By Keith B. Yeoman
Just before the aircraft disintegrated around me, I recall thinking how much I regretted never taking painting seriously.
It was a Douglas C133 Cargomaster – a beautiful bird of 120,000lbs of steel and aluminum. All 120,000 lbs of which suddenly began to decay at the molecular level – crumbling in perfect spherical orbit around myself and The Decade Condenser as time cranked up to a violent 10,000yrs per minute around me.
The pilots and my science team were the first to go – vaporizing into dust in an instant as millenia blinked past. May God rest their time-spun souls.
The bolts of the aircraft were next to go – the oxidized zinc atomizing and releasing a flurry of aluminum panels into the evolving atmosphere like flutter-flaps of a great piñata – exposing the skeleton of the bird.
The steel bulkheads and under-girdings were the last to go – crumbling away from the outside-in like a scone dipped in strong coffee.
All this transpired over a period of 30 seconds, while my body and the material in my direct vicinity were preserved in the Chrono-Bubble – a hermetically sealed “snowglobe of time” – a spherical cross-section of un-aged airplane that was now beginning to gently fall towards the shifting island-speckled ocean below*.
All this occurred because I had accidentally hooked the “CONDENSE” switch with a stray belt loop on my slightly-too-big USAF flight trousers.
The world unfolds in such ornate ways.
Most clearly, I remember a profound pining, in what I was convinced would be the final moments of my life. A deep and wistful regret right before I was knocked unconscious. The melancholic realization only known to those who have kissed the brink:
I wished I had spent more of my life watching the world unfold.
*On the obligatory question that puzzled me for a year: “Why wasn’t my body crushed by the impact of falling from 20,000ft onto a landmass?”
“Gravitational time dilation occurs because objects with a lot of mass create a strong gravitational field. The gravitational field is really a curving of space and time. The stronger the gravity, the more spacetime curves, and the slower time itself proceeds.”
This all being true, it is therefore rational to assume that if one condenses time in an outward bubble around oneself (the Chrono-Bubble) – the relative effect of speeding time up outside the bubble has an inverse effect on the force of gravity upon that bubble – reducing its relative pull, therefore acting as a cushion to one’s own terminal velocity. One can create a kind of “time-parachute”, allowing one to easily survive falls that would be lethal to citizens of un-condensed timeframes. The practical applications of such an effect are perhaps outweighed by the existential realities of outliving the human race, but it is the author’s opinion this is a valuable discovery nonetheless.
The first moment I awoke on the island, I thought I didn’t know how many hours I had been unconscious for, but what I eventually discovered when I inspected the Decade Condenser’s Chrono-Odometer, was that I didn’t know how many EONS I had been asleep. The Odometer was only built with 6 digits – so it could’ve clicked over to zero – and started clean, perhaps even multiple times.
In all likelihood – (I have seen no proof otherwise) I have long survived either the extinction or planetary migration of the human race. Even if I were only unconscious for five minutes, at the rate the Decade Condenser was set, in those five minutes, 50,000 years of Earth time would have transpired.
My USAF top secret project of July 5th 1953 – to test the Decade Condenser at 10yrs per minute, for 2 seconds on a remote Pacific Island had been vastly overshot. The existence of the Air Force had likely been overshot.
If I was asleep two hours while the machine was active – 1.2Million years would’ve passed. Assuming the true number is somewhere in-between, it stands to reason that I am likely the last human on the planet Earth.
Loneliness, as a word, doesn’t even begin to describe it. Any english words fail to accurately capture the feeling. Only in my paintings have I found the appropriate language for this feeling.
Why do I believe in my survival of the species so fervently? Consider: if humans had survived, over a span of 50,000-1.2M years human evolution on Earth should have progressed to the point where even from this island I would see some sign of its exponentiating – buildings in the clouds – massive star cruisers departing the stratosphere – or telepathic advertisement-beacons shot into my brain from the evolved consumerist-hive-mind. Something.
