14: Change of Scene
Fiona’s Story 1
I hope you don’t mind, Rob, if I borrow your notebook for a bit, while you sleep off the Taser. I’ve been having a bit of a read the last couple of hours. You do go on a bit, don’t you think? There’s such a thing as concision, you know. People are busy. They don’t have time to read three versions of the same sentence inside that sentence!
Anyway. Where were we? Let’s see. You and I just met. Not sure if that qualifies as what these days is known as a “meet cute”. I hope you’ll forgive the whole, well, kidnapping thing. I wargamed the whole scenario (I love the irony of this since it was the Later version of you who first introduced me to gaming and wargaming) and everything suggested you would in no way cooperate with me if I simply asked you to come with me. You would either be outright hostile to the point of attacking me, or you would just be inert because you’re so depressed. I’m really sorry about the depression, by the way. I know the black dog well. It uses me as a chew toy. We can talk about it once you’re awake. Anyway, I worked out that you wouldn’t come with me of your own accord. It had to be like this, but I am sorry about it. You and I–in your future and my past–we meant the world to each other. The whole world. But you took yourself away from my world, and I could never forgive you, and here we are.
My name is Fiona West. Your future self has told you about me, or a version of me, or his impression of a version of me, or some bloody postmodern bullshit nonsense. It’s because he did that that I had to zap you with the Taser. I did try it out on myself, by the way, after I bought it. I thought it only fair and reasonable that I find out what I was proposing to do to the larval form of the love of my life. So I know. It hurts like a bastard. It’s disabling. It should not be available to civilians in any way, not even via the black market, the darknet, or whatever. But anyway, sorry. But also, it’s kind of your own fault I had to do it, and my sense of humour appreciates that. 🙂
(I just went out for coffee. You were dead to the world still, so I didn’t get you anything. Once you’re awake, though, we can probably look into what you might like.)
What can I tell you that would help you understand what I’m trying to do? I’ve been thinking about this ever since you died. Which, for me, was eleven years, five months and twenty-nine days ago. You used rope and a plastic bag. You had been depressed out of your mind for months. It was clearly coming for you. It wanted you dead. You told me all you thought about was death. Your doctor was at his own wit’s end. He quit, btw. After what happened with you. The poor man. He couldn’t go on. He couldn’t speak about it. I tried to talk to him. But he wouldn’t/couldn’t speak. His eyes would well up, and he’d turn away, and his wife would ask me quietly to leave him be, and I did.
But where could I go?
Hmm, this got dark fast, eh? Sorry. I keep forgetting you’re just a kid at this point. I keep thinking you’re my Rob, returned to me like Christ after the three days in the cave, good as new. But you’re not. I’ve read your notebook. I know you’re far from well. You already carry the illness that killed my Rob. You’re already on the final descent, the glide path, coming in to land on the final runway at Hell International Airport. Be sure to visit the duty-free stores.
It’s my job, my mission, my fucking QUEST, DAMMIT, to save you, if for no other reason than so I can damn well kill you for leaving me.
Hmm, well, okay, still a bit dark, there, Fi.
What about this? I have a gigantic ridiculous dog, a Great Dane, almost as big as the house, named Harriet. She is jet black all over, and her coat is very glossy. Her bark disturbs car alarms up and down the street.
There is also only one interesting thing about me, if you set aside the kidnapping thing at least for now.
I am what my Sisters-in-Time have decided we’ll call “Swimmers”. Everything in the universe, including this planet, and us on this planet, are embedded in time, and that time flows like a tide, receding from a sandy shore and flowing like a riptide along a channel far, far out to the endless, unfathomable, unthinkable wide-open ocean. We are riding that tide from the past through the present and it will take at least our atoms and molecules all the way out to that deep coldness, the end of the universe.
But suppose there were other universes parallel with ours, or connected to ours as soap bubbles are connected in soap suds, in foam. Imagine each bubble in frothy foam contained an entire five-dimensional reality with its own current of time running through it, carrying everything from one end to the other.
Then suppose that since the advent of cheap and easy iPhone consumer time travel as an app some people have discovered a hack. It only seems to work for a very small number of people, at least so far (we get a sense there’s a lot of very intense, very secret research going on), can “swim” from one river to other, adjacent rivers. Can cross universes. We can totally cross the streams, man!
(Hmm, I’m going to have to set you up with some DVDs, now I think about it.)
Anyway, some of us, and I’m one of them, can do this. I’ve only done it a few times. This world is not my world. The Fiona West who lived here died of breast cancer–a particularly nasty one–some years ago. She and the adult Rob you know as Future Bastard (I can’t tell you how that name made me laugh until I had to visit the loo, that was just like something he’d say and everything!) had the same bare bones to their relationship, the same fundamental obstacles, but this time death came to her and not him.
