By Grant Baciocco
“Don’t go in the field.” Timmy’s mother had told him before he and Maisy had left the house.
“I should have listened.” his brain now said to himself as he held onto the root for dear life. He had been chasing a rabbit with Maisy and had not seen the sinkhole that had recently appeared next to the giant oak that stood in the middle of the large field behind the farm where he lived with his family. Luckily, he had been able to get a good grip on a root as he’d fallen and it had stopped his fall. He hung on for dear life as he looked below him.
The drop was about twenty feet down. He realized if he did fall he’d probably hit the sides of the wall before the bottom so at least the drop wouldn’t kill him. It hadn’t killed the rabbit who was down at the bottom of the hole, now starting to hop around and sniff for a way out of the pit herself. He looked up and he could see the blue sky through the bare branches of the oak. He was about five feet from the lip of the hole. His eyes searched frantically for something he could climb up to the edge, as the root he now clung to would only raise him about a foot or two.
Below him, the rabbit started screaming. Startled, Timmy looked down and saw it was frantically trying to scramble up the slick walls of the sinkhole but kept tumbling back down. Looking closer he saw something move in the shadows below him. Seconds later, his mind snapped into focus that there was nothing in the shadows that was moving, the shadows themselves were moving. A buzzing grew louder in his ears. Squinting harder he saw at least twenty rattlesnakes squirming all over themselves to cross the expanse at the bottom to the terrified rabbit. There was a nest at the bottom of the hole. This is why his mother had warned him against playing in the field.
His grip on the root tightened even more. Sweat began to form all over his body. Again he looked up for some way to boost himself to the lip, but there was nothing but slick muddy walls. The frantic screaming below him grew louder as the snakes attacked the rabbit. Though he’d told himself not to, he looked down as the snake’s venom finally paralyzed the rabbit, silencing her cries, and they began fighting each other for the right to devour the poor creature. “At least Maisy didn’t fall in.” he found himself thinking.
“Maisy!” he said out loud, remembering his dog. “Maisy! Maisy!” he called loudly, partially to drown out the sounds of the disgusting feast happening below him. “Maisy!”
Seconds later the familiar, soft face of his golden retriever appeared over the edge. She sniffed the air and then caught his eye.
“Good girl Maisy!” Timmy breathed, his body weakening from the grip he was applying to the root above him. “Maisy, go home girl! G0 home and get mom!”
Maisy cocked her head as if trying to understand. Timmy repeated, “Go home girl. Get Mom! Bring her back! Hurry! Hurry girl! Go home!”
Maisy couldn’t understand most of the words her friend Timmy was now yelling up at her. She was a dog and, unlike dogs seen following a multitude of commands on television, she was not too bright. She leaned he head closer to Timmy to try and understand. As she did, the smell of a fresh kill filled her nostrils and, for the first time, she saw the carnage happening below Timmy.
“Maisy!” Timmy yelled again, regaining Maisy’s focus, “Go home and get mom!”
Maisy listened intently to him again.
“Go home?” she thought, letting the words circle around in her brain. She knew these words. She new where ‘home’ was. She knew what ‘go’ meant. “Go home.” She understood this. Even though Maisy was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she was obedient. So, she went home.
An hour later, Maisy sat on the back porch of the farmhouse and looked out across the field waiting for her friend Timmy to emerge and praise her for being so good.
She had gone home.
As they walked along under the moonlight, they were both quiet. They were inches apart as they traversed the pavement, but they did not come in contact with each other ever. Around them the night’s insects made their noise. A few restless birds chirped here and there, but the only sound was that of their footsteps.
The silence between them though, spoke volumes. It had since day one. They were capable of some incredibly powerful silences.
He spoke first, it was barely a whisper. That’s all they needed. All they ever needed.
“I need you to do something.” he said.
She was quiet for a very long time. Several yards past underneath their feet before she even turned to her left to look at thim. They kept walking.
“What?” came her reply.
Again, the silence mounted as they continued down the path.
“I need you never to forgive me.” he said finally. “Ever.”
She studied him after these words left his lips. He continued looking down. She then looked forward as they continued to walk. She knew more would come. She knew he felt her question.
After a few minutes, he took a breath and then, “I need you never to forgive me so I will always know exactly how very lucky I am.”
