Tim Smith was standing in a room full of confused-looking people who all seemed strangely familiar. This was particularly odd, as just moments before he had been sitting in his lab. There had been a blinding flash of light, the floor had swallowed him and now, somehow, he was here.
A woman in a white coat at the front of the room held her hands up to get their attention.
“I know you are confused and disorientated.” She told them, “Please be patient, I assure you, everything will soon become clear…”
When Tim was a child, he had found history lessons extremely dull. His history teacher, one Mrs. Bernbrick, had been an infinite bore and instead of listening to her drone on and on about the rise and fall of various civilisations an infinitely long time ago, he and his best friend, Jane, had held their digitalks under the table and showed each other funny videos from the infosphere: Dogs on hoverboards, cats attacking vacuumbots, people crashing on jetshoes. Occasionally Mrs. Bernbrick would call on him and he would have to suffer her disapproving stare, wiggling uncomfortably in his seat, wishing the floor would swallow him, until finally, she gave up and asked someone else. Tim had subsequently come away from school with only the very vaguest notions about the past. What he had understood, in broad strokes, was this: That for years, the scientists had squealed about over population, the need for better resource management and the passing of irreversible tipping points, assuring everyone that humanity was on the brink of writing itself into the annals of ‘things that once were, but sadly are not any more’. The brash had laughed at them and waded about in their riches, most people had listened politely and then tried to look the other way and the poor had been too busy dying unpleasant deaths off somewhere hot to worry too much about the future.
In the end the resources had not run out. Instead, the plagues had stuck.
For the next twenty years or so, rich and poor alike keeled over from unpleasant and mysterious diseases that did not appear to care how hot it was. In the end, something like 68% of the population snuffed it in a variety of colourful and oozy ways before the scientists got their collective wits together and successfully – albeit perhaps, reluctantly – brought humanity back from the brink of extinction.
This unexpected reprieve from annihilation ushered in the era of The Hero Scientist, and humanity, high on its own survival, threw everything it had at The Future. The Governing Board of United Earth Nations was established and began joyously throwing gut-wrenching sums of cash at scientific research, anything from immortality to time travel to astral projection. Mars was accidently imploded in an ill-fated teleportation experiment and the secret to immortality was stolen by a rouge scientist who promptly disappeared into another dimension, but of course, this sort of thing was to be expected.
Meanwhile, the naturalist movement warbled on about the death of tradition, the threat of robot aggression and the dehumanising impact of technology. They portended apocalypse and doom at the hands of cylons and hackers and biological aberrations and everyone ignored them completely and got on with enjoying their hover boards, teleporters and ray guns.
In the end, the robots did not attack. Instead, CAT agents on a mission to stall human evolution encased the world in an infinite time loop, forcing it to live the same 24hour cycle indefinitely.
Tim wasn’t sure what happened after this. Something about a multi-dimensionary rebellion which succeeded against impossible odds because of some clever trick or another. He couldn’t remember the details. He really should have paid more attention in history class.
The woman in the white coat paused and looked around, “Is that clear so far?”
Tim blinked and focused his attention back onto her. A man next to him, slowly, hesitantly, raised his hand.
The woman in the white coat nodded, “You have a question?”
“You’re saying cats are keeping humans imprisoned in an infinite time vortex?”
“That’s right.” The woman nodded. “The loop has already continued for about two millennia. Two thousand years of the same twenty-four hours. That is why I have called you here from your respective timelines. You are humanity’s last hope. Today, with your help, we will stage a rebellion and break free from the vortex once and for all.”
A woman in the crowd now raised her hand. “I’m sorry, it’s a lot to take in. I’m not sure I quite understand. How can we help?”
The woman in the white coat nodded as though this was a very reasonable question.
“I have been able to bring you all here because you are my descendants; my blood. All of our worlds were, are or will be affected by the vortex and to save us, I need to know the key to the CATs undoing. Only one of my descendants lives in a post-vortex world and therefore holds the answer I seek. With the knowledge he can give us, we can return to our separate timelines and together, we can free humanity from the CATs tyranny.”
An excited murmur spread around the room. Tim began to feel a little uncomfortable.
“Who?” Came the question from many voices at once. “Who knows? Who knows how to defeat the CATs?”
The woman in the white coat smiled and held up her hands for quiet, she looked around the room expectantly and her eyes alighted on Tim. Her smile widened warmly.
Tim looked down, shifted uncomfortably and wished fervently that the floor would swallow him.
Author Notes: Another Day is an on-running short fiction project; part collection of short stories, part novel, part blog and part art installation, Another Day seeks to toy with traditional ideas of authorship and publishing, exploring the area between art and storytelling and the opportunities the internet provides for new forms of expression. It is a collaboration between Mexican digital artist, Eric Fanghanel and British author, Sophie Langridge. See http://sophielangridge.com/anotherday/ for more...