Have you ever watched time turn backwards? Well, it starts with waking up and seeing the sun rising out over your backyard, which is weird because you know your backyard faces West. And that is just the beginning. Then, you notice the birds are flying backwards, and the leaves are falling up instead of down. You might choose to ignore all of this at first and go along with the walking backward and putting on conditioner before shampoo. That’s what I normally do, anyway. I go along with it and hope it all will stop.
Usually, I make it to pouring the cereal only to watch it flow back into the box from the bowl, ignoring my grumbling stomach. Then, I graciously give up and figure my day is screwed. I fight to keep that gracious composure while calling in to the lab and giving myself a sick day.
“Rob, I’m not going to be in today,” I try to say. Only, the words come out sounding like:
“.yadot ni eb ot gniog ton m’I ,boR”
The only thing he ever lets out besides that one syllable is a sigh. The backwards speaking probably gives him as much as a headache as it does me, so he’s long ago given up trying to update me on days like these. What a dear.
After giving up, I go and sit in bed with the curtains drawn and all the lights off. The trick is to sit still and try your hardest not to hear or see anything. Actually, not thinking too hard is also highly recommended. Anything backwards can set off the headaches, and if they start before three in the afternoon, you are really in for a fucked day. So yes, all this means that I can’t even use my sick days to binge on Netflix, like other healthy, single females in their late twenties. It’s no fun starting at the end of a show and working your way backwards, after all.
In other words, on days where time flows like this, my life is completely useless.
So, Judy… How did this happen? You may very well find yourself asking.
Well, the answer isn’t simple. About a year and a half ago, I was working as part of a multi-national team researching the human brain. More specifically, we were researching the effect of time on certain areas of the brain, with the ultimate goal of figuring out how humans perceive time and travel through it, even just on a day-by-day basis. We all were brilliant, well versed in the theory of relativity, and filled with the invincible faith in knowledge.
Einstein’s hair, it makes me sick just to think about it. But, damn it all, we studied and had our Eureka! moment, when we thought we had isolated how humans perceive time. We thought we had an idea on how this could be applied to improve human memories and overall time perception. So we built and tested theories. Then we took some notes, made some adjustments to our ideas, tweaked our test, and then got ready to test it out again. Eventually, at some point in this process, I became the human guinea pig and, well, although we may have isolated the right part of the brain, things didn’t go quite right. Now you can definitely say that my time is relative, all right.
Some days, time moves slower for me than it does for everyone else. Sometimes, a whole day can literally last me twenty-four minutes. But, most commonly, I am struck by days like those already described; days that happen in reverse.
My colleagues have all published numerous case studies on my unique condition. Some hypothesize that my time will forever be in flux, although no one can agree on the possible effects this may have on me. A few wonder if it will mean a shortened lifespan, while others see my backward days as a self-defense mechanism against the days that go by too fast. In their eyes, they wonder if I am somehow outside of time now, and if my body is adapting and overcoming the illusion that most human beings live in. They wonder if the world would be better if we somehow could replicate my condition and apply it to the human genome. They question if embracing the illusion wouldn’t be the fastest ticket to immortality.
I sincerely urge everyone reading this to reach out to their local political representatives and raise their voice against any and all attempts to further this plan. I have several reasons for this, some which lean more scientific and some which are purely sentimental.
First and above all other, my experiences as Patient Zero have completely and utterly sucked. No need to be scientific here. My quality of life is total shit, and that is the plain, unadulterated truth.
Imagine for a moment a morning occurring like the one I’ve already described. Now imagine that going on all day long. Almost anything you touch, and anything that enters your sphere of life also is affected by “your” time. (Or at least it appears that way—no one is sure to what extent I can even be seeing the same things as everyone else.) Your food will un-cook itself the moment you cook it. Or the moment you touch it after it has been delivered to you. Your favorite podcasts will sound like gibberish. Communicating with friends and family will most likely be pointless, unless you understand it when people speak backwards. (And don’t even get me started on the bathroom visits.) You have no control over how long this kind of day will continue for, but even just one day is more than enough to leave the body dehydrated, exhausted, and drained.
Now, let’s apply this on a global scale. I can’t even have a conversation with my coworkers, who are all aware of my situation. The one day I actually tried going to work went something like this:
“.lairt txen eht no G trats dna F puorg ot trahc eht ssaP”
After a few times of Rob, my co-worker, trying to say this to me, he finally gave up and used charades to get across the rough idea I was supposed to bring the chart he was trying to hand me somewhere (Group F) and get another group setting up for the trial of their test (Group G).
I went to take the chart, but the minute it came under my possession, I had to pass it back to Rob and start the trial they had just finished all over again. From the final step to the first, everything they had done I did in reverse, whatever my efforts to progress the test. The equations they wrote, I erased, until no sign of Trial E remained.
“.yrroS” I said.
That is just the havoc that can be achieved with one relative-time person. If there were others like me, society itself as we know it wouldn’t be able to do much besides collapse.
My colleagues who want to further their genome project would like to say this is just a snag in the overall plan. They argue, instead, for the development and implementation of new societies. A race of superhumans no longer constrained by time would be able to build a time-less society, right?
Well, I have one question for them: How?
If everyone’s time is relative, how would any of us be able to live in the same wavelength for long enough to build such a society? On a small scale, we’d see such problems as store hours being unpredictable, or nonexistent, since all the employees would most likely be on a different timeframe on any given day. On a much larger scale, it may mean the President is running fast one day. He may just race through his pre-arranged call with the leader of North Korea, or he may miss it entirely if the Korean leader is running slow that day. Or what if one of them is moving backwards? Who knows what either side may hear from that gibberish.
The simple truth of the matter is that humans haven’t evolved to live in relative time. The sudden addition of a new lifestyle such as this may sound appealing. It may even sound like the secret to ever-lasting life, provided we were able to use science to harness the power behind it. But this lifestyle is not something that we as a species would be able to control. It isn’t like the new diet plan you might buy for yourself January 1st, that can be easily pushed aside and abandoned by February. Once the switch in your neural pathways is flipped, there’s no way to go back to living in “real” time.
Trust me, I wish there was.
Humans need time. That’s why we created it, after all. Why it was of such importance for countries to adopt time zones and to keep track of schedules on the other side of the world. Yes, it’s an illusion, but it is an illusion we as a species willingly adopted to avoid the chaos that comes from not having a time to call home. It’s the global illusion that unites all of us, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. We all are subject to time. Perhaps this is even the common thread linking us all together as human.
In my typical backward day, I yearn for human contact. For someone to be beside me, sharing in my time, however it may be for the day. Usually, I make it until right around 5 p.m. before I break down crying. Or trying to.
This is the time when I can stand on the patio and see my neighbors returning from work and school. I can see them with their families, sharing their evening together. I can smell their barbeque grills and hear their tea kettles through open windows. Even if it all looks like it is moving in reverse to me, they all are moving together. They all laugh and smile and interact with each other, fully understanding of each other’s stories and daily life updates.
Perhaps it’s only because I’m weak from being unable to keep any food in my system all day, or maybe it’s dehydration from the water refusing to go into my body. Either way, my inability to even cry while observing these families is the final straw that only makes me want to cry harder. Yet no matter the amount of dry heaving sobs, the tears only seep back into my eyes, itching and burning all the way. When I finally give up, I retreat back to my darkened room, hoping to sink into oblivion and wake up back inside the same time as everyone else.
Somewhere, over suburbia, the sun sinks down in the East. From my bed, I can only hope it will rise in the East tomorrow.