The truth about time travel

My name is Robert Watson and I am a dying man in a place of death. My last act is to record the truth about time travel, the secret of which will die with me.

It was late evening when I made the final minor adjustments to my time machine, but I could not wait to try it out and achieve my main purpose, which was to go back to visit myself when young, the youthful Bobby Watson, to warn him about the path in life he was thinking of taking, which would cause him so much pain and sorrow. I dragged the machine out into the garden of our ancestral home, which I had at last repurchased after I lost it all those years ago in such a traumatic fashion. I set the dials and pressed the start button.

At first I thought that nothing had happened, but then I noticed that the rank and neglected vegetation had been replaced by the neat lawns and flowerbeds that were the mark of the tender care bestowed by our old family gardener, Bert. I walked to the back door, which was never locked, entered and went to the small downstairs study, where I knew he would be. He was sitting smoking a cigar in one of the big old leather chairs, more handsome, I thought, than he had ever believed himself.

“I am…” I began to say, when I noticed an old man sitting in the other chair. He looked startlingly familiar. “Yes!” he said “ I am you. I have come back to prevent your making changes that will have disastrous consequences. You cannot always foresee…”

“Stop!”  said another, yet not  new, voice from the door “I am Robert Watson and you are all about to make a terrible mistake…..”

“Don’t move said a voice from behind him and an old woman entered. I am Roberta Watson.” Adding when she saw the shock on our faces “Yes, I had the operation.”

The door burst open and another figure rushed in. “Watch out! She has a gun in her handbag. I am still disabled from the wounds where she shot me when I was young Bobby Watson.”

She was quickly overpowered by a couple of Robert Watsons.

Well, to cut a long story short, in the end there were thirteen of us in the room, in addition to young Bobby. This does not include the fatalities. Some of the time machines had overlapped when they materialised and were fused in junctions firmer than any artificial weld. The stresses and heat caused by the atoms rearranging their space had been more than enough to disrupt a human body. One unfortunate Robert Watson had materialised in a tree that had died before his time. His trunk was intimately fused with the trunk of the tree, which now grotesquely sprouted human limbs.

By this time the police had been called, by local residents alarmed by the loud explosions from the overlapping time machines. We were all herded into a prison van and carted off. As soon as the police heard part of our story, they gratefully handed us over to the secret service.

We sat on benches in a small bare room.

“It is obvious…” I said.

“That we have inherited the mental ability to invent the time machine and…” interpolated the second Robert Watson.

“We have a genetic disposition to go back and...” said a third.

“Make adjustments to the past.” And so the gestalt conversation carried on.

“The first Robert Watson created, by going back, a juncture in…”

“Space time, starting a new parallel universe, and a point to…”

“Which we all returned.”

"It is startling to think that, for example, a..."

"Whole new Crab Nebula was created..."

"Just because one of us went back in time."

"I wonder what it has to do with...."

"The conservation of mass."

A man in a white coat came in carrying a buff folder. By tipping my head I could see that the title stencilled on it was “What are we going to do about all the Robert Watsons?”

Apparently it was all hushed up. We were transferred to a new heavily guarded facility that was ironically called “The Robert Watson Isolation Hospital”. A friendly guard told me some years later that young Bobby had entered a Buddhist monastery and had never been heard of again. The Government, which was publicly vehemently against capital punishment, had issued a secret decree that anyone dabbling in time travel was to be shot without trial.

They say that living on your own is misery. Living with yourself twelve times over is infinitely worse. You cannot start a sentence without someone else completing it. You have to witness all your own most irritating habits repeated over and over again.

The Robert Watsons are all dying now. Four went from heart failure last week. I am the last and my days are numbered. I am not sure why I am leaving this record, but I just have this feeling that people should know the truth about time travel. However, I shall conceal this manuscript, perhaps to be found by future generations, as the world is not yet ready for the story of the Robert Watson who went back to seduce and impregnate our mother when she was still a virgin.

 © John Brignell

 January 2004

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