<back to index
| previous letter | next
April 2006 Message from Dan
Greetings Readers, Friends, and Other Visitors:
The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my study on New Year’s
Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and
looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared
to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since
he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even
visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short
in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch.
Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky
voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me
about the future.
Being a sometimes science-fiction writer but not a fool,
I said, “Prove it.”
“Do you remember Replay?” he said.
My finger hovered over the final “1” in my dialing.
“The 1987 novel?” I said. “By Ken Grimwood?”
The stranger – Time Traveler, psychotic, home invader,
whatever he was – nodded.
I hesitated. The novel by Grimwood had won the World Fantasy
Award a year or two after my first-novel, Song of Kali,
had. Grimwood’s book was about a guy who woke up one
morning to find himself snapped back decades in his life,
from the late 1980’s to himself as a college student
in 1963, and thus getting the chance to relive – to
replay – that life again, only this time acting upon
what he’d already learned the hard way. In the book,
the character, who was to experience – suffer –
several Replays, learned that there were other people from
his time who were also Replaying their lives in the past,
their bodies younger but their memories intact. I’d
greatly enjoyed the book, thought it deserved the award, and
had been sad to hear that Grimwood had died . . . when? .
. . in 2003.
So, I thought, I might have a grizzled nut case in my study
this New Year’s Eve, but if he was a reader and a fan
of Replay, he was probably just a sci-fi fan grizzled
nut case, and therefore probably harmless. Possibly. Maybe.
I kept my finger poised over the final “1” in
“What does that book have to do with you illegally
entering my home and study?” I asked.
The stranger smiled … almost sadly I thought. “You
asked me to prove that I’m a Time Traveler,” he
said softly. “Do you remember how Grimwood’s character
in Replay went hunting for others in the 1960’s
who had traveled back in time from the late 1980’s?”
I did remember now. I’d thought it clever at the time.
The guy in Replay, once he suspected others were
also replaying into the past, had taken out personal ads in
major city newspapers around the country. The ads were concise.
“Do you remember Three Mile Island, Challenger,
Watergate, Reaganomics? If so, contact me at . . .”
Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s
Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said,
“Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth
Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox
sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict
XVI, Scooter Libby.”
“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen and
then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who? Pope
who? Scooter who?”
“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all
again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you
in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”
“Wait!” I repeated. “What was that middle
apart . . . Ray Nugin? Judge who? John Roberts? Who is . .
.” But when I looked up he was gone.
“White Sox win the Series?” I muttered into the
silence. “Fat chance.”
I was waiting for him on New Year’s Eve 2005. I didn’t
see him enter. I looked up from the book I was fitfully reading
and he was standing in the shadows again. I didn’t dial
911 this time, nor demand any more proof. I waved him to the
leather wingchair and said, “Would you like something
“Scotch,” he said. “Single malt if you
Our conversation ran over two hours, but the following is
the gist of it. I’m a novelist by trade. I remember
conversations pretty well. (Not as perfectly as Truman Capote
was said to be able to recall long conversations word for
word, but pretty well.)
The Time Traveler wouldn’t tell me what year in the
future he was from. Not even the decade or century. But the
gray cord trousers and blue-gray wool tunic top he was wearing
didn’t look very far-future science-fictiony or military,
no Star Trekky boots or insignia, just wellworn clothes that
looked like something a guy who worked with his hands a lot
would wear. Construction maybe.
“I know you can’t tell me details about the future
because of time travel paradoxes,” I began. I hadn’t
spent a lifetime reading and then writing SF for nothing.
“Oh, bugger time travel paradoxes,” said the
Time Traveler. “They don’t exist. I could tell
you anything I want to and it won’t change anything.
I just choose not to tell you some things.”
I frowned at this. “Time travel paradoxes don’t
exist? But surely if I go back in time and kill my grandfather
before he meets my grandmother . . .”
The Time Traveler laughed and sipped his Scotch. “Would
you want to kill your grandfather?” he said. “Or
“Well . . .Hitler maybe,” I said weakly.
The Traveler smiled, but more ironically this time. “Good
luck,” he said. “But don’t count on succeeding.”
I shook my head. “But surely anything you tell me now
about the future will change the future,” I
“I gave you a raft of facts about your future a year
ago as my bona fides,” said the Time Traveler.
