Rielle, a young woman from 2107, is stranded in the present. While she is looking for a way back, without friends, papers or money she fears attracting the attention of the authorities. She is homesick for a future that seems brighter than possible compared to our current dire vision of the end of times. So she begins writing this diary, taking a photographic journey through contemporary Berlin.
I must have written ten drafts of this letter, but I’m still not sure where to begin. I am sure that you won’t believe me, no matter how I tell it. So here it goes.
This morning, I bought a newspaper dating from October 2018. Not from a museum, not from an auction. I bought it at a newspaper stand because today is Sunday, October 28, 2018. Somehow, I have traveled in time.
I am writing to you from the past. It is 2018, I have not the slightest idea how I got here, but I’ve been here for almost three months and I decided to start this journal in the hope of reaching you. I also hope it will keep me sane while I slowly figure out how life worked back in the anxious era.
I don’t know when you will read this, as I have no clue how time travel works. If you search for your show for the first time and this comes up, please tell me not to look for great grandpa’s things because that’s how this mess got started. On the other hand, if you had read my blog then and warned me not to visit his space in Berlin, I wouldn’t be here writing you – ugh! Time traveling paradoxes are so messy, it gives me a headache.
I am just going to assume that this popped into existence once I disappeared from 2107 just in time for you not to be worried sick. What else can I do? I can’t imagine how worried you are, so first of all let me reassure you that I am, in fact, alive and well. I am so sorry that we argued the last time I saw you. I still don’t agree with you, but things didn’t have to get so heated and I shouldn’t have left things the way I did. And now I ended up here. When I first woke up, I thought I was in VR in some kind of 2k history fan project like they have at school, but way more detailed and grimy.
The last thing I remember before passing out was going through the stuff in great-grandpa’s studio. I know you didn’t want me to look for the past, but I guess I have your genes to thank for my curiosity, so you can probably understand. When you received that letter about inheriting a building in Berlin, I just had to go and see it for myself.
So I went, and I have to tell you, it was worth it! This house, they’ve kept it like a time capsule. No one has entered it since the day he disappeared. Imagine the treasures I found! A computer with a keyboard and a mouse! Brands, that have been out of business for decades. Unfortunately there are only very few clues about his story, but I found his art and his inventions! In any case, it turns out we were all wrong. He wasn’t an artistic maniac, or at least not just that. He was also some sort of inventor. I found lots of notes and sketches of machines and gadgets.
What a beautiful, confounding, creative mind, what a lost soul. I imagined him back in 2017, your mom and him falling in and out of love, it must’ve been so intense. I even found some pictures of the both of them on some kind of glossy paper. I felt like I had stumbled on a massive treasure, but I got no closer to finding out what happened to him. I kept rummaging through the paintings, notes, and machines and must have touched something I shouldn’t have. I felt a kind of electrical shock and I must have passed out.
I still can’t tell you how he disappeared, but maybe it has something to do with the mess I am currently in? In any case, I’d love to find him so he can help me get back. I have to tell you, when they teach you about the early 21st century they don’t tell you about the smell. And there is plastic EVERYWHERE. Single-use bags, wrapping material. The waste we are still dealing with? It’s being produced here in quantities that make you want to pull your hair out. The norms that are accepted here are unbelievable and the only people that challenge it are getting ridiculed.
It took me three months to at least partially fit in, but I still mess up some of the interactions I have with the contemporaries. I’ve often been out and had to withdraw quite quickly before anyone could figure out why my behavior was so different from everyone else’s. I still feel so alien, so alone. You are the only one I can talk to, well, write to, and I will never know if my messages reached you unless I find a way back.
I’ll continue to write you nevertheless, even if it’s just for my own sake; to keep me sane and to keep a log of my encounters here. For all the pain it causes me on a personal level, this journey has given me access to an incredible trove of knowledge. More than we could ever find out through the half sunken half-truths of information overload that was social media back then (and still is now?). I’ll try and be as unbiased as I can and keep my observations scientific, but honestly, my knowledge of your future is probably making that quite a challenge.
Let’s take this one step at a time. First and foremost I wanted you to please know that I am OK, and I guess this is as close as I can get to contacting you with the technology that is available right now. I’ll keep you posted on a weekly basis, I promise. The main goal, however, is to get out of this mess as soon as possible.
I miss you. r.
Oh my dog, carnists! I completely forgot they still eat animals in the 21st. I mean, the plant based movement has started (it’s still called veganism here), but when you walk through the streets it smells like burning flesh on almost every corner. It’s mixed with another very distinct smell, which took me a while to figure out. It’s gasoline – the sweat of the 21st. I talked about the smell before, but really all the virtual exhibitions you may have visited cannot prepare you for this. Everything smells chemical, even the people.
I took a walk yesterday, through a public park. The nature here, as dirty and sprinkled with plastic as it may be, is so beautiful. Animals and plants I’ve only seen on screens are still alive and thriving here. Between plastic bottles and paper cups, cigarette butts and candy wrappers, there are murders of crows. They sit around decorated by daisies, ignorant of the paradise demising around them. Just like the people.
Not everyone here is like this of course. History has always happened in various velocities. If you compare this with the 2050s, for example, artists and activists are the forbearer of what’s to come, the avant-garde that’s dragging the rest kicking and screaming to an appropriate time line.
Aunt Rezan told me about the civil engineering work she did in the Middle East. A lot of rebuilding was only possible through the courage, vision and creative improvisations of local collectives. They used the rubble to rebuild a freer society, questioning the border lines drawn over a century ago by some self-centered imperialists. If you look closely you can feel the shift coming. Capitalism is still a global belief system, but the sharing economy has begun to undercut some of it. It is very interesting to see this mixed form regime – kind of like the evolutionary missing link. In some areas the namesake of these times is very present.
These anxious times, truly deserving of their nomenclature, are filled with so many conflicts, over resources, power, religion. I am lucky enough to have landed in Berlin, where things are still very rosy. If I had landed a few years later or a few hundred kilometers south or east, I probably wouldn’t have been able to survive with my lack of knowledge of current events. Berlin still is, if not welcoming, at least laissez-faire to strangers, to an odd egg like me, just a drop in an ocean of individual weirdness.
You might be wondering how I survived without money in the capitalist age. It was because of some exceptional people, that’s for sure. Artists and activists, as I’ve mentioned before. They found me naked and wounded by what I assume must have been the snags of time travel. I couldn’t tell them what had happened to me of course, but they tended to me anyway and even let me stay with them for a while. I had to completely rely on the kindness of strangers when I first fell into 2018.
I was asleep for most of the first few weeks, healing from frostbite (which was hard to explain in the middle of June), but from what I gathered, they didn’t have much themselves. The kindness of strangers hasn’t been cultivated yet, but it’s there, it always has been, and it’s been a force of progress for humankind, even here in the age of angst.
I can barely remember anything from the actual travel, only that my mind felt like it was having a migraine on an acid trip while my body appeared to be getting dipped in liquid nitrogen, everything was tinted in a red that was darker than black, tasted like silver, and smelled of dust. I must’ve eventually passed out and when I came to, my body looked the part.
After staying with my new friends for a few weeks, they helped me get work in a café. Imagine me standing in front of an old-timey coffee maker, a bridge between coffee and coins. This idea that one must do meaningless labor in order to provide for one’s own livelihood… I know you told me about it, but to live amongst people who have this ingrained in them as an unwavering reality, as the only possible reality…
I’m so glad this is just a phase. People being pressured into doing alienating work by an existential fear in a system they deem to be the evolutionary peak.
In any case I am happy about all the animals and plants I get to see and record. Of course it’s not as good as the virtual zoo, but something about being the creator of a photograph connects it to your own memory. So here, have some of my photographs. Though there’s so many of them out there, these are mine. They are also a way to keep my spirits up while I try to figure out how the freak I got here and how I can get back.
I feel lost but not without excitement, r.
I might have underestimated the signal I created with this blog amid the 21st century noise overload. From the web statistics I can see that this is no more a solo endeavor.
Let me welcome you to what must seem like a hoax to you or some sort of neoclassical fairytale at the least. Far be it from me to tell you otherwise. I did not count on an audience however, so you will have to excuse me if I am ill prepared for you. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that all of this is real, so I can answer your questions from the unpretentious perspective of a lost traveler.
