Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 23


23:59 End Of The World

    That night I told myself that Dad would be put on the machine the following day, potentially giving us our shot at setting things right once and for all.  I was ecstatic.

    “But we can’t go through with it yet,” said older me, immediately dashing my hopes.

    “Yet?  Why not yet?”

    He explained by elaborating on his earlier theory of being protected from paradox while time traveling.  Phase one of our plan was to have Dad convince himself to ignore my blink to set him up with Nelson’s Mom.  This would get me back into my normal body and turn my brother back into my sister.  But there would be trouble if Dad made the change while I was still in this version of the present.

    “Remember, we’re not changing your past, just a version of it.  If you make a change that causes a change in yourself, you will return to a present where you then live in the results of that change.  That’s how this happened,” he said, pointing at me.  “But if another traveler were to make the change, you wouldn’t even notice if you stayed in real time.  Life would just go on.  Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.”

    “So what are you saying?”

    “If your father can trick himself into avoiding you, we have no idea of knowing what becomes of you.  Maybe you become yourself again.   Maybe you cease to exist.  Or maybe you start your quest over again.  Regardless of the outcome, you won’t remember any of it if you’re here when it happens.  We need both of you to be back there concurrently.  If he makes his change and you immediately make yours, everything will be bypassed and you’ll retain your memories.  At least that’s the theory. I have no way of knowing for sure.”

    He had to add that theoretical, didn’t he?  Couldn’t give a straight answer.

    “But I don’t want to wait.  And what happens to you in that scenario?”

    “Nothing.  Things will change around me, but I’m not in my present so I’ll recall both sides of it.  You’ll remember both sides too since you’ll be out of time as well.”

    “I understand that.  But when you go back to your future, what happens to me?”

    “Don’t be concerned with that.  I’ll be the one in control then since it’s my time.  But we’re the same person.  We’ll live on.”

    That bastard.  As we had already learned, returning to an altered future causes the time traveler to replace his real time alter ego.  Maybe they merge to a degree, but for the most part control is relinquished.  So I would do all of the dirty work, and old me would then just pop in and take over the best life I could come up with for us. 

    “It’s not fair!” I cried.

    “Life isn’t fair,” said old me, his tone turning a little curmudgeonly.  “What’s more important, you living out all of your life yourself, or saving your sister and reuniting your family?  You get the best end of it anyways.  Forty or so great years to do anything, and I’ll just pop in for the swan song.  The only thing you’ll really miss is dying.  I think you’re far in the lead on this one.”

    Of course he was right.  I was the selfish one, not him.  Or he was, but when the same self is involved in both equations, does it really matter in the end?  Perhaps that’s what no one wants to see.

    So we continued to wait it out.  Dad made a handful of trips without altering anything.  His favorite was being inside himself for one of his concerts.  Normally he concentrated so hard on remembering the songs that he didn’t really have a chance to enjoy the moment, but now he had the best seat in the house.  He could see the mastery of his fingertips dancing over the strings.  He could study crowd reactions when his body gave the required directional glances.  He could really ponder the meanings of the lyrics, and like me analyzed what they meant and why I chose those songs to be his.

    One night while recapping my father’s travels with myself, I tried to concoct a new plan without success.  What if we threw the doctor a bone and pointed him towards the injectable time machine as one of the keys?  Or asked to sit in on one of his meetings with his future self, hoping the older and wiser version may be more lenient with us since he could vouch for the years of good behavior we had only just begun?

    Older me shot each of these down as being too risky.  The plan we had in place was our best option provided we could ever get the timing right.  But if our timing ain’t just right what purpose would that serve?

I was becoming increasingly impatient waiting around for the proper moment.  My older self was spending more and more time with Dad as of late.  I hadn’t asked him why, but I assumed he hadn’t been able to spend much quality time with his version of our father in quite some time.  Old me was...well, old.  Actually not that old, probably less than ten years older than Dad if you compared them side by side.  Old enough I guess.  Dad wasn’t immortal, so it was only logical.  I didn’t ask questions about their relationship, as I didn’t want to deal with the hows and whens of the eventual passing of my own father, nor did I want to force my other self to relive the memory either.

    Instead I was spending more and more time with the head doctor.  He would pick my brain, and I would give elliptical answers that seemed to point him in the right direction.  I even went against my own good advice to suggest that an additional machine wouldn’t hurt things and may help him find the results he was looking for faster.  He agreed and constructed another model to bring the total number in his arsenal to three.  He also agreed to send Dad and I back in tandem if I could find a way to prove the effectiveness of such a trip.  I proposed a method of starting us off in separate rooms and having a password that we’d share in the past, proving to the doctor that we were both there.  I didn’t want him to know that Dad and I could interact with each other, so the “plan” was to have the word be transmitted from me to past me to past Dad to current Dad.  Since this was inspired by the way the older doctor would prove his time travel abilities in the future, it wasn’t difficult to talk his current counterpart into it.

    Older me was able to check the schedule to see which day Dad and I would be sent back simultaneously.  It was four days away, giving him three chances to teach Dad how to break out of their subliminal suggestions enough to guide himself to the specific double jump we needed.

    On the day of the first trial I had gone back to relive a debaucherous Halloween party from college.  Much to my surprise, I wasn’t in attendance this time around.  Instead, the new me was holding a clipboard and making rounds in a dormitory.  Rather ironic that I spent my college daze avoiding the resident assistants, and now I had become one of them.

    After returning to the present and completing my debrief, I was lying on my cot and pondering how much of a lifestyle is determined by environment and how much is genetic.  All of a sudden my older self barreled through the wall in a panic.

    “Something’s gone wrong, and I don’t understand it.”

    “How bad could it be?” I asked, throwing discretion to the wind.

    “Your father.”

    “What?  Did he change something?  Is he trapped back there like Nelson?”

    “You don’t remember?”

    “Remember what?”

    Older me paused, took a deep breath, and then just spoke.

    “He died.”