I stepped out of the time machine into the year 2013, and I was horrified. You see, I’m from the 1950s and my world was all apple pie, neatly manicured lawns, picket fences, and leash laws. All very hoity toity. All very above board and manufactured to please. And when I built my time machine, I envisioned visiting a world that was exactly like that, only more so. For example, I believed we would have automatic dog-walkers so I wouldn’t have to walk my canine every single day. And I knew the nuclear family would get even better because in the world of my envisioned future there was limitless communication between spouses and children. They would be of one mind, so there would be no cause for disruption and arguments. And there would be a way to manufacture trees so that they never withered or died, and they couldn’t be cut down. New synthetics would be the core for every house, for every ream of paper, for everything that was previously made from the rotting husks of murdered trees. There would be no more sickness because the robots would have discovered a cure for everything that ailed humanity, the robots we initially had created to do housework so our ladies could step out with us in the evenings and not worry about the children.
But what I encountered in the year 2013 was far from what I thought it would be. In this strange dystopia that I have entered, there is dog detritus on the ground every few feet, and I even saw a strange animal actually defecating while I watched. Someone was stealing a motorized vehicle from the very street in which it had been parked by its owner. While I was cowering behind what I could only imagine was a metal dam built by a mechanical beaver, I wondered what madness had overcome our world between my time and this odd one I had stumbled onto. Once I had gotten over my shock, I decided to explore. On the next block, there were overgrown lawns, windows busted out of houses, and some sort of shrieking sound was emanating from another parked vehicle. I ran from that, thinking that the police would soon arrive, but they did not.
I arrived at a hospital, but I only knew it was one when a doctor walked out of the building in a white smock. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the faintest clue what the castle-sized white building was. And when I walked inside, I was shocked at the sick beds of people lining the walls, as if there were not enough rooms for all of them in the emergency area. Apparently the robots had dropped the ball on this one, letting people get sick. A gurney rolled past, being pushed by a couple of what I could only guess were orderlies, wearing pastel blue uniforms. A body was on it, covered by a sheet, no breath escaping underneath. The most shocking part of it all, though, was that the orderlies didn’t seem phased at all that another human being had died under their care. I couldn’t take it anymore, as I exited the hospital (after getting lost in several other corridors and getting yelled at by another pastel-wearing woman) and crashed into a man selling large pretzels from a cart out front. He didn’t look very clean so I didn’t eat a pretzel, but others did, offering him strange quantities of currency for a chance to do so.
By that point, I just wanted to make it stop, to close my eyes and end the nightmare, but I could not. I had to reverse my steps and make it back to my time machine before I discovered worse things, although I couldn’t possibly imagine what could be worse. Until I saw it. There was what used to be a library. I could tell because of the large mural of a boy reading a book over the door, but that was all that remained of the literary auspiciousness left to the place. What had become of it I could only wonder at, as homeless men shuffled in and out of its recently boarded, but ripped apart doors. Out on the sidewalk there were other men standing around handing things to each other, what all seemed like such a shady business. I shielded my eyes again to block out the view, arriving back at my time machine none too soon. As I stepped back inside, I debated whether or not I should go forward in time to see how it all turned out, if I should visit the 1980s to see if any answers could be found there, or if I should just go back home and try to forget.
I would try to forget, and be saddened by the attempt.