Almost Angels, Chapter 6
Yes, we still celebrate that semi-heathen holiday of Christmas, in 2518.
We probably look at it a bit differently than they did in the 20th and 21st century, but hell, it is too much fun to not have Christmas! Even our children are too smart to believe in the fat old elf. They are too well informed, too aware, to believe in that nonsense. And yes, religion has almost become a strange ritual we read about. We still find tiny pools of civilization that fall back on those old myths. I suppose they are searching for something, although why, I have no clue. It has always been that way in the world though. People need a god, or something of that sort to hold onto, to protect them, to lean on because they have not enough confidence in themselves. So be it.
But anyway, I was studying my new assignment just after the Christmas holiday, a new thing for me. I had gotten into some trouble for not knowing my topic. It had settled me down. I was still a maverick (ancient term, had to look up its meaning), but now I would be an informed maverick.
My next assignment was to be a heroic character of the late 18th century, -one of the founding fathers of the old United States of America. His name was Benjamin Franklin. As I sat and read and watched old documentaries of this old man, a character slightly ahead of his time emerged, stepped out into the light and looked around. You know, I think I like this guy. I decided to step into his life about the same time of the year as I am not enjoying, but of the year 1732, the night before the first day of 1733, and three days after he had published the first edition of his celebrated Poor Richard’s Almanac.
I reported back to my duty station on the evening of the Dec 31st. It had been a bit of a lonely holiday. Misha had only been there a few days of it. Her mother was not well, and she kept flitting back from our place, near Vail, Colorado, to a small village in New Zealand every few hours. She finally just kissed me, said she was sorry, and left for a week. So it was okay to go back to work on New Years Eve. Wouldn’t have been much of a party anyway.
I set my time on my computer for the address given for Franklin’s shop, for 11 PM. I wanted just a short bit of time to take a look at what he was doing before I met him, so a bit of night-time scouting. It took me an hour to get into these ridiculous clothes of this period. It was easy to understand why everyone of this period seemed so cranky all the time. So I signaled the controller I was ready, and he just disappeared and the room with it. I don’t care how many times you do this, it is rather disconcerting. I had gotten to closing my eyes as I departed.
This time when I opened my eyes there was, about six feet in front of me, stood a stocky gentlemen, with long hair, looking quite shocked at my sudden arrival.
He spoke, “And who, or rather what are you, good Sir? And what are you doing in my place of business at this odd hour?”
OMG. What to do now? What is he doing here is a better question. But I can’t ask that, no. Well, hell, he was Benjamin Franklin, wasn’t he? One of the most unusual men of the century – brilliant writer, thinker, inventor. Ok, I am going to get into deep shit for this. This isn’t going to be a tear in the fabric of time, this is going to be a gigantic rip.
“Mr. Franklin, I presume?”
“Yes, I am Benjamin Franklin. And who are you, Sir?”
“Well, a name would be of no use to you, as I really do not exist in your time. I am a friend though, and I came here to meet you, personally.”
“Came from where?”
“Came from when, would be the better question. Because the where would be meaningless to you at this point.”
“What do you mean, came from when? I am not much for religion, per se. I do believe in God, but not much in spirits, or such the like.”
“Mr. Franklin, Sir, sit down there. Okay, Sir, I am from the year 2518 A.D.”
He smiled and his look at me said You are daft, but instead he politely said, “Of course you are. I was wondering what century you are from. I see fashion has not advanced to any great degree.”
“Sir,” I felt strange calling a man about my own age sir, “Sir, I can see you don’t quite believe me. In order for our discourse to advance, you must.”
I stood up from the bench I had been sitting upon. “Here, Sir, shake my hand.”
I extended my hand to him and he immediately reached to grasp it. Instead, his hand passed through mine. I saw the look of realization pass through his face.
“What is your purpose here? Am I about to die?”
“No Sir, not for a good while. My purpose is simply to suggest direction for you. You will soon stand in very important places, and I think it wise to let you know this. Few have little time in life to prepare themselves for important work. I cannot do anything that changes history myself, that can have disastrous results on the future. I am probably going to get in trouble over this anyway, but, here goes.”
“What do you mean, you cannot do anything to change history? And when am I going to die, if you are privy to that?”
I laughed, “Sir, I am not going to tell you that. It really would not be good for you to know right now. I will tell you though, that you should continue simply as you are at the moment. Fame will follow you, but you can not let it change you. Be the same man that you are, and always trust your judgment.”
“What may I call you, Sir?”
I smiled. “My friends call me Jamie.”
Franklin shifted back in the chair he was sitting in and threw his leg over the padded arm and leaned back, a smirk crossed his lips.
“Well, Jamie, what can you tell me about us in, what did you say, 2518? What are we going to be then?”
“What would you like to know?”
“This country, America. What will it be like? Will we cross the mountains to the west?”
“Let me show you, Ben, if I may be so familiar.”
“Please do. You know my death date, I suppose that grants you leniency.“
I turned my ring sideways and pulled up a holographic map of the United States in the 21st Century. He gasped and leaned forward, his face almost white in the glow of the hologram.
“Please, please! Explain! What am I seeing? And how do you do this?”
“This is what we call a hologram. It is just a projection. The map is what the country you call America will be like 250 years from your time. You can see the boundaries of the states, and the cities. I, likewise, am a projection of this same nature. My basic job is to record history as it is happening, so that the future will have it archived. History has been written usually by the victors or the wealthy powerful elements. I usually never allow anyone to see me this well, or to know my purpose.”
