The first reported case of time displacement (popularly and somewhat inaccurately known as time travel) happened in the interior of a particle accelerator in São Paulo in 2112.
It happened entirely by chance.
As is the case with many scientific discoveries, sometimes you are looking for one thing, then another gets in the way, and with results you are most definitely not expecting. Viagra, for instance.
The time travel process (or, at least, its rudiments) was discovered by a researcher during the calibration of equipment between experiments.
Humankind had discovered the cure for many ailments and severe illnesses by the early twenty-second century. Most kinds of cancer, for instance, had been completely eradicated. But the common cold had not.
Neither had tardive dyskinesia.
Tardive dyskinesia was first diagnosed in the second half of the twentieth century. The development of this iatrogenic disorder, in medical jargon, is usually linked to the use of antipsychotic medications.
The word dyskinesia is Greek for erratic movement: people afflicted by that condition will suffer from involuntary movement of the mouth, tongue, and cheeks, resembling chewing motions with intermittent darting movements of the tongue; there may also be difficulty in performing voluntary muscular movement. Tardive dyskinesia is more common in women than in men and in the elderly than in the young. Symptoms of tardive dyskinesia can develop and persist long after use of the medication causing the disorder has been discontinued.
Dr. Mariana Lima was 55 and had been on antipsychotic drugs for eleven years. Even though metoclopramide hadn’t been commonly used for almost fifty years now, not every patient responded well to the current treatment, which combined transcranial magnetic stimulation and painkillers. It should be noted that Dr. Lima (from here on referred as Subject Zero) had never had a tardive dyskinesia episode before the afternoon of January 25th, 2112.
So, when Subject Zero started to tread on the catwalk crossing the accelerator and stopped to do the first calibration, she already noticed something was wrong but didn’t gave it much attention. “It was just a tic, nothing more,” she told the debriefing team later. “My left eye started to blink uncontrollably while I was walking, but when I stopped in front of the machine, bam!, it stopped. So I figured I must be nervous, you know, the thrill of the experiment…”
Right after Subject Zero started the calibration process, her right hand started jerking around between the motherboards. She cut herself. She cursed.
The two researchers who were supervising the process from the control room asked Subject Zero what happened, and asked her to return and let someone else do the calibration. Subject Zero agreed.
Then, when she turned to go back the way she came, the Subject Zero experienced the time displacement.
It was an unknown, impossible to control, and therefore terrifying experience to Subject Zero. Her body started to jerk and twist, to jump and swagger as if with a mind of its own.
Subject Zero went down the catwalk, sliding, sauntering, cakewalking, moonwalking. One step forward, two steps back. Baby steps. Turtle steps. Snail steps.
Then things started to change.
It was noticed that, upon walking along the particle accelerator in a state of tardive dyskinesia, Subject Zero started to experience slight changes in her surroundings, although no changes in herself. The two researchers that supervised the calibration, however, have stated that they noticed slight changes in her, such as: hair length and color, height, color and shape of shoes (most of her clothes were covered all the time by a lab coat).
(Which brought later to the minds of many the question: were they watching the same Subject Zero, or some alternate version/versions of her? This remains to be studied further.)
Upon walking ever forward on the catwalk, Subject Zero didn’t leave the surroundings of the particle accelerator, but, as she later told the retrieval information team in the debriefing, “It was as if lots of windows started to open at each side of the catwalk, as if I was walking on a train and could watch the landscape sweeping away by me, but different at every window…” She couldn’t be more specific.
The test didn’t take more than seventeen minutes in objective time, as seen from the point of view of outside observers.
The location of Subject Zero is unknown. There is currently a Subject Sixteen working in the premises. All reports relating the time displacement experiments with a possible rescue to the US Mars Mission are untrue.
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Fabio Fernandes is a writer based in São Paulo, Brazil. Also a journalist and translator, he is responsible for the Brazilian translations of several prominent SF novels including Neuromancer, Snow Crash, and A Clockwork Orange. His short stories have been published in Brazil, Portugal, Romania, England, and the USA, and in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, The Apex Book of World SF, Vol. II and Outlaw Bodies. He is currently finishing the co-editing process (with Djibril al-Ayad) of We See a Different Frontier, an SF postcolonialism anthology. Fabio tweets at https://twitter.com/fabiofernandes.
His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.