Micro-fiction 094 – Time Now (Echoes series)


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Welcome to a tale that plays with relativity, quantum probability and our experience of Time: a moment, a special event when everything changes. Time Now. The time is now. And everything is about to change. As it always does, every moment, every place, every event in time and space, for the observer and the participant, the internal and the external viewer of the event. But in this ‘now’, perhaps something greater will change, perhaps the theoretical discoveries of the Future Institute can finally be tested by machines sophisticated enough to do so. The helicopter flies in from the West, chasing the sunset towards the tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong, the International Commerce Centre, the ICC, where a platform awaits the arrival of scientists, journalists and politicians from around the world for the presentation of ‘Time Now’. “We’re lucky to run late,” The pilot shouted through the noise in the small cabin, nodding to her two passengers, squeezed behind her, “I don’t think we’ll have to wait for long.” “Why are there so many ‘copters floating around the building?” Nala, a researcher from the New York Times and an eager recent physics graduate, held her computer close to her chest. “They’re all waiting for a quick pick up later, that’s what we’ve all been told to do.” The pilot looked at Nala and slowed her approach to the tower. “Unusual?” The other passenger, an older man, Pieter, no less enthusiastic than his companion, swept at the hair flapping around his eyes. “Yes. Maybe it’s a very short presentation, but that’s hundreds of thousand of dollars in fuel and airtime being eaten up.” Pieter looked at his flight companion, crushed against his side in the noisy cabin, “Do you know much about what we’re going to see?” “I know what they’ve told us, like you?” “Oh, yes, I just don’t understand it, I’m filling in for a colleague who had to go to another conference at the last minute, I’ve no idea about all this quantum and Time stuff really.” “Oh, but it’s not just about that, if what they imply is true, then it means humanity really does have a significant place in the universe.” “Really, you and me, and our good pilot here?” “No, I don’t mean that, the universe doesn’t care what we do as individuals, but it is affected by our actions as a species.” “I can’t imagine, if the universe has feelings at all, it thinks any more about us than the rock that tower is built on.” “No, that’s not right, humans are made of elements, so are rocks, and gases, and we’re all derived form the same sources, billions of years ago.” “That’s way over my head.” Pieter shifted uncomfortably. “Just think about it, we’re made up of atoms, same as everything else. If you ignore consciousness, the physical matter of us is just a variation on all other physical objects.” “Why do you take consciousness out of the equation, surely its the one big thing that distinguishes us?” “Well, we don’t really know what it is, we haven’t developed the language or the capability to describe it, but whatever consciousness is it resides within an object, the body, so it’s subject to the same forces as everything else in the universe.” “So how does that help us with whatever we’re going to see at the ICC?” “Well, we’ll soo find out won’t we, but Carl Sagan said humans function as the universe’s experiment, a way to measure the rest of itself.” “Just humans, or all living things?” “Ah, that’s the point, all livings things that we’ve encountered do not try to control their environment consciously like humans. On this planet anyway.” “Whereas humans have both developed and destroyed.” “Something like that. Some call it inevitable progress, or a manifestation of Will, the innate desire to move in order to grow.” “In order to grow though the universe has to expand too?” “Ah, what we don’t know if that’s the same thing. If the events of the Big Bang created the big expansion and irregular waveforms and dust clouds that caused clusters of matter which ultimately became stars then the human desire to progress is part of the same pattern.” “Assuming our perception of time is correct.” “Ah, yes, the passage of time at least. There’s another theory which I think is rolled into today’s event which suggests that if there are other species of conscious living beings in the universe, their perceptions of the passage of time might be different.” “But you just said that the human perception of time is effectively in sync with the universe, so surely any other similar species must be too. “Hm, we simply don’t know. It’s likely that our perception is