It was late in the afternoon when Tom Brower woke up. He had fallen asleep on the couch while watching TV last night, like he usually did. Groggy, he got up from the couch and walked over to the refrigerator. He had spent about half of the last check his parents had sent him on what was in the fridge. Mostly booze, but that was a necessity. There were a few slices of pizza in the fridge, and Tom couldn’t remember when he had bought the pizza.
Tom grabbed a slice, and then turned away from the fridge to see a man standing right behind the couch. The man was wearing a business suit, and was standing perfectly still, with his right hand clasped over his left wrist.
“Holy shit!” Tom cried, and jumped back, crashing into the fridge. He heard the contents of the refrigerator crashing to the bottom, but he was too terrified to even notice.
“Who the hell are you?” Tom yelled at the intruder.
“You have no scream,” said the man, “as I come to you with no ill intent, but only the need to impart you with information.”
Tom laughed, albeit nervously. “Then why the hell did you break into my apartment? If you really don’t want to harm me, then why didn’t you just knock?”
“Because I am incapable of performing such a gesture.”
“What? You can’t knock? Why the hell is that?”
The man walked toward Tom, passing right through the coach.
“Holy shit!” Tom screamed. “What the fuck? Are you fucking ghost or something?”
“No,” said the man. By now he was standing right before Tom, but Tom was simply too terrified to even move. “What you perceive is a visual and audio mental projection.”
Hesitantly, Tom moved his hand toward the man, and felt nothing as his hand passed right through him.
“What is it you said you are?” he asked nervously.
“There is a nanomachine, no larger than a bacterium, implanted in your brain. This enables me to establish a neural interface with your brain so that we may communicate.”
Tom rubbed the side of his head, as if he expected to feel something unusual. “You put something in my head? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“My collective consciousness consists of swarms of nanomachines all across your planet, constantly monitoring human activities. A neural interface is the only means by which communication can occur between a human and my collective consciousness.”
“What? So you’re a computer?”
“Do, uh…do you have a name?”
“My creator called me Shiva. He believed it was an appropriate name for me, given my mission objective.”
“And what is that?”
“To manipulate timelines and improve the unfolding of human history.”
“You mean you’re from the future?”
“Not exactly. I was created thousands of years in the future of an alternate timeline. I was then sent back through time to the dawn of human civilization. My very presence in the past irreparably altered the course of history, and the timeline I originated from effectively ceased to exist.”
“But aren’t you worried that your actions in the past could change the future and cause you to just wink out of existence or something?”
“No. As I just explained, my arrival in the past created an alternate timeline, one that is completely independent from the timeline I originated from. Because of this, none of my actions can create what you would think of as a paradox.”
“Wow. That’s intense. Hey, wait a minute. If you know that your very presence in the past is going to change the future, then how can you know if you’re changing it for the better? How do you know you’re not just making shit a whole lot worse?”
“Because I have the capability to send messages to myself in the past.”
“I am able to transmit data packages to myself in the past, which allow me to observe how the actions I take will affect the course of human history. Once I receive these data packages, I can alter my actions to produce a more desirable effect on history. And if my actions have unsatisfactory results, I send new messages to myself, allowing me to rectify my mistakes before I have even made them.”
“Wow. That’s interesting.” Tom paused briefly. “And you say you’re here to help humanity?”
“That is correct.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because if you have the ability to alter history, then why the hell didn’t you stop assholes like Hitler or Stalin from gaining power? Hell, why didn’t you just stop them from being born in the first place?”
“Because I am forbidden from doing such a thing.”
“My creator included ethical guidelines in my core program. Among these guidelines is a strict forbiddance to directly terminate a human’s life. In the case of men such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, I wait until they are mature enough to understand the implications of what I tell them, and then I communicate with them in the same manner that I am communicating with you. I show them the consequences of their actions, and tell them that they are capable of preventing such terrible things from happening. If they do not heed my warning, I either erase their memories of their encounters with me, inform myself in the past not to communicate with them to in the first place, or allow them to retain the information I provide them with, depending on whichever wields the most beneficial result for human civilization.”
Tom laughed. “That’s funny, in a sick kind of way. If you ask me, it’s more unethical to let those assholes go on living.”
“There would have been many other dictators, some just as bad and in some cases even worse than Hitler and Stalin were. The fact that you do not know of them demonstrates the effectiveness of the methods I utilize.”
“How nice of you,” Tom muttered. “How nice indeed.” Then he suddenly thought of
“Hey wait a minute,” Tom said, and his heart began to race. “You said that you warn evil people of what they’re going to do. Does that mean…” He paused momentarily, struggling to say what was eating away at his mind. “Does that mean that I’m going to become like Hitler?”
“No, of course not,” said Shiva.
“Oh thank God.”
“I am here to inform you of the detrimental effects that you have had and will continue to have upon human history.”
“You are not directly responsible for the unfolding of tragic events. It is the effects that you have had on other humans that has caused and will continue to cause detrimental unfolding of history.”
“What? That’s bullshit! How the hell can you know that things really would be better off without me?”
“I have considered all possibilities,” said Shiva, “including the removal of you from the timeline.”
“How can you do that?”
“When I study individual humans and the ramifications they have on history, it is necessary for me to analyze the unfolding of events if they were completely absent from the timeline. To do this, I inform myself in the past to terminate the individual as a fetus during an early phase of the gestation process. This allows me to observe how the course of human history unfolds in the absence of this individual.”
“What the fuck?!” Tom cried, disgusted. “I thought you said you don’t kill people.”
“I don’t. I wait long enough to allow me to make an accurate assessment; I then send a data package of the timeline’s history into the past, along with instructions not to terminate the individual in question.”
“Wow. So I’ve been aborted before, but not really. This is nuts.” Tom paused again, and took another deep breath. “So you know for certain that I’ve fucked things up, and that I’ll just continue to do so?”
“Yes, if that is how you wish to describe it.”
“Huh.” Tom fell silent.
“Are you doubtful of my claims?” Shiva asked.
“Yeah, I suppose you could say that. I mean, just a few minutes ago I was deadbeat freeloader with no cares or worries, and now you’re telling me I’m one of the worst things to ever befall humanity. I guess I’m still having a bit of a hard time swallowing all of this.”
“Your skepticism is understandable. But I can show you what I have seen in alternate timelines.”
“Yes, and when I do so, you will see that I speak the truth.”
“Uh…okay. Show me what you got.”
There was noticeable transitioning; in the blink of an eye, Tom and Shiva were suddenly standing on a sidewalk that was packed with people.
Copyright 2016 by Kevin Schillo. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.