PARALLEL EXISTENCES by Sergio Palumbo and Ernesto CANEPA
Edited by Michele DUTCHER

“From the point of view of the future,
All those who lived in the past 
are just part of written history.”
Time Visitors Community’s watchword

“Of course there are delays today…” the man in the light jacket whispered as he looked at his watch. “It’s always like this.”

“So it goes,” said the customer who sat opposite from him while making a face. Durwin Rebner was his name, a good-looking young man with clear, pale blue eyes who appeared slightly younger than his actual age of thirty four. He wore a traditional fit pinpoint dress-shirt, yellowish in colour, with a small leather briefcase at his feet. After some time, he light-heartedly asked. “Are you more angered by delays or by the claims of the company that 90% of the trains on this line are usually on time?”

“Both, probably…” the first one replied. “You don’t seem to be bothered by the delays…”

“Oh, I’ve learned how to have patience, and enjoy the scenery. Have you noticed that we’re still having good weather, in spite of it being the end of summer?”

“Yes, you’re probably right… Maybe you have a good point.” His eyes stared out the window at what lay in the distance.

“Some might also say that figures provided by the train company itself can’t be an accurate reflection of how the service is performing overall, as the data involved is for a limited number of journeys on limited routes and therefore irrelevant…” Durwin added.

“And that’s also true, indeed. I wonder if more of us recorded our journeys whether their data would be closer to our conclusions or that of the rail companies themselves. Anyway, here we are, both of us on this train, and we’ll both be getting home late again this evening.”

“Truer words were never spoken…” the other nodded smiling. “All we can do now is just seize the moment, stay and wait.”

The two travellers had begun to get acquainted with each other over the course of the last month. They both took the same train to go home once they had concluded their daily jobs in Chicago, though they headed for different destinations along the railway line. Usually they sat in the same railroad car, and often in the same seat row, not every day but lately it had happened frequently. Apart from this coincidence, they didn’t know each other nor were they friends. They were just occasional travellers who were on the same train on the way back after a long workday and exchanged short talks of no real importance.

Extending about sixty three miles along the southern reach of the western shore of Lake Michigan—twenty two miles of which was the City of Chicago shoreline—the Illinois coast of that expanse of water was one of the most dynamic geological settings in the whole northern area of the United States. Coastal processes of waves, ice, and changing lake levels usually contributed to yearlong and seasonal erosion and deposition along the beaches, although major changes could also occur in days or even hours. That coast, usually called the North Shore, also bordered the most populous part of Illinois itself, going to the Wisconsin state line, and even further on. 

According to the historical information Durwin had about that place, it was the most densely populated coastal area in the entire Great Lakes region and had the region’s highest degree of engineering and human modification. At least, at that time, which was today, from another point of view.

The North Line was a Metra line in the Chicago metropolitan area, running between the Ogilvie Transportation Centre and Waukegan, Illinois, serviced by trains like that one which continued to Wisconsin. Having been known as the Chicago & Northwestern/North Line until C&NW was bought by up circa 1995, the current timetable, if Durwin’s documents were accurate, had at least thirty five weekday trains leaving Chicago itself.

Well, they were still running in 1985, as of today, Durwin considered. Commuter rail services along the line had started operating in the new Chicago and old North Western Terminal in 1911, and had become part of Metra when it was formed in 1984, one year ago. But it all was part of history, as he well knew. And this wasn’t the main subject of his present studies.

Europeans had started settling the area sparsely after an 1833 treaty with local Native Americans, Durwin remembered reading that. Later on, the region was developed into towns following the opening of Northwestern University in Evanston in 1855 and Lake Forest College two years later—the subsequent launch of railroads serving the colleges and their towns had greatly helped to spread the people. 

In the 1900s, the area had quickly become popular with ethnically diverse citizens wanting to escape urban life, especially during the weekends, and the municipalities were all incorporated before World War II. Despite extensive urbanization, the Illinois coastal zone preserved an exceptional geological record of coastal evolution that spanned about 14,000 years, beginning in late glacial time when an ancestral shoreline first formed. It was sad to think that no one could know by now, that in 2006 a test taken at the local beach of Winthrop Harbour—that was situated not far from the station of the destination this commuter train was going to reach in a matter of ten minutes—would state that this was one of the most polluted beaches on the Great Lakes. It already had 90% of its water in the unhealthy category at that time. But for now, in 1985, it was still clean enough to have a pleasing sunbathe and stay on the coastline, at least in the summer season, for sure.

