Friday, September 18, 2009

Daily Story 156: The Tough Question

"When would you suggest?"
Anna saw the nervous little man's eyes widen and she wondered if there was some sort of protocol she had broken. He looked like a deer in headlights.
"I'm sorry... is that something I'm not supposed to ask?"
Wiping his pale forehead with a handkerchief though he didn't appear to be sweating, the man - Vincent, was it? - seemed to snap out of his trance.
"You can certainly ask, miss Greenbough. It's just that at this point in the process most people have already had a destination in mind for at least a year. At the end of this meeting we will begin to prepare the transfer device, and there are hefty fines for changing anything after that."
Anna relaxed. "Oh, don't worry. I won't change my mind once I decide." This seemed, if anything, to make Vincent even more nervous.

"To be perfectly honest, my concern is more that you might change your mind after the transfer, miss Greenbough. You are going to be sent back in time, and because this causes a new branch to split off of the timeline there is no coming back - nor can any of your loved ones contact you or come after you, since they would just create a new branch of their own. This is not something to enter into lightly, miss Greenbough. It is final and irreversible."
Anna nodded. It sounded perfect. Forever she was making plans and not following through, or going back to Lewis even though he was a drunken ass. Finally she would be on an adventure and not be able to back out, not be able to get a call in the middle of the night from that pathetic man, slurring out a plea for a second (thirty-seventh) chance.
"Sounds lovely. Er..." something was starting to bother her, "How can you know it works?"
Vincent smiled slightly, back on script. "When we split off the new timeline the portal stays open for a few minutes, long enough for us to be sure it's the correct place and time. We generally record the client waving as the portal shuts... but then, once closed, it can't be opened again - and we simply don't have the power required to keep it open for more than about four minutes."

"Well then, Vincent - when do people go to?"
"Anywhere, any time. We've had some large groups go back to before humans even existed, and had a narcissist go back just two hours."
"Why in the world would you just go back two hours?"
Vincent turned red and coughed nervously. "I'm sure I have no idea, miss Greenbough."
Wiping his forehead again, he continued. "I would suggest somewhere that they speak English, and unless you have a background in historical anthropology I would further suggest you stick to relatively modern times. I would say 1950 is the absolute furthest, and even then you might be in for some hardship."
"Well that sounds boring. Two hundred and fifty years hardly feels worthwhile."
"There is another option that is popular... some go back with lots of fancy gadgets so they can set themselves up as a god and be worshipped. I can't say how well it works out, of course, but the theory is sound."
Anna considered this. "Something less blasphemous, I would think."

She looked up at the ceiling for a moment as if expecting it to suggest something. "What about pranks?" she asked.
"Excuse me?" Vincent mopped at his forehead again.
"Pranks. Practical jokes. Could you put me in Tutankhamun's tomb just before Howard Carter pries it open?"
"I... that's not really... you understand that once the joke is over you would still be there, forever. Right? Wouldn't it be better to find somewhere that you could just settle down and be happy?"
Anna thought of the various adventures in time and space that didn't particularly interest her, and of the possibility of settling down somewhere pleasant.
"Well, Vincent, that seems like a bit of a waste. I could settle down and be happy right here in this time."
"In that case, miss Greenbough... if I could be so bold... why don't you?"
Anna opened her mouth to answer but found herself speechless. She stood, blew a kiss to Vincent, and walked out.