A short story by Jon Christopher.
This story was originally titled “Press The Record Button” and submitted to several magazines earlier this year. After having it rejected I decided to re-edit it, gave it a new title, a slightly different ending, and to post it here to celebrate the 36th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie on May 25, 1977.
The future was just a radio signal away…
Jonathan rapidly spun the tuning knob of the bulky shortwave radio sitting on the desk in front of him. He was scanning the AM band, moving from one top forty radio station to another trying to find his song. At the moment that song was the Meco #1 hit – Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band.
It was the fall of 1977, and Jonathan had just entered 8th grade, but Star Wars was what was really on his mind. The movie had come out in May and had changed everything for him. Jonathan had been a childhood Trekkie, but that was nothing compared to the impact Star Wars had on him. Since he had seen it for the first time – and he had seen it over twenty times by the time summer ended – it was just about all he thought about, all the time.
And now there was a song out on the radio (yeah it was disco and disco sucked, but this was Star Wars) with the theme song from Star Wars that included really cool laser sounds and R2D2 beeping, light saber sound and other sounds from the movie.
Jonathan was hunting for the song to capture it with a tape recorder. He had been doing it all Saturday afternoon – tuning from station to station trying to catch the song from the beginning so he could get a really good recording. He was sitting at his desk in his room. Most of the desk surface was taken over by the large, post-World War II era shortwave radio. His dad had bought it at a garage sale, but Jonathan had convinced his dad to let him keep it on his desk in his room.
Jonathan had constructed a spider-web like antenna array tacked up on the wall behind his desk. He was sure this helped him get better reception. He also kept his parent’s tape recorder sitting next to the speaker on the side of the shortwave radio to record things he heard. Often times he recorded the various foreign voices that came through the static just because they sounded so strange. Today he was using the tape recorder for a more basic need – capturing a pop music song.
So far he had recorded the song twice, but not completely. One time he had captured the end of the song, and once he got it about halfway through. He had been at it for several hours and his mind was starting to play games with him, offering suggestions like, “If you take a break for exactly 5 minutes then all the radio stations will reset and you’ll get your song” and “first tune to 10-Q and then over the KHJ, then quickly to the Spanish language station on the right end of the dial, then back to 10-Q” and so on.
After awhile of this Jonathan decided to take a short, five minute break and cruise the shortwave bands. The radio had three different shortwave bands which Jonathan would slowly scan from one end to the other, using the fine tuning knob when he found something interesting to bring the signal in even better. The eclectic mix of sounds and static as he moved across the dial was both interesting and soothing at the same time.
Near the end of his five minute break a voice came through the static, “Jonathan, press the record button on your tape recorder.”
Jonathan stopping turning the tuning dial.
After a couple of seconds the same adult, male voice repeated itself, “Jonathan, press the record button on your tape recorder.”
Jonathan pushed the record button on the tape recorder.
“Jonathan, I am going to tell you some very important information. This information will affect your whole life from this moment forward. Before we go on I must point out that what I am going to share with you must never – NEVER – be shared with anyone. No one but you can know these things. If anyone finds out you will be a dead man (or worse). Tell no one. Trust no one. Again. Tell no one. Trust no one.”
Jonathan’s adrenalin was kicking into high gear. He quickly got up and made sure the door to his room was closed as the voice continued.
“Jonathan. I am you, but I am 52 years old now. The year I’m living in is 2016. Many things have gone wrong in the world since I was your age, things I wish I could have done something about but couldn’t. I never had enough leverage, enough money, enough power to be one of the people that helped shape the world. When I was your age Jonathan I thought I would be one of those people…”
Jonathan knew exactly what he meant. He saw himself as someone who could be a politician or a judge or something when he grew up.
“Jonathan, what I have in mind to do is to give you the keys to the future, and the ability to change my current reality at the same time. If you make the changes I have in mind while you grow to be my age, together we could change the structure of the world.”
Jonathan didn’t quite comprehend what “himself” was saying, but the voice did sound vaguely like his own voice when he heard it recorded. He sat listening as the voice from the future continued.
“I am going to tell you somethings that will happen in your future, my own past, so you can use this knowledge for financial gain. I’m going to give you stock picks, market trends, lottery numbers, World Series winners, Presidential winners – everything you need to be one step ahead of everyone else.
We have several problems to take care of to make this work for us. The first problem is every bit of information I give you will start to change my own world. Our existences are entangled, and just your knowledge of these future events will change my present, your future. I have run extensive computer models to make sure we do this right. I have concluded that only by introducing certain ideas in a certain order, spread out over a certain period of time can we make these changes without completely messing the whole thing up. This is a delicate operation, but I know you Jonathan, and I know we can do it.”
Jonathan was overwhelmed at this point. His mind whirled on the impossibly of his situation. The voice continued.
“I’m going to give you a set of dates and events in a series of three broadcasts. We have to let a short period of time pass between the broadcasts so we don’t make errors we can’t fix in the next broadcast.
Remember – never, ever share these broadcasts with anyone. If even one other person knows, everything will change in ways we do not know nor can we predict.”
Jonathan from the future then read off a list of events, dates, and subjects for Jonathan to pay attention to at certain points in his life. He gave him companies to invest in, ways to get the money he’d need to invest, people he would need to know and ways to know them – for 20 minutes he gave him the basic insider’s guide to the next 39 years of American culture, politics, business and finance.
At the end of reading the list the voice from the future told Jonathan the next broadcast would be the following Saturday afternoon, at the same time and on the same frequency. And then the voice faded into static. Jonathan hit the stop button on the tape recorder.