Many moons ago, in a distant time known today only as “The Eighties,” I read a short story. [Oh yes I did…]
Over the course of the years I have recounted the story many times to customers over the bar when we’ve been discussing the Chaos Theory, and it often pops in to my head when walking around Wicken Fen.
But the trouble is: I can’t remember what it was called, or who wrote it. So I’m hoping, through the power of the Internet, that somebody will recognise my somewhat poor description of the story below and can remind me of its title.
Set in the future – which, for stories written in the era this was, probably means it was set last year – our hero lives in a nice, safe world with a good, caring president, and where clever boffins have perfected time travel so that tourists can go back in history and have a look at the world as it once was before man took over.
Duly, the main character sets off on a short break to the Jurassic Period, with explicit instructions not to step off the path. The path in question is a futuristic walkway that prevents travelers from touching the flora and fauna of the world they have arrived in. They aren’t allowed to interact with prehistoric species, nor must they touch anything, for fear of setting off a time bubble the likes of which those who don’t understand Chaos Theory can barely comprehend.
In short, touch something back in the past and your present will be irreparably damaged.
Understandably, to make the story interesting, our protagonist accidentally falls off the walkway and squishes a butterfly.
He is not duly concerned by this – after all, it’s only a butterfly – but upon his return to the future his world is run by a maniacal despot and everything he knew before his travels has been destroyed.
It’s a great little tale that has rattled around in my head ever since reading it, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or who wrote it. I want to say it was written by E M Forster, but that’s more because I’ve been reading some of Forster’s work in mild research for a forthcoming Publican Blog, and therefore I can’t be sure I’ve got that right.
So, if anybody recognises the story description above please leave me a comment and put me out of my misery!