People of the Past (Fiction)

People don’t change.  People from the past keep going toward the future.  Pointless, dissolute, entropic, they march toward oblivion.  People from the future, they stay rooted in the past.  They know what side their bread is buttered on.

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The Future isn’t pretty.  We all know that.  Just go to any hospital.  That’s your Future, with a capital F.  Long white, or more likely beige corridors.  Antiseptic smells.  Or new antiseptics that try to remind you of fresh baked bread or cinnamon, but just make you feel false and closer to death.  That’s your future if you’re one of the lucky ones, who lives a long life and doesn’t get run over by a bus.  The Future is gleaming and white and cold and synthetic and who the fuck wants to live there if they don’t have to?  It’s where people go to die, not to live.

And what of the past?  I hate to even speak of it.  The entropic people talk about the past in terms of rapture and horror.  “Oh, I would love to have lived during the Renaissance, if only they had antibiotics.”  That’s like saying you’d love to live in LA if only there were no crime or annoying celebrities.  If the past is a concept, then you idealize it as all good or all bad.  But if the past is just another possible place to go, then you weigh out the good and bad side by side, and make your choice.

Because let me tell you, there is no clean water or air in the future, and antibiotics don’t work anymore anyway.  And space, the final frontier?  Why didn’t we go there to get away from disease and filth?  Well, have you seen the options?  Live in a life-support centrifugal colony in space that looks like… what else?…  a spinning floating hospital.  Or live on Moon or Mars with the gravity deficit clogging your sinuses with fluid and no weather or just bad weather and dust storms and you’re still just living in a hospital, albeit with great views.  Not to mention the quarantine from anyone you’ve ever known or loved, because who wants to be trapped in a space colony with a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

And beyond Moon and Mars and Venus (talk about bad weather!), what about beyond the solar system?  Who knows?  No one’s ever going there again.  And even if they did, they’d never come back and we’d never hear the stories.  Before the Drive, we set out for there, planning to arrive in a mere matter of generations.  But disease or mutiny or mechanical failure always got in the way, and we never really thought it would be better, so it was only the crazies who ever set out in the first place.

Maybe it would have been different if technology had advanced in another way.  But the devil is always in the details, and as it turned out, we discovered space travel (real space travel that gets you there before you die) at the same time as time travel.  After all, space and time are the same thing, really, so the Space-Time Drive was inevitable.  But once we could travel in time, no sane person gave a second thought to space travel.  Fortunately for us, most people aren’t sane.

If we have to be separated from our people and go somewhere else, if we have to colonize, then why not make the logical choice?  We did.  We colonized the only place with clean air and water, with old-fashioned microbes we still had a chance against.  Where we can hold hands and make love and make children and remember that those are really the most amazing things in the world.

You see, it turns out the earth is a really nice place.  It’s much nicer than anywhere else.  And believe me, in the past, it was even better.  Is even better.

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Why does a Stradivarius sound so good?  Why does a human voice sound better than a pure tone?  For no reason at all except it’s the standard by which we judge.  We could look forever for a better place to live, and the only better place we’d find is a place more like earth than earth.  And funnily enough, we found it.  Luckily, it’s right here.  Unfortunately, it’s just not now.

So that decision was easy.  But the entropes, the crazies, they aren’t just in the future or out in space.  They’ve always been here.  So how do we protect ourselves from them and keep our colonies separate from them?  If we mix together, we’ll be absorbed into the craziness.  And we need to protect them, too.  If we influence the crazies, if they learn where we’re from and why we came here/now, history will change and we may be destroyed in the process.  (Maybe, maybe not, but why take the chance?)  So how do we keep our distance?  How do we take ourselves out of society and even out of history?

Simple.  Simplicity itself.  Literally.  We’re simple people.  And we use what we know and love.  We came to the past willingly, so we stay there.  We stay rooted in the ways of the past so that we have a future.  We speak old languages, we adhere to old rules, we do anything we can to make ourselves unattractive to the future-oriented entropes.  We live in small colonies in different places and go by different names.  Amish.  Mennonite.  Hasidim.  Even within those groups we splinter and live separately.  We keep to ourselves.  We keep to our own so we have a future.  A small future, for a small group of people.  Because we know what the Future holds.

 

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