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Poem: "The Open Secret" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Open Secret"
This poem came out of the November 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from DW user Shiori_makiba and Stephen Laird.  It also fills the "group effort" square in my 11-3-15 card for the Disaster Bingo fest.  This poem belongs to the Time Towers series, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

This is the linkback perk for Winterfaire 2015, which you can visit on LiveJournal or on Dreamwidth. All of these activities will reveal a new verse each time someone does them:
* link to this Winterfaire page to boost the signal
* comment posting a Booth of your wares/services in the Winterfaire
* buy something from a vendor listed in the Winterfaire
* host a similar holiday market in your own blog or other venue
LiveJournal and Dreamwidth will notify me of comments to the Winterfaire post and links to it elsewhere on those services; for everything else, you need to TELL ME in order to get credit for it.

All 22 verses have been posted.  Participants so far include: kyleri, DW user Chanter_greenie, starcat_jewel, mdlbear, DW user K_a_webb, EdorFaus, thnidu


The Open Secret


The development of time travel
came not from a single, wild-haired genius
building a machine in his basement.

It came from a consortium of
government and research organizations,
because the requirements of energy
and infrastructure were too massive
for an individual to manage.

Even the science was spread
across multiple specialties,
too diffuse for even a genius
to generate alone.

It was a group effort,
requiring the contributions of
dozens of designers,
hundreds of scientists,
thousands of subcontractors
and countless more workers
in other support capacities.

It began at one facility,
the Large Hadron Collider at CERN,
but soon spilled beyond those borders
to include universities and federal labs
and allies and other arrangements,
bringing in more people all the time.

Even if the goal was not
known to them, they knew
they were part of something.

It was a secret opening,
and yet an open secret.

Yet for all that,
it was still sparked by
one mind that saw two visions,
different and incompatible futures
refracting away into the distance.

Marie Trudeau was a researcher
made peculiar by a quirk of nature that
gave her a knack for quantum thought,
for knowing both the position and momentum
of a particle at the same time.

Having glimpsed the probabilities,
she set to work pushing toward
the more favorable direction,
knowing that it might not be
enough, but unwilling to sit
and do nothing about it.

She did not, of course,
tell anyone what she had seen;
she was a scientist, and so
she determined to show them.

She covered the walls of her lab with
equations that even the most experienced
of her peers struggled to follow.

Together they built quantum computers
and viewscreens to display the timestreams
and map the currents within them.

Only then could they begin to build
devices to influence the flow of events .

When at last they prized open a crack
between then and now, they got
yet another surprise, for

the structure of time was
different all over again when
you were standing inside of it.

It was like looking up the innards
of a tower, beams stacked upon beams,
massed and weighted and holding
each other in place, some of them
susceptible to shifting and others
pinned quite securely -- until
something else shifted.

Marie could show them, then,
the full infrastructure of spacetime,
the histories and the futures and how
they all interconnected with each other.

The other scientists could begin to see
how it might be possible to send people
back and forth, like boats in a river,
like workers climbing a tower, like
something never seen before.

Marie did not know if she had
done enough to snatch the future
from the jaws of defeat, but she had
done what she could, and it still
hung there in the screens,
a bright and shining hope.

Time travel was not
a stroke of genius, but
the work of a lifetime --
the work of whole lives,
as people far and wide
poured all their hearts into it,
the knowing and the unknowing alike.

Marie had given them
the one thing they needed most:
a star to steer them by.

* * *

Notes:

Time travel appears in everyday and science fiction contexts.  One of the things that drives me nuts is the idea that nothing in the past can be changed, because it negates free will (and usually the point of story).  So I wanted to find a different metaphor, and hit on the idea of time travel as a cosmic game of Jenga in which you can theoretically change anything -- but to change a major event, you have to change a lot of things leading up to it in order to take the "weight" off and make it movable.

Read about CERN and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.  Yes, I like quantum science fiction.

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