5: LETTER FROM A TIME TRAVELLER
Dear Past Robbie–
I am so sorry. This was supposed to be a good deed. I hope it can still be rescued. That’s why I’ve sent you the phone, and I’m writing you this letter. Because where I come from, events can be rewritten, the way a story can be rewritten. Everything is up for grabs. The stakes are huge, as huge as a single human life, yours–mine. Because you and I are more or less the same person. You could say we’re different drafts of the same story. Different angle, different takes on the same material.
I’m writing this to you on 20 July 2017–Happy Moon Landing Day! I’m 54 years old as of my last birthday, and I’m still massively excited that we went to the Moon. I still think that “we”–all of us, all humanity–did that. It might be last thing we all did together. I’m inclined to think it was the apex of human civilisation, given what’s happened since then.
I’m sorry about what happened in your room the other night. I was trying to reach you, but the Widow, Fiona, got me. I managed to shift back to my primary self, so it was just the unthinking drone that was killed, but there’s no way to know that, based on what you saw when the smell woke you up, is there?
The weird thing is how even as I flashed into your room that night, I was remembering, when I was a kid, the following morning, waking up to find the dead body. I knew there would be an attack. I knew it was coming. So I was in a big rush to wake you up, to deliver my Message From the Future before Fiona turned up. But she turned up early.
As I say, this was supposed to be a good deed. I remember very well what life was like when I was you. Growing up in those days. I was trying to help you, in my idiot, ham-fisted way. It’s not as if there aren’t these days plenty of warnings about How Time Travel Can Go Wrong. We’ve had time travel since the 1980s, by the way. About the same time we got computers. Next thing, liquid reality. And next thing after that: hyperfoam realities. Then, now, everything is just “the smear”. Things are solid only as far as you can see, as long as you’re looking at them. Everything is interface.
Anyway. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m working on a way for you and me to meet up, so we can talk properly, so I can explain everything. What I want most of all is to take you and your Mum and Dad to my present, so you can meet my Mum and Dad. They are elderly now, but they are happy and well. They and I are close. I get on famously with Dad.
You’re shocked. Things is, Rob, your dad is very sick, and has been for a very long time. You are, too. It’s an illness called bipolar disorder. In your time its’ called manic depression, or manic depressive disorder. It means your emotions go way up and way down. With your dad it often manifests as anger and low, dark moods. He feels deeply frustrated about everything. He worries about not being a good provider and not being a good dad. He loves you more than life itself. But he can’t tell you. He has to show you, but he doesn’t know how to show you properly so he does weird, strange stuff.
But he loves you. He’s sick, and his sickness distorts his personality. You feel, in your time, listening to your parents fighting all the time, their arguments, their strife, and the way you’re always in trouble and getting yelled at, that everything is your fault, right? If only you were a better kid, a better person, a better student, things wouldn’t be like this, right? Dad wouldn’t always be threatening to leave you and Mum. He wouldn’t always seem so angry with you. He wouldn’t be yelling so much, or seem so upset or worried.
But it’s not at all your fault. This is what I’ve done all this to tell you. It’s not your fault, Rob. It’s not his fault, either. He’s just sick. He needs help. He’s been getting help all along, but it was no good, ineffective. This kind of illness has very poor remedies available to it.
This is all I have to tell you for now. Have a look at the phone. You obviously won’t be able to make calls with it because there’s no network there. But it does all kinds of other things, plus the time travel app (“application” or “programme”), “HG”. Note that you only have the limited free version of HG, which restricts what you can do. Also, if you do time travel, be aware that it gets very messy very quickly. It’s dangerous. Be careful not to go to a time where you can’t recharge your phone. That means probably no earlier than the 1950s. You can also send me a cross-time text, if you want to talk. I have a vague memory of doing that when I was you, but history is nothing if not fluid, so who knows?
So there you are. Watch out for Fiona. You’ll find photos of her and me and various others in the phone. Fiona is very dangerous, and she has a time machine phone as well. Everybody has one. She wants to kill me. She’s had a few red-hot goes, and will try to get you, or those close to you as well.
And, as I say, I’m so very sorry. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a good deed.
PS: Please don’t do what I did and disregard this letter. When I got it, It made me furious. I was very upset and overwhelmed. It was more than I could deal with. Just the day before a man had been murdered in my bedroom, and now this letter from the future, full of all this obvious bullshit. I ignored it. I tossed the whole thing in the nearest bin. Which, when I think now, in 2017, about throwing away a brand-new iPhone 7, roughly $1000 worth of mobile phone, boggles my mind, but when I was you I didn’t know that. I just knew it was too much, and it is too much, and I’m sorry. But you have to listen. Your life has to be better than mine. If you listen to me, and believe what I tell you about your dad and you, it’ll be better. It’ll be hard at first, but better later. But you have to listen to me. Please!