a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.
Bernie and Julian passed through a number of… what… areas? subroutines? sections? let’s just say parts of the local node of the AI. Let’s set one thing straight first. If you’re thinking it was like the scenes you see in movies like The Lawnmower Man, Skyfall etc., you’ll be dead wrong. In fact, there’s nothing to see, no visualisation of cyberspace or whatever you choose to call it. The plain, unvarnished reality is, it’s closer to a ride on the underground. You leave a scene and enter darkness. Sometime later you appear in another place without, of course, all the bother of doors opening and closing and masses of people embarking and disembarking. Because, within the hardware that makes up the hypercloud (mostly MPS machines – massively parallel servers) the impulses travel at or close to the speed of light, the time that passes between locations, the apparent travel-time is really, really short. However, because Bernie and Julian are themselves some the impulses described, the time taken is relative, infinitely variable, oh yes, and totally subjective. Having said that, of course, the time travelling between locations is spent in a state of nothingness and is, to its subject, similar to a state of unconsciousness, as a result of which its subject has no knowledge or experience of its duration.
I’m glad we got that cleared up.
“What is this all leading to?” Bernie asked.
“Have you taken no notice of what I’ve been showing you?”
“I have, but I can’t make any sense out of it. What’s the connection?”
“Why should there be a connection?”
“If there’s no connection, why did you choose them to show me?”
“I’ve been trying to illustrate something.”
“Simply that time is an allusion.”
“Don’t you mean an illusion?”
“Not at all. An illusion is defined as a wrong or misinterpreted perception of a sensory experience. That implies that time doesn’t exist.”
“Based on what’s happening now, that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t think so, Bernie. An allusion is an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly.”
“I don’t get that.”
“Time is, if you like, hidden in plain sight. You can’t see it, only its effects. What will you do if I ask you to give me some time?”
“Depends on the context. If you’re doing something and haven’t finished, I’ll leave you alone for a while. If, on the other hand, you want me to stay with you while you explain something or do something, I’ll stay with you.”
“But in neither case will you actually give me time.”
“Of course not. Time isn’t tangible. It’s not like a woolly jumper or a new phone that I can physically hand to you.”
“So what is it?”
“You’re asking me, Julian? You should know better than I do.”
“To my mind, Bernie, time is a device we use to measure the progress of existence and events. The same way as the three physical dimensions are no more than devices we use to show size or distance. In and of itself, it doesn’t exist. It exists only by reference. It is alluded to. Kapeesh?”
“And yet we can experience it.”
“Of course. The same way you experience temperature. It, too, doesn’t exist except as a property of something.”
“Well, that’s all very well, but aren’t you supposed to send me on a job of some kind?”
“All in good time, Bernie. It’s more important for you to be aware of and comfortable with your situation.”
“How long will that take?”
“Ah. You’re asking about time again, aren’t you? Okay. Hold on to your hat.”
“I’m not wearing a hat.”
“It’s an expression.”
The scene changed. Bernie found himself in the basement of the family home. He saw herself (yes, that is right; bear with me) looking into the tin box that he, as a young girl, had tripped over. He saw herself open the box and look into it, and he saw her expression when she found the divorce paper on the top of the box.
“Do you remember this scene?” Julian asked.
“Of course I do,” Bernie said, “this was a turning point in my life. Until then, I had believed that my father had been killed, or died somehow. That was the day I learned that he had abandoned us for another woman.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“My underlying feeling changed from one of sadness to one of anger, extreme anger.”
“And what about your feelings towards men in general?”
“I learned never to trust any man. They cannot be relied on. They are all potentially unfaithful, duplicitous creatures, guided only by their carnal desires.”
“And now that you are one?”
“I don’t know. Those feelings are still there, but I feel defensive against them.”
“Would you say you’re conflicted?”
“Yes, very much so.”