Monday, 30 April 2012

Time travel made easy

It was when I was a very small boy that I first learned about time travel as a possible workable concept and potential career. I was intrigued by how it might be manipulated. I was of course stubborn and ignorant but also driven and destructive. So at first I took the simple route, I stopped clocks, holding back their mechanisms with pieces of cardboard so they strained for a tiny second and then fell silent. I would also remove the batteries from the new fangled electric clocks, then on clocks without face glass I'd catch the hands, cruelly twisting them together, like tying the legs of a pony so they stuck at some useless hours. Cheap watches were hit with hammers, expensive watches had their winders removed, that worked best, they died a slow, wound down death. I liked that and I liked the unpredictable nature of it. Of course all I was doing was stopping the measure of time and pretending that gave me some kind of power over time. Of course it didn't, for every clock or watch I quietly knobbled there were a million more ticking up or down the measured mile of time. I needed to find something that would work on a bigger scale, or something that worked on a smaller scale, affecting only me. For my young hungry mind it was a perplexing, taxing but addictive conundrum.

My breakthrough came as I watched rainwater splashing down and across the rooftop gulleys from my bedroom window. I studied the flow, the downward direction, the twists in the routes, the separation of streams that then met again and came together. The pools and puddles, the tick, the drip, the splash of each shower's downpour on the roof pattern. It was whilst watching these dancing but constrained and relentless waters that I formed my first theory about the flow and fluidity of time. It was there, always moving, always finding a level, always travelling, all you had to do was get into that flow. Once in it you could run against it, go with it or run ahead of it. It was just a matter of choosing your direction and, critically deciding on how much effort you needed to expend.

My first few attempts were clumsy and funny, like a lost dog swimming, I splashed and got nowhere, I couldn't separate myself from the curse of now. I treaded water and time mastered me. But I was determined and I persevered. The words of my old grandfather came back to me many times as I practised, “You'll never become anything unless you break out of the mainstream, quitters don't win and winners don't quit.” I wouldn't quit.

My non-scientific reasoning told me that flows were strongest when time played tricks, at night, on the solstice, at dawn, at dusk or noon. These were the key times when time itself was busy, preoccupied, distracted, caught up with it's own ends and purposes. If I could break in there, at one of these weak points I could enter the flow and navigate a passage from my self forwards or backwards or in the nowhere time. Maybe I could make time time stand still. That would be my first trick, like stopping all those clocks but this time not mechanically but from the inside, from the heart of time, from the stream.

It required a hearty breakfast, a careful choice of footwear and a good deal of concentration – focus. It was noon (or a minute before), time's attention was elsewhere,this was a key moment. I focused, stood still, my back to the sun and inwardly perceived the flow. It was in me, around me, all over me. I held out a weak open palm and slowly, as the seconded counted down closed my fingers into a fist all around the flow of time. I closed my eyes and pulled tight on the flow, like holding back a straining, stupid puppy dog on a lead. I gripped it, I held it. I felt the breath leave my lungs, I felt a grey draining, I heard the stopping of the clocks as time scrapped on the bottom of the tiny reef I had created. It has stopped but I hardly dared to look out.

I didn't want to lose my concentration but I had to see what was happening. I decided to blink. Blink slowly that is and only letting tiny slivers of light in. I had to keep concentrating and that took a surprising amount of effort. I was after all holding a whole lot of time in my whitening knuckles, a whole lot of time.

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