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The New World is Behind Us – Part 5: Revelation

On his third day, Chris stopped at another river and bathed in the slow-moving current. The sun baked the forest, causing it to release its moisture in a warm fog. The river water felt refreshing as it carried away Chris’ built-up sweat and grime, His skin turned pink and taught. Once his tolerance for the cold had been reached, he crouched naked on the shore, emptying out trash from various pockets before washing his clothes and found a folded-up piece of hand-made paper in a cargo pocket. He recognized Jackson’s handwriting – he must have placed it there as he connected Chris in the crèche.

“I know what brought you to the Center and felt you should know more about your mission than what you’ve been told. I have given this information to everyone I’ve prepare for temportation, only subversively am I able to pass it along. Whether it’s moral or ethical, I keep quiet during training because if I allowed others to know what I’m about to write to you, I would be removed from the Center. I believe in what we are doing, but not for the reason made public. So, think of this as your last lesson, one more understanding.

Your success is not expected.

That is the long and short of it. Time’s arrow is a funny thing, but many of us here at the Center believe our reality is fixed. Even the most optimistic of us have come to accept the paradox, if those sent had been able to alter what was to come, we would no longer be aware of the disaster we are now trying to prevent – it simply would have been erased from our continuum.

I have overheard you talking about this with your friends – it shouldn’t come as a surprise the Center monitored trainees 24/7, so I won’t rehash what you’ve already intuited.

Everything we are doing at the Center is, to an extent, speculative. And, above all, desperate.

Though we don’t have the technology to reverse the cataclysmic effects caused once our environment passed the event horizon, now leading to our inevitable collapse, we are lucky – luck, I must stress, played a huge role here – to have develop the means to send you back.

There’s a lot of theoretical physics involved that I won’t go into, but essentially, as you’ve been taught, the method generates a kind of anchor using quantum entanglement by linking certain particles existing in our time and other times.

However, what you weren’t told is that due to the uncertainty principle, we are unable to ensure any truly exact position for your arrival. This unfortunately applies to both your time and location. Since to each level of certainty is scored on a gradient, there’s a built-in compromise to gain the best for both.

Time is not a single, independent thread but a complex matrix of many threads aligned in a series across a field of space – more like a blanket than a rope (or in this instance, a lifeline).

There is good news is we have a high confidence in having controlled for the location variable. This is due to the quality of near objects being more closely related to one another than objects separated by greater distances. We expect no one will find themselves waking on the shores of a liquid ammonia sea, for instance. We also hope to have not sent anyone to the bottom of our own oceans. So, as long as your location remains on terra firma the location uncertainty falls to near zero.

The bad news, however, is by emphasizing location, the compromise we make is that we can’t guarantee the same level of confidence for the time variable. We believe we have pinpointed time stamps with confidence intervals of twenty years, ten on each side of the target. The chance of falling outside this targeted interval becomes increasingly improbable, though not impossible.

This is the point I want to stress to you, and it is VERY important for you to understand. Though the probability of that confidence interval actually being twenty-one years holds a certain chance and one of twenty-three years is X magnitude less likely and so forth, ANY timeframe is possible. The trouble is we don’t actually know what this probability differential – what the standard deviation, to use the technical term – is for this problem.

As you have been instructed, we aim to send you back to target T-minus 5 years, or rather, 1965, in order to give you sufficient time to marshal necessary change. This could mean that you arrive with an additional ten years to bide your time – 1955, or it could mean that you missed your chance – 1975. We discussed sending you back to target T-minus twelve years, putting you around 1958 with a timeframe between 1948-1968, in order to err on the side of caution and still place you before your required time. The majority felt the risk of you landing so far out of your target was insignificant enough to warrant the tighter interval, reasoning, also, that arriving too early would make you as ineffectual as arriving too late.

A small contention, to include me, holds that it doesn’t really matter either way since we have not locked down the uncertainty and the twenty-year confidence interval is really just an arbitrary number someone threw out there in the beginning. You were not told about this dissention within our team because even the most cynical of us felt you should leave with the greatest sense of confidence we could give you.

