coin within my grasp. I only offered the gesture as a form of comfort.
And upon that unwashed touch I learnt of my gift, or curse. Only time would tell. And I still do not know which it is. And time has told me so much. And yet has left me somewhat unsure.
At the moment of that connection of flesh I saw a hundred possibilities open up. Each was an outcome for the boy if he chose a certain path at that moment. The first was if he held on to my hand and didn’t let go. I would push him away and he would fall, bang his head, fracture his skull and be found dead three days later dead in an alley. I kept my grip tight and saw the others, flashing, dancing through my mind. Some were running, some meandering, one after the next and others at the same time. If I didn’t give him money he would die in a week. I had no money so could not see what would happen if I could pass a few coppers to him.
I saw that if I dragged him to somewhere soft to land he would bounce up and run into the road and into the path of a carriage. I dragged him anyway. The boy started to shout, no one cared. The longer I held on, and the further I moved the more outcomes I saw. I stopped. Spun the boy about to face me after I had seen one in particular,
“Let the bloody ‘ell offa me!” his voice was not even that of a borderline man yet. I looked at the mangy boy and felt pity,
“Boy, I want for a woman. Do you know any?” upon hearing that his brow creased,
“Me mum does it for money Sir, take you to ‘er if you want?”
“Do so.” And I followed. He turned after a few seconds,
“You do got money though don’tya?”
“Yes,” I lied, and followed the dull-brained boy.
We ventured down one alley after another. I continued reaching out, touching his shoulder to steal glances at each new future that each touch showed me. I counted them.
I was led to a shack. It could never be construed as a house. The bricks were sunken in places, protruding like an overbite in others. I looked at the roof. If it had been raining you would have kept drier staying outside. The place gave off a stench worse than the one that had risen and attacked me from the flesh of my fellow rider. The door opened and a woman with a smile like a row of bombed houses came out.
“You looking for a tumble mister? Me names Pol” I pushed her son towards her, turned and walked away.
I saw his final future in that touch. I saw it all, right up until his death a month later. I saw that the next week he led another customer to her. This one killed the whore-mother, shredded her parts and cut off a breast.
And so I left Whitechapel.
The boy died from neglect in a workhouse soon after admittance. I could have helped the whore-mother, but to what ends? Her trade was flesh. If not that madman than perhaps another a month later. It seemed to me like cutting a cancerous tumour from the meat of a person already dead.
I garnered a pencil and paper and a waxed sheaf from a priest, and wrote a brief. It was more like a diary of the fact. Similar to this, which is a culmination of such letters that I left for the Circle to unearth after each undertaking.
I went back out into the countryside where man wouldn’t marvel and build what they saw as impressive structures and keep preserved as a thing of beauty.
I had more time now, less haste. I had performed my duty, but had discovered something else. Something important that the Circle must be informed of.
I died three hours later, an unnamed man who was given an unmarked grave, forgotten. I didn’t mind, they had given the pill flavour, flavour in an unsavoury world was welcome.
The Circle was pleased with my findings and evaluations. They were more delighted with the potential. Although my findings needed extra study and more experimentation before any conclusion could be drawn. This they told me after they had reunited my memories into my matured clone. I nodded.
They were the Circle.
They were the minds.
They were the clever ones.
They pontificated for the better part of a month. And during that time I enjoyed life. Living again. I don’t know what my clone felt like growing up. All I knew is that when my mind was back within my body it felt good, like there had been no death.
The Circle decided another ride was worthy of research. This ride was to be a fully planned excursion. Not just a tourist jaunt. Again they took my memories. They would use the original D.N.A but my new memories were updated to the file. Those that they decided could only make me more valuable next time. There is no point in asking at a party for a fool to perform a slight of hand card trick that he never knew he had performed before. It would end up as a fifty-two card pick-up trick with loud sighs from the audience. And so I rode the past again.
1910 Vienna. That time I rode the past alone. They had more Temporalamotives but after what happened to my last time-riding companion I was to go alone. It had been proved that I had a genetic make up for Past Riding, the original time migrant.
To Be Continued. . .maybe.