Being a sometimes science-fiction writer but not a fool,
I said, “Prove it.”
“Do you remember Replay?” he said.
My finger hovered over the final “1” in my
dialing. “The 1987 novel?” I said. “By
The stranger – Time Traveler, psychotic, home invader,
whatever he was – nodded.
I hesitated. The novel by Grimwood had won the World Fantasy
Award a year or two after my first-novel, Song of Kali,
had. Grimwood’s book was about a guy who woke up one
morning to find himself snapped back decades in his life,
from the late 1980’s to himself as a college student
in 1963, and thus getting the chance to relive – to
replay – that life again, only this time acting upon
what he’d already learned the hard way. In the book,
the character, who was to experience – suffer –
several Replays, learned that there were other people from
his time who were also Replaying their lives in the past,
their bodies younger but their memories intact. I’d
greatly enjoyed the book, thought it deserved the award,
and had been sad to hear that Grimwood had died . . . when?
. . . in 2003.
So, I thought, I might have a grizzled nut case in my study
this New Year’s Eve, but if he was a reader and a
fan of Replay, he was probably just a sci-fi fan
grizzled nut case, and therefore probably harmless. Possibly.
I kept my finger poised over the final “1”
“What does that book have to do with you illegally
entering my home and study?” I asked.
The stranger smiled … almost sadly I thought. “You
asked me to prove that I’m a Time Traveler,”
he said softly. “Do you remember how Grimwood’s
character in Replay went hunting for others in
the 1960’s who had traveled back in time from the
I did remember now. I’d thought it clever at the
time. The guy in Replay, once he suspected others
were also replaying into the past, had taken out personal
ads in major city newspapers around the country. The ads
were concise. “Do you remember Three Mile Island,
Challenger, Watergate, Reaganomics? If so, contact
me at . . .”
Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s
Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger
said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water,
Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White
Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope
Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”
“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen
and then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who?
Pope who? Scooter who?”
“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all
again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you
in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”
“Wait!” I repeated. “What was that middle
apart . . . Ray Nugin? Judge who? John Roberts? Who is .
. .” But when I looked up he was gone.
“White Sox win the Series?” I muttered into
the silence. “Fat chance.”
I was waiting for him on New Year’s Eve 2005. I didn’t
see him enter. I looked up from the book I was fitfully
reading and he was standing in the shadows again. I didn’t
dial 911 this time, nor demand any more proof. I waved him
to the leather wingchair and said, “Would you like
something to drink?”
“Scotch,” he said. “Single malt if you
Our conversation ran over two hours, but the following
is the gist of it. I’m a novelist by trade. I remember
conversations pretty well. (Not as perfectly as Truman Capote
was said to be able to recall long conversations word for
word, but pretty well.)
The Time Traveler wouldn’t tell me what year in the
future he was from. Not even the decade or century. But
the gray cord trousers and blue-gray wool tunic top he was
wearing didn’t look very far-future science-fictiony
or military, no Star Trekky boots or insignia, just wellworn
clothes that looked like something a guy who worked with
his hands a lot would wear. Construction maybe.
“I know you can’t tell me details about the
future because of time travel paradoxes,” I began.
I hadn’t spent a lifetime reading and then writing
SF for nothing.
“Oh, bugger time travel paradoxes,” said the
Time Traveler. “They don’t exist. I could tell
you anything I want to and it won’t change anything.
I just choose not to tell you some things.”
I frowned at this. “Time travel paradoxes don’t
exist? But surely if I go back in time and kill my grandfather
before he meets my grandmother . . .”
The Time Traveler laughed and sipped his Scotch. “Would
you want to kill your grandfather?” he said. “Or
“Well . . .Hitler maybe,” I said weakly.
The Traveler smiled, but more ironically this time. “Good
luck,” he said. “But don’t count on succeeding.”
I shook my head. “But surely anything you tell me
now about the future will change the future,”
“I gave you a raft of facts about your future a year
ago as my bona fides,” said the Time Traveler.
“Did it change anything? Did you save New Orleans
“I won $50 betting on the White Sox in October,”
The Time Traveler only shook his head. “Quod
erat demonstrandum,” he said softly. “I
could tell you that the Mississippi River flows generally
south. Would your knowing about it change its course or
flow or flooding?”