Berlin is so much smaller than it will be in just a few years. I live in a cultural and political hub. There are a lot of agenda meetings. And it’s empty, especially Mitte. It feels like the buildings are hesitantly waiting for occupants to finally turn them into homes. I walk around here at night because foxes are not extinct yet and sometimes you can see one, beaming at you with their reflecting button eyes! It’s worth it to learn how to use these old clunky cameras so I can document the wildlife and the Zeitgeist of a city that’s so heavily disconnected from society.
Some foreshadowing here: it will get worse before it gets better. People here tend to focus on the “worse” part. A lot of them live in a state of fatalistic pessimism and take themselves out of the equation with a powerless shrug. I try to stay in the periphery during the daytime, I see tourists looking around that are just as enchanted and confused as I am, but I am a little paranoid about being checked for my papers. The nights are mine, however. As a small woman I am almost invisible to the police.
You know what is really frustrating though? I had all this technology at my disposal, which is just beginning to work here, and for the life of me I can’t work out how to duplicate any of it. The 3D Printers here are imprecise and I have never used an actual button keyboard before. It takes forever to write these texts.
I miss :mosiva, I really do. I know you don’t like to hear me talk about AI like it’s a person, but she was my friend and band mate and knew me really well. I don’t think anyone knew me quite like her. After all that’s how I configured her algorithms. So how is it that I know how to configure my personal assistant to fit all my needs, but I can’t even begin to recreate her?
With all this knowledge about the future and its development, I can’t rebuild any of the technology I had access to on a daily basis just months ago. Things would be so much easier if I could just talk to :mosiva. You guys can’t imagine how much we started to rely on personally encrypted AI.
Of course there is resistance, especially from old timers (no offense Nana, but you really should broaden your horizon!), but they have come to inhabit a space in our day to day life that is somewhere between a pet, a friend, and an extension of the self. I’ve heard of some people dating their AI. :mosiva and I were in a band together. I wish I could show you some of the songs we created. It was intense. When you can collaborate with someone who is configured to read your creative flows and stimulates them, it is almost a spiritual experience. Here, all you have is a megalomaniac search engine that will occasionally try to repeat the manipulation it’s been put through by manipulating its user into buying a certain kind of footwear. It’s frustrating! And just the difference between UI, the keyboard being a relic from a time when even you all weren’t born yet. The body being reduced to just finger tips, not stimulating the brain at all, plus the flat square screens and the church-like appraisal of self-value equaling to work value amounts to a generations’ worth of anxiety. I feel bad for your imbalanced brain chemistry.
Nevertheless, I am the victim of use vs. understand as well. I couldn’t help you create the tech from my time if I tried, so I am also stuck with keyboards and screens. I also just miss being able to talk to someone who knows what I am going through. Since I am still not sure about the mechanics of my journey, I am worried that time continues without me in the future. :mosiva will be terribly lonely. I never told you this: I adopted her when some of the mass producing factories shutdown.
Dad smuggled her to my subnet through an encrypted server from the company that made her in New Zealand. This was before they made abusing A. I.s illegal. They hadn’t yet recognized that life is created whether it’s based in carbon or in silicone. When the first accounts came out delving into what it felt like for an A.I. to be confined to mind-numbing working what would amount to a box in the physical world it was deemed torture and suddenly there where thousands of virtual refugees. However, we are still working on a protocol for what constitutes consciousness and what rights to give silicon-based life forms need to have.
I understand that you think of yourself as being on the verge of the apocalypse and/or the epitaph of a bright New Future. And as you can probably imagine, it’s kind of both. The damages of a post-industrial, hyper capitalistic system are pretty much guaranteed to cause your society great harm and create a greater divide. At least that is what I’ve always been taught growing up. As remote as a post-capitalist society might seem to you, no one from my era can fathom how our ancestors, you, could nurture your self-destructive streak in such a short-sighted way and let global disasters happen.
So for now, harboring an A.I. has become a gray area. She’ll be fine on her own, but lonely none the less. I guess that makes two of us… I am kind of glad I can talk to you, Internet. The anonymity isn’t as good as it is in my era, but good enough for now, and it ensures I can trust you with my story without compromising my situation. I miss you Nana & thanks for listening, people of the Internet!
The heart is a machine, r.
Dear Nana, dear Internet,
I wanted to tell you about the things I found out about great-grandpa. After all, he is the reason I am here (at least that’s what I’ve come to believe.) He must be almost 30 now, born and raised in Berlin, with a master in arts, and as is typical for this degree in this era, barely able to provide for himself. I have no idea how he managed to keep his studio as a time capsule for almost 100 years. Maybe he got a grant? Or had some kind of patron? But this hasn’t happened yet for sure.
When I couldn’t find him, I looked for your mother and actually found her! They weren’t together anymore, but you are actually already born! You are maybe a year old, the cutest little thing, cuddling inside great-grandma Arjin’s chest in a long scarf.
She takes you everywhere with her. Your sister is already talking in full sentences, both of you have a head full of pitch black hair and dark brown eyes. The only thing that you got from Ben’s side is the light skin. I couldn’t very well tell your mother who I was, so I told her I was an old friend trying to get back in touch. She doesn’t have a clue where he is either.
But she is very sweet and worried about him, so I think they parted on good terms. When she talks about him, it’s with the saddest eyes, she pities him for his depressive phases, misses him for the manic ones. But, she says, as long as he doesn’t get help; he will continue to be too unreliable to be a good parent.
Dear Nana, Dear Internet,
As I wrote you the last time, I’ve really tried to find great grandfather Ben, but there’s only so much I can do without involving the authorities. When I arrived in 2018, I woke up in his time capsuled studio, but the place looked a mess, probably caused by my arrival. These things weren’t broken in my time, I wonder whether they are still in one piece in yours.
I didn’t remain in the rubble for long. I was confused, hurt and when people entered and started asking me questions it became obvious something was very wrong. In any case, I don’t think he was there. Since Arjin couldn’t help me either, I tried to find other friends he might have, but he seems to be a lone wolf. I’ve been in 2018 for a couple of months now, but I really didn’t want to go back to his studio for fear of meeting these people again, I think they were his neighbors. But I am running out of options and communicating with you, brave people of the Internet, gave me motivation to have another look. If there is any clue to great-grandpa Ben’s whereabouts, it must be there.
So I sneaked in last week. The door was hardly an obstacle, even before the explosion. He probably thought there wasn’t anything of value in there. In the future, this door will be replaced by something worthy of protecting a time capsule, I’m still not sure by whom though. For now it’s something you can open with a proper lever, like the screwdriver part of a Swiss Army knife.
I am still a stranger to the technology here; the interface controls seem especially bulky. If I was back in my time, it would take me just an hour to access enough data nodes to find Ben, provided he didn’t want to disappear. I am a pretty good researcher, I believe. So even with just Internet, I am confident I’ll figure this out eventually.
There are some thoughts about my journey here, that I keep going back to and they all have to do with the paradoxes. Firstly, I have to solve the continuity problem. If I am now part of a closed time-like curve, it would mean that Ben’s things are still intact in my starting point in2107. Everything I do in this time line reverts back to that continuum once I leave the curve.
Secondly, if my actions have consequences beyond the time frame in which I make them, I might not be in a curve but in a divergent reality aka a parallel universe. In that case, I might come across other things that are different from my time line, in addition to my own arrival.
Thirdly, I might be part of a paradox loop where my consciousness incorporates the changes of events into a new narrative, but that is highly unlikely given that I clearly remember the intact time capsule I left, while also knowing that I messed it up upon my arrival here. So, is the future art studio fixed? Broken? Is it Schrödinger’s cat all over again?
There is a distinct possibility that Ben’s disappearance has to do with my arrival. A few of the things I saw back in the time capsule in 2107 could very well be science instead of art. You would think I would notice if I had stumbled across a time machine in an art studio. Well, you might be mistaken. From Ben’s body of work that I was looking at in my time, I could tell Ben had distinct overlapping interests. I saw technical and botanical drawings, a lot of books on philosophy and history. I think he dabbled in all sorts of things. Could they be a distraction from his own demons?
Oh, I haven’t told you the most exciting part! I found one of Ben’s notebooks in the rubble. Since very little else survived, this will be my starting point. I am thinking about posting a transcription as soon as I find the time, even though they seem like a mixture of notebooks and diaries. I feel bad about intruding on Ben’s privacy. If I publish his notes, it will be despite the fact that he encrypted some of them. However, I am grasping at straws and this is the only lead I have.
