The Autistic Time Traveller10 min read

Aubrey felt the cool mist of the early fall breeze cross her neck. She’d bun­dled up before leaving her small apart­ment, taking the stairs down and out into the late morning of the city. With the wet side­walk greeting her feet, she stopped for a small coffee at the corner store then she went out­side again to meet the quiet like an old friend in the park two blocks away from her building.

The last few weeks had been a whirl­wind for Aubrey. Twenty-eight years old, and after a mind bog­gling number of ups and downs, she was now in pos­ses­sion of approval for a book with a well-known Publishing house, and writing away the hours hap­pily in the warmth of her own place, under the watchful eye of her cat, Sir Winston.

Recently diag­nosed as autistic— someone on the autism spec­trum, she’d found a strange sat­is­fac­tion, even a mea­sure of joy in coming to terms with the odd­i­ties of under­standing her own unique mind func­tioning. She’d shared the news of her diag­nosis with a couple of her closest friends, online rela­tions, but was still mulling over how to– or even if she thought she ought to– share the news with her own par­ents.

Her Mother would undoubt­edly scorn her, tell her she’d always known her child had some­thing wrong with her mind, even though she’d labored night and day to raise her to lead a full and normal life. It was her Dad she would most like to tell about her cere­bral dis­covery.

Keller, her Father, always seemed to qui­etly glow when­ever Aubrey was near him. The two of them had always been close, seemed to share a secret lan­guage– much to the not-so-hidden seething dismay of Aubrey’s Mother.

Aubrey imag­ined he would smile at the knowl­edge, not with his mouth but would transmit his under­standing along the hidden fre­quency he shared in secrecy with his daughter. Keller, the eccen­tric col­lector of old radios, who knew the fre­quency of his Aubrey.

Spectrum of the Mind

Lost in her thoughts, she nearly walked into the man standing in the middle of the side­walk in front of her. Somehow, she’d not even noticed his approach, which was odd because she was good at noticing such things, often quickly changing her step, her plot to steer around others. He seemed to just be there, where an instant before no one had been.

Aubrey’s impulse was to simply step back, reorient her­self and walk around him. But he spoke to her directly, and then as if off the pages of some strange Frank Baker short story of the weird, she began to fall down into unex­plain­able depths of oddity.

The young man looked her in the face, his deep warm brown eyes feeling so strangely familiar, dis­ori­enting as they locked com­fort­ably with hers. Aubrey ordi­narily avoided eye con­tact, as it often felt painful, over­flowing– like trying to drink a lake’s worth of water when she only needed a sip. And then a heart­beat later, the weird moment tipped right over into a free fall down the Rabbit Hole.

Frozen, while every fiber of her being told her to walk, or even run directly away from this strange figure, she felt as if she were floating above the scene while this person– in a oddly calm way, told her some fan­tas­tical things. The first impos­sible thing he said to her was her name. Aubrey. Great. A stalker, or maybe a creeper who eaves­dropped on her at the corner store as she traded bright hellos with the daughter of the store owner?

Aubrey. He said it again. But now he spoke with a clear urgency, telling her she would be an observer, that she would do some­thing called “flick­ering,” and she would not be able to influ­ence the his­tor­ical time­line, only see it. Later, she recalled asking him– as if in a dream, why she needed to see these things?

The stranger only smiled, a bit wist­fully it seemed, and said she would under­stand later. And then– at the end of what seemed an eter­nity, but was only a moment, he grasped her wrist gently and put some­thing looking like a restau­rant on-call disc into her hand. Enough. Part of her wanted to laugh at this weird cha­rade, but the fright­ened part of her had now found a moment to run.

The odd stranger– with the dreamy eyes, looked away for a second, and then Aubrey bolted. Dropping her paper coffee cup at her feet, she ran stum­bling down the side­walk back towards the coffee shop, towards safety. And then the for­gotten strange little disc in her hand seemed to be tin­gling, warm, and sounded as if it was singing some­thing. Aubrey felt as though she were falling off a cliff, although she was run­ning down the side­walk, while nothing around her was moving.

Everything, and every sound was sud­denly stilled. And in the silence she watched as every­thing around her was reordered, as if reality itself was split­ting apart, coming unglued, unstuck and caught up in a whirl­wind of mad­ness. She felt nothing, and then she felt her­self standing on a quiet street corner, in the evening, in a place she didn’t rec­og­nize.

Looking around her, as she stood now cen­tered on a rough stone side­walk, the build­ings looked odd, both old and new. Two things leapt to her atten­tion; all of the lighting on the street, and coming from win­dows of the build­ings, looked like lamps and not light­bulbs. Secondly, as she glanced up, she found her­self nearly gasping at the sight of the night sky.

The stars. She could see every­thing. The stars in their untold num­bers, stood out vividly against a deep black back­drop of the heavens. And then, right in front of her she noticed a small group of per­sons, standing at the top of a small flight of stairs knocking on a huge door to a building of sev­eral sto­ries, with what looked to be an open-air patio on top of it.

As if walking through a dream, she walked up the stairs and simply fol­lowed the small party as they were ush­ered into the house by someone dressed in authentic looking English house butler attire. She could hear them speaking, but it came to her with what seemed to be a frac­tion of a delay, almost imper­cep­tible. They spoke of some­thing called the Royal Society, of notes and their col­league, their host– a man named Newton.

