In which time runs backwards, except for those who can’t stop it!
Stephanie sat across the table from her granddad in the retro bookstore cafe, which had, along with traditional food, made a comeback recently. It wasn’t the quietest place for an interview session, but her interviewee hadn’t wanted to stay home. No more holing up in the mountains for her granddad.
They pushed two stacks of books and magazines to the center of the table to make room for their cappuccinos and croissants. Her stack consisted of the JOI Journal, the Budget Guide, and two recent biographies she meant to read for inspiration. Her granddad’s consisted of Daily Prayers and Meditations, which seemed like the choice of a sentimental old woman, and a few tech journals.
They were blessedly alone, sitting at a pale wooden table, the surface of which was gouged and dirty, listening to the sounds of the espresso machine whining, the people speaking in hushed voices, the newspaper pages crackling. A man to their left hid himself behind the Albuquerque Daily. He might be reading one of her stories or bylines or…nah, he was reading Mark’s work. He was definitely on the sports page.
She smiled to herself and lost her train of thought. Technically, she was supposed to be typing shorthand. Wake up, Stephanie, wake up! Her granddad could talk for hours. Even if she only listened to a quarter of what he said, she would have plenty to fill a book. The problem was she wanted to fill a book with the right words. She smiled again, as she realized Gilly’s worst nightmare was being confirmed. Her granddad was controlling the narrative.
“Are you paying attention, m’dear?” her granddad asked her, loudly and abruptly.
She cleared her throat and tried to appear businesslike, whatever that meant. “Did you ever make money off your internet browser? What was it called again?” she asked.
“ItSe. And yes, that was primarily how we funded our start-up. We kept numerous shares in the company, but sold out to Hardwire, who immediately changed the name to Traction, which is why you haven’t heard of it. If you had done any kind of research like a proper journalist, you would know this.”
Stephanie, however, didn’t notice the insult. She didn’t know what to say. Traction was now the mainstream internet browser, the one she wasn’t allowed to use as a Journalist of Integrity. It was one of the biggest government control centers in modern days. It was like the Stasi in the closet with a recording device, except it was in everybody’s closets all over the country. And her grandfather had invented it.
“Don’t look so dumbfounded. I lost control of it when I sold it. It was strictly a moneymaking venture.”
“Strictly? What about the fluidity philosophy or whatever that was about?”
“Yes, in a sense, I wanted the world to know what it was like to think as I do, to see a 4d reality in the mind.”
“Is that what you call your ability to remember the future?”
“Would you like another croissant? Another coffee?”
“No,” she groaned. “I’ve gained five pounds since we started doing this.”
He looked down his nose at her in his patronizing way. “It’s apropos, don’t you think? It’s to live in timelessness, as we understand time, which is naturally 4d.”
“I don’t know. You lost me. I though there were three dimensions, and then time was the fourth.”
“No, not at all. Spacetime is four-dimensional. Time isn’t one dimension, but an intrinsic part of space. Now, I think you can understand this if you try. Past, present, and future are just mental frameworks for how we understand time. Chronology is a way to explain material change. My framework happens to be different.”
“How is that actually true, though? I mean, you’re born a tiny baby, and then you grow old, year after year. We aren’t our older selves when we’re young, and vice versa. We go through natural changes. The world is different from when you were young. You proved that by changing the world.”
His smile was tolerant. “That’s the framework you view the world through.”
“There was a point in time when your technology didn’t exist.”
“From your perspective.”
“You’re frustrating me. Evolution involves chronology. The geological record involves chronology.”
“Yes, we do live in a material world that changes.”
She shook her head. “How do you know your framework is different from other people?”
“Finally you bring up a relevant question. I could be a prophet, for all I know. Right?”
“I’m not sure I believe in prophets, just good predictors.”
“When did you get so banally logical? You’re starting to sound like Gilly.”
She licked some foam off her coffee stirrer. She wanted more creamy milk foam, she really did, but she had to stop eating all these rich foods. This was why she wasn’t like Gilly. She never could focus on anything except practical issues, such as preventing herself from growing a bigger, fatter ass. “Gilly is a genius. I’m just practical. I would never design things just to design them. In fact, I wouldn’t design anything at all. I live to pay my rent.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. You are a Beñat, though. And Beñats are anything but ordinary.”
“Okay, whatever, you were going to tell me how you know your mental framework is different from other people. How do you know you aren’t just a few higher IQ points above the average, plus have a lot of confidence and imagination?”
“IQ is meaningless. I have no idea what my IQ is. I know what Gilly’s is because he cares about being smarter than everyone else. His is…that would be telling. He cares about intelligence, I care about results. I know my framework is different because I discussed this with a fellow neurologist. She tried to put me on the new autism diagnosis spectrum, which incorporates what she called ‘spacetime savantism.’ I laughed at her and asked her to do brain imaging. I also asked her if she’d ever done imaging on people she diagnosed with this peculiar form of autism. She admitted she’d never met one before.”
“Spacetime savantism is a thing? Does that mean there are other people in the world who have your framework?”
“In my research, I’ve come across none who are alive at the time. There were a few hopefuls, but when I interviewed them, they turned out to be New Age gurus selling lectures or books.”
Out of the corner of her eyes, Stephanie caught sight of the tall figure before the tall figure spotted them at their table. She waited for it. She expected it. And there it was—
“Mark!” Her granddad’s voice was big and booming.
Stephanie didn’t have to experience prophetic visions of the future to understand this. Her granddad and Mark were going to be best friends.
Mark held out his hand, and Oso shook it. Then the young man pulled up a chair next to Stephanie and sat down.
“What are you doing here?” Oso asked.
“Steph invited me. Sorry I’m late. The Bulldogs’ game was extra exciting tonight.”
“Was it really?” Stephanie asked.
“No, but I did get an interview with Coach Termagant. I asked him what he thought of the choreographed dance moves the boys were doing in imitation of the professional players.”
“He said he was all right with it, it was just part of their unique self-expression as a team. He was proud of their choreography.”
Oso snorted; Stephanie felt bemused. She didn’t know whether to root for the team or not. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand sports,” she said.
“I can’t believe you’re still trying after that travesty of a game we witnessed,” Mark said. “I’m going to get some coffee while I still have a few dollars in the bank.”
“Can I ask you another very relevant question?” Stephanie asked her granddad. Mark was stuck in a lengthy coffee queue, and so she took the opportunity to finish out the day’s interview before sports distracted them yet again. “Is this the future you intuited?”
“I never intuited the future, m’dear. I experienced it. I remembered it.”
“Did you ever get your brain imaging done?”
“Yes, I had several types of imaging done. I have what appear to be extra neural connections in my brain. A lot of them. I have a very dense neural network between brain hemispheres. I have what appears to be an extra ridge in the mid frontal lobe. But speaking of expressing uniqueness, professional athletes be damned. The brain actually does develop unique traits. I’m not sure that my brain is any more unique than the average brain. It seems to have developed fluidity in processes, a plasticine ability to adapt. I suspect that’s what makes it special.”
“Is that the case with other spacetime savants?”
“You mean the ones who have overdeveloped their abilities to deceive?”
“There are no other true spacetime savants out there?”
Oso shrugged dismissively. “If there are, I lost interest in finding them ages ago. I was never looking to find my special tribe. I was always looking to create better technology based off my special abilities.” His bright eyes glazed over as he appeared to stare gloomily into the rows of books.
Mark hit his knees against the table as he sat down with his coffee. Oso’s eyes snapped back into focus.
“That’s the subject for another day.”