After evidently materializing on the Marketplace Pedestrian Mall in 2013 Salem, perplexed rube James Henderson (1871-1942), of Jasper County, Illinois, blamed his unusual circumstance on long-time nemesis Clovis Faircloth (1872-1922).
“Yup, I reckon this is Clovis’ doin’. He must’ve knocked me out with some sort of potion, or maybe the whiskey. From there, I figure he shangai-ed me off to wherever I am, this must be Saint Louie or Chicagy, I ‘spose”, Henderson remarked to representatives of the Marshall G. Mainfield State Mental Hospital.
“He’s been tryin’ to make time with Susie (Thornton, née Robinson, 1873-1894), though ever’one for miles around knows I’ve been a-courtin’ her and was fixin’ to ask her pa fer her hand, just soon as I can git up my courage”, Henderson continued. “That’s prolly what-for he done did this”.
After an evaluation by mental health professionals, textile experts, and historians specializing in southwestern Illinois history, authorities were at a loss to explain the apparent transcendence of the fourth dimension.
“Often times, we see patients who present elaborate backstories to explain their reality, but we are able to break through the fantasy rather easily by engaging them”, explained Dr. Shirley Mahoney, an attending psychiatrist at Mainfield Hospital.
“Inevitably, as we delve into the details of their “lives”, their delusion falls apart, often unmasking a heartbreaking personal tragedy that triggered the incident. Mr. Henderson is either the most powerful, diabolical individual I’ve ever encountered, or he is a hapless victim, circa 1890, of the whims of the universe. Based on everyone’s feedback, I’m leaning towards the latter.”
While he is officially under observation for 72 hours, officials were unsure of how to manage Henderson’s predicament, should he remain present in 2013 beyond the expiration of observation period. “He is utterly incapable of functioning on his own, not without a crash course in the basics of modern society”, commented Salem police chief Ed Montague. “He’s really a pleasant, easy-going fellow, maybe Louise and I will take him in to help him get oriented. It’s truly uncharted territory”.
For his part, Henderson has been relatively calm about his situation, with his primary concern being his availability to assist with the upcoming harvest, and Faircloth’s intentions with regards to Mrs. Thornton, who reportedly will die during childbirth in 1894.
Henderson’s remarkable circumstance has launched widespread discussion of the problem of causality, or the alteration of the past or future due to the actions of time-travelers. Long the province of science-fiction, the issue has ignited a spirited debate in the world of academia.
“For me, the question is, and always has been, how do we know if there are unintended consequences?”, commented Dr. Kevin Bernard, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Salem College. “How indeed…?”, Bernard asked rhetorically, his voice trailing off, as he thoughtfully scratched his carapace, alternately with his dorsal and anterior tentacles.