The following account is in no way fictional. A collision of Myth and History, yes. A crossover between the Real and Hyperreal, of course. But there is not a fabricated word in the whole, loopy, superdelusional, and as of yet unsolved mystery.
On September 5th, 2003, beginning around ten in the evening, we received the first timesignal. Maybe the first in human history. Howard was fucking around in the parlor, trying to make irritating noises with a boombox. It was then that he stumbled onto this little transmission:
It sounded like a throatsinging appliance or a Japanese conceptual album; a little harmonic stepbridge of a song, with a little trill in the middle to give it a human fingerprint. Right up our alley. Some brief investigation into the hows and whys revealed that, interestingly enough, the signal was anywhere on the AM band, anywhere in our house, on any radio. But— and this was the trick that left us wordless— it was only in our house. The second you stepped off the front porch or into the backyard, the robotsong vanished and normal radioplay continued. Nowhere else in Philadelphia and, we can only presume, the rest of the galaxy.
Howard was convinced that his brainwaves were causing the disturbance. “I’m going to Seven-Eleven and back. Tell me if anything changes.” I knew he wasn’t psychically rippling the radioband. I knew it was, instead, a Time Signal. Obviously.
It was the same Time Signal that Willie and I had waited for, years ago, when we first devised the essential mechanism of Timesignaling.
When Willie later heard the signal— though only for a brief, brief moment— he agreed, swiveled, and said ‘”okay, don’t let me hear it again. If I accidentally make the sound. We’ll know for sure. We’ll know it was us and not someone else.” Us and not another force from beyond the realm of comprehension. This was good solid, empirical thinking.
The pseudoscientific kernel of Timesignalling is the idea that it would not be necessary to physically travel through time— and risk losing your life and luggage— if we could send information back through time. Via antiparticle morsecode or a fancy string of blips and bleeps. Or whatever. The notion came to me, years ago, while watching a program on the Discovery Channel on the frontiers of science. The segment was running on and on about “energy and particles travelling backward through time” and this was enough to ignite the fuse. I jumped to the next logical conclusion: Time Signalling. Even better, even more deliriously, I thought:
“Really, all I need to do is build a receiver. And the transmittor will send me the directions for its own construction. Or maybe a radio can already receive the Time Signals. All I have to do is listen. Then have the date and time set in stone.”
It was steeltrap Bill-and-Ted logic; what we in the business refer to as a “causal loop.” Willie and I had listened years ago, but we forgot to mark the time and date, so even if we built a transmittor now, by Muse rather than Blueprint, we wouldn’t know when to send it to. That’s the rub. Now we know. SEPTEMBER 5TH 2003. 22:00 EST. But this is where it gets weird….
Some months later, I was tooling around with a music program on my computer. I randomly opened two versions of an instrument and sloppily clicked along the board, without paying any attention to what I was doing. Even making a little mistake in my haste. I just wanted to hear what the instrument sounded like. When I pressed play, this cranked out of the speakers:
Roommates ran in screaming “it’s back” and I sprang the facts on them. I couldn’t believe it myself. But even if you didn’t believe it was a Time Signal, you still had a lot of explaining to do. More in fact. If you listen closely, you can even hear the same little trill in the center of the loop. This is what gets me. That trill. It was a slip of the hand. Pure haste. But it closed the case in my mind. It was precisely the kind of signal we would send.
I had just finished Philip K. Dick’s VALIS and the whole book had made too much sense. I needed some grounding, a sobering splash of cold water on my face. Not this kind of mindbender. The metaphors were becoming too jumbled. The mix too thick. Then again, maybe this is how it new reality happens. The soup of mythos congeals and it is willed into being by a collective delusion. We were all riding in the same boat now, schizophrenically speaking. Not too long before, we had become certifiable addicts to Wild Stallion, a highoctance energy drink sold on tap at the Seven-Eleven fountains. It tastes like battery acid and works twice as well. Coincidentally, Wild Stallion, or more accurately Wyld Stallionz, was also the Bill-and-Ted band name, whose melodies and message were to usher in peace and excellence in the 24th century. We thought Wild Stallion— the drink— could easily accomplish the same thing. On tap, we could buy a 2-liter refill for 95cents and polish off the carafe in under thirty minutes. Soon thereafter we would be sweeping dirt in the backyard and clutching our kidneys in sublime regret. Under the influence of this… this assault on the frontal lobe, everything made sense; everything was possible. All sensible doubts— of the kind usually evoked when talking about time travel— were trampled underneath. But the bad kind of doubt— in the Blakean sense, as reticence before possibility and fully-realized Being— went out the window as well. It cleared the way and even dug tunnels through Time itself.
We viewed Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure again. Just to get our hypothetical facts straight, and I realized its philosophical import. I wanted to do the same thing to human history. Genghis Kahn on a skateboard, Beethoven electrified, epochs colluded, Socrates cavorting with Billy the Kid, Freud on a wacky copchase through a shopping mall, Napoleon on a waterslide— ending with a vista of the next Golden Epoch. Bill and Ted, I can take them or leave them, but the drift of the film: metaphorically perfect. And this is what we’re talking about: metaphors made real.
So yeah, we’ve got the radio ready for the next SEPTEMBER 5TH. Our time machine is tuned and purring. Our Penrose and Feyman diagrams are unrolled on the kitchen floor. Ready to play a crosstemporal game of Twenty Questions with our future selves, or their minions. Should be fun.