She is old now, 97 in fact. But I can remember when that was not so. It was way back, I was just a babe. It was a time of great worry.
You see, we were in the midst of a great war. People had great concern, you see, for about 30 years before we had fought “the war to end all wars”. Now it was happening again.
During that first war our country was not in any real danger. It wasn’t like Ol’ Kaiser Bill was going to jump on ships and come conquer America. No Siree, that would never happen! But now, people I knew went about their daily tasks with a furrowed brow. It was an uncertain time. You see, Nazi Germany had been raising hell in Europe for a spell. Our citizens didn’t want to get involved in it. Stay isolated they said, no sending our boys to fight and die for no reason at all. Then, on the other side of the world, Japan was spreading its armies throughout Asia and the islands of the South Pacific. Still, it didn’t bother us none. It was nigh about that time that I came on the scene. I want you to know, I just didn’t burst forth into the midst of humanity, streaming the glories of heaven from behind me like a comet shooting through the night sky. No, I was born about five o’clock in the afternoon one spring day, in a small rural community of northeastern Arkansas. I really don’t think many other than family and maybe a few neighbors was aware of my arrival.
I was born in a two story house on a cotton farm belonging to the father-in-law of Earnest Hemingway. Life in my community was not glamorous or upscale by any means. My family had come through the Great Depression. Indeed, they had not entirely shaken off the bonds that had been thrust upon them by the shackling force that had held America in bondage. Money was very short. My dad’s folks had come to this place only a few years before, and my mothers only a few years before that. They were trying to find a way to survive just a bit better.
Now the Dogs of War howled about them from both sides of the planet. Concern crept even closer. Just a few months after I was born Hitler invaded and conquered Poland, and reports coming from China had been grim to gruesome for at least two years. Still, America persisted to not involve itself.
Then, 76 years ago tomorrow, as I sit and write this narrative, early on a peaceful Sunday morning, the fingers of hellfire rained down on paradise. The Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I won’t add to the volumes that have been written or the pictures taken of that holocaust. One only must raise your head from your smart phone and search a bit to hear that story.
But even though that island was shaken and rocked by explosions and blasts, the greater damage was that America was shaken for the first time since the War of 1812. America was attacked on its on soil. No longer did the vast oceans that protected our borders enough. We were vulnerable. Our children had no guarantee of safety in their play or at school. Our homes could lie in harms way. Now parents were afraid, children were afraid. It showed on their faces.
This was my beginning in life. I was two years old. Now the call went out. And young men and women answered that call – Army Navy, Marines, Air Corps, Coast Guard – their ranks needed to be filled. And they were filled.
That lady I spoke of at the start of the narrative, well, she came our house one day when I was less than a year old. She was driving her father’s car, a Model A Ford. He never drove. I probably never knew the reason why she visited, maybe it was just to visit my mother. After all, she was her baby sister, my mother being the oldest child. As she backed the car out she backed it into the potato patch and it stuck. My father came out and put his shoulder to the car and pushed her out enough until she was on her way. I don’t know if that was the same day that she took the picture with me in her arms or not. Maybe.
Some months after Pearl Harbor her older brother, my uncle, enlisted in the Army.
By now things were getting serious. Things that was normal to have access to were suddenly limited, rationed, scarce. Gasoline was one. Many auto parts became impossible to obtain. Tires were hard to get. Sugar, alcohol… the list was long. That furrowed brow became deeper. Much of our farming was done with horse drawn equipment. We did have a tractor, an early thirties Model H John Deere. But there was the fuel, it was rationed. I can remember by now the shortages. Being country people we, to use the expression, “made do”. Dad and Grandfather would take to the woods. And they were such grand woods then; ancient, virgin forests, set in very swampy land, but full of the bounty of nature. They would find bee trees. Then, on a cool day, we would pile into a steel wheeled farm wagon and pick our way through the woods and the mud. We would park the wagon some distance from the bee tree and the men would take a two man cross-cut saw and saw it down. They would open it up and come back with tubs of fresh raw honey. Then they would go back and take a box hive and catch the queen bee and install her in her new quarters, usually leaving it for a few days until all the bees found their new home. Then they would go back and plug it, put it in a wagon, and haul it home. We usually had around fifty or a hundred hives of bees. I got stung all the time as a kid.
We had large gardens and truck patches. We raised hogs and cattle. We always had plenty to eat, we raised it all our selves. I remember my dad rolling his cigarettes out of a Prince Albert can, Lucky Strikes were too expensive.
