Starting Point: Any Difference That Makes No Difference…

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It was on a Thursday, in 1976, that I selected to visit. My parents and brother were out and I was home, alone. That’s when I chose to visit myself. Insert rant about how the English language is ill suited for time travel. I appeared in a clearing out in the forest behind the house. In my time, it’s a street with an empty lot, but thanks to old aerial photos of the place, I was able to position the machine in a spot free of trees. However, I ended up displacing about 3 feet of soil. Sigh.

From there, it was a short walk down the old path, through the gate, and down the driveway to the house. The light was on in the kitchen, but I knew that I would be in the basement. I used an automatic lock pick on the garage door and entered the house. The garage connected to the basement, so there was no creaking steps, but the doors… I stepped into the basement and I could hear the incessant typing on the ancient home computer, state of the art at the time, meaning myself was completely oblivious to everything but his programming.

“Hi Charles,” I said in a normal voice.

I jumped like I had been shocked. “Who-who are you! I got a knife!” I… me… he… crap, let’s use he, even though it’s me. He pulled out the combat knife my dad had given me. Dull gray metal with a wicked edge.

I, that is, me the narrator, smiled, and pulled from my bag, the exact same knife, only 40 years older.

Myself stared at it in disbelief. “That’s… that’s my knife.” He looked at me and stared intently for a moment, then realization hit. “Oh my God! You’re me!” He looked me over and said, “We’re still fat and now we’re bald. You time travelled!” The he had a look of concentration, “This is forming an alternate timeline isn’t it? Otherwise we’d be experiencing a paradox.” He cast me a quizzical look and said “And paradoxes are not allowed?”

“Correct, going back in time creates a new timeline,” I said, “and it continues on until the differences between the universes are indistinguishable…”

“When at that point, they merge back together,” he said with a sense of self satisfaction. “Charles’ Law: Any difference that makes no difference, makes no divergence.”

“We’re a self-satisfied S.O.B. aren’t we?”

He smiled in answer, then said, “So, even though it won’t affect your own timeline, why have you come back to visit me?”

I smiled in reply…

So what does Charles the older have in plan for his younger self? Is he really telling the truth about the lack of paradoxes? Is this the first time he’s done this?


By John Reiher

Image Credit: Time Traveler ©2012 FILISKUN

  • Leonardo Faria

    Charles’s law says little without the Dick’s theorem stating: an alternate time line can only be as long as the backward trait between the start of the time travel and the arrival of it. Which culminates in the Tom’s corollary: any alternate time line ends with a new time travel in the past originated by events out of control by the traveler. This, finally, led to Harry’s paradox: any time travel bends on itself and restarts from the point of the first rendezvous (1976, in this case).
    The two Charles are caught into a loop (already gone through hundreds of recursions ), and older Charles (who experienced it all) now wants to stab to death his younger version (using the combat knife…) to see if he can stop this hell.

  • Leonardo Faria

    Charles’s law says little without the Dick’s theorem stating: an alternate time line can only be as long as the backward trait between the start of the time travel and the arrival of it. Which culminates in the Tom’s corollary: any alternate time line ends with a new time travel in the past originated by events out of control by the traveler. This, finally, led to Harry’s paradox: any alternate time line bends on itself and restarts from the point of the first rendezvous (1976, in this case).
    The two Charles are caught into a loop (already gone through hundreds of recursions), and older Charles (who experienced it all) now wants to stab to death his younger version (using the combat knife…) to see if he can stop this hell.

    • michael pulleine

      sounds a bit like groundhog day but much darker, I would suggest staying away from ideas that resemble what’s already been done unless it adds something new, perhaps john could tell us what he was imagining?

      • Leonardo Faria

        The theme of a man trapped in an obsessively recursive time line is also present in Source Code, by Duncan Jones (though in a government controlled program). The search for complete originality in the basic idea of a scifi production is an almost hopeless exertion. I believe…

        • michael pulleine

          I’ve found a lot of original ideas in sci fi! the great thing about this genre is that it is the most varied of them all, but note that I mentioned bringing new things to the ideas, for example, what if the protagonist stabbed his former self to prevent something terrible to happen, maybe he isn’t telling the truth, he could be a covert operative that is sent to change the timeline through a single conversation, this man may be a pivotal point in history who could prevent a foreboding cataclysmic event, the conversation then leads to the destruction of humanity, during the conversation more and more strange events occur, the operatives memories change, more and more different operatives appear, adding to the story, in the end, the operative is driven to insanity from all of the alterations of the timeline, travels back in time to prevent the targets birth, erasing all of his memories of the situation, thus returning his sanity, this then causes the cataclysmic event, an operative is then sent to stop him and so on, until eventually the convoluted timeline simply ends with the nonexistence of the human race in the first place. there. have you ever heard of a Sci-Fi story or movie that did that?

          • Leonardo Faria

            Nope. The apocalyptic turn and the operatives sent back in the past to guard the integrity of the timeline are seeds that make me think of Terminator, but your story is certainly original.

            • michael pulleine

              i happen to be watching the terminator movies right now, while i comment on scifi stories, yes i am a nerd

            • michael pulleine

              oh, and if anyone mentions the butterfly effect, I will find you, and I will end you

            • michael pulleine

              im good at making crap up on the spot, it means that I can lie quite effectively

          • michael pulleine

            oh, and because the human race never exited, none of this ever happened, which means that the human race did exist, meaning that the human race doesn’t exist, meaning that the universe explodes.

      • John H Reiher Jr

        I actually left it open to interpretation. It would be up to the writer what Charles the older’s true intentions are? Settle an old score with a school bully? Put his alternate self down the path of success and wealth? As someone pointed out give himself the lottery numbers for the next six months. (Longer than that and the butterflies will have changed the results.)

        Or it could be something more sinister: His future self needs something that only his younger, past self has. Say, a functioning pancreas or working kidneys.

  • John Hawkins

    He then gives himself the lottery numbers for the next fourty years!

  • Is nobody gonna mention the movie Timecrimes? I bet John my left buttock that somebody would 🙁

    • John H Reiher Jr

      Or Looper? And what am I going to do with half a human buttock? You can’t even make a good ham out of that!

      • Clearly you’ve never eaten free range, curry-fed, English buttock steak.
        Surely it’s a full buttock, not a half. They come in pairs, like trousers, pants, and compasses – none of which are actual pairs.

        • michael pulleine

          ive seen the simpsons, I know that human buttock meat is poisonous!

        • John H Reiher Jr

          Buttock Steak? Still have to cure that sucker. And I may want a complete biopsy on it to make sure I’m not getting any new diseases and to check the heavy metal content.
          🙂

          • My buttocks are full of heavy metal 😀