“Did it change anything? Did you save New Orleans from
“I won $50 betting on the White Sox in October,”
The Time Traveler only shook his head. “Quod erat
demonstrandum,” he said softly. “I could
tell you that the Mississippi River flows generally south.
Would your knowing about it change its course or flow or flooding?”
I thought about this. Finally I said, “Why did you
come back? Why do you want to talk to me? What do you want
me to do?”
“I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time
Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose
you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t
want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you
can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to
be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year,
day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that
sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly
enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have
on the edge of your desk.”
I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?”
“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.
I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You
mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth?
Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry
V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”
“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted
the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.”
He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour
me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again.
He said, “It was important to me to come back to this
time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself
of how unspeakably blind you all were.”
“You mean the War on Terrorism,” I said.
“I mean the Long War with Islam,” he said. “The
Century War. And it’s not over yet where I come from.
Not close to being over.”
“You can’t have a war with Islam,” I said.
“You can’t go to war against a religion.
Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a
. . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims
in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I
mean . . . I mean . . . the very word ‘Islam’
“So you kept telling yourselves,” said the Time
Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and
almost frightening edge to it. “But the ‘peace’
in ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission.’ You’ll
find that out soon enough”
Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers
in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist,
xenophobic, right-wing asshole.
“After Nine-eleven, we’re fighting terrorism,”
I began, “not . . .”
He waved me into silence.
“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk
little college you went to long ago,” said the Time
Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”
It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma
mater being called a “podunk little college” to
be able to concentrate fully.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the Time
Traveler. “In philosophy and formal logic, and it has
its equivalents in science and business management, Category
Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so
poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through
dialectic or any other means.”
I waited. Finally I said firmly, “You can’t go
to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you
could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be
The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He
said, “Let me give you an analogy . . .”
God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.
“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler,
“that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of
Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”
“That’s absurd,” I said.
“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The
American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army
barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii
were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next
day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening
to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources
of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so
help us God.”
“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d
ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now.
He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the
Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method
of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation
that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan.
We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany,
lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war
on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on
goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology
that launched them, we’d never have . . .”
I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making
the problem unsolvable through your inability – or fear
– of defining it correctly.
The Time Traveler was smiling at me from the shadows. It
was a small, thin, cold smile – holding no humor in
it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed more
sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on.
“What do you know about Syracuse?” he asked suddenly.
I blinked again. “Syracuse, New York?” I said
He shook his head slowly. “Thucydides’ Syracuse,”
he said softly. “Syracuse circa 415 B.C. The Syracuse
“It was . . . part of the Peloponnesian War,”
He waited for more but I had no more to give. I loved history,
but let’s admit it . . . that was ancient history.
Still, I felt that I should have been able to tell him,or
at least remember, why Syracuse was important in the Peloponnesian
War or why they fought there or who fought exactly or who
had won or . . . something. I hated feeling like a dull student
around this scarred old man.
“The war between Athens and its allies and Sparta and
its allies – a war for nothing less than hegemony over
the entire known world at that time – began in 431 B.C.,”
said the Time Traveler. “After seventeen years of almost
constant fighting, with no clear or permanent advantage for
either side, Athens – under the leadership of Alcibiades
at the time – decided to widen the war by conquering
Sicily, the ‘Great Greece’ they called it, an
area full of colonies and the key to maritime commerce at
the time the way the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf
I hate being lectured to at the best of times, but something
about the tone and timber of the Time Traveler’s voice
– soft, deep, rasping, perhaps thickened a bit by the
whiskey – made this sound more like a story being told
around a campfire. Or perhaps a bit like one of Garrison Keillor’s
Lake Wobegon stories on “Prairie Home Companion.”
I settled deeper into my chair and listened.
“Syracuse wasn’t a direct enemy of the Athenians,”
continued the Time Traveler, “but it was quarreling
with a local Athenian colony and the democracy of Athens used
that as an excuse to launch a major expedition against it.
It was a big deal – Athens sent 136 triremes, the best
fighting ships in the world then – and landed 5,000
soldiers right under the city’s walls.