limited by our understanding, and our ability to describe what we observe. Some of the images coming back from NASA’s new telescope will seek far out into the past, but it’s possible we won’t understand what we’ll see until we unlock the maths to spell it out.” “Dark matter and all that?” “And all that, yeah.” Nala saw the pilot look around. “Just a few minutes to landing. You’ll need to hurry. I’ll wait, as you see.” The helicopter threaded through the twenty or so others that hung like bugs around the top of the ICC tower. “It’s all about time really.” Nala mused. “Sorry?” Pieter looked at Nala. “The event today, look, see that huge dome close to the landing pad,” They peered down as the helicopter descended, “that’s where we need to run to.” “I think my running days are over,” Pieter laughed. The helicopter approached the pad, fighting its tail for a moment, then landed with a jolt. “Ok, go, go!” The pilot remotely opened the doors, helped the passengers leave quickly, then lifted away. “Whoooh! What was that you were saying about running?” “Wait and see.” They hurried over to the Dome, and were ushered in to the presentation. The last to arrive, they sat discreetly at the back. In front of them, several rows of people were lined up, on the one side, with an equal block of empty chairs on the right. And in front of them all a large machine, the size of a square bus, sat pulsing it’s blue and yellow lights.  Two voice emerged. They spoke alternately in soothing tones. “The Past is fixed. It has been lived.” “The Future is not yet fixed.” “So the Now is a rolling state of fixing the future.” “The Future, ultimately has one path, but we do not know it yet.” “The Past has one path, which we do know.” “So the Now has many potential paths.” “Our recent observations of the distant in the stars have revealed new ways of observing the universe.” “Of observing time, particularly the Present, the Now.” “The Now which has many potential paths.” “What if we could hold the “Now” in our theoretical hands?” “What if we could stop the Now from resolving into a fixed future?” “What if we could maintain a Now of many potential paths for long enough to understand the universe better?” “What if by installing perpetual probability, replacing certainty, we could detect other thinking species in the universe, that live and grow alongside us, but only in the stillness of the present? “The Now becomes the future. “Let’s stop the forward motion of time.” “So let’s see what happens.” *** The huge pulsing machine stirred, then turned slowly, before spinning relentlessly for what seemed both like an age, and an instant. The audience of scientists, politicians and journalists became scared as the machine spun ever faster, some stood up and left their seats, others closed their eyes, but as if in a single moment, they all burst across the aisle to the empty seats, and looked back. They saw themselves, their physical selves, watching, they looked at each other and saw those standing next to them were sitting on the other side. And all around there were creatures, standing too, some humanoid, others, not, but all of them nodding, as if in welcome, clustered around the dome, as though they had always been there, observing us, and finally we had found a way to see beyond our fragile forms.  Nala looked at Pieter, who looked shocked and asked, “Did you know?” “No.” She smiled, “but I hoped.” [End] Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Vurbl and Stitcher  and more. Also on this blog, These Fantastic Worlds. Text, image, audio © 2021 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam and Elise Wells,  Logic ProX, Sound Studio, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, and Scrivener. More Tales, More Audio There are many other great stories in this series, including: Artificial Intelligence Clone Bodies Surreal Revolution Feathers Quantum Police Prophecy Reclassify Twin Tracks The Strong I Am What I Am Sacred Words Guardian Angel Lapis Lazuli Different New Dimensions Infinity Trap Cherry Blossom Tear Shepherd The Code One - Relic Two - To the Stars Three - Faith Four - Beloved Microphage Tragic Beauty Collector One - Insurrection Two - Human Nature Three - Deliberation Four - Manifesto Ritual Renewal Tall Trees Angelo First People The Meadow by the Pool Polly Hedron Stewards and Avatars The Blacksmith and the Stars Chrysalis Custodian of Giants Quantum Loop Peak Democracy Lifer The Good Doctor Complicit Cosmic Hall Righteous Lost Voice Daily Mask The Big Man Ophelia A.I. And a carousel of 10 audio stories from the podcast with information about submissions. Here's a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts.