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The Time Stream

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The Time Stream by John Taine

The Time Stream – Can disaster to an entire civilization be averted if diligent researchers roam the time stream looking for it? What if that disaster can only be prevented by denying a couple the right to marry? What if their love is the catalyst for the destruction of the world? How can free will be balanced against world destruction?

Book Details

Book Details

The Time Stream – Can disaster to an entire civilization be averted if diligent researchers roam the time stream looking for it? What if that disaster can only be prevented by denying a couple the right to marry? What if their love is the catalyst for the destruction of the world? How can free will be balanced against world destruction?

Eight men search back and forth along the Time Stream looking for the causes and the solutions to the utter destruction of their civilization and their world. They journey back and forth across countless generations and several worlds looking for the cause of the impending doom to their own world. Could it really be that the loving marriage of one man and one woman will unleash the beast that will destroy them?

The Time Stream (1931)
Into the time stream they plunged to search for the secret of the cataclysm and the doom of the race…

Chapter I – Sent Back
Chapter II – In the Time Stream
Chapter III – The Desert of Death
Chapter IV – A Memory of Five Pillars
Chapter V – The Secret of the Suns
Chapter VI – “The Whole is One”
Chapter VII – “Remember the Beast”
Chapter VIII – “They Must Not Marry”
Chapter IX – Ducasse Explains
Chapter X – Shadows
Chapter XI – Worlds Within Worlds

Part 2
Into limitless time they plunged to seek the answer of the monuments….

Chapter XII – Freedom or Reason?
Chapter XIII – The Struggle for Survival
Chapter XIV – The Story of the Monuments
Chapter XV – The Race Against Time
Chapter XVI – “Use the Secret”
Chapter XVII – “Explore the Future!”
Chapter XVIII – Culman’s Experiment
Chapter XIX – Colonel Dill Reveals
Chapter XX – The Sealed Cylinder
Chapter XXI – The Malady Strikes!

Part 3
The ancient warning was coming true … all over Eos the beast was rising to cause certain destruction….

Chapter XXII – The First Stone
Chapter XXIII – Thunder of War
Chapter XXIV – The Thunder Breaks
Chapter XXV – A Race Against Time
Chapter XXVI – “Eos is Saved!”
Chapter XXVII – The Vision of the Unknown Sea

Part 4
Into the stream for the last time they plunged to watch a world unfolding….

Chapter XXVIII – A Dream Fulfilled
Chapter XXIX – An Explanation
Chapter XXX – Sylvester’s Message

The Time Stream was published in four parts in Wonder Stories in 1931 and 1932.

John Taine was the pseudonym used by noted mathematician Eric Temple Bell (1883-1960) when he wrote science fiction.


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Excerpt: The Time Stream

Chapter I

Sent Back

WE HAVE explored to its remotest wildernesses a region that all but a few hold to be inaccessible to the human mind. Yet, in looking back after twenty-five years at the colossal drama which unrolled with stunning rapidity before our bewildered consciousness, I can see in it all no incident more mysterious than the unquestioning faith with which we accepted our guide—the venerable Georges Savadan—at his own valuation. That granted, the rest followed with a magnificent inevitability.

It was like the running down of Sylvester’s watch when the mainspring snapped; a trivial accident precipitated events which time had been holding in suspension for ages.

We fell in with Savadan’s suggestions as readily as if they had been the natural promptings of our own minds.

Indeed, with the exception of Beckford, we seemed at every step of our progress into the unknown to anticipate the old man’s will. The sudden transformation of the Savadan whom we had so often watched dreaming over his port at Holst’s, into the resolute, energetic leader alert to every hint of danger, caused us no surprise. It was a change for which we were secretly prepared. We had known the old man subconsciously all our lives.

Surely there never was a company of explorers less likely than ours to penetrate the dim secrecies of the future; but so we did. It matters little what our occupations were when we set out, exactly a quarter of a century ago, on our explorations. Nevertheless, as our lives and all of our daily activities acquired a strange significance in the light of our adventures, I shall briefly state who and what we were, and how we started.

The place and date are extremely important. We first succeeded in entering the time stream in San Francisco, on the fourteenth of April, 1906. That was precisely four days before the city was destroyed by earthquake and fire.

The mere catalogue of our party follows, with their nationalities and places of birth, and their ages in 1906.