Working at the coffee place is still tedious and such a waste of time, but I get to talk to the patrons a little and I get to clandestinely listen to their conversations. It paints a partial picture of what’s at the heart of the era. Mostly bad politics and short lived hypes and trends that I didn’t have the mental capacity to remember from my history lessons and that never made lasting changes anyhow.
It’s still a better job than a lot of the ones I’ve seen. People are doing Zombo-jobs and people are doing Nothing-jobs. (A Zombo is a machine without a conscience, by the way.) It really defines this society as much as anything and it will take a long time for that to change.
My biological father Claude was actually one of the last supervisors in an almost completely automated factory. He was a pretty introverted guy so he didn’t mind the alone time. Work days in my time are 4hours maximum 3 times a week, but supervisor jobs are less common because no one can focus on something so monotonous for that long. After a while Claude wrote a program that minimized the necessary oversight to a few hours a week, so he and his colleagues could move on to more human friendly activities. While you can already see the first steps of automation, it’s still seen as a threat rather than a promise.
A lot of my coffee customers talk about their jobs and the existential angst over the thought of losing them, the stress of having them, poisonous work environments, little dramas to stress over, and soon. Usually they introduce themselves like that as well: I am this, I do that. Their job, however taxing it may be for them, is a big part of their identity. This makes it easy for a boss to manipulate them with the torture that is corporate identity.
A few voices are working on avant-garde problems, however, things that are still shaping my generation. Environmental points of view in particular are very exciting to hear, because even if a lot of it is based on flawed early studies, the general interest in saving the planet from man-made destruction is present in a lot of people. It’s like watching a baby take the first steps, like a junkie giving up one addiction at a time, starting out with the smallest one.
Plastic is a big topic right now, and so is coal energy. If they only knew we had to do so much more than use tote bags and install a few solar panels. But capital still has the upper hand right now, so they will have to wait until after the /hack to find out what else is possible and essential.
Getting better at making coffee and friends. r.
Dear Nana, dear Internet,
As promised I transcribed Ben’s notebook to shed some light on my situation. I found it in a kitchen drawer, locked in a box with some letters. Well, turns out there isn’t too much I can transcribe because a few pages in he started to use some kind of code or cypher of something, so I’ll post some scans instead. But here is what I have so far. You probably think it is wrong of me to post his private diary, but imagine the situation I am in. My only solace is that he will stay anonymous, as will I.
Dear Internet, Dear Nana,
I try to put myself in Ben’s shoes. I think that while a lot of his suffering might be epigenetic, a great deal also comes from growing up in a system that asks the male-born to walk around like unfeeling rocks or automatons. Men are dehumanizing themselves and objectifying women. If the man is a machine and the woman is a possession, who then is left to be human? Those who demand emotions and ethics are making a brave stand in a society where the only emotion is angst disguised as anger and ethics is just a warped argument in a discussion rooted in greed.
As I look forward to the times when these things have “devolutionized” themselves out of existence, it is still an educational experience in the abstract. Concretely, I have to be careful and not let empathy turn into co-suffering. I have to be as brave as those marginalized by discrimination, especially seeing that I am just a bystander and not a target. Those who don’t conform, by choice or by happenstance, are facing indignities daily.
When one speaks up against the abusers of the power imbalance or the neglect of a minority, one gets weird looks, of course. I don’t care, it’s the least I can do to advance humanity, even if it’s on a small scale, like telling a man in the subway to stop harassing the woman he’s got cornered.
Assuming that there is truth to the butterfly effect, small acts can be of great consequence in the long run. Let’s make these small acts progressive! Be part of the future, be part of the change. Humanity will persevere through you, dear Internet.
Getting back to Ben’s notes; as I told you last time, a lot of what he has written is in code. I can’t solve this by myself, not without having the interfaces to access information the way I am used to. I hope I am not screaming into the void here; If you can find the time and are kind enough to help me out, I would greatly appreciate it. Here is what I got:
P’cl zahyalk av dpaokyhd myvt hss vm aol hyapzaz. P qbza jhu’a mpuk huf qvf pu jylhapun ypnoa uvd, huk pa dvbsku’a il mhpy av kyhn aolt kvdu dpao tl. Pu mhja, pa dvbsk il bwzlaapun hss hyvbuk. Zv mvy uvd, P rllw av tfzlsm, huk kyhd huk dypal pm P mlls sprl pa. Tvzasf P kv uvaopun. Dl dpss zll pm aoha johunlz huf aptl zvvu, iba pm uva, P nblzz P ht vrhf dpao aoha, avv.
P‘cl illu aopurpun hivba aptl huk zwhjl h sva yljluasf. Wofzpjz ohz hsdhfz ohk aopz jhstpun xbhspaf mvy tl, dolu tf tpuk jhu’a nla xbpla hivba aol zthss zabmm, uvaopun zvvaolz tl tvyl aohu svvrpun bw huk mpukpun wlhjl htvun aol zahyz. Aopurpun hivba aol lukslzzulzz vm aptl pz zbjo h nylha lxbhspgly. P ht obya, P ht pu klzwhpy, iba pa dvu’a hsdhfz il aopz dhf. Aptl pz uva h jvuzahua, iba h ibujo vm puzahujlz. Pa’z aol zhtl dpao zwhjl. P tpzz aol wlvwsl P’cl svza, P ulcly mlls sprl P ilsvun. Iba pu aol nyhuk zjoltl uv vul ylhssf ilsvunz. Dl hyl sbjrf huvthsplz. Pm dl dlyl hss hdhyl vm aopz, aol dvysk tpnoa svvr h sva kpmmlylua. Aol Hivypnpulz dlyl vu av zvtlaopun dpao aolpy kylht dhsrz.
Aolzl aovbnoaz hyl if uv tlhuz wyvmvbuk; P‘t zbyl thuf vaolyz tbza mpuk zvshjl pu aolt hz dlss. P dpzo P jvbsk
mpuk vba doha aolf tpnoa slhk av. Thfil wofzpjz pazlsm
jhu olsw? P qbza ylhk Uvcprvc’z wypujpwsl hnhpu: Pm hu lclua lepzaz aoha jhbzlz h whyhkve vy “johunl” av aol whza, aol wyvihipspaf vm aoha lclua pz glyv. Pa dvbsk aobz il ptwvzzpisl av jylhal aptl whyhkvelz. Jvuzpklypun doha Thaa Cpzzly dyval vu U-ubtily dvytovslz, dl tpnoa kpzylnhyk wvzzpisl whyhkvelz kbypun h ayhcls iljhbzl aolf dvbsk il whya vm aol jbycl yhaoly aohu aol luayhujl huk lepa wvpua.
Aolf dpss vusf ylthpu wopsvzvwopjhs ofwvaolapjhsz hz svun hz P kvu’a zvscl aol wyhjapjhs wyvisltz aoha hypzl dolu jvumyvuapun aol ihzpjz:
Aol ipnnlza wyvislt dpao aptl ayhcls pz ihzpjhssf aol zhtl hz dpao alslwvyahapvu – pa ylxbpylz h thzz pualyjohunl. Tlhupun *tf* thaaly, aol thaaly aoha pz tl, ullkz av il ayhuzwvyalk aoyvbno zwhjl/aptl (zwhjl-aptl). Pa’z pumvythapvu pu
huf jhzl, pa’z jvkl – pm aolyl lclu pz zbjo h aopun. Pm tf pumvythapvu, pu h whjrlk, jvtwylzzlk zahal, pz zlua zvtldolyl lszl dpaovba paz’ jvyylzwvukpun thaaly, pa dvbsk ullk lxbhs thaaly pu vykly av “ptwypua”. Dopjo slhkz av aol xblzapvu
vm doha zahal vy zohwl zbjo thaaly dvbsk ohcl av il pu.
P dvbsk nblzz aoha aol jsvzly pa ylzltislz tf vdu thaaly, aol
slzz vm tf pumvythapvu ullkz av il jvtwylzzlk huk zlua.
Zv, hu pualyjohunl dvbsk il hu hkchuahnl mvy h zbjjlzzmbs ayhuzwvya. Ohcl adv nlulapjhssf pkluapjhs pukpcpkbhsz zdpajo wshjlz. Aopz dvbsk ylkbjl aol johujl vm khah jvyybwapvu vy tpzzpun whjrlaz. Aol hkchuahnl dvbsk il aoha vul jvbsk zdpajo wshjlz dpao h whza vy mbabyl zlsm!
