This was written as a response to the latest #blogbattle monthly prompt which can be found here.
So many of man’s innovations have their roots in accidents. Penicillin for instance. One, however arose from a circularity, an accidental glimpse of a future that became its own self fulfilling prophesy.
The advent of technology that captured moving images had changed the world in many ways, from the earliest forms of film, through television to live broadcasts. As the twenty first century gradually moved towards its second half the superspeeds used to capture those images increased exponentially.
Desmond Halloran worked for a small start up, in a dusty corner of southern Oregon that had once been green and pleasant but, since the ravages of climate change bit had become brown and desiccated. Des had two passions: old TV footage of historic events and designing new ways to improve the images seen on the latest screens, especially the personal air monitors that created plasma-effect images for the user in the air which could both be seen and seen through. Having sent a piece of thought to his co-mind, he pulled up a problem he’d been working on. ‘Deli, have a look.’
‘What’s up, man?’ Des?’ co-worker, Deli Signirina shifted in her seat to peer at the grainy image floating in front of Des. ‘You not enhancing?’
Des smiled. No one looked at old original film anymore, not now they were capable of reint – or ‘reinterpretation’ – to show how they would look had modern panreal techniques been used. ‘See, I needed to revista (or go back to source), otherwise all the edges are gone. Look, see.’
‘Geez, man, that’s guts!’ (Guts = disgusting).
The black and white film showed the moment when John F Kennedy’s head exploded with the assassin’s bullet. ‘I was trying to see if I could capture the bullet. This is…’
‘Yeah man, that dude Kennedy. Why’d you want to do that?’ Deli peered closer.
‘Conspiracy yeah? If I can slow it, I may be able to work back, track it and prove where it came from. But then…’ he swiped the air, vortexing the image so the scene expanded into a series of stills. ‘See these are the original individual captures. I then decouple the ones around the bullet’s journey and…’
As Deli’s jaw hung open the frame that caught the moment of the bullet’s impact laminated into a series of separate images. The genius of the programme Des used meant that the single image broke into all the images that ran between the previous still and the next one, fracturing the time.
Deli raised her hand and moved the line of pictures back and forth. ‘I’ve never seen that.’
The ‘that’ in question was a sequence that sat between the previous capture as the bullet entered the frame and before it hit the right side of the President’s head. Instead of a string of consistent frames there were interspersed fifteen blank screens.
‘How can they be void? That never happens with laminates.’
Deli looked even more confused. ‘But…’
Des shook his head and pulled the first blank into the centre of his imaging. He then swiped it as he had the original. ‘This is the highest res we can achieve here.’ The blank fully laminated into a set of blurred images.
‘Is it corrupted? I’m what’s it showing?’
‘I’ve been through them all and eventually I got to this.’ Des wiped across a blur of dozens of individual laminates, stopped and backed up. The selected image was still blurred but this one had a shape. A figure in some sort of white suit or overalls appeared to be holding something.
Deli met Des’s gaze. ‘Is that person… thing holding the President’s head?’
Des nodded. ‘If I had to make a guess, he’s holding it in place so the bullet hits.’
Deli ogled at Des and then laughed. ‘Hey, you shopped me?’ (Shopped – used a fake image to confuse).
‘Nope. This is as is. No fixes. Something super fast, like faster than anything we can comprehend ensured that John F Kennedy was hit by that bullet.’
‘But what… no, that’s madness.’
Des agreed. But he’d lived long enough to see enough improbables become commonplace. He shut down the images, letting his imagination do its thing, a form of mediation used by creatives to pull ideas into the brain’s cortex. Something nagged and he went hunting through other famous dramatic live action films. Later that evening he pulled up film of the tank man in Tiananmen Square and narrowed his eyes. A similar set of blank images came into focus and while the laminates were similarly blurred, he managed to discern what looked like similar white suited figures around the tank driver. In the end he reviewed dozens of iconic moments that had been captured live over the previous eighty years and in several his efforts revealed similar blank inserts. He took them to his cohort. Piers offered the suggestion that the security sector had access to even faster resolution lamination and what became an historic investigation commenced.
A few hours later the head of the CIA called an emergency meeting of the security council. As the group assembled via their virtual meeting spaces, the presence of three strangers clad in white coverings and shimmering oddly raised some expected surprise. Crank Johnson called the group to order. ‘I’m not sure I can explain this but these gentlemen have come with a proposition.’
Steve Premberton, head of Homeland Security growled in his usual blunt way demanding to know when it was within protocol to allow strangers to join one of their meet ups.
Crank nodded at the truth of Steve’s interjection. ‘Noted, Steve, but the thing is we can’t stop them. I tried. My cohort are all…’ his face gave away his struggles, ‘suspended. As in they’re in some sort of suspended animation.’
‘Are you nuts, Crank? That’s a…’
Audible gasps gripped the feed as one of the figures disappeared out of shot and instantly reappeared alongside Pemberton who barely had time to begin to stand before he froze and sat down, staring ahead.
A voice at once smooth and toneless filled the audio. ‘Mr Johnson, if I may. Earlier today an individual uncovered time line manipulation which we had hoped would never occur. He doesn’t yet know what it is he has discovered but even as we speak his discovery is disseminating, including to your organisations. Unchecked the wild speculation will cause a crises of the sort you have never seen.’
Another voice interrupted. ‘How can you say that? Who are you?’
‘We can say it because it’s a scenario we’ve modelled extensively since the original and egregious timeline manipulations were made. Even as we speak the future is unpicking and in less time that you can conceive all your and particular our futures will be different. We considered merely ‘redirecting’ Mr Halloran’s researches but he has proved that our attempts at realignment have not worked and we are therefore implementing plan B. Openness. And you all are to be at the centre of this change.’
Crank leant forward. ‘What he means is we have a lot of work ahead of us.’
Raina Sparks emerged from the group. ‘Who they hell are you to tell us what to do?’
The white clad figure replaced Raina. ‘It happens I’m your descendant, fifteen great granddaughter, but my task is to explain a little about the future and what’s happened.’
‘You’re a time traveller?’
‘In effect, yes. And a previous visitor decided to play god with certain previous events causing chaos, so…’
‘The proximate cause was the reinstallation of President Kennedy’s time line.’
‘You’ll need to explain.’
The picture of the meeting cleared, causing each attendee to check their connection. In its place a speed up distillation of Des’s discoveries played out, with a commentary from the visitor. ‘What you’re seeing is exactly what Mr Halloran predicted. The figure is ensuring the President’s death. The previous visitor had saved his life.’
Raina’s voice cut in. ‘Why the hell would you do that, if someone saved him?’
‘Because by allowing the President to live, the history manipulator ensured a nuclear conflagration, the desolation of most of Europe, an economic collapse and the virtual destruction of democracy. It almost ruined the space time programme that unraveled the mysteries of time travel.’
Crank pinched his nose. ‘But if that change changed world history, how did you know there was an alternate version?’
The white clad figure turned back to him. ‘There’s a lot to explain and not a lot of time to do it.’