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Contemporary Haibun Online: January 2015, vol 10 no 4

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Shelly Bryant

Pendulum, a Travel Journal

Now

I open the pages of this journal. A record for the ages, so to speak.

Now I begin my journey. From now. For the ages.

I have said goodbye to my parents. Many years ago, at their gravesides. I have chosen to make no other attachments in life, knowing that pursuit of this sojourn would be my life's work, and knowing what it would cost. Especially what it would cost a wife, were I to take one.

brume covered fields
– reflected headlights
in predawn chill

One Year from Now

Little has changed in any significant way. The investigation into my disappearance closed months ago – remarkably fast! – when the police verified that the signature on the release form I'd left with my company was indeed mine.

My friends' social media pages were enlightening. There were unexpected faces in the photos of the memorial held in my honor – and a few unexpected absences too. Perhaps it would have been better not to look.

in time with the busker's beat
coins in a mendicant's cup

One Year Ago

A carefully chosen date. My boss sits in the armchair in my study at home, smoking a cigar. In my favorite chair, and I am allergic to smoke. But, he's the boss.

On the coffee table, technical drawings lie pinned beneath a history tome. The book's pages are marked with tags of different colors. Pinks for the must-see events. Yellow for dates with local significance. Blue for those he knew would hold personal appeal for me.

"But, Michael, surely we shouldn't start with these dates. You just never know," I listen to myself saying.

"Then, what?"

"I don't know. Let me think about it. I'll get back to you by the end of next week with a plan. Perhaps something for which I am better equipped to confirm the validity – things I've already seen before. At least to start."

"That makes sense. But look at the plans for the device there. You can't start with something you've already seen. It has to go forward for the first swing. It's the way it works."

fingers on keys
the metronome's shadow swings
across his cheek

Ten Years from Now

A new shopping centre sits prominently at the end of my street. The view from my bedroom window is hopelessly obscured by its back wall.

It doesn't matter. I cannot get into my apartment any longer. It's not really mine. Three families have moved in and out since it was last mine. The one that lives there now has been there less than a year.

It is a muggy summer afternoon. I should have timed this visit for a milder season.

cracked pavement
drenched in hydrant's spray
dancing rainbows

Ten Years Ago

From a cafe on the opposite side of the road, I watch myself enter my office building. I scratch my unshaven cheek, but stop short of touching the grey around my ears.

My younger self carries a black leather briefcase, still looking new. A gift from my grandfather when I finished my oral defense of my PhD. On the day I left my own time, I placed the briefcase in a safety deposit box, holding all the possessions I had that were worth recovering when I returned. If I returned.

lazy crossroads'
unbroken amber strobes
lightning and thunder crash

A Quarter Century from Now

I dare not search. I don't want to know if I still live, nor where I am if I do.

No more cell phones or computer terminals that I can see, not anywhere. All the better. Here (now), I don't know how to look myself up anyway.

Even without recognizable consoles, every pedestrian speaks as s/he walks along, as if to her or himself. I don't know how they communicate remotely, but their manner is that of a plugged-in people.

Today, I know how far I have traveled.

a tune
composed after my death
I sway in time

A Quarter Century Ago

I sit outside my professor's door. My younger self, at the end of my freshman year, walks past me, without the slightest glance. Seeing his slim waist, slight slouch, and shoulder-length hair, I am not surprised. I am completely unrecognizable to the future self he dreams of.

I can't hear the conversation inside the office, but I don't need to. I know what the boy is hearing. An offer of an internship at Horolotech. A privacy agreement. Promises of opportunities. An imagined future, its brilliant appeal.

And a question. "I know you're not a fool – far from it. So, tell me," the old professor says, "why would you commit to something like this?"

A boyish shrug. "Because you think I can't."

blown away
dandelions in the breeze
his pursed lips

A Century from Now

The language has morphed. I can order a cup of coffee and ask for baseball scores, then understand so little of the replies I receive. Even my money is looked at askance.

I am a man without currency.

The temptation to learn news of my future self has completely dissipated. I am too far beyond my own time. Navigating a path for my present self in this future world is difficult enough. I don't even care anymore what this future holds for me and my loved ones. This is not our world.

endangered list
a multi-volume work
on fallen habitats writ

A Century Ago

My apartment building is no longer here, nor my street. At least, not as I knew them. There is a dirt road, lined with low wooden buildings. Ed's Pharmacy stands at the same spot on the corner it occupies in my time. Only its name is recognizable.

Here (now), I understand all that is said to me, but must concentrate to avoid using words that will not appear in the language until several decades from now. Easier than it sounds.

cantering hoofs
the improvised descant
of a cop's whistle

Seven Centuries from Now

The people (?) I meet are not what I know. Everyone, even the smallest child, is at least half machine. I have spent all my time in this future acquiring a new language. It took several days, but additions have been made, the program loaded.

upgrades
110100100100100101
01100001010001

Seven Centuries Ago

A wooded space. Wild, but not quite untouched. A narrow path along the stream suggests human traffic. An ideal watering hole.

For the first time in my travels, I fear my presence will upset some balance. Or that hostile eyes are watching, ready to defend their own hunting grounds.

I shake off my misgivings. My people have not yet arrived. My scalp does not yet come with a high price tag. If any eyes are watching here (now), they have no reason yet to hate or fear me.

The sun's light reflects off the surface of the stream, creating a dance on the underside of the foliage overhead. I stretch out on the bank and watch its rhythm. Around me are only the sights and sounds over which my neighborhood was built, but which I have never known.

leafy green blends
with silver threads –
water moccasin's drift

Two Millennia From Now

001010100101011011101011110001101110101010101010010100101010101010111110000100
101010101010101010101010101011001110001111011100101010000011110010101010111100
100101010100101001001010101010100110010010100101010101010111001101010101010101
010010010011100110111100010010010101010010101010101110001111110000101101010101
01010101010101010010001

00101101111
100111011010110
– 110101

Two Millennia Ago

No dazzling cities to be later lost, covered in jungle undergrowth. Really, was this what I expected? Hoped for?

If such myths ever did live, they did not live here.

The forest here (now) is not very different from my last visit. Minus only the subtle footpath.

How long has it just gone on like this? How many millennia of this thriving silence?

cicada ballad – ticking in unison a windup army

In the End

010110

10001110
11010001110
dimmed the lights

In the Beginning

Darkness. Silence. Explosions of light. Debris flung outward. Outward. Outward.

change
the only constant
swarm in flight


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