What I'm working on right now is a sort of surreal sci-fi novella. A lot of unusual things going on in this story, so it could take a tl;dr-inducing number of words to explain: The main story follows two people, Emo(male) and Ash(female). They are some of the last known human survivors inside of a gigantic and mysterious machine (think Elephant's Dream if you've seen it; yes that's where Emo's name comes from). This machine, unknown to them, is a kind of cosmic Noah's Ark; it has flown through the galaxy picking up alien races (mostly non-intelligent), and when the story takes place the machine is in a rapid orbit of two colliding superstrings, going back in time to before life populated the galaxy, so that it can go back to each of the dead planets and repopulate them. (Yes you got that right, Life in the universe isn't created by god or a random chemical reaction, it's self-causal!) That's about where the sci-fi aspect ends. Surrealism begins here: All events in the story have a direct correspondence to human history happening at the same time as the event in the story, and because the machine is moving into the past, Emo and Ash play out human history backwards. I can understand how the decision to do this could appear arbitrary, but i think I can use it to raise all sorts of trippy, solipsistic questions that I don't feel like explaining here. Their enviornment (the machine) changes as human society changes- ie as population grows E&A enter larger chambers of the machine, during periods of war the machine becomes more violent, when they pass into the pre-internet era, the world gets darker, etc. Emo and Ash themselves represent certain aspects of society, which they play out accordingly. They are constantly looking for the center of the machine that will explain what it is and what they are doing in it (and thus by metaphor searching for a meaning in human existence, if this sounds pretentious I don't care). There are other connections between the machine and the world, but they are too numerous/minor to list here. Here's the problem: I want Emo and Ash to explore human history from its end to its beginning. Since human history has not yet ended, the story needs to begin in the future, where the reader hardly has a lot of context for what's going on with earth. To highlight the parallels between earth and machine, I want to intersperse the primary text with stories from corresponding points in history. My question is how. My first idea was to use (fictional) primary documents from the era I was referring to, such as a transcript of an interrogation of a prisoner in the future, or the diary of a soldier in WWII. This works great until somewhere around 1000 A.D, when English deviates so much from its modern roots it stops being readable. It also constrains my possible subjects to those related to English-speakers. My second Idea was to do the obvious and just tell the earth bits outright like in a normal short story. I'm not sure why but this method just seems completely uninspired. And so I come here, asking you to offer up your creative powers. What would you suggest I do with the earth timeline?