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Friday, June 15, 2018

Notes of a Time Traveler

I've decided to attempt to put out one of these short stories a month again. One, because now that I can type better, I'm able. Two, because I'll need something to read to my writer's club, and three, because it will help to populate new stories for Vol. 3 of my next Ethereal World anthology. So here is my June 2018 offering, a time travel tale that I hope will be a bit different from the others you may have read. Enjoy!

Day 1: June 14, 2018 - Jerusalem

Today is the big day. Today I go into my time machine, which I’ve worked on for the last five years in earnest. I’m keeping these notes as to document my experiences.

Dr. Johnson said it could never be done. There were plenty of skeptics to join his camp. Today I prove them all wrong—that we can go back in time!

“Dr. Ransom, are we ready?”  John’s booming voice echoed among the sterile halls of the laboratory.

“Just about,” I said. “Only a couple more tweaks to this machine.”

He nodded and went back to his final preparations.

The door creaked open and Dr. Johnson, along with a couple of his students, entered in.

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “Today, students, we are here not to witness history in the making, but a fool.”

I put down my wrench. “Dr. Johnson, why are you here if you don’t believe this can be done?”

“Two reasons, my dear Ransom. One, to watch you fail. Two, to teach others what not to do when conducting scientific research.”

“And if I succeed, what then?”

Dr. Johnson chuckled. “Then they will at least know the dangers of time travel, would they not?”

I chuckled. “That’s part of the question we are going to answer. What are the dangers associated with time travel?”

Dr. Johnson threw up a hand. “Why, everyone worth their salt knows that. There is the causal loop issue, the ‘Grandfather Paradox,’ and the ‘Fermi Paradox.’”

“Ah, but those are simply theories yet to be proven. Obviously since no one has ever time traveled before.”

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “And exactly how do you intend to prove these theories?”

“Glad you asked.” I had hoped to explain this to someone. Who better than a skeptic? If he was convinced, then others would be too. “My plan is to change something in the past to see whether it changes things here in the future. That will verify or confirm the possibility of the “Grandfather Paradox.”

Dr. Johnson laughed. “So, you’re going to go back in time to kill your own grandfather to see whether you still exist or not?”

“No, I’m going to kill yours.”

Dr. Johnson abruptly stopped laughing. He frowned, but he slowly changed it to a weak smile. “Surely you jest?”

I refrained from laughing at him. “My dear, Dr. Johnson. If you don’t believe that I can go back in time, why are you so worried?” I had him.

He mumbled a bit then said, “It’s just the thought of it. That’s all. Go on with your ‘experiment.’”

“No, nothing so grand as murder. Rather, if I successfully go back in time, I will be wearing the clothing of the time, except for two thing: a cigarette lighter and a digital camera. Somethings no one in 33 AD had would have ever seen. I’ve taken a picture of that section of the history of the lighter in case it changes. Upon my successful return, we’ll know not only that time travel is possible, but also whether changes we make to the past, if possible, affect our future or not. If your history books show that I, Dr. Ransom, invented the lighter, instead of Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner, then we will know it is possible.”

Dr. Johnson nodded. “Seems a reasonably safe proposition. Only problem, it won’t solve the Grandfather Paradox.”

“One piece at a time, doctor. If this works, there will be other trips and tests to prove or disprove the theories.” I smiled at him, then returned to my work. He appeared to get the message, as he and his two students took a seat against the wall.

Shortly, I had made the final adjustment. “I’m ready, John.”

“Everything is a go on this end.”

“I’m dressed, and I have my cigarette lighter and my digital camera with me.” I stepped into the cylindrical chamber.

The whole machine was powered with nuclear fusion, so as to not run out of power anytime soon. The cylinder sat on a square base and had the “engine” sitting behind it. It appeared a simple device on the outside, but inside, it bent time and space to fold in upon itself.

I set the dials on the inside of the machine to 33 AD. The power meter rose until it crossed a red line, indicating there was enough power to initiate time transference. “Here we go, John!” I pushed the button that started the time folding. Electrical currents circulated around me until I could no longer make out the details of the laboratory. Then, in a blinding flash of light, it happened. Time folded in upon itself. I felt sick to my stomach and threatened to vomit, but refrained from doing so.

