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Time Travel: One Man's Paradox

Updated on July 18, 2014
A Man Out of Time...A short sci-fi story.
A Man Out of Time...A short sci-fi story.

A Man Out of Time.

My name is Jacob Sidrat. I'm an employee of a quasi-governmental agency. I was an employee, anyway. The organization's name is irrelevant, as you've probably never heard of it. You see, it doesn't exist... officially. We are part of "Project Blue Box". We experiment in time travel. At least we did. That was before I made the first manned mission. They may be carrying on in the future without me and perhaps with better results. I cannot be part of that world anymore, for I am a man out of time...

Wells' Well.

For a decade we had been working on a device that would allow us to travel through time. A sustained wormhole of sorts. We had finally succeeded in stabilizing one end of the wormhole in a device that we came to call "Wells' Well". It's name was chosen partially because of it's appearance and partly as an homage to H.G. Wells. Picture the rim of a well that is 6 feet in diameter, but only 2 feet in height and suspended 8 feet off the floor. The surface of the "entrance" to the wormhole looks something like an old television set that was "snowy" due to the lack of a signal. We had hoped for something more dramatic, like the old Stargate series or the swirling time tunnel of Doctor Who. The biggest difference was, of course, that ours was real.

Once we had established the anchored side of the wormhole we could effectively "program" where it would lead. A wormhole wants to connect it two different points in time and/or space. We learned how to direct it to the time and space of our choosing. The calculations are immense and must be incredibly accurate to within nanoseconds and micrometers. It's not enough to know "when" you want to end up, but where. If you only compensate for time and not space, you end up somewhere besides where you wanted to be... usually in the dead of space or somewhere equally deadly. Time and relative space are vital to time travel. Think of it this way. The earth is moving through space and we with it. If you were to simply move back in time, but not compensate for space, you would travel back in time. The earth, however, would not be in the same space in the time you traveled to, as it had not yet arrived there. You must, therefor, always compensate for both time and space when traveling through time. And, for this reason we had build the Well with a 2 hour maximum range into the past.

We had experimented exhaustively with sending items through the Well, the first of which was a Doctor Who coffee mug that I had received as a birthday gift. We sent it back ten minutes into the past. There had been much speculation as to whether both mugs would then exist in the new "fused" timeline or if the one from our "now" would supplant the one in the past, leaving only one mug. In the days leading up to the first launch we had been acting like Vegas bookies. Everybody who was privy to the project, had some sort of bet, including a few as to whether the universe would simply unravel. I'm not sure how they thought they would collect, so I took that bet. The mug had indeed traveled 10 minutes into the past and suddenly we had 2 mugs, nearly identical. One mug was exactly 10 minutes older than the other. For 10 minutes we had 2 mugs and then, as quickly as it had appeared, it vanished. John Bleiler did quite well on that bet. Apparently, we decided, the doppelganger can only exist within the "merged" time stream. Upon numerous subsequent trials the same result was found. Each launch had to have the intended item sent to a different space in the past to avoid a pile-up at a singular moment in time. Things could go to the same time, but not the same space at the same time. The whole "two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time" rule.

We did not know where, or when, the items went. They were simply gone and we were left with only the original. We could also not snatch an item back before Its elapsed time. If an item was sent back 10 minutes, then it would exist for 10 minutes in the melded time stream, and no longer. Minute for minute, second for second. No exceptions, no deviation. When we sent back both the original and the doppelganger, there were, for 5 minutes, 4 identical items. All doppelgangers blinked out as usual. The theoretic "gold-rush" that had been postulated was dead in the water. We could only be rich with Wells gold for a few minutes and then the other gold bars would blink out. Trust me, we tried. We also only sent items back as far as the project's first launch so that we would not make any mistakes with the outside world or to a point in time and space that we could not accurately align with through our calculations.

Saving the Doppelganger.

The next line of experimentation was to send the original back at the exact moment the doppelganger blinked out. Previously, each launch had consisted of an original item launched, the 10 minute wait, the blink out and the original continuing on it's merry way in the current time stream. This is where we got an interesting new development. Once we started resending the original at the exact time of it's original launch, we got to keep the doppelganger in our time stream. We had caused a loop in the original items time stream. It was now continually being sent back 10 minutes, although from it's "point of view", it was happening for the first time each time. The doppelganger was now, for all intent and purposes, the original. It was now the only one in our time stream and other than being 10 minutes older, it was indistinguishable from the "original" original. If we looped this item, the new doppelganger became the "original'. So, I had my original mug and yet I didn't.

