Time is a serious business for me. I am Ralphie Chronos. And I am the Time Mechanic.
It was, as it always has been; As it always would be. The continuum. A strange and convoluted series of cause and effect that ranged from the creation of the universe in that moment they call ‘the big bang’ to the current time, and beyond, what we call ‘the future’. All the way to the heat death and final gasp of the cosmos in darkness.
It’s all once piece. We like to keep it that way. Me and Jarvis.
Sometimes things try to shift around inside this loop.
That’s where I come in.
When I hear the tolling of the iron bell, I know that something has changed. Its an alert system that I found. I would say I found it in the past, but what really is ‘the past’ when you’re a time traveller? It’s really just a reference point from your current place in the time stream.
However, how can I relate what I know in terms you’ll understand, unless I use conventions such as ‘past’, ‘present’, ‘future’, or ‘now’, etc? It becomes very difficult, even for me, regardless of my connection with the 4th dimension.
So, let’s try this ‘again’, shall we?
I found the Cosmic Bell Tower about 200 years ago, in my personal time line. And things were never the same for me since then. I was sort of ‘drafted’ into service, not that I mind. I was a digital artist that created art for my own amusement, and expression, rather than just about any other reason, before I found the Crack in Time. And it led me down a winding corridor to the the Tower.
It wasn’t like there was a manual or anything to guide me. But when you’re stuck in a place between the ticks of the clock, eternity seems to stretch before you. You don’t age, not really. You just exist.
So I ‘just existed’ for what would have been many years in that state. I nearly went mad, trying to find a way out, and not finding it, and then trying to destroy the place, but being unable to figure out HOW to. And then, when I finally accepted that I wasn’t delusional, and wasn’t trapped in Hell, I started to really explore the place.
I eventually found the “Archives”, which was a vast room of what seemed like file cabinets. It turned out to be really the vast workings of the instrumentality that powers, controls, thinks and runs the Cosmic Tower. When I found the Archives, that’s when and where I met “Jarvis”.
I think I somehow mentally projected that name on the entity, and maybe it decided it was just an easy point of reference for me, because it took on that persona. Jarvis eventually revealed ‘itself’ as an intelligence that runs the Cosmic Tower, and its works, its systems, or instrumentality – whatever you want to call it. I like to call him the Matrix Intelligentsia, a vast computer that has a personality and self awareness that permits it to better interact and understand those that it needs to communicate with.
The strange thing is, this place – this complex – the machinery or instrumentality of the whole place had to have been built by someone, or some thing. But Jarvis just hasn’t told me who yet, other than by calling the builder ‘the creator’. Since she isn’t around, and she gave Jarvis the ability to self-diagnose, self-repair and self-maintain, and since it exists in that moment between seconds, it doesn’t really ‘age’ any more than I do now.
Well, it hasn’t aged since it was moved outside the continuum. No entropy, and nothing about the Cosmic Tower ever changes. It can’t age or bow to the third law of thermodynamics. It exists in a state of ‘temporal grace’.
Apparently, it was Jarvis that had opened the crack in time to me, and drew me here. It needed another custodian or mechanic. But, for some reason, Jarvis had trouble connecting with my mind. It’s a telepathic connection, you see.
Eventually I understood it was Jarvis’ early attempts to communicate with me that nearly drove me mad. For some reason, my neural pathways had to be adapted to accept the telepathy communication inputs. There were other reasons for that, we found later, but that is perhaps a tale for another time.
Jarvis revealed to me that it was designed to help keep time on track, because sometimes, beings or races or events in the time stream jump out of sequence or don’t follow through their usual sequence because of interference from ‘outside’ – there are places and beings and things that can intrude from their own continuums, and there are many of them. We live in a multiverse, after all. When these intrusions happen on a certain scale, they influence the time stream. And I won’t even mention the threats from those few races that figure out Time Travel in our OWN time stream. It’s a headache!
Now, something you should know – there is a certain inertia that is sort of a temporal prophylactic against such influences and intrusions. Some small things may be changed, but most of those are glossed over by the time stream, and the general flow of time stays constant. It’s like the banks of a mighty river. Unless you have a massive alteration that destroys the banks or causes the time stream to flood out of its usual flow, it’ll keep moving along like nothing changed.
But, regardless of the inertia of events to stay the same, small changes can have cumulative effects. You know the old chestnut – ‘a butterfly beats its wings in Africa, eventually causing a hurricane that blasts the Gulf of Mexico’ and all that? Well, this is an application of that theory – sometimes, a small thing from outside can cause catastrophic results that range into the future. A man could die that was the lynchpin of a free and democratic society; a war could start that kills billions; a moon could blast out of orbit and wander like a cosmic vagabond, causing terrible repercussions to the planet it left; A sun could go nova.
You just never know. Or, well, some people wouldn’t. But I would – Thanks to Jarvis, The Iron Bell, and my time machine.
So if you are reading this, then something may have happened to me, and I’m stuck somewhere in the continuum, wrestling with some cosmic dilemma or other, trying to set time to rights. And if you ARE reading this, and Jarvis has you feeling rather giddy, and you think you might be going nuts, take my advice – just let time flow around you. Don’t fight it. At least, not until you know what you need to do to fix it. Jarvis might have pulled you in because I’m going to be tied up for a while. Or maybe my time in the loop is even done. Who knows? I probably do, but since I’m not where you are, that’s not going to do you a lot of good.
Again, my advice. Just let time flow, see where it takes you, and if Jarvis says things are haywire, and you have to fix something, just do as he says. He seems to know what he’s doing.
If you hear the Tolling of the Iron Bell, get ready for an adventure, put on your big boy pants – you’re gonna be heading into something that is strange, wonderful, terrible and awesome, all at the same time.
And if you wait long enough, I’ll be back around the loop to help you figure it out, if you need it – that is, if you’re lucky.
I am Ralphie Chronos. I fix problems with time. I am the Time Mechanic.
Story By: Dehrynn Shepherd
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