As Durwin eyed the customer that sat nearby, he was well aware that he knew this man’s name very well. In fact, he already knew it long before meeting him for the first time on that same train, one month ago. 

James C. Andrews was a tall, bearded blond-haired man of twenty six, and he commonly wore a light jacket and a pair of blue trousers, especially at the end of summer, the season they were in at present. He mainly displayed a typical smile that showed only his upper teeth when his mind focused on smiling, or he heard something funny. But his smile could turn into a grimace, an almost animalistic way of opening his mouth, as if he was showing bad intentions when the train had delays or didn’t arrive exactly on time. Which occurred frequently here. Probably, that man had never put too much attention into his way of behaving or simply didn’t exactly know how many different expressions he displayed, but Durwin knew them all. He was a very good, silent observing researcher, and probably had learned more about that young writer than the subject of his study knew about himself.

It was strange to consider that, although they were apparently so close, as they sat on the opposite side of seat rows situated nearby in the same railroad car, they also were so distant from each other, and their lives were meant to be lived out separately, to never be truly intertwined. People from the future, and especially skilled time visitors like Durwin, did lead parallel existences as subjects of their research, in a way. 

They could meet those historical characters at different time-periods of their life, and even talk to them, though not too much nor for too long, but they could never be friends, or remain forever in the past. This was because time travel followed many precise rules and a short amount of tachyon energy was at their disposal—as provided by the time contraption they all wore, which was part of the usual equipment necessary—and that meant that only short stays were allowed, commonly no longer than two or three hours. This was what their technology enabled them to do at the present—which was in their own future where travellers like him came and went to every single day. These time travellers probably didn’t lack resources in economic terms, to build and do whatever they liked, but the amount of energy available for time visits like this was entirely another matter…

Shortly averting his eyes from James C. Andrews, Durwin focused on the scenery outside the window and the many facts he had learned about that part of this state, situated in the northern part of the old United States. Checking out an area’s history was all part of the knowledge he had to gain about where he was sent, before his assignment started. Other than that, he also enjoyed getting to the heart of the area itself, among the several elements he delved into so he could be better prepared for whatever happened. 

A series of ancient shoreline features documented how the Illinois coast had slowly evolved through changing lake levels and shaping and reshaping by wave-induced erosion, transport, and deposition. Of course, the documents and text he had been allowed to have a first-hand look at went much deeper, and were better outlined than the few ones people like geologists or historians could study during those early years.

North of Chicago, the coast included fourteen near-lake municipalities, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Training Centre Great Lakes, the state-owned Illinois Beach State Park and North Point Marina—although it wasn’t these points that were the subject of his present interest. 

Durwin briefly grumbled. There were times when days like this went by as if he had witnessed some gestures which were truly inconsequential: common talk and other actions that most would repute of no real importance. It was depressing in a way, but it was all part of his job. And he liked that... well, maybe not all those things that most considered a waste of time, but the whole project was great and such a life had attracted his deep interest since he was a researcher who had been recruited just a few months after he had filled the form for admission, by invitation. That was all.

Undoubtedly, this was an entirely new method of writing a biography, not just by turning to books of old fashionable paper or to the transcriptions taken from other ancient texts. Here you could stay in front of the subject of your studies and look at him in the face, at least at times, though not too openly and not too frequently. You did not want to fully lose your cover and be discovered by the man, or the woman, whoever they were, who happened to be the target of your research. You didn’t want to be caught studying whoever was also going to become the person depicted in your detailed reports which would one day be the best, the most real biography about him or her.

Their work was of considerable importance, not only as a source of information about the individuals described, but also about the many implications of the times of old in which they lived. There could be no better way of knowing in person who later became famous, or who was just on the first steps of his personal growth. There was no deeper system, too, to allow historians to know everything about their main subjects.

Though, their interest as historians from the future wasn’t primarily ethical, although the lives they studied had significant historical value as well.

