ON THE ROAD FROM GALILEE
Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah Green saw Professor Johnson bustling into the computer room waving a sheath of computer printouts. Sarah grinned as she ignored her superior.
“Sarah, I need you to
run these figures for me. If my math is right, I may have an answer
to why time is directional.”
The young graduate assistant
sat oblivious at the computer with Beethoven’s ninth blaring in her headphones. Growling, the Professor tapped her on the shoulder. Sarah slapped at the offending hand and spun around. “Hey, don’t paw the goods! I heard you. I’ll be with you in a sec.” Sarah
turned back to the keyboard and tapped in the last line of data.
She smiled as old man Johnson fumed behind her. Let him wait.
I’m the best darn programmer in the department.
Turning to the Professor,
Sarah said, “Okay, gimme!” and snatched the sheath of printouts. After a moment, Sarah frowned. “This
data is from a particle beam run on the minicyclotron. When did
you get funding for that?”
The Professor just shrugged. “I didn’t.
Professor Hardcourt agreed to modify his runs to give me some experimental
“Oh. And what did you
“He’ll get half the
credit for the discovery if this data proves my theory.”
“Lord!” Sarah snapped. “Do you have any idea how lame that is? He’s
done nothing, and gets half the glory if this pans out.”
Professor John flushed
and looked away. “Yes, that’s true. But I’ve never been funded for this. It’s
the only way I can.”
Sarah turned away.
The old man was obsessed with this. “The arrow of time,” he called it. Chuckling, Sarah began punching in the data. Professor Johnson walked away when Sarah didn’t
Sarah first met Professor Johnson at the Physics Department faculty mixer.
“Why is it that time moves in one direction only? At the level of subatomic particles, either direction is fine. The math works in either direction,” were
the first words out of his mouth. Oh lord, Sarah thought as she smiled.
“How could the universe exist if all reactions ran from beginning to end and back again?” Sarah
“I’m not saying that time moves in both directions at once. Hobson’s
work with proton/antiproton reactions proved that. But there must
be some force that causes time to have directionality. Time moves
in one direction because something is pushing it in that direction.”
Sarah laughed. “Pushed?
By who, fairies?”
Professor Johnson laughed, and launched into an incomprehensible monologue. Sarah grunted and nodded at regular intervals until she was able to slip away.
Sarah recalled this
conversation as she glanced back and forth from the computer screen
and the Professor’s printouts. There was a small but consistent amount of extra energy in the reactions. Small enough that most experimenters would ignore it if they weren’t looking for it. But this was the amount of energy predicted by the Professor’s equations, enough to justify the existence of a force-carrying time particle. Sarah’s
heart thumped as she ran to find Professor Johnson.
team spent three months trying to detect the time particle (or
chronon, as Professor Johnson
named it) before succeeding. After that, more were found once the
particle team knew what to look for. Shortly, Professor Hardcourt
found the antichronon and the department chairwoman talked of research
grants and awards. Membership on the Hardcourt/Johnson team became
the most envied post on campus.
One Friday night, Bill
Jacobs, the team leader, took Sarah back to the particle beam lab
after pizza and beer. “This will freak you out,” he said as they climbed the stairs to the lab. “We just got enough control over the chronon stream to try this.” Giggling, he set a pencil on the revolving stage where the chronon detector normally sat. “I’m going to give it a 10 second burst,” he
said. The lights dimmed and an almost subliminal hum filled the
room. In the chamber, the space over the stage wavered like the
air in a furnace, and the pencil was gone. Sarah blinked, and found
two pencils on the stage now. The second disappeared as soon as
Bill cut power. Sarah gripped the edge of the consol, panting.
“From what we’ve got so far, you have to apply a set amount of chronon energy to an object to break it loose from the time-space continuum,” Bill said. “After
that, the more particles that interact with the object, the further
it moves along the time-space continuum. That was about a three
second displacement. Things get really wild when we bombard a target
with antichronons. The target appeared on the stage before we started
the run. That really scared Hardcourt.”