I thought about this. Finally I said, “Why did you
come back? Why do you want to talk to me? What do you want
me to do?”
“I came back for my own purposes,” said the
Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I
chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And
I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s
nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re
not going to be talking about personal things. Such as,
say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t
even know that sort of trivial information, although I could
look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled
grip you have on the edge of your desk.”
I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?”
“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.
I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You
mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth?
Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England?
Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”
“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted
the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.”
He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to
pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat
again. He said, “It was important to me to come back
to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind
myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”
“You mean the War on Terrorism,” I said.
“I mean the Long War with Islam,” he said.
“The Century War. And it’s not over yet where
I come from. Not close to being over.”
“You can’t have a war with Islam,” I
said. “You can’t go to war against a religion.
Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not
a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of
Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us
no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word ‘Islam’
“So you kept telling yourselves,” said the
Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange
and almost frightening edge to it. “But the ‘peace’
in ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission.’ You’ll
find that out soon enough”
Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers
in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist,
xenophobic, right-wing asshole.
“After Nine-eleven, we’re fighting terrorism,”
I began, “not . . .”
He waved me into silence.
“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk
little college you went to long ago,” said the Time
Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”
It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma
mater being called a “podunk little college”
to be able to concentrate fully.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the
Time Traveler. “In philosophy and formal logic, and
it has its equivalents in science and business management,
Category Error is the term for having stated or defined
a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve
that problem, through dialectic or any other means.”
I waited. Finally I said firmly, “You can’t
go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure,
you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would
The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He
said, “Let me give you an analogy . . .”
God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.
“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler,
“that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of
Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”
“That’s absurd,” I said.
“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler. “The
American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army
barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in
Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if
the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . .
. threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing
all the resources of the United States of America to defeating
aviation, so help us God.”
“That’s just stupid,” I said. If I’d
ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now.
He was obviously a mental defective.“The planes, the
Japanese planes,” I said, “were just a method
of attack . . . a means . . . it wasn’t aviation
that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan.
We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally,
Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared
war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation,
on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and
ideology that launched them, we’d never have . . .”
I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making
the problem unsolvable through your inability – or
fear – of defining it correctly.
The Time Traveler was smiling at me from the shadows. It
was a small, thin, cold smile – holding no humor in
it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed
more sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on.
“What do you know about Syracuse?” he asked
I blinked again. “Syracuse, New York?” I said
He shook his head slowly. “Thucydides’ Syracuse,”
he said softly. “Syracuse circa 415 B.C. The Syracuse
“It was . . . part of the Peloponnesian War,”
He waited for more but I had no more to give. I loved history,
but let’s admit it . . . that was ancient
history. Still, I felt that I should have been able to tell
him,or at least remember, why Syracuse was important in
the Peloponnesian War or why they fought there or who fought
exactly or who had won or . . . something. I hated feeling
like a dull student around this scarred old man.
“The war between Athens and its allies and Sparta
and its allies – a war for nothing less than hegemony
over the entire known world at that time – began in
431 B.C.,” said the Time Traveler. “After seventeen
years of almost constant fighting, with no clear or permanent
advantage for either side, Athens – under the leadership
of Alcibiades at the time – decided to widen the war
by conquering Sicily, the ‘Great Greece’ they
called it, an area full of colonies and the key to maritime
commerce at the time the way the Strait of Hormuz in the
Persian Gulf is today.”
I hate being lectured to at the best of times, but something
about the tone and timber of the Time Traveler’s voice
– soft, deep, rasping, perhaps thickened a bit by
the whiskey – made this sound more like a story being
told around a campfire. Or perhaps a bit like one of Garrison
Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories on “Prairie Home
Companion.” I settled deeper into my chair and listened.
“Syracuse wasn’t a direct enemy of the Athenians,”
continued the Time Traveler, “but it was quarreling
with a local Athenian colony and the democracy of Athens
used that as an excuse to launch a major expedition against
it. It was a big deal – Athens sent 136 triremes,
the best fighting ships in the world then – and landed
5,000 soldiers right under the city’s walls.