Durwin was already aware of the fact that there were also some senior and more experienced academicians from the future that followed the steps of legendary figures like the Irish Cú Chulainn, the Welsh Gwydion, the British Arthur or the Armenian Hayk—if these individuals had really existed. Some time travelling historian’s journeys had driven them to very ancient times, and to some very dangerous, wild places, at the outset of Mankind—but this was not something he was interested in doing. Still much more learning and valuable research results were required before being admitted into that small select circle. Durwin wasn’t sure he would ever achieve such high honour, although he hoped he would eventually.

It was funny to think that, possibly, every noteworthy historical figure, like the lonely train rider in front of him, James C. Andrews, had at his side someone who was really a time visitor, well concealed or disguised as a common individual… someone who was studying his actions, reporting his behaviour and properly documenting his way of life. He was not a guardian angel, he was only there on duty and did not interfere or stop or change anything. He also wasn’t there to protect that man. Researchers like him were at a specific place not to make history, but to write an exact recount of what they saw.

The past could be directly researched, photographed and also visited, but it couldn’t be changed. It was like a written page, nothing else, whatever you did. This was the first rule a slightly younger Durwin had been forced to learn.

This had been predicted long before by famous physicist Stephen Hawking when he proposed the Chronology Protection Conjecture, which proved to be true in reality—thus preserving the Principle of Causality—though with the appropriate modifications and corrections which were later made, based upon a level of technology and measurements beyond the Planck scale he hadn’t at his disposal at his time. You had also to consider that he had been living over the course of years when the Theory of Relativity and quantum physics were still reputed both plausible, and the true Theory of Everything, originated from String Theory, had just started taking its first steps.

Every type of string, and every particle in general, has a peculiar resonance as everybody well knows today…

As a matter of fact, Durwin did not know why he had been assigned to witnessing the daily life of that young writer in particular. James C. Andrews was known to have conceived some superior novels, and his writing style was pleasant enough to read. But he had envisioned for a long time an assignment much different. There were so many amazing authors to be met and studied and he had been excited to think of the possibilities when he had started his job in these very special operations… Think of Christopher Marlowe, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare or Sir Walter Scott, just to name a few. But things had gone differently, and this was his assignment as of today.

Today was a relative term in his job. Today he was in 1985 and the same day you were also back in 2204. Then, next month, possibly, he might happen to be sent to 1850 or go back to the same hour to the year he was living in at his present age of thirty four, in the future, that was the current time for himself. Looking at those past figures, and he meant not only the main subject of his studies but also the other individuals who he saw or could spot at times around him, was very different from reading the pages of an old history text, wasn’t it? Durwin sneered.

All these persons had died long ago, from his point of view. Even this railway was now unused, and who could say where the train he was riding on now had gone? Presumably it had been turned into scrap metal or was a piece of junk full of rust lying around somewhere. But he could look at these people now, he could even talk to them if he wanted to. It was a new, entirely different approach to past events. And, believe this, he truly loved it.

What Durwin did not see were the reasons why he had been assigned to this subject, and not to another one, according to the requests he had previously made. Why him and not someone else? Probably he was not particularly lucky, or there was something else he did not know yet.

By saying this, he didn’t mean that he didn’t like the novels of James C. Andrews. He had read most of them, it was all part of his duties, and he showed interest in that great author. On the other hand, Durwin would soon know the true reason for it all, before the end of this day, although the reason was still unbeknownst to him. You could ask if it was going to be today in 1985 or today in 2204 that was Durwin’s true ‘today.’ But also the term of real truth was really relative as the young man would discover soon, that same day, again.

Winthrop Harbour station, where that young writer always got off, was situated at grade level and had two side platforms that served two tracks. It was the northernmost Metra Station in the State of Illinois. A parking lot was available on the west side of the station and he was used to retrieving his car there—the same car that he left early in the morning before boarding the train to Northern Chicago where he presently worked. James C. Andrews took that same route every day, except on weekends, so he could get to his office on time. He worked at a small photocopying shop, and he was usually back home by 9:00 PM. The income he got from that job was not great, but at least it let him earn his living. He was still at the beginning of his career, this had to be made clear, and this job allowed him to have every Saturday and Sunday free so he could calmly write. Other than that, that lifestyle always kept him in touch with modern life and the innovations available in a huge city as Chicago was at that time, and 
it also greatly influenced his way of thinking, along with the inspiration he received which would later be put into his great novels.

