Sunday, April 09, 2006
With a tip o' the hat to Stephen Green, who pointed the way, this scary and all-too-plausible tale by Dan Simmons.
The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my study on New Year’s Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch. Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me about the future.The protagonist snorts, "Prove it" -- which the Time Traveler proceeds to do, by rattling off a series of words that, in December 2004, mean nothing:
Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”Sure enough, a year later, the Time Traveller appears again... and is taken seriously this time. A good thing, for his message is deadly serious.
“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen and then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who? Pope who? Scooter who?”
“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”
“I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.”He goes on at great and detailed length, offering lessons from history (the Peloponnesian War in particular), and our failure to learn vital lessons from it -- and the certainty that our children and grandchildren will know their history, all too well, when it comes back to tear their world apart.
I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?” I said.
“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.
I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”
“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.” He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, “It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”
“How are we supposed to know who our enemies are?” I turned and growled at him. “The world is a complex place. Morality is a complex thing.”It is a chilling vision of the future... possibly your future, and mine.
“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet...”
He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on my sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he said softly, “can you ignore the better part of a billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children . . . or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”
Please do go and read the whole thing.
Categories: War On Terror