Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 21


Now We Are Twenty-One

    He made sure to use this to his advantage.  The doctors kept sending him on trips as they sought confirmation that what appeared to be happening was real, making sure to closely monitor his bodily functions and brainwave patterns at all times.  Older me would make his trips and do what they wanted him to do, but he would also make secret side trips on his own after discovering as I had that he could transport himself into any memory without having to return to the present between trips.  So he’d go back and persuade himself to graffiti a wall or bury a silver dollar under the corner of a building to be retrieved in the future, then blink off the grid for a more altruistic mission.

    Although it would have been easier to manipulate his own life, the other me didn’t know how long he could keep up these side travels without tipping his hand.  He decided that his first mission would be to help improve the life of his sister.  This would be more of a challenge for him, a chess game to maneuver our past self in subtle enough ways to enable change without making it obvious.

    His sister had lived a fine enough life without his adjustments.  Principal of a prestigious private high school, she cared deeply for the children who were under her charge and served as an inspiration to thousands.  It was the best thirty years of her life.  But something was missing.  She never found that special someone to share it all with.  Never got to fall in love.  That’s what he wanted to change.  To make her life that much better.  To give her that idealized missing puzzle piece behind the couch to make her sky complete.

    He didn’t really have strict criteria to go by, simply wanting a nice guy who would take care of her.  Oddly enough, his working theory at the time was the complete opposite of my manifesto against “settling down.”  He felt that any person could fall in love with any other person given the right circumstances.  His job was to enable those circumstances.  Correct to a degree, but for a lot of the wrong reasons as I’ve indicated previously. 

    For months he used his side trips to observe potential candidates.  He didn’t want to set her up with one of his friends, so he focused on acquaintances and others separated by a few degrees.  The rotating cast of characters that would play cards at my sister’s apartment rotated for a reason, as older me would find himself in my head encouraging me to invite new players on a whim.  The more my circle expanded, the more likely he was to find the connection that would lead to a suitable match.  Eventually he settled on Nelson, a fairly successful guy who seemed nice enough, didn’t date a lot, and was very polite to everyone he met.  On the surface he appeared to be a man my sister could thrive with, making both of them so much better just for knowing each other.

    The next part of the plan was to save our sister some pain by steering her away from beaus who would break her heart.  After that, he slowly allowed her to hang out with some of his friends here and there, filling her free time and keeping her on their radar.  Finally came the Hearts tournament where he was able to forge her first meeting with Nelson innocently enough, although he had to forego my fling with the roommate to facilitate this.  He figured it was a small price to pay.   All that was left was to maneuver me into making a few cryptic mentions to friends later on to help kindle the courtship along. 

    He discovered the wedding announcement on a later memory trip and was proud of himself for a job well done, completely oblivious to the horror that had followed since it wasn’t actually a part of his own memory.  He saw no need to follow up further, as this was all new to him and he didn’t fully understand the dangers of futzing around in time.  Instead he basked in the afterglow of his good deed and decided that next he would do the same for himself.

    My anxiety caused me to interrupt again around this point.

    “So you’re saying that I caused all of this?”

    “Not so much you.  I caused this,” he said with a frown.  “We’ll get to you.  Let me finish.”

    On his next set of trips he worked to clean up his own love life.  The redheaded girl was his first wife, but it ended in an ugly divorce that left him penniless and indirectly forced him to sell his body to this experiment.  But since she was a sexual dynamo, he saw no point in losing her memory completely.  He wanted to keep the fling alive, but accelerate it into a series of booty calls rather than a full on relationship.  So he went back to that day at the bar and turned it on strong.  Too strong, and she was gone. 

    I wondered why eliminating their relationship wouldn’t eliminate his joining the time travel experiment, but decided it was a stupid question and held my tongue.  Instead I hurried him along.

    “I know this part.  I was there.  I saw you.”

    “You saw me?” he asked in confusion.  “You couldn’t have been there.  We can’t go to the same time twice.”

    “Well, we did.  I didn’t realize it was you at the time, but now I’m sure it was.  In the bathroom and then outside.  You wouldn’t cooperate because you thought I was one of them.  We hadn’t met yet.  Or at least you hadn’t met me.”

    Thinking back, his babbling from outside the bar made more sense now.  “I refuse to undo what I’ve already done.”

    This revelation was of great interest to him.

    “I guess that means,” he started, “that travel in the head and in full body must be different enough to allow some overlap to occur.”

    “You really don’t remember meeting me?”

    “I wouldn’t, since you weren’t there when I was there.  But now there should be another version of us out there that will remember his meeting with you.  I’d go back and check, but your being there...”

    “Blocks you from being there.  I know.”

    He smiled.  “You’re learning.  Now, let me finish.”

    Comfortable with the lack of obvious side effects, the head doctor had become a subject in the experiment and now fully believed in what was happening.  The new goal of the project was to allow an individual to take complete control over their past body.  Not just timely persuasions as they had come to be called, but full conscious control of all functions and surroundings.  Essentially the same idea as Project Quantum Leap, which always intended for Sam to occupy the body of his younger self until the experiment went “a little ca-ca.”

    “This real version went a little ca-ca as well,” said older me.  “They never could find a way to get full control of the body, at least not how they intended.”

    “But when I saw you, you were in full control of the body.  It wasn’t just persuasion.  You were piss drunk and fully aware of your actions.  You kept babbling on about refusing to undo what you had already done.”

    He pondered this a moment.  “Must have been the alcohol.  Body goes on autopilot, not expecting to have a designated driver ready to take over.  I never thought of it before, but most of my successful persuasions always involved a slightly altered mind in some form or another.  So theoretically a full fledged bender could allow for full control.”  He smiled a wide, thoughtful grin.  “Never thought our misspent youth would pay off so well, eh?”

    After the incident at the dive bar he tried to revisit other past relationships, but never found the harmonious balance needed to get it right.  He’d either move too fast or too slow, ending each one in disaster.  Some old relationships he couldn’t get back to at all.  At first this seemed odd, but he theorized that losing some girls from his life had a domino effect that eliminated others.  To make matters worse, since whatever was learned in each relationship was now erased, each subsequent girlfriend was essentially the first.  Since we all know it’s one in a million that your first real girlfriend is your last, my love life was left in shambles and older me was none the wiser.  He actually thought he was helping me. 

    “At least now I know why my love life has always sucked.  It actually hasn’t, just my version of it.”

    He ignored my outburst, turning to a more somber memory. 

    “I slipped away during some family vacation memory the doctors had sent me to, trying instead to head off a particularly messy date where I didn’t realize it was the girl’s birthday.  I tried to blink into an end of summer family barbecue as my starting point, but instead of the goofy fun I remembered I found myself in the middle of a more serious gathering.  It was a wake.  Her wake.”

    He didn’t need to clarify his pronoun.

    “At first I didn’t realize what the problem was.  I knew my changes had to have played a part, but had no idea which change could end like this.  Then I noticed the way everyone was avoiding eye contact with Nelson, and it suddenly hit me how grave of a mistake I had made.”

    A heavy silence filled the room.  I had nothing to contribute, so I gave him time to let the moment pass before resuming his tale.