By David K Scholes
“There are a lot of them,” I said looking at the long rows of capsule type containers each sitting neatly in its own slot.
Joy and I walked along the rows before returning to the building’s entrance. Then very cautiously we opened and examined the contents of the two units closest to the entrance. Joy looked around timidly as if we might be interrupted.
“I don’t think we need to be too timid about this,” I said. Yet the habits of a lifetime were hard to break. We both knew the likelihood of our being interrupted just now were about zero.
I looked around at the inside of the building. Unchanged since the earliest historical images and serving only one function. It had its own particular timelessness about it. Rumour had it the once protected building was only ever entered when another capsule was added to the collection. At least until now.
Now with its protection very recently gone anyone could enter it. Assuming there was any one else left to enter it.
“Crude exo-skeleton boosted light armour,” I said examining the first capsule “and an example of early force field technology, among other things. I’d say circa 2025.”
The next capsule contained among other things a very early teleportation unit.
“Circa 2075?” offered Joy.
“A little later, maybe 2080,” I suggested.
We continued going along the rows. Occasionally skipping a capsule or two in our impatience.
Then, quite a ways down, we came across a capsule the contents of which were chilling.
The communication from the hologram projection within the capsule was still in audio form and our synthesisers still identified it as AmerEnglish. Yet it was considerably different to anything we knew of from earlier time periods.
“This item is said to be an alternate reality viewer and this one,” I pointed to something quite small, “is described as a miniature inter-dimensional transporter.”
“This isn’t a time capsule,” I said “at least not the sort that we are used to.”
“No,” responded Joy “its definitely not.”
Alternate reality viewers hadn’t been created in our time and our inter-dimensional transporters were or had been a wee bit larger than the tiny object that lay before us.
“It’s from the future, our future,” said Janelle stating the absolutely obvious.
With some trepidation we decided to continue on down the line. Occasionally skipping a capsule or two.
All further capsules examined contained activated holograms with telepathic rather than audio communication.
Strangely these capsules from the future didn’t state the year they had originated from. Though they did all purport to originate on Earth. Joy and I were left guessing when each capsule might have come from. Sometimes too the technologies, although different, were at a similar level. As if man hadn’t advanced much.
Sooner rather than later we came to capsules containing objects, items and artefacts we did not understand. Whose basic purpose was unfathomable. It was not simply that they were too advanced. There was also an alien aspect to them as well. Perhaps in that distant future man’s domination of Earth had finally come to an end.
“Even from our near future there are technologies here that could have helped us, possibly have prevented the Collapse,” said Joy.
“Why? Why were these capsules from the future sent here,” I wondered. “Where we could never really discover them?”
“Yet we have discovered them,” said Joy “you and I have discovered them. Also the people of the future would have known of this place, would have known of the central repository.”
We went outside for a while and took in the dreadful view. Just for a while inside the time capsule repository I had forgotten about the Collapse.
“From where we are now I can’t see any possible future for human civilization,” said Joy “I just can’t see how any of these future time capsules can represent a future we will attain.”
“You think this is a sick joke of some kind, that someone is having at residual humanities expense?” I asked. “What about the future artefacts? We tested a few of them and they are what they purport to be.”
“Alternate futures, I think,” I said suddenly coming to the realisation. “That’s why a lot of them didn’t show much difference in technology level. Some of the capsules are from alternate futures rather than the same time line.”
“It’s possible,” conceded Joy. “Just barely, but possible. What now?”
“You don’t think it’s a coincidence that you and I, Earth’s two greatest futurologists, just stumbled across these future time capsules? “ I asked.
Joy nodded recognising there had to be a purpose,
“Never mind the old past time capsules,” I was sounding enthusiastic. “They are meaningless now. We should examine all of these future time capsules and prepare a report on them. As Earth’s two greatest futurologists it is our duty to form a conclusion as to which of the alternate futures is best for Earth.”
“That could take a lifetime,” said Joy but she was already smiling for the first time in ages.
“Eventually they will come for us, someone will come, probably some of those impossibly hardy types from the Einstein/Newton Institute,” I said. “We need to be able to advise them when they come.”
I had lied to Joy. I was pretty sure no one would ever come for us and almost as sure that there wasn’t even anyone left to come. Yet if this lie gave my lovely wife purpose and happiness for a few of her remaining years it was worth it.
Besides it was going to be a lot of fun looking through these future capsules and we didn’t exactly have anything better to do.
Conveniently there had even been some future food and drink in the capsules.
Which couldn’t possibly perish before they had even been made.
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The author has written over 140 speculative fiction short stories, many of which appear in his seven published collections of short stories. He has also published two science fiction novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to the Antipodean SF and Beam Me Up Pod cast sci-fi sites and more recently Farther Stars Than These site. He has also been published on 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. He is currently working on a new science fiction novella.