Who Knows What The Future Holds?
Fiction By Mel Goldberg
The small wooden box flickered like an old time movie and then disappeared. An instant later it reappeared and Fernando crawled out. He smiled like when we were children and he scored on me at futbol. A strong odor of ozone permeated the room.
Fernando’s neat black hair looked as if he had been in a windstorm. And there was no clunking of the iron leg braces that he has worn since he was sixteen.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I have been healed.”
“What do you mean?”
He spoke louder and in Spanish. “Quiero decir que mis piernas sean curado.”
For the past three years, Fernando and I have been researchers at the Agencia Espacial Mexicana near the city of Chetumal on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mexican Space Agency was started by deputy economy minister Francisco Pimentel in 2008 and built with the help of NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez and engineer Fernando de la Pena.
As children, we developed an interest in time travel after we read H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Fernando’s interest became his passion after a bicycle accident left him partially paralyzed. Our fascination led us to study astrophysics in Phoenix.
Now many years later, Fernando still speculates about time travel. “If I could travel into the future, I might be helped by the advances in spinal cord injury research. Einstein hypothesized that time and space could be distorted by the super gravity of a black hole.”
“Yes, the future is a hope. But you have become completely obsessed with this time travel nonsense.”
“Because black hole technology has not yet been invented. Do you know that an astronaut who spends two years on the space station traveling 17,500 miles an hour moves only 1/50th of a second into the future?”
The moment those words left my mouth I felt ashamed.
The following week at lunch, he showed me a copy of The Astrophysical Journal with an article by Tulane professor of mathematical physics, Frank Tipler, who believed that if matter rotates fast enough, a distortion in space-time occurs. The rapid rotation of a cylinder twists space and time, allowing movement in time.
I knew Fernando would never stop until he believed this was all science fiction. As his friend, I decided to help him. Who better to show compassion when the endeavor failed?
Using the super-computers we had access to at AEXA, we designed a model to simulate Tipler’s rotating cylinder. Our prototype looked like a small freestanding closet.
“It would be pointless to send a mouse,” said Fernando. “I should be the one. If it explodes, I will miss life much less than you.”
In all the years I had known him, I could never change his mind once it was made up. We reinforced the walls and attached a monitor screen.
“Just enough room for me,” said Fernando.
He planned to take a reading as the cylinder began rotating, which would allow him to return at least as closely as possible to the moment he left. I would work the computer controls.
I laughed. “Find out about future investments.”
“Always the bolsa, Carlos? He hobbled to the door, unlocked his leg braces, and dragged his body into the box.
The box flickered and disappeared and reappeared a few moments later.
“It worked just as we planned,” he said on the floor, still smiling.
“Do you know what this means? We’ll be rich.”
“I don’t think so.”
My eyes widened. “What do you mean? We have discovered time travel.”
His smile disappeared. “They were not expecting me. They said time travel shouldn’t have occurred until. . . . I do not remember.”
“What do you remember?”
“Very little. I know I stayed a long time.”
“Well, what were the people like?”
“They spoke with soft music in my head. They had dark skin like us and invited me to stay. They said I was lucky to have come through their time-port.”
“I don’t care what they said. We did it. We will be rich.”
“No, others might not be as lucky. Mira, they fixed my legs. My muscles are strong again. I can walk. There was no disease.”
“What about poverty?” I thought about the car washers and the boys selling strawberries.
“They told me after I returned home the time-port would be terminated. I would forget everything.”
“¿Te olvidarás de todo?” I nearly shouted.
“Sí, claro. Pero ¿me pregunto por qué?” (“True, but why did you ask me?”)
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