Alas, I am now roughly 63yrs, and still no signs of humanity.
So whoever you are, friendly humanoid or otherwise intelligent being, before operating the Decade Condenser: take heed of those damn dials.
If you don’t, you may miss the party of your own species' existence.
Or, The Decade Condenser: What it is and What it is not.
The Decade Condenser is a relative time rate accelerator. Akin to a “Fast-Forward” switch on a reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder, but for the passage of time.
The Decade Condenser slows time in the active area, the “Chrono-Bubble”, relative to the world outside. This “slowing” is imperceptible to the operator’s mind – what is instead perceived is that the apparent time-rate outside the Chrono-Bubble speeds to whatever factor the operator has selected.
The Decade Condenser is not a “Time Machine” of the likes of H.G. Wells, as it cannot go backwards in time.
Believe me, I would like nothing more than to time-travel backwards to 1953, and hopefully return to humanity and to my loving cat Bermuda. Alas, even with the Decade Condenser, Eddington’s “Arrow of time” is ever stubborn in the direction of its course.
One cannot program a future date into the Decade Condenser and instantly “time-hop” to that moment in time. One can only use The Decade Condenser to select the rate at which (s)he and the Chrono-Bubble travel forward in time.
How should one think of the Decade Condenser?
Imagine yourself, future operator, as a time baker (assuming the divine pleasure of bread still exists in your era). Imagine your life, all the constituent moments of your existence as molecules of dough. Molecules that together comprise a small section of a perfectly baked Time-Loaf (the 3D representation of your Universe's passage of time, each moment an atom-thin sliver of bread; each era a hearty slice).
The Decade Condenser operates like a bread slicer to your Time-Loaf – capable of slicing off thick, Bavarian bread slices off at a time. As you engage The Decade Condenser, it slices off the remaining timeline possibilities available for your life to enjoy. Be cautious and deliberate as you operate it, once you advance forward in time, there’s no going back, at least not with this iteration of the technology.
Once the Time-Loaf is sliced, it cannot be unsliced.
As my predominate method of surviving on this modest bit of sea-rock would depend on selectively accelerating the rate of its time (relative to mine), I soon took to naming this island I time-crashed on Chronalia.
When I arrived, Chronalia was a craggy desolate place, the most prominent feature of which was a long-dormant volcano.
Life was scant on Chronalia: namely sand fleas and a few small crustaceans. Time withered metal scraps from the Cargomaster littered the rocks and beach sand (the crustaceans had begun to make their homes in these). Luckily, within my Chrono-Bubble there was a crate of MRE rations, that I would subsist on for a few months, but that time seemed to elapse in the blink of an eye.
I did find a freshwater spring, but soon I was going hungry. I resorted to hunting hermit crabs on all fours – which were hard to catch and didn’t offer much in terms of nutrition.
After a month of this, ketosis set in, and I began to lose my wits. Then one day I had a revelation – a tool I had at my disposal that could – possibly help me find food: time.
I used the Decade Condenser to scrub forward 50,000yrs, and to my delight in that timeframe the hermit crabs had evolved into much bigger crustaceans with meaty mid-sections the size of one’s fist!
Strangely – their legs had evolved to mimic pressure conduits from the crashed Cargomaster. Nevertheless, they were delicious. And if ever I (due to my overindulgence) endangered the survival of the species, I would just scoot forward another 10-20,000 years and see what new creatures had evolved or proliferated in the remainder.
The world unfolds in such ornate ways.
Upon one of my time-foraging sojourns the once-dormant volcano on Chronalia even erupted! Endangered by the seeping magma and toxic gas, I used the Decade Condenser to speed up time, and to my relief, discovered that the magma could not penetrate the Chrono-Bubble. Instead I was lifted like a beach-ball in high tide, and all I had to do was scrub through another hundred years until the eruption had ceased.
Time is a powerful tool. Become a craftsperson.