I understand any anger you may feel at having been misled, but had I mentioned it before, you may have withdrawn. Realize this, where you are – or rather when you are – can’t be worse than if you had chosen to stay behind.

We are doomed.

If you are thirty years before your target or thirty years behind it, you still have a chance to live a full life. Here, in this time, it’s guaranteed you wouldn’t.

We will see the end of our world within the next few years despite the reigning talking heads placing it at twenty. The point of no return was breeched years ago, as you know, and all indications – more than the general population realizes – point to an exponential decrease in the Earth’s carrying capacity.

It’s about to get really ugly.

The purpose for this letter is really to tell you don’t worry about your “mission”, it won’t make a difference for us, anyway. Worry about yourself. Take care of yourself.

Not many have made it to where you are. You have been given an opportunity we are not fortunate enough to share. We have taught you how to survive, so take full advantage of your training.

We may not be able to save the world in which we live, but, at least, the blanket of time is now littered with our graduates.


The following two weeks found Chris in much the same condition. He had yet to encounter another person or indication of human influence. He continued trekking in a generally southwestern direction; however, since finding Jackson’s note, he no longer felt the sense of urgency. Chris took his time, remaining at sites for several days until his need to move pushed him onward. His mind continually circled back to his friends. He wondered whether they all temporized or if any had withdrawn.

Where could they have ended up? There were literally infinite possibilities. The thought rattled him. He never truly imagined seeing them again, but he discovered hope of a reunion lay under the surface of his mind – each moving into a decade post-collapse, old but at different ages.

Chris stowed all the equipment and councils in a hastily made crypt made of a hollowed-out log and some river rocks. He drew a map and marked the spot with an X. Each day he recorded the contours and features he passed. At sunset on his 19th day, sitting against a tree trunk next to a small fire, dutifully adding to the map, Chris broke down in tears. Whatever shell he had built up around himself cracked, and the full weight of Jackson’s revelation fell onto him. He tossed the map into the fire.

That night he dreamt of Anna.

Three days later, Chris heard traffic beyond a ridgeline.

The sudden rush of his pulse filled his ears with thumping and eclipsed the sound. He stood and tried to calm his racing heart, using every method he could pull from his training. He faintly heard something through the beating. Convincing himself that what he heard was merely an auditory mirage or paracusia, his want for it to be real allowed additional human activity to flow into his mind: chatter, laughter, the rush of people’s lives. He knew what he heard – the false interpretation of what he heard – came from within. Loosely anchored as he was, Chris’ need for others washed over him like a wave.

He broke into a run, zigzagging through the trees towards the direction of the noise. His pack bounced on his raw shoulders, jostling, offsetting his balance. His feet tangled in groundcover, tripping him twice. On his second fall, he stayed down, having hit his head hard against a fallen branch.



“When you find yourself lost, you must remain calm.” Jackson had told his cohort. “Stop, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Pull your thoughts inward, not to find a solution but to find peace. The solution will follow. If none comes to mind, set up camp and put your attention to your fieldcraft. However, never stay in the same place for more than a night. Along with keeping your cool, you must continue to move; otherwise, you might find yourself mired in your own funk.”

Chris forced himself to stay prone. Though he was exhausted, the adrenaline already flushing away and leaving him drained of energy, the will it took to remain down was great. He called up the image of Anna tapping her tongue against her teeth and focused on his breathing. If people beyond the ridge, they would be there once he recovered.

“Count to five hundred. Let time pass. Focus on your breathing and collect yourself.”

Once his heart rate slowed, Chris could still hear the traffic, a little louder now since he had gotten closer. In the time it took for him to stand, however, he had concluded the sound was not man-made. He walked to the ridge and stepped out from the brush line. A river, about twenty feet below, cut through a small gorge.

He took off his pack and sat, letting his legs hang over the rocky outcropping. The sun smiled down on him as it began bowing toward its western bed. Chris took out an apple and leaned back on his free hand.  

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