A couple of years ago I found some old schematics or drawings in an Antique Shop. The faintly discoloured papers roused my natural curiousity. I could not resist the temptation and bought them right away. These documents turned out to be H.G.Wells’ actual blueprints for the time machine. Do not ask me how they came to be in Stockholm, I never bothered investigating their previous owners or whereabouts. But it was an interesting challenge to rebuild his time machine. It gave me a lot of insight into the theory of temporal mechanics. Some of the scribblings were extremely difficult to read and I had to guess my way through them. I guess I reconstructed all details fairly well. Old Herbert George would have been proud of me. But it appeared that Wells never actually used the machine himself. His notes advised caution and he did send a number of experimental machines, but they all disappeared. The story about Morlocks and the Eloi had, of course, only been made up.

I decided to try a model first, and to send a fresh tomato through time. The tomato was sent two minutes into the future and was scheduled to reappear on the very same table from which it started. The model and the tomato disappeared, never to be seen again. I was devastated, but decided to try it again. My experiment had not been a complete failure. After all, the machine had actually dematerialized and entered temporal warp, or so I could presume, because it had definitely left my laboratory.
My second model had a happy potato passenger. I carved a broad and friendly smile into its face. The controls were preset to return the potato to present time plus elapsed time after spending two seconds in July. The second machine vanished as well, never to be seen again.
I went back to the drawing board to go through every single component of my time machine one more time. I began to understand why Wells didn’t make the trip himself. Everything ought to be working. Why, in the name of all ancient gods, didn’t the machine return? It should never have left its place in space. It had no means of propulsion for moving in any other dimension than time.

My third passenger was a cucumber. It was destined to spend three minutes in the year 2001, and then to return to exactly the same position in time when it left. Well, almost exactly, the fraction of a second was allowed to pass. It was so little that I should not even have been able to notice its departure. But I was able to see the machine dematerialize, and for an instant I thought that I had lost the third machine and a rather lenghty cucumber to go with it.

But then I heard the machine and the cucumber drop to the floor at the far end of my laboratory. And the cucumber was frozen stiff. Actually, it appeared to be so steamingly cold that I didn’t dare to touch it right away. I considered it prudent to take its temperature first. And it was way below minus twohundred degrees Celsius (Oh yes, I do have such sophisticated equipment at home!).

Somehow the time machine did move through space after all. But I could not see how. On my next trip to Moscow, I decided to buy a second-hand Russian space suit. Wells never had this option. Even if he had come to the conclusion that the machine somehow was moving through space, he could not find out for himself. Or he never arrived to this conclusion.

Getting a space suit was easy compared to deciphering Wells’ blueprints. In the process, I even got invited to see the Russian Neutrino-Observatory in the Caucasus Mountains. That would have been interesting, indeed, but I didn’t have the time for another excursion. Not this particular summer anyway.

Upon my return to Stockholm, I got back to work on my time machine. The same day CNN had very interesting news for me. A space shuttle crew claimed to have found a tomato drifting in space together with some strange contraption, possibly of alien origin. They were not quite sure about its function. But from the description, I could tell that it was my first experimental model

Suddenly I realized why the machine had disappeared… Let’s for a moment assume that the machine works the way it is supposed to work. And let’s for a moment assume that the Sun doesn’t move through space either. If I go half a year back in time, the Earth would be on the far side of the Sun, wouldn’t it? But the Sun is also in perpetual motion.

Perhaps the time machine could be used as a sort of reversed microwave-oven. By sending food into space and then returning it to the moment of dematerialization, the food would be efficiently cooled down. Well, perhaps it could. But I did have a grander vision than only as such. And I wanted to see for myself.

The moment I activated the controls on my time machine, I knew it was going to be the most memorable trip of my life. So I have been around in the World a lot. I’ve gone by bicycle from Stockholm to a nice spot in Germany near the border to France and Luxemburg. I’ve been writing songs in Moscow and I have seen the Northern Lights, I have seen a Moonbow, I have seen the biggest cave in the World, near Trieste. But this was most certainly above everything else I have ever seen and done. As soon as the time machine entered temporal warp, I was separated from the common three-dimensional universe. I could let the machine hover in zero-time in my laboratory and as I slowly moved the lever forward I passed through walls, furniture and everything. Passing through every obstacle like a ghost. Unseen and unheard of, out of time, beneath time.
A few seconds into the future or into the past, and I was already a million miles away from Earth. As long as I had the proper Earth-time-coordinates, I could always return to the laboratory to exactly the same moment that I left it.
Wonderful! However, since I didn’t have the proper equip-ment, I could not observe much while moving through time. A good telescope could of course have been mounted on the machine. I honestly had not thought of that until now. The cold emptiness of space soon became boring and I never came anywhere near enough to another solar system, to get anything of interest to look at.

So I went to see my brother, who is a quite skillful engineer, working for Ericsson and asked him about how we could devise a simple robot that would control the movements of the time machine. It had to be a robot or a computer that would recognize an earthlike planet, take the machine out of temporal warp and take atmoshperic readings of the planet and then return the machine to Earth. And it would need to have some kind of a beacon if it returned, since it would be moving through space with the planet it found, and most probably on a different vector than the one we were moving on. This would also mean that it had to take those atmospheric readings within the blink of an eye – or else that machine would be lost to me, unless the planet had exactly the same vector as Earth (which in itself was most unlikely).

Usually my brother needs a from here to Eternity, in order to get anything done, which doesn’t concern his own line of work, but in this case he got exceptionally enthused and had our controldroid ready within two weeks. As the base element of this robot, he used outdated Pentium computers that no one would miss anyway, should they happen to get lost in space and time. And it is amazing, the things you can do with a PC when you install Linux. We sent two machines. One that would scan the future and another that would scan the past. And if a planet ever should pass through exactly the same spot in time where Earth was as they left, the machine would return to me with that data. If machine A and B didn’t find anything I could launch C, D and E etc, standing ready, because the Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way and everything was constantly moving and I just had to find any spot where any planet with breathable atmosphere would pass through the Earths space-time-coordinates. I hope that I’m not getting too technical with you.

Needless to say, I lost 26 machines in the experiment and ran out of letters in the alphabet. It is fortunate that I got so generous sponsors for my project, and selling the patent of the inverted microwave to Ericsson did give me a considerable financial push. They never realized what they really got, how it worked, as long as it worked. In my search for a planet I began to feel like the people on the SETI-project. But a couple of weeks ago, A2, my 27th machine returned. It’s beacon told me that it had come down somewhere in the Stockholm archipelago. It was retrieved within a couple of days, but sadly enough – it had been ruined by the water. The data was unreadable. Finally it struck me what a fool I had been. Even if the data would have been readable, I could not have gone to that planet, since the Earth already had moved on. What a futile experiment it had been! I was angry with myself for not realizing this in the first place. Now I know why we have never met any time traveller before.

If I did go myself, and if I did find another planet, which is unlikely (because space is depressingly empty most of the time), then it would most certainly be a one-way ticket. Who would want to go anywhere on such premises? All this work seem to have been good for nothing. Although time-travelling appears to be possible, it also appears to be absolutely useless unless the machine can move and relate to its relative position in space. This seemed to be an impossible task.

But yesterday a Police Box materialized in my laboratory and guess who came to ask me to quit messing with time! It appears I have overlooked something…

 

me2Wolf von Witting

Fountain of ideas, zen master, dreamer, philosopher, poet, cosmopolitan, polyglot, DJ, gardener, photographer, writer, translator, amateur astronomer.

From Sweden to Italy