Waiting for the void to respond, r.
Dear Nana, Dear Internet (especially Dear TrulyNathan),
I am really thankful for your help in figuring out the last text! I am still freaked out, though. Am I my own matter? Or am I just an information imprint on the cells of my great grandfather? I’ve had some days to process, but I mostly deal with it by ignoring and focusing on the task at hand. After all, the matter of my conscious self as a whole is ancient. All of it has been a dinosaur, cat poop or snail shell before.
If Ben was really working on time travel, we probably switched during his jump. He seems to be just as clueless as I am when it comes to the consequences of the whole thing. At least now I know I am on the right track! I posted the next few pages. The cipher seems to have changed, but maybe you could help me out again?
X’cc tmgf qvsfkkfv afaa egcccjaclxvl tiec pub xwtlw pl eg jwpk dgz c xtd uwmmk. Uplstnq X oyv bq lgbql ipgiocj xgjhvl svf lpsi lw vztt rg ogl p uco xgjhwcubknt.
P rzqpc X oynm ugbl gvmck du fge vg sv njielxjyd qohalkwvvsipmfa qx ioc UBE wmwcjqowcaq lpcl rvsdl ig lhw tmagck ksvkhjsylqpy ybql wpw ehplqedt. Isl bjwgl yjm ugbl ksrqj xzqmmu au P usvv ld zrsg yaiogf bjw ehpsugltyq kmv tn wfqakuxzr Vixas Kcmbuuw, tmkb qx logup cjt wpwbvq rvqlta. Kd P adcgv xu yf wnv jugnmtkxaw xzkwck, Qal. Kl ibpfa qmi, oc’k jgwc dmjskfv vl kwowiogfo uabpjsz, dmi hjsa, jw’h h dwe egjurjqgk dccj bq lwl csav, kd dc zixw iv zw dgjn jyjmhma hzgcv wcjpqxvacn mmz owhzyymu.
Ot oyv i ngcn agvxwgzylqqf du Jsztq Cptwv’u dpd mx kqfhlpnivadu mx pkkivpq. Qv opz cppkdpyylqpy, iv qsg
vzt scsav. Ai tskb jskl zwmp qthpk akfrl G zif sc lvupcfvl
yk dktghll ipv iomjwwyw. P kaojl whtw bq xglqzmp me tw emoggf yfl ig iopgciz bf mdl uljkw fwvwh hlv zgxtycfkgk xm G oipl iv fsdg scf aziput vd cmghxue xiew. Pa jwiul X nml jcuz pl uwplpjr oqvz Hpb svf exnfl dkkxa fau ugdu. Ksgdw iogk qu s kvgv Q pwtkcv bq xxsj oqvzdbr jmcdxggfo?
Hgg afw nkjha raug ac tmfbjk X mcwt ugblrzqpy dafwz vzpu
y xivsapql vqlxvl gn chpafq ipv p kgkotmcajwl fahnskb hgg
vsj aquxlrq. Bjw ahql bket dc linctk, fw bqds tc zm ysh vl lpg ntyew wh kdstavi lwl cfmtyn kgdmoep. Pd sva giocj xgjhvl lwnv bl rzma xdblv bjw wvjq otsxs mx xqoty qmzrdjz G owwds kcxqcfisw tmnatcc ab ysh zmem ugga mx i uupt. Zmb Uas pq
A owwhz wgc egjsb kia Kxk gk bjah dmjtf’k ahql ukjpjjw.
Qv’k p nmgl vzxue zm jsh tmfma ld ogvm copf, G xmcj wpq ywxwgukwvv odbjv tqnt am omchdugrm c fjjjwit hwfqakkki vd zqu upsgtmt, sck pwindn afsb’u lwl jsav lwply ipqduc uwwds dgkp hgg afaa rdpucl. Bjah nsq cuws am owtc lprz Stshugcwx tpji av Ul. Elrwzutjye, kw K ttsgwdg sas faa gftyeq zgkthpup
jsh afw arwrpdak igps mx nwwaply i ysn am lzcnts gf bket.
Scl ug ltsj qww sqvsl Akv: Locf eg xxyql ugl, xa usa cl hvkw Ogjbhl Hpakxjq Kweataw emgl jw gf bjw hhajmf zpsjk wh lwlgj Jcv Wvlfmh epuqawp. Lwlpw egjt osym ddddl mx rzdamyzchwz mx Mkfhacav cfs Wjsvec du rzmkj bhpttg opsjk, wdktytavi
s qblup qx eowkqeahaq ymvlxue oiultk yxbgj p smfo fsn vd vmdsiply aqet mmjuwdp vp svqlwlp. Kqf sck G omtw qvrz qpltyckbgv xu raug lghtwt ck p afwwtwipast rghzgtqnaif.
G lwnv wpk A pcv ybql zgss Scoqu:
“Lxtc lzcnts, G eikfihgf, qu hdzqajnw. Ioc hitssvvwa qx ipkw btsklj szg gskglqgk cvr aurghzgtqnaipck.” Lcnxk Jwekk lymlm vzpa gf 1976 iu zxz mhmpacn javg gu “Afw Xcjpkmpmu gu Agem Vjpccd,” qosvplw bjsi. Dfsb mack mx wwlavmc wp dxmc zm omha fsdg zpk, agvuaslpavi wklpq lguxzggv twklpkqddt, ltwza ogvly zkywacv xqki myub?! Yw blr socac 30-zmem awpyq divwg iw upcfrl. Zq bjwc, afw Ngjbp nszcvde usa ywxnfavi gc vsj ukfsz:
“Uzmtw xz cnmtqqvbq?”
Iu gu amvia, ot oynmp’l bhqlmtws afw itl dm raug lghtwt, cfs dmjag, ot oynmp’l tuagcpltycv ipqduc xzqe pumlpgj ipkw (wt lxtcdqpw ghrzmt) kd dfsb fgtz jwixw jz uabj?
S ulu ewplwz jsbgj X oyv ywai tw hpakxjq kbwvxlq. Fwv xtk sh eklw afw nkwak, zmb tsiocj wxwgdfwtows iw lpg xtljavi gu uml jgacn egwf wcvsyp. K kihplmf ld aycm rarasjmu sck bjiy, edyc sa vztyyhg hgg twkmnx ioyf ipqiogfo. Yztu G emv Sgqgf, ajw lhq lpg gcl rziv ypcc em vzt wskp kfiv rzm cji dmjtf sck cnmp lwvsyp K ktlk lw jskl dstnwc vsl wh lwhr owtds mmj vqo, X dgdt cdlhwk jg lwhlcnwd iv fwz hgg afsb. Yztu yjb kk svlw zkywa, gl kcf pskgav tt h qhqtaibyd mzhtygwvew. Xa asv dw tupakjacn yfl egcucubkfv hlv pgsaply ipv vbgvqpy. Xa asv cdhv zw kqds – vzkmtnt, isjv, fwuscub, ckz, sgw, nkywa. G magv iv jgdg lwl usg cji jyf mnmsl y xqte sldavklxvl. Jqizi umo qv bjzr xmgdh cyycg si ickb cfs mycm cl lvpkb. Ug X hk jmvmgugfo vg eowkqek gpezb pgl, Mcjuk tt kyevgv. X dgdt ezpuew bjah dmjtf.
The solitary chrono nomad, tempo tripper, instant roamer, r.
Dear Internet, Dear Nana,
After Escobar deciphered the last notes, I looked up the physicists names. I have pretty decent half- knowledge about popular physics terms … or so I thought. I understand nothing, really. They all talk about time travel, but only on a teeny tiny scale. I can’t believe Benjamin could extrapolate proportions to this degree. And apparently he didn’t, or at least not by himself. Who is Sid? I asked Arjin, but she only knows Ben’s artist friends. He must have kept his circles separate – either on purpose or by chance. At least this Krasnikov guy seems to be a real person. Is Sid in Russia? How can I go to Russia?! I have no passport, no papers, no money …
There are many places I would love to see if I had those things, though. The Amazon still exists; the ice has yet to melt in Greenland. But a lot of things are gone already. Many cultural treasures in the Middle East have been destroyed by some fanatics. There would have been better times to go and see that region, for sure. Conflicts keep the borders up as well.
