Jul 23

The endless world-changers

An evening’s tale:

* * *

We were hand-chosen for an elite crew that skipped through millennia examining strife. We believed that with enough effort and data-gathering, we would find the solution for human conflict and bring it home to our original time.

We were invulnerable: swift healers, nearly ageless. We had worked hard to get into the program, worked hard to earn our rare and flawless artificial biology, but we didn’t feel privileged. We merely believed in the mission with all our hearts.

We slept through interstitial periods between the frenetic times we examined. Through those dark ages, we lay locked in underground cocoons.

This was the only sleep we received; otherwise we needed none. Our hibernation dreams were so slow and abstract that they melted completely when daylight arrived.

Throughout each mission, you and I made slow orbits around each other. I saw you rarely, a former lover from a time when my life was different. We’d been recruited separately after we broke up.

Now we saw each other at crises, exchanged hugs and whispered encouragement as the centuries wore on. That was all. Our mission was all-consuming.

* * *

We arrived in a time of desperate strife. Shortages led to starvation, fighting in the streets, and numberless atrocities that we’d all seen before. Once again, we had high hopes for our latest theory, but hope dissolved as we tested and iterated.

We tried and tried again: we infiltrated networks of guerrilla warriors, generals at their desks and idealistic peacemakers. Each of us was able to take on any uniform, adopt any culture, gain control of any organization, but the results were always the same.

As always, we walked unharmed through screaming mobs and shattered buildings. We wore loose clothes and crafted artificial scars to disguise our healthy bodies. People fell like flies around us, and we went on. We worked as best we could from the ruins of a dozen ideas, but there was no solution. Humanity is exactly what it is.

I began to spend less time on my missions and more time racing through war zones, patching wounds and splinting broken bones. Such tiny intercessions were no use to our mission, a total waste of my specialized skills. I could think of nothing else to do.

* * *

I saw you at the end of our ten thousandth experiment. You were sitting in a devastated camp as refugees streamed past, and your eyes were blank. We were both dusty from traveling, and you had a shaggy beard.

I came to you and you kissed my cheek. We held each other, unstirred by memory or desire. Long ago, we had lain in bed and discussed the exciting and abstract difficulties of changing the world. Now we were nothing but the razor’s edge of our work.

Two silent compatriots nodded to us as they passed, heading towards the rendezvous to discuss our team’s latest findings.

You and I said few words. We cried slow tears together. We said, “I love you.”

I suggested, finally, that we go back to sleep.

We haven’t woken yet.