“Alright, young sorcerers” professor said, “today you get to fiddle around with the human concept of time and the ripple effect.” Looking around at the seven faces that suddenly had perked up, he smiled. “Yes, you get to time travel”
Watching his students immediately start chattering, he wondered what his students would do this time. Every year, they had this same exercise, and every year he had a good laugh watching his students experiment with changing timelines. If only humans knew what they called ‘fate, destiny, god, and countless other names was just sorcerers (and more often, apprentices) fiddling around with what they called time.
“Your task today,” he announced to the class, who immediately went silent “is to enter any point in human time and leave a rubber duck anywhere, and observe who creates the most effective ripple after what humans call a year, decade, and century. You have until the count of 100 to decide your time and place”
Number one watched the strange humanoid creatures attempting a crude form of language in grunts and mimes from some distance away. What did humans call these? Ah, neanderthals. Patiently waiting for them to hobble off, he left his rubber duck at the entrance.
The professor shook his head as he watched the neanderthals discover it, study it, try to eat it, and then forget all about it. No ripples in even a few days, much less a year.
Number two watched the kids play in their hovercrafts, using them to bounce a holographic looking disk towards two floating hoops opposite each other. Timing it precisely, he threw the duck on the disk, where it stuck. Within seconds, everyone had noticed, and the game came to a halt as they stared at the strange object stuck to their disk.
The professor chuckled as it was classified as a rare archeological artifact, and the owner of the disk became a millionaire within a day. Two decades from then, his family had one of the most recognized businesses in the quantum world. The ripples lasted for a century before his descendants wasted their fortune away and went back to being what humans call ‘middle class’
Number three watched a human operating a piece of technology that, in that particular time, was new to them. He watched the human fret about ‘debugging’ and ‘code’ and other terms he was not quite sure of. When he muttered something about ‘insane’ and ‘coffee’ and walked out, three left the duck on his table, hoping to cheer him up.
The professor watched the man walk in and exclaim “That’s it! I can explain my code to a rubber duck!” The professor watched in great amusement as the human did so, and then told other people to do so, and then wrote a book about it. The ripples lasted a few decades before the need for ‘the rubber duck technique’ faded away.
Number four had no hopes of grandeur or fame as she looked through many different timelines. She took a long time dismissing possible interventions, but then she saw one she knew in her heart was right. Walking into a large building full of people lying in rows, she felt sorrow at all the grief, fear, and sickness in the air. She passed a sobbing mother, wailing about how much more the plague could take.
Walking to a corner, she knelt down near a young girl of 6 years, feverish and deliriously crying for her mama. Four knew the mother had passed away a very short time ago. Comforting the girl, she put her rubber duck in the dying girl’s hands.
The professor held back a tear as the child, face lit up with wonder and curiosity, exhaled her dying breath. He knew there would be no ripples, except in him and his student. But sometimes, ripples weren’t measured in how big they were.
Five was the prankster in the class, and the professor had to admit he was looking forward to seeing the havoc five could wreck with a rubber duck. Watching five enter the greek empire and very rudely keep the duck on a….inappropriate…position of a reclining lady’s marble statue, the professor tried very hard not to laugh.
His internal battle was lost very soon when he watched a priest happen upon the statue with the most comical look of shock on his face. His laughter grew as he watched the Greeks spin a tale of ‘Leda and the swan’ where the lady Leda was seduced by a golden swan who was, in fact, Zeus, their chief deity. Humans were indeed the oddest little creatures, he thought.
Six knew exactly where they wanted to go. Inserting themselves at a very hectic time, six heard the clamor as human and animal alike talked among themselves and to each other. Six smiled as a dog passed him, excitedly telling his human about a very nice hole he dug in the yard while the human tried not to look horrified.
Making his way to a pond, six put their rubber duck on the water and nudged it towards the mother duck and her chicks swimming around, then turned and left as quietly as they came.
The professor winced while he watched as the mother duck tried speaking to it, panicking when it didn’t respond. He rubbed his ears at the chaos that followed. After all, these people hadn’t seen a ‘toy’ or artificial animal in what was centuries for them. No lasting ripples, but definitely an impact.
Number seven snuck into a small house, nothing extraordinary, nothing fancy. She made her way to a room where a woman was engrossed in writing feverishly. Very quietly, seven waited for her to take a break.
After what felt like forever, the woman got up and headed for the bathroom. Quick as a flash, she darted over to the windowsill, kept the rubber duck on it, and jumped out of the window. Hiding beneath, she waited for the woman to come back.
Around 10 minutes into writing, she heard her talking to herself.
“Function of something generic…very ordinary, but random…ummm….aha! Rubber duck!” the frantic scribbling was heard again, and then;
“‘So tell me, Harry, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck?’ Arthur asked” she read out loud.
“Yes, this is perfect,” she said, and seven heard the smile in her voice. She snuck away from the house, her work done.
The professor watched, and his smile grew wide. “Seven wins”, he declared.
Written by Paramie Jayakody
Illustration by DRG