Mayflies in 30 minutes...or less?

The next leap in experimentation was to send a living animal back in time. Before there could be a Marty McFly of sorts, we started with a species of mayfly that has a life span of only 30 minutes. We chose this short-lived species to see exactly how the time shift affects the lifespan of an animal. The question was, "If a living organism travels back in time, does the time spent in the merged timestream count toward it's original lifespan?". In other words does a mayfly with only 30 minutes to live, die sooner, in the "main" timestream, than it would have otherwise. Would mayfly-X, born at 1:00 PM, that would normally die at 1:30 PM, die sooner if it was sent back? If Mayfly-X was sent back in time from 1:10 PM to 1:00 PM, would it then die at 1:20 PM, having lived out its entire 30 minute lifespan because the 10 minutes lived in the merged timeline did count towards it's overall lifespan? We assumed that this would be the case, but assumptions are not the end of scientific endeavors, but rather the beginning. As it turns out, our assumptions were correct. Mayfly-X born at 1:00 PM, who, at 1:10, traveled back 10 minutes in time, died at 1:20 PM in the new timestream. We could not, with any degree of certainty, determine whether items or organisms that were caught in the time loop that allowed the doppelgangers to exist, continued to age or if they stayed perpetually the age at which they first entered the loop. We believed we had confirmed the existence of "multiverses", as each Well trip created an alternate line.

With the knowledge we had acquired to this point, we were able to make a few important determinations, including what this may mean for manned time travel. First, that if a man were sent back far enough into the past, assuming the calculations for such a trip could be made, he could live out the rest of his natural lifespan before he was originally born. Secondly, if the man were sent back within his own lifetime, he would coexist with his doppelganger until the point of the original launch or until his normal lifespan had run its course. For instance, if Subject-X had a normal lifespan of 75 years and he was sent back at age 50 to the date at which he was 25, he could live his life with his younger self for 25 years and die when his younger self was then 50. This would mean he would die, having lived his full 75 years, but, on a date only 50 years after his birth as shown on the calendar.

So many of the obvious paradoxes presented themselves over the next few days while we contemplated what this all meant. The Grandfather Paradox topped the list, followed close behind by the killing Hitler as a youth question. We contemplated the options of making money through betting and investing on "sure things". Military recon. Corporate Espionage. And more...

The Doppelganger Paradox

The discussion then refocused on the more immediate issue concerning the new found science of time travel, one that had never been thought of before. Since we would have to start with short, controlled leaps back in time, we would be confronted with the Doppelganger Paradox. Once the subject entered the Well and traveled back in time, there would, for 30 minutes be 2 of him. At the end of the 30 minutes, the original "him" that traveled back would cease to exist unless the current "him" enters the Well at the same time that the original had. While both men would believe themselves to be the true "him", only one could continue in the timestream moving forward past the 30 minute mark. Who would survive in the future and who would go wherever doppelgangers go? We determined that as long as each original in the equation entered the Well, as the previous had done, then the doppelganger would continue on in that timestream and that time stream's original would become the next-door timestream's new doppelganger... and so and so on. But, if for any reason the current original did not enter the Well, then the current doppelganger would blink out after 30 minutes. It was funny, because with time travel back past you own birth, or early enough in your own life, these issues were irrelevant, as you would never reach the original point in time when you entered the Well. Only on short term leaps where it was possible to reach that point was there an issue. And, because we had to start with short leaps, due to the fact that we had to be certain that the area of "landing" would be clear at a specific time we were forced to start with short leaps involving doppelgangers with a potential "blink out". While we saw no reason for the new original to refuse to enter the Well, we could not be sure. Some believed that since this was, for all intent and purposes, a different and parallel time stream, it would not be a certainty. Therefor, the program continued to send inanimate objects and lesser animals through the Well. Manned missions were officially on hold.

I, Doppelganger

The program was officially limited to the above mentioned items. Officially. I had to know what it was like to make the leap. What happened in the Well? What did it feel like? What would it be like to meet "me"? I had to know. This was my life long dream, my highest pursuit. And, I had a plan. I considered it a birthday present to myself.

