The Shift

Story originally printed in Recurrence Plot (and Other Time Travel Tales) by Rasheedah Phillips Future Sciences Books, 2014)

“When the ordinary order of things are reversed, people often cry out madness” – Luigi Pirandello

No one was really aware, at first, that The Shift had even occurred. Nobody started walking backwards or anything like that and the fact that we are passing backwards into the seasons will offer no real indication either, since global warming has already made humans used to irregular weather patterns. No, neither the human mind nor body works like, it doesn’t handle change very well. At first, the mind-body, fearing what is unfamiliar, creates whatever illusion is necessary to ensure its survival.

But in subtle ways, over time, apparently whether it’s unwinding or rewinding, change begins to work its way on both the body and the mind, oozing and setting into the cracks of things until a new reality presents itself to you as a smooth whole one day.

It is now November 7, nearly two months into The Shift, and people can increasingly remember what used to be the future. What used to be the past, our already lived experiences and memories, grow hazier each day. Past memories now only show up in the world of dreams for most of us, evaporating with the morning dew like any other dream. Eventually it begins to sink in that the future and the recent present is now behind us. We are now witnessing history become the yet-to-come. Diaries, journals, and newspapers take on a very different meaning these days as ironic future relics.

With our "new" memories only reaching two months into the old future, and fewer and fewer memories of our old past/new future, we are stuck with only very short records of experience. The past no longer remembered, we begin to repeat most of the things we did the day before.

At first, it was just those little specks of details that seemed to be missing or out of place. Like, no longer being able to say with accuracy, whether you had steak, broccoli and rice for dinner last night, and so you have a strong, almost obsessive feeling that you should have steak, broccoli and rice for dinner again tonight, and so you do because you just can’t help yourself.

Or that thing you thought you asked your friend to do yesterday, and they never did it, and you ask them again today, but it turns out you never asked according to them, and now you can’t remember having ever asked, either.

But the smaller details are the stitches in the fabric of the bigger details, and as the smaller changes build up, the bigger ones become visible. Increasingly, larger scale events are beginning to repeat. Entire news stories are repeated. It becomes difficult to distinguish whether the mass shooting happened today or yesterday or tomorrow. Whether the Black teenager shot down in Chicago or Charleston or Philadelphia, last week, or the week after.

And that’s the thing: It’s still too early to tell if you can meaningfully change something about the past-future and have a different future-past outcome, or if you’re just stuck reliving it. Most people report feeling mechanically compelled to repeat their actions from the previous day (now tomorrow). Productivity is at a virtual standstill.

Fortunately, most mechanical memory actions, such as driving and walking, seems to be embedded into our muscles and untouched by the flux in time. The effects appear to be mostly memory based. But as time continues its slow crawl backward, unraveling, even those memories may become unraveled with it.

To the layperson, as explained by your local newscaster or celebrity talk show scientist, the arrow of time has reversed. We are now moving from chaos to order, the universe is shrinking, the Earth is hurdling back into the shadow of an already-traveled path, etc., etc., etc..

You get news like that, you quickly start trying to figure out how many seconds you’ve lived and how many you should have left until….well, no one knows what just yet. No one knows what will happen when your own personal timeline’s clock reaches zero.

The pundits gossip about how soon the world governments will be forced to coordinate and make some official changes to time zones, clocks, calendars, and the like. Those who need to keep track of these things for business purposes have taken to using Time 1 and Time 2. Under Time 1, the old time, today was November 7, tomorrow was November 8, and yesterday was November 6. Under Time 2, the new time, today is November 7, yesterday was November 8, and tomorrow will be November 6, 2015. Again.

Modern language, based on a uni-directional way of living and communicating in the world, will essentially need to be rewritten, now that tense is all confused. Those certain African, Native American, and Asian communities, whose languages depended on a more cyclical notion of time, or whose notions of time incorporate agricultural, astronomical, genealogical, ecological, and economical cycles into its expression, are said to be doing better with the shift than in the countries where Anglo-Saxon culture and linear modes of time dominate, such as here in the U.S. “For us,” said Kenyan philosopher John Mbiti at a televised conference, “time is only meaningful at the point of the event. It does not becoming meaningful by the clock symbol, at its mathematical moment.”

Kids under the age of 5, who have different notions of memory to begin with since they haven’t yet been indoctrinated with routines, clocks,and schedules, also seem to be experiencing the shift noticeably different than the rest of us. It seems that our “childhood amnesia” - the inability to recall any episodic memories before the age of 3 or 4 - was useful for something.

