Summer of '74
Summer, 1974. A fairly unambitious year, despite the Watergate nonsense and Ted Bundy’s best efforts. Watergate was a fizzle in the grand scheme of things. Ted was flashy, to be sure, but his bid for infamy only survived on Earth. Soul 2714-X was not greeted with a parade after returning to the safe confines of The Closet, nor did it want one. Sometimes you’re given the flesh you deserve, sometimes you aren’t, and sometimes it’s not the flesh you were intended for at all.
I think The Sting won the Oscar that year. A good film but like the entire year, a little unambitious with regard to the times and the full scope of art’s capabilities and responsibilities. I’m not opposed to art being fun, especially cinema, but Best Picture? Anyway, I was 19, though I wouldn’t be born for two more years. I’m a Bicentennial Gemini baby, born in time for the 4th of July, screaming freedom as I fell from the womb, only to change my mind a few moments later, begging to be shoved back in. Geminis.
But wait, that’s crazy. Sure, Geminis can be fickle but if you were 19 two years before you were born, well that only makes sense if you traveled through time, and time travel rarely makes sense.
I couldn’t agree more.
“Young fella, you alright?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Sorry. Here you go…”
I have no idea how long that bodega clerk watched me space out and talk to you guys. I gave him a dime and stuffed a stick of Wrigley’s in my blow hole. Where were we? Time travel. Right.
Infinitely complicated. Like me beginning this story in past tense while relaying my brief convo with the shop owner in the present. Yep, I’m here, there and everywhere all at once. That’s why stories rarely get time travel correct, and on the occasion one does, it’s typically dumb luck. There are so many rules to time travel, and so many exceptions to those rules…you have no idea. Neither do I, actually. One of my duties is to catalogue new phenomenon. The science of time travel is a progressive revelation. For instance, I recently lampooned every old trope about being in the same place at the same time as yourself from a different time line. Double representation simply isn’t possible (barring exceptions, of course of course…). You either temporarily inhabit the body of that timeline’s “you,” or you explode. We aren’t sure what factors cause the explosions. Kind of hard to find test subjects for further research, though we’ve ascertained the most frequent scenario is body possession, in effect trapping said time traveler in the alternate version of their body.
Another neat little quirk to time travel that is rarely, if ever, represented in film or literature. This little quirk is pseudo-danced around, to be sure, but never confronted head on. Pay attention: If you travel to the past and change something, you might immediately become a different person. The butterfly or ripple effect, often discussed, but never to the full creative orgasmic release. I met a frequent traveler, a fellow Agent of Existence who’s changed the past so many times in ways that affected her/his personal existence that she/he has no idea who she/he once was. Poor bitch/bastard knows only the job, which may be good for said agent’s existential role, I suppose. Please note, my pronoun play is to indicate the numerous occasions on which said Agent has suddenly changed genders after completing a mission. You might be surprised how often this was a pleasant, mid-coitus turn of events. Honestly, I should not have been surprised to learn how many times the past and future are changed because of sex. Get it? Get it? I’ll keep workshopping the punchline.
Sorry. I ramble. Anyway, I’m in the summer of ’74, meteorologically speaking, while my wife is off gallivanting around an adjacent galaxy. I’m not sure if our assignments are connected. We never know. All I know is the sooner I complete my mission and she completes hers, the sooner there’s a chance we get to see each other again. I’m on my way to the ballpark now. Look, there I go. I grew up playing baseball in the summer. Honestly, there’s nothing like spending an afternoon at the park, whether playing or watching. It’s a shame the sport has lost favor to the brutishness of American Football. Speaks to the American disease, I suppose.
