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Science Fiction Speculative

Only five of the nine commissioners bothered to attend his presentation; even by remote holographic projection, their expressions betrayed various degrees of incomprehension.

“How do you know it even works?”

“We’ve sent back numerous artifacts, uniquely anomalous artifacts.”

“Such as?”

Djin hesitated. “The Shroud of Turin, for instance. It didn’t show up until the twelfth century, because it didn’t exist until the eleventh. We even put it outside in our climate for a short time to give it that scorched, authentic look.”

The Shroud of Turin was really one of Djin’s used bedsheets. This amazing revelation barely got a grunt out of the commissioners.

The only one who showed interest was the Chairman, Mr. Bain. “So,” he said, “your device only sends one article, or person, at a time.”

“Essentially, that’s correct, Mr. Bain, and we’re not certain that it’s survivable.”

“I see, and it’s a one-way trip?”

“Yes,” Djin replied. “Unfortunately.”

“So this experiment, whatever else it may reveal, is no solution to our problems.”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Chairman. As a means of escape, or exodus, it’s completely useless.”

“So the purpose of this experiment is purely academic?”

“That is—for the most part, correct,” Djin lied.

“All right, Doctor. Proceed with your experiment, for whatever good it’ll do, you have the blessings of the board.”

The meeting was adjourned, the holo-vids winked out, and Djin set about the laborious task of getting his heat-suit on without any assistance.

He popped an OxyStik into his mouth and felt it fizz as he bit into it. Without the supplements, the high levels of carbon dioxide in the air could inhibit brain function by as much as 20 percent.

After wrestling himself into the suit, Djin attached the helmet, closed the latches and got a green light on the seal. (All this for a trip across the campus parking lot.) He thumbed the communications link. “Evelyn. You there?”

“Sure, Doc.” Her voice crackled back.

“I’m returning to the lab. We’re going forward with the experiment.”

“I’ll be standing by the airlock, Doctor.” Evelyn was his chief Assistant. “Kick a lizard,” she added, signing off.

Because of the heat, airlocks were now the norm. He stepped through the inner door and was already sweating by the time the outer door opened.

He tried to ignore the smoldering, hellish landscape. No one traveled by day anymore, when they traveled at all. Global warming was worse than imagined, the oceans had risen, temperatures had soared, fresh water was scarce, food was scarcer still, droughts, plagues and famine had devastated the planet: Except for the insects and reptiles. Earth was in the last stages of its final mass extinction.

Dr. Djin was a scientist by training, but deeply religious by nature. It was difficult to reconcile the fate of humanity with his religious beliefs, but that same faith prevented him from surrendering to what seemed inevitable.

He kicked a two-foot-long lizard out of his way with one of his shielded boots. Their thick hides, toxic flesh and cold-blooded physiology allowed them to flourish in the steamy conditions. And they were multiplying rapidly.

After cycling through the airlock at the physics lab, Evelyn was waiting to help him out of his heat-suit. She wore oven mitts and a disposable mask. “I’ve assembled the team in the classroom, Dr. Djin.”

He forced a smile as he finished extricating himself from the protective gear. Evelyn was a godsend: A smart, vigorous and exacting young woman, beautiful and, as one would expect, one-third his age. She had applied for the assistant’s position at a time when no one wanted to work, let alone pursue academics. Her energy and charisma had attracted a host of talented young people into the physics program, and she drove them like pack animals.

Dr. Djin’s experimental research attracted its share of young talent too.

Addressing the team of a dozen students, he said, “Today’s the day. We’ve been given the green light.”

A clamor of approval swept through the group.

“This is not a cause for celebration, people.” The self-congratulation ceased. “Let me reiterate the most vital aspects of this experiment. One: We’ll have no reliable means to gauge its success or failure. Two: We must believe that it’ll work.” They all nodded their heads. “And Three: I believe the machine is as accurately calibrated as it can be. If my computations—and yours, are correct, the rest will be up to Evelyn.”

The students seemed restless until Evelyn stepped forward and clapped her hands twice. “All right then, you all know your jobs, get to your stations, and let’s get started.”

