It was raining the day I met myself for the first time. I opened the door, and there I was, standing in the rain with my hair plastered to my head. I appeared to have grown about fourteen or fifteen years, but my clothes and hair were still basically the same.
“I’ve seen people scream and faint. Others accept it right away, or go into cardiac arrest.”
“That’s something I guess. Can I come in?”
“Ah… all right. Well, I… have to talk to you. Can we go somewhere?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I stood there for a moment, and he licked the water off his lips, wiping some from his eyes with his forearm.
“Come in then,” I stepped aside. He stepped past me, going into my kitchen. He removed his shirt and held it over my sink, wringing the water out of it.
“Do you want some clothes or something?”
“That’d be nice, yeah.”
After I let him change in my room, he entered the kitchen again and there was a moment of silence.
“Who are you?” I asked. I knew the answer, but I thought it might get him started.
“I, well… I’m you, Jamie. I’m you in twelve years, to be exact.”
“Okay, well… why are you here? And… how…?”
He looked around and glanced at a clock that was hanging from the wall. “Two thirty? Already? Damn. Jamie, I came here because… I am going to die.” I raised my eyebrow at him. “And I came back to save you. To tell you what needs to happen differently. I only have about fifteen minutes left so you need to let me talk.”
He opened a cupboard by his head, taking out a glass. He filled it from the sink and drank.
“If you’re short on time why don’t you get to the point?”
“Relax. I didn’t know exactly how this was going to work so bear with me.”
“You… came back in time to talk to yourself and you don’t know how it was going to work? Don’t you remember going through this before?”
He took another drink, then a deep breath. “Ah, well… it doesn’t really work that way. Put away any preconceived notions you have about time travel because most of it is wrong. Secondly… try to understand… the time line isn’t something that can be altered…” he paused, trying to form his thoughts, glancing at the clock again. “Damn. Just, trust me. I have to tell you this.
“In seven or eight years you’re going to be working on something called the Felix Hydron Project — researching time-travel. Your way of thinking will be very influential. What I’m trying to tell you… is that you are the reason time travel is invented.”
Lighting illuminated the apartment through the glass doors, and thunder shook it.
“When we first tried sending objects, it didn’t seem to work. We never received anything, nor did our memory of the past change at all. Unfettered, a brave colleague of mine volunteered to go.
“She returned with an amazing story. She had indeed been sent back in time and had met with my team. But our memories were unaltered. Only she knew of the encounter and there was no proof that she had been there.
“I did a few more tests but with similar results. Finally I grew so curious that I took the ride and experienced it myself. I left a briefcase”¦ the combination of which only I knew, in the safe in my room. But when I returned to my time, there was nothing to be found.
“Finally, we were shown the answer. We had still received no visitors. Until one Friday night. I was working with a woman named Carie Vacant, and suddenly a tall man appeared out of thin air in the middle of the room.
“He had the answers to the questions we’d been asking for months. There is no traveling back and forth in your timeline, Jamie. There never was.
“The answer is that… that… well, there are many timelines. This man, he came from the timeline above ours. He told us the answers and returned to his own timeline… which remained unaltered. Suddenly, we understood. There was no proof of our own tests because when we went back in time, we were entering the timeline below ours.” He thought for a moment. “This one.”
“I won’t go into detail but technology improved and… we developed the ability to travel anywhere, any time. To go back years, centuries… millennia.”
“So why did you come back in time if you’re going to die? Why try to change things if you can’t change your own timeline?”
“Well, I sure would appreciate some help from my future self… but I feel obligated to help you, too. I’ve reached my end, Jamie, but hopefully, if I do everything right, you’ll live to make sure things happen right…”
And suddenly he was gone, without a flash or bang or pop.
It was foggy the day I met myself the second time. I thought back twelve years, about how my future-self had told me nothing of what to do or change. So I lived my life in fear and paranoia, never trusting… never living. My life was ruined because of that day future-me tried to warn me. But I could live with that…
I knocked on the door and waited. After a few moments, it opened, and past-me was standing there. He looked confused. Rightfully so, I suppose.
We stared at each other for a moment, neither of us talking. I thought of all the lives that had been pointlessly lost because of time-travel. All the havoc and great mess it had caused. The silence seemed endless, but eventually I broke it. I raised the .45 in my hand and painted his apartment red.
Jens Blue writes in Wisconsin.