Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 22


22 Days

Confined again, I pondered what had just happened.  This newest strategy had fallen into my lap, as the overheard conversation probably couldn’t have gone better if I had planned it.  I wasn’t sure if I could get Nelson to take the full blame, but I was sure he’d get his fair share when they tried to force information out of him.

    The next question on my mind involved the doctor’s description of how I was talking to myself.  It certainly sounded like somebody who was wise to what was going on and not just starting to uncover the secrets of time travel.  Was I overthinking this since I really wanted to believe that he could get me out of here?  Older me had said this was the place that made him a slave to their studies, but he also said it wasn’t supposed to have started yet.  Did I do something to start it early?  And if I had, was it evolving fast enough for the result I so urgently needed?

    After a couple of hours the door opened and the two thugs pushed Nelson into the room.  It was the moment I’d been both waiting for and dreading for much of my adult life.  I had often wondered what I would do if I were ever alone in a room with him.  The guy who killed my sister.  Who tore my family apart.  Who ended lifelong friendships.  Who figuratively smothered my sister to death, and was now doing the same to my brother.  Who didn’t even have a clue as to the pain he had already caused, and was so oblivious he owed no allegiance to the facts of the situation.

    “Why don’t you like me?” he had asked me once upon a time.

    Interesting question.  Let me count the ways.

    Hate is a strange emotion.  The polar opposite of love.  Or is it the same emotion with a different weight?  Equally difficult to define, yet far more widespread.  It’s probably the only emotion that everyone experiences.  Not everyone finds true love, but we all find an archrival to despise.  Why?  Maybe because it’s so often one way and without reason.  Unlike love, you never really hear of someone having unrequited hate for another.  Just the act of letting someone know you hate them makes them hate you back.  That’s quite different than love, where the act of professing love or even like for someone more often than not leaves you feeling shunned and falsified if the feeling isn’t mutual.  The pain of rejection may even turn the emotional tides from end to end, causing love to morph into hate, confusion, or suffering.

    Love is a mystery, sometimes better off as a secret.  Hatred is the other way around.  You’ll tell anyone who will listen about your enemies, but it’s only your closest confidants who know the identity of your current crush.

    People love to hate, and sometimes get so caught up in hatred that they can’t even pinpoint the cause of it.  Not so much hate at first sight, but certainly hate at first conversation.  A person who just rubs you the wrong way.  Who spews negativity all the livelong day.  Who picks fights just for the sake of it, thinking they’re a Mr. Knowitall but not really knowing enough to formulate an intelligent argument. 

    We all know the type of person we hate.  The schoolyard bully.  The strict teacher.  The mid-level manager with a top-level ego.  The clueless CEO who can’t take constructive criticism.  The next lover taken by your ex.  The guy who drives your sister to suicide by putting a metaphorical full nelson on her.

    I always felt a certain sense of pride in myself for giving people second chances and not heavily weighing first impressions, but it was tough with Nelson.  As I said before he’s not necessarily a bad guy, but he certainly wasn’t a good guy.  He was just sort of there, taking up space in a world full of heroes and villains.  Try as I might, I could not remember one redeeming thing Nelson had ever done for anyone, nor could I recall anything particularly terrible aside from the one event that his personality helped to fuel.  That was bad enough for me.  Hate can be just as irrational as love in some cases.  It’s always contrived and delusional to a degree.  But when the moment of opportunity presented itself in the here and now, I couldn’t do much more than have those thoughts and glare at him red-faced.

    “What are you doing here?” spat Nelson upon entering the room.

    I knew we were being watched, so I tried my very best to keep my emotions in check as I turned to my nemesis and set my vengeance into motion.

    “Me?  You know damn well what I’m doing here.  You sent me undercover to steal a syringe for you.”

    “Syringe?  What are you talking about?”  He looked scared, and I loved it.

    “They heard me on the phone with you planning my escape.  I confessed and told them where to find you.  If you don’t tell them what they want to know they’ll kill you.  They might kill us both.”

    Nelson started to cry.  “I don’t know anything.  I don’t want to die.  I don’t deserve this.”

    “Neither did she!” I roared back.

    The doctor had heard enough.  His thugs returned to collect Nelson, who continued to rant and rave and scream and cry as they dragged him away.  A success of sorts for me I suppose, but did it really matter?  This wasn’t the same Nelson I hated.  Well, it was, but many of the reasons were now moot.  The victory would be pyrrhic at best, and essentially (not to mention hopefully) undone presuming we could get this situation resolved.  Part of me felt almost guilty for helping to inflict whatever was about to be inflicted on him.  Then again, the other part of me was overjoyed.  Revenge is sweet, and so are you.

    Before I could finish analyzing my feelings the doctor entered to talk to me.

    “I took care of your problem.  Now will you help me with mine?” he asked.

    “I still have no idea what you are talking about.”

    “Look, you wanted us to pick up that guy, and we did.  You never called him though.  Cellular phones don’t work in this building.”

    Damn.  He definitely wasn’t as dumb as he looked.

    The doctor continued.  “As I told you before, you don’t act like a crazy man.  Based on observing you in that room and your scores on our tests, I have reason to believe that you are the one we’ve been looking for.  The one I’ve been looking for.”

    Gracious as I was for his help with Nelson, I still refused to give in.  “Once again, I have no idea...”

    A chair screeched as the doctor dragged it across the room in aggravation.  He paused for a moment, then regained his composure and thoughtfully sat down.  “I know you will be a time traveler in the future.  I know this because I share the same fate.”

    He went on to describe the origins of the time travel project to me as best he could.  His older self had come back to him much in the same way I had visited my younger selves.  After a similarly awkward start, he convinced himself to rent space at this hospital and start a study.  He told him what ads to run, what tests to administer, and what to generally look for in subjects.  Everything except for what made time travel possible.

    “Is he here now?  Can I meet him?” I asked quietly.

    “He hasn’t been around for a while.  But even if he was, you wouldn’t know.  Only I could see him.  But you already know that, don’t you?”

    “Why wouldn’t he tell you everything?” I asked, ignoring the question.  “I mean, why start early if you’re not going to start early?”

    The older doctor was very worried about paradox, especially cause and effect.  He wasn’t willing to take the same risks that my older self did in creating new cause and effect pairs.  He knew that telling himself outright how to create time travel would run the possibility of a paradoxical loop where time travel is created because time travel is created.  That defied his logic, and thus was an unacceptable risk. 

    Instead he encouraged himself to get an earlier start, making an appearance to use his past self as an insurance policy against future travelers in the study manipulating the past for their own benefit.  He gave himself a list of names to monitor the activities of, plus general quirks to look for in personalities.  The key indicators included a certain knowledge of future events and constant conversation with ones self.  Seems the best defense against self-interaction was self-interaction.

    He taught himself to look for the signs, and if anyone matched the profile he should detain them and study them.  Studying them would ensure the future discovery of time travel, while detaining them would ensure that any changes they may later invoke could be corrected or avoided in the future.

    “Theoretically,” I chimed in.

    “Yes, of course it’s theoretical.  But adhering strictly to the theory is the only way to ensure survival.”

    “What do you want from me?”

    “He needs to know what your other self had you change so we can make sure to fix it when fixing becomes possible.  I need you to use your future self’s knowledge to make the machine work for me.”