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The Essay
Show #281
Time Hiccups
David Gunn

As professor emesis of Calamitology at the University of Hummock-on-Smythe in southwesternmost Lincolnshire, Warbler Hadley Blackmoor had studied all the major plagues, pestilences and cataclysms throughout history. He had written dozens of white papers, articles and even two fashionably glossy coffee table books on the subject, and had himself been the feature of a BBC documentary. He had a devoted coterie of sycophants, a new gas cooker in his campus living chambers and a burgeoning relationship with the provost's wealthy sister. But still something was missing in his life. Even with the nearly epidemic states of warfare, genocide, rampant human rights violations and outbreaks of lethal diseases throughout the world, there simply weren’t enough disasters to satisfy his inquisitive nature. So Blackmoor decided to unleash some misfortunes of his own -- all for the sake of important clinical research, of course.

Among his more egregious achievements were the Black Plague of 1347; the Russo-Turkish War of 1877; the 1929 stock market crash; the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, in 1956; and the acute shortage of affordable housing in central Vermont in the last half of 2000. One might note that these dates taken together would seem to be beyond the purview of a normal human lifespan. But Professor Blackmoor was able to effect cross-temporal travel by hitching rides on time hiccups: bubbles of free time that collect along the space-time continuum. Much like a human hiccup, wherein a spasm in the diaphragm produces a rapid, involuntary glottal stop, a time hiccup is a minute convulsion of space-time that creates an instantaneous, involuntary displacement of a temporal field. Spatial relativity theorists who first detected this anomaly in the macrocosmic continuum hypothesized that the hiccups consisted of tachyon ductwork that ephemerally linked one time to another. Although the bubbles burst instantly upon contact with any form of duration-affirming entity, they haughtily ignored any object that was unresponsive to the abstraction of time -- such as a tenured college professor.

While the Hummock-on-Smythe board of regents, who eagerly funded his experiments, were keen to pry into and compromise the future, they decided that there were still plenty of good candidates for study in the not-so-distant past -- such as May 6, 1937, at the Lakehurst, New Jersey, Naval Air Station where, at 7:20pm, the German passenger airship Hindenburg opted for a fiery early retirement ... at least, it would once Professor Blackmoor intervened in what otherwise would have been a perfectly routine landing.

Carrying only a digital cameral and a hydrogen igniter, the catastrophologist clambered into the time chamber which doubled as the shower bath in his apartment that conveniently sat directly atop the largest known temporal hiccup in all of England. Within moments, as if sensing the professor's bizarre publish-or-perish needs, time burped.

As if through a gauze pumpkin curtain, Blackmoor gazed out over the Atlantic coastal bogs and spied the airship as it descended massively -- though not as massively as photographs of the impending accident had led him to expect -- out of the sky towards the landing site. Willing himself closer, he primed the hydrogen igniter, pointed it at the airship and pushed the "on" button.

Something happened, but it wasn't what he expected.

Having employed the I Ching to determine her final approach for landing, Betty the pilot ignored the "hover at 1,500 feet" command from the tropospheric traffic control center, and instead pushed the nose of the supersonic dirigible down hard as it accelerated over the forest of obelisks that surrounded the Lakehurst Naval Air Station. She was a full four hours ahead of the German ship and now had only to moor her aerobus to the ground in order to collect the first place prize. The bulbous balloonocraft was midway into a gradual though rapid descent when the gas cell pressure monitor alarm sounded a red alert. A pin-shaped hole had suddenly compromised the hydrogen bag, efficiently emptying it of valuable lighter-than-air gases. The airship plummeted dangerously close to the tarmac, and Betty had to execute a full 360-degree slow-motion roll, sending the inclinometer into a fit of confusion and the gyro compass repeaters nearly back to the drawing board. At 270 degrees, she thought she saw a distinguished-looking middle-aged man hanging in midair amidst a pumpkiny haze, but she may have confused the image with a recurring vision of her pa suffering from a chronic attack of hiccups. Meanwhile, rudder and elevator controls were not responding, the water ballast box had sprung a leak, and the traffic control tower was swiftly drawing nigh. It was 4 o'clock, which seemed like a good time to abandon both airship and the first place prize money. She would be sorry to see the comparatively poky Hindenburg win the transatlantic trophy, but for now, survival seemed to be the bettor part of valor. Betty jumped.

Just as we now jump 63½ years into the future to this 281st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, a radiophonic time hiccup that will soon transport you back untold months in the past to recontextualize startling events that occurred during the second half of an interview with ... well, there's plenty of time for that later, as there is nearly not enough now for Kalvos.