Thursday, November 24, 2011


By E.S. Wynn

Creak of tin as hinges bend against dust, against age. Silvered paint flakes, splinters, catches golden, attic light. Fragile crackle of faded paper, old hands trace folds, smooth them. Dear Robert, the letter reads.

I hope you are doing well. I'm eight. My name is also Robert.

I smile, no mention of a date, but I know when it was written. I know why, who's idea it was, how silly it seemed at the time, how necessary it became as I aged.

Mrs. Patterson says that I have to write you a letter. You're fifty eight years old now. I bet you look like Grandpa Irwin. Does he still have a swimming pool you can swim in?

“In heaven, maybe, if that's the way of things.” I whisper. “Grandpa Irwin died over forty years ago.”

I bet you have a flying car. I wish Dad had a flying car. We could go zooming in the clouds. We could fly to see Grandma Ethel and Aunt Ruth in Florida if we had a flying car!

I look out the window, eyes finding the sleek, pill-shaped box I call a car. Its usually vibrant ePaint soaks light with a dark, dull gray while the cells recharge in the afternoon sun. Automatic, fast, elegant, but not a flying car.

Or maybe you have a rocket pack. I'd like a rocket pack.

I look at the car again. It's a classic now, one of the older C23s from before the last major police action in the east. One of the few still left, now that the entanglement grid has replaced the old SmartWay road system. I haven't seen a rocket in decades. Orbital shuttles and 'breakers run under their own power now. Even model rockets have gone out of style.

Do you still have dogs and cats in the future? I want a puppy but dad says no.

I smile again as I remember. Dad managed to hold off the puppy until I was in sixth grade, but it was mom who finally brought home Spot. I still remember that face. Bull-terrier mix, beautiful brown-tan swirled fur mixing with white. I grew up with that dog, took him with me to college, had to take the pet deposit out of my student loan to keep him. If it wasn't for him, I probably never would have met Karen at the dog park. Never would have met Bruce. For fourteen years, Spot altered the course of my life, and when he finally passed, I couldn't imagine life without him.

I think writing you a letter would be cool if you could write me a letter back. It seems dumb that you can't. Mrs. Patterson says that time travel will always be impossible, even for letters.

That was the thinking then. Just like today, we thought we had it all figured out. I remember being fifteen, seeing the announcement of an accepted, grand “theory of everything.” Five years after that, large-scale, machine-assisted research at the Sagan Institute rewrote practically everything we knew about the universe. Now it's possible to manipulate time in ways that seemed like fantasy back then. Rules for past-time interaction are strict, but a few words of comfort or a vague letter rarely requires anything more than autonetwork approval these days.

Well, that's all I can think of to ask you.

Sincerely, Robert Era.

I blink, and the software in the modified lens of my eye comes alive with the colors and displays of the OverNet, interfaces at the speed of thought and pens the words of my mind onto a ready document already aimed for a family fax machine fifty years in the past. The letter my mind writes comes immediate, short, soft, vague.

Thank you for the letter, Robert. The letter says. No flying cars yet, but the puppy was worth the wait.

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E.S. Wynn is the author of over thirty books

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