00068 The Time Machine Ch. 01byTarbut©
After careful tests, Chaim, a professor of physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is now satisfied that his time machine is reliable enough for human use.
He's pretty content with his life -- he has just made the most important discovery in history -- but he has a small regret: although he still loves his wife Bruriah as much as he did the day he married her, age has made her less attractive - there is some cellulite on her buttocks, her breasts are now sagging, and there are a few wrinkles too many on her face.
He's never thought of divorcing her -- and he concedes that aging has made Bruriah all the wiser -- but sex with her has become difficult, and he thinks that the best solution to this quandary is to use the time machine to meet his wife in the past, as a young woman, and to make love with her.
To prevent meeting his former self, not just his wife, he programs the time machine in order to remove his past self into an alternate reality before bringing himself to the past -- once he's back to his own time, the past self will also be brought back to its own.
Chaim and Bruriah got married in 1980, and he goes back to that time, about a week after marriage. When he comes home, Buriah doesn't recognize him and asks, "Who are you?"
"I'm Chaim, your husband, and I can prove it."
"How? He's much younger and leaner than you!"
"Compare my fingerprints with the ones I sealed our engagement agreement with -- because fingerprints can't be disowned, especially since I had them taken in 1976 when joining the military."
Bruriah does that, and concedes that Chaim is her husband. He in turn tells her about the time machine he has eventually built, thus reassuring her that all the sacrifices she's going to make and the hardships she's going through will eventually be worth the while.
They speak a lot, eat supper and eventually go to bed; since Chaim has taken a Cialis pill before time travelling, his sexual performance is outstanding - but Bruriah is exceedingly pleased that her husband, even though he can meet scores of young female students from all over the world at university, still prefers her to them.
Next morning, when he wakes up, he notices that Bruriah's home is somewhat dirty and cheaply furnished -- and he remembers that in 1980 they couldn't even afford a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher.
So he thinks that he should financially help his wife; and he also thinks that if her hardships will be relieved, she will be probably prettier in her old age -- so helping her becomes of paramount importance.
He shares the project with her, and tells her, "I can't give you money, because Israeli coins and notes in 2011 will be different -- but I can bring you food, books, and so on, so you may save the money for other expenses"
"Chaim, I badly need a vacuum cleaner; can't you bring me one?"
"Power plugs will be different too, sorry."
So Chaim begins to time commute in order to supply Bruriah with food, detergents, and even books -- because she loves to read, and because some of the books the young Chaim needs for his studies aren't available at the University Library, and he can't afford to buy them.
So the living standards of Bruriah's family improve, and Chaim's academic performance too.
In 1985 Israel changes currency; 1985 notes are no more in use, but some coins still are, and Chaim goes back to September 1985 with a suitcase filled with 10,000 1 Sheqel coins.
"Sorry, they're the biggest denomination that could be brought back from 2011 to 1985. I hope that you'll spend them well."
"Yes. Tomorrow I'll pay off the auto loan -- you've got an internship at the Ben Gurion University at Beersheva, and you can't go there by train."
"I remember. The car will be all the more useful, as you'll find a job there, so we'll be able to travel together."
"Will we always show up in time at work?"
"No, darling. We will often stop under a tree and ... you know what will happen."
"Will we have children? Even though I make love every day, with either you or my current husband, I never conceive."
"We'll discover that I'm sterile due to something that happened to me while in the military -- sorry, it is still classified, I can't tell you more."
Bruriah weeps over that disclosure and asks, "Is there a remedy?"
"I should come back to before joining the IDF, and make love with you. But we hadn't met yet, and I could only succeed by raping you."
"Don't even think about it!"
"Don't worry, I've already ruled out that."
The next day Bruriah goes to the bank and hands the suitcase to the cashier. He opens it, pours the coins into the coin counter, and then hands the 10,000 Sheqel receipt to Bruriah.
She then goes to the director's office and hands him the receipt to pay off the debt. While she's signing the papers, the cashier calls the director and tells him, "Sir, there is something strange. She's deposited apparently regular coins, but with future dates stretching to 5771-2011! What shall we do?"
"Forward these coins to the Bank of Israel!"
The Bank of Israel labs confirm what the cashier has said: they're regular Bank of Israel coins, but with future dates; the labs director asks her researchers to sort them by date, and to check with a magnifying glass whether the earlier the dates on the coins, the more worn out they are -- he's right: the ones that bear the earliest dates are the most tarnished and worn out.