June, 1942 brought the assault on Normandy. Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, you have heard the stories. The valor, the slaughter, the bloodshed, the victory. But with those stories came to the telegrams. Mothers waiting, wives holding on to lives while their young husbands fought thousands of miles from home. All were affected. Dinner tables held that unspoken, maybe spot of vacancy. Then the telegram would come. Another hero had fallen. But to the family it was a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle. He would never again sit at his place at that table again.
Sometime in late ‘44 I was in my 5th year. I was playing on the porch of our little shotgun house when a black ‘39 Ford pickup truck hurriedly crossed the bridge into our yard, off the dirt road that ran from US 62 down to just passed my grandfather’s house and dead ended. It was our neighbor Virgil. He hurriedly got out and approached the house. I remember his face. He wasn’t laughing or teasing me as he usually did. My dad stepped out of the house and greeted him.
He then told my dad they had gotten one of those telegrams. Their son had been killed, and he needed my mother to go down and sit with his wife Bertie or Birdie, I can’t remember for sure. Men of that era didn’t fall apart easily. They held on to their emotions. But his face displayed his grief and heartbreak. He just needed someone, a lady, to stay with the mother while he went to rally the other kin. I didn’t really understand, but I remember hours later Mom worrying about Berlon, her brother, and the brother of that teenage aunt I spoke of earlier. She was out of her teens by now. He was in Germany now, and was at the doorstep of the Ardennes Forest, and the Infamous Battle of the Bulge.
It was our family’s habit was to go to town on Saturday afternoon, and it was then they would read the public lists of casualties. The years have erased the memory, I can’t remember if it was posted or in the local newspaper. But it seemed to be sobering, and in many cases, I remember tears. Lots of tears. It seems that during the winter of ‘44 and ‘45 not much news was received from my uncle, but he must have suffered horribly. It was so cold, they lived in the snow in foxholes. He was a company cook. On Christmas Day, 1944, he and his teammates cooked Christmas dinner for their troops. Late in the afternoon some Brass walked into their area, and told them to put it away, there was no one left. The cooks grabbed their rifles and headed to the lines, but were called back and there was no use. Many years later the old lady, my aunt, told me that story, as told to her by her brother when she asked him why he would never sit down and have Christmas dinner with his family.
There was simplicity about the people of the forties. They were patriotic, they were for the most part God-fearing and religious. Those young men that started volunteering in ’41 were serious about giving for their country and for their families. Many of them had fathers that had fought in the teens during the first war. I remember them very well. I believe they deserve the designation of “The Greatest Generation”. Not many are left today, but those who still cling to life have a dignity about them that is missing in our society. Somewhere, somehow, it became a casualty of time. It was a vestige of honor.
Most of my memories of those days were less affected, but still, I remember, and sometimes something comes along and triggers a thought long forgotten, like Virgil and Bertie, and countless others that became missing during those days that a young boy might not have been aware of at the time. I remember the walks on dirt roads to my grandparents, and other children’s houses close by. I remember going to church on Sunday morning in a small country church set in a grove of trees. All the roads were dirt or if not, were graveled. The autos were simple. Many literally wore out during the war, and sat until plants quit making war materials and started making auto parts again. I remember the little ‘36 Ford 4 door sedan that was ours, sometime probably in the later years of the war developed an engine knock that became increasingly worse. Finally, it was pulled under an oak tree in the front yard. A block and tackle was attached to the engine and it was lifted out and somewhat disassembled. The knock was repaired by placing pieces of bacon rind under the rod or main bearing caps and tightening it down. It worked.
In fall of 1942 my baby sister was born. I don’t remember much about that but it seemed that my mom had less time for me. I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother, my father’s mother. She told me stories, let me help her bake, and help her in her flower garden. My life during that time never seemed dull. It was full of kid stuff; walking in the pastures and field roads, always watching out for snakes. There were lots of copperheads and cottonmouths where I grew up; an accepted way of life. I played in the woods across from our house. I was Tarzan, and it was my Jungle. I chewed the gun from the sweet gum trees, I ate the wild ‘possum grapes.” I ate persimmons and paw-paws and hazelnuts. It was a great place to grow up.
I don’t want our America to ever be in that situation again. But even today we sit on a bed of quicksand, supported only by a thin crust and large jolt could plunge us into that abyss again. If it happens it won’t be like Viet Nam, or Iraq or Afghanistan. It could even be worse than the days of our time of desperation – the years of World War II.