The lines outside Cleveland Stadium are insane. June 4th, 1974. The infamous “Ten Cent Beer Night.” If you aren’t familiar, look it up. It’s a gassssssssssss…
I’m here to find an unfortunately lonely man named Larry Fuglestamp. Larry is an accident. Or, better I should say, his soul is an accident. It happens. Larry’s soul, 514-Z, was supposed to be assigned to a young woman named Christine Chubbuck. Look her up. Chubbuck takes her own life on July 15th, 1974. For some reason, living her experience was essential to 514-Z’s mission. If properly assigned, 514-Z would have been released from her body at a crucial moment in the history of Existence, sending 514-Z who knows where to do who knows what. I’m on a “need to know” and honestly don’t give a shit. It’s all nonsense to me.
Nonsense, like thinking ten cent beer night is a good idea at a family event. If you aren’t familiar with this infamous stadium promotion, it’s a complete fuck show. By the ninth inning, intoxication leads to rioting and both teams are literally beating fans with baseball bats. Helluva production for a sociopath. My job is to find Larry Fuglestamp, who we know is at the game, and kill him during the melee, thereby releasing soul 514-Z ahead of original schedule, culminating in a series of events that corrects the initial incorrect assignment and sticks soul 514-Z where it belongs, in Christine Chubbuck at her time of birth to be appropriately released upon her untimely death on live television on July 15th, 1974.
Why couldn’t I just kill Larry on July 15th instead of June 4th? I don’t fucking know.
Here’s the thing. Remember, I’m 19. This is my first, and accordingly my last assignment to kill. Let me be clear. I don’t kill. No anti-hero bullshit. No petty justifications. My soul is mine. Whether it belongs to Existence or not, and while I’m in charge, we’re blood clean. So I find Larry in the seventh inning stretch and utter the tropiest, ooh wee, the most fun, I mean I just fucking love these words: “Come with me if you want to live.”
Now, here’s the trick. I gotta convince Larry I’m supposed to kill him so he better come with me if he wants to live. Ha! Luckily, Larry is a manic depressive who was considering tossing himself off the upper levels of Cleveland Stadium seating until the riot broke out. He’s enjoying the nastiness of humanity when I find him. No one said Larry had to be a good guy.
Luckily part deux, Larry doesn’t put much argument into not going with me. Poor fella is a loner and not too bright, and really just an unfortunate example of Existence’s remorseless bent for unchecked creation. Ugly too. I feel bad for the dude (still do), whether he likes watching other people get hurt or not. His enjoyment of other’s misery comes from a lifetime of shit shaping. Not an excuse but a reason, and his lack of foundation can’t be ignored. Still, fuck that dude. I feel bad for him but also, fuck ‘em. Witness, the joy of the Gemini.
Anyway, we’re off, me and Larry. If I’m not gonna kill him, I have to get him to Sarasota, FL. That’s where Christine Chubbuck lives. I figure if I can get Christine to shoot Larry before July 15th, everything will go back to normal. 514-Z will be released, immediately transmorph into Christine, accidental Larry will be no more and I’ll be curling my toes on the sandy Gulf Coast of Florida, beer in hand, enjoying the summer sun until my next assignment comes through or I get to see my lady, or both.
What’s the difference between me actually killing Larry or simply leading him to his death? Fair question. Theoretically, if Christine kills him, I’m hopeful it restarts Larry, resetting his birth with the correct soul assignment. I place a lot of faith in metaphysical circles. It’s a thing for me. Was I certain it would work? Nope. Did I care? Not really. Had I intentionally lied to Larry about
his survival? Meh. I said I didn’t kill. Never said nothin’ about lying my ass off.
Wait. Wait. What the fuck? You can’t end the story like this. I mean, Jesus, people are gonna read this shit and you just gonna fuck with ‘em?
What can I say? Welcome to Existence my friend. We take solace in knowing stuff and thought confirmations and all other sorts of organizational flow charts for our frantically terrified minds. But I promise, the more you know the scarier it gets, ‘cause there is no order. There is no control. There is no
understanding. There is only each breath, blessed or cursed, and our ability to do something, anything, with every moment. That said, I’m not a complete dick, so although you should likely have surmised this on your own, I will tell you I’m still here and still bitching, so I must not have destroyed Existence. Ipso facto, my plan must have worked. Or the whole deal wasn’t that important. Either way’s fine with me. Now go away. The sun is out, the sand is warm, the waves crash with irrepressible rhythm, and I’m due for a nap.
