Timely Persuasion - Online Edition - Chapter 24


24 Hour Party People

The shock of the news hit me hard.  It was my fault.  Again.  Now I had two deaths on my hands, albeit in different timelines.  And any chance of setting things right seemed to have gone out the window as well.  As this realization set in, the teardrops came.

    “Don’t worry, he’s fine,” older me clarified upon recognizing my horror. 

    “He’s fine?  How can he be fine?  You just told me he was dead!”

    “No, I told you he died.  But now he’s fine.  As if it never happened, but I don’t fully understand.”

    My shock turned to relief, but that didn’t stop the tears.  “They revived him?  Or you did?  Did you save him?”

    “I didn’t do anything, and neither did they.  I’ll have to think it through, but I’m starting to have a theory...”

    He had entered the room with our father and witnessed him being strapped into the machine.  Dad had been through this a number of times already, so he was very calm and collected.  The doctors gave him instructions, and older me gave one last reminder on how to break the spell while in the past.  The machine started up.  Blood started flowing out of his left arm, through the tubing, and back into his right as always, but almost instantly Dad flatlined just like Nelson had.

    Something had gone wrong.  They tried to revive him, but it was already too late.  Another doctor came into the room in a panic.  The same thing had happened to another subject.  The head doctor was livid, screaming at everyone in his path and throwing things.  Older me had come and given me the news.  He said I reacted much as I’ve already detailed, although there was no comfort in the end.  I asked my older self if he could go to the body and pluck me a lock of hair to remember him by.  He agreed.

    But when he got there, everything was fine.  Dad had just finished his post trip interview with the doctor.  He was sent on to the wrap up stage where he would write a report summarizing what he had witnessed.  Upon seeing my older self he winked and said it worked like a charm.

    The other subject was also fine.  Items the doctor had tossed aside were still lined up in perfect order on the exam room table.  It was as if none of it had happened.

    “So what’s your theory?” I asked.

    “I’d never observed a full experiment before.  I’ll need to watch some more to confirm, but I think this happens every time.”

    That couldn’t be right.  “You think the patient always dies?”

    “Exactly.  He dies, and his mind goes back in time.  He does his thing back there, and when he returns he’s inserted back into the body of the version of himself that lived out the timeline he has changed.  You and your new body are a most extreme example of that.”

    “But I’ve made close to a dozen trips by now, and I don’t always change something.  Neither have any of the other subjects as far as we know.”

    “You always change something just by being there.  All of you do.  I think you died each time.  When you return to the spot you left from, it’s the same spot because you never left.  That version of your body never made the trip.  It’s all mental.  Upon returning your mind takes the place of the youngest host.”

    I was discouraged.  “It’s brand new.  We’ll have to start planning all over again.”

    “None of this is new.  Don’t you see?  The death part is the last missing piece!”

    I didn’t understand.  “That doesn’t make sense.  Why haven’t we noticed it before?  And why don’t I remember it happening?”

    “You have noticed.  You said your memories changed while you were watching yourself at the bar with my wife.  That’s because I was there too, and my change rippled around you since you were displaced.  It’s the paradox protection principle.  You didn’t see yourself pass out at the bar when I was in control.  You saw yourself die, and then the death was undone in time for you to drag yourself home.”

    It was coming together.  “And you said you noticed things changing around you when I was back with Dad, but you couldn’t figure out what it was since you didn’t trace it back that far.”

    “Exactly.  This is the same basic idea.”  Older me was talking a mile a minute.  “Since I’m displaced I think I’m seeing things undo themselves around me, but instead I’m just being bumped into the most forward timeline.  You, on the other hand, stay put.  You don’t remember your father dying because he didn’t die here.  You aren’t the same you I’ve been talking with all this time, you’re just the most recent version.  The ‘youngest’ as we said before.”

    I started to answer, but older me still had an excited look and rambled on.

    “It would also explain why things didn’t end when you didn’t visit your father and teach him songs in this body.  Paradox isn’t possible under this type of theory.  Each timeline operates independently of the others.  There are multiple realities.”

    A smirk appeared on my face.  “So what about your rule that each time trip needs to be repeated?”

    Smile, nod.  “I was wrong.  And I could be wrong again.  Although…I suppose if your conscience can transcend worlds, then repeating trips to narrow events down to a single cause and effect pair would ensure that positive changes are allowed to repeat universally rather than accidentally come undone again.”


    “Don’t worry.  It’s only a theory.”

    But the theory still had a flaw.

    “What about Nelson?  Why did he stay a vegetable?”

    “I guess he hasn’t tried to come back yet.  The changes only happen upon a time traveler’s return.  He might really be trapped.”

    “But they found a faint heartbeat.”

    “The old time machine is based on a heart-lung bypass apparatus.  That could have kicked in to cause the universal heartbeat they are tracking.”

    His theory still had some holes and required a few leaps of faith, but the pieces were starting to form something with reasonable plausibility.  Amazingly, the only thing that had been holding this entire plan together was the fact that my older self never returned to his own present after giving me my powers.  Without that, we’d all be on our own.  But that would mean...

    “Does that mean that there are other versions of the world out there where I died?”

    “Of course.  Theoretically, there would also be worlds where time travel experiments resulted in a slew of dead bodies and nothing more, and an exponential number of worlds where just one time traveler survived, or two, or three, or four, and so on.”

    Which would further mean that there are now quite a few worlds where my parents lost both of their children to early deaths.  What was saving my sister really going to accomplish if it was leaving so much pain for others?  Nothing was really being erased or pinched off completely; it was only being eliminated from our limited perspective.

    Older me saw my spirits drop and asked what the problem was.  I explained my realization, but he saw things differently.

    “There may be an infinite number of variations out there.  Before humans started harnessing time travel, corrections were always accomplished automatically via your subconscious.  Each new version of you would have more information available from an alternate future you in order to live a better life.  Allowed to play out, it would eventually lead to perfection.  Once perfection was reached, it would theoretically repeat through all versions for the rest of eternity.  We’re just helping that process along.  Even though we might not be around to appreciate setting things right for our sister, the generations of us that come next certainly will.  She’ll survive in every new world that comes along!  Taken collectively, the dozen worlds that you died in are just a drop in the bucket of infinite perfection.”

    Once again, other me proved to be older and wiser.  Timely persuasion as a means to infinite perfection was just a law of nature.  It was almost beautiful in its simplicity, and I was now feeling oddly at ease with what had to be done next.