Two nights ago I watched a movie called “Ithaca.” It prompted me to write this. You should watch it.
~~~Larry Murley, December 6, 2017~~~
May 26th 2519, my birthday. I have had friends popping in all day with their best wishes. Now the afternoon sun is dropping behind the Rocky Mountains, as I recline in anti-grav lounger in my garden overlooking the great plains, stretching out to the east.
A slow moving air barge moves slowly up the front range at about 300 feet above ground. It is noiseless. Already, below it, the darkening landscape is broken only by the lights from drone-taxis, bringing home the tech-workers from Denver. The sun reflects off the cargo containers filled with necessities to provide the great city sustenance for a few more hours. There will be others to follow.
It set me to thinking though (what a Gemini does best, or at least most). It is so easy now with the anti-grav technology to move our goods where needed. Back through the centuries, it was mans greatest challenge. They either had to provide with their needs by making it themselves, or growing it themselves, or they had to have it brought to them.
In the early days of America where I had visited a number of times, I had noticed the ships on the docks, unloading goods from wherever they had sailed. Then the endless lines of carts and wagons, pulled by countless horses, mules and oxen. You would have had to have been there to have realized the stench from that energy source. I had watched the wagon trains behind the armies in both the Revolution and the Civil War. I witnessed and recorded General Bragg’s train as he retreated from Perryville, Kentucky in October of 1862. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was 50 miles long! The first wagons, had bivouacked three nights before the last wagons started. Amazing… how inefficient. Then came the river boats and then the trains over the years. Now we put them on a deck the size of a city block, catalog the locations of items, and float them wherever we need them. And they are unloaded robotically and dispersed by drones to their end address.
Tomorrow, when I return to work, I will document more on this subject. But for now, Misha has just stepped from her shower and my mind is suddenly else where.
Monday the 27th I stepped from my drone taxi in front of the Archive Center on Larimer Street. I looked up toward the top of the tall tower to glimpse the blue sky before I entered. Who knows what the weather would be like where I was going.
After briefing and morning checks, I told my chief what I had in mind. He thought it a good idea, and upon my return we would perhaps refine the editing and cataloging.
My first stop was Jerusalem 32 A.D. The great Roman Empire was occupying this desert world. How would they move their supplies, and what would they export to that world and what would they import to it? I dressed in a worn woolen robe, tied with a course belt. No one seemed to take notice of me on the crowded streets. Up ahead on a hill stood the Temple. I had to stop. There were no known paintings of it. I had to marvel at its splendor. Not large when compared to modern edifices, but majestic I think was the word. But what I wanted to see was market items, convoys of whatever kind. I walked to a corner of a broad street and turned left, when suddenly a Roman soldier stepped in front of me and said something that I totally did not understand. I speak neither Latin or Yiddish and had forgotten to turn on my translator. He made to grab me, and I stepped back, smiled and skipped an hour forward. Of course he was gone, and thoroughly confused, I’m sure. I found the market and walked slowly through, looking at the hundreds of items, many of which I was surprised to see. I recorded everything, including the smells. A new technology had just been developed that allowed us to do that. It was quite nice to be able to capture the smells of the past, in most cases, not all.
After leaving the market I decided to travel to the seacoast at Caesarea Maritima, a seacoast city built by Herod. Just as I turned to the west a group of men were approaching me, talking amongst themselves. I watched them. They were so animated in their conversations. They were talking with their hands, gesturing, walking backwards, gathered about the one young man who appeared to be either their leader or at least the center of their attentions. He was a bit taller than the others, well built, probably did hard labor to develop his shoulders and upper torso. He was dark complexioned, curly hair, a beard. As we came abreast of each other he stopped and looked intently at me. He seemed to study me, I could almost feel him in my head. Then he smiled, a warm smile, seemingly full of mirth, almost as if he knew me. He bowed slightly, turned and continued on his journey. I turned and watched him go. I knew instinctively who he was. I turned back to the west.