“The Athenians had enjoyed so much military success
in recent years, including their invasion of Melos, that
Thucydides wrote – So thoroughly had the present
prosperity persuaded the Athenians that nothing could withstand
them, and that they could achieve what was possible and
what was impracticable alike, with means ample or inadequate
it mattered not. The reason for this was their general extraordinary
success, which made them confuse their strengths with their
“Oh, hell,” I said, “this is going to
be a lecture about Iraq, isn’t it? Look . . . I voted
for John Kerry last year and . . .”
“Listen to me,” the Time Traveler said softly.
It was not a request. There was steel in that soft, rasping
voice. “Nicias, the Athenian general who ended up
leading the invasion, warned against it in 415 B.C. He said
– ‘We must not disguise from ourselves that
we go to found a city among strangers and enemies, and that
he who undertakes such an enterprise should be prepared
to become master of the country the first day he lands,
or failing in this to find everything hostile to him’.
Nicias, along with the Athenian poet and general Demosthenes,
would see their armies destroyed at Syracuse and then they
would both be captured and put to death by the Syracusans.
Sparta won big in that two-year debacle for Athens. The
war went on for seven more years, but Athens never recovered
from that overreaching at Syracuse, and in the end . . .
Sparta destroyed it. Conquered the Athenian empire and its
allies, destroyed Athens’ democracy, ruined the entire
balance of power and Greek hegemony over the known world
at the time . . . ruined everything. All because of a miscalculation
I sighed. I was sick of Iraq. Everyone was sick of Iraq
on New Years Eve, 2005, both Bush supporters and Bush haters.
It was just an ugly mess. “They just had an election,”
I said. “The Iraqi people. They dipped their fingers
in purple ink and . . .”
“Yes yes,” interrupted the Time Traveler as
if recalling something further back in time, and much less
important, than Athens versus Syracuse. “The free
elections. Purple fingers. Democracy in the Mid-East. The
Palestinians are voting as well. You will see in the coming
year what will become of all that.”
The Time Traveler drank some Scotch, closed his eyes for
a second, and said, “Sun Tzu writes – The side
that knows when to fight and when not to will take the victory.
There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be
attacked, walled cities not to be assaulted.”
“All right, goddammit,” I said irritably. “Your
point’s made. So we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq
in this . . . what did you call it? This Long War with Islam,
this Century War. We’re all beginning to realize that
here by the end of 2005.”
The Time Traveler shook his head. “You’ve understood
nothing I’ve said. Nothing. Athens failed in Syracuse
– and doomed their democracy – not because they
fought in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but because
they weren’t ruthless enough. They had grown
soft since their slaughter of every combat-age man and boy
on the island of Melos, the enslavement of every woman and
girl there. The democratic Athenians, in regards to Syracuse,
thought that once engaged they could win without absolute
commitment to winning, claim victory without being as ruthless
and merciless as their Spartan and Syracusan enemies. The
Athenians, once defeat loomed, turned against their own
generals and political leaders – and their official
soothsayers. If General Nicias or Demosthenes had survived
their captivity and returned home, the people who sent them
off with parades and strewn flower petals in their path
would have ripped them limb from limb. They blamed their
own leaders like a sun-maddened dog ripping and chewing
at its own belly.”
I thought about this. I had no idea what the hell he was
saying or how it related to the future.
“You came back in time to lecture me about Thucydides?”
I said. “Athens? Syracuse? Sun-Tzu? No offense, Mr.
Time Traveler, but who gives a damn?”
The Time Traveler rose so quickly that I flinched back
in my chair, but he only refilled his Scotch. This time
he refilled my glass as well. “You probably should
give a damn” he said softly. “ In 2006, you’ll
be ripping and tearing at yourselves so fiercely that your
nation – the only one on Earth actually fighting against
resurgent caliphate Islam in this long struggle over the
very future of civilization – will become so preoccupied
with criticizing yourselves and trying to gain short-term
political advantage, that you’ll all forget that there’s
actually a war for your survival going on. Twenty-five years
from now, every man or woman in America who wishes to vote
will be required to read Thucydides on this matter. And
others as well. And there are tests. If you don’t
know some history, you don’t vote . . . much less
run for office. America’s vacation from knowing history
ends very soon now . . . for you, I mean. And for those
few others left alive in the world who are allowed to vote.”
