Flash Fiction: Time Travel Challenge

So the current terribleminds flash fiction challenge was a call to embrace time travel and give it a prominent place in a story of 1000 words or less. This one proved pretty hard for me. I love time travel stories (huge Doctor Who fan) as a reader or viewer – but I found I really hated trying to write one. I’m really big on maintaining internal logic with my stories. Magic, super science, monsters and other crazy things are all fair game as long as they are consistent with the rules of the story-world you’ve created. Time Travel has a way of always smashing internal logic. Still, that was the challenge and I’ve done my best to answer it. I give you:

Saving the Future

“So you want to know where you come from, eh?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“I think I’ve told you this story before.”

“Tell it again. Please!”

“Ok. Ok. Let’s see. Well, it started with the singularity. Or, really it started with the problem of the singularity. You see, the singularity failed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic time for all of us, but it failed. We became too wrapped up in our accelerating potential and too certain of our abilities. We relied on our brain-computer melds and ignored our bodies. They became things we took out for joy rides, or used when absolutely necessary.”

“What was necessary?”

“In the early days necessary included maintenance work, but eventually we had robotic shells for that. Really, we only needed our bodies for procreation. Most people stopped bothering though. No one noticed for a long time, but our need to have children withered away. Before the singularity, and for a long time after it, people thought it was going to be an amazing leap forward in evolution. Well, let me tell you something. We almost evolved ourselves to death.”

“What happened?”

“Eventually things started breaking down in ways we hadn’t thought of. Bugs in the system. Upgrades that introduced critical errors. When it would happen to computers, back in your other parents’ grandchildren’s day, it would be a frustrating problem that was eventually patched. We couldn’t patch critical errors in human superminds. Entire nodes were wiped out and then the cascade failures started, so we tried to save ourselves by fleeing to our bodies until proper fixes could be arranged.”

“Did it work?”

“Let me tell you something darling. The feeling of utter shock hits no one quite so hard as the most arrogant. We were a society of absolute arrogance.”

“Oh.”

“Oh indeed. Many of our bodies had started to die on the vine. We kept them maintained in stasis, but they just weren’t intended for this new existence and the ones that did still work were cut down by the millions thanks to viruses and bacteria that had been evolving on their own, waiting for us to return to the physical world. Oh how we were laid low. Even worse, we soon realized we were losing our singularity-enhanced intelligence. We had grown beyond the brain’s capacity. The longer we stayed in our bodies the faster we lost the brilliance the singularity had provided. One day we knew – we couldn’t fix the supercomputers we had been.”

“What happened then?”

“Then it got worse.”

“How could it be worse?”

“Facing life as purely flesh and blood people again those few of us who were left knew we had to start having children.”

“Like me!”

“Yes, yes – your part is coming soon.”

“Yeah!”

“Ok, so we needed to have children but it was hard. Many people’s bodies couldn’t make children anymore, and many of the children we did have didn’t live long. There was also a real fear that the few people capable of having children wouldn’t have enough genetic diversity. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say we were staring extinction in the face.”

“What’d it look like?”

“Scary. It looked really scary.”

“But extinction didn’t get us.”

“No, we found a solution. You need to understand that this didn’t all happen like the alphabet A, B, C. It was all kinda happening at the same time. For example some people stayed part of the singularity longer than others. Some chose to stay there and die as superminds. So there was a time when everything was very confusing and we were trying to solve all these terrible problems. The answer was the last great thing our hyper-evolution ever achieved.”

“The Time Tunnels!”

“Hey, who’s telling this story? Me or you?”

“We’re telling it together. I’m helping.”

“Oh, well thank you very much. You’re right of course. It was the time tunnels that saved us. We needed children, and we needed them from people who hadn’t been tainted by the years of the singularity and stasis. With the tunnels we could get them.”

“You got me in a tunnel right?”

“Well, we didn’t find you in a tunnel. We travelled through a tunnel to the time you were born and brought you back with us.”

“Your special time baby!”

“That’s right. It made us a little sad to take other parents’ babies, but we had to save ourselves. We always try to leave one of our babies in the past as a replacement. They didn’t have to worry about their genetic pool back then like we do. We call them our changelings and many of them grow up with no problem at all. Some, the ones from very unlucky matches, don’t. And sometimes we have no changeling baby to trade.”

“That’s sad.”

“Yes, it is. But we have to save our future.”

“I’m saving the future!”

“Yes you are dear. Now let’s go find your mom. It’s time to go to your Aunt and Uncle’s and say goodbye to their changeling.”

{FInd more of my stories here.}

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