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To Those at the End · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
With Apologies
Greetings, friends!

Of course, once you've read this message, we may no longer be friends. And considering that we've never actually met, you may not think of me as a friend now...

But rest assured: our friendship is deep and long established. It's the friendship we progenitors always feel toward our descendants, a friendship that transcends time and space, reaching forward to bathe you in its radiance while reaching back to brush me with the knowledge of your love and affection.

At least until you arrive at the end of this missive...

But let's not focus on that right now! Let's focus on the glorious civilization you've formed there two million years in the future. Sitting here in my garage beside the Cyclotrauma, I can barely begin to believe the wonders I've seen through the swirling vortex my invention has summoned!

At my point in time, we've scarcely sent our rudimentary robots to tread stodgily through the dirt or speed timorously past the outer atmospheres of the other worlds and worldlets sharing our planetary system. But you! You've traveled to the stars and back, extending humanity's reach to an appreciable portion of the galaxy! Oh, how my heart overflows to think of it!

You've even transcended what my primitive peers would consider human! You exist as a hybrid of biological, mechanical, and virtual! So many frontiers you've negotiated and taken into the warm embrace of civilization—non-human cultures as well! New and alien friendships that have brought you a joy and peace we in the past are simply unable to comprehend!

Not that any of the aliens will probably survive, either...

Because, well, you see, I've uncovered a bit of a problem here. The Cyclotrauma has displayed for me two possible futures and two possible futures only for the human race. The first is yours, near-magical in every respect, while the second is a blasted hellscape in which chaos envelopes the world, the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe for two million years, a madness fed by technology, biology, and virtuality all gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Suffice it to say, I'm not sending a message like this to them!

But, while every scenario I run through the Cyclotrauma ends in either your beauteous wonder or their inslakable carnage, I can find no way of guaranteeing that we wind up with your future rather than theirs. The flapping wings of butterflies and all that, yes, but more importantly, none of the governmental officials I've approached will pay me the slightest bit of attention! I've assembled quite the comprehensive list of things we must do and things we must avoid over the next two hundred years to guide our current world toward the positive outcome, and yet? I'm called a crank and informed that I'm no longer allowed to enter their offices!

The only solution I've found—and here's where, I fear, you may wish to reconsider our friendship—involves me causing the Cyclotrauma to feed back upon itself, turning it into a sort of Möbius strip that will essentially destroy it. This, my calculations show, will cycle us onto a third, completely unknown path by slicing us away from both known futures and combining them into a single continuum that will then close back in upon itself and continue as a universe separate from ours in every way.

Yes, our future will not be yours, but neither will it be theirs. We will have a clear slate ahead of us, a slate that the equations I've run tell me will fall somewhere between yours and theirs.

Embracing mediocrity, in others words, but I'm willing to choose that path rather than running the risk of everything collapsing to ruin.

You, of course, will be locked in with the never-ending horrors of the other future, and for this, I can only apologize.

Still, brief good-byes are the best. I'm sending this message to the furthest point of the Cyclotrauma's range and setting it to disperse as widely as possible before bidding you a fond farewell. And I hope that, if you do overcome the utter nightmare into which I'm plunging you, you can someday forgive me.

George Laguardia
Inventor of the Cyclotrauma
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#1 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
This one definitely has a really interesting central idea, and I like what you're doing with delivering the context of the conflict at a measured pace. The narrator's voice also comes through really clearly in the text, which helps the epistolary format feel all that more authentic. My favorite bit was definitely the moment where the narrator haughtily bemoans the fact that he's ignored, despite all the work he's put into the project.

I will have to say, I had a little bit of trouble grasping the whole mobius strip analogy/explanation, and on my subsequent readthroughs, I almost want to say that the story would work without it altogether. The most important information (if I'm understanding things correctly) is that it will merge the two possible future universes. When you try to explain and add details to such a vague concept, it inevitably is going to sound really odd to your reader. It really made me question why exactly the inhabitants of Good Universe would find themselves in Bad Universe, instead of the other way around, or any other permutation of "two universes merging". In short, you're opening quite a can of worms when you bring actual logistics and explanations into things. I honestly think it might be best to just gloss this bit over as much as you can.

I hope that makes sense!

Thank you for submitting!
#2 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
In which a snake oil salesman-sounding fellow apologizes for the technical inconvenience. Seriously, I read this story out loud in a rather stereotypical 19th-century snake oil salesman-esque accent and it fit quite well.