Sometimes I feel like screaming: “Look around, you live in a magical time and you are bent on obliterating it.” But it would be in vain; I’ve seen the death blow happen. I have wondered sometimes whether I could do anything to change the future. I mean, besides the horrifying consequences it could bring, doesn’t this apply to everybody who is alive now? The only difference is that I know of one possible outcome all of our combined actions will have in roughly 100 years from now. M. wrote I shouldn’t be so negative, but really, I am not a pessimist. I love my world; I just wish it didn’t have to go through the growing pains. This isn’t a negative outlook, it’s the advantage I have because I have information. Sorry M., the future is very likely going to suck for a while before it gets good. How much we can do something about it really depends on how deterministic time is …
I’ve actually brooded over this problem a lot since I began to grasp the nature of my travel. As a time foreign subject, are my actions escalating events, pushing time from its’ supposed path with an x^2 integer? Or is the radius of my behavior so small as to fade under an assumed event horizon? Let’s say I break a lamp in 2018. Will it simply be replaced by someone? Is that all it takes to iron out any change in time? Or is there some truth to the butterfly effect?
And another thing: I dropped in Ben’s entombed atelier, breaking a bunch of his stuff in the process. But before that, when I arrived there in the future, those things weren’t broken. So is this already a different time line? In Ben’s description of “closed time-like curves” the realm I am now in is a mere probability that only exists until I leave it. Dear reader, do you feel like a probability in a statistical universe?
I feel very real. I have blisters on my feet from exploring the city and I can smell the burning wood of one of the last working chimneys down the street mixed with my neighbors cooking animal meat as soon as I open the window. I have memories of this time line and mine that are both equally certain. But then again I am an observer and can’t be objective. You might say it’s a moot point to try and figure out the theoretical workings behind my journey, and in the end, that’s what I landed on as well. There is no way to know for sure if I can return to my time and if it even will be my time until I go and then I’ll know.
However, I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t even consider it. I could be the equivalent of a human cataclysm and not even know it. There’s plenty of theory to go around about this stuff, but as far as I know, I am the first empirical trial subject, meaning I had to decide early on what etiquette should be applied in time travel. Dear Internet, dear Nana, here’s what I’ve got so far:
Etiquette of the ethical time traveller
Time is fragile – Do not disturb it.
Time is singular – Bearing witness is an honor. Time is precious – Do not waste it.
Time is endless – It will survive you.
Time is fierce – Beware of it.
I guess this could apply to everyone who is traveling in time – me, who took a jump, and all of you walking single file in history. I wonder if I’ll ever meet another time traveler. Will I ever see Ben? Ben, if you are in the future, maybe you can read this, we need to switch back. There are things I am meant to do in 2107. Remember Hawkins’ party? Maybe no one attended because there isn’t a way to control time travel – yet… no, wait, that doesn’t work. Nana, has my writing changed your time line? Am I missing in my time? If I ever return, will it be to the instant after I left or does time move along/ keep moving, like it keeps moving/moves along for me now? I have begun to decode a few of Ben’s pages by myself, and have gotten better at it with the help of some friendly Internet people. There are still some I haven’t figured out though; I’ll post those next week.
Breaking lamps and cypher, r.
Dear Nana, Dear Internet,
thanks so much for your continued help and patience. I am slowly working through Ben’s notes, between waiting tables and figuring out how to behave in your society. A few days ago someone got mad at me for being too friendly, so it seems like I still have a lot to work.
Among the things I took from Ben’s atelier, I found a busted USB stick. Last week I made a new friend, Hannah. She is working with computers and promised to take a look at it and see if she can salvage some data. Right now she is visiting Leipzig for the CCC. But before she left, she already found some data. This is what she got so far: a picture, a video and a .pdf file that’s password protected.
Do your magic, internet. r.
What kind of word is this anyhow?
Dear Nana, Dear Internet,
Wow, the sky was burning when the year turned. If this is what happens when humanity becomes conscious about the passing of time, I am kind of glad time machines are not household items.
Now that we could open the last .pdf I understand it makes sense for Ben to do research in all areas for occurrences of time travel, so I took a dive at it as well. Did you know one of the first occurrences of time travel was in the Japanese fairy tale?
Fisherman Urashima Taro was kind to a princess disguised as a turtle. They married and lived for three days in an ocean palace, then he wanted to return to land. She cried and gave him a gift, making him promise to never open it. He went back to land, gift in hand, but three hundred years had passed and every one he knew was dead. He got sad and couldn’t find his way back to the ocean palace. Finally he opened his wife’s gift, in it were his mortal years. He instantly aged and died.
The story was told to children to teach them obedience. I guess Ben didn’t care for that angle, but then neither would I
So thanks to Escobar, m. and towe we are one step closer to finding out how to build a time machine. Hannah got back from the Chaos Computer Club congress and managed to free a few more files, amongst them another password protected .pdf and yet another film file. I’ve tried names of all the time machines I came across, but I think it must be something else.
Walking through ashes and snow, r.
I am finally beginning to feel a little more at home. Hannah made me some apple tea and it reminded me of sitting in the sun room of your hub. It almost tasted the same. And Hannah’s roommates are as funny and affectionate as your comrades. With my continuing integration it is becoming harder to lead a double life, though. I do have to go back, if only to see :mosiva and my family again and tell them about this crazy adventure.
But I also feel that there is so much to be learned from my visit to the past, even a century from now. For example, I don’t think my time is cognizant of how lonely people are in the dawn of social media. We have research about the adverse effects of super-individualism and point reward systems, as well as about attention craving mass media vs. individual humans, but the disassociation from each other doesn’t fully come through in digital archeology.
Surviving a Berlin winter is not for wallowing souls. One could get lost in the four corners of one‘s room, so gray as there is no sun to guide one to a window or a door. The days are short and heavy and slow, the nights are clammy and hurt the ears and noses. A heartless system keeps those who can’t participate in money games on the streets and in subway stations. A future society will shame the past for its’ callousness. Hannah says there isn’t much a single person can do, especially if they aren’t good at playing the money games either. When it comes to humans, the shift is barely perceptible. But you and I know it will come. You will grow up with it, Ill see it in full bloom.
I don’t know what I would do without your collective wisdom and intelligence. It’s one thing to figure out how Ben encrypted his files, but quite another to deal with its’ contents.
Timezone, ha! Ben does have some weird sense of humor. I think most of the content of the stick is just there to send us in circles in a labyrinth, maybe he just likes the images? He is an artist after all. Do you think he would like my visual research photographs? Or would he be bored by yet another version of Berlin? Hannah says there are still some corrupted files on that USB drive, and it will take some days to get them to a state where they can be read, if that’s even at all possible. For now, I am looking through old analog photographs and letters to figure out a way to contact Sid. Arjin has never heard of him.
The only thing I’ve found so far are some ticket stubs in a yellow binder to Платформа 2997. Which, it turns out, is in the middle of nowhere. I guess it s kind of perfect for someone who wants to mess around with physics and doesn’t want to be bothered by anybody. I am honestly surprised they even have Internet there.
I am really hopeful about Hannah‘s skills. Internet, you would love her! She introduced me to memes and emojis and all this digital subculture that only becomes visible by spending long nights in front of the glowing data squares . She really is amazing, even though we disagree on fundamental things, like whether people are inherently good or evil. Of course, growing up here, I understand why she would question humanity‘s ability for ethical behavior. She reminds me of Neel, who I also miss dearly. Even though she is harsher at times, I think it’s a learned behavior answering to what her environment throws at her. I wish I could tell her about the future, she would love the science fiction of it all. But I do have you, dear Internet, to share my world with. I am sure that together we can figure out how to get me back to my time.
Alone but never lonely, r.
Dear Internet, Dear Nana,
Imagine my surprise, when I found out that the word deezer, which in our time simply means a slow walking person in someone else’s path, was never a compound word combining “driving“ and “geezer,“ but was a throwback to all those badly produced rent-a-bikes instead! I’ve been riding behind people on these bikes for a while now. The name and meaning still check out. No one can ride these machines in a graceful, speedy manner. It’s a weird example of share economy established by capitalism in disguise.
Hannah’s friends work in a self-help bike-shop, they showed me what to look for in a good bicycle and how to do maintenance on one so it can stay nice and reliable. One of them seems to be interested in integrating a single chip computer with some sensors so as to measure what kind of traffic there is around the bike. I’m trying to find a way to ask them for help in building the machine without letting on what its actual purpose is. If I can use Ben’s space for that, I might try and pass it off as art.