“You’re shitting me,” I said.
“I am shitting you not,” said the Time Traveler.
“Those few others left alive who are allowed to vote?”
I said, the words just now striking me like hardthrown stones.
“What the hell are you talking about? Has our government
taken away all our civil liberties in this awful future
He laughed then and this time it was a deep, hearty, truly
amused laugh. “Oh, yes,” he said when the laughter
abated a bit. He actually wiped away tears from his one
good eye. “I had almost forgotten about your fears
of your, our . . . civil liberties . . . being abridged
by our own government back in these last stupidity-allowed
years of 2005 and 2006 and 2007 . Where exactly do you see
this repression coming from?”
“Well . . .” I said. I hate it when I start
a sentence with ‘well,’ especially in an argument.
“Well, the Patriot Act. Bush authorizing spying on
Americans . . . international phonecalls and such. Uh .
. . I think mosques in the States are under FBI surveillance.
I mean, they want to look up what library books we’re
reading, for God’s sake. Big Brother. 1984. You know.”
The Time Traveler laughed again, but with more edge this
time. “Yes, I know,” he said. “We all
know . . . up there in the future which some of you will
survive to see as free people. Civil liberties. In 2006
you still fear yourselves and your own institutions first,
out of old habit. A not unworthy – if fatally misguided
and terminally masochistic – paranoia. I will tell
you right now, and this is not a prediction but a history
lesson, some of your grandchildren will live in dhimmitude.”
“Zimmi . . . what?” I said.
He spelled it out. What had sounded like a ‘z’
was the ‘dh.’ I’d never heard the word
and I told him so.
“Then get off your ass and Google it,” said
the Time Traveler, his one working eye glinting with something
like fury. “Dhimmitude. You can also look
up the word dhimmi, because that’s what two
of your three grandchildren will be called. Dhimmis.
Dhimmitude is the system of separate and subordinate
laws and rules they will live under. Look up the word sharia
while you’re Googling dhimmi, because that
is the only law they will answer to as dhimmis,
the only justice they can hope for . . . they and tens and
hundreds of millions more now who are worried in your time
about invisible abridgements of their ‘civil liberties’
by their ‘oppressive’ American and European
democratically elected governments.”
He audibly sneered this last part. I wondered now if the
fury I sensed in him was a result of his madness, or if
the reverse were true.
“Where will my grandchildren suffer this dhimmitude?”
I asked. My mouth was suddenly so dry I could barely speak.
“Eurabia,” said the Time Traveler.
“There’s no such place,” I said.
He gave me his one-eyed stare. My stomach suddenly lurched
and I wished I’d drunk no Scotch. “Words,”
The Time Traveler raised one scar-slashed eyebrow.
“Last year you gave me words about 2005,” I
said. “The kind of words Ken Grimwood’s replayers
in time would have put in the newspaper to find each other.
Give me more now. Or, better yet, just fucking tell
me what you’re talking about. You said it wouldn’t
matter. You said that my knowing won’t change anything,
any more than I can change the direction the Mississippi
is flowing . So tell me, God damn it!”
He began by giving me words. Even while I was scribbling
them down, I was thinking of reading I’d been doing
recently about the joy with which the Victorian Englishmen
and 19th Century Europeans and Americans greeted the arrival
of the 20th Century. The toasts, especially among the intellectual
elite, on New Year’s Eve 1899 had been about the coming
glories of technology liberating them, of the imminent Second
Enlightenment in human understanding, of the certainty of
a just one-world government, of the end of war for all time.
Instead, what words would a time traveler or poor Replay
victim put in his London Times or Berliner
Zeitung or New York Times on January 1, 1900,
to find his fellow travelers displaced in time? Auschwitz,
I was sure, and Hiroshima and Trinity Site
and Holocaust and Hitler and Stalin
and . . .
The clock in my study chimed midnight.
Jesus God. Did I want to hear such words about 2006 and
the rest of the 21st Century from the Time Traveler?
“Ahmadenijad,” he said softly. “Natanz.
Arak. Bushehr. Ishafan. Bonab. Ramsar.”
“Those words don’t mean a damned thing to me,”
I said as I scribbled them down phonetically. “Where
are they? What are they?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” said the Time
“Are you talking about . . . what? . . . the next
fifteen or twenty years?” I said.
