For some reason I had an idea about reading a want ad where you had to go to April 6, 1971 to answer. I Googled April 6, 1971, and this story appeared out of nowhere….
It started when I was looking through a want ads page from a very Alternative paper, The Random Times. I found all of the typical things, of course. There were the hilarious, such as “Clairvoyant wanted. But you knew that, right?” No name or address or number given. Others were chilling. How about this? “Are willing to do anything? No qualms or regrets? Sent to P. O. Box” No need to fill in the rest.
I had The Rite of Spring playing very loudly as I read. It made a great accompaniment to the words. The rhythms. Those big chords. It was fitting.
I was about to give up with a laugh when one ad caught my eye. “Prominent Time Travel Company looking for Time System Engineer. Apply (address deleted by editor) between 1 PM and 3 PM on April 6, 1971.”
I searched the date. In the music I was listening to, the sacrifice was being danced to death. And then I saw it. April 6, 1971, the day Stravinsky died.
The music ended and The Firebird came on.
It was a sign.
I had felt like a complete idiot when I had written the equations and then made those drawings. It didn’t make sense. It was a complete delusion.
I already had the parts in my workshop. It didn’t take long to fit it all together. “Not long” in this case was about four months. I made sure I listened to nothing but The Maestro the entire time. The Rakes Progress came to an end and the marvelous Violin Concerto, by far the greatest example of the form from the 20th century, just started when I put the finishing touches on the machine.
I was ready for the interview. Perhaps someone would take me seriously at last.
I sat down in the waiting room. I was the only one there, so I figured not many saw the ad.
A man, an old school hippy, walked out of the inner office, shaking his head. He slammed the door closed behind himself on the way into the hallway. 10 seconds later, the same man reentered. Only he was different. He looked a little older, had a different, shorter, hairstyle and wore different clothes. He was no longer in the ‘70s bell-bottoms, but a very conservative suit that would look right at home in the mid-21st century.
The man gave his name to the receptionist and sat down next to me. He must have noticed my glaze, for he spoke to me without a question. “I didn’t get the job but after a couple of years decided I needed to reapply.” I still continued to stare. “Oh, yeah, last time I was young and stupid and thought I would try to fit in with the epoch. My research was bad and I ended up with that silly counter-culture clown suit. These guys are in their best mid-21st century business attire, so why am I one to argue?”
I shrugged and turned away. My name was soon called.
I wasn’t surprised that my interviewers, a man and a woman, where dressed in clothing that wouldn’t turn any heads in my own day.
I was surprised at the first question the man asked. “Think of a clown puppet. What is this theme?” He hummed a tune.
I was stunned. “Uhm, the dancer’s theme from Petrushka?”
The woman then said, “A soldier with his violin finds out what life lesson, perhaps a little too late?”
“You can’t have everything and if you over reach you might lose what you have. Also, if you make a deal with the devil, the devil always gets the best end of it.”
The man and woman looked at each other and then back at me.
“When are you from?” the man asked.
At first I almost answered “where”, but then thought about the position. “I’m from 2037.”
“Really?” the woman asked. “There is no time travel in 2037. How did you get here?”
“Well, after reading your ad I invented a time machine. Nobody took me seriously.” I shrugged.
The two looked at each other and nodded. They then looked at me.
“Congratulations, you have the position. We will, of course need more information…”
I didn’t like the way the man smiled at me.
The woman looked even more sinister. I started to stand up, but blacked out.
I was in a cavernous court room. The two judges were the man and woman who had interviewed me. The jury consisted of six pairs of the man and woman. The gallery was filled to capacity with the man and the woman. I was the only one in the entire room that was not part of that pair.
The two judges spoke as one, “You are accused of the highest crime against humanity, of the actual destruction of said humanity. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty,” I answered.
What I can only call an “instance” of the man and woman walked up to the witness stands.
“Proceed,” The judges said together.
The witnesses spoke, alternating words, with the woman starting. “Over the last 679 years it has been proven over and over again that time travel is totally and completely impossible. Everything in physics and philosophy are against it.”
“And yet this man created a time machine,” the judges said.
“Yes, this man did the impossible and created a time machine.” Even though they still alternated, I was beginning to hear it as one voice. “This was the first paradox. For you see, by doing this impossible task, the universe was opened to paradox. And paradox became the rule.”
“How was the machine discovered?” the judges asked.
“In 2063 a machine appeared at the MIT Time Lab. A man handed one of the doctorate students the plans for the machine. He said he got them from 2037. He, vanished, but the machine stayed.”
“And all such time machines have been based on those original plans?”
“Yes. Creating a time machine is impossible. It has only been done once. In 2037. So all of the machines, and there are thousands, are actually just that one machine criss-crossing it’s way through time. There was the Time Expo of 2310 when there were 291 time machines present, but they were all that one original, just coming in from different eras.”
The judges glared at me. “What do you say?”
“I don’t understand how this destroyed humanity….”
“The world became ruled by paradox,” the judges said. “One trickster found a particular paradox pleasing and created a paradox of a paradox by putting it in a loop…”
“But why do you look at me? I wasn’t around in 2063. Or not yet, anyway.”
“Because you made the first. You proved it. The way the one and only time machine works is based on rhythm. Not just any rhythm. Time is stretched and compress using a very specific rhythm.” I began to smile. “It is a rhythm created by Stravinsky…”
I didn’t mean to, but I laughed. I knew I was building it into the machine, but didn’t realize that was what made it work.
The judges frowned, which made me laugh all the harder. They looked so funny. And I realized, they looked very, very familiar.
“The defendant is to be put to death. Immediately, where he sits before he can be…”
The sky opened up. I appeared on my time machine and grabbed me. I jumped into the second seat behind myself. I dropped me off at the office in 1971. I walked over to where I hid the machine and zipped back to my office in 2037. I parked the machine, but I came out of hiding from behind the desk, all of the plans in hand, and traveled off to 2063, where I dropped the machine and plans off. I knew I had hidden another copy of machine in another portion of the MIT Time Lab. I jumped on and went over 600 years into the future. I saw myself being sentenced, so I grabbed myself and dropped me off at the New York office in 1971.
I returned to my office in 2037. Only there was already two of me there.
My wife, Margret, walked in. She saw the three of me and stopped in her tracks, her mouth hanging open.
I glanced around at all of us. It was only then that I realized that the two people in the court were me and Margret.
I started laughing again.
Margret looked at me, a question in her eyes.
Just then, Margret showed up on a time machine and started laughing as well.
I smiled. “Buckle up, my dear,” I said, “and be prepared for a rough flight ahead….”