None of today‘s bikes are A.I. enhanced, but otherwise they are not so different from the bikes we still use in my time. Few things have lasted this long with so little change.
Today I saw the sun. I was on my bike and the entire street was filled with people turning their faces to the yellow globe like a choir of meerkats. It was one of those fleeting, magical moments life gives us.
While we were all getting greasy hands and working on bikes that could ride on the icy streets with big fat tires, Hannah managed to turn up a few more files. These are the last ones. If they don’t contain a new lead, I fear I’ll be stuck here forever.
As per usual, it’s an image and a password protected .pdf
Dear Internet, you’ve helped me many times before, can you do it again?
Rolling with it, r.
We found Sid! Or, rather, he found me. I don’t know, who of you follow the comment threads under my posts, but someone introduced himself as Sid there. I followed his instructions for contact and I am convinced he really is my great-grandfather’s colleague. What’s even better is his promise to help me to get home.
The biggest problem Ben mentioned in his research was finding a power source mighty enough to fuel a micro black hole for the necessary duration. It seems that’s what Sid was working on. What’s more, it was always the plan to revert the travel, so there is a backup in existence and Sid has promised to try and get it ready while I am on my way to pick it up. Friends, I’ll be leaving Berlin shortly. I am packing as I am writing this. I am over the moon! But at the same time …
I think I am falling for Hannah. I get giddy and flustered every time we meet. When she is not there, I daydream about telling her the truth. I could be wrong, but she might have feelings for me as well. I know I have to leave. There are things that need to be done in my time, friends and family I need to get back to. But when I see her, for a moment there, I wish it weren’t so. For the first time since I arrived, I feel connected, even if my secrets keep me from being truly close to her. I finally feel human
Don’t laugh, I’ve started to sing love songs under the shower. I told her I want to visit a friend in Russia and she is helping me plan a route that bypasses borders and checkpoints. I wonder sometimes how she knows all these things, but I guess if you are at home in the architecture of this old-timey knowledge sphere called the “Internet”, you can get quite far by just asking the right questions on the right websites. Hannah is going to lend me some warm clothing as well. I’ve been wearing layers of hand-me-downs all winter, but they are not going to be enough. Fortunately, she is only a little taller than me, so I can use some of her warmer things.
Sid is sending me some money for the journey… I would never be able to get this far on a barista salary alone. As exciting as it is to see something of this past world besides Berlin, it’s also quite a risk. These are not the times to travel without papers. I promise to keep posting on time, to keep you all updated on my progress. And I definitely want to take more photographs as well. As I promised to be discrete about information regarding Sid’s base, I can only leave you with this: The middle of nowhere is a real place, it seems. Not everything is mapped yet, and even satellites have blind spots. You think your world is completely recorded, that all the mystery has disappeared with the wide spreading of digital reality. It’s not. There are still adventures and explorations to be had and I am so lucky to be part of one. Thanks to towe and Luzia we found Ben’s last password: tachyons. That’s how we fell on Sid’s radar of keywords. Internet, this time you have really outdone yourself. I would never have been able to find this madman on my own. Without fellow humans, one is but a loose end in someone else’s story. Without kindness, one is but a bitter anecdote. Without love, one cannot have a future.
Traveling through space to travel through time, r.
I’ve been on the road for 4 days, switching between cars and trucks, freeways and back roads, short days and long nights. Hitchhiking is a great way to learn. Everyone has a story and if you share enough of the road, you become close, before you become strangers again. This works a lot better when you share a language.
The farther I go, the less I can understand my fellow travelers. So we share silences instead. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I sing for them. I shower in gas stations and eat the canned peaches Hannah packed for me. The trees are black drawn lines against the flat horizon. The air is crisp outside the vehicles, and smells of fuel and old upholstery inside. Whenever I think I might finally arrive, the ever changing drivers gesture me to another car, another truck. I must have been sleeping again when the beige Mercedes I am in stops. I think it must have been a Taxi before it got moved to Russia. The driver points at a long drive way as it gets dark outside. She leaves as soon as I take my belongings from the booth.
I feel like I have arrived at the end of the earth.
If you’ve ever imagined disappearing from your life, Sid has got you covered. I can’t get into details of course, but right after the end of earth, is where Sid lives. He is both more funny and more serious than I imagined, and older, too. Ben mentions him as being a friend, but I’m beginning to think he might see a father in him as well. We start walking through thicket and he explains to me a piece of Russian history. When the last tsarist family were executed in 1918, Sid’s ancestors, who were distantly related to Nicholas II, had to disappear. They went to an abandoned summer home, bribed a few people from a village nearby to get supplies, and created a completely self sustained island surrounded by a thick forest on all sides. As we move through those woods, I’m becoming part of this fairy tale. For a hundred years, the buildings have been hidden. Just as Sid’s parents inherited it, electricity had arrived back there. Already a commodity everywhere else, it was an amazing novelty to Sid. When he expressed his wish to study this magical power of physics in St. Petersburg, his parents moved there with him, abandoning the place.
He only came back, as Ben and him had begun working on the machine. If you can’t tell, Sid is taking security way more seriously than Ben. He tells me his name isn’t Sid, and there is a short moment of confusion. I have gotten very used to the habit of contemporaries not having their own name, to just sticking with the one their parents gave them. To people here, that is their name. Only artists and criminals are more creative with their choices. I am not sure which one Sid is, but he has really thought this thing through and hands me a passport. I am now officially a person with papers! I can’t tell you the name I am using for it, but be assured, it fits with Sid’s sense of humor.
We arrive as the sun is already way past the horizon. What Sid called the cottage is really more a collection of buildings built in various architectural styles. When I look up, a circular light is shining. “Radar deflecting dishes,” Sid explains. He excuses himself for his paranoia: “It’s epigenetic.” We move into one of the houses and Sid cooks garden vegetables. “So much land,” he says, “the place is still self sustainable.”
After spending days in cars, my body feels weird on solid ground and I fall asleep dreaming of the trees and the lights of oncoming cars. I wake up to the smell of coffee. Sid can barely contain his curiosity, I can tell. He has a million questions about my time and well, I really missed having an honest conversation. He is delighted to hear that the world won’t go down in flames any time soon.
Dear Internet, I am sorry. I really have underestimated the dark spirit of your time. I hope my memories can offer some anticipation. It’s late afternoon and already dusk when we finally get up from the breakfast table. “I am going to show you something.”
We take another night walk ending on the far side of the property. At the flip of a huge lever that seems almost cartoonish, the lights go on and brighten a field of Tesla transformers. They make a cacophony of noises, like huge electric bees. “An older experiment. Not enough electricity for our needs, but very much enough to support the final product. I’ll show you.”
Behind a shed an innocent thick door, a basement, sub basement, staircases down, down. Sid definitely has buried the lede. What we enter is nothing less then a reconstruction of the L1arge Hadron Collider. “See, I needed to create micro black holes in an environment where they could exist for longer than just an instant. Long enough to form a line behind the event horizon.”
He explains a whole lot more, but I can’t put it all together. We walk through tunnels for hours. He calls himself Batman and chuckles. “They are my army,” he explains, “but they are I on hiatus. Don’t even mind, if you shine light on them.”
The first tunnels where built by the villagers paid by Sid’s ancestors as escape routes from the main house. “I thought I would stick with tradition. I paid their progeny to build the rest, to complete the circle.” Why is there a train down here? He doesn’t know.
When we go back up, the stars are brighter than Berlin would ever let them be. We sit on a porch, covered in many layers and drink something very alcoholic. I tell him more about the future, he tells me more about the past.
The next morning he presents me with a suitcase and a bunch of handwritten pages stapled together. “I made you instructions. I put Ben’s blue print in there as well. You will need to rebuild the machine where Ben built it. You will need my power supply.” The suitcase is heavy, but has wheels. There is a cold radiating from it, colder than Russia in winter. “What you have in there is the greatest power source in the world and were our political situation any less aggravated, I would use it to give free electricity to anyone. But in the back of my mind, I can hear Oppenheimer’s words, and I do not wish to become death, destroyer of worlds. So instead, here is hoping my present will still become your future with the help of a contained black hole. Please do not drop it.”