The road to Caesarea was to the northwest. I knew from my research it was about 75 miles. Too far for anyone to walk, a good two day ride by horse back, maybe a week with loaded pack animals and carts. Still, I wanted to see as much of it as possible. The only way to do that was too scroll through time. In other words, fast forward myself. I had never done this before, but the effect was extraordinary. I traveled at about 20 times a human’s normal rate of walk, excluding nighttime as I knew no one would be moving. At this rate I would be virtually invisible, and simply create a breeze in passing. I stopped from time to time to take note of convoys. It seemed everything going to Jerusalem was military. But large convoys were observed making their way to the port. Jars of wine, olive oil, oil lamps of clay, slaves and riches too numerous to mention. I spent a night of the local time in the desert. I didn’t sleep much but I was blown away by the night sky. In a world with little artificial light, the magnificence of the heavens was astounding. I made the trip in two days. I watched the ships being loaded. I confess I would not have wanted to journey out on the sea in one of those little tubs. Brave men, those 1st century seamen. The evidence of trade was there.
Now to skip ahead. Where to next?
Henderson, Kentucky, May 1819. A Steamboat lies along the shore of the Ohio River. It one of the first. As I stand watching, a crew of men run to the water, board the boat and quickly cast off into the river and head down stream. Shortly some more run to the river’s edge and look downstream, toward the already disappeared steamboat. It was John James Audubon. He had sold the boat, but was paid with worthless paper money. The buyer absconded with it anyway. The story is much longer, perhaps someone else can tell it in the future.
That was the early start to river-boating. Interestingly enough, when they loaded the boat to go back up river it didn’t have the power it needed to pull a load up stream.
I hung out on the river for several years, skipping through time, watching the American west spread down the rivers and cities spring up all up and down the Mississippi. Then, in 1862, the big steamboats took up the task of transporting the troops during the Civil War. Some of them were armored and became gunboats and fought fierce battles. But that is much too long a subject for this narrative.
Then the railroads took up the loads along with the boats, and the American west came alive. It seemed so quaint in comparison with my present day high tech logistics, with our interplanetary shipping techniques. Yet everything must have a beginning. Each thing a birth, a coming forth from need, oft-times accompanied by pain. Then the struggles of the first steps, then finally to run and take large bounds. When I logged back into my center, I had a good story, I thought. I wondered about that young man back in Judea. Could he have seen all this in my mind when we met? Is that why the smile? I will always wonder.
My life. My life has taken a complete change. You ask why? Well, up until a few months ago, I lived in the present. I worked mostly service jobs. In the 26th century service jobs make up about 95% of the job market. Technology, a great deal of it robot technology, has completely dominated manufacturing, mining, agriculture, travel, logistics, and other occupations that for centuries took a large part of population to accomplish.
For several centuries, once this trend started to develop, it created mass havoc in society. Politics fumed and fussed and blamed and excused themselves as to what the opposite party was doing to the employment lines. When, in truth, it was neither’s and both’s fault. It was just the bi-product of progress. Another view of human evolution.
Then, a couple of centuries into this ‘progress’, caste systems evolved. The lesser educated and the financially deprived were put onto a dole. It didn’t take long for that to cause a world of problems. In my opinion, it was what caused the political system that had governed America and, somewhat, the rest of the nations on the planet to fail. Some had seen it coming for a few decades, and kept trying to warn us. But the past dies hard, and change comes even harder. There had, for almost all of written history, been two forces that sought to lead the world. One was the Conservative, and the other the Liberal, and they were labeled many different things throughout history. But essentially, they were the forces of government. They came from basically the people who rose to power, and from the way they were wired mentally. I won’t place good or bad labels on either. So many things effect DNA in humans. Not only the hereditary DNA that is passed through generations, but the effects of environment and the learning trauma that each of us experience from infancy to adulthood and beyond. All these things help to shape that conservative wiring or that liberal wiring.
So how do you get unbiased leadership? Well, it is simply using a method of selecting those legislators by grade level, instead of common election. Bright minds that want to work in that field are taken from the top levels of students. Select your leaders much like one would select a secretary of the army – one who is knowledgeable of the military. Do it by vetted knowledge and proven ability. No one person having absolute power. A governing body of 13, of equal power, each with checks and balances.
But they must be vetted for the way they lean, most of all. Rather like the Supreme Court of the United States should have been. Except they gave the right of choice by whatever side was in power. That sure sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Someone didn’t understand balance. You put a spinning wheel on an axle that is true and center. Then you spin it and there is no sound, no vibration. Yet if you were to set that axle just a fraction of an inch off center, the whole things rattles and vibrates and makes a great degree of noise. And if spun at much speed, will fly apart and destroy things around it. A simple example of physics. No one thinks to follow that same path in our governing body.