“I’m talking about the next fifteen or twenty
months from your now,” he said softly. “Do
you want more words?”
I didn’t. But I couldn’t speak just then.
“General Seyed Reza Pardis,” intoned the Time
Traveler. “Shehab-one, Shehab-two, Shehab-three. Tel
Aviv. Baghdad International Airport, Al Salem U.S. airbase
in Kuwait, Camp Dawhah U.S. Army base in Kuwait, al Seeb
U.S. airbase in Oman, al Udeid U.S. Army and Air Force base
in Qatar. Haifa. Beir-Shiva. Dimona.”
“Oh, fuck,” I said. “Oh, Jesus.”
I had no clue as to who or what Shehab One, Two, or Three
might be, but the context and litany alone made me want
to throw up.
“This is just the beginning,” said the Time
“Wasn’t the beginning on September 11, 2001?”
I managed through numb lips.
The one-eyed scarred man shook his head. “Historians
in my time know that it began on June 5, 1968,” he
said. “But it hasn’t really begun for
you yet. For any of you.”
I thought – What on earth happened on the fifth
of June, 1968? I’m old enough to remember. I was in
college then. Working that summer and . . . Kennedy. Robert
F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Now on to Chicago
and the nomination!” Sirhan Sirhan. Was the Time Traveler
trying to give me some kind of half-assed Oliver-Stone-JFK-movie
garbled up conspiracy theory?
“What . . .” I began.
“Galveston,” interrupted the Time Traveler.
“The Space Needle. Bank of America Plaza in Dallas.
Renaissance Tower in Dallas. Bank One Center in Dallas.
The Indianapolis 500 – one hour and twenty-three minutes
into the race. The Bell South Building in Atlanta. The TransAmerica
Pyramid in San Francisco . . .”
“Stop,” I said. “Just stop.”
“The Golden Gate Bridge,” persisted the Time
Traveler. “The Guggenheim in Bilbao. The New Reichstag
in Berlin. Albert Hall. Saint Paul’s Cathedral . .
“Shut the fuck up!” I shouted. “All
these places can’t disappear in the rest of this century,
your goddamned Century War or not! I don’t believe
“I didn’t say in the rest of your century,”
said the Time Traveler, his torn voice almost a whisper
now. “I’m talking about your next fifteen years.
And I’ve barely begun.”
“You’re nuts,” I said. “You’re
not from the future. You escaped from some asylum.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “That’s more true
than you know,” he said. “I come from a place
and time where your grandchildren and hundreds of millions
of other dhimmi are compelled to write ‘pbuh’
after the Prophet’s name. They wear gold crosses and
gold Stars of David sewn onto their clothing. The Nazis
didn’t invent the wearing of the Star of David . .
. the marking and setting apart of the Jews in society.
Muslims did that centuries ago in they lands they conquered,
European and otherwise. They will refine it and update it,
not toward the more merciful, in the lands they occupy through
the decades ahead of you.”
“You’re crazy,” I cried, standing. My
hands were balled into fists. “Islam is a religion
. . . a religion of peace . . . not our enemy. We can’t
be at war with a religion. That’s obscene.”
“Have you read the Qur’an and learned your
Sunnah?” asked the Time Traveler. “It would
behoove you to do so. Dhimmi means ‘protection.’
And your children and grandchildren will be protected .
. . like cattle.”
“To hell with you,” I said.
“Your dhimmi poll tax will be called jizya,”
said the Time Traveler. His voice suddenly sounded very
weary.“Your land tax for being an infidel, even for
fellow People of the Book – Christians and Jews –
will be called kharaz. Both of these taxes will
be in addition to your mandatory alms – the zakat.
The punishment for failure to pay, or for paying late, a
punishment meted out by your local qadi, religious
judge, is death by stoning or beheading.”
I folded my arms and looked away from the Time Traveler.
“Under sharia – which will be the
universal law of Eurabia,” persisted the Time Traveler,
“the value of a dhimmi’s life, the
value of your grandchildren, is one half the value of a
Muslim’s life. Jews and Christians are worth one-third
of a Muslim. Indian Parsees are worth one-fifteenth. In
a court of the Eurabian Caliphate or the Global Khalifate,
if a Muslim murders a dhimmi, any infidel, he must
pay a blood money fine not to exceed one thousand euros.
