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.