Ok. So, on this train of thought, I decided to select history episodes to test my thinking. First on my lists was Rome. That mighty Empire based on 7 hills in Italy. Through it’s history it was able to advance civilization by many great leaps. Yet, finally, it leaped itself into decay. What went wrong? It had a royal leader, and a Senate. Should that not create a balance? It should have. But no, the rich held all the power. And the royal, became a God.
I zipped through time. Nothing even came close during the Dark Ages. I found some of the semi primitive tribal societies came close in many ways. Yet they had not evolved to the point of advancing their technology, thereby limiting themselves in advancement. So many things, so many variables.
The older Oriental systems, mostly based on exalted royal families with advisers, served as dynasties simply because they were alright for the period of time in which they existed. So we see a pattern.
The people wanted a supreme leader, someone they could look up to. Someone they could praise, if they had good fortune, or blame if their life came to naught. But they also thought it would be a good idea if those leaders had counselors. So they would choose them. But here again, the only ones usually chosen were the rich. Because in many cases, they were the only ones that had the time and resources to hold those positions. The poor person was to busy feeding his face, or keeping shelter over his head.
Power corrupts. You give many people a tiny bit of power, and right away they will search for a way to increase that power, and expand its territory. You must take away the ‘power over’ and stimulate ‘power together’ or ‘power with’.
As I searched the centuries of kingdoms and nations and empires, I realized many of the governments were replicas of their religions. When they allowed their religion too far into their government, they soon failed.
Then, near the end of the 18th century, the United States of America broke off from its parent monarchy. They proceeded to try a democratic society, maybe a democratic republic. This would be fun to watch. Here is a coastal shelf of people that have lived, within much of their lifespan, under a monarch somewhere. Now they had freedom.
Now, remember, no one has ever had a freedom before. No one knows how to drive it. Just imagine if you had never had one. So you work real hard and you go down to the freedom dealer and you buy you a brand new one with stars and stripes, and blue all the way across one side, and it is so cool. And you close the deal, and they hand you the keys to a brand new freedom. What do you do now? Well, you go sit in the driver’s seat and crap, how do you start it? There is no ‘King’ button to get it going. And all those levers to switch – labeled treasury, and law enforcement, and military, and trade, and labor for the masses, so they can feed themselves. And there is no handbook.
Well, that is what those Americans had to deal with. They found that that glue of those states that held it all together, well, that stuff wasn’t worth crap. The slightest bit of heat and stress and the states started splitting. The cost of that is written in their history in Bold Tall type, covered with blood. They found right away that their Conservatives and Liberals had separate camps, and stood strong against the other side. By being allowed to live in separate camps, they never were able to learn to live with each other, to eat each other’s food, wear each other’s boots, to see the other side of the thing. This became a pattern for them. Oh, it worked all right most of the time. The pendulum swings to the left and to the right.
Remember that pendulum is at it’s strongest in the midst of it’s swing. When it is reaching it’s peak either way, it becomes slower, and weaker, then starts picking up speed and strength as it starts the other way. Another lesson in physics. Another lesson learned. The power is in the center.
At the beginning of the 21st century they suffered some experiments in governing the nation. It took a while, but they got it straight again. Then, about 30 years later, fell off the wagon again.
Most figured that is was the couple of decades that children were reared with no discipline, and no rules. Others said that they had become too fixated on themselves. Every 30 years or so some of the generations won’t rise up to accept the responsibility, and growth becomes retrograde. Probably just the span of time of the swing of the pendulum.
The truth of the present can always be found in the past, and the secret of the future can always be guided from both the past and the present together.
It took us another two, maybe three hundred years to be able to see this, but we did. We saw that we need to govern the length of the swing of the pendulum. We came to know that to do this was to limit the power of the liberal-conservative influence. It is still there, it will always be, for it is humanity itself. Only the robot sees no black or white (although many of our artificial intelligences do have that talent now, they evolved as we did).
It is comforting to see how far we have come. It is life changing in itself to be able to travel through the ages, and see how the mentality of mankind has changed. It has taken over my life, as it has for many others, who have been called ‘Almost Angels’. We have been able to see the creation of man up to our time.
We talk about it at work sometimes, after spending hours in another day. What will be next? Where are we headed now?
Well, this is where I leave you for today. Misha has a dinner planed for us on the Mediterranean coast in Spain in a small fishing village. I am supposed to meet her there in 5 minutes.
