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THE TIME IDIOT
(2011) - a novel by A.R.Yngve - Sample Chapters

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CHAPTER 13

Prescott anticipated that in the future they would arrive in, he would have prevented Marx from writing his toxic Commie gospel, and things were going to be okay.

But he worried about that terrible rocket attack on D.C. he had seen on his previous visit to 1941... so he had set an arrival time and location he felt safe with: Stockholm, Sweden, just one day before Zack Cutter took him to see the time pod in the first place.

He trusted that Sweden, the most peaceful (and boring) country on Earth, was going to make a positive impression on Karl Marx - and if that wouldn't open Marx's eyes, surely a trip to jolly old England should win him over.

The pod landed with a jolt. Karl Marx screamed and hugged Prescott hard.

"Leggo of me, man!" Prescott said. "I'll open the hatch. We won't stay long, don't wet your pants..."

Prescott checked the monitors and they were all dark. He scratched his head and used the night-vision camera. They should be in a park, not far from the Swedish capital, as he had planned. The image was still dark.

A fish swam past the camera and passed in an upward direction. Prescott started. "Oh my God, we're underwater. And sinking!"

"I can't swim!" screamed Marx.

Prescott fought to keep the panicking philosopher's fumbling hands away from the controls. "Oh what the hell," he said and struck Marx over the head with the gun.

The bearded man passed out and Prescott could concentrate on sending the pod half an hour forward in time, a few hundred feet further west and above water.

***

Now the pod landed on solid ground. But why hadn't it done so the previous time? Prescott opened the hatch, and dragged out the moaning Marx onto the grassy knoll where the pod rested. The sun was setting behind Stockholm; its church spires and tall buildings were sharply outlined against the crimson and golden sky.

"I've been here before, in 1906. But I landed some two hundred feet to the east... I see. The riverbank has moved. It's much wider." He wiped his forehead. "Is it warm here, or is it just me?"

He swallowed and took deep breaths. The air felt different... thicker somehow.

Marx, still groggy from the blow, mumbled something in German and held his shaggy head. Prescott worried. The city seemed unharmed and wealthy, rocket death did not rain from the sky, he spotted vapor trails from jet airliners... but he ought to check the news.

Fortunately, the pod had TV, radio and wireless Internet. He tried the Web browser, but it couldn't receive anything; the screen only showed computer-code messages he did not understand.

When he tried to tune in on television signals, he received many channels. Most of them spoke English, and commercials frequently interrupted the programs; Coca-Cola, Sony, and some other brands he didn't recognize.

Prescott felt relieved. No Hitler, no Stalin, no Marx, no Nietzsche... finally the world had been set straight, and he could go home.

Then he heard what one of the news anchors said.

"... the millions of refugees. The exiled Prime Minister of the Netherlands declared that his people are now nomads of the world; their homeland is no more.

"But what can be causing the polar icecaps to melt so rapidly? A group of scientists claims that our global industrial civilization itself is responsible for warming the planet, by polluting the atmosphere with massive levels of carbon dioxide from oil and coal consumption."

Prescott flipped channels, and in the course of a few minutes he gathered the pieces of a world puzzle: There was no Communism, no tyranny. The entire world had been industrialized and democratized, from Russia to Africa to Asia to South America and even Alaska.

All available oil was being drilled, including at the Earth's poles. All countries that could dig huge open coal mines, did.

Many countries that Prescott remembered as poor were well off in this timeline. But the world's climate was considerably warmer than he recalled it, and the ocean levels had risen so rapidly in the past decades, that low-lying lands had been submerged: All of the Netherlands, parts of Asia and much of New York.

The global heat wave was also causing large epidemics all over the world; an aggressive form of malaria had reached even Scandinavia.

"Malaria? Here?" Prescott looked for mosquitoes, saw several, and shuddered. He retreated into the pod, leaving Marx behind.

"I can't risk bringing him back," he told himself, "and I can't kill him. So I'll just leave him here, where he can't do any harm. Good luck, Marx, you're in a better world now."

Prescott ate his last food, and pondered his situation. The global warming thing would pass eventually. Scientists were going to come up with a solution, they always did. His work was done.

Surely, he thought, now he could return and tell his wife and family everything? Like, mission accomplished?

A nagging, vague dread crept over him. What if his family wouldn't be there? He had stayed unchanged when everything around him changed; his memories were still the same. Then surely, they'd still be waiting for him in the time where he took off, part of his fate, as God wanted?

But...

A cold sweat covered his skin and his heartbeat raced.

What if his family had changed with everything else?

Prescott shook his head over and over. "No. No, no, no...." It couldn't have happened. He did not set out to change them. He loved them just the way they were. Especially the wife, who had stayed with him through the bad times, perhaps the only person in the world who truly understood him. She had to be there. She would be waiting for him. Anything else would be madness.

All he had to do was steer the course for that same day when he left, perhaps a few minutes after he took off, and he could return to life as usual... couldn't he?

Prescott Walker felt an overwhelming confusion. There was some detail about time travel that he just could not grasp... some crucial fact that his brain struggled in vain to understand. Professor Moh had said something about time having two dimensions, and more... but it all seemed too elusive, like a fading dream.

With an effort, Prescott's brain began to form a lucid chain of thought: I went back in time the first time... killed Osama... and returned to the present, a fraction of a second later. Then why hadn't I changed? I assumed it had to be fate, God's will. But...if I altered the past, why can I still remember the way things were before I...

His head began to hurt, like it always did when he tried to think too hard. Too difficult, too scary. Panic set in. His hands trembled. He knew what this meant, and he hated it.

The old problem was coming back. The thirst for a drink. He had it bad now. They used to warn him in the AA program, in the church chats, in the rehab clinic, that a reformed alcoholic could have a sudden relapse - anytime, without warning. And Prescott had said no, I've got a special agreement with the big guy upstairs. I made a pledge to God. I won't have a relapse.

And there he was, having the shakes, feeling that terrible urge to get drunk again. Jesus, he thought, make me strong.

And then it hit him:

What am I thinking? I've got a frickin' time machine! I can go see the Son of God in person! In Palestine, in Roman times! With his advice and the time pod, there's no telling what we can accomplish! He and I, we'll make a paradise on Earth! Once I see him and talk to him, all those other tricky issues can be worked out.

Prescott told himself that meeting Jesus Christ was going to be the biggest moment in his life, so he'd better prepare, make a good impression... get some proper clothes, and a few more Bibles in the languages they spoke in his time, and some nice Christian items to prove his devotion to the Lord.

But where was he going to find all that stuff?

Maybe, he thought, he could have just one drink before he visited Jesus, just to celebrate. Somewhere safe and American, where he couldn't change history while he relaxed with one... little... drink.


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