Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 23


23:59 End Of The World

The doctors tried to revive Nelson, but he remained in his time travel induced coma.  They were able to find a minor heartbeat and had him on a respirator, but all felt it was just a major shock to his system from which he might never recover.  Although a few may have believed he had moved on to another place, not a single person suspected that this other place was not a where but a when.

    My father and I were placed in separate rooms for obvious reasons, but we still were able to keep in contact using my older self as our messenger.  Dad was trying to figure out what he’d tell Nelson’s Mom regarding her son’s mysterious disappearance, while I was being lectured by myself regarding the stupidity of my plan.

    “He’s not gone you know.  He’s back there, and he has foreknowledge.  I assure you no one won.”

    “What good is foreknowledge if you can’t act on it?”

    “As I’ve told you, we still don’t really know much about time travel.  What we do know is that intense emotional suggestions allow you to act as your own conscience.  Whenever he may be, there’s a chance that Nelson will find a way to gain control.  And when he does, he’ll be out to get you.”

    I had a point.  It brought me back to thinking of the concept of hatred again.  Maybe those times when you hate someone for no good reason had to do with time travel.  They burned you once in the future, your subconscious picks up on this, and mortal enemies are preborn.  Because you hate each other earlier you will screw each other over later in life.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    As I saw it, Nelson met the same fate as John Cusack at the end of Being John Malkovich when he’s trapped in his daughter’s head, always able to view the world around her but never able to do anything about it.  Simply along for the ride, good or bad, with no cognizant choice or free will.

    I remembered one of the rules I had tried to teach myself but still didn’t fully comprehend.  “If Nelson doesn’t find his way here again, won’t he undo putting himself in his head?”

    Older me thought for a moment before responding.  “It really depends on some of the unproven aspects of time traveling.  I see two possibilities.  My theory always assumed there was only one timeline, and you had to retain cause and effect pairs to prevent paradox.  If that theory is true, and Nelson finds a way to persuade himself to steer clear of here, it could cause a paradox so damning that I’m frightened to even consider it right now.”

    “And the other possibility?”

    “If our meddling hasn’t caused a paradox yet, it opens the possibility that we’re really dealing in alternate dimensions.  Paradox is impossible since both options are real.”

    “But you said we undid the paradox because you haven’t been all the way back yet.”

    “No.  I said we prevented the paradox, but that was...”

    He didn’t have to finish.  “I know.  Theoretical.”

    Older me didn’t smile this time.  “Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway.  Since mind travel is different and he’s just a passenger he will most likely keep reliving his fate, helpless to avoid it.  He may become an uber-Nelson of sorts, repeatedly nested inside himself like a matryoshka doll.  But he’ll retain the memory each time, so after a few rounds of built up frustration he’ll be so angry he might just harness enough emotion to lash out.”

    “That makes it all the more important for us to set things right again.  If Nelson is looking to get revenge via his retired musician stepfather and two stepbrothers, he won’t know to go looking for a random man with a son and a daughter.”  I took comfort in the fact that at least uber-Nelson would have no knowledge of my sister.

    “I suppose you have another plan,” older me observed.  “But they’ll never listen to you this time.”

    “Maybe not, but they’ll listen to someone if we really play ball.  I think it’s time for you to tell Dad everything.”

    “Everything?  But I haven’t even told you everything yet.”  With that he disappeared through the wall en route to Dad’s room, leaving the smile and nod to my imagination.  We grew up to be quite a mysterious son of a gun, hadn’t we?

    After a few hours my elder returned and gave me the rundown of his conversation with our father.  Dad was blown away by how terrible Nelson had been and wondered why he hadn’t tried to stop it.  He was glad that we had made all of the attempts to set things right, and felt guilty that he was to blame for the mess we were in by doubting the prophecy and getting back together with Nelson’s mother, albeit briefly. 

    He also wanted more of an explanation regarding his former life, the one where he never fulfilled his musical dreams and was a loving father to a son and daughter and stopped womanizing after a message from that special girl.  Older me was selective in what additional info he provided, since if we were to succeed Dad would have to relive that life again even though for him it would be just like starting over.

    Despite his curiosity and shock, my father did understand what we had to do to fix things.  He had to find a way to get hooked up to the machine and take control of his younger self.  His mission would be simple:  Just say no.

    The doctor had learned his lessons from my earlier (and future) stunts and kept both my father and myself under a much stricter watch.  During our waking hours it was too risky to use older me as our go between.  We were never left alone and prohibited from speaking unless spoken to.  At night we were able to pass messages using the false sleep and whisper technique I had used before, but after formulating our plan for if and when we got back on the machine there wasn’t much else to talk about.  We just had to bide our time and be model patient/prisoners.

For the next few weeks I was tasked with pinpointing the timeframes of the memory trips taken by other patients due to my knack for using pop culture and music as a means of estimation.  From this I was supposed to be able to show the doctor how to target the trips.  He didn’t know that the research wasn’t necessary, but my keeping busy seemed to be a good idea for now.  Music was universal and omnipresent.  As long as the trip was to a reasonably populated area I could usually get enough info to take an educated guess.  Oldies stations threw me for a loop at first, but having the subjects focus in on the DJs often helped.  Getting the name and call letters was best, but context clues between songs also helped me to do a fair job.  Offhanded mentions of an artist’s death, upcoming birthday, first tour in X years or the Nth anniversary of blah blah blah on this date in rock and roll history were all good clues to follow. 

    Dad charmed his way into being dubbed guinea pig in Nelson’s absence to ensure I wouldn’t try anything funny.  They ran him through the same barrage of tests that I was given upon my arrival here, and also a job interview style oral version of the program questionnaire.  He rated well enough to qualify and began prepping for his first trip into the machine.

    I was never very clear on what criteria the test was looking to establish.  Back when I took it, I wanted to believe it was looking for time travelers, but since the doctor already had that information from his past self it could have just been looking for a specific psychological profile of some sort.  Probably a little bit of both.  After hearing the doctor explain his purpose as monitoring time travelers who may be trying to effect the past and then essentially “recruiting” them, I was worried that they would uncover Dad’s meetings with me in 1969.  I wasn’t sure what would happen if the true level of my involvement were known.