Several students hung back to wish her well. She brushed off their concerns with cheery optimism, and almost made them feel as if they were the guinea pigs, not her. She turned to find Dr. Djin staring at her morosely. He dreaded this moment. The point of no return.

He was genuinely distraught. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? You don’t have to go, you know.”

Her reply was crisp and harsh. “Oh yeah, Doctor, I’m really going to miss this place: the fires, the hunger, the yellow fog, and let’s not forget the lizards.” Her tone softened. “I’ll miss YOU, Doctor, but—I’m ready.”

He put an arm around her shoulders and guided her towards the ‘launch room.’ “If this works, you’re going to be close, very close. Probably within visual range and there’s nothing in the equations that says you can’t rewrite history.”

She smiled. A firm, self-possessed smile. She was well acquainted with the theories and equations. They had proven the flexibility of history, time after time.

“I know what to do, Dr. Djin. Have faith.”

He escorted her to the ‘launch room’ and hovered nervously as she assumed a kneeling position on the pad while the team went through the pre-launch physical checklist.

When they’d finished, he leaned close and whispered in her ear. “Remember what we talked about, trust your instincts. Okay? Goodbye Evelyn, and good luck.” He didn’t try to hide his tears. She remained solemn.

He retreated to the safety of the control room as a beam of tachyons rained down on his courageous assistant. She became transparent, and then vanished.

*****************

She removed her clothes and took a moment to appreciate the lush tropical environment. A blue sky crowned with white clouds presided over a beautiful pre-historic paradise. A rushing mountain stream ran alongside an orchard filled with fruit trees and curious, fearless animals. She was in the right time, at the right place. In fact, Djin’s calculations couldn’t have been better.

They were calm but curious as they watched her approach. Incredibly, the woman reached out and offered her the forbidden fruit.

Evelyn slapped the apple out of the woman’s hand, shoved her hard into the rock strewn water, then watched her drown, the current pushed the body downstream quickly. Then she grabbed a rock and pounded the sinister snake to death and was kicking its battered carcass under a bush when Adam returned from his walk.

“Eve! You look different.”

“God made some improvements,” Evelyn said, breathlessly: rinsing blood off her hands. “You like the changes?”

“I DO,” he replied emphatically, “but I’m hungry.”

“Have a peach,” she suggested, “there’s a tree full of fruit right over there.”

November 09, 2023 07:14

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27 comments

Michał Przywara
21:40 Nov 09, 2023

Ha! Not at all where I was expecting that to go :) Well, the send-a-person-back thing, yes. That was strongly implied by Djin's behaviour. And sure, there were hints of faith scattered throughout - but I don't think anything could prepare us for that revelation. Poor other-Eve. Her send-off is almost comical in its pragmatism. With the fruit gone and the serpent silenced, they' ve succeeded though, and history is rewritten. The future is safe, and indeed all human misery ever has been prevented. Or has it? That's the tricky thing with ...

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Rose Lind
20:36 Jan 24, 2024

Your story's dystopia was good because that created a connection of our current reality. eg The Shroud of Turan being Dr. Djin's an old bedsheet. Dystopia characters usually rely on generalisations, or normalisation. I like your character development. Both Djin and Evelyn shared traits like conscientiousness and devotion but polarised on the spectrum. I think the ending showed Evelyn crossed over from grey obsession to evil. Or she believed the myth and thought she could change that. Your ending was a 'Lucy.' Ty

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Ken Cartisano
19:33 Jan 25, 2024

Hey Rose, Thanks for reading and giving me some feedback on 'Eve of Destruction.' I think--that Dr. Djin and Eve were desperate people full of life and compassion in a dying world. A hopeless world. What I was trying to depict was a world where science was so advanced that they could prove that 'the myth' as you call it, was true, but that the past was not immutable. The Shroud of Turin was proof of this mutability. Which prompted Djin to hatch the only plan left to humanity: send someone back to the beginning, and change either the charac...

