Author : K Esta
Time travel is impossible. Or so Charlie had always been taught to believe.
He stood shivering in the darkness of the November morning, his breath creating puffs reminiscent of his long-past smoking days. Worrying about cancer seemed so trivial now.
His leather gloves squeaked as he scrunched his hands inside them to warm his fingertips against his palms. Looking across the playground, motionless under a layer of frost, he ached to be home in bed curled up under the covers.
Watching from the shadows, Charlie saw the earlier version of himself arrive. The slightly-younger Charlie walked hesitantly passed the swing set, the slide, and the jungle gym to the archway sitting innocuously beside the perimeter fence. He strolled around it, getting a good look from all angles, before stopping to run his hand over the crumbling brick surface.
Charlie remembered being that man. The awe he’d felt from the knowledge of the structure’s history and how it had become linked to an infinite mass in subspace. He recalled the butterflies in his stomach during that first step through.
He knew instantly that he would be successful, for he caught a glimpse of a figure, his future self, on the other side looking back at him. The arch began to spin around him, first slowly, then faster and faster, dragging space-time with it like a swirl of chocolate being stirred into a bowl of cream.
With a deep breath and another step, he emerged over the threshold just in time to turn and watch his previous self step through and disappear. He actually giggled.
A few hours later, he would learn the consequences of what he’d done. Anna. Not just Anna, but every sign of her. Their apartment had been transformed from a cozy home to a stark bachelor pad.
This was Charlie’s fourth attempt to undo the damage. He had first tried to talk his previous self out of the trip, but hearing from his own future had caused the earlier Charlie to back away in alarm, and unwittingly stumble into the arch.
Sabotaging his research, even shooting his younger self in the back of the head, every tactic Charlie tried to stop that first foolish mistake was similarly thwarted. And each trip back had taken a casualty. His little brother, his best friend, his mother, they were all gone now.
And here he was, trying again, daring to believe it could be different this time. He watched the second Charlie arrive and approach the first. Then another Charlie appeared, pulling out a gun. He took careful aim and fired.
Charlie remembered this moment also. He’d intended to hit the first Charlie, but the pistol’s kick had been stronger than expected. He’d grazed the second Charlie’s ear instead.
As the first Charlie staggered backwards toward the arch, the second clutched his searing ear, and the third tried to line up for what would be another failed shot. This was his chance.
Charlie rushed them. Grabbing the coats of Charlies two and three, one with each hand, he pulled them forward—fighting repulsion from the sensation of sticky blood congealing on the injured Charlie’s sleeve. The three of them plowed into the first Charlie and they all crossed the threshold together.
The arch shuddered in protest, but began to rotate as it had before. The universe contorted, and Charlie’s memories fogged. It felt different this time; his body was consumed by prickling snaps of energy. The figures surrounding him blurred and vanished. Finally, the arch became still.
No one emerged. Time travel is impossible.
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