Almost Angels, Chapter 12
August 20th, 2516. Denver, Colorado.
Fall is in the air. I can smell it. The carefree days of summer are drawing to an end, well, at least for the present.
It is wonderful to live in a time that you can visit other seasons when desired. Yes, there are restrictions. The rank and file can’t be allowed to tear through time and wreck the future. But it can be done.
I am sitting in the park at the State Capitol, looking at statues of the state’s founders and heroes of the past. A thought occurred to me. I enjoy looking at these symbols of days gone by. I wonder, do others? A quick scan through the archives and a particular date in history pops up. August 12, 2017. A year short of 500 years ago. As I read, history unfolds before me. It says in a controversy over a statue, three people were killed and 15 wounded. I must find out. I headed for the Record Archives on Larimer Street.
An hour later I stand at the Intersection of 4th and Water Street in Charlottesville, Virginia. I keep well to myself, listening to the yelling and cursing of people. It is an unnerving place. It lacks the discipline and order of a wartime battlefield. It is more hideous in that respect. I wait for some time, knowing full well the event that was to occur at this spot.
Finally, I hear the roar of a 20th century automobile engine, then a metal rending crash and the two cars facing me across the street shoot out into the street. I then see a grey sports model sitting against the back of the second car. People have been knocked asunder, one man head over heels flying. Then the grey car accelerates backward, and a man who had jumped on the back beating it with a stick is caught between it and a parked vehicle. How tragic! No one could look on this without seeing it done with murder and mayhem in mind. I now want to see how this will affect the future.
My next stop is the Washington Mall, one year later. I find a comfortable place and set to do my favorite thing – people watching. I strive to determine the personality and the character of the citizenry as they walk among the reminders of the United States Founding Fathers. Fathers are telling children, “Oh, that is Abraham Lincoln, he was born in a log cabin” or “That is George Washington, he could not tell a lie.” As I watched, a young man in his late fourties came and sat near me. He was dressed like a man who spent his time outdoors. He was lean and physically fit.
He looked at me and said, “Afternoon, it is a warm one today.”
I answered, “It is indeed. Do you come here often?”
“Yes, I come here every year on this date.”
“Really? You like our country’s capitol that much?”
He leaned back and laughed, then became serious. “No. You see, on this date in 1968 my father was killed in Viet Nam. He had gotten a pass and my mother met him in Hawaii. And I was a result of that meeting. She came home, and he went back. Two days later he was dead. I come here every year on his birthday to touch his name on the Wall at the Viet Nam Memorial, and thank him for being who he was.”
For a moment I could feel emotion welling in my breast. It touched me.
“Thank you for sharing that with me. I am sorry for your loss, but I am impressed by your character. He would be proud of you, I think.”
“I hope he is. I worry that the memorial will continue to stand. There are people out there who want it torn down, because it was a very unpopular war.”
“Do you think this is a continuation of what happened a year ago in Virginia?”
“I think it is. I don’t understand why though. Well, maybe I do. But it is still just so difficult to understand why things can’t be left alone.”
“You think maybe there might be great-grand children who look up at those statues and remember stories handed down of the personal lives of those men.”
“Yes, I think so. I think it a slippery slope. You know, even now, I will talk to someone about my father, and either I get a “I don’t know anything about Viet Nam” or “Those soldiers were murderers and baby killers.” I seriously have to contain myself over that last one. No one is perfect, and that goes for those men on those old statues as well.”
“Do you think things have improved over last year?” I asked.
“Maybe, in some ways, but generally no, I don’t. We still have the Right pulling this way, and the Left going the other. I really wish I had some hope it will get better.”
“Look, my name is Jamie. It is a pleasure meeting you. What is your name?”
“Oh, excuse me. Bradley Douglas, just call me Brad.”
He reached to shake my hand but I pulled back. He looked puzzled.
“Brad, before you do that, I have something to tell you. It may be hard to believe, and may shock you, but I can prove it.”
“Alright” he looked warily at me.
“I am from the future, from the 26th century. And I can tell you most assuredly it will get better. Not before it gets worse, but in the end the country survives and prospers. Here, now try to shake my hand.”
I held out my hand and he reached for it. And of course his hand passed through mine. He looked shocked.
“You aren’t kidding, are you! What are you that I can’t touch you? Do people like you not have bodies?”
I laughed. “Yes, we most certainly have bodies. But right now I am a projection, a hologram, if you wish. People of your day have viruses and bacteria that we have no immunity to. So we project ourselves.”
He laughed. “Oh, that is marvelous! Tell me more! What is it like then?”
We sat and talked for an hour or more, until the sun started setting. The rays flowed over the capitol building and lit up the lofty spire that is the Washington Memorial.
Brad sighed, “There were even people who wanted to strike against that, because Washington had slaves.”