Franklin pulled his leg almost absent mindedly back in front of him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Good God, my friend, this is so hard to absorb! Nor do I think I can for some time to come. But if what you say is true, then, Oh My! What a future! It is so exciting!”
“Yes, Sir, exciting. But know you this, it doesn’t happen without blood being spilt, lives being lost. The very fabric of the country’s existence being rent from end to end sometimes. It will experience adversity, contention from within but, if history remains true, will prevail. And you, Sir, will play a huge part in it.”
Out side I heard a cock crow, and then small street noises.
“Ben, this is all I have time for at the moment. With your permission, Sir, I will show up in your life from time to time. It may be two years, or 20. But you will see me again. Goodbye, Mr. Franklin, it has been my honor.” I touched my ring.
The next day I spent reading Ben Franklin’s history, knowing full well that what I was doing was playing with fire. Still, it was a worthy effort. I had not been discovered yet, so there was evidently no tears in time. At about 11 PM I set my computer for Mr. Franklin’s residence. I watched from outside for almost an hour, he was alone in his study/laboratory. Finally, I projected into his room.
“Oh My God, Man, can you not announce yourself? I shall die of heart failure!”
“Good evening, Mr. Franklin.” It was easier this time to address him thus, as he was a man in his late forties at present time.
“Ah, good evening Jamie. If my memory serves me well…”
“It does, Sir. I have been following in your progress. You have been a busy man. How is your health, Sir?”
“It seems, young man, that you would know that better than I. However, I am well, with some exception. I have suffered a bout with gout, but at present, it is at rest. But enough of that. I want to know more of what we are to accomplish as a country, I would like to see more of the future. What you showed me the first visit has cost me many hours of sleep. I have conversed with men who have been over the mountains, to the great river Ohio. I have read materials from the French and Spanish and their endeavors. How did we attain these lands? Was it war?”
“Ben, I can’t tell you how any of this happens, that would endanger time and history. But I came more prepared this time, to show you achievements that have been made. But first, are we alone? Is there any chance of discovery?”
“No, we are free this evening. My family is away.”
“Very well. First of all, this is what we use to light our homes and businesses.” I had glanced around and notice the room was lighted by four large candles sitting in a glass and metal lantern type devices. I showed him light bulbs of different types, then fixtures, and great spotlights that threw beams of light for great distances. I showed him scenes of homes where the room was as light as day itself. Then I showed him lasers. I explained they were all cousins to each other. I knew he had experimented with lightening, and had proved that lightening was electricity. I told him these were only a few things that were done with his new discovery.
He turned and looked at me for what seemed like half a minute. “Ah-ha! Electricity! I knew it! I knew it! This is most gratifying! I had no idea how important it would be. I felt that it meant something at the time, but this is….” his voice trailed off. Then he smiled and exclaimed, “But how? Oh, never mind, it will have to be invented in due course, right?”
I smiled and nodded. I proceeded to show him bits of history: early aircraft, automobiles, trains. Then some more modern technology. I spent about 3 hours that evening explaining the world that was to come, the world he would never see for himself. I finished about 2 in the morning, then we sat and visited. In was such an astute man, wise far beyond his years, he seemed almost naturally to see the proper course in almost every situation. I felt more secure in what I was doing. I made a promise to myself to never go beyond the limits of what was correct to tell him. At the close of the evening he automatically reached for my hand, then laughed when he couldn’t grasp it.
I went back over the next few days and visited him about every 10 or 15
years of his life. He was always overjoyed to see me and as responsibility was heaped on his shoulders, especially after the beginning of the birth pains of the Revolution, he would ask if he was acting in the best manner. Of course, I could not advise him.
After the treaty with Great Britain was signed, he came home from France. France had become his home, the people loved him. I visited him there on occasion. When he left it was almost as if the village outside of Paris was having a funeral for a favorite dignitary, he was so revered.
The last time I saw him was just before his death in 1790. Late one night I appeared to him, expecting to find him asleep. He wasn’t.
“Ah, Jamie, lad. I was just thinking of you.”
“How are you, Ben?”
“Ah, well. I am on my way out of this life, my young friend. I know this.
But I am well with it. I have had such a rich part of my life given to me, much of it in the glimpses you have given me. But I am ready to step through that curtain that separates us from life, and see what the next great adventure brings. My body has given out on me and I am in constant pain. It is time to give it up and I am willing. One of the worst parts is I can’t enjoy the ladies anymore. That is reason enough to die!” He laughed, then seemed to choke, and coughed into his handkerchief.
“Jamie, you don’t seem to have aged a day since the first time I saw you. Then we were about the same age. How long as it been in your life that you have spent with me?”
I smiled at him, “Ben, it has been only about a week.”
He smiled weakly, “What a marvelous thing.” There was a stirring in the next room. He lifted his head. “Thank you, Jamie, and goodbye. What you have given me bears no price. Remember me, please.”
“Mr. Franklin, the entire world will remember you and your efforts for centuries. Go rest now. It is for sure I will never forget you.”
There was a voice outside, “Mr. Franklin! Are you alright? I thought I heard voices.“
“Oh, yes, I am alright. You probably just heard an angel, coming to keep me company.”
As he faded from sight, and I returned to my own time, I did it with tears running down my cheeks. I had experienced greatness.