In my era, people were peace lovers. They revered Anviya*, Gandhi, Mandela, Mother Teresa. All my life, I heard was Gandhi said this, Teresa did that. The constant reminder of ‘be good, be kind’ made me nauseated. They painted roses on the tinted frames and wanted us to believe that the roses were real. This ‘perfect’ utopian society was nothing but a sham… and boring.
Using my time traveller privileges, I had met many famous personalities- from Gandhi to Hitler, Alexander to Da Vinci. These icons were nothing like their one-dimensional caricatures found in the history books.
The weapons of mass destruction were unleashed several times during World War-4. As a result, the planet turned into a desert. Only the elitist, survived as they had access to the secret bunkers, known and available only to select few. These bunkers were built strategically all around the globe. The world wasn’t divided anymore. There was no language, boundary, religion or money to divide humans. All that people of my era wanted was to save humanity and earth. We had the resources to survive for another thousand years, however, all the efforts and energy were put to find a habitable planet.
We successfully pushed the mortality age to 160 years, but it wasn’t that we would live to see the end of the earth. How long can you sing one song of peace? How I wished I could do something to bring back the disparity that once divided us.
Place: Las Vegas, the sin city
Vegas was my favorite place to be. It had everything I craved for: alcohol, casino, meaningless sex, sumptuous food, and drama. Somehow, it was easier to hear myself amidst the indistinct chatter in a crowded place, than in my quiet era. I wished I could stay here forever. But there were some rules for the Time Travellers. One of the rules was that we could only stay for a few days. Another drawback was that time travel caused severe headaches. The medications were available but were rationed and monitored by the scrupulous officers. I was advised to keep myself hydrated while traveling through time, which I never followed. And usually ended up with a severe bout of migraine when I returned to my era.
I gulped down the charred octopus with a glass of cocktail and turned to the bartender again.
“Pour me another drink, bartender”, I said.
“Where are you from?” Eyeing me from head to toe, he asked as if I were from a different planet. He couldn’t be more wrong.
I could have lied but my only character flaw- I could never lie. So I twisted the truth, told the half-truth, hid the truth… but I never lied.
“What’s your name, bartender?” I asked instead of replying.
“Call me D. What’s yours?” Staring at my devilishly handsome face, he asked.
“I’m Arch. I’m from here… somewhere.” I answered, vaguely circling in the air. Given his profession, I assumed he would be accustomed to such abstract answers.
Flipping the flask, he poured me a drink which I gulped down in seconds.
“My bill, please.” Pulling out the heavy wallet I asked.
Being a collector, I always had enough money from every part of the world and from every era. I smuggled currencies from around the world, privileges of being a time traveller. Though it was strictly forbidden in my era, what’s life without risks? This game was fun; it kept me alive.
There were incidents when I did crazy things just for fun. Once I made a mummy wear Adidas shoes. Placing a Swiss watch in an old coffin was exciting. I even played a clueless time Traveller from Taured*. What fun!
As I handed the note to the bartender, I noticed him rub his face in exasperation.
“This has Gandhi, it’s Indian currency. Show me dollars.” Rubbing his thumbs with his index finger, he demanded.
“Of course! What was I thinking?” As I took back the Indian rupees, I had an epiphany. My face brightened up with my wicked smile.
“Thank you, D.” Throwing some extra dollars on the table, I said and rushed towards the terrace. I would have kissed him if he were a woman. This guy not only made a mean drink, but also helped me come up with a brilliant plan.
I knew the place to execute my new plan, but needed to first get adequately dressed.
Making sure that no one was observing my moments, I took out my ordinary-looking pen. I fed new coordinates in the time circuit of my Tpen, then drew a huge circle in the air with it.
Although several time machines were available, Tpen was my favorite. Only one problem- I couldn’t stay longer than a day as I needed to charge it, that too in my real time.
Lo and behold! A portal opened up and I walked into a place where I needed to prepare for my journey.
