“You know the outcome we want,” they told me. “Work out where that could happen.”
So I sat down at my desk and worked backwards from the outcome they want to figure out why it might happen. That led me backwards through speculative past parallel history until I reached a point in real history. Then I typed it all up, corrected the spelling errors and handed it in. After that I went back to my desk, sat down, neatly arranged my floral skirts and read Hannibal.
“We need this to happen,” they told me. “Plot out how this will work.”
I did what I always do when they say that, I sat down with a pen and paper and scribbled my way back through effects to get the causes, worked out all the back stories and finally found a point where my invention and history matched. Then I put into the computer, ran a spell check over it and submitted it. After that I got myself another coffee, sat at my desk in my pencil-skirt suit and read Tacitus.
The great lords came for me at midmorning as I worked in my family’s fields, telling stories to myself as I did so. Too many stories in my head, that’s why I have no husband – no man wants a wife with as many strange things in her head as I have. They surrounded me on horseback, swords drawn and looking outwards, while one of them dismounted and grabbed me, turning my head by the chin to get a good look at me.
“This is her,” he announced to the others.
“Finally!” That was one of the others. “Pass her up and we’ll get out of here. Looks like the farmers are getting restless. I heard shouting as I was bundled up in front of one of the great lords but it soon passed into the distance as they galloped off with me.
Once they had me in their stronghold I was bustled into a room with a table, a chair, vellum and writing implements, like the ones the priest uses for the parish registers. “We need things to change,” they told me and then they told me how they wanted things to be.
I looked at them blankly and asked, “What am I supposed to do?”
“Work out how the world needs to be to make that happen and write it down for us,” one of them explained.
I protested, “My lord, I can’t read or write! I’m a peasant farm girl!”
“Damnation,” one of them swore. “One of us will have to scribe for her.” So I went through the stories in my head, found the ones they needed and a great lord wrote them down for me.
I woke in my husband’s arms and I remembered everything, all the past versions of my life. He was awake already and I saw from his eyes that he remembered everything too. I thought through the memories of this version and I said, “This seems like a good life, my lord General, perhaps we could just live this one out?”
“I think madam wife, even though this is not what we asked you for, there is much to be said for that,” and then he kissed me.