These coins are a serious issue for the Governor of the Bank of Israel, especially because he remembers that Hitler tried to undermine the British and American economies during World War II by forging millions of enemy banknotes, and he fears that Israel's enemies are copycatting the Fuehrer, so he alerts the Mossad.
The Mossad chief plays down this hypothesis: forging 1 Sheqel coins actually costs more than 1 Sheqel per coin -- so nobody's interested in that. And even if somebody were, why should he forge coins with future dates, thus exposing them as forgeries? There must be another explanation.
The Governor replies that a forger may have released these coins to prove his worth and blackmail the Israeli government -- and this blatant forgery of coins may be followed by the issuing of flawlessly counterfeit coins, or even notes, if the Government doesn't stop him.
The Mossad chief rejoins that flooding Israel with counterfeit coins wouldn't harm it that much, and the forger would soon stop because he would only lose money; moerover, since minting coins and printing notes use very different technologies, being able to forge a coin doesn't prove one's ability to forge notes. If a forger wanted to showcase his prowess, he wouldn't have behaved as such.
The Governor is unconvinced, and brings the issue to the Prime Minister's office. Although the Prime Minister doubts the Governor's hypothesis, he concedes that a forger counterfeiting Israeli coins poses an existential threat to the country, and must be stopped at all costs.
Since the only parties interested in threatening Israel's existence are the Arab League and the PLO, the Prime Minister orders the IDF to raze the PLO headquarters in Tunis as soon as possible -- even though the Mossad chief remarks that these headquarters (as per Mossad's agents' surveys) don't consume enough electricity to operate a mint, so the PLO mustn't be the guilty party.
On October, 1st, 1985, the raid on Tunis is performed -- Arafat escapes assassination, but the building is destroyed and 73 people are left dead; the death of three Israelis at the hand of PLO gunmen a few days earlier masks the real reason for the airstrike very well.
After the strike, the Mossad chief decides to personally inquire about the 10,000 coins with future dates.
Even though the Bank of Israel has instructed all banks to check the dates of at least 1 out of 20 1 Sheqel coins they take in, no coin with future dates has come up after Bruriah's bank deposit -- so the Mossad chief investigates about her.
When his agents tell him that Chaim, Bruriah's husband, has published several papers on time travel in reputable academic journals -- not in sci-fi magazines -- all marbles fall into place: Chaim must have eventually succeeded, and has brought genuine Israeli coins back to his now poor wife.
So he dispatches two details of agents to tail both Bruriah and Chaim -- and when the detail shadowing Chaim radio him that Chaim has suddenly vanished before their eyes, he in turn radioes the other detail to watch Bruriah more closely and look after Chaim, or anybody resembling him.
A few minutes later the second detail radio him that somebody like Chaim has knocked on Bruriah's door, and she has let him in. They're now in bedroom, probably making love.
The Mossad chief tells his men, "Keep watching them. At sunrise I'll enter their home."
At sunrise, the Mossad chief has Bruriah's door forced open by his men, tells them to stay put, enters the apartment with a heavy backpack on his shoulders, and wakes up the couple.
"Who are you?" Bruriah asks, and Chaim answers, "The Mossad chief".
The Mossad chief puts his backpack on the floor, helps himself to a chair, sits down and says, "Excellent, Mr. Chaim. You know my identity though it's still highly classified! How is it possible?"
Chaim is afraid to answer, but the Mossad chief adds, "I've read your juvenile papers on time travel, Mr. Chaim, and you've just proved you've eventually succeeded in creating a time machine."
"Sort of ..."
"What has happened to the other Chaim, the current Bruriah's husband?"
"Don't worry -- he's been parked into an alternate reality, but when I go back to 2011, he'll come back to your time."
"Good. Good for 'our' Chaim, but also good for the State of Israel."
"What do you mean?"
"If you could bring us Israeli coins minted in 2011, it means that our state will be alive and kicking at that time."
"Yes, but the Israeli politicians of 2011 are less wise than you, and we pay the price of their mistakes".
"Will Israel still be a democracy?"
"Kind of ..."
"So you only have to berate yourselves!"
