Almost everyone who has lived, or once been a tourist, in Cleveland, Ohio, has probably visited the West Side Market, an old-fashioned marketplace of generations-old stands selling fresh produce, meat, and spices. Do you ever wonder how the West Side Market was founded, or how the original West Side Market still operates? Officially, the market opened in 1840. A long time ago, but nothing compared to when it truly started.
I’ll preface this by saying that time travel is a very real thing, and a very old practice. It takes courage. You see, time travel helps one to understand things about the world, and themselves, that most people never experience. In short, learning when you will die is a harrowing experience, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone who wants a joyous, spontaneous life. However, through time, some in search of profit have taken that risk, and I suppose you could say that they’ve been rewarded.
The real West Side Market dates back, ironically, to the Middle East around the founding of the Ottoman Empire, about 1300. It was around this time that time travel was first recorded, but between the Arabs and Greeks and their requisite discoveries, this one slipped under the rug for reason that will soon seem obvious. Essentially, many different peoples discovered time travel around a similar time, and it only makes sense that they would eventually meet each other in their travels, which they did. Time travelers have, for some reason, always been enterprising in soul, and quickly found a way to profit from this discovery, though perhaps, not in the way one might imagine.
Time is a funny thing. Simply put, time doesn’t move, yet it does. I suppose you could say that every moment in time exists on its own dimensional plane. The year 1459, for example, still exists, and is still happening. The tricky part, for one so intrepid, is getting there. Or, say you are there, or a short, lacking Spartan, or a peasant during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, you’d want out. Trust me. These events are technically still happening. Don’t try to make perfect sense of this, you will fail. Just listen to me on this one. I have absolutely no reason to lie to you.
Essentially, the time travelers ended up coming together around 1595, in what is now Cleveland, Ohio, USA. It could have been anywhere, really, but exploring a relatively new land without malaric sea voyages made the trip easier for the few in the know. Remember when I said “enterprising?” Indeed, each traveler traveled with the absolute best wares of his homeland. Arabs came draped in fine robes, Greeks with delightful cuisine unheard of in most of the world. I suppose you can see where this is going.
As more generations discovered time travel on their own, many wound up in Cleveland. We are still unsure as to how this became such a hot spot, but it did. So many, in fact, that it seemed logical to open a marketplace which still operates today, but this is not the West Side market. This is under it.
At the market, past the Slovak family selling sausage and the South American woman with her cart of mangos and cactus fruit, one will find a door. It looks like any other, with “Emergency Exit” markings. However, should there be some sort of emergency, this door will not budge. Time travelers, as one might guess, are smart people, the kind of smart people who realize that access to such…technology…would be a terrible thing for the mass public. The vast majority of people aren’t mentally built to handle this. However, for a single soul aware of what they are undertaking, the door won’t be an issue. However, you’ve a long walk ahead. Walking down a spiral metal staircase, one can see Cleveland’s most ancient sewers, a sight in itself for those interested in urban history. However, you must continue to walk until you feel heat. Heat can travel through time, just as any matter can. You’re close. You will continue down until above you is nothing but a black void. Around this time, a miracle happens. A sun rises in the west of your point of view. Astonishing, right? You’ll watch the sun rise into what becomes a blue sky above you. Now, it will be extraordinarily hot for one accustomed to Cleveland’s impressively abnormal weather. We’re talking close to 115 degrees. As the sun rises and light begins to shed on your surroundings, you’ll notice that you are now in the desert, with vast open, lifeless land around you, except in front of you, where there is now a bustling street. Don’t be alarmed, but you will see things that cannot be. What you have the potential to see can defy even the most basic human reasoning. A man in Victorian clothing passing by a well-dressed American, circa 1900, who may be in line next to a Chinese woman in traditional Han garb from thousands of years ago. This may very well be what you see. Don’t worry, your eyes aren’t tricking you, time is.
These are all people who have discovered the gift. You may also see some who are not aware, or do not understand what they have discovered. Should you see a person in utter panic, this is likely the case. The ones who panic are more modern. It may be difficult, but we must remember that, before the technological boom of the early 20th century, humanity openly accepted that it did not have all of the answers. Anything was indeed possible, and possibilities were permanently endless. To these people, aliens could be living on other planets, time travel could exist, and humans could more easily accept that the universe was simply teaching them something new.
Anyway, I’ll get to what is going on in this place. This is where the time travelers meet. The dusty desert path, about the length of a football field, and as wide as a four-lane road, is lined with huts, which are home to the vendors, the important part. These vendors ply the wares of their homeland, and hometime. One can find and purchase cheeses directly from 1850 Italy, or carpets and textiles from ancient Persia. If something in history is today coveted, one can likely find it here, with the exception of extraordinarily rare things, like Gutenberg Bibles, which people aren’t particularly eager to let go of in any time. You can, however, find the most popular exports from just about anywhere and any period in time, and purchase them. You’ll have no issue getting these home; just prepare a story for how you managed to acquire the best olive oil and rugs the world has ever known.
You pay with cash, whatever currency is your own, no surprises, except for the fact that most modern-day currency is nearly worthless to these vendors. In all honesty, you are better off going prepared with things like gold dust or silver, if possible. These have been a universal currency for, well, a little while.
The vendors you meet are just like you, human, albeit wildly intelligent by our standards. If one says he is 38 years old, he is. He is 38 years old in his home time, and that doesn’t change now. However, you may notice a drained look in his eye. This is where this fantastical revelation takes a dark turn.
These vendors don’t have anyone. Take a second and imagine being wholly alone, not only today, but in 1000 years. Time travelers become obsessed. How could they not? Such a life doesn’t lend itself to having a family, friends, or any sort of meaningful connection to another living being. Ever. Time still passes in your home time should you advance 300 years into the future. These people age like we do, though access to more modern medicine by these time travelers is how life expectancy has always slowly increased. After a certain point in time, technological advances of all sorts weren’t “discovered” as much as they were “purchased.”
These are people who have given up the only life allotted to them to pursue what you now see in front of you. Regardless of time travel, selling rugs or fine pottery does little to fill the void of guaranteed eternal loneliness. Meeting people from the future is fantastic, but if people in your home time and land don’t care to understand you, why would a foreigner hundreds of years advanced from you (who often doesn’t speak your language) care to? It’s sad, but true. In addition, humans are already ungrateful, and this has evolved through the years as well. A Sumerian who was thought to be quite ungrateful and rude in his time would be almost comically gracious by our standards today. Likewise, a 2014 American…the vendors dread seeing them. It’s not like an ancient Egyptian can miss the wide-eyed, well, asshole, coming his way. Today, we are positively rude compared to older peoples, and vendors have given up their trade after meeting a few from modern days and later.
This is the secret of the West Side market, the first market in the Western side of the world, and it will likely be the last one, but no one is certain on that. The time travelers are smart people, but so far, nobody has discovered the end of time. That we know of.