This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 800 words.
Delia had something to say once the fresh coffee arrived.
“We have seen those electronic screens, but they don’t explain how you can move through time. Do you have anything else to show us, Emily?” The girl nodded.
“Finish your coffee, and I will show you things you cannot imagine. Even when you see them, you won’t understand them, believe me. You can ask questions about anything, but I cannot guarantee that you will comprehend the science behind the answers. I do not mean to sound patronising when I say that, but the technology we use every day is centuries ahead of anything you can even imagine”.
Roger hadn’t said anything previously, but then he asked her why she had shown such promise in some classes, but not in others. He mentioned her bad spelling in English, and her rudeness to the Religious Education teacher.
“I am always looking for the more intelligent and adaptable teachers. They might make good guardians, or be more inclined to help me generally. I do not consider the English teacher and the RE teacher to be suitable. But Miss Reiss had potential, as do you. So I made sure to do well in those classes, to bring attention to myself. In your case, it worked. As for Miss Reiss, she made an assumption based on my current name without taking me very seriously. Where I come from, we can learn a language fluently in the space of a few hours of your time. We have implants inserted in our brains not long after birth, and that makes it possible to learn a great deal in a very short space of time. In fact, there are no schools, at least not as you understand them now”.
Putting down her cup, Delia wanted to know something.
“How far in the future do you come from? Can you put that into some perspective we can understand?” Emily thought for a moment.
“In your calendar, it is currently nineteen sixty-eight. That means it is one thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight years after the birth of Christ, who many of you worship as a God. In other cultures, the years are different. For instance in the Muslim world, China, and Judaism. But try to imagine three times the current year. Three times the amount of years since your Christ was born. That would give you an approximate date of five thousand, nine hundred and four. Not that the date really means anything, for as we have found out in the future, time is nothing like you imagine it now. Would you like a break? I appreciate this is all far too much to understand this evening”.
Roger shook his head and told her to carry on. His postprandial tiredness had disappeared in an instant once they had arrived at the lakeside house.
“In the time where I live, humans have to do very little. We study, we learn, we try to improve and develop. Since the discovery of time-shifting, we also travel. But we can only travel back. One law we soon discovered is that travel into the future will never be possible. Becuase the future does not exist until it has happened. So, to explain. Tomorrow, I can travel back to today, but not to the day after tomorrow. However, I can travel back to any time in my life, then from there travel back in time to any date I choose. When I do that, I have all my accumulated knowledge as an elder, and in this case as an eleven year-old girl. Meanwhile, my actual self remains in my time, in stasis. My vital functions maintained by computers, and by robotic artifical intelligence”.
Interrupting, Delia had something to say. “What is artificial intelligence?” Emily pursed her lips.
“I will not try to explain that tonight, but consider what you already know. Machines that make things, machines that make light work of human labour. You even have the basics of computing, with machines that use punch cards to make calculations. In your lifetimes, machines will do so much more. They will manufacture cars, sort parcel deliveries, operate on people requiring delicate surgery. When you are both old, telephones will be portable, and fit in your pocket. You will all have devices like my recall device that can access every single piece of information you can ever need. Students will learn on computer terminals, and games on home computers will replace toys. This is the period in history when technology accelerates. By the time you are both dead, nobody will fail to understand such progress”.
Looking rather uncomfortable, Delia stood up and spoke to Yamada.
“If it is alright with you, I would like you to take us home now. I need a break, even if Roger doesn’t”.