Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Future, On Fire

Speakers from all of the leading universities and think tanks will be there. They’ll be talking about wormholes and quarks and divergent time streams and parallel universes and paradox theories and Star Trek and everyone will cheer and they’ll call it a success and they’ll celebrate, just like this. Beautiful women will parade around in silver vinyl suits, flashing Vulcan signs and flesh but never nipple (they’re not paid that well) and saying things like “Klaatu Barada Nikto” and giggling while they upturn their voluptuous lips and cock their heads a bit to appease the other cocks in the room. Everyone will be home smiling, or reminiscing, or go out drinking and celebrating. Adam Ng will be on his fifth pint of the night, except he’ll be drowning his sorrows, hunched over on a barstool, tapping the glass with his finger whenever he wants a refill. His friends will be paying for most of his drinks and doing tequila shots in honor of the “First Annual Time Travelers’ Convention,” that they had been working for months to put together. The whole thing will have gone off without a hitch.
Or a time traveler.
Right on cue, there will be a bright flash outside—there it is—and I see myself walk into the room about 7 hours earlier, and a lot more sober. I take a drink to keep my mouth shut (and maybe hide my face) and I watch myself look frantically around the room and try to make sense of the situation.
“Fuck,” I hear me whisper to myself, and I laugh because this really is exactly how I remember it. I struggle to keep the beer from coming out my nose and everyone else in the bar turns to look at the guy in the funny metallic costume with racing stripes down the side. I ask the bartender for another drink and watch myself do exactly what I’m going to do.
“I’m late, huh?” I say—the other me says—after a pause. I drink to my own lack of wit.
“Sorry, man. Convention was hours ago,” Jae says again. I don’t actually know his name yet. “Are you looking for someone in particular, or…?”
“Fuck, man! This fuckin’ thing never works!” the other me cries, smacking the device on our wrist as hard as he can. It starts beeping and blinking frantically, and this time I understand why, even if he doesn’t.
“What is that?” asks Jae.
“Tachyon Compression Gauge. It’s, ah—it’s supposed to read and monitor stringent and derivative particles in divergent timelines . Or something like that, I don’t now. You guys are supposed to figure it out. But either way, this thing is going nuts right now, and I have no idea why.”
At this, Adam will lift his head and turn his curious ear towards the conversation.
(He does)
No one will realize that my Tachyon Compression Gauge is picking up on my own presence in the room. Except the bartender, that is. He looks at me when I chortle in my throat, then looks back at our foolishly costumed new guest—me, again—and does a double take back towards me. Fortunately for the structure of timespace, he just shakes his head, confused, and gets back to making drinks.
I then plop down on a stool across from myself at the bar. I turn around quickly, so I don’t notice me because the results would be disaster—two of the same object can never occupy the same space at the same time—and I start to wonder about my decision. Obviously, I turned around, just like this, when I was in his position. Could I have stayed, and just hid my face? Could I have done something else, or nothing? Or was I compelled to do exactly what I did the last time, simply because I had done it already?
How much of my actions or thought processes were pre-determined by the structure of time?
I can’t turn around and face him again, either because I’m too afraid of what might happen, or because I’m simply not allowed to because I didn’t do it last time. It’s funny—I knew everything that would happen to me before, but not now. Not me now, even though I was already here and already went through this same scene.
Of course, while I’m busy having a mild panic attack over the nature of pre-destination paradoxes, the other me will try to convince Jae and Adam and the guys the he is, in fact, a time traveler—just one that apparently can’t time travel on time. They’ll be laughing at the irony as he tries to convince them of the truth. Adam will have a fleeting moment of pride and accomplishment before he submits to the belief that the whole thing is a scam and turn back to his drink. Feeling guilty, I’ll continue to berate him with arbitrary truths about the future that he’ll be convinced I’m just making up as I go along.
And then I’ll tune in again, just in time to watch myself go out the door and try again. Except I trip down the stairs on my way out and twist my ankle. Clumsy fuck. I limp outside, and everyone in the bar sees that bright flash of light again and I’m gone. Adam orders another shot of tequila, absolutely certain that I was just some asshole pulling his chain and rubbing in the fact that his Time Travel convention was an absolute failure.
Only it wasn’t.
I get up from my barstool and limp over to Adam. I pat him on the back and say, “Congratulations” as I hand him my Tachyon Compression Gauge and Distorter. "This is for you. It's what you need, the last piece of the puzzle. Pick it apart. Figure it out. You were going to anyway."
“What the hell is this…” he starts to ask as he looks up at me. He spins his eyes around their sockets as he tries to rationalize my presence. “Didn’t you just go that way…weren’t you not wearing that…how did you…?”
I smile and say, “I told you. I’m from the future.”

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