A Butterfly in Strong Wind
It was a new village, nestled between a stream and a valley. Nature’s rough fist replaced the original inhabitants’ dreams of expansion with a mere hope of survival. Past the valley was a grand tree the size of ten men, slowly growing under the same elements which plagued the nearby community.
It was this little corner of the world that the Time Traveller eventually ventured to. Not much is known about her. The following is what two generations of academics have been able to piece together from oral histories and the archaeological record.
She was from the distant future, when mankind tamed the world and the stars were within its reach. A brilliant woman, she picked up the local language within months of her arrival.
Previously, she had trekked for many years around a place she called the Indus Valley, journeying thousands of miles and using all sorts of tools to seize power over the predators, diseases and hostile humans she met along the way. She did not have any of these tools when she arrived in the village. It is unclear why, but for historical purposes this is of little relevance. The crux of the matter is that there was a Time Traveller who came to a speck of a village — an assortment of mud huts — at the dawn of civilization.
Why did the woman go there, of all places? This is an unimportant question. Recall, if you will, that she did not visit the village until years after her initial arrival. It follows that she need not have necessarily had a specific destination in mind when she came. The interesting question is therefore why she chose to stay.
The simplest theory, and therefore the most probable, is that she met a partner and decided to settle down. After years of solitude, she perhaps desired a human connection with someone who she could share the world’s secrets with, someone whom she could teach to understand her.
It is also plausible that the woman went there involuntarily, as the result of an injury that required treatment. Shelter in a place with people keeping a nightly watch for predators and limitless fresh water might have been a necessity for her. In this line of thinking, it is also possible that the woman ran out of futuristic supplies, or that her equipment stopped functioning, requiring her to join a small society and cut short her planned travels.
Regardless, it is clear that the Time Traveller remained in the village. After several years of her residence there, she wrote a short note in English to posterity on a stone tablet. She predicted our world with great success. She offered no opinion, simply fact after fact about modern geography, politics and culture.
The Time Traveller passed on several scientific and cultural powers to the villagers. Technologies and the arts bloomed among the tribe, though the challenges of survival still lingered. Its population was limited, in part because of the Time Traveller’s introduction of social norms lowering fertility rates. The village grew to about 200 people, and stayed that way. As such, the society was kept small and was entirely overlooked by history.
The Time Traveller is now long gone, but part of her words live on in the village’s legends. She claimed that the community would have been abandoned, its people eviscerated in the span of twenty years if not for her arrival. The grand tree fell, in her world, when it was thirty men tall, the wood cut up by loggers to build shelter for a new settlement. She was presumably speaking about an encampment created ten miles from her village, which was built regardless using wood from a different tree.
The village, of course, has survived. It has barely developed since the Time Traveller’s arrival, hindered by her ancient rules which have pushed it to obscurity. When the stars aligned in the mandated position, the village shaman ventured to the nearest city and presented the world with the Time Traveller’s tablet.
There is no grave marked for her, no monument to her name. Her only legacy is the grand tree, which now stands tall over the valley where she once lived and died.