To whom it may concern (and this concerns everybody):
This is what's so ironic about the whole thing, I'm running
out of time to tell this story, and you're running out of time to
hear it. I have to keep this short, so I guess I might as well lay
it all out up front. About fifteen years from now I will invent, or
would have invented anyway, a time machine. I will then use that time
machine to initiate a chain of events that will cause the universe
to cease existing sometime around ten o'clock tomorrow night. I just
want you to know that, for whatever it's worth, I didn't want
any of this to happen and I didn't do any of it to be famous or rich
or for some abstract scientific thirst for knowledge. I did it for
I met Rachael in college. She was my tutor in a quantum mechanics
class. I knew the minute I saw her that blah blah blah, and so on.
I'm sorry, I really want to tell you all about her, about how we dated
for a month before I got up the courage to kiss her, and even then
only after she asked me why I hadn't. I want to tell you how
we sat out in the bed of my truck at night and looked up at the stars,
how her black hair looked silver in the moonlight, how I was so nervous
on our wedding night that my legs gave out when I tried to carry her
into the hotel room and we both collapsed on the floor, how we tried
to have kids for five years, but there's just not enough time
for it all, I have to show you our relationship in fast forward.
So we fast forward about two and a half years when we go to the doctor
to figure out why she's never gotten pregnant, and they find
the tumors on her ovaries. She has a hysterectomy, but it's
too late, the cancer's already spread. Over the next sixth months
it eats away at her, hollows her out until she collapses in on her
self like a supernova. Oh Rachael, my little physicist, she should've
outlived me. I guess in a way she did. I want to tell you all of this
and make it beautiful and sad, but there just isn't enough time
So we fast forward again to a day about thirteen years later, when
I'm screwing around with my time travel experiment in the basement
and literally knock myself into the middle of next week. This brings
up a few interesting facts about time travel. First, when you go into
the future, you are traveling into a future where you do not exist.
When you remove the present version of yourself from the time continuum,
you take yourself out of the picture so to speak. There's no
future version of you running around doing futuristic stuff. In other
words, it's impossible to see your own future. This isn't
true of the past however, because the past has already occurred, you
can't take yourself out of it. The interesting thing about traveling
to the past is the overwhelming sense of déjà vu you
get when you alter your own past because you also alter your own memory,
and it gets to be impossible to tell what it is you've actually
changed. It's also interesting to note that time travel, contrary
to popular belief, is not instantaneous. It's comparable to
flying across the world in a jet. You get wherever it is you're going
much faster than you would have otherwise, but it takes much longer
than you'd like it to. But it does give you a good chance to
catch up on your reading.
But now I've gotten off the subject, which is one thing I can't
afford to do. The point is that when I ended up in the following week,
my house was empty and the milk had gone bad and I'd been reported
missing by my neighbors. Someone had forced their way in through the
back door and stolen my TV set. The farther I went into the future,
the worse my house looked. It was eventually condemned and then torn
down and rebuilt and then someone else moved into it.
I guess I should explain what it was I was going into the future for,
if you haven't already got it figured out. Most scientists I
guess would go to the past and get some of the extinct species like
the blue whale or the panda and bring them to the future. Or they
would go back and try to warn everyone about global warming, and when
that didn't work maybe go back and try to convince Henry Ford's
mother to have an abortion. But not me, I was looking for the cure
for ovarian cancer. I would skip forward a few years at a time and
go to the bookstore to read the latest medical journal. Any time there
was a breakthrough, I would follow it in time until it became a disappointment.
I wanted to make sure I had a verifiable cure before I took it back
to Rachael. I followed every major breakthrough in the medical magazines
until magazines didn't exist anymore, then I went to a coffee shop
and used the internet until the internet went bankrupt and telecommunication
was almost entirely destroyed by the third nuclear holocaust. I went
forward until the United States had fallen and space had been colonized
and people began to talk with fear in their voices about the sun burning
out, but I never found a cure. Medical technology would have advanced
a surprisingly small amount in the next ten thousand years.
