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Science Fiction
February 2003

The Grandfather Killers

The proscribed world of Iritzan is distinguished among the worlds of the galaxy in that it possesses time travel. The citizens of Iritzan have been time travelling for the last ten thousand years and will continue to do so for the next hundred thousand years whereupon they will abandon the practice.

The culture and conditions of a world that practices time travel are strange indeed to the outsider. One must understand that cause and effect sill hold. Moreover one cannot change the past or the future. If one travels into the past, that travel is part of the past. What was, was; what will be, will be. (This is an English translation of an Old Iritzan proverb. The Iritzan words for expressing time relationships are much more complex and precise than those of English. The original of this proverb is untranslatable.)

The outsider does not find it easy to accomodate himself to the notion of a past that can be interacted with but not changed. He fears paradox and asks such questions as "Suppose a man went back in time and killed his grandfather before his father was born. What then?" The Iritzan native learns as a child that one cannot alter a known past, that the very attempt leads to the most peculiar and dangerous results. Indeed the topic of the man who attempts to kill his grandfather forms the subject of a series of children's stories.

Dal Sirizan

When Dal Sirizan was drunk one evening he decided to test whether it was possible to kill his grandfather. He immediately got up and rushed out of the tavern. Forthwith he tripped over the curbstone, cracked on his head, and died on the spot.
This tale is very simple. However it points out very clearly that the immediate consequences of attempting to change the known past/future are very likely to be immediately fata. It also points out that the attempt is usually only made by those of unsound mind.)

Taro Mayan

One day Taro Mayan resolved to kill his grandfather. Naturally he knew this was impossible. However his grandfather had treated his father and mother very badly and Taro hated him for it. His hate was so great that he had to try even if he was bound to fail.

Taro went back to a time many years before his father was born. As he left the time portal he was accosted by a gang of idlers who demanded of him, what was his name and where he was going. Taro, who was an honest and forthright man, replied, "My name is Taro Mayan, and I go to kill my grandfather.

The idlers' eyes widened in surprise, and they said, "Why then, you are the Taro Mayan of legend, and we are gang of idlers who save you from your nonsense."

"Nonsense," said Taro, "the legend is only a children's tale. Let me pass."

The gang, however, saw its duty and did it. They grabbed him, beat until he was unconscious, dumped him in the time portal, and sent him back to his own time.

Taro awoke many hours later, sore and bruised. "Truly," he reflected, "I am the Taro Mayan of legend. It is said that I abandoned my notion of killing my grandfather, and that I led a long and happy life. Let me go and do so." And he did.

This is a traditional and favorite Iritzan morality tale. Notice that he was punished when he attempted to defeat the way of things and rewarded when he stopped. Notice also that things turned out the way they did because Taro was a "public personality". Things happened the way they happened because they were known to happen. The fact that everything known to have happened must happen explains many of the peculiarities of Iritizan politics.

Imil Fatar

When Imil Fatar was a young man he hated his grandfather who made a deliberate point of antagonizing him. Finally, in a burst of rage, he went back in time, burst into his grandfathers apartment, and killed him. After doing the dirty deed he was stricken with remorse so he reported himself to the police. The police, who knew that he was coming (of course), patiently explained that things were not quite what they seemed. It was true enough that he had killed his grandfather. However his grandfather had known that he would be killed by Imil. It seems that after Imil had gone back in time his grandfather had contracted an incurable and painful disease. Since euthenasia would not be legal for another five thousand years the elder version of Imil's grandfather went back in time to meet Imil and be killed by him. The police further explained that a court would rule in the future that Imil was an unwitting accomplice of his grandfather's plot to commit suicide and hence was found innocent. Imil went back to his own time and told his grandfather all about it to make sure that his grandfather would know about his forthcoming misery.

Goldoy Mirvan

It was often remarked that Goldoy was the very image of his grandfather. One day Goldoy went back to a time when his grandfather was a young bachelor. He forthwith killed him, burned his body, and secretly took his place. Later on he met his grandmother, married her, and raised his father and his two aunts. It was said that when he was an old man that Goldoy Mirvan was his very favorite grandchild.

Pomar Arrish

Pomar Arrish was a determined and careful man. First he went to the registry of lives and found out his date of death and the age at which he died. Next he checked his police record. Having determined that he would never be arrested and that he would live to a ripe old age, he set out to kill his grandfater.

Unfortunately for Pomar, his grandfather had warned himself that Pomar was going to attack him. When Pomar arrived his grandfather kidnapped him and stranded him on a desert isle where remained alone for the rest of his life.

The registry of lives is a typical Iritzan institution. A record is kept of the date of death and age at death, if known, of every citizen; their records is available to citizens if they wishe to know it. Some do, some don't.

This story illustrates the old saying, "What you don't know can hurt you."

The fate of Pomar Arrish illustrates what usually happens when you attempt to cheat fate - something not in the record trips you up when you do. The more you know, the more unexpected and unusual the event that spoils your plans.

This page was last updated February 1, 2003.
Reprinted from Proper Boskonian No. 8, July 1971.
Copyright © 1971, 2003 by Richard Harter

table of contents
Science Fiction
February 2003