ALL of these details, however, are of little importance. What I wish to bring out in citing them is merely that we were an apparently haphazard handful of acquaintances thrown together by chance. There were many such handfuls in the old San Francisco. We know now that ours was not governed by chance. Even before we somewhat rashly started, we had inklings of the truth.

What drew us together? What common interest could hold together a whiskey-sodden Civil War veteran, a brilliant young child specialist, a young lawyer, a student of philosophy, a newspaper reporter, an expert in modern theoretical physics, a mechanical engineer, a discredited French politician, and an analytical chemist, whose ages ranged from 23 to 66? What could possibly unite men of such a wide range of ages but a common interest in the nature of time? One “chance” remark or another had gradually attracted man after man to us, until in all, eight of us stood on the threshold of reality without dreaming what door was presently to open. Chance, of course, played no part in drawing us together. We were already exploring, but we had lost our way.

I need not recall the long debates in which we indulged on the nature of time. Unaccountable at first, even to us, those puzzled arguments on the curiously unreal aspects of time as it appeared to us in our everyday lives, gradually assumed a deeper significance until at last, on the fourteenth of April, 1906, four minutes before midnight, events crystallized out of the waters of eternity, and we found ourselves. I pass on to these as rapidly as may be done clearly, and I shall state precisely how we ourselves, still dazed, began to learn the true meanings of our lives.

Our fortnightly reunion at Holst’s was breaking up. Sylvester, anxious not to miss his train for Los Gatos, consulted his watch.

“Four minutes to twelve. I’ll have to be running.” He absent-mindedly began winding his watch. The mainspring snapped. The peculiar metallic click rocked my brain for a fraction of a second with an appalling vertigo. Recovering instantly, I heard Sylvester’s awed voice: “I am beginning to remember. This is the time.” The aged Savadan was on his feet, listening intently. “You will all remember presently,” he said. “Not here. Come to my attic at once. I—we all—must perform an experiment immediately.”

Even Colonel Dill followed Savadan into the starry night without a word of dissent. Already we were walking in a dream more vivid than this thin shadow of reality which we call life. The night was cool and penetratingly clear. The myriads of icy white and steel-blue stars seemed to descend and blaze not more than a hundred feet above our heads when we turned toward the East and walked, as Savadan said, to meet the sunrise. Savadan, it seems, had already remembered much. Sylvester, too, was far ahead of all but Savadan. As we turned the corner and came in sight of Savadan’s lodging, Sylvester pointed up to a dark, almost starless region of the sky near the zenith.

“Look up there,” he whispered, “and you will remember.”

We looked where he pointed, but nobody answered. I had a haunting sensation of having watched that identical region of the sky in ages long dead and forgotten, waiting for the last rising of millions upon millions of dying suns.

We had reached our destination, still walking in a dream.

“I must ask you to go up quietly,” Savadan requested, pausing with his hand on the door-knob. “The people here charge me only a nominal rent for my room, so I try to disturb them as little as possible. There are three flights before you reach my attic.”

SAVADAN was about to enter, when Herron whispered “Wait!” He was standing with his back to us, intently regarding five shadowy eucalyptus trees in the parking strip. Their mysterious beauty against the cold blue stars of the Eastern heavens was a miracle to make any man pause. And the deep shadows in the fresh, sweet smelling grass of the narrow parking strip were a memory of illimitable spaces in an infinite sky unvisited by stars. Again that illusive half-memory of forgotten regions swept over me like the starlit billows of a cold sea. What sea I struggled to remember, I learned only at the end of our explorations.

“Wait a second,” Herron repeated hesitatingly in a low voice strangely unlike his usual assertiveness. “I almost had it then.”

The ghost of a breeze stirred in the eucalyptus leaves. Herron gazed up at the trees, listening eagerly to every syllable of the faint, lisping rustle.

“Ah,” he exclaimed softly, “it comes back.”

He began quoting Rossetti’s magical crystallization of the haunting mystery which all of us felt but could not express:

" 'I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell,
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet, keen smell,
The sighing sound.....' "

He did not finish the exquisite stanza. Sylvester quoted another fragment,

'……….I knew it all of yore;'

“and to my surprise Palgrave, who reads little verse, finished:”

'Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time's eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death's despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?'

We felt that it was a question and a prophecy.

Excerpt From: John Taine. “The Time Stream.”

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