Because there’s the problem. The essential problem is that you’re decent soul who wants to decent things. You want to help. You want to relieve suffering. And you reach a point in middle-age where you have ridiculous, stupid access to loads of time travel resources. Everybody does. It’s amazing.
And you remember growing up in a terrifying, strife-filled house–several houses. It was awful. You thought your folks would split up many times. And the worst part was that you believed it was your fault. You had the whole bad son complex. If only…everything, the lot.
So your big idea is to back and try to talk to that boy, and maybe that dad, and try to explain. About sickness, how it distorts things, the way you perceive everything, including yourself and what you see as your responsibilities. Fabulous idea.
But people are funny bastards, and actions have all kinds of consequences. I think it’s safe to say now that TIME TRAVEL RUINS EVERY BLOODY THING IT TOUCHES. It’s pure poison. And yet I’m trafficking in it a few times lately to achieve various outcomes. I very nearly pulled off a perfect-crime murder a few nights ago your time, in your locked-up bedroom. Blinked in, the Future Bastard was right there getting ready to wake up and ruin your life, but I was able to stop him in time. Sorry about the mess, and your family’s resulting situation.
One thing about using time-travel: it’s corrosive to the mind and brain. You lose parts of yourself when you do it, as if it’s using part of yourself for fuel.
That night in your room was as close as I’ve got to killing your Future Self. His primary self had been riding the drone. He’d been there. My sensors had him in the killbox. But the room itself was too cluttered and unfamilar. We didn’t have good maps. I got close but not close enough, and in that fraction of a second he ejected from the drone.
The Rob in my own world killed himself, after he saw what happened as a result of his intervention. That going back in time to help his teenage self with his dad was a disaster. The people involved were too complex, and the relationships too messy for such a simple fix. It was a movie premise being used for serious family therapy.
I seem to be using up a fair amount of paper here. Sorry, kid. I thought I should tell you a bit about “us”.
I’ve told you that we were doomed lovers, but not much else. We met in Charlie’s, D20, the Psych Unit. I was there for anorexia, depression, and for being generally all screwed up inside and outside. I showed the scar-tissue on my arms the first time we talked in the unit dining room that night. Remember that, the way you peeled the foam coffee cups layer by individual foam particle layer, and you got the whole cup into a single long strand of foam? That was fantastic! I loved that–but that wasn’t you, was it? Not you YET.
The day you arrived was a Monday, in the afternoon, and you walked around in a numb, big-eyed, shuffling haze. You were made of smashed glass that lacked the sense to fall to the ground just yet. They sat you in front of the big day room window and got you rug-hooking, and the blank look on your face told the story. Here I am, just walked in from the Somme, feeling a little maybe dissociated, yes, I’d love to do some rug-hooking.
I got you a coffee from the machine in the dining room, and sat down opposite you and we talked, or at least I talked and you hooked rugs. You gave off nothing. No radiation. No reflections. Everything just fell inside you and was trapped inside you. Many years later, when you were trying (failing) to get me excited about standing around in the cold backyard looking at stars with your telescope, you described a class of objects as having negative albedo, that reflected nothing of the light that hit them. That was you, or will you, kid. Might be you already. All inward, nothing outward.
The notebook lends itself to that suggestion. You live here, in these intense pages. You lie in bed and your mind is writing passages that you copy down later.
I know your dad has been looking for you. It’s been hard for him, and I have not helped. It was also hard when your mum passed away. Sorry to tell you that way. 🙁 Your mum and dad split up shortly after you vanished, too. Your dad was obsessed with the (correct) idea that I had had something to do with it. We were briefly involved. It was not good. I’m really sorry. Your mum never believed the time travel thing. She and your dad reached a point where they could not go on together. Dad was obsessed with me, the future and you. Your mum believed a garden variety sexual predator got you. She campaigned for years and years. Neither of them ever gave up on you, and your mum kept campaigning right through her cancer treatment, no matter what. “Because I’m his Mum!” she’d always say when asked why she persisted, even after thirty, thirty-five years. “What sort of crap Mum would I be if I gave up on him?”
So, Robbie, that’s the state of play as of today. You’ll have discovered that you’re an honoured guest in my home, an apartment. It has extensive security measures, plus several personal drones I can occupy at a moment’s notice.
I also got you some new blank notebooks from Officeworks. They were a great bundle, three for 99 cents each! Hope you like gel pens, they’re my favourites!
Now off to proper work now. Am a SEO consultant for mobile companies. Busy busy busy! Ciao!”