"Please, Sir, get to the point," Bruriah says, and the Mossad chief tells them, "I obviously praise and commend the man who has invented the time machine; but it has already wrought great havoc to our time."
"What did I do wrong?"
"Dear Mr. Chaim, your coins bearing future dates have led our government to carry out a military action which claimed 73 human lives. God only knows what will happen if you don't go back to your time with your coins -- and stop time travelling!"
While saying that, the Mossad chief opens the backpack, thus exposing the coins taken from the Bank of Israel labs.
"Ok, I can go back to 2011. But will you be liable for the disappearance of the coins?"
"No. The Bank of Israel thinks that they've been melted, but the metal ingots it has received in exchange come from a different source. And Bruriah's bank won't question the repayment of your auto loan. Please, bring back these coins to your time, Mr. Chaim."
Bruriah hugs Chaim and weeps, and Chaim weeps as well; they kiss for the last time swearing everlasting love, and Chaim and the backpack disappear into 2011.
Year 2011. The postman rings at Chaim's and Bruriah's door, and gives Bruriah a letter labeled "Personal for Chaim". When Chaim comes home, Bruriah hands him the letter remarking, "The Israel Post has just stricken a record: this letter has taken 16 years to make 150 kilometers!"
Chaim looks at the envelope, and notices that the letter apparently comes from a Galilee moshav, and it is postmarked 5755-1995! When he opens it, he reads: "Browse a Chinese dictionary at Steimatzky, Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo on August, 25th, 2011, at 6 PM. Bring this letter with you, together with the envelope, and wait for somebody browsing a Russian dictionary."
The message is unsigned, and Chaim thinks, "A letter shouldn't take 16 years to cover 150 kilometers! Who or what has made it take for so long?"
Since the letter is unregistered, its course hasn't been tracked, so nobody can answer, and Chaim tells Bruriah, "Only a criminal organization, or an intelligence service, would dare send an unsigned order, and be confident that it will be obeyed; and only the Mossad could see that a letter sent in 1995 would be delivered in 2011."
"Do you think that they're now interested in your time machine?"
"Yes. In 1985 the then Mossad chief asked me not to time travel anymore. What may have changed their mind?"
Oh the stated day, he goes to Steimatzky, finds an Oxford Chinese-English dictionary, and browses it, trying from time to time to read aloud the Chinese phrases printed there.
At 6 o' clock, a young girl enters the library with a backpack on her shoulders, goes to the foreign languages' dictionaries' shelf, takes a Prolog Russian-Hebrew dictionary, and uses an envelope like Chaim's as a bookmark -- although it comes from a different place, it is postmarked 5755-1995 as well.
So Chaims takes the envelope out of his pocket, shows it to the girl and says, "Hi. I'm Chaim. Pleased to meet you. What's your name?"
"Dinah. Pleased to meet you too. Can we go to a cozier place?"
"We're in Tel Aviv, not in Sodom!"
"You'll find my wife there."
Dinah laughs, "I'm lesbian, but not into threesomes!"
Chaim giggles, "My wife is a golden star heterosexual. Sorry, she's not for you."
"Ok, let's go to your home. By bus or by car?"
"By sherut. I wasn't told that I had to drive."
Once at home, Dinah shows Chaim her letter, which says, "There's a red coffer in the safe number (deleted out of national security considerations) -- the combination to open it is the ZIP of the sender of a letter to the man who will browse a Chinese dictionary ..."
"That's why the ZIP didn't match the locality," Chaim concludes, "And that's why the sender urged me to bring the envelope and not just remember the place it was sent from."
"I've brought the coffer. Don't worry, we've done an X-ray and it seems harmless," Dinah says, taking it out of her backpack. She then breaks the wax seals timestamped 5755-1995, opens the coffer with the combination masked as ZIP, and there they find a scroll of paper and a 1 Sheqel coin minted in 2011.
Chaim asks, "Dinah, where does the coffer come from?"
"From a safe only the Mossad chief and his closest aides can open. Let me now read the scroll ... Ok, you can listen to it."
So reads the scroll, "In the civil years 1994 and 1995 two catastrophes have befallen the State and the People of Israel: on February, 25th, 1994, Baruch Goldstein has killed, counting them as sheep for the slaughter, 29 people; on November, 4th, 1995, Yigal Amir has murdered Yitzhaq Rabin.