After these words the silence crashed around them. Their footsteps now, on the ground, the only sound. They continued the walk. She said nothing for two minutes. Five minutes. Ten minutes.
He looked over at her. Her eyes were on the path but she felt his gaze.
Her lips tight. Without looking up, she nodded.
They continued walking into the night.
After hearing the Jonathan Coulton song Space Doggity, I’ve become obsessed with Laika. The first living creature, from Earth, to orbit Earth (as far as we know). Listening to Jonathan’s song he really captures how amazing and how incredibly tragic the whole thing was. Of course in listening to the song I’ve begun reading a lot of the information there is out there about this poor dog. Her story has inspired me to write some fiction based on her. There have been some fiction stories of ‘what really happened’ where Laika doesn’t die and goes on to several outer space adventures. I believe there’s even a video game to that effect. I wanted to try something different. I want to rewrite history by writing about what would have happened had she returned to earth safely. This is that story.
By Grant Baciocco
The landing was hard. Maybe the hardest thing about the whole trip. I learned later, listening to some of the men, that one of the descent parachutes failed to open and while two of the chutes deployed to make the landing survivable, it was still rough. The ocean is not that forgiving when you hit it at 100 miles per hour. But I landed and the first indication I received that I was back was how I instantly felt heavier. Much heavier. Much different from how I felt up there.
The next thing I noticed was the constant bobbing of the capsule. Firm indication I was in the water. The confined space and the bobbing were making me queasy and I’m not ashamed to say I got a little sick. It was sometime later that I felt a strong jerk on the capsule. Then another and, just faintly, through the thick metal walls I heard voices. Of course my tail started going a million miles an hour. People. I love people, even though they did this to me, I was glad that soon I was going to see people.
Several minutes later, the hatch opened. Yes, people! I barked excitedly and they all seemed as happy to see me as I was them. I was hoisted up out of the cabin and into the arms of the Doctor who I saw before I left. I kissed him appropriately about the face. His laughter music to my ears. All the men there were happy to see me and I got more petting in those first few minutes than I had in my life. Some men broke into song. It all seemed to be focused on me. As if I did something special. I didn’t. I just went where I was told and now I was back. This made my people happy so it made me happy.
The Doctor took me to a white room and checked me all over. He seemed content with my condition and let me rejoin the rest of the men. That night I got a steak for dinner and more petting and more songs. I should go into the capsule more often.
The next morning we arrived home. There were even more people there to cheer me and pet me. Lots of people took my photograph. They gave speeches in my honor. They shook my paw. They kept saying the word hero. I’m just a dog.
After a long day and night of this, I was soon in the car. My head out the window. I love going fast. We made a right and my heart started beating fast. We were close to home. I started barking. My tail about to wag itself off. THe car slowed. Stopped. The door opened and I leapt out.
Patrick assumed Dr. Levitt had been joking, but the more he pressed him, the more he felt the old fool actually believed he could do it.
“For decades people have dreamed about time travel,” he pontificated, “but they were going about it all wrong. You see most people think that you get in some sort of contraptions and zap back in time and then there are two of you running around in that time period. But that’s not how it works.”
“It’s not?” said Patrick with a smirk.
“No!” Dr. Levitt shouted. “That form of time travel is impossible. We can never go back and warn president Lincoln about John Wilkes Booth. In order to time travel back that far we’d have to have someone who was alive when Lincoln was assassinated.”
“Right. You know anyone that old?”
“No. So it’s impossible. But we can send people back in time to any point that they were alive.”
“I’m not following.”
Dr. Levitt sighed, “There’s only one of you. There can’t be two of you. So in order to time travel we have to send your present day mind back into your past mind.”
Patrick looked at him for a moment. “You send my brain back in time?”
Dr. Levitt nodded. “Well, yes and no. You see the mind is an amazing thing. I’m sure you’ve heard that humans only use a small percentage of their brain.”
“I thought that was an urban legend.”
“It is, but behind ever urban legend is a small grain of truth. We don’t use ALL the capacity our brain is capable of. That is the fact. What I’ve been able to do is invent a machine that boosts the power of the brian to near its full potential. Now, you’ve also heard tell of people who are capable of using ESP or mental telepathy.”
“Another urban myth with a grain of truth?”
“Yes. The brain is capable of sending out signals. I mean it does that locally to your central nervous system, but it can also do it as sort of a little wifi network. Sending messages out into the surrounding area.”