No Muslim will ever be jailed or sentenced to death for
the murder of any dhimmi or any number of dhimmis.
If the murders were done under the auspices of Universal
Compulsive Jihad, which will be sanctioned by sharia
as of 2019 Common Era, all blood money fines are waived.”
“Go away,” I said. “Go back to wherever
you came from.”
“I come from here,” said the Time Traveler.
“From not so far from here.”
“Bullshit,” I said.
“Your enemies have gathered and struck and continue
to strike and you, the innocents of 2006 and beyond, fight
among yourselves, chew and rip at your own bellies, blame
your brothers and yourselves and your institutions of the
Enlightenment – law, tolerance, science, democracy
– even while your enemies grow stronger.”
“How are we supposed to know who our enemies are?”
I turned and growled at him. “The world is a complex
place. Morality is a complex thing.”
“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill
you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies
are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren
dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support
those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you
and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured
that out yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping,
smug, infinitely stupid Americans and Europeans.”
He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on
my sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he
said softly, “can you ignore the better part of a
billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill
your children . . . or condone and celebrate the killing
of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We
do not understand you.”
I still had not turned to face him, but was looking over
my shoulder at him.
“The world, as it turns out,” continued the
Time Traveler, “is not nearly so complex a place as
your liberal and gentle minds sought to make it.”
I did not respond.
“Thucydides taught us more than twenty-four hundred
years ago – counting back from your time – that
all men’s behavior is guided by phobos, kerdos,
and doxa,” said the Time Traveler. “Fear,
self-interest, and honor.”
I pretended I did not hear.
“Plato saw human behavior as a chariot pulled by
precisely those three powerful and headstrong horses, first
tugged this way, then pulled that way,” continued
the Time Traveler. “Phobos, kerdos, doxa.
Fear, self-interest, honor. Which of these guides the chariot
of your nation and your allies in Europe and your surprisingly
fragile civilization now, O Man of 2006?”
I stared at the bookcase instead of the man and willed
him gone, wishing him away like a sleepy boy willing away
the boogeyman under his bed.
“Which combination of those three traits -- phobos,
kerdos, doxa -- will save or doom your world?”
asked the Time Traveler. “Which might bring you back
from this vacation from history – from history’s
responsibilities and history’s burdens – that
you have all so generously gifted yourselves with? You peaceloving
Europeans. You civil-liberties loving Americans? You Athenian
invertebrates with your love of your own exalted sensibilities
and your willingness to enter into a global war for civilizational
survival even while you are too timid, too fearful . . .
too decent . . . to match the ruthlessness of your
I closed my eyes but that did not stop his voice.
“At least understand that such decency goes away
quickly when you are burying your children and your grandchildren,”
rasped the Time Traveler. “Or watching them suffer
in slavery. Ruthlessness deferred against totalitarian aggression
only makes the later need for ruthlessness more terrible.
Thousands of years of history and war should have taught
you that. Did you fools learning nothing from living through
the charnel house that was the 20th Century?”
I’d had enough. I opened my eyes, turned, reached
into the top left drawer of my desk, and pulled out the
.38 revolver that I had owned for twenty-three years and
fired only twice, at firing ranges, shortly after it was
given to me as a gift.
I aimed it at the Time Traveler. “Get out,”
He showed no reaction. “Do you want more than words?”
he asked softly. “I will give you more than words.
I give you eight million Jews dead in Israel – incinerated
– and many more dead Jews in Eurabia and around the
world. I give you the continent of Europe cast back more
than five hundred years into sad pools of warring civilizations.”
“Get out,” I repeated, aiming the revolver
“I give you an Asian world in chaos, a Pacific rim
ruled by China after the vacuum of America’s withdrawal
– this nation’s full resources devoted to fighting,
and possibly losing, the Century War – a South America
and Mexico lost to corruption and appeasement, a resurgent
Russian Empire that has reclaimed its old dominated republics
and more, and a Canada split into three hateful nations.”