Day 2: June 15, 33 AD - Jerusalem

I have succeeded! I have traveled back in time. I feel different, though I cannot put my finger on it. Just something feels different. Hard to say. Just different is the only way I can describe it. At any rate, I’m thrilled that I have been successful. My next task is, I think, to leave something here. Oh yes, my lighter.

The electrical flow lessened, and a much different landscape appeared.

I exited the cylinder. Before me was a horde of people listening to a man speak, a common occurrence in that day and age. Such was the extent of their entertainment. No one appeared to have noticed me or my time machine appearing. I walked out and stepped into the crowd. Someone gave me some bread and fish to eat. I thanked them.

Who should I give my cigarette lighter to? As I listened to the man talk, I realized where I’d heard what he was saying. It was the Beatitudes. I couldn’t believe it, I was actually listening to the historical Jesus give one of his most famous speeches. This deserved a picture.

What exactly was a picture? I wasn’t at all sure. I looked about myself for a strange object, and found one. It was red and an oblong cylinder. It looked familiar. I pushed down on the button. A spark flew out and ignited something which burned a pure flame. It frightened me, so I dropped it. But by the time it hit the ground, the flame had gone out. I picked it up. Why did this look so familiar?

A man next to me had been watching me. He said, “That man is a witch! He brought fire up from that strange stick!” However, everyone was so hanging on the words of Jesus that no one paid the man any attention. Then it came to me, this was a cigarette lighter. Why and how I’d forgotten that, I couldn’t say.

I was going to give this to someone, maybe Jesus? Sure, he’d know what to do with it. After Jesus stopped talking, a swarm of people gathered around him, most wanting healing from some disease. Just like the “fairy tales” about him said.  Most such healings were nothing more than the Placebo Effect. If they believed their body would be healed, their body would do everything in its power to make it happen. There were no scientific studies showing such “miracles” to be real.

I gripped the lighter and pushed my way through the crowd. I held the lighter for him to see it, hoping it would attract his attention. It did.

He spotted it and swung around to face me. “You do not belong here.”

Did I? I couldn’t remember. “I most certainly do. What’s gotten into  you man?”

He simply stared at me, in kindness, but also pity.

I noticed the strange object I had in my hand. “Take it, it is for you.”

He nodded and took it from my hand. He pushed the button and a flame popped up. He watched it before releasing the button and the flame when out. Whispers of “He is the Son of God” ran across the crowd. I wondered why he was called the Son of God when he did it, and why I was called a witch when I brought forth fire? Though in all honesty, it did appear to be magical. Maybe there was something to this Son of God thing after all?

That’s when I saw the strangest sight. Some odd machine, vaguely familiar, starting to phase in and out. Then all at once I recalled that I came here on such a machine. It appeared firmer to me then, more solid. I needed to get back to it, though I wasn’t sure why.

As the day wore on, I felt less strange, except for the fire stick and this confusing box of buttons and dials I had hanging around my neck. I even began to question why I was keeping this journal. What purpose did it serve? The first entries sounded foreign to me.

Day 3: June 16, 33 AD – Jerusalem

I had a moment of clarity for a time shortly after I awoke this morning. I was sleeping on the street along with several others. During this moment of clarity, which I’m going through now, I realized what was happening to me. We had been theorizing that if we changed something in the past, it would change the future. The truth was, the past would change us. We became part of the past. 

That would explain the Fermi Paradox—the idea that if time travel were possible, then we should have countless examples of people from the future showing up at random, but we don’t. Now we know why. Anyone who travels back in time will soon be sucked into that time period.

I had to get that down before I forgot.

As I awoke, I knew I had to get back to that hill where I had appeared yesterday. This was my only chance. Who knows how long it would be before I was permanently sucked into this history. I had to get back to prove, to prove . . . something. I just knew I needed to get back.  Back to that strange machine I saw yesterday.