By looking at his face day by day, over the course of a month, Durwin thought he had discovered many things about that man. And it couldn’t be different, anyway. At first, it was not the shape of the eyes that defined his expressions, but the direction, as well. Sometimes, those dark pupils stared straight at you, and frequently they looked off to one side of the railroad car. Details such as the wrinkles near the nose, as the time visitor had started recognizing during the previous weeks, all added intensity to the face of the writer himself, and seemed to give him a fierce expression, or a completely lost one during certain moments. Who knew what James C. Andrews was thinking of during those times? Probably only he was allowed a profound knowledge of his own thoughts and worries.

Although people in the future did study and research the lifestyle, gestures and actions of such noteworthy characters of history, the science of his time wasn’t yet capable of disclosing the thoughts in people’s minds, allowing the viewer to discover something more about what was in their head. He doubted, frankly, that such a result might be easily accomplished in the years to come, although the high level their science had already gotten to might let you imagine that this possibility was entirely not out of reach forever. One day or another a scientist would find the way, though it was still not known when, or how, as a matter of fact. At that moment, even this area of studies would be greatly changed, and what the time visitors like Durwin did would be outdated, or of no use anymore.

In a way, he was not sure he really wanted to know what a single historical character was thinking at a certain moment. Or better, truly he would like to know, but he also was afraid that it might turn out to be inappropriate, or would put a person of great renown in a bad light if you knew his recurrent worries were about crimes he might have perpetrated, or distasteful acts he was planning. Though, in history, that character himself was known to have never acted that way, in the end.

Anyway, knowing exactly what a person was thinking would certainly modify the view you had about someone, therefore Durwin was not sure this would be for the good of history itself… 

Time-travelling was a very demanding, and beguiling experience, for sure! For centuries academicians and researchers had harboured many doubts. “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?” someone among them had put on paper. Hence, only the gods were reputed to move and live with complete freedom, not being constrained by time at any moment. Things were not exactly that way, as had been later discovered, and time visitors like him were not gods, absolutely. From the perspective of science, time travel had been unattainable in Newton’s period, where a sequence of events was seen as an arrow: it wasn’t allowed to deviate from the past, and one second on the Earth was also one second throughout space. Einstein had shown that time was more like a river that meandered across space, speeding up and slowing down near stars and galaxies.

So, one second on the Earth wasn’t absolute and time varied when someone, or something, moved around the expanse of space. This explanation wasn’t utterly correct, a knowledgeable Durwin considered, but it was pretty close actually. Scientists had also speculated that if you could break the light barrier, you could go back in time. But this had long been considered implausible, since you would need to have infinite mass in order to reach the speed of light. True, but still lacking… 

There were, after all, objects like super-massive black holes that had an infinite gravitational field, although no one knew how to turn to them in order to draw the energy necessary for moving back in time. And the first tests about time travel themselves had just such super-powered singularities as their main target for long. The solution came a few centuries later: it all depended on the point of view you had at your disposal to look at things. For the ones living in the future, what had previously happened was history. On the other hand, for the people who had lived in the past—or better, who still lived nowadays along their timelines—the things yet to come could only be supposed, imagined or predicted, but no certainty might ever be drawn about how they would really be one day, before they came into existence.

In other words, from the point of view of the past, what had still to take place could never be grasped ahead of its time, or caught in advance, and certainly it couldn’t entirely be known before the onlookers were gone, while from the standpoint of the future everything that had already occurred provided the chance to be studied, discovered and documented. They had a lot of time at their disposal to do so, the future citizens, although not everything could be accomplished at once, or simply by means of a single time jump. And then there was the limit set by the rules of science for any time visit, along with the amount of energy required that held sway over it all.

Durwin knew what all time travellers like him already knew in their own time period. In a way, past and future coexisted, though on different levels of reality. The future was a sort of past from the point of view of a much more distant future, and the past, well, it had just happened, too. That said, those two apparently separate levels had worked and stayed on different plains until it had become clear that it was possible to get from one to another by using some particular points in space. And the right resonance, undoubtedly!