Everyone has their speculations about what is causing the shift. Blogs the world over theorize on everything from military experiments gone awry, to the true meaning of the ancient Mayan Calendar. Since the shift is estimated to have begun on around January 1 there are those who purport a connection to the New Year, some sort of reset button had been triggered. Some believe it to be a real life social media inflicted virus, eroding the short term memory of humanity collectively spending too much of their time plugged into the internet. one popular scientific conspiracy theory among millenials is that the structure of time has simply collapsed, based on series of think pieces commissioned by the Sun-Times Journal that posited that the rate of information change had increased rapidly and the human brain simply could not process all the new information - it had reached its computational capacity.

A study released by a well-respected Harvard scientific research team posits that the speed of light is decreasing and has been over the centuries. Their research, which they had been doing years before The Shift shows that the thermodynamic arrow of time has never actually been constant.

“The observed unidirectionality of time processes has always been in sharp conflict with the fact that Newton’s laws and Einstein’s equations work equally well in either time direction anyway.” the lead researcher Dr. Johnny Sing says at a press conference recorded November 13, 2015 and reaching 500,000 plays on Youtube.

“We think that with the speed of light slowing to a critical speed below its limiting speed, which is the limiting speed for all matter, it appears to have actually, well,…halted, flipped, and reversed the structure of time as we know and experience it. We can only perceive the outside world with the assistance of light, which is why nothing can exceed the rate at which we perceive it. With the speed of light lowered, our perception of event order, and thus our event memory, is adjusting with it. ” he tells the horde of reporters gathered before his podium.

When asked by one of the journalists why the changes in cause and effect were so subtle, why The Shift seemed only to be having a visible impact on adult human memory, why, for example, broken eggs were not forming themselves back into full shelled eggs, or why water did not now run back into the tap, Dr. Sing simply shrugs and responds “ Now right backwards talking I am? ”

The swarm of journalists begins buzzing with laughter and questions, some nervous, some mocking, from “What the hell is he saying? ” to “Dr. Sing, is this the new language we will have to speak?”

Dr. Sing shakes his head at their reactions, expecting it. “Reporters. I said, am I talking backwards right now? We aren’t going to see deceased people rising up from their graves, for instance. We aren’t going to... to see babies crawling back into their mother’s wombs, for goodness sake! Cause and effect is not a mechanical, clockwork, formulaic thing. Its not so simple as pressing rewind on a tape. An origin cause and resulting effect cannot be easily or neatly isolated for any event, even before the shift occurred. At the quantum scale, classical causality breaks down.”

The crowd grew quiet, unsure of what to ask next. One reporter, whose facial was expression contorted into something between confused and skeptical, eeked out the final question before Dr. Sing ends the press conference.

“How do we stop this from happening? How do we…reverse it?” asked another reporter.

“Have you heard anything I just said?” Dr. Sing shooed her aside and turned to speak directly into the camera. “Listen, people. Human perception is far more powerful and responsible for shaping the physical world and our experiences of it than you people can understand or imagine. Once this thing settles in and the brain does its work to adapt, we will all start to experience the world a lot more strangely. Your best bet is to question every assumption you’ve held dear about the world, and just start from scratch.”

All sorts of “treatments” and fixes for the new amnesia are being peddled, memory balms and re-memory creams and past pills, new meditation and prayer programs, prolonged hypnotic regression sessions selling at top dollar to celebrities. There’s a machine called the Psycho-temporal Transcranial Stimulation Device that's said to be helpful in stimulating memory recall, but no one can say with certainty whether the memories are actually being recalled by the person, or if they are being suggestively planted by the machine or its inventor, Dr. Cheikh Hammond. There are a multitude of countdown timer apps to download for every kind of phone, and if you were bothered by excessive cell phone usage and selfies before, you are now finding it increasingly necessary to document more moments of your life in order to remember the new future-past.

But even these moments began to stack up and eventually become useless as we begin to lose hope that we will ever see what we knew as the future again. We were now coming face to face with all we thought we would never encounter again. The dim hum of fear and anxiety that we carry grows louder each backward day that passes without a global cure or definitive cause of The Shift.

And there will be no finding of The Shift’s definitive cause just yet. There may be no global cure.

Because what they do not yet know, and what I cannot yet reveal, is that I think I may entirely be the cause of The Shift.

Me and me alone.