It is was a short vacation, using the 20th century form for a period of not having to tend to your vocation. We call it ‘Leave’. I found, though, that I had become a bit addicted to my job. I was anxious to return to my duties. Misha had to return to hers 3 measured days before I did. I say 3 measured days because time needs to have a standardized measure. I spent most of my leave on a very young planet, two solar systems away from Earths solar system. It had become a favorite of Misha and myself. It had no predators, no noxious insects, two-thirds the gravity as Earth, and an almost constant temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. We had purchased a beach front property, put up an open air shelter and hung an immense hammock in it. Two weeks there swimming, laying in the sun, and watching the marvelous sky at night was, well, heavenly. Oh yeah, it was clothing optional also.
But back at our apartment in Evergreen, Colorado, life had resumed. All my travel, all the experience with humanity in it’s many moods and levels, had set me to thinking. How about early man? Man from the dawn of our evolution? Well, maybe not dawn, but shortly after sun up. When man had gathered into tribes, and was about ready to start exploring the earth. Yeah, has anyone recorded it yet? I would ask.
Next morning, when I knew my supervisor was on duty, I buzzed his communicator.
“Good morning, History Recording. Donald Starr, how can I help?”
“Morning Don, it’s Jamie. I have a question.”
“Ok Jamie, shoot.”
“Has anyone gone back to, say, 200,000 years ago to the beginning of man and recorded that history?”
“No, not yet. Why?”
“Well, I am curious. Could I?”
“Hmmm. I am not sure. It is not as much a priority as later times. Archeology has covered most of man’s progression. Why would you want to? There is no history of language, we couldn’t do translators for you. I am not real sure how much good it could do. Still, I will ask our superiors and see what they think. Let’s see, you are due back day after tomorrow, right? I should know by then, okay?”
“Okay Don. You are a super boss, you know.”
“Yeah, well, flattery will not get you any more time off.”
“I hope to hell not. I am about stir crazy now, ready to come back to work.”
“Ok Jamie. See you day after tomorrow.”
I went down town that morning and went back to the Archives. I found a nice couch, put on the headset and adjusted the sensors to my head. I turned the time back to a million years in our history, and closed my eyes. I tapped the enter button and waited. Slowly, pictures and an audio log began to unfold in my brain. Research from the past centuries, of exploration, mostly in Africa. South Africa, in fact. The firstscenes, ape-like creatures, climbing in the trees and eating fruit. Plant life, some insects and small creatures, also staying mostly in the trees. Then, as time spun crazily on, I could see climates change, and severe weather changes. Environmental events that greatly effected the food chain.
Then I saw, these these ape-men start to come down from the trees to search for other foods. It must have been difficult, because then they were vulnerable to the great land predators. Evolution was slow.
Sometime between 800,000 and 200,000 years back it became obvious that their brains were developing at a huge rate. Suddenly it was apparent that something had changed this race of creatures. They were walking upright, making tools, and a primitive language evidently developed. Now they were Homo-Erectus, almost man.
I spent the next two days on that couch, plugged into all that our world knew of that world. I was impressed when Homo Sapien came on the scene. It was then I noticed that some societies on the planet had not changed that much, while others had sprinted ahead on the evolutionary trail. Why?
I reported back to work on Monday, February 12th 2519. It was snowing as I stepped down from an air taxi at headquarters, just outside of Denver in the foothills. The world had changed from 200,000 years ago. I wanted to know why.
The office was busy as I enter. Several greeted me as I headed to Don’s Office. A rap on the door, then “Enter!”
“Good morning, Boss.”
“Morning Jamie. Well, talk about being at the right time and place. I mentioned your request. They said they were interested, and it has been a topic of discussion for some time. When I mentioned you they scanned you, and found you had spent two days at the Archives, absorbing all the material available on the period. Well, they were convinced. You got it. You are the first to go beyond recorded history.”
“Wow, thanks! That’s great! I made some observations that have raised some serious questions. I sure others have had the same questions, but maybe I might find some of the answers. When can I leave?”
“As soon as you are briefed. This is uncharted territory. There may be some limitations, certainly, because of how far back. Extra, extra care to not have any tears at all. It could seriously effect all time. It is quite dangerous for us all.”
“I understand. I will be very careful.”
