Time Machine: Short story

I found a time machine.  It was sitting in the basement of my apartment complex, and I fired it up.  I thought I could cut through a lot of human suffering and misery by going back in time and educating humanity’s ancestors about science.  So I printed a few basic concepts off of the internet and went back in time.

My first stop was ancient Egypt.  I stood out, wearing clothes they’ve never seen before, dyed in a myriad of colors they couldn’t produce.  My skin deathly pale by their standards, my hair light colored, and found everywhere, not just on my head.  I must have looked like a monster.  But I tried my best to tell them about how the sun isn’t a god that is reborn every morning and killed every night.  The sun is a star, and our planet travels around it, spinning to give the sun its path.  I told them that boiling their water would eliminate parasites and germs, leading to a healthier civilization.  I told them that enslaving their neighbors is wrong, and that it eliminates foreign markets which could mutually benefit everyone.  I expected this to change life for them.


It didn’t.  It enraged them.  How dare I compare Ra to the tiny specs of light that take no personal interest in the personal lives of the Egyptians?  Ra breathed life into the world!  How dare I take the blessings of mother Osiris and boil it, as if it were not good enough to pull part of the river god straight form her body?  How dare I question the wise and powerful Pharaoh?  If he needed more slaves to build monuments to his glory, who was I to question that?


So I left ancient Egypt and went to the Dark Ages of Europe.  I told them that the Black Death that was everywhere was caused by germs that lived in fleas, which lived on rats.  Killing all of the cats because they were thought to be witches was eliminating the predator of the rat which spread the plague.  I told them that simply washing your hands before delivering a baby would greatly increase the health of the baby.  I told them that launching war after war because they believed in a slightly different ghost than the people they were fighting was a dumb reason to launch crusade after crusade.  Again I was driven out.  How dare I stand up for the witches?  What kind of evil spell was I casting on the midwives that they had to wash their hands?  Why did I spit in the face of lord and savior Jesus when he needed the armies of Europe to march and destroy everyone not like the people in Europe?  So I left.


I tried all sorts of places with all sorts of helpful advice.  I tried telling the Vikings that human sacrifice doesn’t do much to change barometric pressure, so it won’t bring the rain.  I told early Islam to really nail the specifics of succession down so that later tribes won’t have a few millennia of bloodshed over it.  I tried telling the surf class that they could keep the product of their labor because they outnumber the royalty 99 to 1, and they can bring down the kingdom and raise up a representative government.  I told the early Catholic Church that plundering all of the money from the poorest people in Europe in order to build lavish castles in Italy will probably send the wrong signal about what you’re trying to accomplish.  I tried to tell America’s forefathers to really consider what they were writing down when those slave owners were writing “All men are created equal”.  Didn’t matter where I went, I was constantly driven out.  So I went back home.


The basement of my apartment complex is also where the laundry machines are, and there was a guy doing his laundry there.  I noticed that all of his clothing looked really futuristic, and asked him about it.


“Oh, I see you found my time machine,” he said while tossing some socks into the wash.  “Yeah, I just kind of left it here when I found out it wouldn’t work the way I wanted it to.

“What do you mean?”  I asked him?  “I’ve been all around the world, to all sorts of times.  It works perfectly.”

“Yeah,” he agreed hesitantly.  “But I can’t accomplish what I wanted to do with it.  I tried coming here to warn folks that climate change isn’t a joke, but they responded that a creator ghost from the stone age once put a rainbow in the sky, so climate change can’t be real, the stone age creator ghost won’t let it happen.  Others confessed to being ignorant about science, but disagreed with the experts in climatology anyway because saving the planet is a liberal hoax.  I tried warning people now about how trying to legislate bigotry against gay people has consequences.  Folks here just shrugged it off, saying that it’s not their fault.  Once upon a time, two millennia ago, a ghost from the bronze age said that he really didn’t like gay people.  The ghost said a lot of other things (no tattoos, no shellfish, no mixed fabrics, etc), but we just like the verses that tell us to treat our neighbors as subhuman and ignore the ones that tell us not to do things.  I tried telling folks that education is the key to a brighter future and should be made free to anyone that wants it!   Folks here were offended.  How dare I try to step in with the time honored tradition of strapping poor people with obscene amounts of debt if they want to improve their status in life?  What would this world do with lots of smart people, anyway?  I tried telling folks that income inequality isn’t good for anyone, including the insanely rich.  People said I was destroying the American dream that only 1% of people get to enjoy while 20% go hungry.  I tried telling folks that America doesn’t need to be the world’s police man, they really caused a lot of the problems that they had to fight later on (Castro in Cuba, Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, etc…)  They stared open mouth at me at that one, saying that I should leave right now if I don’t “support the troops”.


I couldn’t argue, I had a similar problem.  “But why did you decide to live out your life here instead of back in your own time?”

He looked at me and laughed.  “Would you live in a world that is the result of your terrible choices now?”