Untitled Document

Daria Volkova

First things first: if you and I are going to get acquainted, we have to set a couple of boundaries. Communication is a healthy thing, right? So—

Rule #1: You will know me only as Jack.

Any other potentially identifying details—Do. Not. Matter. To you, I am Jack, and that means I could be anybody. My name could be Bartholomew, and Jack would be a reasonable nickname. My name could be Pasquelinna, and Jack would be a reasonable nickname. My name could be a random set of letters produced by a cat sleeping on a keyboard, and Jack would be a reasonable nickname. I call it the Jack Phenomenon. 

But I’ll stop dilly-dallying; back to the rules.

Rule #2: Anything you read in this letter should never be repeated to anyone, at any time

Rule #3: If you don’t like what you’re reading, it is imperative you return it where you found it and forget it existed. Better yet, burn it and then forget about it. I don’t care how you do it—moonlight ritual with runes or a chemist-gone-rogue experiment, whatever works. If the prospect of doing even that frightens you, kindly accept my suggestion… recommendation… stern but respectful instruction and burn this letter now. 

Still reading? Obviously you are. 

Without wasting any more minutes than I already have, I’ll just say it: my organization works to stop what has become… a growing number of nefarious time travelers. They have broken all of the time travel rules that were established in the year 1000. Well, they were established in 1000 but nobody who signed them was actually from 1000. They just wanted the “established year” to look cool. 

But I digress. So, these shifty time travelers, known as the Gear Shifters, jump into different epochs and convince impressionable minds that their past determines their present. And just like that, someone who didn’t like pistachio ice-cream when they tried it at age five then goes through life convinced that they are absolutely not an ice-cream person, depriving themselves of the myriad of joys they would have had if they’d just tried Cookies N’ Cream or Mint Chocolate Chip.

Another sneaky Gear Shifters tactic is giving unsuspecting marks ideas about the future for which it is ostensibly worth sacrificing the present. That’s how we have billionaires dreaming about colonizing Mars as a way to escape the Earth’s decay one day. Meantime, they warm up the planet by launching themselves on joyrides into space. 

In a word (or ten), the Gear Shifters prevent people from being in the present. (Yep, ten). As a result, people don’t see, want, or appreciate what is. And yet, as plenty of folks have noticed, we only truly live in the present. The past is gone and the future becomes the present upon arrival. When we aren’t in the present, we kind of… don’t live.

To make matters worse, the Gear Shifters are recruiting, and more and more of them are popping up throughout history. To be fair, their recruitment budget is bigger than ours. Because some companies think interns should be unpaid, which, in this economy? Forget it. Anyway, headquarters has decided that we also need to engage. Hence this letter.

Dear reader, would you like to become a time traveler?

“Why me?” you might ask. A few reasons. First, if you were able to complete my scavenger hunt without tearing your hair out, you must be smart. (Forgive the implication of hubris there, mostly I’m just trying to convince you.) Second, spending both the time and money to travel from Seattle to Vegas to Poughkeepsie to Maryland is some mighty determination for a non-actually-having-applied-applicant. Plus, if you found yourself on level 9 of the Central Seattle Public Library’s book spiral in the first place, I consider you an invested person already. 

“Why should I say yes?” you might be asking. Well, obviously as a favor to me, your wonderful friend Jack. 

Shenanigans aside, the Professional International Time Travel Agency (PITTA—I know, Procurement is really bad at scheduling its shopping trips and, in 2001, that’s all GoDaddy had left) attracts all kinds of folks, from former not-CIA agents to spunky middle school librarians, so the break room makes for interesting conversations. If you’re a history buff, you get to live it. If you like helping people—this is my fingers-crossed assumption—then you get to protect the world. Our big, bright, beautiful world, that has brought us light and rain and the sound of slurped yogurt. Today, this world is in your hands. 

And, putting on my slightly desperate Jack hat here, we could really use more intelligent, curious, inventive and interesting people like you. If we don’t work on stopping the Gear Shifters, their actions in the past and future crumble everyone’s present. I know this sounds like science fiction. I thought the same thing. But sit and think about it. 

The past and the future are really one event.

People think that a prior event causes a present event. Which is absurd, obviously. That’s like saying that the front car of the train causes the tail car, because we observe the former passing by minutes before we see the latter. They are one train. Our lives are not separate from, or conditioned by, past events, but are one beautiful event.

I think you know this. At least I hope you do, my mystery friend. I really hope you do.

By the way, in case you were wondering, my desperate Jack hat is a lime green fedora. 

If you don’t like the sound of this, go ahead and follow the instructions I provided earlier. If you do, there’s another clue in the envelope to get you to us. A complicated process, yes, but consider it an incredibly fun jetlag inducing interview. 

I do hope my letter has convinced you. So…

Have you got time?


Your old but also maybe not born yet friend,