Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday Writings #20 - Evan (part 2)

My "Wednesday Writing" posts were initially created as a writing exercise for me to try and keep myself motivated and on track by making sure that I spend at least 30-60 minutes each week (with the follow-up goal to turn it into a daily writing practice).

Over the past few weeks, I've been continuing the same story with a single post each week. To help you catch up with this serialized story, you can use the following table of contents:
  1. Morning Machinations
  2. Communication Between Friends
  3. Daydreaming Decisions
  4. Off to the Park
  5. Driven
  6. Coming Home
  7. Revealing Photographs
  8. Just a Dream?
  9. At the Tower
  10. Caught
  11. Revelations
  12. Lunchtime
  13. The Watch
  14. Visions
  15. Escape
  16. Evan (part 1)

With these posts, I've tried to keep a general 'length.' Today's post is longer than my intended length. Part of it is that I couldn't decide on a good stopping point. Part of it is that I wanted to lay out a decent backstory without bogging down on too many details. I'm not really happy with the way this flowed and the break it makes from the core story. I'm also not real keen on the way I ended it this week.

Hopefully it still works out well for you and provides good info to continue on next week.

Critiques, suggestions, comments, etc. always welcome.


Evan Continues

"Bear with me as I try to bring you up to speed. I'm not sure how much you've already been told or suspect. There is some danger that what I tell you may have unintended results and further exacerbate the problems already underway. I will share as much as I feel is safe but will unfortunately have to keep certain things from you both for your own safety and the safety of the universe."

Evan glanced over at Gabby to gauge her reaction. She stared at him blankly. With all that had happened in the past two days, she was beyond much in terms of instant reaction. Her mind tried to process what he could possibly mean by 'the safety of the universe' but, unable to place the concept within any appropriate framework, she instead let the matter drop and tried to convince herself that he would either make things more clear or convince her that he, and thus everyone else she'd met recently, was entirely crazy. She nodded softly.

"I'm listening."

Evan cleared his throat and looked back out the front window.

"As I've already told you, my name is Evan. I was born in northern California. I'm the oldest of four kids. My family moved from California to Ohio when I was ten. It was quite a culture shock. Not finding the same range of activities in the midwest as I had on the coast, I dove into books. I passionately devoured science fiction from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

"After graduating High School, I spent a few years working odd jobs and traveling the U.S. trying to get a feel for the world and my place in it. I turned 20 and returned to Ohio to go to college. I did a double major in Electrical Engineering and Psychology. I just couldn't decide which field interested me more. I worked for an engineering firm for a couple of years and then moved out here to continue my studies. First I got a Masters and now I'm working towards a Doctorate in physics with an emphasis. I'll graduate next spring after presenting the findings of my rather mundane research project.

"While acting as a professor's aide this fall, I will meet and help tutor a lovely girl taking a general physics class."

"Wait. What do you mean, 'this fall'?" Evan looked over at Gabby. Instead of answering her question, he continued the story. He watched as her expression circled from confusion to curiosity to embarrassment and back to confusion again.

"While I'm tutoring this fall, I will meet this girl. Just before Thanksgiving break, I will ignore my inhibitions and ask her on a date. We will have a wonderful dinner followed by a carriage ride downtown through a light snowstorm and topped off by a quick stop in a cozy diner for a hot drink before going home. For the next 4 months, we will get to know each other through many other wonderful dates. Mid-spring, she will nobly suggest that we slow things down so I can work on finalizing my thesis. Instead of agreeing to this, I will propose marriage. "

"One of my professors and good friends, Dr. Walter Dalton, will happen to overhear one of our conversations and become intrigued. Dalton's particular interest is in the field of relativity. He has published a number of rather insightful experiments on the effects of gravitational time dilation, the relativity of simultaneity, and even attempts to create and analyze the existence of closed timeline curves using the Gödel metric." Evan noticed the growing confusion on Gabby's face.

