WITH A VOOWERP
Only a scattering of primate civilizations exist in this galaxy, as once they develop, they invariably destroy their planets within a few thousand years. Planetary Item K2* was only exceptional in how quickly it happened.
— Atlas of Inhabited Worlds
The seas rose, merged into a global ocean, and rose some more. As they swamped even the highest peaks, the primates of K2* dreamed of escape. But where could they go in their primitive ships? What other world possessed the verdant hills and gleaming cities that were now only sodden memories? A child’s singsong illustrated the problem —
The moon is dead,
Then a sideways dimension of time was discovered and the vast expanse of the past opened right next-door — “Earth as it was before Elijah,” came the breathless reports. Millions traveled there in the first decade, never to return, and by the second century, nearly the entire population was living in antiquity. The rich settled into the pleasant lives of aristocrats and functionaries, while commoners subscribed to restaurant tours and thousand-year pub-crawls. Art excursions were popular, especially as time travel brought the subject alive as never before. One could even pose for “the real Mona Lisa painted by the real Leonardo,” as one tour company put it. More than three thousand women and a handful of men sat for this portrait, driving the artist to drink. Leonardo had once been known as Leo the Quick, dashing off likenesses of popes before adoring fans on the Ponte Vecchio in twenty minutes, but the Mona Lisa took him four years of painting, scrubbing with turpentine, and repainting. Leonardo had first titled it “Lisa with Crossed Hands,” then renamed it after encountering one Mona Petkovic. The word mona was a vulgarity at the time, and this summed up his feelings for the project, as did his raven hair, which faded to ash after years of frustration.
© 2021 Lou Dischler
Lou Dischler writing excerpts—