“The Athenians had enjoyed so much military success
in recent years, including their invasion of Melos, that Thucydides
wrote – So thoroughly had the present prosperity
persuaded the Athenians that nothing could withstand them,
and that they could achieve what was possible and what was
impracticable alike, with means ample or inadequate it mattered
not. The reason for this was their general extraordinary success,
which made them confuse their strengths with their hopes.”
“Oh, hell,” I said, “this is going to be
a lecture about Iraq, isn’t it? Look . . . I voted for
John Kerry last year and . . .”
“Listen to me,” the Time Traveler said softly.
It was not a request. There was steel in that soft, rasping
voice. “Nicias, the Athenian general who ended up leading
the invasion, warned against it in 415 B.C. He said –
‘We must not disguise from ourselves that we go
to found a city among strangers and enemies, and that he who
undertakes such an enterprise should be prepared to become
master of the country the first day he lands, or failing in
this to find everything hostile to him’. Nicias,
along with the Athenian poet and general Demosthenes, would
see their armies destroyed at Syracuse and then they would
both be captured and put to death by the Syracusans. Sparta
won big in that two-year debacle for Athens. The war went
on for seven more years, but Athens never recovered from that
overreaching at Syracuse, and in the end . . . Sparta destroyed
it. Conquered the Athenian empire and its allies, destroyed
Athens’ democracy, ruined the entire balance of power
and Greek hegemony over the known world at the time . . .
ruined everything. All because of a miscalculation about Syracuse.”
I sighed. I was sick of Iraq. Everyone was sick of Iraq on
New Years Eve, 2005, both Bush supporters and Bush haters.
It was just an ugly mess. “They just had an election,”
I said. “The Iraqi people. They dipped their fingers
in purple ink and . . .”
“Yes yes,” interrupted the Time Traveler as if
recalling something further back in time, and much less important,
than Athens versus Syracuse. “The free elections. Purple
fingers. Democracy in the Mid-East. The Palestinians are voting
as well. You will see in the coming year what will become
of all that.”
The Time Traveler drank some Scotch, closed his eyes for
a second, and said, “Sun Tzu writes – The side
that knows when to fight and when not to will take the victory.
There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked,
walled cities not to be assaulted.”
“All right, goddammit,” I said irritably. “Your
point’s made. So we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq
in this . . . what did you call it? This Long War with Islam,
this Century War. We’re all beginning to realize that
here by the end of 2005.”
The Time Traveler shook his head. “You’ve understood
nothing I’ve said. Nothing. Athens failed in Syracuse
– and doomed their democracy – not because they
fought in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but because
they weren’t ruthless enough. They had grown soft
since their slaughter of every combat-age man and boy on the
island of Melos, the enslavement of every woman and girl there.
The democratic Athenians, in regards to Syracuse, thought
that once engaged they could win without absolute commitment
to winning, claim victory without being as ruthless and merciless
as their Spartan and Syracusan enemies. The Athenians, once
defeat loomed, turned against their own generals and political
leaders – and their official soothsayers. If General
Nicias or Demosthenes had survived their captivity and returned
home, the people who sent them off with parades and strewn
flower petals in their path would have ripped them limb from
limb. They blamed their own leaders like a sun-maddened dog
ripping and chewing at its own belly.”
I thought about this. I had no idea what the hell he was
saying or how it related to the future.
“You came back in time to lecture me about Thucydides?”
I said. “Athens? Syracuse? Sun-Tzu? No offense, Mr.
Time Traveler, but who gives a damn?”
The Time Traveler rose so quickly that I flinched back in
my chair, but he only refilled his Scotch. This time he refilled
my glass as well. “You probably should give a damn”
he said softly. “ In 2006, you’ll be ripping and
tearing at yourselves so fiercely that your nation –
the only one on Earth actually fighting against resurgent
caliphate Islam in this long struggle over the very future
of civilization – will become so preoccupied with criticizing
yourselves and trying to gain short-term political advantage,
that you’ll all forget that there’s actually a
war for your survival going on. Twenty-five years from now,
every man or woman in America who wishes to vote will be required
to read Thucydides on this matter. And others as well. And
there are tests. If you don’t know some history, you
don’t vote . . . much less run for office. America’s
vacation from knowing history ends very soon now . . . for
you, I mean. And for those few others left alive in the world
who are allowed to vote.”
