The Ripple Effect (short story)

My first thought is that I have the Ripple Effect (short story) the devil. Whatever You Do Someone Will Die. Transitive sense “cause to ripple” is from 1786. Meaning “mark or movement suggestive of a ripple” is from 1843.

Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. The short story A Sound of Thunder involves a Time Travel Safari where rich businessmen pay to travel back to prehistoric times and hunt real live dinosaurs. A Sound Of Thunder by Ray Bradbury The sign on the wall seemed to quaver under a film of sliding warm water. SAFARIS TO ANY YEAR IN THE PAST. Does this safari guarantee I come back alive? Travis, your Safari Guide in the Past. He’ll tell you what and where to shoot.

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If he says no shooting, no shooting. If you disobey instructions, there’s a stiff penalty of another ten thousand dollars, plus possible government action, on your return. Eckels glanced across the vast office at a mass and tangle, a snaking and humming of wires and steel boxes, at an aurora that flickered now orange, now silver, now blue. There was a sound like a gigantic bonfire burning all of Time, all the years and all the parchment calendars, all the hours piled high and set aflame.

The Ripple Effect (short story)

The Ripple Effect (short story)

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A touch of the hand and this burning would, on the instant, beautifully reverse itself. Eckels remembered the wording in the advertisements to the letter. Eckels breathed, the light of the Machine on his thin face. Makes you think, If the election had gone badly yesterday, I might be here now running away from the results. He’ll make a fine President of the United States.

The Ripple Effect (short story)

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If Deutscher had gotten in, we’d have the worst kind of dictatorship. There’s an anti everything man for you, a militarist, anti-Christ, anti-human, anti-intellectual. People called us up, you know, joking but not joking. Said if Deutscher became President they wanted to go live in 1492. Of course it’s not our business to conduct Escapes, but to form Safaris.

The Tyrant Lizard, the most incredible monster in history. Anything happens to you, we’re not responsible. We don’t want anyone going who’ll panic at the first shot. Six Safari leaders were killed last year, and a dozen hunters. We’re here to give you the severest thrill a real hunter ever asked for. Traveling you back sixty million years to bag the biggest game in all of Time. First a day and then a night and then a day and then a night, then it was day-night-day-night.

A week, a month, a year, a decade! They put on their oxygen helmets and tested the intercoms. Eckels swayed on the padded seat, his face pale, his jaw stiff. He felt the trembling in his arms and he looked down and found his hands tight on the new rifle. There were four other men in the Machine.

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Travis, the Safari Leader, his assistant, Lesperance, and two other hunters, Billings and Kramer. They sat looking at each other, and the years blazed around them. Can these guns get a dinosaur cold? Some dinosaurs have two brains, one in the head, another far down the spinal column. Put your first two shots into the eyes, if you can, blind them, and go back into the brain. Time was a film run backward. Suns fled and ten million moons fled after them.

The Ripple Effect (short story)

Every hunter that ever lived would envy us today. This makes Africa seem like Illinois. The sun stopped in the sky. The fog that had enveloped the Machine blew away and they were in an old time, a very old time indeed, three hunters and two Safari Heads with their blue metal guns across their knees. Moses has not gone to the mountains to talk with God. The Pyramids are still in the earth, waiting to be cut out and put up. He indicated a metal path that struck off into green wilderness, over streaming swamp, among giant ferns and palms.

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Path, laid by Time Safari for your use. It floats six inches above the earth. Doesn’t touch so much as one grass blade, flower, or tree. Its purpose is to keep you from touching this world of the past in any way. If you fall off, there’s a penalty. And don’t shoot any animal we don’t okay. They sat in the ancient wilderness.

The Ripple Effect (short story)

Far birds’ cries blew on a wind, and the smell of tar and an old salt sea, moist grasses, and flowers the color of blood. We don’t want to change the Future. We don’t belong here in the Past. The government doesn’t like us here. We have to pay big graft to keep our franchise. A Time Machine is finicky business.

Not knowing it, we might kill an important animal, a small bird, a roach, a flower even, thus destroying an important link in a growing species. And all the families of the families of the families of that one mouse! With a stamp of your foot, you annihilate first one, then a dozen, then a thousand, a million, a billion possible mice! Well, what about the foxes that’ll need those mice to survive? For want of ten mice, a fox dies.