"Sorry, most of that doesn't mean much of anything to you. Dalton is interested in how the theory of relativity can be used to explain, prove and actuate the reality of movement through special space-time geometries. In common terms, he wants to prove that time travel is possible. His published experiments validate much of what has discussed by people whose names you may recognize: Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking as well as the work of many others whose names will be foreign to you.

"Dalton is passionate about time travel to the point of obsession. Many of the projects I will work on with him involve building devices he believes can dilate the fluidity of time and allow us glimpses into the past of future. I was skeptical of his claims and theories, but the devices he wants to build are so intricate and amazingly interesting that I will quickly be caught up in the excitement.

"As I said, Dalton will overhear a conversation between us. Between this girl and I. My wife and I. The conversation will involve a discussion about some dreams the girl has had off and on through her life. The dreams were filled with disorientation, swirling colors, images of herself and her family in strange situations. The dreams recurred frequently and with the same general feeling and presentation, but generally with different events happening to the people inside the dream.

"Dalton will interrupt our conversation to ask if she ever noticed any particular similarity in the flow or in the objects in the dream. Ga….er, the girl reveals a book and will show us drawings of her dreams. After some discussion, Dalton decides there is importance in certain elements of the dream. He identifies some key similarities but the one he focuses on most is a small silver box in the corner of a number of the pictures. He will recommend a book on lucid dreaming and controlling dreams and then asked her to come to him the next time he had the dream. More specifically, he will ask her to try and focus on the silver box and to describe it to him."

Evan paused and looked to Gabby again. Hints of confusion still hung at the corners of her eyes but her overarching expression was somewhere between curiosity and anxiety. He began to worry that he was saying too much and decided to skip ahead.

"Late next summer, Dalton will introduce me to a man named Thomas Carlisle who was an inventor of sorts and also heavily interested in time travel. Apparently, the two men were working through the intricacies of a device that would allow a person to actually look through time. As they talked more, both men became convinced that will a few modifications, they may even be able to take what they called spectral journey through time. But the concepts they were coming up with were beyond Carlisle's ability to construct. So they asked me to build a device based on his specifications.

"By next fall, we will have developed a device that allows us to peer through the windows of time. Looking into the past will be largely successful. Looking into the future has limited successes but we attribute the spotty nature of future-gazing to the extreme fluidity of the future. I will first amazed first at the mere fact that the device seems to be working then I will quickly become overwhelmed by the possibilities and responsibilities that come with the device. During use, the device is dangerously hot to the touch and emits a high pitched whir that gives us all headaches throughout the experiments. We also have to frequently replace bolts, belts, gears and other moving parts that quickly wear out. But otherwise, the device is a success.

"In spite of my reluctance and suggestions to the contrary, Dalton plans a date to conduct his first spectral journey. Based on his experiments, Dalton believes that the device will allow him to come through the device as a wraith, a non-physical being with no ability to influence the time his being will occupy. I will argue that the amount of energy required to even conduct the experiment is highly dangerous. I suggest that we first try to send inanimate objects or small animals through the device. He will argue that without the first hand report of a human mind, there will be no way to validate the true results of the experiment.

"And so it will be that on September 3rd of next year, Walter Dalton will become the first man to travel through the device. The results are different than anticipated. Dalton comes through the other side of the device not as a wraith as expected, but fully tangible and functional in the past. Our experiment sends him 1 day into the past. Carlisle and I watch through the device as Dalton navigates his office, writes on the chalkboard and leaves a note on his desk. I quickly run to the desk and find the note just as I observed it being written through the device. We tap a few buttons and bring him back to us. His excitement is overwhelming. Not only could he pass through time, but he could do so as an active participant.

"Over the coming weeks, we will conduct many more experiments and attempt to travel farther and farther through time. Each of us takes a turn. When I first experience passing through the device, I am amazed at the exhilaration of it. I am left with a feeling of utter euphoria. But I also begin to feel twinges of fear at the repercussions of this device.

