The Way-back Machine

Do any of you listen to the “Stuff You Should Know” podcast? I do. I can’t tell you how many hours of mind-numbing work I’ve survived because of Josh Clark and Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant and their investigative approach to minutia. When you first listen to them you think, “My gosh, what NERDS!” But soon their comic-reading, Cheetos-munching, math-tinkering, pubescent voices become dulcet, and you find their dry-as-Mojave humor cathartic (seriously—I don’t think I’ve laughed alone harder than when Josh called early Chinese guns “hand dragons” in the [can’t find it] episode, or secondly, when Josh had a Vault on an empty stomach in the “How Can I Erase My Identity and Star Over” episode). Their humor is
as subtle as a pickpocket, and not until the moment is past do you react. To be candid, I don’t think I felt my world more flipped than when they played their 2014 April Fool’s prank that Chuck quit (seriously, look at my Twitter feed). Aside from persuading you that I’m an
extreme and unnatural fan of the show, I hope I’ve also persuaded you to give it a whirl.

Now, the titular protein of this entry: in the “How Gypsies Work” episode, Chuck was asked by a listener when he would go and what he would bring if he could take any object back in time with him, and he said he’d videotape Jesus since he’s struggled with his own faith, and he thinks it’d be of good use to the world to have definitive proof on the man. That sounds like a spectacular short film.

I can see it: in what can only be described as an implosion, a complicated and foreign machine materializes in front of the Smithsonian and immediately breaks down in an odd way. Above the badly worn text, Wayback, a hatch is opened and an agonizing scream is heard by people in the close vicinity. Emergency services are called on suspicion of a failed suicide bombing. Terror management officers arrive and find an extremely old corpse, indeed wearing Arab garb, but holding a modern DSLR camera, but no one else.

Forensics survey the machine and its contents, finding the modern-looking machine, its passenger, and the camera to be thousands of years old, based on carbon dating. The man carried a modern wallet and modern identification on him, seemingly prepared to be found and wanting to be identified. Charles Wayne Bryant, a swarthy man, according to his Georgia driver’s license, was indeed a real and recent person, despite his mummy-like body.

The craft was harder to rationalize, since it’s components were manufactured in the United States and China, but were so old that they exceeded their intended shelf life, but somehow without wear or friction. They were just—old. Witnesses reported that they saw the electronics and lights working, but that they instantaneously shorted out. The investigation was taking months, and nothing made sense.

The oddest part of all of it—beyond a man older than America, or what looked like the advent of teleportation, was what was on the camera. Remarkably, despite the SD card being paradoxically ancient and recently manufactured, the data was uncorrupted. For the most part, everything recorded was clear. Although recorded in 1080p, it now had the resolution of the Nixon-Kennedy debates.

Yet the footage was not remarkable to the public. No dinner conversations or golf chats were spent on the subject. It was not apropos. No one could even tell what was on the video. How could they had never seen it. And how could they see it if it was withheld?

A lab video analyst leaked that the audio was mostly Aramaic; some was modern American English—probably Bryant’s voice, his narration. Quickly, Twitter was ablaze. What the world officially new was that Congress had created a special committee to “discuss” the vehicle and it’s contents. Conspiracy-theorists blogged that Congress was actually weighing the ramifications of what the footage held. Other Americans lobbied for our borders to be strengthened and for airspace security to be heightened. Late-night variety shows had a hay-day.

Within fifteen days, a non-related scandal marginalized the event, and soon the only thing the twenty-four-hour-news networks were outraged over was a fast-food employee being fired for having bestial relations on company property. Animal-rights activists, the LGBT community, and minimum wage hikers were indignant with accusations and victimist claims, and all attention was re-focused towards them.

Several hundred miles away, in a Georgia recording studio, a tall man with an unassuming voice divulged into his microphone the secrets of how time-travel works.

Check out theirPodcast:

By the way—none of those claims about their voices and Cheetos, math, or comics are founded.


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