For want of ten foxes a lion starves. For want of a lion, all manner of insects, vultures, infinite billions of life forms are thrown into chaos and destruction. Eventually it all boils down to this: fifty-nine million years later, a caveman, one of a dozen on the entire world, goes hunting wild boar or saber-toothed tiger for food. Then it wouldn’t pay for us even to touch the grass? Crushing certain plants could add up infinitesimally.

Of course maybe our theory is wrong. Maybe Time can’t be changed by us. Or maybe it can be changed only in little subtle ways. A dead mouse here makes an insect imbalance there, a population disproportion later, a bad harvest further on, a depression, mass starvation, and finally, a change in social temperament in far-flung countries. How do we know which animals to shoot? Today, before our journey, we sent Lesperance here back with the Machine.

He came to this particular era and followed certain animals. I track them through their entire existence, noting which of them lives longest. Life’s short, When I find one that’s going to die when a tree falls on him, or one that drowns in a tar pit, I note the exact hour, minute, and second. It leaves a red patch on his side.

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Eckels eagerly, you must’ve bumped into us, our Safari! Travis and Lesperance gave each other a look. Time doesn’t permit that sort of mess-a man meeting himself. When such occasions threaten, Time steps aside. Like an airplane hitting an air pocket. You felt the Machine jump just before we stopped? That was us passing ourselves on the way back to the Future.

They were ready to leave the Machine. The jungle was high and the jungle was broad and the jungle was the entire world forever and forever. Sounds like music and sounds like flying tents filled the sky, and those were pterodactyls soaring with cavernous gray wings, gigantic bats of delirium and night fever. Eckels, balanced on the narrow Path, aimed his rifle playfully. Don’t even aim for fun, blast you! Up ahead, We’ll bisect his trail in sixty seconds. Don’t shoot till we give the word.

They moved forward in the wind of morning. Up ahead, sixty million years, Election Day over. And here we are, a million years lost, and they don’t exist. The things we worried about for months, a lifetime, not even born or thought of yet.

Suddenly it all ceased, as if someone had shut a door. Out of the mist, one hundred yards away, came Tyrannosaurus Rex. It came on great oiled, resilient, striding legs. It towered thirty feet above half of the trees, a great evil god, folding its delicate watchmaker’s claws close to its oily reptilian chest.

Each lower leg was a piston, a thousand pounds of white bone, sunk in thick ropes of muscle, sheathed over in a gleam of pebbled skin like the mail of a terrible warrior. Each thigh was a ton of meat, ivory, and steel mesh. It ran with a gliding ballet step, far too poised and balanced for its ten tons. It moved into a sunlit area warily, its beautifully reptilian hands feeling the air. It could reach up and grab the moon. Eckels pronounced this verdict quietly, as if there could be no argument. He had weighed the evidence and this was his considered opinion.

The rifle in his hands seemed a cap gun. There’s the red paint on its chest! Its armored flesh glittered like a thousand green coins. The coins, crusted with slime, steamed. In the slime, tiny insects wriggled, so that the entire body seemed to twitch and undulate, even while the monster itself did not move.

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The stink of raw flesh blew down the wilderness. It was never like this before. I was always sure I’d come through alive. I had good guides, good safaris, and safety. I’ve met my match and admit it.

The Ripple Effect (short story)

This is too much for me to get hold of. He looked at his feet as if trying to make them move. He gave a grunt of helplessness. He took a few steps, blinking, shuffling. The rifles cracked again, Their sound was lost in shriek and lizard thunder. The great level of the reptile’s tail swung up, lashed sideways. Trees exploded in clouds of leaf and branch.

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The Monster twitched its jeweler’s hands down to fondle at the men, to twist them in half, to crush them like berries, to cram them into its teeth and its screaming throat. Its boulderstone eyes leveled with the men. They fired at the metallic eyelids and the blazing black iris. Like a stone idol, like a mountain avalanche, Tyrannosaurus fell. Thundering, it clutched trees, pulled them with it.

It wrenched and tore the metal Path. The men flung themselves back and away. The body hit, ten tons of cold flesh and stone. The Monster lashed its armored tail, twitched its snake jaws, and lay still. A fount of blood spurted from its throat.

Somewhere inside, a sac of fluids burst. After the avalanche, a green peace. Billings and Kramer sat on the pathway and threw up. Travis and Lesperance stood with smoking rifles, cursing steadily. In the Time Machine, on his face, Eckels lay shivering. He had found his way back to the Path, climbed into the Machine.