So I made up a new plan. I would go see Rachael before the cancer
had taken hold of her and make her go to the doctor. To make sure
she listened to me, I would have to tell her that I was a future version
of myself who knew what was going to happen if she didn't. There's
no way she would ever believe that, of course, so I would wear one
of the jumpsuits that would have been so popular about a hundred years
from now, and in case I had to kidnap her, I would also carry a phaser.
It's surprising how much technology in the future is inspired
by old episodes of Star Trek.
Maybe If I'd planned this all out more carefully none of this
would have happened, but when I rang the bell to our old house and
Rachael answered the door, I couldn't think of a thing to say. I'd
spent the last thirteen years of my life wishing to see this woman
again, and there she was more beautiful than I'd remembered
just standing there in the door way.
"Hey, baby," she said, "What are you doing home
"I've traveled here from fifteen years in the future to
warn you," I said. It sounded so lame even I didn't believe
She laughed. "Sure you have, sailor." She look at me for
a second. "What's with the Spock gear?" she asked.
"I know that's not what you were wearing when you left
the house this morning."
"Theme party," I said. There was no way she would believe
any of this. I stood there for a second, not knowing what to do. This
wasn't going the way I planned at all. "Um, that's
also why I'm home early from work," I added.
"Must've been one hell of a party," she said. "You
look like you aged twenty years in a day. I swear you have more gray
hair than you did at breakfast."
I put my hands up to my head. "Don't worry, baby,"
she said, "I think it's kinda sexy." She grabbed
my collar. "Well since you're home early, we might as well make
the best of it." She pulled me up close and kissed me. It wouldn't
hurt to wait another hour or two to go to the doctor, I thought.
She pulled me back to the bedroom by my shirt and turned out the light.
If I'd only stopped long enough to lock the door behind me,
maybe everything would've worked out differently. I started
to unbuckle the belt of my jumpsuit, and she grabbed my wrist. "No
so fast, Dr. Spock," she said, "leave the uniform on."
She kissed me again and I used my hands for more important things.
"You know, honey," I said between kisses, "technically
speaking, the Spock from Star Trek is Mr. Spock. Dr. Spock is the
guy who wrote that book about how to raise kids."
"Quit being such a nerd," she said, "and maybe we'll
make a few kids of our own." She pulled her shirt up over her
head, and it was all I could do to keep from crying. I took the jumpsuit
off anyway. I know that no one would ever agree with me, but I'd
say that everything that happened after this was almost worth it just
for these few minutes with her. Somewhere at the very outer edge of
my consciousness I'm sure I had to have heard the front door
"I love you so much, Rachael," I said, cuddling up next
to her when we were finished or at least taking a break. "Whatever
happens, whatever I do, I want you to know that."
"I love you too," she said.
"I don't know why," I said, "I've never
understood how that could be."
"You don't understand? How could I not love you? You're
gorgeous, sweet, and funny, and on top of all that you're a genius."
"Please," I said, "you were always smarter than
me. You're the only reason I didn't flunk out of college."
She laughed again. I could've spent the rest of my life traveling
back to that exact moment just to hear that laugh and never gotten
tired of it. "That's probably true," she said, "but
I just know you're destined to do something great someday. You could
cure cancer if you put your mind to it."
And suddenly, I was overcome with the sense that all of this had happened
before. I could see this whole scene in my mind like I was seeing
it through the eyes of someone else in some kind of out of body experience.
Someone coming in through the front door and watching Rachael and
me from around the corner. Someone going into the living room and
crying for a long time on the old couch we'd moved out of Rachael's
parents den when we first moved in. Someone getting up and walking
over to the closet. They stopped there for a second and let out a
heavy sigh then opened the door and took the revolver out of the shoebox
in the floor. Someone walking toward the bedroom. I could here their
footsteps coming down the hall now. I grabbed the phaser off the night
stand and held it out at arm's length.