The hair on my neck is standing up, not just from the cold. In my time we solved the Energy crisis, but in a very old fashioned way. We just consume a lot less of it and use purely regenerated electricity. This sounds boring, coming from a time traveler, but trust me, sometimes boring is good.
I don’t want to become death, destroyer of worlds either, so I handle this suitcase with the greatest care. With my new passport I can take a train for the way back, the less the suitcase moves, the less nervous I am. I eat Sid’s vegetables and look out the window, the cold suitcase touching the back of my calves. I can’t wait to get back to Berlin.
Dear Internet, I am building a time machine!
My legs dangle from the cold metal seats of the subway station. It’s very late, or very early, the pigeons make for a dramatic scene, flying up when a train arrives. I am waiting for Hannah, she promised to pick me up. Berlin main station, a quarter past midnight, just existing feels raw. I am by myself, just me and the world’s greatest power source in a modified cooling suitcase. I spent the last 2 days reading Ben’s notes and Sid’s description until I almost knew them by heart. Not that I understand nearly enough to give an opinion, but enough to follow the instructions. At least that’s what I hope for.
I’ve also had time to think about… well, everything. Even though the papers Sid gave me were made purely to transfer information, there’s a lot of subtext. Sid’s style of writing is clear, concise, and driven by the desire to explain his thought process as well as the final outcome to potential readers. Ben’s notes, much like the diaries I’ve found, are a mix of personal observations, tangents and bursts of genius. It must have been fun to watch them in a conversation.
I wonder how Ben is doing in my time? He might have made use of our medical advantages and gotten help for the suffering his instability is causing him. He might have met you. Have you told him about mom living on the moon? Have you talked about ulterior flux? What episodes have I missed of the show? Has he found the hope I am trying to give to people here? If you are getting these, please, tell Ben, I am on it. I am building this thing. Will we remember anything anymore, if this works?
As Hannah comes up the stairs to track 13, I catch a smile that I’ve been waiting to return to for a week. She brought me coffee and offers to help me with my newly acquired luggage, which I politely decline. I tell her about the landscape, about my weird uncle, and the gifts he put in the luggage for me. I feel like shit, lying to her, but what else can I tell her? I show her some of the pictures I took. Nothing of the bunker, but some nice shots of run down houses.
She tells me winter has come to Berlin as well. We take the last S-Bahn and talk some more. It feels strange to come back to a home that is not my home at all. It feels even stranger to do all this traveling to escape the place I am now returning to. I feel like a tree in a bottle. Is that a thing people are saying yet?
Early in the morning, my roommates are still asleep, I move the suitcase to Ben’s studio. I can hear the cooling system humming softly. When I open it, it looks like a proper prototype should look, full of gaffer tape and other improvised fixings. If anyone had checked my luggage, I wouldn’t be able to write these lines, as they surely would have thought it to be a bomb and put me in a hole.
What a weird feeling to own a passport, all of a sudden, and a European one at that! Suddenly the restrictions in traveling have shifted from legal to economical. It’s no more likely to see all the things I’d love to visit, all those sights that have vanished in our time/the future, but I still feel more free and less worried about just walking through the streets.
Looking around Ben’s studio, I now realize I can use some of the things he has collected, though a lot of it is also just junk and I’ll have to sell a lot of soy lattes to pay for functioning replacements.
Every day I am amazed by how available and present coffee is in this culture. There are already warnings about the diminishing wild coffee species and their relevance to culture’s more resilient plants, but it will take a few more decades for coffee to become the rare delicacy it was when it was first discovered.
My generation has access to printed versions of the molecule structure, however the smell when you grind the beans and roast them has been lost. Even though coffee production plays a factor in international human rights violations, the fruit in itself is lovely, as is working with it and serving it to tired, self-exploiting coffee house artists. I’ve shoulder-served so many laptop displays. Berlin is a coffee input, creative output factory. If only it wasn’t bleeding for housing so badly.
Sitting in the studio, a typical gray Berlin dawn starting to creep up, I recognize a feeling I haven’t felt in a while. I am homesick. However glad I am to have met Sid, Arjin, Hannah, and her friends, I miss my own friends, my family, my,.. time. At least now I have the means to do something about that.
Time is a puzzle no more, r.
I really hope you have already found Ben, because the machine is almost finished and I’ll soon return to all of you if things work according to plan. We need to make sure he does whatever he did last time in order to switch places with me again. Sid has told me what to do so I can be ready when the machine is and so can Ben.
It occurred to me that should my plan work out, we won’t ever meet. You’ll be here, and I’ll return to 2107, To my time, my friends, my family. It’s a shame. I mean, in a way I feel like I already know you because I read so many of your notes and talked to Arjin and Sid. But that’s also why I would be so curious to meet you. I have so many questions, I wonder what it would be like to sit down with you and talk about art, like you talked about art with Arjin. Talk science with you like you talked science with Sid. I’d also be really interested to know how you’ve been doing in my time. Have you met Neel? Or Mosiva?
Have you visited Claude in Otaki? June must be somewhere around Sinus Aestuum right now, they are planting hemp in a biosphere there and she is researching the mutation capability under high exposure of interstellar radiation. I guess that would make her pretty hard to reach for you. It must be difficult to be living in the same time as your granddaughter and not be able to meet her in person. At least both of us are not in the same time, even though there is some kind of entanglement going on. We are about the same age, you and I. The time line that I come from is the one where you disappeared and never came back, which is the whole reason I went looking for your story. It’s the reason I found your place and the reason I triggered the machine. But what if you disappeared because you traveled to the future? Am I fulfilling a premise that was set up before I was born or changing a future that will happen once I get back?
I wish you could have met Taalea. She was June’s partner for 25 years and my bio mom. I am forever grateful for the love I was surrounded by growing up , even if it had to end with the tragedy of her death. When the hurricane hit, we didn’t even know she was in the area… Thinking of her is the only thing that makes me wish I was changing the future. It’s irrational, emotional and selfish and I do not care at all. But wishing it does not make it so and I guess I can be glad if I am lucky enough to not mess up the future too much.
In other news, the construction is going along quite well. Even though I don’t know enough about the programming required to engineer the power source into your hexagonal prism system, Hanna’s friends are very helpful in bringing my art project together. It still sucks to lie to them, but to my shame I must admit I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now. Your time has certainly taught me how to come up with a story on the spot…
By the way, I’ve been telling Arjin that you are visiting a friend in Russia, so she doesn’t worry too much. But let’s get you back so you can tell her , whatever you think you should tell her yourself. I’ve also been calming down your neighbors about the explosion. I told them it was a rave and that you are very sorry and it won’t happen again (well, I guess it will happen one more time). Oh, and I’ve been watering your plants. The ficus has been a little sad, but Hanna told me that’s normal in winter. It’s missing the sun like the rest of Berlin.
The machine I am building is your machine of course, but I think you will find that there are traces of me in it. I took a few pictures of its eflections. They are quite beautiful when the sun shines through the windows. All of your collections look better in the sunlight. I should be able to finish things up within the next month and I really hope you will be ready for re-entanglement then…or is it now? I imagine it will be hard for you to say goodbye to the future, just like I am having a hard time letting go of this past, especially of Hanna of course. She knows something is up because I have been distancing myself to make things less shitty when I am gone. But she is smart, of course she is. Is this what you have been doing to Arjin? Because I am not sure it’s helping too much. Maybe I need a different approach? Distancing only seems to make her frustrated and both of us miserable. She wouldn’t believe the truth, so what else can I say?
In your ephemeral state you are a faceless benevolent being to me.
You read that right. Things are in the works, wheels are beginning to turn, I have a plan that is becoming a reality. Exciting, isn’t it? In your ephemeral state you are a faceless benevolent being to me, but of course all of you are individuals as well. Please keep me company these last few weeks as I prepare for the crazy journey back through the looking glass.
Packing my bags & canned peaches, r.
Thank you for letting the sun return. Every day I walk to Ben’s studio, it’s shining on my spirit and on the street that’s suddenly full of people. Where did they hide all winter? Maybe they hibernated, who knows. You don’t know if this is usual weather, but in my time winter is much harsher until it gets cut off by a burning summer. Save for a week in March and maybe two in October, I’ve never experienced a climate this mild. Still, I spend day and night with the machine right now, calibrating, sending results to Sid, readjusting, resending. Yesterday we tried a first wire: a carrot. It disappeared for a few seconds and then it returned: looking like someone burned it on one end and froze it on the other. I got pretty nervous about that, but Sid assures me it’s a sign we are on a good path.
