May 8th – The Festival of Time Travel

If you start talking about the Guild of Conspiracy Theorists at the conference in the history faculty of Yerbai Noon university today, you will be made to feel very unwelcome very quickly. That is not to say that the folks sharing their research at the venerable institution are an unwelcoming lot, just that they do not take kindly to what they feel is the denigration of their hard work by association to an organisation that thinks there is an immortal king who still runs Buentoille, or that aliens have stolen the identity of half of the City. The Society of Temporal Studies are keen to let everyone know they base their conclusions in scientific observation and historical fact, not hearsay and whim.

The conference, known somewhat romantically as The Festival of Time Travel, opens at 10am this morning, with a short speech from the Society’s president that runs quickly over the day’s schedule. The talks can be roughly divided into two sections: those which deal with the theory behind the actual physics of time travel, and those which present new historical evidence which suggests that time travel has happened before. Of particular interest and controversy this year is a special guest, Orman Anern, a Chenorrian subject who claims to have photographic evidence of a real-life time travel machine, built back in his homeland.

This will be the first time that the Chenorrian has permitted any proper study of the images since he procured them in 1998. They were taken on microfilm and are always hidden about his person, although for reasons unknown to all but him, Anern has this year chosen to allow prints to be made and distributed amongst the conference-goers. Strangely, the images do not show some kind of futuristic machine or ship, as has oft been theorised by the Society, but what appears to be a round stone amphitheatre with its steps leading down to a large tree in the centre. There is nothing to suggest that the image is anything out of the ordinary, except for the fruit or seeds that hang from the tree; they look like large, semi-translucent golden coins. Needless to say, the authenticity of the images (and more importantly, of Anern’s claims) are strongly disputed.

The festival began after historian and philosopher Verna Slythem theorised in her 1964 collecton of essays, Everything is Happening Right Now, that if time travel was possible then surely either we would know about it or there would be evidence of it in historical record, as people would have already travelled back to our time, and times in the past. It was a simple assertion, but one which stirred the imagination of many Buentoillitants, who began to search for the evidence.

The bulk of the ‘evidence’ put forth by the Society is in fact mostly circumstantial, and they are yet to find any conclusive proof. This had meant that many who were once interested in the field have now left for greener fields of historical research, frustrated with the lack of progress. Others recognise that there is rarely any conclusive proof in history, and have spent many years attempting to gather large amounts of circumstantial evidence, hoping that it will be more convincing in volume.

Most examples of this evidence are gathered written historical documents and centre around individuals and events which appear out of time. A scientist, for example, who makes a startling leap forward without conducting any serious research, or a person who is extremely lucky, placing and winning several unlikely bets in a row. Much controversy has been created by the Society’s frequent assertions that various prophets were not inspired by the divine, but instead had access to time travel technology. Accounts of distressed or confused persons in outlandish costume are also held up as evidence for time travellers, although they are few and far between.

Perhaps the most famous and controversial historical figure pegged as a time traveller by the Society is Tyne Elevator, the great tactician of the Buentoilliçan Revolution, who made a number of brilliant decisions that secured key defeats against monarchist forces. Needless to say this has ruffled many feathers the wrong way, and is viewed as a slander of one of the heroes of the Revolution by many, earning the society a poor reputation across much of the City.

This year a group of folklorists and students of literature will be presenting the results of their studies, which proposes that many folk stories contain characters who could have been based upon real time travellers, and that that much of the magic in these stories could in fact be advanced technology. The stand-out story of the collection they have brought to the table will be familiar to many Buentoillitants; it is the Tale of the King and the Wise Doctor.

In the tale a famous doctor who has saved many other lives is called up to save the life of the king’s daughter, who has plague. After examining her, he tells the king to feed her mouldy bread twice a day, at which the king baulks (considering it an insult to his status) and has the doctor executed for imprudence. The king’s daughter secretly eats the bread and gets better, whereupon the king realised what he has done. The folklorists insist that the tale is evidence of time travel, as bacteria-killing mould such as penicillin were not discovered for many hundreds of years after the tale originates. Detractors are likely to point out that there are various versions of this story, some in which mouldy bread is not the cure, but instead the guts of fish, which are unlikely to have any medicinal benefit.

Despite her death in 1992, Slythem will today attend the conference that was founded on her ideas, although admittedly not bodily; before her death the philosopher recorded fifty short messages for each year of the Festival of Time Travel, with her (usually slightly off) predictions for that year. Until they are played at the close of the festival the recordings remain an unplayed secret kept in a locked drawer in the basement of the Yerbai Noon.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Mineral Water Treatment
  • Municipal Cloud Watching Day
  • The Festival of Dane’s Secret Atlas