"What are you doing?" Rachael asked. I put my free hand
over her mouth. When the shape appeared in the doorway and I heard
the safety clicking off, I pulled the phaser's trigger and vaporized
my past self. Vaporized is really the wrong word for it, but I'm
not sure of a better way to describe turning the upper half of my
past body into a big flaming hole. My legs stood up in their trousers
on their own and my head seemed to hang there in midair for a second
before it fell to ground. Burning shreds of lab coat fluttered through
the room like confetti. The amazing thing about it all was that the
universe didn't cease to exist at that exact moment. Continuity errors
are okay in movies, but not in real life. If I killed myself in the
past I wouldn't be there to have killed myself in the first
place, and that's a paradox. The universe doesn't handle
paradoxes very well. They tear a kind of black hole in the fabric
of time that sucks everything into itself and then disappears into
nothing. But maybe I had a small window of opportunity to fix everything.
Rachael screamed. At first she was incoherent, but she finally managed
"What the hell's going on here?" I didn't have the
time to explain anything. I jumped up out of bed and ran naked into
the front yard where I had my time machine hidden in a bush. This
was a major problem and I had to fix it fast. I went back just far
enough in time to run into myself arriving for the first time.
"What are you, I mean what am I, doing here, and why am I naked?"
"You'll find out soon enough," I said, "I
don't have time to explain any of this but, whatever you do,
don't use the phaser to vaporize me or any other version of
yourself you might come across. In fact, just to be safe, don't
"Wait a minute," he/I said, "We can't both
be here at the same time. It's impossible to meet a future version
of yourself, remember?"
"Not in this case," I said, "because we both have
a time machine. Really, I'm meeting a past version of myself
which is you, and I happen to be from a future in which you who used
to be me traveled in time to this location, so we are totally dependent
on each other for existence. But whatever, you do, don't kill
the version of us who actually exists in this time. In fact, if it
ever comes down to it, you are obligated to sacrifice your life to
save the life of a past version of yourself."
"Sure, sure," the past me said, "You're just
saying that because you're a past version of me."
"No," I said, "you don't get it; you're a
past version of me."
"So you want me to kill you?"
"No, no, no. For the love of God, man, don't kill anybody."
"How about baby Hitler?" he asked, "If I happen
to run into Hitler as a baby, wouldn't killing him be the responsible
thing to do?"
"Okay now you're just screwing with me. I don't
have time for this."
"Don't have time? You have all the time in the world.
Why don't you just go back in time to before we had this conversation?"
"Because then there'd be three of us standing here at
the same time and I don't think I could handle it."
"Fine," he said and walked off towards the house. He stopped
and turned around. "So why am I going to be naked, again?"
"Never mind," I said. "In fact try your best to
avoid it. It's really putting us into a jam."
I took off running down the driveway hoping to catch myself at the
lab until I felt my bare feet slapping against the hot concrete and
realized that I was running around naked in broad daylight. So I dove
into the hedges and waited for myself to come home. About an hour
later a police car pulled up in front of the house and two cops got
"Yeah, that's right," the first cop said, "a
naked guy. She said he's out here hiding in the bushes."
I tried to push myself in deeper, but only succeeded in rustling the
"There he is," the second cop said. "We got you,
you pervert. Come out here with your hands in the air. Just let your
dick flap in the breeze."
I ran off towards the time machine then, hoping that I could get back
to it before they decided to shoot me. I would have to go to forward
fifteen years and try to convince myself not to come to the past in
the first place. That was the only way I could be sure that none of
this would happen. But the funniest thing happened when I tried to
go into the future. There wasn't any future to go to, I couldn't
go ahead any farther than a few hours. I guess that's not "Ha
Ha" funny, more like strange funny. I tried to go back to the
past and couldn't get any farther than the day before, which
is where I am right now. I guess everything is being pulled in towards
this one event, closer and closer until it all disappears into nothing.
This is what I really need to tell you: The universal timeline is
now a snake eating its own tail and pretty soon it's going to
swallow itself. There is no more past and hardly any future. Whoever
said that now is all we have couldn't be any more correct; unfortunately
they probably don't even exist anymore. Do what you have to
do to get ready for non-existence or whatever. If you can do anything
to get ready for something like this. I'm sorry for everything.
If it makes you feel any better, the future wouldn't have been
all that great anyway.