I don't find anything wrong with this. Granted, my lack of sufficient knowledge and expertise in the sci-fi department (and timey-wimey stuff) might blind me to some mistake in the sci-fi explanations for whatever the Cylcotrauma is (and, by the way, I'm not exactly sure why exactly it would cause trauma. However, I'm going to assume that the explanation is all good.

Having said that, regarding how you handled the tone... quite a nasty piece of work you managed! Until the end, the tone conflicts wonderfully with the contents of the message, especially since you started things off with the warning that this isn't exactly good news we're getting. I have the feeling the message's writer is trying too hard to be enthusiastic, which underlies a nuance about this story: would I genuinely be happy or cheerful if I had to compose this message? Of course not. Yet, I want to soften the blow as much as possible for whoever would receive it, so I do understand the option of just being cheesily cheerful.

And the slow revelation of who the recipients of the message is, who they actually are: yup. It does feel fatherly and you nail it right with the paragraphs praising the recipients, especially with the first few parahraphs in the story putting the whole cheery tone in doubt.

Then there's the ending and the solution to the problem found in the message. If I was the recipient, I would certainly be mad at the writer. The brief ending also fits great since its briefness feels very natural and not as if it was painfully aware it was reaching the 700-word mark of the 750-word limit. I can easily imagine it being short as is because it was meant to be, not because it was a mini fic. With how terse and how incomplete/barebones (for lack of a better term) the message ends only adds more to the tone shift that I did not detect until I looked back up at the story: how the numerous exclamation points suddenly stop, and how the tone shifts from cheery to unapologetically sorry.

Overall, a great message-in-a-story (or is it story-in-a-message?) Even a little humorous which might not have been your intention but it's all good. Should see this in the top or at least at the threshold of getting bronze.
#3 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Vaguely steampunk Rick & Morty.

Something I liked:

With only 750 words at the author's disposal, some drastic measures must naturally be taken. There are several ways you can frame your story to make it economic on words while still conveying everything you want to. This entry does a pretty good job of putting forth the premise while also characterizing the writer of the letter. Whoever you are, author, I'm almost certain you wrote this with more 19th century influences in mind than modern sci-fi. Think less Greg Bear and more H.G. Wells. The protagonist is a bit of a bastard, or at the very least irresponsible, but the way he's written not only gives him something close to three dimensions, but makes the delay of the dire reveal seem more natural.

Something I didn't like:

The big problem this entry has, even on a re-read, is how fuzzy the stakes are. While I understand it's part of the protagonist's character to not immediately let the recipient know that their future will be fucked, the explanation given for why their future will be fucked feels obtuse to the point of incompleteness. There's something important missing here, like who the aliens are supposed to be and why the protagonist regards them with disdain. Is there an intergalactic war in the future that we aren't told about? You could've used those extra 50+ words to provide a bit more context. Also, I doubt there would only be two choices for how the future of humanity would play out. I suspect there'd be at least a dozen, if not hundreds.

Verdict: Simple and robust time travel that's maybe too simple, leaving too much left unexplained.
#4 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
I like the concept of this one and how it plays with the idea of time. I think this one executes it a little better than 'Time Travelling Salesman' did because it's more clear and more simplified when it comes to the theory and terminology so I had an easier time following along.

But, on further reading, I am a bit confused as to how the logistics of this all is going to play out. Sending a letter to a future is dependent on that future happening. By moving the world away from that future and into another one, how can we assume that either of the two futures laid out are going to happen? But besides that, I think it's pretty solid.
#5 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
This reminds me more or less of *Foundation*, the Asimov classic, and the psychohistory, Harry Seldon and so on.

Like all time paradox stories, I can’t avoid a knee-jerk reflex of revulsion, given how frequently this trope has been used to palm off stupid or cheap stories.

What I don’t get in this one is why the "letter" opens up with the guy apparently addressing people from the "bright" civilisation but ends up informing them they will be locked in the other, "dark" alternative. If it’s ironic, then it doesn’t jibe with the apologetic tone at the end. If it is not, then your story is flawed.

So I’m not really convinced by this one.
#6 ·

This round is over already? My apologies to everyone whose story I didn't comment on. Apparently time flies when you're being non-essential...

I, too, don't care much for time travel stories, so I try my hand at them every once in a while to see if I can do anything with the idea. There might be something here, but I need to do more work on making the narrator more unreliable, try to get the reader wondering if he's crazy or not. There should be some sort of tragedy in his past that he's refusing to address, something that he can't fix and that he's projecting into this split between the good future and the bad future...

But yeah, thanks for the comments,>>Bachiavellian, >>Comma Typer, >>No_Raisin, >>TheRedParade, and >>Monokeras.