Year – 2020
Place- Square one mall, Ontario, Canada
This was the place where I had to execute part 1 of my plan, and this era was known for its fashion. Given that I belonged to a desert era, winter wasn’t my favorite season. So I decided to do some shoplifting. There were cameras, but how could these devices stop me? At best, my pictures and videos could be put all over the internet- the communication technology of this time period. Even better, it would help me get popular.
It was night time, not a single soul was inside the store. After picking the warmest jacket and gloves, I looked into one of the cameras and posed with my charming smile. Making a circle in the air, I decided to add a dramatic touch. I faked being pulled by the circle.
Place- Art Gallery, Ontario
The gallery was filled with the things I loved: artefacts, sculptures, and paintings. These items looked good in the gallery but would look better at my personal museum. I was tempted to pick a couple of pieces from the first room., then I reminded myself that I was there for something specific.
Ah! There it was! In its full glory; the one, the only- Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Ruben. I could almost hear the people screaming in the painting. It cast a spell on me. For a moment, I forgot what I was there for. Remembering I didn’t have time, I pulled the painting off the shelf. I circled in the air, smiled for the camera, and walked off.
Place: Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway.
I walked into a cold storage. It was also known as Noah’s ark of plant diversity. Since I had been here several times, navigating was not difficult for me. I crossed the long tunnel. Though I could have appeared at the exact spot where I wanted to, there was no fun in it.
I had built my personal museum, by collecting artefacts from different time periods, around the world. I couldn’t just waltz into my time with the artefacts from the past, given the low tolerance for crime in my era. That wasn’t the kind of attention I needed. Hence, I had devised a plan. I hid the items in one of the bunkers that my ancestors had used to save themselves, and would collect from the same place when I returned to my real time. Though I had lost a few art pieces in those bunkers, this bunker was safe. Not a single item ruined in this bunker.
I planted the painting amidst the seeds. After taking a moment to appreciate the masterpiece, I took out my brushes, colors, and palette. An artist by passion, I was always ready with my tools. Realizing what I was about to do was nothing short of blasphemy, even for me, I sighed.
Thankfully my eidetic memory came handy. Closing my eyes, I took a few seconds to scan through the memories. Voila! After blending Ruben’s signature, I forged Gandhi’s signature on to the painting. Now painting officially belonged to Gandhi. He never painted a painting, but I just changed history. I could make him anything I wanted. All I needed were a couple more visits.
Hereby forging Gandhi’s signature, I changed the way how the people in my time would look at him. Probably, when I would go to my time, things would be different. People needed to see that the icons they revered weren’t perfect. I hoped, it would make them see beyond those rosy-tinted glasses.
After making a circle in the air, I did something I had never done before. I looked back at the painting and smiled. I wished they called me ‘the narcissistic genius’.
Time-traveling was exhausting. Though my head was throbbing, I was excited to see the ‘ripple-effect’.
Rubbing my hands, I reached my time. I had forgotten how hot my time was. Taking out my jacket and gloves, I noticed the familiar billboard across the street. “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind- Gandhi.”
My gleefulness was washed off the very same instant. Did my plan not work? Something was not right. Feeding the coordinates, I landed at the place I had visited few minutes back but in real-time.
Place: Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway.
I appeared at the place where I hid the painting. My heart sank when I didn’t see the painting there. All I found was a letter.
I am the bartender you met in Vegas. You could not have recognized me as I am a time traveller from 2281. Placing the signature of Gandhi on Ruben’s painting was not the only change in history you attempted. You changed history, the events, the books, the paintings, the monuments. Due to the ripple effect of these changes in different time periods, you corrupted your utopian world and gradually turned it into a dystopian world. You almost succeeded to make this earth a living hell. People became selfish again… and forgot the motto of ‘one earth’.
How do I know all this? You have told me your success stories many times. So I knew exactly where all you would go and what all you would do, I went to each time and place you told me and restored your misadventures.
You were the only black sheep in your utopian world. You turned this world dystopian, where I’m the only white sheep.
Your son- D
*First published on artoonsinn.com
Author’s note: *Anviya- As the era is 2255, I have taken the liberty to name a fictitious character along with the popular ones. Her backstory- She saved lives during WW 4.