Before You Leap
“Sean? Can you hear my voice?”
“Can you see me?”
“Are you ready to sit up?”
Sean was flat on his back lying on the grass. Alex had knelt beside him.
“Are your senses returning to normal?”
“Define ‘normal,’” Sean mumbled.
“’Normal’ is based on long-term sensory observation which sets the standard by which other atypical occurrences are compared. Do your surroundings appear to be as you would expect them to be?”
Sean propped up on his elbows and looked around.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“What do you observe?”
“The backyard of your house?”
“Good. That is correct,” Alex confirmed. “What else do you sense?”
“I feel a little hot.”
“Yes. Good. What else?”
“The light is dim. I can’t see as well as I should.”
“Also good. Anything else?”
“I hear a buzzing in my ears. Don't tell me that's good. I know that's not normal.”
“In this case, that is also normal,” Alex assured him. “The sound you hear is Hemiptera Auchenorrhyncha collectively vibrating their tymbals to attract mates.”
Sean stared blankly at Alex.
“I believe the common name you use is cicada.”
Sean's stare persisted.
“You are warm,” Alex continued unfazed, “because it is the hottest part of your summer. The light appears dimmer because it is nearing sunset.”
Sean sat up straighter and leaned toward Alex to look him in the eyes.
“It really worked? We traveled backward in time?”
“That is what you wanted to do, is it not?”
“Well, yes… but… I mean... Did you see, hear, and feel all those things that I did?”
“No. But then technically neither did you.”
“What do you mean? I went through some pretty crazy stuff!”
“The phenomena you experienced was due to your body being shifted into another dimension. The shift has a curious effect on the brain, which attempts to find a familiar perspective to explain the observed occurrence. I warned you that it could be very distressful.”
“You compared it to motion sickness. That was nothing like motion sickness. That was…” Sean's voice trailed off as he tried to replay the experience in his head.
“I don’t know what that was.”
“It is rather indescribable,” Alex suggested.
“OK, I get it. You didn’t describe it to me because you can’t. And neither can I.” Sean refocused on Alex. “But, you didn’t experience it like I did, did you? Why not?”
“Redundancy?” Alex shrugged. “Multiple trips seem to allow the brain to begin to accept that it does not need to interpret the phenomena as a known experience. One can also minimize the effect by employing a focal point at transition. You would adapt if you also made several trips.”
“And how many more trips will I be taking?” asked Sean.
“I will return you to your normal time-stream. Your second –and last– trip should be less stressful than your first.”
Sean got to his feet. “OK, now that we're here, let’s go see this thing that already happened.”
Alex stood with him. “What do you remember about that evening?”
“Not a lot, it was pretty normal, I was just in the driveway shooting some hoops, when suddenly I had this weird feeling that someone was watching me.”
“We should approach your house and determine how close we can get before you react. I am referring to the other you, although you will also feel that same sensation that you have already felt. The past you... the present you will experience the same feeling.”
“The present me?”
“Perhaps we should assign labels,” Alex decided, “The you whom I am currently addressing, we will label ‘present you’, and the other you that we encounter we will refer to as ‘past you,’”
“I can see why you didn’t want there to be three of me at once,” Sean exclaimed, “This is beginning to sound like that ‘who’s on first’ routine.”
Puzzled, Alex twitched a query to his computer.
“There is too much data to sift through for ‘who’s on first.’ Do you have additional information?”
“Oh, it’s some old comedy thing from like a million years ago. Three Stooges or Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello or someone,” Sean shrugged. “Maybe even the Marx Brothers… I don’t really remember. Something my Dad had me watch one time 'cause he thought it was funny. I guess it was. It was in black and white, so it was like ancient.”
Alex tilted his head again.
“Yes, now I have something. You consider the 1940s to be ancient? It was Abbott & Costello. It appears to be mistaken identity of players with odd names on a baseball team.”
“I don’t know,” Sean shrugged.
“Third base,” Alex announced.
“What is on second,” Alex declared.
“Who are you talking about?”
“Who is on first.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Why comes near the end of the comic routine. Your statement is out of sequence.”
“What is on second.”
“OK, just stop,” Sean shouted, “I don’t want to replay the thing. I don’t even know it.”
“When you said, ‘I don’t know’ I assumed that you were instigating a recitation of the comic routine. You employed a key phrase.”
“You can be really weird sometimes,” grumbled Sean.
“Since you initiated the reference, I thought you might be revisiting the comic wordplay. I was mistaken. My apologies,” Alex said with a slightly frosty edge to his voice.
“Are you mad?”
“Are you questioning my sanity, or asking if I am angry?” Alex's voice was still icy.
“You are mad! Angry. Whatever.”
“I may have reacted badly to your inference that I was ‘weird.’ I believe I have now recovered my emotional equilibrium.”
“No. That’s OK,” Sean chuckled. “You can be mad at me for calling you weird. I'm just surprised when you show emotions. You act all Vulcan most of the time.”
“I attempt to remain dispassionate, as any good researcher should, but I must admit I am confused by my reactions to being with you. Experiencing your daily life with you is considerably different from reading about your life. You elicit emotional responses from me that I had not envisioned.”
“Would I be guessing right to say that you haven’t spent time like this with one of my kids or grand-kids?”
“That is correct,” Alex confirmed, “1995 is the first stop on my studies.”
“Why me first? Why not go all the way back to wherever you want to start and move forward?”
“I need additional information to enter earlier time-periods successfully. Your generation is the first to have accurately recorded the data from your genome and store it in a database. I have to stop here until I can obtain a DNA sample from your father to make the next jump back.”
Sean nodded and pointed a finger at Alex. “Yeah... you were starting to tell me about that earlier.”
“Correct. I believe our conversation moved onto a tangent about dimensional shifting and never returned to the guidance system. A DNA signature is a traceable format that consistently moves through the space/time continuum. Scientists in the mid-twenty-second century discovered a way to use it as a beacon when traveling in another dimension... will discover, from your perspective. The signature is unique, so when entered in the computer of the dimensional vehicle, a path back into this dimension is clearly marked. Without it, the re-entry to this dimension could have unexpected results.”
“So, without my Dad’s DNA, if you tried to go further into the past you wouldn’t be able to get back to here… Earth… this dimension... or whatever you want to call it?”
“Without a beacon, re-entry could be anywhere or any when. Not unlike sailing in the middle of the ocean without any form of guidance system,” Alex explained.
“Yikes! You mean you’d be lost in some limbo place?”
“No. I can always map back to any other recorded DNA streams. I also drop a strong dimensional beacon wherever I leave, so I can always return to that exact time and space. I could not accurately re-materialize anywhere earlier than 1979 with the information I currently possess.”
“So when we did this little two-month hop, we zeroed in using my DNA?”
“So you could follow my DNA back another 16 years?”
“And you already had my DNA code because it was in some database? Why's that?”
“During your later lifetime, it will become a routine medical procedure to map and store individual genomes. Initially, it was to study various strands with regard to medical conditions. A comprehensive database gave scientists the opportunity to compare across the entire population.”
“So who came up with the wacky idea to use it for time-travel?”
“You might be pleased to learn that it was one of your great-grandchildren who developed a theory that eventually evolved into the DNA beacon.”
“Really? One of my descendants invents time-travel?” Sean beamed.