For real this time.
F@ck the Butterfly Effect: The Theoretical Truth to Time Travel Part 2 - The Rules as I Have Witnessed, Part 1
Rule #1: This is important. Honestly, damn near the entire crux of my theory. Only logical then, that it be rule number one, right? I mean why would I make the first rule something less important than the most important, unless I was simply listing these rules in the order they were revealed to me, which of course may not have necessarily been in the order of most importance.
Oh, the rule. Time Travel Rule Number One: Time is linear. Thus, a body may only travel backwards in time or, having traveled backwards in time, return to their timeline in its most recent point (given that your linear timeline does not stop moving forward simply because You have traveled to the past). So, the only way to travel to your own future is to go backwards in time, sit around for a while, then travel forward to your current present. You cannot travel to your future because it has not happened yet. In my, your, or whomever’s timeline, the future is always a blank page waiting to be written by today. Therefore, bearing all of this in mind, it leads us to Time Travel Rule Number Two.
Rule #2: You cannot travel to your own future. I repeat, you cannot travel to your own future. Nope. Not gonna happen. Impossible. This is where things get wonky, as they always do with time travel, because you can travel to THE future. Sort of. You aren’t really traveling to the future, because your own timeline will always be your present…which means if you’re in the present of a future, it’s really happening at the same time as your personal present. You see what I’m saying? All presents, futures and pasts are happening at the same “time.”
But Truant, you said time wasn’t a circle. You said time is linear! Correct. I did, because it is. So then, how do you explain any type of present future?
The answer: Alternate dimensions, timelines, realities, etc. etc. (a metaphysical concept by any other name…aren’t they all the same 😊). If you were to travel to what may look and feel like the future, what you have actually done is left your own reality, or dimension, or timeline (call it what you will folks…for all I know all three may exist and be slightly different). If you somehow successfully made the journey outside your own timeline to a seemingly future position and were able to return “home,” you will arrive at whatever point your timeline has reached since you were away. Unless, of course, you specifically program whatever device, magic, or cosmic fuckery you have utilized to return you to a different moment on your own timeline other than its manifest present, keeping in mind, you cannot return to a future in your own timeline that has not actually happened yet. Make sense? Great!
Rule #3: This is a big one. This is the one that has scientists, various other scholars, screenwriters, novelists, geeky children, and psychedelics enthusiasts up late at night arguing, writing, restlessly dreaming, studying, and/or getting stoned in effort to stop thinking about this stupid shit. Rule number three is, you can’t change your past. Period. Boom. End of discussion. Find a microphone and drop it. You can’t. Your past is your past. Period. Boom. End of…
Now, I didn’t say you can’t change THE past. Wait. What? What’s the difference. Bobdammit, stop fucking with my head you twit.
Okay, okay. All I’m trying to say is if you go backwards in your timeline and attempt to change the past, all your doing is playing Bob and starting a new dimension, or timeline, or reality (just fucking call it what you will…). You can’t change your past then travel back to your present and reap the benefit of said changes. Your timeline is fixed, and linear, and beautiful. If you change the past, you have two options. Be content with playing Bob, having started a new timeline, new dimension, or new reality and return to your present where everything is as it should be, whether you like it or not. Or, check out the new alternate timeline, dimension, or reality you have created by fucking with your past. Just know, whatever thing it is you were fucking around trying to change, it will always have happened. Period. End of discussion. Find a microphone and drop it. That pain and hardship exists my friend, no matter what.
In summation, for the time being. Don’t go fucking around with time. Accept this chaos that is life. Embrace the pain and loss as you should, the same way you should embrace the joy and gifts you receive.
Wait. Fuck that. I’ve survived this past minute of my timeline and changed my mind. Who the fuck am I to tell you how to live your life? My intention was only to provide you with some insight for moving forward. Do what you will. Bounce all over fucking existence. Please, just be careful. Wear a helmet. And maybe don’t be too reckless giving birth to new timelines, or dimensions, or realities if you figure out how to go messing around with timelines, dimensions, and/or realities.