"On October 12, Carlisle will announce his desire to push the limits beyond anything we've tried before. To that point, our voyages are limited to trips of no more than a few weeks. Carlisle tells us that he wants to travel ten years in the past and call his father who died ten years ago. He wants to have the conversation he's always regretted postponing.

"Dalton and I watch through the portal as Carlisle is sent spinning and reeling. We watch as his body plummets through a formless void filled with swirling clouds of green, orange, purple and blue. We watch in horror as his arms flail and he hangs, hovering in an empty space, but will all appearance of falling. We begin to worry that we've gone to far. That Carlisle will be lost to us.

"Then, abruptly, we see Carlisle sitting on a sofa. Only it isn't Carlisle. Or at least, it isn't the Carlisle we know. Squinting and twisting my face, I am able to make out general features that I know to be his. I see his square nose. His pale green eyes. The scar on the back of his left hand. Missing are the heavy wrinkles of a struggling inventor. In place of his thinning dirty grey hair is a thick mop of curly brown hair. I realize that I am looking at Carlisle the way he existed ten years ago.

"After a few moments, Carlisle recovers from the shock of his voyage and we watch as he moves to the phone and dials up his father. He talks to his father about the past. About missed opportunities. And about how much he loves and admires him. Then, he returns to the sofa and stares directly at us. I know he can't see us, but having him stare through the device at me is unnerving. Especially with the new face of youth.

"Dalton flips the switch and pulls Carlisle back through the device. Once again, the voyage is longer than our previous experiments, but successful. With another few similar tests we determine that the length of the fall in the device is proportionate to the distance to be traveled. More importantly, we learn that when we voyage through time, we arrive in the place of ourselves as we were at the instant we arrive. Dalton theorizes that this would prohibit travel to times before we were born and he also suggests that travel to the future is dangerous as we never know when we might die. Still, he is curious to know what would happen if we were to travel to a time where we do not already exist, either past or present."

Evan pauses again and looks to Gabby. She returns his gaze, no idea what she can say or even if he expects her to say anything. For the past few minutes, she has heard the unbelievable. She has been told that this man sitting before her, along with another pair of men and, presumably her own future self, will invent a machine that allows people to travel through time. The thought is both mind boggling and unbelievable. She opens her mouth to speak, then closes it again. She starts to talk again and closes her mouth again. Too many thoughts are flying through her brain. She can't formulate a single question or comment. Evan watches a moment more in silence, then continues.

"So. Next winter, we approach a number of firms with proposals for funding. We keep our findings entirely secret and only reveal a portion of the theories that lead to our success. Most of the companies will laugh us out of their buildings. But finally, on November 17, we meet with a firm willing to advance us a significant sum and provide us with a state of the art laboratory. We use our new wealth to further tune the existing device which by now is beginning to show look frazzled due to the inexperience and inexpensive materials used to create it.

"By mid-December, we will have created a very elegant, very beautiful device. Using the same schematics, we replicate our work and create three individual devices. We are able to dramatically reduce the power requirements as well as eliminate a number of annoying side effects such as static discharge and an aftertaste of tinfoil after a voyage. With improvements in materials and construction, we also find that the device functions at a lower temperature. It is actually cool to the touch. Because of this, one of our subsequent experiments will lead to a new discovery.

"As Dalton travels through the device to purchase some strange candy bar long since discontinued, he accidentally touches the device while leaning forward to enter the time stream. As he does so, the device vanishes in front of Carlisle and myself. We frantically power on the other two devices and focus their view on Dalton's destination. We find him staring dumbounded at the device in his hand. We then watch as he twists the dials and falls through the device again. The device disappears from his hand and the Dalton we now watch shakes his head in confusion and then wanders out of the room.

