Not Enough Time

dino

© Yinglan

The little boy followed his Mom around the corner as Tony Lange materialized near a reconstructed fossil. His clothes were torn and soiled, his hair and beard matted with three months growth.

“I’m back. Got to warn them. It isn’t the answer. We’ll all die.”

He struggled to his feet and then he saw the wall painting and screamed.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?”

Security guards kept the crowd back as an ambulance crew arrived.

“Take it easy,” the first medic said. “You’ll be fine.”

“No,” he murmured half-conscious. “You can’t save humanity by sending us 100 million years back…too hostile. We end up as prey, not colonists.”

As he was loaded onto a stretcher, the boy nervously fingered his transistor radio turning it on.

“President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today. He died an hour ago of a wound caused by a rifle bullet fired at him as he was riding through downtown Dallas.”

Tony’s eyes widened. “I didn’t get back all the way. I’m seventy-two years too early!”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of December 19, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

When I saw the image, I thought of time travel (of course) and of someone coming forward in time about 100 million years (the middle of the Cretaceous period) into the present. Two ideas popped into my head.

The first was the original “cliffhanger” for the pilot episode of The Time Tunnel starring James Darren as Tony Newman and Robert Colbert as Doug Phillips. In the pilot, Tony uses the Time Tunnel to send himself back into history proving that it actually works in order to keep the project’s Congressional funding from being cut. He ends up on the Titanic mere hours before it is destined to be sunk. In an attempt to rescue him, fellow scientist Doug Phillips goes back. They are unsuccessful in preventing the ship’s destruction, but the team in the time tunnel manage to switch them to a different time period.

The show always ended with a teaser scene from the next episode which in this case was an encounter with Halley’s Comet in the early 20th century, however for the pilot before the show was picked up, the teaser had Tony and Doug appearing in a steaming hot jungle and then encountering a dinosaur.

The second thought was of a show I’ve never watched but thought might be interesting. Terra Nova was a short-lived series (December 9, 2011 to March 5, 2012) about people on an overpopulated Earth in the year 2149 who were sent back to colonize the Cretaceous Period. I thought this was kind of crazy for a few reasons, the first being the “butterfly effect,” since they’d have no idea how their actions even so far back in history would affect their present, and the second being that there are freaking dinosaurs out there and they were the dominant species on the planet at that time. What makes anyone think that even with advanced weapons, they wouldn’t turn into anything more than prey?

So what if a colonist managed somehow to project himself forward in time to warn everyone that the project didn’t work? However, as you have just read, he dropped out of the time stream 72 years too early, specifically on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas at a Natural History museum just hours after President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Horribly tragic in many different ways.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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26 thoughts on “Not Enough Time

  1. Ditto Michael’s kudos; though while I agree about your explanations in general, I think this story stands on its own even without it, complete with its “punchline”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think Tony had a lot of control over his journey, Iain. He also wasn’t primarily concerned with stopping JFK’s assassination (that’s been the topic of more time travel stories than I can count). He will be far too late to warn his contemporaries however.

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      • As I mentioned to PL previously, if we landed 72 years short of the present, that would be 1945. Yes, simpler times, but how would we like to live there?

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      • In 1945 there were many postwar opportunities, though there would be likewise many frustrations for an adult from 2017. But at least the big war was over — that is, until the next conflict in Korea about five years later, and the cold war with its nuclear threat, and Vietnam about a decade later. But most mature adults were able to work around these conflicts. Nonetheless, there were profits to be made, and SciFi in abundance.

        However, this 72-year period was actually quite different from the one offered to your protagonist, whose likely greater frustrations would stem from the technological experience of 2035.

        Hence, nostalgia aside, I must agree with you that it would be no picnic to be stranded in one’s grandfather’s era.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent! I imagine he’ll have a hard time explaining he’s a time-traveler and the important message he has while sitting in an asylum. If time-travel isn’t possible yet, who can he convince? Loved this one.

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    • Thanks. At the end of the story, Tony realized where and when he was. Granted, he was horribly traumatized up until moments before he appeared in 1963, but if he can pull himself together, he may be able to convince people around him that he’s sane. Of course, he is homeless, has no money, no job, no identification, so his prospects look grim. On the other hand, depending on what skill sets he possesses or what he remembers of history, he can figure out a way to get some sort of job and then make a few wise investments in companies he knows will become greatly successful in the future.

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      • Exactly so! If he can manage to survive his immediate problems and reintegrate into that era, he might be able to do as you suggest and influence historical development prior to the origin of the colonization-in-time project. He might write science fiction and get it produced in film or video — especially if he has acquired some wealth from good investments and can fund the project — to illustrate the very dangers he fled from in the Cretaceous. If he does it convincingly enough, the future developers of the project may investigate a bit better before sending colonists into an untenable situation.

        Writing his story and his warning as scifi is probably his best chance to avoid being institutionalized as mentally unstable. He might even leave documents to be opened after his demise which state clearly that his stories were not mere conjecture, but the result of concern about his own actual experiences. He might even be able to name actual names of project personnel and the future dates of their participation in recognizable projects — though his own meddling in the timeline might alter their developing career choices and undercut the believability of his story.

        It’s even possible he could survive long enough to meet some of them himself to dissuade them from doing what they did in his original timeline. Of course, all of this meddling and warning risks creating a paradox that could prevent the events which sent him into the past in the first place — which is precisely his purpose — which, in turn, could resolve itself by erasing him and all his warnings from existence, leaving his future self to suffer the same fate all over again. It all depends on how much “elasticity” may exist in timeline adjustments. For example, he might be able alternatively to influence the timeline just enough that his future youthful self still accompanies the first batch of colonists — preserving his personal experience stream — but arranging that confirmation of their fate is received to ensure that no additional colonists would be sent. The quality of his own life would be represented in his contributions after his traumatic beginnings in a doomed time-travel project and in the era where he reintegrated. He could not hope to change that event sequence successfully back to what his future life might have been apart from the doomed project; but he would have the satisfaction of preventing others from suffering a fate similar to that of those first doomed colonists, and he would have enjoyed the pleasures of wealth gathered from prescient knowledge of lucrative investments, given his own narrow escape.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice story James and the commentary, intriguing. Just as our modern day astronauts must have a mental capacity to wrap around the the idea of being off of the earth. Imagine what it would take to be able to travel through time only to discover something like the very trip you take, destroyed humanity as you knew it and you were all alone. Endless possibilities which is what made it such a good series.

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