Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Great Times" Prologue

"Great Times"

By Frank Phillips

© 2002 Terry Franklin Phillips Sr.

All rights reserved


2147 A.D.

Forrest Smith had a problem. History was being rewritten. It wasn’t his doing. This time.

He first noticed it while flipping through the family’s movie selections.

A student of history by hobby as well as by vocation, he absently looked through the descriptions of movies in the “mockumentary” vein.

He was startled by a new selection of movies he had never seen before.

Taking a drink of the cool concoction at his side, he looked more closely at the descriptions on the screen before him.

Several dealt with the subject “Roswell”. There was a 1999 movie, a 1994 TV show and “Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence” from 2002, nearly 150 years earlier.

I wonder why we didn’t see this?” he asked himself, muttering, rather than speaking the words aloud. “I hope –.”

He didn’t finish the words. He was soon on the telephone.

Smith was head of the nation’s time travel project. For some months the project administrators had sent time travelers -- historians, as they liked to call themselves -- back in time to witness the past so they could correct errors in the nation’s history books.

The organization had been able to do so with much success. Great success meant observing without changing history.

The next day Smith’s fears were confirmed. Following his call, his chief researcher had found something new in American history of 1947. That was a worrisome prospect to the nation’s chief time travel administrator.

What do you mean, something new?” asked Sheryl, who had shared the 50-year-old’s bed and board for nearly 30 years. The couple were eating their dinner in a small apartment they called home.

Forrest smooshed his spoon through noodles on his plate. It was a nervous habit that drove his wife crazy, but he had not been able to shake it.

We are beginning to see things in history that didn’t used to be there - not as far as we know, anyway.

Yesterday I found ‘new’ movies – from 150 years ago – that were about a desert town called Roswell, New Mexico. Then, today --.” He pushed his plate away, knowing he would not finish his half-eaten dinner . “Ralph brought in a research file - a history book - that he had been reading. All of a sudden, we have an anomaly in 1947.”

What’s an anomaly?” Sheryl asked, rested against the wall. She realized dinner was over and thought she may as well burn a few extra middle-aged fat cells by standing instead of sitting through the conversation.

Something that shouldn’t be there, something unexpected,” he said. “Well, it seems that all of a sudden – yesterday – new antique movies show up on the screen and today - the history books talk about a spacecraft - a UFO - unidentified flying object, as they used to be called - that crashed in New Mexico on a ranch in 1947. Did you ever hear of anything like that?”

Sheryl glanced at the calendar. It was Jan. 23, 2147, and she thought back to the beginning of her formal education.

As a five-year-old, she had started school in 2105. Forty-two years later, her husband’s work frightened her. She tended to agree with those who believed that time travel was dangerous because yesterday’s history could be changed.

She knew there had been no recorded UFOs in New Mexico in 1947, at least none she had heard of.

You hadn’t heard of it, I hadn’t heard of it, but what bothers me most is that Ralph hadn’t heard of it. And, Ralph knows his history. That’s why I wanted him on my team.

But now, every kid in school will learn about Roswell, New Mexico,” Forrest said. “They will think it’s just something they hadn’t heard before. Teachers will be relieved they heard about it in time to put it on the latest history tests. But we know it was an anomaly and we suspect we know why it happened. It was a time-travel anomaly.”

Forrest bit his thumbnail.

Worse, if people become frightened by the new historical artifacts that just happen to pop up, the government could decide the project isn’t worth the cost – might even be dangerous to pursue.”

Sheryl started clearing the table.

Are you sure it hasn’t been there all along?” she asked. “After all, I know Ralph. He certainly isn’t perfect.”

Sheryl had introduced Ralph to a homely cousin on her side of the family a year earlier. Ralph hadn’t taken the bait. In fact, he later told Forrest, “She had a face that made me think she was looking for worms!”

Forrest had not passed on that tidbit to his wife.

So, why does everyone at the lab think it’s an anomaly?” she asked.

You know we are always careful. That we don’t want to change history? Well, this 1947 UFO that crashed in New Mexico not only was observed, but it made quite a mess of things. According to the new history, pieces of the wreckage were strewn over a large area.

Then, Ralph found a Web site that indicated movies I saw yesterday had been made about the crash. In one of them, a soldier at the site took a piece of the metal home to show his family. He wadded it up like metal foil and when he laid it down on the table, it smoothed out without a wrinkle to be found. And, it seemed nearly indestructible. Ralph is going to try to bring some movies - movies that you and I don’t remember seeing - to work tomorrow.

The crash was rumored to involve aliens - creatures not of this world. At least, that was what the first reports said. Then, the government said the ‘crash’ was actually a weather balloon.”

What else is bothering you?” she asked.

I’m afraid,” Forrest said finally. “I’m afraid every time we send a team out and they come back - you know - all scrunched up in the face and spindly in the arms and legs.

It’s not natural, Sheryl. It’s just not natural.”

"And you think one of your people were involved. Then quit.”

Why? The genie is out of the bottle, Sheryl. Oh, yeah! The genie is out of the bottle and there is no stuffing him back in. Time travel is here and it is not going away.

He paused and looked up at her with the “puppy dog look” as she called it.

Sheryl, I’m afraid we’re going to send one of our teams to 1947 and then find out our guys who were killed on that ranch. We certainly don't have the technology - even today - to do what the new reports say happened there. So, it must have been some other group - maybe evening space aliens, we don't know. But somehow it was all unheard of until now.

He began sobbing and Sheryl took his head in her arms.