When Ronald Mallett was 10-years old, his father died of a heart attack. That was tragic.
Then Mallett became obsessed with a fantasy where he traveled back in time and warned his dad to exercise more and cut out the cigarette smoking. In a geeky boy who had just lost his hero, that was understandable.
Then Mallett got a PhD in physics and a National Science Foundation Grant, and set to work making his fantasy into reality. That was freaking awesome.
The good news is, Professor Mallett has put together a bunch of equations that seem to show time travel is actually possible. He says that if you arrange high-intensity laser beams in exactly the right way, you can stir space-time "like a spoon stirring milk into coffee." The bad news is any time machine could only send you back to the date the machine was first switched on, which means Papa Mallett is out of luck. On the other hand, who's to say that when Mallett finally switches on his machine, a time traveler won't step through it with the plans for a machine that can send him back to save his father?
Professor Mallett is a genius with an obsessive personal interest in making time travel a reality. As far as we know, Ronald Mallett has never put a girlfriend into a coma while her consciousness travels through the decades, but that doesn't stop him from being our timeline's Daniel Faraday. Of course, that means that if he finally succeeds in going back to the 1950s and meeting his mom and dad, they're going to accidentally shoot him dead. Oops, sorry, we should have warned you: SPOILERS for Ronald Mallett's life.
By the way, Mallett only needs about $11 million to build a prototype of his machine, and he's set up a web page to solicit donations. So if you've got 10 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can use it to buy a large Pizza Hut Super Supreme pizza or you can invest it in a project that, one day, will allow your pizza to be delivered before you even order it. (CAUTION: Pizza Hut Chrononaut Supreme Pizzas are delivered by high-intensity laser beams and may be hot.)
A man is paralyzed from the waist down. No treatment helps him. Then, one day, he suddenly finds he can walk.
Sound familiar? Well, it actually happens all the time.
Sigmund Freud and his cigar-chomping early psychoanalytic buddies called it "hysterical paralysis" and blamed it on- actually, do you even need us to finish this sentence? Because pretty much any sentence that begins "Sigmund Freud blamed it on" is going to end "sexual repression."
Modern day headshrinkers prefer to call it "conversion disorder," because if they called it "hysterical paralysis," people might know what they were talking about, and the more impenetrable your mystique, the more you can charge per hour.
Anyway, specific examples of modern day hysterical paralysis are tricky to come by, because when psychiatrists write up their case studies, they always go light on the details, probably because they don't want their patients to end up getting talked about in online humor magazines. Well, sorry, modern day psychiatric profession. There's no holding us back.
One recent example involved a patient identified only as "a 10-year-old boy." We're going to call him "Shia LaBeouf." After his parents split up, young Shia suddenly found himself unable to walk. But he responded positively when his doctors decided to "systematically reinforce successive approximations to the desired response," which means he got a gold star every time he got a little closer to walking. In fact, in a few months, he was absolutely fine.
This helps too.
Nobody knows how many cases of hysterical paralysis there are worldwide, but it may happen in as many as 300 out of 100,000 people. With a worldwide population of 6,697,254,041, that means there may be as many as 20,091,762 John Lockes out there. That's great news, if you have a question that needs a frustratingly vague answer, followed by a mystical looking squint into the distance.
All joking aside, we know we're not living in Lost because there's no island like the island. After all, if there were a mysterious island out there with a mysterious temple and a smoke monster and a glowing cave featuring the source of all life, we'd know about it.
Unless, of course, it was North Sentinel Island.
In 1867, a group of shipwrecked Indian sailors ended up on a beach on the edge of the island, and after surviving a shitstorm of arrows, they got the hell off. Then a few years later, an escaped convict made it to the island. This time, the natives didn't shoot arrows at him. Probably because they were too busy slitting his throat.
For some reason, the island's unofficial motto, "Come for the shitstorm of arrows, stay for the throat-slitting!" didn't attract any visitors until 1974, when a bunch of anthropologists decided they would "win the natives' friendship by friendly gestures and plenty of gifts," in the words of one of them. So they landed on the beach out of arrow range, left behind a pig and some toys, and then got the hell back on their boat. They were delighted when the natives approached and accepted the gifts. They were less delighted when the natives fired yet another shitstorm of arrows at them, hitting one member of their party in the leg.
Since then, a few hardy souls have kept trying to make friendly contact. One group even managed to land, get inland, and find a native village--but it was completely deserted. Wisely, they hightailed it back to their boat before the clock struck arrowing time. In 1991, some anthropologists managed to make friendly, non-arrow-related contact and it seemed like the civilized world could finally set foot on the world's last unexplored land. Then, bizarrely, the Indian government made it illegal for anybody to visit the island. Nobody knows exactly why, but the Coast Guard is now arresting people who get too close.
So, to summarize, here's everything mankind knows about North Sentinel Island:
3. Mysteriously deserted village.
4. Indian government engaged in massive cover-up of ancient mystical source of life.
5. Did we mention the arrows?
OK, so we're extrapolating a little bit on number four. We can't prove that North Sentinel Island is the home of a mysteriously four-toed foot, a smoke monster and a frozen donkey wheel. But you can't prove it's not. So we choose to believe that the North Sentinel Islanders are hiding something awesome, which will only be revealed in reality's shocking two-part series finale.
But if it turns out that reality doesn't have a cool end-game in mind and has just been making it all up as it goes along, we are going to be pissed.
Jacob Sager Weinstein is the co-author of the Government Manual for New Wizards, the Government Manual for New Pirates and The Government Manual for New Superheroes. You can buy them here.
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