“You’re shitting me,” I said.
“I am shitting you not,” said the Time Traveler.
“Those few others left alive who are allowed to vote?”
I said, the words just now striking me like hardthrown stones.
“What the hell are you talking about? Has our government
taken away all our civil liberties in this awful future of
He laughed then and this time it was a deep, hearty, truly
amused laugh. “Oh, yes,” he said when the laughter
abated a bit. He actually wiped away tears from his one good
eye. “I had almost forgotten about your fears of your,
our . . . civil liberties . . . being abridged by our own
government back in these last stupidity-allowed years of 2005
and 2006 and 2007 . Where exactly do you see this repression
“Well . . .” I said. I hate it when I start a
sentence with ‘well,’ especially in an argument.
“Well, the Patriot Act. Bush authorizing spying on Americans
. . . international phonecalls and such. Uh . . . I think
mosques in the States are under FBI surveillance. I mean,
they want to look up what library books we’re reading,
for God’s sake. Big Brother. 1984. You know.”
The Time Traveler laughed again, but with more edge this
time. “Yes, I know,” he said. “We all know
. . . up there in the future which some of you will survive
to see as free people. Civil liberties. In 2006 you still
fear yourselves and your own institutions first, out of old
habit. A not unworthy – if fatally misguided and terminally
masochistic – paranoia. I will tell you right now, and
this is not a prediction but a history lesson, some of your
grandchildren will live in dhimmitude.”
“Zimmi . . . what?” I said.
He spelled it out. What had sounded like a ‘z’
was the ‘dh.’ I’d never heard the word and
I told him so.
“Then get off your ass and Google it,” said the
Time Traveler, his one working eye glinting with something
like fury. “Dhimmitude. You can also look up
the word dhimmi, because that’s what two of
your three grandchildren will be called. Dhimmis.
Dhimmitude is the system of separate and subordinate
laws and rules they will live under. Look up the word sharia
while you’re Googling dhimmi, because that
is the only law they will answer to as dhimmis, the
only justice they can hope for . . . they and tens and hundreds
of millions more now who are worried in your time about invisible
abridgements of their ‘civil liberties’ by their
‘oppressive’ American and European democratically
He audibly sneered this last part. I wondered now if the
fury I sensed in him was a result of his madness, or if the
reverse were true.
“Where will my grandchildren suffer this dhimmitude?”
I asked. My mouth was suddenly so dry I could barely speak.
“Eurabia,” said the Time Traveler.
“There’s no such place,” I said.
He gave me his one-eyed stare. My stomach suddenly lurched
and I wished I’d drunk no Scotch. “Words,”
The Time Traveler raised one scar-slashed eyebrow.
“Last year you gave me words about 2005,” I said.
“The kind of words Ken Grimwood’s replayers in
time would have put in the newspaper to find each other. Give
me more now. Or, better yet, just fucking tell me what
you’re talking about. You said it wouldn’t
matter. You said that my knowing won’t change anything,
any more than I can change the direction the Mississippi is
flowing . So tell me, God damn it!”
He began by giving me words. Even while I was scribbling
them down, I was thinking of reading I’d been doing
recently about the joy with which the Victorian Englishmen
and 19th Century Europeans and Americans greeted the arrival
of the 20th Century. The toasts, especially among the intellectual
elite, on New Year’s Eve 1899 had been about the coming
glories of technology liberating them, of the imminent Second
Enlightenment in human understanding, of the certainty of
a just one-world government, of the end of war for all time.
Instead, what words would a time traveler or poor Replay
victim put in his London Times or Berliner Zeitung
or New York Times on January 1, 1900, to find his
fellow travelers displaced in time? Auschwitz, I
was sure, and Hiroshima and Trinity Site
and Holocaust and Hitler and Stalin
and . . .
The clock in my study chimed midnight.
Jesus God. Did I want to hear such words about 2006 and the
rest of the 21st Century from the Time Traveler?
“Ahmadenijad,” he said softly. “Natanz.
Arak. Bushehr. Ishafan. Bonab. Ramsar.”