I was one of the few who had access to the lab and the Well at will. My clearance was as high as they get. I could come and go as I pleased. While everyone was home with their families during the New Year, I would take a small step for mankind. The Well was waiting and I was going to take a two hour trip back in time.

After swiping my I.D. and gaining access to the lab at 10:15 PM, I powered up the Well, sent a 5 minute test back in the way of my trusty mug. Everything was working perfectly. I was not afraid that my other self would refuse to enter the Well when it was time, after all, he was me...he knew the ramifications. At exactly midnight, I would enter the Well and travel back to 10:00 PM. I admit I chose the time for one reason and one reason only. It sounded good. I set up the digital recording devices throughout the lab and began recording at 10:45. It gave me time to begin drafting this account. I wanted the world to know how I got to this point and to see the fulfillment of a lifetime of work.

I set the parameters for the leap and waited for the clock to reach midnight. Was going to follow in the footsteps of Columbus, Lewis & Clark and Armstrong. The last 10 minutes before launch seemed like they took forever. Then it was time. I walked up the stairs to the Well and stood at the edge. It's white noise, static pool looked almost solid, but I knew better. One step later and I landed, as if falling a few feet, on the predetermined platform. It was as if no time and no real space had been travel, but I was clear across the lab. After a quick check I determined I was, in fact, two hours earlier than I had been a moment ago. The trip itself was anti-climatic in the sense that there was no whirling tunnel, no sliding, no whoosh. I was simply and instantly back in time. I remembered my watch and glanced at it. It was less than a minute after midnight according my watch, while the lab clocks all read 10:00 PM. Fifteen minutes later "I" entered the lab, and looked in my direction. The other me asked me the rhetorical question, "It worked?". We conversed about the preparations that lead up to the launch and I helped him prepare to make the leap himself. All was going perfectly. Funny, how whenever you think that, it seems to cause a problem. An instant later, as I was turning to check on a calculation and I tripped over myself, quite literally. The other me fell back and knocked a fresh cup of coffee over and into a computer console. After watching the Doctor Who mug shatter and the sparks start to fly, we stepped back and grabbed for the extinguishers. The flames had started by then and we exhausted both extinguishers in the lab. The fires were not in the Well's system, but in a separate system within the lab. The other me ran out of the lab, exclaiming "I'll be right back with the other extinguishers". No sooner had he left the room, then the doors lock and sealed off the room form the rest of the facility. The fires had cause a fail-safe to initiate and the lab was in lock-down. For some reason, the internal sprinkler system was not kicking in and the fire was beginning to spread. The other me approached the now locked doors on the transparent, but bullet and fire-proof walls. Fire extinguishers in hand he could not enter the lab.

Repeat Performance.

Try as l might, I could not get the door to open to let "me" in. The sprinklers had still not activated and the fire was spreading. The clock was quickly running out. In a few minutes I was going to "blink" out. The timer was set. The Well was programmed for a 2 hour leap, but this timestream's original was locked out.

My only hope to avoid either disappearing into the unknown or burning up in the lab was to enter the Well a second time. I had no idea what that would mean to my future and this timestream's "me". But, with only minutes to go, I had to act quickly. I stood at the edge of the Well once again. At midnight I stepped into the Well and instantly landed on the platform just as I had before. I was now a twice leaped doppelganger. At 10:15 it became apparent that something was definitely wrong. I was still alone in the lab. 10:30... still alone, 10:45... still alone. Finally, it was midnight again and I was still alone. So, I jumped in again. This time, as soon as I landed, I headed out of the lab, being careful to ensure that the door to the lab remained opened. There was no one to be found anywhere in the facility. I raced back to the lab. And, once again, l set the Well and prepared to leap. I don't know why this timestream's version of me hasn't shown up at any of the subsequent leaps I have since made. No one answers the phone when l call out from the lab, no one shows up at the lab during the time between launches. Somehow I have been caught in a loop. I am, seemingly, an eternal doppelganger, as I have looped more times than I can remember. I don't seem to age. I never get tired or hungry. But, like clockwork, I must enter the Well to avoid "blinking out". I continue to write and rewrite this account with each passing leap, leaving it behind each time with hopes that it will somehow escape the loop and be found. Maybe, if found, my colleagues can find a way to rescue me. Until that time, I am a man out of time...or to be more precise, I'm a man with lots of time, but it's all the same. This is not the first time I've written this account, nor I fear will it be my last. I'm not simply rewriting this account over and over, but actually reliving it.


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