Perhaps the biggest “danger” of operating the Decade Condenser, is also the attribute that makes it the most beautiful.
Displacing oneself in time – especially beyond the lifetime of ones species’ civilization – has the eventual effect of disintegrating the three pillars of a comfortable sentient life: Society, Spirituality & Self.
Of what use is one’s connection to society after that society has likely long disappeared?
Of what use is the cosmic pull of spirituality when the only possible believers one has to share that divine light with are Lavaguanas and Conduit-Crabs?
What one is left with is simply the “Self” but in a vacuum of meaningful external connections, that too begins to quickly erode like a circuit-board left in salt-water.
Kant was right – the good life truly depends upon community.
When you, the sentient being, are time-forced into absolute solipsism, nearly every meaning you once held dear, evaporates like cigarette smoke blown towards a starry sky. And after every anchor that held you to your forgotten world has evaporated, what you are left with is simply a single epistemological question – and I can verify it is not at all a frivolous query, but a vital question that MUST be answered:
What do I do now?
It was this difficult question that led me back to my long lost love of painting.
As a boy I had always dreamed of becoming a painter, and I purchased my first set of oils when I was nine. I would paint birds, cornfields, tractors, and sunsets. I gave up this vocation after highschool, to devote my waking hours to the much more practical study of science (fat lot of good it did me!), and stupidly, I never looked back.
But one day, surviving on Chronalia, after enjoying a nice breakfast of roasted semi-crab, the answer to my question came to me: I should get back into painting.
Pigment on Chronalia was easy to come by, and soon I was painting eruption-sunsets, sun-basking Lavaguanas, magma-landscapes, and dancing Conduit-Crabs.
And oh! What wild paintings you can create when you also operate the Decade Condenser! With one hand holding my paintbrush, and one finger on the time-dial, I have rendered images I hadn’t in my previous life dreamt possible.
A school of writhing eels evolving to walk on land. Lavaguanas evolving color changing dorsal crests through every hue of the visible spectrum. Chronalia’s volcano building itself ever upward toward the stars with endless layered ribbons of molten and cooling magma. A group of tiny quadrupeds evolving before my very eyes into teeny sentient beings, and constructing a vibrant subterranean civilization in the craters of my ancient crash landing.
What inextinguishable joy, to capture in brushstrokes, these vibrant windows of time.
So remember, even if you time-fling yourself so far into the future that you find yourself standing alone, before the hungry maw of a black hole…
There’s always painting.
Perhaps this is the most important truth to be aware of, when operating the Decade Condenser.
The plight of the mortal god holds true: no matter how quickly time passes by around you, your days are still numbered. Having survived this far into the future, I feel myself slowing down. Perhaps it's cancer. Either from a thinner ozone layer, or perhaps from all the techno-emulating crabs I’ve consumed. Sometimes I have tasted notes of benzene in the ones that failed to cook through. Nevertheless, I have lived a good life as a time-condenser, and I’ve gleaned much about how to live one’s life in the midst of such technology.
However you see fit – set the focus of your life upon some manner of the following:
Find small ways to make each successive day of your life, one of the best days of your life.
Never stop finding new small ways to make each day, one of the best days of your life.
Write your book; paint your masterpiece; compose your magnum-opus; even if no one else will likely ever see it. Do it for yourself, and the hope - however misplaced - that someone someday will find inspiration in your work.
Don’t strive for perfection. The shores of perfection are a damn mirage.
Embrace the fact that fast forwarding time slows you down.
Take it slow, as the breeze.
Don’t shun the thrill of loneliness.
Make time to appreciate the Full Moon.
Change is the only worthwhile constant.
If your days are covered in soot and lava-muck, spend your nights staring at the stars.
The stars above will still be there, long after you depart this world.
Make paintings/sculptures/music/writings about this beautiful fact.
Share the joy that you grow, even if it may never be received.
Lastly, remember the epigraph of this user manual:
Life is short whether or not time is long.