Centuries before this discovery, quantum physics or singularities were contemplated as the right key to open that passage and make it all feasible. Then, the Science of Conundrum had been made available to researchers, and so the first time visits had eventually begun. Conundrums existed in space and time, that was certain, and they were uncommon, one-of-a-kind occurrences, not entirely different from the Big Bang, for example. Think of a peculiar life-form like humanity, who might have many similarities with several other species living elsewhere in space, with regard to height, respiratory system, the brain itself and so on: the aliens certainly weren’t exactly the same as humans, and their birth-planet couldn’t ever be exactly identical to Earth. 

Undoubtedly, this did not mean that you could change previous events by means of such conundrums, but you were at least allowed to have a look at the way things were once, all over the world, though not at any time. In fact, any conundrum that had been discovered, and there were only three known at present—or better, in the future—might allow safe passage to the past and back, within a limited temporal range. For longer time journeys, or within some other peculiar ranges of time-periods, another conundrum had to be used, or found, and so on.

Durwin was not very knowledgeable about such complicated physics, as he had never studied such theories or delved deeper into those applications of science. He was only a young researcher, though he had of course gotten a grounding in such a technology, and now made use of what he knew, or what he had been provided with as equipment, so he could do his job and continue his reports about the subject he had been assigned to. Other than that, for example, not every technician who was capable of repairing an old-fashioned smartphone from the 2010s might also be good enough to build a new one starting from scratch. This was all the more so if the device you wanted to build was one of the most complicated things humans had ever conceived of and produced in history, and it let you time travel back into the past… 

Durwin listlessly had a look at his watch, a Seamaster Pro 300 Diver Chronograph, and saw that it was time. He just meant it... Concealed inside that modern-style watch designed to appear like a 1984 model of the same type was the device that made the time transition possible. All the details had to be attentively considered, and sending people here and there in time wearing wristwatches that were not exactly from the same historical periods they had to operate in wasn’t necessarily a good thing. At times mistakes had occurred… but not to him, at least not so far. There were some historians of high rank in their covert company—that were at work in the future—who knew almost everything about costumes, vehicles and accessories from the different centuries, year by year, to make sure they chose the right accessory that a person could bring along while on duty. Some travellers made observations in order to study the best way to allow time travellers to pass unnoticed, or to keep hidden other useful future contraptions inside common-looking apparel or objects that no one would see as unusual.

The steel-cased shock-and-water-resistant chronograph indicated 8:10 P.M., 19th September 1985, and the second time zone displayed made it clear it was 8:10, too. Wasn’t it strange? Well, not exactly… the hour was exactly the same as now, even in the year 2204 where he came from. It was merely the year that was different, though it was not displayed, for obvious reasons, showing just a deficiency due to presumably mechanical reasons… But it was done on purpose.

Remember, it was all due to a different resonance.

Eventually, after a long stop that had left them stuck for a while the train started moving again. If no other problem or short delay occurred, they should get to Waukegan station in about five minutes. There he was supposed to get off, though he had other unexpected ways to leave the train. Durwin thought that now was the right time to go to the restroom. So, he stood up and headed for the rear of the railroad car. After he got there, he would activate his device and the time transition would start, bringing him back to his time, back into the future. Of course, this was not a definitive end to his research, as tomorrow evening everything would continue once he was back to 1984.

However, when Durwin, after entering, had already pressed the buttons and the contraption at his wrist was charging up, he unexpectedly noticed the door of the men’s restroom suddenly open. He immediately turned to the right in surprise and recognized the face of James C. Andrews. Before he might imagine something weird was going on, he considered that presumably he had not checked if the door was locked. You know, when you have too many thoughts on your mind…

“I’m sorry...” Andrews said.

As Durwin saw the embarrassed expression of the author who had at once understood that someone else was already occupying the restroom, the first thing he thought was that he had to regain his usual composure. His second thought was to reach for his device and temporarily stop the progression of the timer on his wrist. But the device hadn’t reacted as the time traveller had hoped...