“Those words don’t mean a damned thing to me,”
I said as I scribbled them down phonetically. “Where
are they? What are they?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” said the Time
“Are you talking about . . . what? . . . the next fifteen
or twenty years?” I said.
“I’m talking about the next fifteen or twenty
months from your now,” he said softly. “Do
you want more words?”
I didn’t. But I couldn’t speak just then.
“General Seyed Reza Pardis,” intoned the Time
Traveler. “Shehab-one, Shehab-two, Shehab-three. Tel
Aviv. Baghdad International Airport, Al Salem U.S. airbase
in Kuwait, Camp Dawhah U.S. Army base in Kuwait, al Seeb U.S.
airbase in Oman, al Udeid U.S. Army and Air Force base in
Qatar. Haifa. Beir-Shiva. Dimona.”
“Oh, fuck,” I said. “Oh, Jesus.”
I had no clue as to who or what Shehab One, Two, or Three
might be, but the context and litany alone made me want to
“This is just the beginning,” said the Time Traveler.
“Wasn’t the beginning on September 11, 2001?”
I managed through numb lips.
The one-eyed scarred man shook his head. “Historians
in my time know that it began on June 5, 1968,” he said.
“But it hasn’t really begun for you yet.
For any of you.”
I thought – What on earth happened on the fifth
of June, 1968? I’m old enough to remember. I was in
college then. Working that summer and . . . Kennedy. Robert
F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Now on to Chicago
and the nomination!” Sirhan Sirhan. Was the Time Traveler
trying to give me some kind of half-assed Oliver-Stone-JFK-movie
garbled up conspiracy theory?
“What . . .” I began.
“Galveston,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “The
Space Needle. Bank of America Plaza in Dallas. Renaissance
Tower in Dallas. Bank One Center in Dallas. The Indianapolis
500 – one hour and twenty-three minutes into the race.
The Bell South Building in Atlanta. The TransAmerica Pyramid
in San Francisco . . .”
“Stop,” I said. “Just stop.”
“The Golden Gate Bridge,” persisted the Time
Traveler. “The Guggenheim in Bilbao. The New Reichstag
in Berlin. Albert Hall. Saint Paul’s Cathedral . . .”
“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted. “All
these places can’t disappear in the rest of this century,
your goddamned Century War or not! I don’t believe it.”
“I didn’t say in the rest of your century,”
said the Time Traveler, his torn voice almost a whisper now.
“I’m talking about your next fifteen years. And
I’ve barely begun.”
“You’re nuts,” I said. “You’re
not from the future. You escaped from some asylum.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “That’s more true than
you know,” he said. “I come from a place and time
where your grandchildren and hundreds of millions of other
dhimmi are compelled to write ‘pbuh’
after the Prophet’s name. They wear gold crosses and
gold Stars of David sewn onto their clothing. The Nazis didn’t
invent the wearing of the Star of David . . . the marking
and setting apart of the Jews in society. Muslims did that
centuries ago in they lands they conquered, European and otherwise.
They will refine it and update it, not toward the more merciful,
in the lands they occupy through the decades ahead of you.”
“You’re crazy,” I cried, standing. My hands
were balled into fists. “Islam is a religion . . . a
religion of peace . . . not our enemy. We can’t be at
war with a religion. That’s obscene.”
“Have you read the Qur’an and learned your Sunnah?”
asked the Time Traveler. “It would behoove you to do
so. Dhimmi means ‘protection.’ And your
children and grandchildren will be protected . . . like cattle.”
“To hell with you,” I said.
“Your dhimmi poll tax will be called jizya,”
said the Time Traveler. His voice suddenly sounded very weary.“Your
land tax for being an infidel, even for fellow People of the
Book – Christians and Jews – will be called kharaz.
Both of these taxes will be in addition to your mandatory
alms – the zakat. The punishment for failure
to pay, or for paying late, a punishment meted out by your
local qadi, religious judge, is death by stoning
I folded my arms and looked away from the Time Traveler.
“Under sharia – which will be the universal
law of Eurabia,” persisted the Time Traveler, “the
value of a dhimmi’s life, the value of your
grandchildren, is one half the value of a Muslim’s life.