To be continued…
Since we’ve all recently traveled forward through time into a new calendar year, I thought this would be a good time to discuss time travel, but first, let’s start a powerful argument with an immediate back-peddle: “Fuck the Butterfly Effect” might be a little strong. What can I say, I wanted the article’s headline to pop. Truthfully, the Butterfly Effect has its place in Time Travel theory, though I’m suspect of its value. I have been a blade of grass. Five earth years I was punished, growing and getting clipped in the front yard of a widower named Bartibas Clink. I can assure you, nothing that happened to me during my time as a blade of grass changed the future.
Or maybe it did - Dammit. Sigh. Fuck you, time travel. - in so much as the future was shaped by my time as a blade of grass had anything to do with physical interaction, nothing. In so much as the future may have been changed because I was imprisoned as a blade of grass in the front yard of Bartibas Clink, whose story shaped my understanding (and very shortly your understanding) of time travel, fine. Fine! Coincidence? Who cares?
The point is, friends, little pieces like the Butterfly Effect never tell the full tale. They’re fun to play with when creating stories, but in reality, they’re overly simplistic snippets of a grander design. Thus, as I lay this tale out before you, you will notice ideas you’re familiar with. The key here is putting them all in one place. Sewing the sweater together, if you will.
Bartibas Clink was, perhaps still is, a time traveler. He lost his wife tragically. He prayed endlessly to God, Bob, the Universe, Mother Gaia, Lucifer, anyone he could think of, to strike a bargain and allow him the opportunity to be with his wife again. When none of our minor deities (tee hee) struck up a conversation, Bartibas gave up on bullshit and pulled a Walden. Sort of. Bartibas moved out to the middle of nowhere (very Walden) and dedicated his mind to science (not so much…?).
Bartibas was no dummy, but he was no Albert Forbes Hawking either. For many years he calculated, theorized, meditated, tinkered and did lots of cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogenics, and caffeine, but nothing turned him into a genius. All of his equations fell flat, barely filling up a single old-fashioned chalkboard, much less the walls of his entire cabin.
Still, Pure Existence, the mother and father of all lifes, deities, galaxies, universes, constellations, chaoses, fates, destinies, personifications, and cumquats…Pure Existence was impressed with Bartibas’ efforts and took pity on him, accidenting a rare anomaly upon his back stoop. Said rare anomaly was an interdimensional portal that also allows for time travel. Said interdimensional portal that also allows for time travel was invented by a girl named Frank. Perhaps discovered is the better word, rather than invented, but that’s another story for another day (currently in edits, and soon to be published). The main points here are…the portals are science, not magic, and one of them wound up on Bartibas’ back porch. By accident.
Bartibas, with little trepidation, stepped into the portal and was whisked backward in time and from what I can tell, it was the past of his own timeline. This turns out to be rule number 1: Time is indeed linear (fuck all that flat circle nonsense). I’m not sure how that portal knew where to take Bartibas. Not yet. I will figure that out eventually but right now that’s not the point and I can easily chalk the portal’s insight up to Pure Existence being the interminably confusing and incalculable situation we all know It to be.
Anyway, while in the past, Bartibas was able to change the past to save his wife. Or so he thought. Upon return to his present, Bartibas discovered that nothing in his timeline had changed in response to his interaction with the past. How could this be? He saved his wife. He witnessed it with his own eyes. For fuck’s sake he saved her with his own hands. Yet, here he was still miserable, his wife June still dead. That’s right. Her name was June and I just now realized I was keeping it secret for no reason.
Only one way to find out what went wrong. Back to the past. Over and over again. Yes, Bartibas had successfully saved June’s life! Yet, if he went back in his past to a day after he had saved her life, she was still dead. If he went back to before her death, he could save her, but if he went back to after her death, she was still dead. What the ever-loving fuck, Bartibas? I didn’t get it either, though Bartibas’ situation did provide us with rule number 3: You can’t change YOUR past. I’m gonna fill in rule number 2 later, but we haven’t gotten to that part of Bartibas’ story yet.
