By Paul Evans
I have long thought it ludicrous that a ticking clock should represent the passage of time. Not just any timepiece of course: the dusty old grandfather variety was the acoustic titleholder.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the stereotypical two-tone achieved such status; it is actually a beautiful sound (unless you’re lying awake, praying for sleep, waiting for the next toll), and one that was planted into our sub consciousness by contemporary culture. If pressed, I would liken the sound to walnut bread, a complex whisky, or dark chocolate; but that would imply that time imbues a taste, which simply won’t do at all.
My undisguised ire is forged from a number of elements: firstly, we seem to have applied a sound to an abstract concept. I concede that I am a man of science, and lack an artistic, expressionistic bent, but really! Next, mankind has walked the crust of our cooling spheroid a mere sliver of its existence; the clock, grandfather or otherwise, occurred a relative instant after our entrance. To let it champion the passing of the cosmos seems so … inappropriately arrogant. Especially now the device has toppled into the pit of obsolescence; churned in the wake of the digital age.
… And to think we believed time to be linear! A straight line of all things! The truth that spacetime is relative to an object’s velocity has been the cornerstone of my work.
Of my life.
So, why push to achieve light speed (hypothetically consuming infinite energy to do so), just to return home to discover one’s entire civilisation reduced to no more than buried oil? One of the Milky Way’s spiral arms is home to our star (arrogantly named ‘The’ Sun), which orbits galactic central at a staggering 225 kilometres per second. Time dilates to travel fractionally slower for us than our radially inward galactic neighbours. Time is travelling at different speeds throughout existence.
My life goal was to cheat causality. Now, sat at one end of the prototype Tachyon Bridge (another cringe-worthy nomenclature) I rather believe that I have succeeded. Just as electrons have been harnessed for untold practical uses, the stimulated flow of the time travelling particles – proportional to the intended distance – should theoretically allow me to arrive at my destination instantaneously.
My current location is the Utah desert. The Tachyon Bridge is tethered to an identical facility at CERN, Geneva.
It is time (no pun intended) to get down to unauthorised business. I’m damned if I’m going to let the nominated US Air Force Colonel take all the credit. With a last look around the expansive containment chamber, I briefly wonder whether my reappearance in its distant replica will register to my limited senses.
I flick the proverbial switch.
* * * *
To watch one’s own body disintegrate in extreme slow motion is not to be recommended. But as the husk of my former physique silently flew apart, bone fragments tearing flesh, I knew I was free.
The mystery of substance was suddenly transparent. Like all physicists I’d known that atoms have practically no mass; that the only thing preventing a cup from falling through a table was repelling magnetic fields. I could see it all so perfectly. I mused briefly that I might be God; but chastised myself, settling for the position of lost angel.
My beloved Tachyon Bridge project was abandoned. Its activation had unintentionally punched significant holes in the world, with associated loss of life – including my own. On the stage of all creation this was inconsequential.
I entwine epochs and gently fold connectedness in my odyssey, aghast that I harbour the latent – and quite unassailable – sensation of an itchy scrotum. Regardless, I seep through the porous bounds of the physical.
Instantly comfortable with the length of my metaphorical leash, I sought the achievements of the brotherhood of Man (my former species as opposed to the seventies band). In the same instant – or a billion instants throughout existence – I beheld humanity’s demise:
The clock had been ticking since first we clawed gasping from the oceans. Earth – destined to burn in the expanding sun – had witnessed frequent mass extinctions. Fire, water (solid and liquid), kinetic impact and biological counter-dominance were cyclic. Each species had its chance to harness the means to extend from the local cradle of life. Humanity achieved civilisation status borne of communication, cooperation and opposable thumbs. Such cooperation was limited by the archaic fiscal rationing system; an ethical obsolescence as eight hundred million of the globe’s population starved.
Money influenced shareholders. Money influenced corporate policy.
Pvizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, strategically favoured tax breaks over the potentially negligible profit to be reaped from the next generation of antibiotics. From beneath the skein of the real I witnessed over four billion souls perish to an aggressively hardy strain of tuberculosis. Humankind lost momentum, missing the opportunity to seed the cosmos before the inevitable coup de grace: a passing asteroid succumbed to Earth’s seductive gravity well.
Only at their end did I wish I’d spent less time seeking the unobtainable. I’d simply needed good company.
* * * *
The true sound of time – of all time – is the cacophony of unsynchronised clocks, punctuated by the occasional climactic chime.
My personal dystopia: squirming through ethereal eternity to the relentless soundtrack of ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’… with the perpetual sensation of an itchy ball sack.