"A few minutes later, Dalton appears in the room holding the device in his hand. He reveals that he has conducted four voyages since he left the room. In each case, he carried the device with him and was able to look through it to times past and future. He announces that this is our greatest discovery since we built the device. He proposes that if we can carry objects to and from the past, the possibilities open to us have expanded exponentially. Grinning, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the candy bar he had traveled to the past to eat."

Gabby, by now, had heard too much without hearing what she really wanted to know.

"OK. So, to sum up, you and your professor and inventor friend built a time machine. And then he used it to go back and get a candy bar?" Gabby's incredulity was straining behind the desire to laugh. Evan started to reply but then Gabby continued.

"I'm sorry. This whole story is interesting and all, but it's just crazy. And it doesn't do anything to explain to my why you people are doing what you're doing. What does this have to do with me? Why has this Dalton guy kidnapped Julie? And how am I supposed to get her free?" Gabby realized she was yelling and breathing heavy. She forced herself to calm down by glaring at Evan. He took a deep breath before answering.

"I see what you're saying. I just got caught up in sharing the story with you. I've missed talking with you Gabby. I've been her, in this time, for nearly a month. And all that time, I've had to stay away from you. You have no idea how hard it is to be so close to the person you love more than anything and to know that you shouldn't talk to her. That you can't talk to her."

His soft brown eyes grew softer as they filled with compassion and longing. Gabby felt their warmth. Her face and hands began to get warm. Evan smiled gently at put his hand on her knee. He started to lean forward which made Gabby's cheeks even hotter. She quickly leaned back and covered her face with her hands then shook her head to clear it and stared into his face, willing down the warmth growing inside her.

"Ok. So let's assume for a minute that you've made a time machine. That what you're saying is true. That you and I…that you and I are married. That still doesn't explain why you're hear or what Dalton wants."

Evan's smile faded slightly. He took his hand off her knee and his eyes turned cold and serious.

"You're right. I'm here to stop Dalton." He closed his eyes and shook his head before continuing.

"After Dalton carried the device on the voyage, he quickly realized the greater potential. He saw the immense power he could wield and he began making plans. Carlisle and I tried to reason with him, to force him to take it slow and avoid possible paradoxes, none of which we had really explored before. He turned paranoid. Delusional. He shut us out. We thought he would shake it off. Come to his senses. But then one day, Carlisle disappeared. I searched all over for him but couldn't find him anywhere.

"As I did an Internet search for him, I finally found him. Or rather, I found an article about him. In a small column, a community paper thanked his family for the kind donation he had made to their local park. Included with the article was a picture of Carlisle and an image of a plaque at the park dedicating the playground to Thomas Carlisle. The plaque included his birth date and his death date. Carlisle is found dead in his home next week."

Evan looked up as Gabby's faced turned from curiosity to fear. She started to ask something but Evan cut her off.

"I knew immediately that I had to do something, and do it quick or both you and I would likely share the same fate. I called your cell and our home phone but there was no answer. I raced home as fast as I could but the house was empty. I tried to think what I should do. What I could do. Then the phone rang. It was Dalton. He said that he wanted me to help him. He wanted me to build him another set of devices and to help him come up with a way to mass produce them. He said he had a team in place that he wanted me to train.

"I fought down the desire to threaten him. To tell him what I knew about Carlisle, but I knew that would just be signing my own death warrant. I wondered what it would feel like to be killed a year in the past. I then realized the potential danger in such actions and wondered what sort of problems Dalton may have already caused. I calmly tried to explain my hesitance to help him and my fear that he was tampering with forces that could destroy us all. He told me that was what my wife had said I would say.

"I felt my stomach fall through the floor and my mouth turn dry as salt. I mumbled something incoherent but somehow he knew what I was thinking. He explained that you were at the lab. That you were his guest until I agree to help him. This time, I couldn't fight down the urge to scream. I yelled at him through the phone. I threatened him. I told him that I would make him regret this through his entire life, past, present and future.