Here’s that part of Bartibas’ story…
Upon finally accepting the reality of his situation, that no matter how many times he traveled to the past June was never alive when he returned to his present, and she always required saving again when he subsequently went back to his past, Bartibas settled on a notion. Two notions, as it were: He couldn’t change his past no matter how hard he tried, and he had to find someone who could explain why. Bartibas stopped trying to save June’s life and began searching for someone who could explain all of this shit so that he could continue trying to save June’s life.
Bartibas figured if his mind had been set on saving his wife and the portal knew where to take him, if he set his mind on finding help, the portal would send him where he needed to go. And it did, to me, many years before my soul wound up in an alternate dimension to live as a blade of grass on Bartibas’ front lawn in his past. That’s right.
I was at the Filling Station. Curtis Gout was there as well. Curtis commands portals, though not all of them, and certainly not the portals that Pure Existence does whatever it wants with. Curtis is a leaf in Pure Existence’s wind like the rest of us.
So, Bartibas finds me and Curt and is like, “Why can’t I change my past and save my wife?” And we’re like, “We don’t know for sure but we think it’s because you already lived your past and time is linear and whatnot.” And Bartibas is like, “You’re no help at all.” And we’re like, “We know, we were watching you to try and figure this shit out. Maybe you should visit us in the future and by then we’ll know what’s up.” This brings us to rule number 2. You can’t travel to your own future because it hasn’t happened yet.
Now, Curtis and I, we didn’t know this at the time. So we sent Bartibas to the future to see if our future selves would know the answer, but they weren’t our future selves because we hadn’t lived that far forward yet! Are you with me? Okay then, class, what does it mean? That’s correct, Bartibas met alternate versions of me and Curtis, in the future of an alternate reality (or dimension or timeline, whatever you want to call it they’re really the same thing). Well, as it turns out, those two dudes hadn’t figured it out either. However, they knew someone who had, whose name I can’t divulge here because he/she/it/they/them would be in danger.
Well, he/she/it/they/them explained to Bartibas that every time he had journeyed to the past to save June, in so doing, he had simply created a new timeline where June had survived. A timeline that splintered off from his own. Thus, when he traveled back to his present, June was still dead. To be with June again, Bartibas had to find her in one of the different realities he’d created.
Of course, those realities had taken on lives of their own, which meant the best that Bartibas could hope for would be to find June in an alternate reality (or dimension or timeline…whatever you want to call it they’re really the same thing) as close to Bartibas’ original life as possible, therefore guaranteeing the infinite depth of he and his June’s love as it was in our Bartibas’ original life. The hope was that the Bartibas of this alternate dimension was already dead or something, so our Bartibas could step in to finish out his life with a June without having to kill himself. After time this seemed futile. If he was already dead, how would that June accept his return? Besides, Bartibas wasn’t certain he could kill himself. The notion seemed counterintuitive to his quest. Who knows the cosmic implications that murdering oneself may have? But, maybe, just maybe, Bartibas could find an alternate reality so close to the reality he was living that June was somehow actually waiting for him, this Bartibas. This Bartibas, the time-traveling, dimension-hopping man of her dreams. Maybe, just maybe, in the infinity of Pure Existence, a splintered reality of Bartibas’ exact reality had been created where his June was alive!
Please note, by this point, our Bartibas is stark-raving mad. Fucking around with Pure Existence will do that to you. Jumping from alternate dimensions to alternate timelines to splintered realities (which are really all the same thing) will do that to you. To my knowledge, Bartibas is still out there jumping through portals, searching for his June who he will never, ever find. Or maybe he will. Existence is a fucked up place.
Coming Soon: Part 2 - The Rules
This is my multi-part treatise on time travel. Please, feel free to debate, scoff at, accuse me of plagiarism or completely disregard in the comments sections.