Jews and Christians are worth one-third of a Muslim. Indian
Parsees are worth one-fifteenth. In a court of the Eurabian
Caliphate or the Global Khalifate, if a Muslim murders a dhimmi,
any infidel, he must pay a blood money fine not to exceed
one thousand euros. No Muslim will ever be jailed or sentenced
to death for the murder of any dhimmi or any number
of dhimmis. If the murders were done under the auspices
of Universal Compulsive Jihad, which will be sanctioned by
sharia as of 2019 Common Era, all blood money fines
“Go away,” I said. “Go back to wherever
you came from.”
“I come from here,” said the Time Traveler. “From
not so far from here.”
“Bullshit,” I said.
“Your enemies have gathered and struck and continue
to strike and you, the innocents of 2006 and beyond, fight
among yourselves, chew and rip at your own bellies, blame
your brothers and yourselves and your institutions of the
Enlightenment – law, tolerance, science, democracy –
even while your enemies grow stronger.”
“How are we supposed to know who our enemies are?”
I turned and growled at him. “The world is a complex
place. Morality is a complex thing.”
“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,”
said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that
wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and
who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those
fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your
institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out
yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping, smug, infinitely
stupid Americans and Europeans.”
He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on my
sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he said
softly, “can you ignore the better part of a billion
people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children
. . . or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore
them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”
I still had not turned to face him, but was looking over
my shoulder at him.
“The world, as it turns out,” continued the Time
Traveler, “is not nearly so complex a place as your
liberal and gentle minds sought to make it.”
I did not respond.
“Thucydides taught us more than twenty-four hundred
years ago – counting back from your time – that
all men’s behavior is guided by phobos, kerdos,
and doxa,” said the Time Traveler. “Fear,
self-interest, and honor.”
I pretended I did not hear.
“Plato saw human behavior as a chariot pulled by precisely
those three powerful and headstrong horses, first tugged this
way, then pulled that way,” continued the Time Traveler.
“Phobos, kerdos, doxa. Fear, self-interest,
honor. Which of these guides the chariot of your nation and
your allies in Europe and your surprisingly fragile civilization
now, O Man of 2006?”
I stared at the bookcase instead of the man and willed him
gone, wishing him away like a sleepy boy willing away the
boogeyman under his bed.
“Which combination of those three traits -- phobos,
kerdos, doxa -- will save or doom your world?”
asked the Time Traveler. “Which might bring you back
from this vacation from history – from history’s
responsibilities and history’s burdens – that
you have all so generously gifted yourselves with? You peaceloving
Europeans. You civil-liberties loving Americans? You Athenian
invertebrates with your love of your own exalted sensibilities
and your willingness to enter into a global war for civilizational
survival even while you are too timid, too fearful . . . too
decent . . . to match the ruthlessness of your enemies.”
I closed my eyes but that did not stop his voice.
“At least understand that such decency goes away quickly
when you are burying your children and your grandchildren,”
rasped the Time Traveler. “Or watching them suffer in
slavery. Ruthlessness deferred against totalitarian aggression
only makes the later need for ruthlessness more terrible.
Thousands of years of history and war should have taught you
that. Did you fools learn nothing from living through the
charnel house that was the 20th Century?”
I’d had enough. I opened my eyes, turned, reached into
the top left drawer of my desk, and pulled out the .38 revolver
that I had owned for twenty-three years and fired only twice,
at firing ranges, shortly after it was given to me as a gift.
I aimed it at the Time Traveler. “Get out,” I
He showed no reaction. “Do you want more than words?”
he asked softly. “I will give you more than words. I
give you eight million Jews dead in Israel – incinerated
– and many more dead Jews in Eurabia and around the
world. I give you the continent of Europe cast back more than
five hundred years into sad pools of warring civilizations.”
“Get out,” I repeated, aiming the revolver higher.
“I give you an Asian world in chaos, a Pacific rim
ruled by China after the vacuum of America’s withdrawal
– this nation’s full resources devoted to fighting,
and possibly losing, the Century War – a South America
and Mexico lost to corruption and appeasement, a resurgent
Russian Empire that has reclaimed its old dominated republics
and more, and a Canada split into three hateful nations.”
I cocked the pistol. The click sounded very loud in the small
“We were speaking about ruthlessness,” said the
Time Traveler. “If you fail to understand it at first,
you learn it quickly enough in a war like the one you are
allowing to come. Would you like to hear the litany of Islamic
shrines and cities that will blossom in nuclear retaliatory
fire in the decades to come?”