Professor's Chaim's time machine could avert these disasters by kidnapping Yigal Amir from Kings of Israel Square moments before the murder and putting him before the barrel of Baruch Goldstein's military rifle moments before he pulls the trigger.
If things are done well, these thugs will shoot each other to death instead of carrying out their crimes."
Chaim is astonished at the reading, Bruriah is utterly appalled; Dinah remarks that such an operation can't be carried out without government approval, greets the couple, and rushes to the Mossad headquarters.
The next week, Dinah is back and asks Chaim, "Does your machine carry two or three people?"
"Yes, it does. It can do whatever."
So they turn the time machine on, use it to go to Kings of Israel Square, in the evening of November, 4th, 1995, and look for Yigal Amir. They pinpoint him standing near the Town Hall, and kidnap him moments before he shoots at Yitzhaq Rabin.
Then they go to the Cave of the Patriarchs, in the afternoon of February, 25th, 1994, and put him in front of Baruch's Goldstein's rifle, when his finger has already received the nervous impulse to pull the trigger, and can't be stopped anymore.
But when the bullet exits the barrel, Yigal Amir instantly vanishes, to the amazement of Chaim and Dinah.
In a few seconds Chaim and Dinah vanish too, and they immediately find themselves in 2011.
Dinah warily checks her smartphone, and shouts, "Zubi! History hasn't changed a bit! Baruch Goldstein has carried out his massacre and Yigal Amir his murder! The mission has ended in failure!"
"Dinah, let's browse the time machine log! Perhaps we can fix what has gone wrong!"
"Chaim, I was at the Cabinet meeting that approved the mission - by a razor-thin majority, because some ministers were covert supporters of both criminals, while others simply remarked that no moral system in the world would approve sacrificing a life for the sake of another, or even for the sake of the whole world. You will not be granted a second chance!"
Bruriah intervenes, "Dinah, Chaim, I can tell you what has happened without reading the log."
"What has happened?"
"Chaim, do you remember that I insisted installing what you mockingly called 'the Yiddishe Mame Chip'?"
"Gosh! Yes, I installed it, and set things so that the time machine can't work without it now!"
"What's this chip?" Dinah asks, and Chaim answers, "If a time machine passenger is put into clear and present danger because of its operations, this chip forces the machine to bring him back to his time. That's what must have happened to Yigal Amir! And to us, as we've been brought back here when Baruch Goldstein began his rampage."
"Argh! And you couldn't insert an exception, a loophole, for people like these two criminals, could you?"
"Dinah," Bruriah answers, "Every human life is sacred. Had you brought both Goldstein and Amir to a distant future, you would prevent them from committing murder and save their lives as well. And perhaps in another epoch their criminal tendencies wouldn't beget actual crimes -- especially if you had sent a letter to the Mossad of 2200 or 2300 urging it to closely watch them. Your Mossad colleagues could delay a letter by 16 years, they can stall another for centuries!"
"These thugs would then build -- or even buy -- a time machine to return to 1994-1995 and accomplish their misfits!"
"It's easier to build a nuclear power plant than a time machine," Chaim intervenes, "and the Mossad could easily prevent them from using one."
"But the original plan was safer."
"But it was neither moral nor Jewish!" Bruriah rejoins, "You've just said that some ministers claimed that no moral system in the world would condone taking a human life for the sake of another life, or countless other lives, except in case of self-defense - and I can say they were right as I studied philosophy at university. And my namesake, Bruriah, is famous for teaching her husband Rabbi Meir ..."
"... that if sinners annoyed him, he shouldn't pray for their death, but for their conversion, because it is sin that must vanish, not sinners. I have attended Talmud Torah as a girl," Dinah says, "Ok, you're good Jews, self-righteous citizens of the world -- but you could have helped your people and your country, and you didn't."
"Sorry, Dinah. But I can tell you that I could ask Chaim to use the time machine to go to a past in which he was still fertile, but he hadn't been introduced to me yet -- and the only way to make me pregnant would therefore be to rape me. I would certainly love my child, but I could never accept my husband's immoral behaviour, even though it had been me who asked for it!"
"Dinah," Chaim adds, "The ends can't redeem the means. We can't do evil, even while pursuing a greater good. We can't play God."
"So you impose your strict moral standards to yourself too, and that makes you commendable. Take care, Chaim; see you soon, Bruriah."
*** The End ***