By Dan Seavers
“WHATEVER you do, don’t push that button,” the man said, as he appeared from thin air, with a flash of light and a noise that could best be described as a wet dog sneeze. That in itself may sound strange, but that the man was, give a few extra grey hairs and wrinkles here and there, my exact twin.
“Who are you?” I asked. I already had an inkling, but I felt like it needed to be said.
“I am you. From the future. I’ve travelled back in time to tell you not to press that red button, or you’ll face absolute catastrophe.” If he was me, which from all appearances he was, then I’d become more melodramatic somewhere along the time line.
At this moment, I feel it necessary to explain what the button does. For the past five years, I have dedicated my life to building a time machine, and after much pondering and hard work, that little red switch would switch my device on for the very first time.
And from the sudden appearance of me, or shall I call him Me2, it appeared it may well work.
“But, I’ve worked on this for so long,” I said. “It’s what I, we, want. And it obviously works, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”
“Yes,” Me2 said. “But you have no idea of the repercussions. For the last few years I’ve travelled through time, trying to amend the rips in time that you are about to make any second now. Until it occurred to me, it would be better to travel back to this this very moment and persuade myself never to start on this mission in the first place. It would be safer to never press that button. You have to believe me.”
“But surely, you could just tell me what not to do, and I won’t do it?”
“I wish it was that simple. But just pressing that red button will create a chain of events that will be unstoppable. One slight variance in time is enough to cause terrible changes throughout the universe’s timeline. You just can’t do it.”
Now, at this point, you’d think me a fool to drop my life’s work at the drop of a hat. I had all the time in the world to come up with a solution, and to give in now would be a disservice to all my hard work. However, it’s very difficult to argue with oneself, especially when they’ve come all the way from the future to see you.
“Very well,” I said. “I won’t press it.”
And that would have been the end of it, if there hadn’t been another flash of light and a wet dog sneeze. And there appeared Me3.
He seemed about as old as Me2, but he was wearing a more dishevelled outfit. A battered leather coat, and ripped jeans, as if he’d just stepped out of a Mad Max fancy dress party.
“Whatever you do, you must push that red button,” he said. Apparently, melodrama was contagious throughout time.
“But he can’t,” Me2 said. “He’ll create irreparable rips through time if he does.”
“Ah,” Me3 replied. “But if he listens to you, he’ll create a time paradox that will ripple throughout the galaxy, and cause ultimate chaos. He has to follow through with his initial plan, or we’ll face an ultimate apocalypse that will strip the earth of all life. He must push that button.”
“But,” I asked. “What about the consequences of travelling through time like he said?”
“They are mere scratches compared to terrible wounds that not pressing that button would create.”
He seemed to put forward another good case. So I agreed, that yes, he would supersede Me2, and I would in fact press the button.
And I would have done, if Me4 hadn’t appeared in a flash of light.
He looked much like the other two, but much more world-weary. He was also wearing what looked like an air tight space suit.
“Please don’t press that button,” he said. Whatever version of time he’d come from, understatement seemed more suitable.
“Aha,” Me2 said. “You agree with me. He mustn’t cause the rips that button would ensue.”
“That’s not even half of it,” Me4 said. “If he doesn’t press that red button, he’ll create a double paradox. One that will ultimately create a time hole that will cause the implosion of earth and the rest of the galaxy. You can’t let that happen.”
“But what about the apocalypse?” Me3 said.
“At least the earth would exist then. My future is much worse.”
Me3 and Me2 nodded in agreement. I wouldn’t press the button after all.
But then Me5 appeared.
Now, I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but I spent much of the afternoon meeting various iterations of myself. They all looked faintly like me, and either argued for or against pushing the red button.
Apart from Me17, who had the head of a Unicorn, and communicated with a stamp of his hooved feet. I think he wanted us to press it. Or not. I’d lost count by then.
And so the various future Me’s argued between themselves, for and against, each building stronger and stronger arguments as one side or the other was joined by another Me.
Meanwhile, I busied myself with a solution of my own. That simply involved a paintbrush and a jar of paint.
“Silence,” I shouted, once done. I had to at least appease their sense of melodrama. “I have found a solution.
The gathering room grew quiet. I could sense them all focused on me.
“Now, half of you think we will face dire consequences if I press the red button, correct?”
Half the room mumbled various agreements.
“And the other half thinks it will be disastrous if I don’t press a button, right?”
The other half mumbled in agreement. Me17 brayed along with them.
“Then the answer is clear,” I said. “I will press the green button instead.” And I stepped back, to demonstrate the troublesome red button was now a vibrant shade of green.
This was followed by a general hubbub as the entire room discussed the pros and cons of this plan, until, at last, a consensus was made.
Me2 stepped forward.
“It appears, as there has never been any timeline in which a green button has been pressed, that we cannot foresee any issues. You should go ahead and press it.”
So I did.
And with a slight pop, everyone disappeared.
I sighed with relief. The basement had been getting rather busy. And it was quite nice to not have the fate of the universe rest on my shoulders.
I then, slowly, and carefully, I lifted the heaviest hammer I could find, and I smashed the time machine into bits. I dumped whatever remained into the bin.
It appears time travel wasn’t meant for me.
© Dan Seavers 2016