"He just laughed and told me to be at the lab within the hour if I wanted to see you safe. Reluctantly, I went. Under armed guard, I was forced to show some of the non-documented techniques used while creating the devices. I worked under his suggestion to modify the power coupling to be more efficient and better insulated. As I worked, I noticed that the diagrams I was working from were different than before. The were elegant and sophisticated. The lines were clean and deliberate. The schema I held in my hands were not the work of Thomas Carlisle. Pretending to be comparing my new model to the old model, I pressed a few buttons on an existing device. Instead of whirring to life, the device sat silent and still.

"That was why Dalton needed my help. He had killed Carlisle prematurely. He had created his own paradox. He had killed the inventor of the time machine and in so doing, had broken the machine. I wondered how he had managed to return to the present with a broken device. I wondered what he planned to do once I gave him a device that worked. For the next 24 hours, I worked as slowly as I could, trying to come up with some sort of plan. I was allowed to see you through a surveillance camera but was never shown where you were being held and never allowed to talk to you.

"Finally, I came up with a plan. I would fix the device. I had already determined the deficiencies and knew I could make it work. I decided that I would fix the device but before handing it over to Dalton, I would use it myself to escape to the past. I would return to a time before Carlisle was killed. I would watch for Dalton to arrive in the past and would intercept him before he could kill Carlisle. I wasn't sure exactly when Dalton had gone back to kill Carlisle and I also needed to make sure I had plenty of time to get in position, so I planned to return one month before Carlisle was killed.

"My biggest risk was that Dalton and his men would grab me or the device before I could enter it. I had to speed up the process of the time voyage. I made a few adjustments and dramatically increased the power. Dalton seemed to suspect I would try something as he increased the guards around me while I worked. He also made sure that whenever he left the room I was forced to stop working. He wanted to be present for every screw I turned, every bolt I fastened, every wire I soldered.

"It took nearly a week, but I was finally ready. I had convinced Dalton that I needed to see Carlisle's schematics and your dream book in order to finish my work. He was obviously skeptical, but he allowed me to place the two books on the table as I worked. The schematic book was obviously not Carlisle's work, but it was an adequate reconstruction from someone's memory. I kept the books close, scanning their images and working through my plan. I knew that once I went back in time, there was a possibility that Dalton might still do something to cause my own device would stop working properly. In such a case, I would need the ability to recreate the device in order to stop Dalton. Having the books with me would give me that advantage.

"With each passing hour, Dalton grew more anxious for me to complete my work and more paranoid that I was stalling. He was partially right. The changes I had made were untested and I was nervous to be the first one through the device. I was trying to take as much time as I could to make sure everything was right. But it was evident from Dalton's mannerisms, that I was running out of time and trying his patience.

"So, six days after first entering Dalton's lab, I decided it was time to act. I methodically tinkered with the device, pulling the books close and poring over the images. I casually watched the armed guards mill around me. I gritted my teeth as I watched Dalton strut around the lab. Then, I pressed the button."


logankstewart said...

Fascinating. That's a large chunk of writing there, but wonderful nonetheless. I can just envision a movie from this story.

Phoenix said...

This is so good! I'm sorry that I'm about a week late, been out of town, but damn...

I love time-traveling and the paradox that killing the inventor also killed the machine is such an awesome idea! Very well-done, Okie!

(PS your Jack Sparrow video no longer works and I am sad because it's Johnny Depp.)

Okie said...

Glad y'all are enjoying it.

Thanks for the movie compliment logan...glad I can invoke that kind of imagery.

That's the trouble with time travel Phoenix, it leads to breakdowns...I'm still working to figure out how to make it work right.

As to the P.S. - I have (temporarily) got the Pirates trailer working again (courtesy of teaser trailer). Hopefully it stays up a little longer before being pulled down for copyright infringement (don't these guys realize yet the viral transmission across the interwebs is GOOD for them?)