So, the man put his fingers on the buttons of the watch-like contraption at once, but it kept going on, it simply didn’t stop. What the hell? he asked himself. Why didn’t it stop? Was it damaged? Why didn’t it follow the orders his touch gave it? While his fingers kept repeating the correct sequences again and again, hoping to make it work correctly, his eyes focused on the time display... the charging was still operational and the indicators showed that too much energy was going to be involved. Really too much! Durwin also knew that he was presently too near the author who was on the other side the door of the restroom, waiting for him to exit. That was a disturbing and unprecedented problem.

And then the first effects of the time transition began. He knew them very well. It seemed that Durwin’s perspective changed quickly—objects around him and on the periphery of his sight distorted, and all sounds softened. This sequence of events always happened during such a procedure, though it lasted just a few moments. But things were different this day, as other strange effects occurred, none of which had ever been witnessed or reported before, as far as he knew. Soon after, the air above the device at his wrist rippled. It was as if an unbelievable force was tearing the fabric between different worlds, revealing a dark, tumultuous shape beyond. The radiance in the restroom grew more and more brilliant, wrapping all the nearby objects in it, and everything was soon only energy! Then, even the remaining stretches of shadow present on the floor moved to the corners of the small space surrounding him and disappeared, collapsing within the radiance itself.

Other attempts to adjust the device followed, breathless and helpless. Upon understanding the inefficacity of such actions Durwin declared, “This is going to be a disaster!” The distorted features on his face made him unrecognisable.

The enveloping light wrapped both Durwin and James C. Andrews who stood nearby inside itself, and soon they simply were no more, not staying in this year and not in any other time-period. They became part of that great energy, elements of that progressing radiance, until the light had become everything, the only thing that truly mattered, and they ceased existing as living humans once and for all. But that energy didn’t die out, it never stopped, though it changed location, so to say, and it took a very long time before it was detected again, attentively surveyed and put to some better use, eventually…

The tall, slim officer’s hand went for the coffee cup situated on the shelves behind his large control display and sipped the liquid very eagerly. Maybe it was not warm enough, or maybe his personal tastes were just too peculiar. Maybe, he also considered, he had just left the artificial coffee there too long and had wasted time while he was wrapped up in his many ponderings and precise checks.

Well, time was exactly the right term here.

As the man looked at the many displays present in the long room, he knew that all of them showed some valuable data about three really important points in space and history. Conundrums, people called them, and the Science of Conundrums time travel was based on was a consequence of the great energy they spread. And they had to continue to do so, for the good of their studies and the profit of the covert private company they all worked for, indeed.

A message came from the holo-video on his left. The man typed back his reply at once via the virtual keyboard that appeared over his hairless head. “Everything’s under control, sir!” he wrote and kept drinking what was left of his coffee.

Turning his blue eyes to the top-left display he read what was reported below. These were the indicators of the first Conundrum of all, that one which had started their research, and still let them go on with their activity nowadays. Well, to better say, nowadays and in the past.

It had opened into 1985, at the end of a very beautiful summer as the newspapers said at that time. And they also knew how it had come to reality. It had started because of an accident, and wasn’t something which had spurted out of nothingness, it had been created, though by chance. One of their young researchers had caused it all. Unwillingly, certainly, but he had done it. An unexpected burst of energy and the damage of the time contraption he wore at his wrist, disguised as a watch of that period, were the two elements that had brought what was next.

The loss of one temporal agent was a sad thing, undoubtedly. But, after all, it had already happened—or better, it had been forced to happen in the past, on that day… hadn’t it?

Things had to go exactly that way.

If you were just thinking of the reason why someone, living in the future, that had such knowledge of the events that had already taken place, didn’t do anything or didn’t prevent such a bad occurrence from happening, well, you don’t have the same point of view they had. Their covert company in 2204 knew what was going to happen to their young researcher when they sent him back in time, assigning him to study that man who had lived in 1985. They also knew that they weren’t going to see him again. But they needed such a thing to happen—otherwise their important activities wouldn’t have the chance to operate one day.

When the first Conundrum was discovered about fifty years ago, the scientists had taken a long time to understand what it was in reality, and what energy came out of that as it kept fluctuating during different ages, continuously. They also discovered later how to use such an unbelievably powerful and apparently infinite supply of energy. And time travelling had begun.