I cocked the pistol. The click sounded very loud in the
“We were speaking about ruthlessness,” said
the Time Traveler. “If you fail to understand it at
first, you learn it quickly enough in a war like the one
you are allowing to come. Would you like to hear the litany
of Islamic shrines and cities that will blossom in nuclear
retaliatory fire in the decades to come?”
“Get out,” I said for a final time. “I’m
ruthless enough to shoot you, and by God I will if you don’t
get out of here.”
The Time Traveler nodded. “As you wish. But you should
hear two last words, two last names . . .religious judge
Ubar ibn al-Khattab and rector-imam Ismail Nawahda of New
Al-Azhar University in London, part of the 200,000-man Golden
Mosque of the New Islamic Khalifate in Eurabia.”
“What are those names to me or me to them?”
I asked. My finger was on the trigger of the cocked .38.
“These religious officials were on the Islamic Tribunal
that sentenced two dhimmis to death by stoning
and beheading,” said the Time Traveler. “The
dhimmis were your two grandsons, Thomas and Daniel.”
“What was . . . will be . . . their crime?”
I was able to ask after a long minute. My tongue felt like
a strip of rough cotton.
“They dated two Muslim women – Thomas while
he was in London on business, Daniel while visiting his
aging mother, your daughter, in Canada – without first
converting to Islam. That part of sharia, Islamic
law, is called hudud, and we know quite a bit about
it in my time. Your grandsons didn’t know the young
women were Muslim since they both were dressed in modern
garb - -thus violating their own society’s ironclad
rule of Hijab — modesty. The girls, I hear,
also died, but those were not sharia sentences.
Not hudud. Their brothers and fathers murdered
them. Honor killings . . . I think you’ve already
heard the phrase by 2006.”
If I were to shoot him, I had to do it now. My hand was
shaking more fiercely every second.
“Of course, the odds against one sharia court in
London sentencing both your grandsons to death for crimes
committed as far apart as London and Quebec City is too
much of a coincidence to believe in,” continued the
Time Traveler. “As is the fact that they would both
be introduced to Muslim girls, without knowing they were
Muslim, and go on a single dinner date with them at the
same time, in cities so far apart. And Thomas was married.
I know he thought he was having a business dinner with a
“What . . .” I began, my arm holding the pistol
shaking as if palsied.
The Time Traveler laughed a final time. “All of your
grandsons’ names were on lists. You wrote something
. . . will soon write something . . . that will put your
name, and all your descendents’ names, on their list.
Including your only surviving grandson.”
I opened my mouth but did not speak.
“According to their own writings, which we all know
well in my day,” continued the Time Traveler, “
‘Hadith Malik 511:1588 The last statement that Muhammad
made was: "O Lord, perish the Jews and Christians.
They made churches of the graves of their prophets. There
shall be no two faiths in Arabia.’ And there
are not. All infidels – Christians, Jews, secularists
-- have been executed, converted, or driven out. Israel
is cinders. Eurabia and the New Khalifate is growing, absorbing
what was left of the old, weak cultures there that once
dreamt of a European Union. The Century War is not near
over. Two of your three grandsons are now dead. Your remaining
grandson still fights, as does one of your surviving granddaughters.
Two of your three living granddaughters now live under sharia
within the aegis of New Khalifate. They are women of the
I lowered the pistol.
“ Enjoy these last days and months and years of your
slumber, Grandfather,” said the scarred old man. “Your
wake-up call is coming soon.”
The Time Traveler said three last words and was gone.
I put the pistol away – realizing too late that it
had never been loaded – and sat down to write this.
I could not. I waited these three months to try again.
Oh, Lord, I wish that some person on business from Porlock
would wake me from this dream.
It was not the horrors of his revelations about my grandchildren
that had shaken me the most deeply, shaken me to the core
of my core, but rather the the Time Traveler’s last
three words. Three words that any Replayer or time traveler
visiting here from a century or more from now would react
to first and most emotionally – three words I will
not share here in this piece nor ever plan to share, at
least until everyone on Earth knows them – three words
that will keep me awake nights for months and years to come.
(Note: Books commented on in this essay include –
The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan, The
Book of War: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing edited
by John Keegan, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam
Is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer,
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World
Order by Samuel P. Huntington, Civilization and
Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History by Lee Harris,
The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of
History by Philip Bobbit, and Replay by Ken
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