Life In The Paradox: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

There I was waiting. Not me me, of course, but still me. A younger me. I’m the older me. I think I was fulfilling a paradox. For the time machine to work, I had to return to the past to give myself the information to enable me to complete the time machine so one day I had to return to…well, you get the drift. I have no idea how many times I must have completed the same mission. I might be fulfilling events but I kept changing my habits just in case I hadn’t thought of it before. I even tried to vary the time I left to the time I arrived but felt that everything played out the same way going against my instinct. Free will was limited.

Not knowing what I did to reach my own future, I had no idea how much I saw the same things. No memory of that. I know I realised I would be living a paradox so I looked at everything related to time travel in case I spotted something that would give me a clue to beating the loop. Yet here I was again. I think it was again. No wonder time travel never took off. No one around to do it. Except me and me. Younger and older. The older me the only time traveller. The younger me had yet to do that. Separate enough so we weren’t sharing the same atoms, assuming everything changed every seven years.

Finding something radically different to whatever I might have tried before meant out-thinking myself. What wouldn’t or might I have tried? What if I gave the information to someone else? That would get me out of the loop. Thing is, my life was pretty good for some thirty years. It was when I met my wife and we had children. That could be wiped out or I could find them again in the natural progression of time. They weren’t involved in my time machine. As I observed over the years, I had a lot of good luck. It was a charmed life. Was I willing to change that? Did I try to change that?

If I gave the full information to someone else, would the information still get into my hands? In the same vicinity, the odds were still be with me. I was the only time traveller after all. After all, my interest back then…now…would investigate any time machine technology that I could add to my own. That didn’t seem to be a good option. Whatever it was had to be around me coming up with a time machine or not. It had taken twenty-five years to sort out the final parts of the equation. I wouldn’t have believed the answers if I hadn’t arrived to explain to myself that it would work.

Of course I knew that becoming a time paradox was a possibility when I started work on my time machine. Some of the technology clearly didn’t exist when I started putting my theories into physical technology. It stood to reason that eventually if I continued to work on it that I would finally make a time machine that worked. The only problem was there was a limit where I could go. The span of when I first thought of the device to my future…present…a span of 30 years. I couldn’t puzzle out why I couldn’t go into the future. I mean, I must have refined the time machine in the future, mustn’t I?

Then it dawned on me that I might not exist in the future. I must have made a mistake with it somewhere. I studied the theories. Refined the technology until I was satisfied that I would be able to give my younger self the right direction so I could exceed my 30 year present and then came back. It wasn’t that I didn’t know I would come back and meet my earlier self. He was there in the past, waiting for me to come back. I knew it had to happen no matter what. Time paradoxes are crazy when you tried to think about them and second-guess what you would do if you thought you were in one.

It was then that I realised that I might have done this before. Again and again and I was probably stuck in a paradox that I couldn’t break. If I had, I wouldn’t be here. So had to keep trying until I finally did something different that might break the paradox and give me expanded time travel. Something radical was needed.

I looked at the younger me. He…I sat for long periods staring into the pond. Thinking…that’s all I ever did back then. The formulas I had in a notebook in my coat pocket. The gap in the information was what I gave myself. I couldn’t give him every last detail. There were some things he…I had to figure out over the next twenty-five years. To do it too quickly would mean a frustrating wait for technology to catch up and he…I could go down the wrong paths looking for short-cuts. I knew my younger self only too well.

Still, I had a radical solution. It would mean no time machine…no time traveller…no me. Ultimately, I would lose my family but with no knowledge of what would happen after my thirty years in the future, I had no idea what would happen next.

I pulled the gun from its holster. I wasn’t planning to kill myself. A wound would be enough. It would make me re-consider my life and maybe remove the notion of a time machine to a different pursuit. I wasn’t unintelligent. Just need something a little more life-changing. This was the most radical thing I could think of. After all, shooting myself had to be way off the track of whatever I could do. Who in their right minds would go into the past and kill yourself. Time travel fantasists only thought of killing their grandfather.

‘Hello John…I have the solution for your equations…’

My younger self turned, looking shocked seeing himself as an older person. Just as I remembered I would be. How often would you meet older yourself? I didn’t know how many times but for him, my younger self, this had to look like the first time. This was temporal history.

Then I looked down. He…I was also armed. I didn’t remember doing that. Was he prepared to change history as well?

We both fired. His aim was better. He only had to fire up at me. It took longer to point down. I looked down at the chest wound before looking at he…I. My bullet only grazed his head as he fell back, narrowly missing the pond as he crashed to the ground. Would he…I remember that?

I fell to the ground, too. I was bleeding to death and the one person who could help me…my younger me was out cold to the world. My blood was covering my notes. They would be indecipherable. Had I broken the paradox? Only time, I wish I could chuckle at that. Time would tell.

As I slowly lost consciousness, my younger self groaned and looked up. There was surprise on his face. I was close enough to see my reflection in his glasses. As I was dying I was fading away. There would be no trace of me or my younger self committing murder. I could only wonder at what would happen twenty-five years from now. Would he remember what I’d done. Even thirty years from now. Would I come back and repeat this all over…again.




© GF Willmetts 2018

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