I am the accidental Goddess of this universe where the time order has been reversed. And I do not yet know how to fix it, or, if I am being perfectly honest, whether it can be fixed.

All I know is that it is imperative that I write this all down, before I lose my memory of it too. I‘m going to start at the beginning of when time looped back in on itself.

Although, perhaps, by now, I should call it the ending.

My name is Afina Newton, and I am a 3rd year PhD candidate in Temple University’s Department of Physics, with a specialization in Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory. When you start poking and prodding at the nature of reality, you’re liable to get some strange results.




A new grant from a new institute dedicated to exploring questions about the foundations of physics and the origin of the universe will help a Parallel University student physicist with her research on gravity, black holes, and the creation of the universe itself.

Afina Newton, a third year PhD candidate in the Physics Department at Parallel U., will use a $125,111 grant from The Future Sciences Institute to complete an interpretation she helped create of a model for quantum gravity.

"I am crafting my own version of a theory that will seek to eventually unify the two branches of theoretical physics—quantum mechanics and general relativity -- for a future quantum theory of gravity," Newton said. "I hope that my work will tell us more about black holes and the nature of gravity. Lots of research done in the past 5 years supports the proposition that space, time and even gravity itself may not be fundamental properties or forces, but in fact may be emergent properties within a deeper theory," she told the school journal. "My work will seek to identify quantum information theory as the best source for an emergent theory of quantum gravity."

Newton’s research will be applied to small black holes to see how their formation, radiation and interaction with matter differ from the classical predictions. Interestingly, Newton, who minored in both astronomy and cultural anthropology in undergrad, says she not only finds support for her work in current mainstream quantum field theory research, but also in ancient traditions, art, and mythology pre-dating Westerm science itself. “African astro-physical traditions totally anticipate all of these scientific discoveries. You can dig into Egyptian mythology, for example, and find correlations to the electron, plasma, and radio galaxies in the mythical battle of Horus against Set, where Horus loses his eye,” Newton said.

Newton wants to take her research one step further: she wants to see how it might be applied for possible time travel in the future. "This information will also be used to study the feasibility of using small artificial black holes as sources of energy for time travel," she said. "While this is not something that will happen in the near-future, I'm happy for the opportunity to explore these possibilities for our future generations."

Newton's grant was part of The Future Sciences Institute's inaugural grant award of $2 million to 40 grant recipients, aimed at increasing the representation of men and women of color in research and experimental sciences.

Source: Parallel University, August 20xx



Excerpts from A. Newton’s Notes and Formulae

- Time is light is change // space is created by light

o Event definition = where space meets time // a single occurence

o Classical causality – asymmetry of causation

o Quantum causality – order of events indeterminate until observed and collapsed

- Limitation of light by time as medium of info/communication

- 1 second = c meters

o c = universal constant

o c = Speed of Light = fiundamental unity of nature?

o c = limitation of space/time or the point at which space = time

o time “flows” relative to what fixed position? 1 second per second

§ assumes fixed future/past or is time growing?

- Time lapses more slowly in strong gravitational field

- optic nerve bends light, interprets electromagnetic pulse

- time as direct function of the speed of info

o slower info moves, slower time moves if time = change

o light speed only constant in a vacuum. “nature abhors a vacuum” (does water always fill the shape of its container?)

- gravity as emergent property of collective behavior (friction once thought to be fundamental force…)

o consequence of entropic forces or thermodynamics, not fundamental force

o explains what we observe (not how/why)

o gravity as state superposition – gravity waves function as light waves

- quantum decoherence represents extremely fast process for macroscopic objects

- light speed = speed of gravity?

o Light travel in straight line /// shortest path

o Gravity not constant, depends upon speed/impacts mass/density of object

o Force of magnetism overwhelms gravity; weakest of 4 fundamental forces

o Einstein described it as consequence of curvature of spacetime (uneven distributions of E and M) vs. Newtons law of universal gravitation

- Two components to relativistic time dilation

o Gravitational field at a given point and frame of reference of solar system

o Due to motion of a planet relative to coordinate system associated with background of distant matter in universe

- Substituting4 modern fundamental forces for ancient elements (earth air fire water)

- Light and matter are interchangeable (2 particles of light could combine to form electron/positron)

- mathematical expression for the interaction of gravitons = the square of the interaction of gluons

- calculations w/o removing infinities

Forward Cause and Effect:

I am hot > I will open a window > I feel a breeze (past action determines future)

Reversed Cause and Effect:

I feel a breeze < I will open a window < I am hot (desired future determines the past)