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A Pocketful Of Time: a short story, by GF Willmetts.

March 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

I never totally believed the letter when it was delivered. The device yes. An inventive gadget that could latch onto neutrinos and create a field that would make time travel possible. I tried it out and it worked. It could only let me put a hand into the future, grope around enough to pull back some odd things, even if it looked like I had my hand in a rubbish tip. A coke bottle top that definitely didn’t belong to our time among them.

Even so, it revealed enough evidence that I was dipping into things from the future. I decided not to give the device a precise name although wondered if I could sell them the design. All it took was for me to say a time-based device in passing to someone and I’d either have people thinking I’m crazy or want a demonstration and where would that lead. Time travel or time plucking as I liked to call it was not for the nation.

The code in the letter took a lot longer and it took me several weeks to translate. The fact that it was coded meant it has to be important but not yet. Couldn’t my benefactor trust me not to be impatient? Resisting giving the discovery to the world was largely because I couldn’t duplicate it and I could see any government letting me keep it anyway. It also allowed me time to practice with the device which I think was also the point.

Anyway, it turned out to be co-ordinates and a destination and was disappointed that there was nothing there. It was for a specific date which meant all my time unravelling it probably prevented me going stir-crazy waiting for the right time. A smart cookie in the future whoever he was. It meant there was a lot more to the co-ordinates than I thought, matching current and wherever in the future I was dipping.

I set the device up and very cautiously put my gloved hand through to see what I could find this time. There were some dangers in doing this had I learnt over the weeks moving from place to place. It was often better not to bring any infectious soil back because as it was in the same place as its earlier counter-part, you had a paradox which explosive intensity. What had happened in the future? This was less likely to happen with an object from a different place. Was my benefactor going to realise this? Was there another destination or a package waiting for me? A small parcel this time. I was expected and felt rather smug that I had worked it out. Not too smug to realise that someone smarter than me was manipulating me.

Careful examination revealed it to be several small parts and several notes for construction. It turns out to be an elaborate key. I had a sliver of the paper carbon dated and it was from an earlier time. My benefactor was an earlier time or he had reached pulled paper from the past to write on. At least he was aware of not creating a paradox. That was the problem with any time machine. Destroying something from the past would ensure its future counterpart wouldn’t be there to read. Obviously that hadn’t happened or I wouldn’t be reading what is before me.

This was more a supplement to the main device that allowed a larger hole. I always wondered what that slot was for. Instead of sticking a hand through, I could nearly poke my head through. Of course, I could poke a mini-cam in before and tried it finding the future was pitch black. I doubt if poking my head through would show any different. The speed of light couldn’t be violated, even with a time portal. All it would mean was I could bring back something larger. My luck, a bottle next time.

That made me pause for thought. Why choose me? Did whoever it was think I was a fool? I pulled the key out. The hole through time stayed the same size. What should I do with it? The key’s done its job and make the hole a bit bigger but not by much really. No messages for a bigger hole yet. What was I supposed to do now? I dug around inside the hole. Maybe there were some instructions for another location?

Suddenly a gloved hand poked through from the other side, groping around and grabbed the key package and was gone. Well, I knew where it had gone. I think I’d nearly met me.

It was my own hand. I couldn’t mistake my own hand. Somehow I was in a time loop. Somehow I was in an itsy-bitsy-teeny time loop. Just enough to get me where I was today. Should I put my hand through and try to grab it back? I probably didn’t or I would have seen my second hand. I couldn’t have grabbed it back or I wouldn’t be here now. Whoever said that things weren’t pre-ordained had never seen it happen before.

I sat back and had a think. The time hole here was into my own past. It didn’t follow that it was the same anywhere else. It did indicate that it didn’t necessarily follow that the place in the future was the same as where I put my hand through. The hole might be bigger but that was it. I’d be crazy to reach too far in. I didn’t dare put my hand through at this point but then I didn’t anyway. Mostly because I knew I’d never see my hand going in the past.

Whatever I chose to do would already have happened in the future. Even a random choice wouldn’t really be random. Even the amount of time thinking here was probably already taken into account. I was now a fixture in the time stream.

I need to think here. I couldn’t have built the device, could I? So someone out there was its creator. So what was my purpose in all of this? Was I just accidentally dropped into it by virtue of things being set in time? Had its inventor made a slip up and died in its creation. No, you didn’t die. You just got lost in a time loop. Did I have the knowledge to break the loop? HOW?! I just had proof that things were ordained. What and how was I supposed to shake that? Was that what I was supposed to do? Keep trying until something worked. I hadn’t got that far yet.

What could I try that I wouldn’t try before? How could I anticipate myself? Maybe I’m thinking of this the wrong way. Just how did the device get into the past for me to pick up in the first place? But how did it get back into the past? Was my hand going to drop it and I wouldn’t see it appear? Maybe he didn’t time travel but dropped the first device parcel into a mailbox.

I closed the device down. Why not? If it wasn’t on then my groping hand or someone else’s couldn’t grab it from the future. It was still here until I did that and it I was clever, I would never open it again. Let time itself work out how to get around that.

Maybe in the future, I would even meet the device’s inventor or how else was I nominated to receive the device in the first place. Of course, I could be sending it back to myself but would I do so knowing that was as far as it could go? Sometimes time doesn’t give many options.

I’m going towards an uncertain future but, then, so is everyone else.

Of course, it was bound to happen eventually and I doubt if I could beat Schrödinger’s cat by using or not using the device. Was there a third option? I certainly couldn’t take it apart. You were expecting me to tempt fate? The only way to avoid being manipulated was not giving into temptation. Well, maybe one more time.

© GF Willmetts 2020

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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