On the way to William Macauley’s last home, Rensselaer County, New York, October 2016, photo by the author
I am remembering. But now I seem to be forgetting as well. Recent gaps have appeared, holes in the narrative. Or not holes as much as partial truths, incomplete reconstructions. That is why it is so important to write down everything as soon as possible afterward. Because even as I write, there are times I begin to wonder and to doubt and to second guess.
I can tell you this: I never planned on changing the Past.
I did not start out trying to change the Past.
A little bit true.
I did not start out trying to change the Past in any big way. Not like people going back to kill Hitler or trying to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. Nothing big like that. Yes of course I knew all about that butterfly, how stepping on it has an Effect, how it will change the way English is spelled and alter the course of events and the outcome of elections. (Ray Bradbury, “A Sound of Thunder,” first published in Collier’s Magazine, June 28, 1952, four months after William Macauley departed this plane of reality).
But then I discovered I could Fall.
And then I found myself in Cairo Illinois in 1904 and I realized a lot of what I thought about the world and the Past was simply wrong, that a great deal of what I’d been taught and led to believe about the way Time worked just wasn’t true. And more than that I discovered there were powers at work devoted to keeping it that way; forces out there dedicated to protecting our ignorance, intent on maintaining the status quo on all planes, in all realities, times and places.
No wonder Change was so difficult. No simple back-space-and-delete: real change would require a more complicated process, like the old days with carbon copies, try and correct your mistake on the top layer but you still had two or three layers beneath and how could you fix those other versions? What you did mattered on multiple levels, Press Hard You Are Making Three Copies. No wonder Karma worked and History kept repeating itself. And Reincarnation: coming back over and over again to get it right, to change, to evolve. You might be able to do it eventually but you had to work at it, it wouldn’t be easy. It would take Time.
And so, if somehow you stumbled on a way to go back and recalibrate, say, or readjust, or fix the Past, wouldn’t you want to try? Like you, I’d been told all my Life that the Past was Past, Yesterday was Gone, Nothing I could do would ever fix it, I would have to live with my mistakes for the rest of my life, I’d be punished forever, forced to regret until the day I died, Too Late, What’s Done is Done, but now here was a chance to achieve the impossible, to undo, try again, Start Over, and you want to know why I would dare? Really, why? Given the risks, considering how dangerous, how uncertain, why? Why would I take that chance?
At the time, the answer seemed perfectly obvious: because I wanted to help you.
Not quite true.
Or perhaps because I thought if I helped you, maybe you would help me.