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MARTIAN TIME-LOOP

Dreamed 1994/5/2; acrylic illustration 2002, detail, ca. 18x12"; by Chris Wayan.

Painting of a dream by Wayan: Mars, through a viewport, as we dock at a high orbital station.


I'm twelve-year-old boy floating in a big room with a round window of plate diamond--the view-lounge of our spaceship. We're just docking with the Mars Orbital Station; I wanted to see Mars rotate under us. It looks like a huge, scarred orange. More craters than I expected. Here comes the big volcano! Three more in line... So big I feel like they'll nearly brush us. Wait for them to come round again... the planet spins so fast under us, visibly; surely it'll be only a couple of minutes. My sense of time must be distorted... why?

I crawl through to the Station. It's recently built and still small. A tiny crew. They've just noticed that there's a young man here who can't be accounted for--neither crew nor passenger! Who is he? Looks maddeningly familiar to me. A charmer. The others accept him in a resigned sort of way--he can't be pinned down, he just disappears... can he teleport?

He focuses on me. Wants to teach me things. Why?

He tells me why.

"I'm you. You from the future. Five, ten years. Time here is strange, and a loop has happened." He's come back to steer me onto the path that will give me the powers he has, that let him come back to steer me onto... no, don't think about it.

And so, following his advice, I climb into the next ship outbound for Jupiter and beyond, and glide out amid a lurid mass of lights and even visible, tumbling rocks. It's some cheap Hollywood conception of the asteroids! All wrong--what IS this? A loop back to the Dark Age of Science?

And the charmer, his work done, (the sheer shock of knowing what I can become is enough for him, it seems) ...he doesn't come along. He PARACHUTES back to the surface. All the way from space! Down toward the blue surface of... Mars? No way! No oceans THAT big, not even after terraforming. That's Earth! Somehow he's done it again.

I guess he wasn't sure he could be quite accurate enough, teleporting millions of miles, to land neatly on the surface. No fun to appear buried ten feet down or a hundred feet up. So he packed a chute and an oxymask and just aimed for the lower ionosphere or stratosphere, where a few miles off is meaningless.

Down he goes... he can fall 400 meters a second through this thin air without heating up too much; the amount of friction at equilibrium is, of course, just about the same for any skydiver, at any height. As the air thickens he actually slows, down to 300, 200... He deploys his drag chute, then the big one, and floats down slowly, as long as he has the air to spare. What a view!

And a job well done. Now he can get on with his ordinary life as a... a teleporting... oh, sure! His life, sohhhhh ordinary. And... are there MORE loops? Who says this is all?

What if HIS future visits HIM?

NOTES IN THE MORNING

So what else could we do, that we haven't thought of? To seed the future, what else will our future selves have to come back and coax us into? Maybe they're already trying--in dreams.



LISTS AND LINKS: kids - other worlds - Mars - time travel - falling - flying - orbital dreams - life-paths - Philip K. Dick - Ursula Le Guin

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