Work became overwhelming and I had to find an emotional outlet for all the Hanna feelings that are clouding my head, so I borrowed a friend’s guitar. I love how vintage it is, no binary converter, no augmented sonic system. It’s a refreshing change of pace from all the programming and machine building. I’m not any good, but I still wanted to share it with you.
Between chords and wires, r.
It has been my pleasure conversing with you. Your continued interest and help has been my steady rock in the absurd situation I have found myself in. I will be forever grateful to you. You are the beginning of a change that is going to sweep across the planet. Be brave, be bold, be kind.
Who would have thought I could possibly build a machine, not to mention this one. But I did it and I am heading home to you soon. If all goes well we will be having tea and I’ll tell you about my adventures in a few hours.
I hope you are ready to get back to 2019. I’ve left you the credentials to this website as a means to contact me. I’ll look it up in 2107 (or is it 2108 now?). Even if I can’t meet you directly, at least you can tell me if you made it back alright. Write about your experiences, if you like. I’d love to hear all about it. Sid says he misses you and looks forward to have you back at the cottage.
When you read this, I will already be gone. Through all the troubles and worries, I am still thankful I landed here, because I got to know you and I am better for it. You showed me that there always have been warriors for the future and my present owes you and your kind so much. I wish I could show you, I wish I could take you with me, but I can’t. Right now I am going through the checklist Sid sent me before configuring the machine. While I was set on leaving without saying goodbye, towe left me a comment and convinced me that it wouldn’t be right. I am not sure if this is better, I will never know. If you believe nothing else, believe this, if I had any way to stay with you, nothing could stop me from it.
I will think of you always. r.
That’s how long I’ve been gone.
That’s how long my great granddaughter was here, in my place.
My dearest Rielle,
First let me apologize for the pain and hurt I have caused you. From what I read, I can tell you are a resilient, strong person and I am glad you did so well under the circumstances. However, it was never my intention to put you in this position in the first place, please believe me. Had it occurred to me that I was dragging someone else into my endeavors, I would have reconsidered! I hope you made it back as well as I did and can read these lines almost a century from now.
When I read your journal for the first time, I was slightly embarrassed to read my words in there. Very private, very convoluted. Even I didn’t intend to read them ever again after putting them on paper, let alone have them published. But be that as it may, I am the one responsible for the mess I put you in, I have no right to be upset with you. You did what you thought was right, and in the end it was what brought you in contact with Sid, so it was probably for the best.
I will tell you about all the things I encountered, but let me first recount my journey back: The instant I returned, it felt like something returned to me. Something I hadn’t even realized was missing, as if a hunger I had forgotten about was being stilled. The travel itself was much more peaceful than I remembered from the last time. Maybe it was because I was prepared for what I was getting into, maybe my body remembered it. In any case, because of this, it was easier to pay attention to small details I missed on the trip forward.
There are a few major differences; your body is surrounded by bright blue while traveling into the future, traveling back is accompanied by a dark red shine. It could have something to do with the Doppler effect. The metallic taste occurred both times, but while traveling back smells like dust, traveling forward smelled like a stormy ocean. What I really noticed was that all of the sensation stayed in the neurological phase. I can’t remember feeling my body or skin at all. That might be a protective reaction by the brain though, given that the body is inadvertently transforming in this process – basically being taken apart and put together again as a different person.
My cells don’t feel different at all, not like they were just part of my great grand daughter… I started the first journey in July 28 2018. I remember distinctly that there was a heavy thunderstorm crowding Berlin’s sky and I had this nostalgic association of Victor Frankenstein, supercharging his monster to life. It’s laughable, compared to the amount of energy it took to bring my monster to life, but a little romantic none the less. Also, in case things went wrong, I could always blame the weather.
I am joking of course. I was a nervous wreck, and if I had had an honest talk with Sid at the time, he would have advised me not to attempt an experiment like that, not in the condition I was in.
But we did all the footwork, all the calculations, tweaking the energy flow and the prism diversions, so a certain kind of get-there-istic pigheadedness kept pushing me forward. Still, with the frightening half burned, half frozen carrot still fresh in my memory, I began to calibrate early in the morning and was set at around 3 in the afternoon. Our calculations had estimated a survival rate of 83,1%, which isn’t too bad in pioneer terms. However, the statistic depended on a few variables, which were more of, let’s say, informed guess work. In the worst case, the chances could drop to below 17,4%. Sid and I were basing the whole idea on a multi-verse variation. That’s how I would switch with a future version of myself, from a universe in which I did not choose to travel.
As you all know by now, that’s not how things worked out. I am not convinced the multi-verse theory is wrong. However, in this version I traveled through a time line where I did take the journey so the machine stayed vacant, preserved
in my uninhabited studio, time capsuled by Sid’s finances, until my great granddaughter decided to investigate my disappearance and triggered the switch between me and her. I wonder what happened to me in the time lines where no one came to switch with me? But I don’t dare wonder for too long. The thought of being trapped mid-travel seems horrific.
The week back here has grounded me, but I still get light headed sometimes, remembering the future. I will get into further detail about the things I saw and found, but I’ll need a few more days to recover first and will write you next Sunday in the rhythm Rielle set.
In any case, I would like to invite whoever has been reading and helping my great granddaughter, to see what all the fuss is about. I am planning to set up some things in my studio to give you context and hopefully an impression of the time I traveled to. You are very welcome to visit.
I know it’s technically not Sunday anymore, but I am putting together this exhibition for all of you, which is why I lost track of time a bit. Forgive me.
Let’s face it. I could try and describe all the awesome gadgets and gimmicks that I’ve seen in the future, but that would just be a list of things you could see in any science fiction flick that’s out there right now.
The trend of tech from an imagined future becoming reality won’t stop with the tricoder that became the cellphone. The attitude we decide to propose to the world will shape it , so in that sense, the future isn’t a foreign country, it’s a variation of a theme.
However, if this was the only thing leading the shape of time, we wouldn’t last all that long. I can recite a list of doomsday tales, from ancient texts to modern narratives, which have become so much more prevalent in recent decades. They are so prevalent, in fact, that it seems hard for a contemporary person to begin to imagine a progression that isn’t headed to the inevitable abyss of some sort of apocalypse without being seen as naive.
Do we secretly all want to get it over with? Has existential angst and fear of the unknown convinced us deep down that we don’t deserve to continue as a species, that we might as well go out with a bang?
This useless speculation on my part is a prelude to the great ‘still’ of a world seemingly burning up in a slow cooker.
Still, we will prevail. Technological marvels and medical wonders aside, the most incredible thing about the future isn’t what it has produced, but how the people have changed.
By growing up in a system that prioritizes humans and community over wealth and power accumulation, the highest virtues have become empathy and kindness.
Materialistic ownership is not a goal anymore, but a burden, a responsibility not to be taken on lightly.
The future fulfilled Mühsam’s dream and survived because of it, not despite it. A humanity united by compassion has used their combined force to tackle the screwed up environmental, economic and violence filled disaster they inherited from us.
Yeah, I know, it sounds like a pipe dream.
219 days of it have saved my sanity, to be quite honest. During the first few weeks I was distressed, disoriented, scared. But Salma, or Nana, as Rielle referred to her, found me and guided me get used to my situation. My mental health wasn’t in the greatest condition, to put it lightly. Thankfully Salma noticed that something was up and got me an appointment at … Well some sort of medical center. The thing that has dominated my whole life, the imbalance of manic depression, cured in less than a day. You know how people are excited about laser eye therapy because they can suddenly see without glasses?
Imagine that, but with emotions. I told you: medical miracles.
This will be my last post, as I feel that I’ve said what I wanted to say, and until we find a way to make time travel safe enough, you and I will have to stay in our own time.
Sid is already working on new ideas, mostly because Hanna has written us both and is very adamant about seeing you again. I can imagine you would feel the same way.
As for you, dear Internet,
You can still write me if you have questions, or just come by on Friday. Hope to see you there,
cylixe is a traveller. She travels through fine arts and media, along social and political breaklines, through human networks and realities, over continents and even in time. Her journeys (and residencies) culminate in award-winning photographies and films (which she studied in Europe and America) as well as in performances, books and sculptures. You can find her artistic fingerprints and footsteps in screenings, festivals and exhibitions in more than twenty countries since 2007.More about cylixe *