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Rose Lind
19:54 Jan 25, 2024

*Ty for explaining the backstory. I did not perceive Djin or Evelyn as desperate and your new information gives a different slant to your story. I liked how you presented the Shroud of Turin as being a used bedsheet that reminds me of the coke can in 'The Gods must be Crazy." I understood the dystopia setting.

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Rose Lind
20:13 Jan 25, 2024

Sorry I write my comments via my phone and at some point the screen freezes and I cannot edit. I did not understand Evelyn's mission. I am learning grammar so my mind may have skipped a detail during the reset. You said, 'I thought it was a religious myth, science and science fiction." I liked the forementioned blend of schools. You said, "... to keep Adam innocent for a bit longer..." I liked the idea of receiving history but the question the context of Eve as the problem. I question any historical event which blames the female however ...

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Ken Cartisano
20:28 Jan 25, 2024

Rose, That's a wonderful reference: the coke can (or bottle) from 'The Gods must Be Crazy.' At the time I wrote it I thought inferring that 'The Shroud...' was nothing more than a used bedsheet was delightfully heretical, despite the story's obvious religious connotations. In essence, it says that God is imbued with flaws that we had to find a way to correct. Pretty far out concept. If you read any more of my stories, I suggest 'Reproduction' or 'The Father, the Sons-of-Bitches, and the Unholy Ghost.' I personally think they're two of my ...

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Rose Lind
00:55 Jan 26, 2024

I wish to clarify I loved the play of your story. I like to play when I write too. I have joy when I write. I have been given help thank you. I appreciate your caring remark. I was raised in a Sect. At that time in the 70s I would have classed it as a cult! However, to survive, they had to change. Most of their members are vulnerable and misguided. I and my classmates were physically and mentally punished if we did not pass SRA cards and somehow I got a Bachelor degree and Nervously understood the most deepest and complexed parts of existenc...

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Patrick H
18:30 Jan 24, 2024

Interesting! I wasn't expecting this either! Nice job!

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PJ Town
10:32 Dec 04, 2023

Great stuff, Ken. I know you're a bit of an expert on all things sci-fi-time-travel so I won't begin to question any logic here, except ... it would be interesting perhaps to flash forward to see what effects the experiment actually does have on the present. Can we be sure all will be righted? Also ... is murder in Djin's instructions, do you think, or is it something Eve(lyn) has come up with by herself? As someone else here said, maybe she was supposed to try to use reason to prevent the first sins but thought "Nah! I've got a better way...

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Ken Cartisano
04:22 Dec 06, 2023

Thanks for reading it Phil, The plot kind of took me by surprise too. But I have to say, as badly as things were going... could any alternative be much worse? Also, Djin did not come across as a murder at all, he was pure altruist. Evelyn on the other hand is portrayed as a bold, serious, take charge, (vastly improved some would argue) mother of all mankind. A little pragmatic, sure, but aren't women that way anyway? She had been planning some kind of coup all along. In the end she got to speak with God personally, he was duly impressed, b...

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Helen A Smith
08:14 Dec 01, 2023

Great sorry here. I like the combination of sci and faith. Interesting concepts. Also, well written with a good twist. “You wouldn’t Adam and Eve it,” as they used to say. (Cockney slang) I like to keep an open mind about the Shroud of Turin. It may well not be authentic, but does science (incredible though it is), always get everything right?

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Ken Cartisano
08:54 Dec 01, 2023

Hey Helen, Thanks for the feedback. As for the Shroud of Turin, its origins have always been suspect, (it disappeared for 11 centuries.) Science does not get everything right, every heard of Monsanto, Dupont or Dow Chemicals. Tesla vs Edison. Electric cars vs. Petrol based. No, science doesn't get everything right. But in this case

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Helen A Smith
09:02 Dec 01, 2023

I have googled into the existence of the Shroud of Turin, but I guess it’s a matter of faith for many people. Great story though and plenty of food for thought. Always good.

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Marty B
00:45 Nov 21, 2023

I love the name, and the peach. Poor Adam, he is going to have a lot to put up with!! Go Eve!

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Ken Cartisano
03:11 Nov 22, 2023

Thanks, Marty. That's right, the Mother of all women is no shrinking violet, nor does she come from Adam's rib any more. I didn't specify, but something tells me God was in on the whole thing. He always says, 'That was my plan all along.'