“I see.” Patrick said, though his voice did little to mask the doubt contained in it. “And how does all this relate to time travel?”
“My machine not only boosts brain power, it also magnifies the signal, much like you can magnify a wifi signal. It also focuses it through time, back to your brain in the past. Your ‘past’ brain picks up on the signals being sent from your ‘present day’ brain and it downloads the information.” Dr. Levitt suddenly clapped his hands together startling Patrick, “Bang! Time travel occurs.”
“And what happens to the rest of me?” Patrick asked.
“Nothing, you remain here. I told you it’s not like the movies. The kind of time travel I’m talking about is sending information back.” Dr. Levitt put a hand under his chin. “Folks often say, ‘If I knew then what I know now.’ Right?”
“Well, now they can. You, your body, your brain, everything will stay here. But we will send the information contained in your brian now, to your brain two years ago.”
Patrick was slowly starting to grasp the idea. But then the Doctor’s words hit him, “Wait? Me?”
“Yes. I told you you were assisting me. I’m hoping you’ll be the first human I try this method on.”
Dr. Levitt saw a look of panic on Patrick’s face.
“Look, I’m telling you it’s perfectly safe. All you have to do is sit in this chair. The chair acts like an antenna and does all the work. You will feel nothing, there are no needles or electordes, you’re not going to have to take off your clothes or anything. All you’ll have to do is sit in the chair.”
“And then what?”
“And then I power the machine, focus the energy and hit the send switch.”
“And then mere seconds later, we are done, the information in your brain will have been sent back two years.” Dr. Levitt paused.
“Why two years?”
“That’s about as far as my, home brewed, machine will allow for. If this works and I get a grant, the machine can be made to go back further distances.” Dr. Levitt smiled. “Just imagine the choices you’d make differently if you had known two years ago what you know now.”
Patrick thought for a moment. The big choice he would have made was how things went with her. He was silent for a second, lost in thought, and then looked up at Dr. Levitt, “I’ll do it.”
Dr. Levitt insisted on the paperwork being filled out. For as safe as he swore it was, there was still a waiver to be filled out. A requirement of his lawyer he had said.
Patrick filled it out carefully. He got to the part where it said who to contact in case of an emergency. His first instinct was to put her name and number. That is who he’d wanted to be there with. Forever. Who he would want to come to his bedside in an emergency. But that was over now. She could care less about him now, so he figured if something did go wrong, he wouldn’t want to bug her. SO he wrote down his mother and her phone number.
Minutes later, Patrick was sitting in the chair in the middle of the room. Dr. Levvitt busied himself at the computer monitors.
“So, uh, Dr. Levitt?”
“This, lab assistant job. It is a job right?”
“So, like, I’ll be paid for this?”
This brought Dr. Levitt out of his preparations. He stood, looked over at Patrick and adjusted the glasses on his face. He was silent for a second and then clasped his hands as he strode over towards the chair.
“Yes, you will receive compensation for this.” He pulled an envelope out his lab coat pocket. “In this envelope is a cashier’s check for $3000. I will hand it to you as soon as we’re done here today. As soon as we confirm that the device works and works properly.”
Patrick glanced sideways at Dr. Levitt. “Unless what?”
“Well, you are being afforded a chance no one else has ever been allowed. You are going back in time two years. You are, basically, going to be able to live the past two years over again, in an instant.”
Patrick nodded. “So?”
“So, just remember that. You will be able to right any wrongs you may have made. You’ll be able to choose differently in any situation, knowing how they played out based on where you are now. You’ll get a second chance at everything. Now, I’m not sending you back to your pre college or high school days, so you can’t make different decisions there, but two years…two years is a length of time where significant changes could be made. You will, by default, be a different person seconds after the experiment happens. How much is that worth? How much would you pay to go back to some point over the past two years and make a different choice in and major decision?”
Patrick was silent as he pondered this.
“Patrick, after I push the button and we send the information in your brain back to you two years ago, you may take this $3000 cashier’s check and walk out that door. But I’d like you to consider the value of what I’m giving you today and if, after the experiment of course, you feel that you got $3000 or $3000000 worth of value from this experiment, well then I’d like you to consider leaving this check with me, so I can continue to develop this device. Bring that value to other people who may need it.”
Patrick was silent for a moment longer, then nodded. “Let’s do it.”