So, you see, everyone needed such a Conundrum to exist. They also needed that more than anything else, although other conundrums were later made available through the time visits that had followed in different time-periods.

Their cover company couldn’t endanger the sequence of events that had occurred by accident in the past by trying to prevent it. To be truthful, they wanted it to happen. Their world depended on that disaster to take place exactly at that time. There was no other way for time travel to begin.

So a plan had been conceived about the life of such an extraordinary author as James C. Andrews. Fact was that such a man, although he really had existed, never became famous, nor were his novels ever published.

So, all the news and recounts their time visitor, Durwin Rebner, had heard about James C. Andrews, all of his great works and interesting life, were false, as the reality itself about how he had passed away, sadly and unbeknownst to all, had been entirely concealed. Also Durwin’s death had been kept in secrecy from himself, and from his next of kin, later. The superiors thought Durwin might be afraid, or refuse to do his duty. What if he had stepped away once he knew what his destiny was like, in the past, where he had to operate? There are strings in the human heart that shouldn’t be vibrated, as some famous writer once suggested… They simply couldn’t allow him to freely choose, because they needed that to happen, and this was everything.

Durwin had been the cause of the disaster that in the following years made other people find and comprehend the first Conundrum, the origin of all the other portals that could be opened at will through time. Anyway, it would cost his life and even the life of the poor man on that train he was studying, relying on false info he had been previously given...

Conundrums were some fixed facts in time, no one would ever think of damaging them or preventing those from occurring, unless he was crazy of course. Who would ever want to stop the sun and its energy whose absence would soon cause the disappearance of water and life itself on Earth? Who would ever like the comets’ courses to be altered in order to make them endanger our planet? The same could be said about the energy that came out of such Conundrums, once they had been discovered, deeply studied and eventually handled so as to become very useful as a means for activating the time transition contraptions yet to come.

But Conundrums didn’t open intentionally, and when you found one you had to protect it by all means. Their covert company knew that the sad demise of their unlucky time traveller, and of the subject of his studies, had to take place. Durwin had died accidentally as he had activated the time contraption he had while he was too near a man who lived in 1985, and both of them had been fatally wounded during the procedure at that moment, sucked up by the newly-created Conundrum itself. From that day, that conundrum had kept fluctuating, being invisible until the moment the technology of the future had found it and had started doing deep research before making full use of its power.

The whole story of their existences, that of the author Durwin was writing the biography about, and of the time visitor himself who was studying him, were not so important. Their being there, at that exact moment and in that place, and the damaged time contraption were all that mattered. They were both necessary, and what they had started that day was of great importance undoubtedly, but not for the reason the two might think. Differently from what the time traveller and the writer could imagine, James C. Andrews was not intended to write many other novels as his false biography indicated; and the researcher from the future was not destined to travel again through time and space. But their deaths were the point in history that would result in the opening of a way between the past and the far future. This would allow people like them to go back to the days of old and return to the future days they were from.

Time visitors like Durwin couldn’t change past things, and what they did had already happened, though they simply hadn’t occurred yet until they effectively made their action. The reason why they were not allowed to know everything a time traveller of theirs had previously done, or whom he had already met in the previous centuries, was that there were not enough reports, or too many details about such things that had reached the researchers of the future, passing undamaged through dusty history. Simply, what they had done in the days of old was a consequence of the decision and assignment that had been made in the future from the people who chose the targets of their studies. At times, there were some images, or texts, that had been found, showing evidences of time visitors that had been spotted by chance in the past, but this became clear only to the experienced eyes of the people living in the future. Most of such details remained unnoticed, the same as their actions, or were kept in secrecy, and it had to be that way… 

The origins of the past, at times, lay in the steps taken in the far future. And the future had to be the consequence of what had previously happened in the past as well. It had become theirs to decide, since the moment they had understood how to efficaciously use such an amazing source of energy. And they didn’t want to lose such power, the possibility to decide for them and for all the others.

As that poet once said, “Let this hour be but a year, a month, a week, a natural day…” Or, much better, be it forever.

By the way, do you know the story of the origins of the other two important Conundrums that are known as of 2204? If you don’t, let us explain the sad story of the two unlucky time travellers who were required to operate in different time-periods so that everything necessary could occur in the end…

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