By Max G. Bernard
There never seems to be enough time, I sighed to myself. Another week gone by and there's only an hour or so left before the Thursday night science fiction writer's workshop I signed up for--and I simply haven't had the time to do a story. Never enough time, every day something else that's an "emergency," that just has to be done right now. If only there were time travel...
Suddenly there was a loud pop and there was someone else in the room. And the someone else was me.
Admittedly an older me, but still discernibly me. All the nonsense in the time travel stories I had read about encountering your older self and failing to recognize him was simply not true. I knew me at a glance. He smiled and handed me an envelope. "Special special delivery!" he chortled. "You've been working on this one for a long time. It's a story about a parallel universe in which time travel was never invented and people had to get through life without the guiding intervention of their older selves. Wild idea, isn't it? It wins the Hugo for best short story at the 2014 Worldcon science fiction convention in Chicago!"
I knew right away, almost instinctively, what had happened. This wasn't just my older self--it was an older self from a parallel universe where time travel had been invented. And somehow, someway, something had gone wrong with his time travel device--thrusting him not only back in time, as he planned, to come to the rescue of his younger self without time to develop a story, but also thrust him through probabilities in the continuum in which time travel had never--and would never--be invented, to the dull continuum in which I dwelled.
I didn't know how to have the heart to tell him. I took the envelope from his hands, removed the 40-odd page manuscript found within and placed it on my desk next to my computer. "Thanks for the help," I told him. "Think nothing of it," he responded. "I really relished the task of coming back here to 2009. The years before the big nuclear war are always my favorite time. As long as I'm here, I'm going for a stroll down Lincoln Avenue."
He left by the front door.
The story he left me had an interesting narrative structure and a depth of character development that I knew it would take me years to successfully develop. But my problem now was that the manuscript didn't seem like science fiction at all--at least not in this continuum. I knew I would learn a lot from studying the techniques I would later develop, but it was also crystal clear that there was no way that I could bring this manuscript to the workshop. It just wouldn't seem appropriate--it would read as dull and uninspired in concept as a story about a hypothetical world in which human beings had a sense of smell (which they do), the oceans are full of water (which they are) and there is only one moon in Earth's sky (which there is). Great writing, but no science fiction concept.
It was also crystal clear that I was bursting with eagerness to share my exhilarating and unusual experience of the evening with my compatriots at the workshop. But at the same time, I was also fearful that I would get laughed at or thought mad.
It was better to go to the workshop without a story, I concluded. This week I'll just concentrate on commenting on the other writers' work. So, I assumed my liquid form and flowed down the street and into the building where the workshop was being held.
Copyright (c) 2011 Max G. Bernard, All rights reserved.
Max G. Bernard is a science fiction, mystery, horror, cross-genre, and children's story writer whose work is available in ebook form and print on many major ebook and book websites. His blog The Future Will Be Written, is at http://maxgbernard.wordpress.com/ He resides in Chicago, in the central region of Woodstock Nation. He agrees with the statement that it is never too late to have a happy childhood, and that, to be realistic, we must demand the impossible.