Margie opened her eyes to several of The Regents hovering and shouting at her. Thunderbird's handclap next to her ear brought her back to the situation at hand. Fully conscious now, she sat up, noting that someone had finally given her a chair, and trying to remember when.
"While you were recounting your story, we connected you to our Timeline," Link explained, "it generates a frequency, an energy that helps you remember details - it's been known to render the more sensitive humans unconscious."
Margie lifted her hand up to the base of her skull, feeling tiny nodes there.
Margie squinted up toward Link, her gaze focused past his shoulder, at the walls behind him. The grand ballroom was filled with images, moving pictures of Margie's life. Her past, present, and future - as it currently stands - flush floor to ceiling, with Cloud residents milling about viewing and listening at their leisure; making comments, carrying on conversation, as if they were in a museum.
Indeed, it looked to be the Museum of Margie. A curation of significant events in her life, memories she'd been recounting to The Regents, as well as events that she had no recollection of. Margie raised her hand slightly, to ask a question, but attentions were elsewhere.
"Ahem," Margie interrupted loudly, "I have a question…"
When her efforts went ignored, Margie stood up and walked toward Og's chair at the Regent's table. Picking up the gavel, she hoisted it onto it's sound-amplifying base. Bam! Bam!
Immediately, conversations ended and all eyes turned toward her, and in her peripheral vision, she could see Og moving very quickly toward her.
"I think….I think there's been some kind of mistake!" She shouted, "some of these events don't have anything to do with me, they're not mine…"
Og reached his chair and yanked the gavel from Margie's hands, slamming it upon it's platform in one sweeping display of anger.
It was rare for Og to get angry in public. Margie's eyes widened before she turned and retreated back to her chair. The residents didn't need a second warning from the gavel, as they all moved immediately to their places.
"Ms. Kearns, he began, "I know that you are unfamiliar with basic cloud protocol, but surely you know better than to pilfer a judge's gavel for your own use?"
Margie nodded silently. "I was only trying to get everyone's attention. I think…I think my timeline is incorrect."
Og nodded. "Yes, I understand, Ms. Kearns, however, what you are seeing is definitely your timeline. Perhaps the events you don't recognize are events that you were not privy to, but did directly involve you. I believe some people call it "fate."
"Fate." Margie repeated. "Fate is pre-determined, though, is it not?"
"Not necessarily. Fate, nor destiny, nor any part of your Timeline is pre-determined. We don't consider it a static determination. Your life, your Timeline, is based on the choices that you make. Simply put, we consider "fate" as the development of events that are beyond your control. You had many events that were beyond your control."
"You did." Og pauses in thought for a moment, then pulls up a screen for a demonstration.
"You see, most people believe that Time is linear. I'm not going to go into too much detail right now, however…" As he spoke, Og drew a single line on the screen, plotting a large red dot at the beginning, and indicating it's extension with an arrow at the other end.
"Here you have the beginning of time, however you want to measure it. Time is the basis for most of our universal measurement, by the way, but not in the way that you view it. Or the way that most humans view it. You've been taught about the Big Bang or how God created the Earth on Day One, blah blah - both of these "dates" are origin points, and you measure time from either of those dates, depending on what you believe, of course."
At this point, Og looks out into the audience with a smirk, and a few of the residents chuckle in response.
"You have a past, a present and a future. It would make sense, then, that you would want to see a linear timeline, dated from when you were born, to the day you die, and are able to keep track, or measure it according to a specific date correlating from your date of origin. But, in fact, a true Universal Timeline is based on the way We measure time."
Og then drew a box around the line. "This is how you measure time. Inside a box. All of these events near the point of origin is the past - for everyone - not just you. It is the past for every single inhabitant on Earth."
Og then pulled up a new screen and plotted a big blue dot. "This is how we measure time, he said, pointing to the dot, "this is you."
Your timeline is based on you, your place in the Universe, right now. The past is measured as a minute ago, or 3000 minutes ago, or 3000 light years ago. The future is measured as 10 minutes from now, or 10 light years from now. The point of origin is you, now.
Og drew arrows from the blue dot, spanning 360 degrees around it. In effect, he drew a three-dimensional sphere, with the blue dot in the middle.
"Which opens up an infinite number of ways your Timeline can be affected. To put it in a different perspective, if Adam or Eve had made a single, slightly different choice about their lives, your life would be affected. Now", as he glanced at the audience, "we have information that there were more humanoid species on the planet at the time of Adam and Eve, but we'll save that story for another time."
"Suffice to say, your Timeline now contains events that directly affect your life, your life as it stands today, right now."
"You mean, the life everyone is living - the revolt, the lockdown, drought, famine, disease, death…"
"Yes, that is what I mean."
"Okay, but you said "now contains" - what does that mean? That my timeline "now contains?" Did you not have all of the information before?"
Og hesitated, shaking his head slowly as if he were making a decision.
At that moment, an 80 year-old black woman from the front row stood up, leaning all of her weight upon her cane, "show her!" she demanded.
Og looked toward the woman, nodding…"Yes AO..."
At that moment, Og picked up a stylus and pointed toward the wall of images, using it to shuffle through each one, focusing on an image of a horse behind a fence.
"Do you remember this horse?"
"Yes, I do! I think I was 10. He was very lonely. I would go for walks down the lane from our cabin and find him there. The first day we met, he started running at me, and I got scared so I ran along the fence. He ran after me, then stopped at the corner…whinnying at me."
Margie smiled as she recalled the memory. "I walked back and he bowed his head down so I could pet him. I decided my favorite animal was a horse, right then and there."
Og narrowed his eyes and bowed his head toward the old woman, who began whistling as she sat back down. Og then shuffled through another set of images, landing on an image of another horse.
"Bandit!" Margie cried. "That was my horse, Bandit - he wasn't exactly tame."
Og then pushed play on the image, which showed Margie's step-father, Walter, attempting to break the horse, a young stallion, by placing his step-daughter upon it over and over again, without a saddle. After being thrown four times, Walter had just convinced Margie to get back on the horse when Margie's mother finally screamed out the kitchen window, "you put that girl on that horse one more time, Old Man, and you will be eating horsemeat all winter!"
As luck would have it, the horse accepted its rider, and the two of them trotted off, Margie shouting, "See mom, we tamed Bandit!"
Og paused the video, pressing another button for re-rendering it.
"You see, because we had you connected to the Timeline, we can add nuances of behavior that weren't there before. Depth of feeling, or details only the human eye would notice, things our global eyes and ears would typically miss. Like, actors, for example.
"Actors," explained Vesta, "not in the theatrical sense, as you know them, but actors who know about our eyes and ears and attempt to change Timelines by manipulating situations."
"Ahhh." Margie nodded. "I think I understand."
"So," Og interjected, "let's take another look, shall we?"
The video replayed. This time, you could see a change in the horse's behavior toward Margie and her step-father. Right before her final attempt, Margie soothed the horse, with a "shhh, it's okay." At that moment, Bandit bowed his head down to her and let her pat it.
"Interesting." Og began, glaring at the old woman in the front row. "And how long had you been stalking Margaret by that point, AO?"
The old woman burst out laughing, coughing a bit in the middle as she rose from her chair. She kept laughing and coughing, hobbling down the aisle, raising her hand as she exited the room.
Margie's mouth went agape.