Sarah just nodded. Jerk.
He’s got no idea what he’s
Sarah felt a glow in her chest as she considered events. It all made sense. She always knew she was meant for something special. This
is why I’m here, what I was born to do! So, what should I try
for? Riches? Too easy. The first event has to be something historic.
At the next beer and
pizza session with the team, Sarah asked the question, “If you
wanted to go back in time and stop the Holocaust, what would you
The other grad students
hooted and laughed. Bill Jacobs slurred, “Get Hitler! Drop a bomb
in his Reichstag!”
“No! No!” another shouted. “Hitler didn’t start the persecution of the Jews. It goes way back. Queen Isabella ejected all the Jews from Spain in 1492. They lost everything, and most died on the road. A couple of Popes ordered inquisitions against them before that. Real nasty stuff with dungeons and torture, all sanctioned by the Roman Church. You’d
waste your time with Adolf.”
“Hey!” Jacobs said. “Why go halfway? Get the man himself! Go for J.C. in Galilee. Without him, there can’t
be no Catholic Church, no Pope, no harangues against the Christ-killers.”
“But what would take its place?” Bill
asked as he filled his glass. The discussion took off on a tangent
Sarah. Her head throbbed as she considered. Why not? It only involved one man at a well-known place and time.
Even as she considered it, she could see the math in her head.
Sarah stepped onto her
makeshift stage in the particle lab as chills ran up her spine.
She’d spent six months brushing up on her high school Latin and
gathering supplies. So should I do this? , she wondered
as she looked about the lab.
Sarah was still debating
when a sound like the rushing wind filled the chamber as her computer
program took control of the equipment and the platform spun. A
flash blinded her, and then she fell onto bare ground. Standing
slowly in darkness, Sarah looked across a quiet, moonlit hillside
and dark buildings below.
“Okay, I went somewhere,” Sarah
muttered. “Where?” There was no light or movement visible.
Sarah jerked around
at the voice calling from behind her. A heavy-set man wearing a
tunic, leather breastplate and metal helm stood there, hand rested
on the pommel of a short sword.
In Latin, Sarah said, “I
am sorry. I don’t understand.”
The fellow grunted and
rubbed his chin. “I asked if you were lighting a fire a moment
ago. I saw a flare up here.”
Sarah smiled. “No, that
wasn’t me. I just arrived myself. Could I ask who I’m addressing?”
The soldier scowled. “I’m
Septemus Lucius, Legionnaire third class, in the Fifth Legion under
the procuratorship of Governor Pontius Pilate. And I’ll ask the
clasped her hands and bowed.
The soldier nodded. “Who
are you? What’s your business here?”
“My name is Sarah Green.
I’m traveling from the west to visit the holy city during Passover.
I am afraid I’m turned around. Is that Jerusalem? Am I in time
for the holy day?”
The soldier laughed. “You’re
on course. That’s the west gate down there, and your Jewish feast
is still six days off. But, you can’t enter Jerusalem at this hour,
the gates are closed. Settle down here until dawn. The gates open
at first light.”
Sarah nodded. As the
soldier was turning to leave, Sarah called out, “Do you know if
Jesus, the Prophet of Galilee, is in town? I was hoping to hear
The soldier turned and
glared. “You aren’t one of his followers, are you?” Sarah shook
“Good!” the soldier
said. “We almost had a riot when he arrived yesterday. You’d be
well advised to stay away from him. Every time he speaks, people
get all stirred up. If he keeps causing trouble, the Governor will
find some excuse to cut his stay real short.” The soldier drew
a thick forefinger across his throat.
“I didn’t know he was
a trouble maker. I’ll keep that in mind.” The soldier nodded and
walked off. Sarah sat with her back against a tree and chuckled.
“En garde, Jesus
of Nazareth. I’ve come.”
available in Big Pulp Fall 2011 issue)