“Brad, since you come here every year I am going to visit you from time to time, you can bring me up to date with the yearly events. And I will tell you about the future.”
“Jamie, this is a lot to process. But yes, I would like it very much.”
So that is what I did. Of course, I didn’t wait through those years, I simply skipped time. But every year I met him was something new. He would take the glimpses into the future and go and educate himself in new ways. His mind expanded, he grasped the new concepts. He started writing. First just articles, then books. He took his family history – his father’s heritage – and he elaborated on it. On my 10th year return, it was an older man that greeted me. I had not found him in the last two years. He was excited to see me.
“Jamie, I have something to show you.” He pulled the ID lanyard from around his neck, and held it up to for me to see. Beside the picture was the name – Senator Bradley Douglas.
“Oh! Congratulations Senator Douglas!” I smiled at him.
“Oh, you still call me Brad. But I have someone for you to meet.”
“I hope you don’t mind…” He beckoned to a young lady, probably in her early forties. She smiled and started toward us. Her red hair fell down on each side, framing her face and falling to her shoulders. She wore a green dress, more like a business suit, but well tailored to fit her figure. She had smiling green eyes. They focused on me as she approached.
“Megan, this Jamie. Jamie, my wife Megan.”
“How do you do Megan? I am sure Brad has told you that I can’t shake hands with you. But nevertheless, I am pleased to meet you.”
“Yes, he did. I am surprised, you look very young. I confess, I did not know what to expect. Actually, I was ready to have him committed the first time he spoke of you. Would you please extend your hand anyway?“
I did and she reached forward and her hand passed through mine. There was a slight gasp.
“Jamie, Megan works in the National Archives. I thought perhaps it would be nice if you two met. You both obviously have a love for history.”
“Yes, Megan, we will have to talk at some point as to what my mission is and some of the experiences I have had. But for now, Brad, tell me, what have I missed?”
“Well, if you remember, we had that brief war with North Korea. It has taken years, but the people of that poor country have risen from the military regime to a type of democracy that seems to be working. Once the embargos were released, their resources were in demand. They were and are a hardworking people. We are still having problems with the Islamic radicals, but the moderate people of that culture have taken it upon themselves and will ultimately win. The pendulum swings, as you have told me many times. Our own government is a good example of that. It seems difficult as always to find leadership that doesn’t cater to its own agenda. Can you give me any tips on that? You have told me what your government is like, but not how we get there. By the way, how much older are you now than when I first met you 10 years ago?”
I smiled. “Only a few days. But your question of how the government gets there, I cannot answer that question for you without some permission. Maybe next time. It seems you have much to work on anyway.”
We sought out a table and chairs nearby. In somewhat exclusion, I showed them bits and pieces of the lifestyles in the 26th century. We watched social media discussions of the era ten years ago, and decided that most of the people on it were not emotionally or psychologically mature enough to use something that powerful. We would watch people debate. Many of them would latch onto an idea, either their own or someone else’s, and continually to elaborate on it. Mostly to just make someone else think they are smart, to boost their own ego. Seldom they would they ever try to see another side, even though that person might be more experienced or more familiar with the subject. Funny part is, those same people would never have said the things are called others the names they called them in person. Brad said it reminded him of the letters his dad had wrote to his mom, telling of how the VC would lie in wait in the dark in ambush. We had a good laugh about that. Social media, being a jungle, where mean spirited people could ambush others without having to show their own face.
Life didn’t change a lot over those next years, people didn’t evolve much. Evolution is a slow process, and it only enables survivors, and those willing to adapt. I saw Brad and Megan over their years. I couldn’t help them much. But I think just knowing it would eventually work out when people lost their infantile natures, when they lost that disabling trait of the ‘Me’ generation, and became a ‘We’ generation, it had to become less self, and more selfless.
One day, about 15 years later their time, I walked to the Mall and saw Megan sitting alone on the steps near the Capitol Building. When she looked up at me I knew. She didn’t have to speak.
“Come, Megan, let’s go.” Soon we were walking down along that slab of granite that was faced with over 58,000 names. We walked to the panel that bore the name of Brad’s father. Megan looked up and reached and traced the letters with her long slender fingers. At that moment a ray of sunshine broke through, and lit that section of panel. We looked at each other, and tears came to both our eyes. Yes, Brad had found his dad, and he just let us know. I said good bye to Megan that day. I wished, for the first time, I could have physically hugged her. But it is what it is.
I had lost a friend, and I would have miss him. And no, I wasn’t going to cheat and skip around through time. It just wouldn’t be same. And life goes on. I am not sure I would have done well living in the early half of the 21st Century.
There is a factual error, purposely inserted in this story,
Hint—— “Had it happened this way, it would have been something new under the Sun.