The briefing lasted over an hour. My trip would be limited to 6 hours. At the end of that, I would be pulled back. I would start at about 750,000 years. I should not shift over 10,000 years at a time, and I should always shift back to point of entry time, then go forward again in steps of 10,000 each. I should make sure that any of the inhabitants that see me, are not put in danger at the time. I hoped I could remember. Of course, being able to do Hologram mode made it much safer, especially not knowing what bacteria or viruses might lurk there. But it limited my projection. I could only project my hologram as far as I could see it. Oh well.
I stepped into my capsule just after 1 p.m. I set the controls for a locale that I had researched where some fragments of early man had been found, and for just before dawn on a prehistoric day. I hit ‘enter’.
My eyes focused slowly in the darkness. I listened carefully for sounds around me, not knowing what to expect. The eastern sky was coming light, the hills around me began to take shape. Much of the flora and fauna seemed strange. Down below me something moved in the shadows. I couldn’t see what. I leaned back on the great boulder behind me and closed my eyes I maybe dozed for 20 minutes. Stupid, stupid mistake! I checked my computer. I wasn’t at 750,000, but only at 400,000! What had gone wrong? I scanned the immediate area. Over to the left about a dozen images lit up. They were all prone, and quiet. Then two more, walking around them. The ground in the center of them had a heat image, just a glow. One of the images walked to it and did something. It then grew suddenly brighter. A fire. A cooking fire, or campfire, of course. I had to get closer. I hologrammed about a hundred yards to a large rock that would separate me from their view. I climbed the rock until I could see. There, in the little clearing, a dozen or… no, there were 15 adults, and a young child, maybe 12. 10 of them appeared to be males, 5 females; the young child , a girl. They had put something on the fire, some kind of meat it appeared. And a container of sorts, clay perhaps. Hard to tell. As I watched they ate.
Then, as they finished, I move slightly and one of the men stood up and sniffed the air. He pointed toward me. I had been discovered.
Ok, since I am a projection at this point, not to worry. They can’t harm me, so let them advance. I stepped away from the rock out-cropping. I had not particularly costumed myself in prehistoric garb. I was wearing a pair of trousers that were a rather washed grey color, and a lighter colored tunic of slightly the same color.
I held my right hand up, a bit higher than my head, palm forward. A common greeting, used in most time periods. I smiled.
The biggest male came forward. He walked around me, looking me all over. He was dressed, somewhat, in a breech clout affair of skin. His age was undefinable; a mature male. He had a short beard, curly black hair, very little body hair, a prominent nose, and his eyes, they were black and very deep. He showed no anger on his face. His movements were sure but cautious. He held a club of sorts. Not well carved, more like it was lightly fashioned from something he picked up. He came around front and peered up into my eyes. He could not have been much over 5 ft tall, maybe 125 lbs. He sniffed at me, and seemed puzzled. He chuffed a sound at me. I answered, “Hello, friend.” He stepped back, then sniffed again. He seemed puzzled that I had no odor. I would never be able to explain that. About then, some distance away, there was a terrible roar. Something like a big cat, maybe a lion, would make. He immediately forgot about me. The group became very animated, every one had sticks or stones. One picked up a flaming stick from the fire.
One of the women ran by me and picked up a bundle, that I had not noticed before, a skin of some kind wrapped around a…. a baby, for pete’s sake! She ran back past me. She looked very young, maybe no more than 13 or 14. She was nude except for the same breech clout type of dress, her breasts were small but prominent. She evidently was nursing.
I remembered my orders. Evidently they felt threatened by some great beast, so I would retreat. As I faded from sight they seemed thunderstruck, and fell down as if worshipping me. Time to go.
I regained my body, and set my timer for 10,000 years into the future.
I arrived on the bank of a river. Across from me was a city, a large one. Below it were fields, acres and acres of vegetables and grains. People riding full sized horses, wagons of products, boats on the river with sails. What is this? Something is not right, this is too far advanced. I looked at my settings. I had gone 200,000 years forward instead of 10,000. This was scaring me. Could I get back to my original setting? And could I get back to my time? Could they even snatch me back from my base? What had I gotten myself into?
“So, where are you from?”
The voice jarred me back to reality. I turned. Sitting on a rock, about 20 feet away, was a man, maybe my age, wearing a long white robe similar to the early man-dresses worn by Middle Eastern earth men of the late 20th century wore. He had a dark brown beard, long hair and a moustache. He had laughing eyes, and smile on his lips.