“Get out,” I said for a final time. “I’m
ruthless enough to shoot you, and by God I will if you don’t
get out of here.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “As you wish. But you should
hear two last words, two last names . . .religious judge Ubar
ibn al-Khattab and rector-imam Ismail Nawahda of New Al-Azhar
University in London, part of the 200,000-man Golden Mosque
of the New Islamic Khalifate in Eurabia.”
“What are those names to me or me to them?” I
asked. My finger was on the trigger of the cocked .38.
“These religious officials were on the Islamic Tribunal
that sentenced two dhimmis to death by stoning and
beheading,” said the Time Traveler. “The dhimmis
were your two grandsons, Thomas and Daniel.”
“What was . . . will be . . . their crime?” I
was able to ask after a long minute. My tongue felt like a
strip of rough cotton.
“They dated two Muslim women – Thomas while he
was in London on business, Daniel while visiting his aging
mother, your daughter, in Canada – without first converting
to Islam. That part of sharia, Islamic law, is called
hudud, and we know quite a bit about it in my time.
Your grandsons didn’t know the young women were Muslim
since they both were dressed in modern garb - -thus violating
their own society’s ironclad rule of Hijab
— modesty. The girls, I hear, also died, but those were
not sharia sentences. Not hudud. Their brothers
and fathers murdered them. Honor killings . . . I think you’ve
already heard the phrase by 2006.”
If I were to shoot him, I had to do it now. My hand was shaking
more fiercely every second.
“Of course, the odds against one sharia court in London
sentencing both your grandsons to death for crimes committed
as far apart as London and Quebec City is too much of a coincidence
to believe in,” continued the Time Traveler. “As
is the fact that they would both be introduced to Muslim girls,
without knowing they were Muslim, and go on a single dinner
date with them at the same time, in cities so far apart. And
Thomas was married. I know he thought he was having a business
dinner with a client.”
“What . . .” I began, my arm holding the pistol
shaking as if palsied.
The Time Traveler laughed a final time. “All of your
grandsons’ names were on lists. You wrote something
. . . will soon write something . . . that will put your name,
and all your descendents’ names, on their list. Including
your only surviving grandson.”
I opened my mouth but did not speak.
“According to their own writings, which we all know
well in my day,” continued the Time Traveler, “
‘Hadith Malik 511:1588 The last statement that Muhammad
made was: "O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians.
They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There
shall be no two faiths in Arabia.’ And there are
not. All infidels – Christians, Jews, secularists --
have been executed, converted, or driven out. Israel is cinders.
Eurabia and the New Khalifate is growing, absorbing what was
left of the old, weak cultures there that once dreamt of a
European Union. The Century War is not near over. Two of your
three grandsons are now dead. Your remaining grandson still
fights, as does one of your surviving granddaughters. Two
of your three living granddaughters now live under sharia
within the aegis of New Khalifate. They are women of the veil.”
I lowered the pistol.
“ Enjoy these last days and months and years of your
slumber, Grandfather,” said the scarred old man. “Your
wake-up call is coming soon.”
The Time Traveler said three last words and was gone.
I put the pistol away – realizing too late that it
had never been loaded – and sat down to write this.
I could not. I waited these three months to try again.
Oh, Lord, I wish that some person on business from Porlock
would wake me from this dream.
It was not the horrors of his revelations about my grandchildren
that had shaken me the most deeply, shaken me to the core
of my core, but rather the the Time Traveler’s last
three words. Three words that any Replayer or time traveler
visiting here from a century or more from now would react
to first and most emotionally – three words I will not
share here in this piece nor ever plan to share, at least
until everyone on Earth knows them – three words that
will keep me awake nights for months and years to come.
(Note: Books commented on in this essay include – The
Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, The Book of War:
25 Centuries of Great War Writing edited by John Keegan,
While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the
West from Within by Bruce Bawer, The Clash of Civilizations
and the Remaking of the World Order by Samuel P. Huntington,
Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History
by Lee Harris, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and
the Course of History by Philip Bobbit, and Replay
by Ken Grimwood.)