Several other people wearing antique clothing shut­tled into view and out again. Almost cat­like in their pur­posed quiet­ness. All of them were led up sev­eral flights of stairs, into the most exquisite library she’d ever seen, and then up single file– as she fol­lowed the group, up a small back stair­case and onto the roof of the building.

A moment later, she watched as the group was greeting a tall man with long silver hair and wrapped in a very soft looking coat. Behind him, mounted on a sturdy wooden plat­form was what looked to be a huge tele­scope with it’s brass casing pointing up at the stars above.

blue and purple cosmic sky

Speaking in soft, delib­erate, mea­sured tones to the small group gath­ered in a semi-circle before him, he sud­denly paused and looked directly at Aubrey. No, not at her but through her somehow. There in the flick­ering of the can­dles, lamps around him, his deep, intense eyes seemed to reach out, lock upon her face. A brief silence fol­lowed, as he stopped speaking, seeming to search the space in front of him, looking intently behind the others for her. In the awk­ward moment of his silence, as he seemed to be searching for some­thing, one of the others said to him, “Sir Newton, are you in need of water?”

Nearly for­gotten, though she still clasped it in her hand, the disc now feeling smaller, gave another of the strange tin­gling sen­sa­tions, and as before seemed to sing out some­thing between words, instru­ments and then every­thing around Aubrey seemed to fall away in a mil­lion shards of light, dark and matter.

One light stayed before her, grew into a steady pres­ence. Then she was standing in a small library of sorts, with books, papers cov­ering every­thing and a lovely old wooden piano next to a small desk where a man lay with his head on the desk, seem­ingly exhausted, shrunken in an over­sized robe of some sort. Aubrey stepped for­ward, making no noise what­so­ever.

Suddenly the man raised his head, his eyes searching the dim­ness of the room as if he’d heard her somehow. A page of old paper, cov­ered with musical notes briefly stuck to his face, a face looking as if marked by tears, then fell onto the floor. His red­dened eyes, were still pen­e­trating as he searched the dim room, looking it seemed in her direc­tion.

A smile seemed to cross his face, like a warm splash of breeze. He spoke some­thing softly in a lan­guage which sounded German, quizzi­cally. Then sensing no reply, he put his head back down on his desk in a pile of papers, musical notes.

Another storm of time, mate­rial things blending into a snow­storm of time. She sat down on the floor of a sunny room, watched as a bespec­ta­cled man in a white lab coat sat on the wooden floor in front of a young man with flailing hands, looking trust­ingly at the face of the man in the lab coat. Then their hands came together, and Aubrey knew she was seeing some­thing beyond research, beyond med­i­cine or psy­chi­atry. She was seeing a man searching for a unique human fre­quency.

Glowing Radio Dial

Flickering now, Aubrey stood behind a huge amassing of per­sons in what looked to be an offi­cial assembly room. Even from the back of the room, seeing people from behind their chairs, she real­ized she was seeing polit­ical leaders, sci­en­tists, and many media stars and their entourage. A hushed whisper ran through the room, and then a young girl with a braided pony­tail on each side of her head, car­rying sev­eral sheets of notes walked qui­etly onto the stage, stood behind a podium hung with a sign reading, “Austrian World Summit.”

The young girl with a fixed, steely look in her eyes, spoke of a plan­e­tary emer­gency, and pleaded with a fierce inten­sity for world lead­er­ship to do some­thing to save planet Earth. Then fol­lowed waves of applause, a standing ova­tion, and Aubrey was flick­ering into some­where else.

Aubrey stood over­looking a vast ocean of multi-colored waters, and waves. Next to her stood a woman who looked out also over the scene. Then, with no noise, no wash of heat, an oval shaped craft descended silently, touched down noise­lessly behind them.

Two per­sons wearing simple smocks approached the woman beside Aubrey, and said in the delayed speaking pat­tern she’d heard before– they were ready to leave for the Gathering of Minds. The woman turned from the railing, but paused as if remem­bering some­thing, and then as if sensing some­thing which was unsaid before. While the others looked at her curi­ously, the woman spoke clearly in the direc­tion of Aubrey.

I know you are here. I can feel you near me. The eyes of your time still see war, hunger, ruin, pain. But you will also see much hope. One day, all minds will be united as one in truth as fully human, will all be fully aware. And one day, all will be respected, cel­e­brated. Trust me in this.

And with that, the woman turned, and led in her blind­ness by the other two per­sons, guided her on board the craft which silently, smoothly departed into the clear alien skies.

Aubrey stepped out of the Rabbit Hole of time, back onto the side­walk near her apart­ment. She was aware she was still run­ning, and stopped to look back for the man who had stopped her, sent her on the impos­sible journey through time. He still stood there, as if not a moment had passed since she fled from his pres­ence. Only now the disc was in his left hand and not hers, and he looked admir­ingly at her. Though he didn’t smile, a gentle warmth came to his eyes before he simply faded from her sight.

Her mind spun, and she sat down on a park bench to col­lect her­self. If it was even pos­sible to be col­lected any­more. Suddenly, she knew. All of those people she’d seen across the expanse of his­tory were autistic. Like her. And the odd young stranger who had pushed her off into the crazed cur­rent of time?

She thought hard for a moment about him, the lines of his face. His eyes, that chin. As to a Mother seeing a future pic­ture of her own child– she knew.

Aubrey knelt down and picked up the now-empty coffee cup, dropped it into a trash can, and then made her way home.

She had some writing to do.



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  1. Great story, I loved it. Thanks for sharing!

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