Aphelion Issue 268, Volume 25
December 2021
 
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The Timeport Stops

by David Barber


Some causal anomaly had shut down the Canaveral Timeport, leaving a handful of travellers stranded in the now. It had the feel of an airport waiting on cancelled flights, with explanations in short supply. Still, people need somewhere to wait and have a drink.

Three time travellers sat at the bar in the Chronos Tavern.

Two were what the popular press called Autists, marooned while bouncing back from downtime, still costumed in luminously white Arab robes and sandals. It was their sort who operated the Timeport, dealing with the wormhole, the maths, the impossible physics.

One held a beer up to the light. "Excreted by micro-organisms, you say?" They had a queasy fascination with the drinks on offer. "But they are dead now? The ethanol kills them?"

The third traveller was from even further uptime and confirmed the notion that there was a hierarchy amongst time travellers, based on knowing someone else's future.

"You know of the Bible?" one of the Autists asked the barman.

"This Jesus the Reanimator?" added the other.

The barman held a tray of endorphin sprays for the women in the booth by the door. "Don't tell me, he was a time traveller too."

They waited for him to get back, brimming with indignation. "Who has told you this falsehood?"

Jokes don't travel well, it seems.

"Yours is an Age of Belief. The reanimation story, you think it likely?"

It was an academic debate, they explained. They had permission to investigate what actually happened.

"But surely, messing with the past is forbidden?"

The barman appealed to the third traveller, the one with a smooth curve of enamel instead of teeth.

The traveller radiated amused tolerance. He was tall and broad-shouldered. With his box of tricks, he spoke better English than the barman.

"You think incorrectly about time. The past is what happened. The ends ignore the means. History records a tomb found open, without a body. Causal anomalies are prevented, not punished afterwards."

The barman had already felt the man's potent charisma. And despite himself, felt grateful that they'd spoken.

But the Autists hadn't finished explaining. Their investigation of the sepulchre had been interrupted by peasant women peering in.

"I told them there was no corpse. I said not to be afraid."

"But they still fled," the second shrugged.

The barman wasn't a religious man, but it seemed our stories carry little weight in the long ages to come. People believed, wasn't that enough? Must it be true as well?

Later, the third traveller beckoned to the barman.

"History records this interruption of the Timeport. I was sent here to put things right. The past is fixed, but we must conspire to make it so. Is that a saying you also have?"

"So it was these Autists who caused the shutdown?"

"In a manner of speaking."

The bar began to empty. It seemed the Timeport was back on line.

"To enhance their intelligence, they have attempted to geneer out emotion, gender and empathy. Their world is full of facts but sometimes devoid of common sense."

He showed the barman the contents of a box. "I learned they had taken this. What you might call a souvenir."

To make things right again, he would return it.

And would his miraculous appearances and disappearances be remembered and recorded as well? It was all history.

Euphorbia, a thorn plant found everywhere in the Middle East since Biblical times. The stems are pliable and can be intertwined into a circle. Or a crown.


© 2021 David Barber

David Barber lives anonymously in the UK. His ambition is to continue doing these things.

Find more by David Barber in the Author Index.

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