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Time Travel: A Fresh Approach
Time Travel: A Fresh Approach
When time travel finally happened, it wasn’t at all what anyone expected. For the last century or so science had been looking to physics for a way to travel through time. The warping of space time was thought to be the only way. Bigger and more powerful machines were constructed, black holes and wormholes were investigated, theories advanced, experiments offered — nothing worked.
The physicists, it turned out, were looking in the wrong place, The answer was under our noses all along.
It was in our genes. Not only that, but the gene that makes it possible is part of our genetic makeup: a small section of “junk” DNA held the key. A time altering chrono-gene if you will.
Teasing out that gene was the life’s work of Dr. Malcolm Barclay. For the last thirty years he worked on the problem, much to the scorn and derision of the scientific community, which called his quest “the genomic equivalent of chasing unicorns.”
“There must have been a time when our protoplasmic ancestors needed to time shift in order to escape predation,” said Dr. Barclay addressing a room filled with skeptics. “It must have been effective when we were single cell creatures but somewhere along the line from primordial slime to multi-cellular animal the ability to jump into the past or future was lost. Perhaps it conferred no great Darwinian advantage; perhaps because we became the ultimate predator, the gene was unused for so long that it became vestigial. It was switched off. Only a whisper of that ability survives today in our genetic code, the mere ghost of a gene. It has been my life’s work to turn it back on.”
There was a strained silence as Dr. Barclay addressed his colleagues and the press. Having isolated what he believed to be the chrono-gene, Dr. Barclay had prepared a demonstration. He’d waited thirty years for this moment. Barclay’s nervousness was a palpable thing. “Before we begin, I'd like to explain what you are about to see. I have inserted a chrono-gene into the DNA of this mouse.” He held a red colored mouse by the tail and held it in the air. “I will put this mouse and an unaltered mouse in this cage. Please watch carefully.”
Barclay placed the two mice in a wire cage on the table before him. A hungry cat eyed the mice with single minded attention as did the assembled guests. “I will now open the door and release the cat,” said Dr. Barclay relishing the moment. “Please keep your eyes on the red mouse.” With a flourish, Dr. Barclay released the cat. The hungry predator leaped into the enclosure, the mice frozen in fear. But in the next instant the red, time altered mouse vanished. The unaltered mouse was devoured.
After a stunned silence, there was a flurry of excitement. Questions were hurled at the beaming Barclay. “But where did the mouse go?’ was what everyone wanted to know.
When the audience went silent awaiting his answer, Dr. Barclay answered them. “As you have witnessed, the mouse with the time altering chrono-gene vanished. Whether into the past or future is impossible to say. We believe that the time altering ability can only be activated under conditions of extreme stress like the certainty of imminent death. Until we can test the gene in humans, we may never know where the subjects go. If in the past, how far in the past? If the future, the same question applies. None of our test subjects have been seen again.”
Again there was a clamor of voices. Finally another researcher, one Dr. Grant, raised his hand and Dr. Barclay recognized him. “Doctor Barclay, what you have done is extraordinary and groundbreaking. The question is what possible use does such an ability have. If the subjects are projected so far into the past or the future that we lose contact with them, what is the point? How do we know that what we are seeing is time travel at all? Perhaps it is something else entirely. Maybe the subjects are shifted to alternate universes, or spheres of reality we have never considered.” The other scientists in the group all murmured assent.
Encouraged, Grant “It is easy to see why the chrono-gene died out. While it might have saved individual animals from being eaten, it also removed itself from the gene pool. Time shifted animals could no longer mate and pass along active copies. What appears to be a scientific marvel is, in fact, a biological dead end. I don’t expect human subjects would fare any better than your red mouse. That’s provided anyone would ever even volunteer for such an experiment.” And on that note, the guests departed to their separate worlds.
As of this writing, work on the chrono-gene has halted due to the sudden and mysterious disappearance of Dr. Barclay. His staff reports that after the demonstration, Barclay appeared depressed and decided that the only ethical thing to do was to test the chrono-gene on himself. Whether his experiment was successful or not, we cannot know at this time.
micheledutcher - Harris Tobias always has interesting ideas about time travel, and this is an interesting one. The ending almost begs for more about what happened to the professor, but the question about where he went doesn't need to be answered, as the chances of landing someplace in time where one could send a message to a specific location, is doubtful. HG Wells has this happening in his Time Machine - but he had a dial in the machine that he could set, at least at first. The human body has no such dial. Interesting - perhaps too short.
Modelling_Mushi - Interesting short piece. Reminds me a bit of the sort of style you'd find with Verne or Wells.
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