I pushed my way through the crowded streets until I came to the hill Jesus had been speaking on yesterday. Solid as ever stood the strange machine, the time machine. I pushed my way up the hill toward it, until I stood before the contraption.

Why was I up here? The outline of the machine grew faint. I put forth my hand and opened the cylinder-door. There happened to be a nice seat inside, so I sat in it. As I rested, I noticed a dial with numbers and a button. What was this? Oh yeah, a time machine. Those numbers must be years. I think I came from 2000 and something. Then I noticed another button that said, “Return.”

“Of course, that is to return me to my time. Sort of like a ‘Home’ button.”  I pushed it.

Day 4: June 17, 2018 – Jerusalem

I barely returned. I wasn’t sure what I’d find. But I discovered the same effect was at work no matter what time period one was in: you get enveloped by that particular history. Well, at least we know one of the dangers of time travel: the potential of forgetting about one’s own time period. This finding should be greeted with enthusiasm!

I opened the door. The laboratory was as I had left it. As I exited the time machine, all shook up, Dr. Johnson greeted me.

He said, “Congratulations, Dr. Ransom, you’ve proven that time travel is impossible.”

“What are you talking about, sir? I did travel back in time.”

“But you didn’t go anywhere.”

I scanned his eyes. “I most certainly did. I spent a couple of days in 33 AD. Listened to Jesus himself give the Beatitudes.”

“Did you get any pictures.”

I sighed. “No, I did not, because of what I’ll call—since I discovered it—the Ransom Effect. That’s the effect where a time traveler starts acclimating to the new time period to the point of forgetting about their original one.”

Dr. Johnson pointed at me. “What do have to prove that you actually time-traveled?”

“I have very little, other than this.” I pulled out a picture from my pocket and placed it on the table. “Who invented the cigarette lighter?”

“Why, everyone knows it was Jesus who showed us the light.”

I pointed at the picture I had thrown down which clearly showed that Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner was the inventor of said lighter. “There is proof both that I went back in time, and that I’ve subsequently changed history. Though if I’m not mistaken, I’ll gradually get sucked into this reality that Jesus was the inventor. But I gave Jesus that lighter.”

Dr. Johnson stuttered and stammered. “I, ah, I’m not sure, that is, I don’t think this proves anything. How do we know that this photo isn’t modified?”

“Because I took it moments before I left. . . . At least I think I did.”

Dr. Johnson stood straighter. “You see, from my perspective, you went in, sparkly stuff happened, and you came back out.”

“Well, duh,” I said, “that is why it is called a time machine. I come back at the same time I left.”

Dr. Johnson headed toward the door. “Another hoax. Come on, students.”

The students followed him out the door.

I tossed a rag toward the door. “Stupid people.”

John handed me today’s paper. “Here.”

I took it from him . Across the top it said, “New Archaeological Find Verifies the Existence of Extraterrestrial Life.” The accompanying picture showed my digital camera. The article claimed it could have only come from an alien. I quickly padded my chest, it was no longer strapped around my neck. I’d lost it somewhere along the way.

Then something else caught my eye. An ad, which said, “Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Lighter. No man can come to the Father without me.’” Following that was a cigarette ad.

“John, I thought cigarette ads were banned?”

He laughed. “Dr. Ransom, we’d have to violate the constitution's first amendment to do that.”


“Because it is a sacred rite of the Church to smoke. For the government to ban it would violate the freedom of religion clause.”

“I don’t even want to ask what the cancer rate is now.” Yes, unintended consequences ripple through time, even over something as seemingly insignificant as a cigarette lighter.

This is the final entry of this particular journal. I’ve deduced or induced four major points. One, that time travel is possible. Two, that the time period one enters will cause one to forget about where one came from and that they will eventually become part of that time period. Three, that two explains the Fermi Paradox, though we will still need to prove that. Four, that one can change time. Next I’ll check the validity of the Grandfather Paradox, using Dr. Johnson’s grandfather, once I discover a way to offset number two.

The good news is that I successfully went back in time. The bad news is that no one will believe me.

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