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Danie Holland
12:58 Nov 17, 2023

Ken, Intriguing concept. I thoroughly enjoy stories that explore notions of humanity on the brink of destroying themselves. It's so hard to look around and feel as though we are not burning the earth to the ground with our own flames. I like the way you bring Evelyn to life. She's one of my favorite types of characters. One who is intelligent and willing to go where others dare not and to do it without hesitation. Clever foreshadowing with the name. You told us from the very beginning who she was, didn't you. EVElyn. "Dr. Djin was a scie...

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Ken Cartisano
21:16 Nov 28, 2023

Hi Danie, I love your in-depth reactions to the story, Danie. I see one, maybe two flaws in your thinking, even though, it appears to me that you totally get the story. Completely. I’m not very well versed in theological matters, no more than the average guy, but I always wondered what ‘the original sin’ was all about. I mean, it seems a bit unfair to call a misunderstanding, or the natural curiosity of God’s creations, a sin. How is that fair? I assume the ‘original sin’ was the eating of the fruit (the apple) in the first place. The know...

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Danie Holland
22:27 Nov 28, 2023

Ken! I’m back. Give me a chance to defend myself. I’ll dive in. The ‘replacement Eve’ certainly did not “change the course of history by essentially doing the same thing her predecessor did.” The original Eve did not kill anyone. — I’ll clarify what I mean. I think you took it too literally when I meant it figuratively speaking. The original sin was Eve taking a bite of the apple even though god had told her not to. (Disobedience to god aka sin) So, really the only comparison I meant by the above passing statement is that (this is all in ...

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Hazel Ide
02:34 Nov 14, 2023

Love where you took it, not at all expected!

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Ken Cartisano
05:15 Nov 14, 2023

Thanks Haze.

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Wendy M
08:37 Nov 10, 2023

I loved how your god fearing man sent back a fake Turin shroud. And 'kick a lizard,' was literal, not a modern version of, 'break a leg,' great humour. And his name, also significant, cleverly done.

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Ken Cartisano
17:06 Nov 10, 2023

Thanks Wendy,, I really appreciate your praise. This is my favorite genre, pseudo-religious, upbeat-pre-apocalypse, time-travel stories. (With no pigs, the pigs always make a mess of everything.) p.s. I do hope you're working on a story for something, somewhere, that you'll let me read. (I know, I sound so desperate. Sorry.)

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Wendy M
17:16 Nov 10, 2023

https://medium.com/@ettysaunt/breadcrumbs-258280113c19 I'd be interested in your opinion

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Ken Cartisano
07:21 Nov 17, 2023

Hey Wendy, I’m sorry if my frantic babbling on the other site was off-putting. I’m in a critically judgmental frame of mind these days when it comes to sentimentality. I think the story was or should have been a transactional minefield but... My Dad worked for an agency called IT&T, (something like that) at the United Nations Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, where he lived. I was born and raised in the U.S. He and his wife would fly in from Europe every year for a month-long visit. On this occasion he and his wife spent most of thei...

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Wendy M
17:17 Nov 17, 2023

Wowser, that's some family dynamic. I'm sorry I didn't respond to your comment on medium I've had a hectic few days. I still work and have an elderly aunt I look after, as well as a husband and dog. Oh, goodness, should I admit to dog when you are a kitty person? I did read your comments and I never object to constructive comment. I'm even trying to write a Sci fi for your approval 😁 it will not be sentimental, I almost guarantee.

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Ken Cartisano
08:31 Nov 27, 2023

Wendy, yeah, that Medium site is a bit baffling. I signed up, posted two stories and a comment, and I've received about 30 messages about things I must read. Most perplexing to me was that your story was read 40 times and only received one comment. I should create my own media site, and call it 'High.' (Look, I get it, I'm an artist, I just think 'Medium' is a mediocre name.) As for your personal situation, you have a dog, a husband and an aunt. Sounds like a writing prompt. Be that as it may, honesty is the best policy, especially where ou...

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