by David Hammond

november 2016 story of the month

"Excuse me, sir."


"This is going to sound strange, but what year is this?"

"Not at all, it's 2917. October 6th."

"2917? But..."

"No, no, don't tell me. Let me guess. You are from 2200, thereabouts?"

"... No ... I'm from 2016 ... but ..."

"2016?! No!"


"But time travel wasn't invented until 2122. By Wilhelm Nguyen. Everybody knows that!"

"What? I invented time travel! I just conducted my first successful test ... I think ..."

"Really? Well that is very interesting."

"Only I overshot my mark. 2917 you say?"


"But it looks just like 2016! You're pulling my leg."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean it can't be 2719..."


"... whatever, 2917 because you're dressed just like someone in 2016. The buildings are all 2016 buildings, the cars ..."

"Oh! Oh my, that's right, you don't know about the reality distortion field!"

"Reality distor...?"

"They call it 'reality enhancement' of course."

"Who put you up to this? Jerry?"

"My dear, poor man! I am not in league with Jerry, whoever that is. It's reality enhancement! It's a field that only shows us things not likely to shock us! To keep us on an even keel, you know. If you saw the real 2917 ... I shudder to think!"

"But ..."

"This is a lot to take in, I know. But look, pay attention, and you'll notice things change a little."

"Oh, wow."

"Yes, you see, things move a little closer to reality as you become more equipped to deal with them."

"You were wearing jeans at first, but now ... that's so strange."

"Yes, strange, but not too strange. That's the point of reality enhancement. For instance, when I first saw you you looked like someone from 2200 because I couldn't conceive of meeting someone from 2016."

"And now?"

"Not that much different, actually, but ... 2016. That is remarkable! A pre-Nguyen time traveler! What year were you aiming for, by the way?"

"2017, actually."

"Oh, my! Ha ha! Sorry to laugh. Only 900 years off! But wait, now I remember something else from history class. Nguyen was the first to successfully go back in time, that was his real innovation."

"Go back?"

"Yes. That's the tricky part, isn't it? Did you work that part out?"

"Theoretically, yes. I was focusing initially on going forward. The math was simpler."

"Oh, yes, yes, going back was the tricky part, as I understand it ..."

"But it's solved now? You can go back in time?"

"Ha! Do I look like I'm made of money? Damned expensive. But yeah, if you've got the cash. Going forward is more reasonable. Last year I skipped my mother-in-law's visit. A week's pay but well worth it."

"How much to, say, go back to 2016?"

"Oh, 2016, now that's another story. You can't go back that far even if you're the prince of Massachusetts."

"Prince of...? Nevermind. Why can't I go back to 2016?"

"Haven't you been paying attention? The earliest you can go back is 2122, because that's when Nguyen created the first temporal anchor."


"But that's like five million kroner ... and you need to reserve a year in advance ... at least."


"Sorry to break it to you ... But 2917's not so bad. We have sex pills. We have snarl-breakers. We have reality enhancement. Tell me reality enhancement isn't really cool?"

"It's ... it's amazing actually."

"There you are!"

"But what if you want to see the world as it is?"

"Come again?"

"I mean, see things just with your own senses? Is this reality enhancement thing everywhere?"

"99% coverage in North America, I think they said. The spots that aren't covered are really really unpleasant, as I understand it."

"But ..."

"Oh, they have de-enhancement goggles. You need a license though, very hard to get. Ungainly things, actually. I don't recommend them."

"But what would I see? What does 2917 actually look like?"

"It looks like what you want it to look like! That's the point!"

"I want it to look the way it is!"

"Well, now we're talking in circles, aren't we?"

"I'm a scientist, for god's sake!"

"No need to get upset! Look, I wore the goggles once. It was for some sort of emergency preparedness drill back in school. It was an experience I hope to never repeat."

"And what did you see?"

"Well, a lot of things were just the same, but my best friend, who was next in line for the goggles, was like 6 inches taller than me. I've always been so sensitive about my height. I didn't like that. And the teacher ... you're not going to believe me ..."

"What? Go on..."

"My teacher was an orangutan!"


"Yes! I tell you I tore those goggles right off!"

"Wait, now you're really pulling my leg."

"I am 100% deadly serious."


"Oh, and there was something else I only realized when I thought about it later."

"Uh huh?"

"There were no trees out the window. Our school was surrounded by trees, but they were gone. Very strange."

"Strange indeed. What was out the window?"

"I didn't get a good look. So! Anyway! I've gotten so wrapped up in our interesting conversation that I almost forgot about my appointment!"

"Oh, okay, sorry to have ..."

"And you have an appointment at the registration office! Just on the corner there."

"I need to register? For what?"

"Within an hour of arrival. Very important! You don't want them to catch you unregistered."

"The police?"

"Call them what you like. We must keep in touch! I would like to hear more about 2016!"

"But how will we contact each other?"

"Down on the corner. Blue awning. Can't miss it!"

"The registration office?"

"Precisely. Register, and I will contact you."

"But I haven't even told you my name."

"You've told me enough, Mr. 2016!"

"Wait, what if I don't register? What if I get back in my time machine ..."

"Ah! That would be another way, I suppose."

"What do you mean?"

"Another way to see the real 2917. Operating an unauthorized time machine. No reality enhancement in prison. Ha ha!"

"Well, shit. Thanks for all your help. I guess."

"Hey, don't look so glum! Here, have a snarl-breaker."

BIO: David Hammond works as a web developer and lives in Northern Virginia with three females who are way more talented than he is. More of his writing can be found at oldshoepress.com.