In the future, time travel is possible, but time travelers can't interact with the past, only observe it. While most time travelers watch historical events, the one in this heartbreaking story finds himself compelled to watch a girl who is suffering from something that no longer exists in his time: terminal illness.
Winston Roundtree's webcomic Subnormality! often features length dialogues between people trying to figure out their place in the world. But his latest story, Latent Image, is a soliloquy, one about illness and helplessness and the significance of bearing witness to another human being's life. While other time travelers watch famous battles or sporting events, this one time traveler keeps finding himself outside the hospital room of a young woman who is very ill.
Persistant and terminal illness is something that doesn't exist in the time traveler's era, but neither does the ritual of friends and family coming to visit, nor the seemingly contradictory emotions of a person who calls herself lucky even as she's too frail to get out of bed. The time traveler is a ghost who haunts her hallway, but he feels haunted by her, unable to stray from her for too long, even though he can't begin to explain his reasons to his fellow travelers.
But while the time traveler is bearing witness to the girl's last few years of life, we are bearing witness only to his vigil as he struggles to understand what even people in our own era are not. Because we are that time traveler and we, too, fail to comprehend the unfairness of the world and the bright sparks that glow despite that that unfairness. As we are taken through Roundtree's lyrical visual poem, however, it becomes clear that understanding the world is less important than the struggle to understand the world and the willingness to sit and watch and remember the people in it.
Latent Image [Virus Comix]