I had met many extra-terresitals, so I wasn’t taken aback.
“Well, I might ask you the same question. Where are you from?”
The stranger rose from his seat, stretched, dusted of the seat of his robe, and turned to face me.
“All right, me first. I am from here, and there, and everywhere. Both present and future, and even the past. I am a watcher.”
“A watcher, hmmm? I have heard that term. Very well. I am from the 26th century of this planet, and it is my mission to record history as it actually happens. My name is Jamie.”
“Happy to meet you, Jamie. That is a good plan. So, then, you are of the 26th century Earth. But I think there may be a problem.”
I nodded. “Well, there certainly is. This society is thousands of years ahead of itself in development. Something is terribly wrong.”
“Jamie, your society has studied parallel dimensions, have they not?”
“Well, Yes. I am not sure to what degree, as I am not trained in that field al all.”
“Well, it is time that your society brought themselves up to date. How far back have your people been going back in time, to this point?”
“Usually not more than a thousand years, almost always within the boundaries of recorded history. This was the first attempt to go back this far. It was my idea.”
He looked at me. His entire countenance was the most serene, intelligent, confident face, I had ever beheld. He smiled.
“Jamie, you may refer to me as Michael. First of all, I am sure you have heard the theory. And I am equally sure that your scientists know that time is not lateral. It isn’t a theory, but a fact. Yet your time travel experts are treating it as if it is. I am surprised with all the space travel and exploration you have experienced that no one has gotten misplaced before. Perhaps they have. It is true, you can probably travel up to a thousand years and not cross inter-dimensional lines, but much longer than that and it will be unavoidable.”
“Are you saying that I am misplaced somehow?”
“Yes, you have entered another dimension that runs somewhat along side your planets history. It is slightly ahead. We were worried about it from it’s earliest history. It will destroy itself within a relatively short period. Civilizations need time to progress. Yes, they will all have wars and spurts and pauses and setbacks, but those things bring balance to its growth and its evolution. We are watching it closely. We cannot control it, else it loses it own agency.”
“You said ‘we’. Are there others?”
Michael smiled, “Yes, many others.” His smile widened, “I’m sure you have met some at some point in your past, but didn’t know it.”
“I hate asking this, but are you gods?”
Michael laughed heartily, “There have been many who have termed us that. Mankind feels they need those, you understand. Something to worship, something to call upon for help, something to blame in times of distress.” He chuckled. ”Something to praise when life suddenly goes their way. But, no, we don’t see ourselves like that. We are just a race, a very old race, that have had time to evolve and refine ourselves. We seldom interfere with men. Mostly we just study them.”
“Michael, you have no idea how good that makes me feel. The idea that I would have to spend my eternity sitting around in a golden city praising someone, or something. Well, I just couldn’t believe it was so.”
He looked at me, “You are still in for some real surprises when you rid yourself of your body. Though pleasant surprises, I must say. Jamie, all I will say is, the Universes are limitless, period!”
“Well, Michael, how do I get back to my time?”
Well, you can’t at the moment. I will need help to prepare you. Go to that city there, they are peaceful people. At least for now. You can rest there, and I will prepare you a route of passage. It may take some time in this dimension, but little will pass in yours. No worry. I will come again. Bye for now Jamie.”
I looked across the river. Well, I hope this works out ok. I walked to the edge and waved. A boat man turned and headed to me. Shortly, I was walking up a beautifully paved road, through gardens that were unrivaled in beauty. I found lodging, it was a busy day today. I lay down on the soft bed and looked out at the river, and I closed my eyes.
I was jerked from a sound sleep as I entered my base. I set upright on my couch. Wow! I was home!
Don looked at me. “Jamie, this is really strange. But when you reappeared, for a moment we thought there was someone else with you. But it must have been a shadow.”
I laughed loudly. I looked at Don.
“Don, I have a story to tell you!”
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.
General Sherman’s last letter to General Hood was brief and as follows!
I found these discourses interesting and revealing. It is my fervent wish that people of our era, might be able to discourse as clearly and concisely as they. Without the need for name-calling and the need to debase their adversary.
A continuation of the remarks between these two adversaries, concerning the fate of the City of
Atlanta, Georgia, September 1864
his almighty Aid in defense of Justice and Right.
Respectfully, your obedient Servant, J.B. Hood, General, Commanding
Due to the length of General Hoods letter, I will conclude this blog with just it. General Sherman’s reply will follow.