Well, well, well and howdy, howdy. Here we are for our first one-off story in over three months. The excitement in the air is palpable! Or maybe that’s just the humidity. Let’s see if we actually remember how to do this one story at a time… Just kidding, we have such a short attention span that it’s a major trick not to get distracted while eating a sandwich. Anyway, since we are listening to music from “Back to the Future” (and also to piss off Geoffrey Strout) we’re going to write a story about time travel. Now, remember, dear readers, that time travel is a tricky subject (as is science fiction in general) and can lend itself to many paradoxes and loopholes. Also, we’re ridiculously enamored of our “creative license” clause here at the SotWC. So, this should be fun. Or really annoying, you be the judge.
A RIPPLE IN THE MIND OF HER EYE
Bert stood on the threshold. In the back of his mind, he had a feeling that this had all happened sometime before. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something about the scene before him was dreadfully familiar. Betsy was on the front lawn, screaming something about buttercups, and Rupert was running around in circles like a burning spastic.
Perhaps this had all happened in another life, but Bert didn’t believe in reincarnation. Perhaps it had something to do with childhood trauma, but Bert didn’t believe in trauma. Or children. perhaps it was something he’d seen in an episode of “Doctor Who,” but Bert didn’t watch “Doctor Who.” He was running out of options. then he sudden;y realized that it didn’t matter where or when he had seen this before, he just really wanted a glass of grape juice.
Going inside, he found that they were out of grape juice. “Consarn it all,” he said dejectedly. “I bought that grape juice special for tonight. Who could’ve drunk it all?”
At that moment, Betsy rushed inside. “Bert!” she cried. “Rupert has fallen into a ditch and can’t get up! What will we do?”
With sudden inspiration, Bert grabbed Betsy by the shoulders. “We’ll build a time machine,” he said, shaking her vigorously, “that’s what we’ll do.”
“How will that help?” she asked.
“We’ll go back in time and tell Rupert not to fall into the ditch, of course,” Bert replied evenly. “Now, come and help me. But make sure you’re wearing a shiny silver bikini when you do.”
“Well, obviously,” she said.
A mere six and a half days later, the time machine was complete. Of course, Rupert was dead by then, but it didn’t matter to Bert. He could go back in time and change all that. He stood there on the threshold of a new dawn in scientific progress. Coincidence? I think not.
“Can I take this bikini off?” Betsy asked.
“By all means,” Bert replied with a sly grin.
“And put on some normal clothes, I mean,” she said exasperatedly.
“Oh, all right,” he said with an impatient flick of the wrist. “But do hurry. I’m standing on the threshold after all.”
Betsy quickly went and changed into a pretty cardigan sweater, stiletto heels and parachute pants. “This will be all the rage in the future,” she told Bert upon seeing his quizzical stare.
“But we’re not going to the future,” he said. “We’re going to the past. Last Thursday, to be precise.”
“Consarn it all,” Betsy said.
With that, they climbed into the time machine (which, fortunately, I do not have to explain the creation of because the nature of science fiction writing is to present implausible events and not explain them properly unless you use terminology you hope no one will question because of its long and rambling bigness – like “nanoquarkitudes” and “fallorhythms.”) and set the controls for “Last Thursday.” Betsy sat down to do her nails, expecting the trip to take quite some time. No sooner had she opened the bottle and gotten that smell everywhere than Bert said, “well, we’re here.”
“What?” she said. “No flashing lights? No lightning bolts? No trails of fire? No giant video-screen with a flight attendant telling the plot of the story?”
“How shocking,” Bert said into the dark.
As they exited the time machine, Bert and Betsy were stuck with the sheer magnitude of having actually traveled back in time. Everything was just as they’d left it, yet somehow newer. You know, like a week newer. Fully blown away by the scientific, historical, and emotional impact of what they’d done, Betsy went, “golly.”
“Come,” Bert said, motioning Betsy over the hill (they’d transported themselves outside the house to avoid inadvertently crushing anyone, forgetting that no one had attended their party on Thursday night, because no sane person goes to parties on Thursday nights). As they crested the rise, they saw Rupert standing just beyond the threshold. “Goodbye,” he was exclaiming to the people inside, “thanks for the swell party!” (Yes, Rupert had gone to the party even though it was on a Thursday. By using universal conversion of a proposition, you might logically deduce that he must therefore be insane. You would be forgetting, however, that we, the storytellers, may just be big fat liars.)
Scarcely able to believe their own eyes, Bert and Betsy looked and saw themselves standing there in the doorway (often referred to colloquially as a threshold). Opting for stealth, Bert started to creep around to the back of the house. Betsy, however, was so mesmerized at seeing herself standing there that she walked dazedly forward and ran smack into Rupert as he approached his car.
“Well, bless my nanoquarkitudes,” Rupert said, smiling at her, “how did you get out here so fast? And when did you change into that dreadful outfit?”
Before Betsy could say anything, the Other Betsy came out of the house. “Oh, Rupert,” she called, “you forgot your cups! You don’t want to leave all this nice butter behind, do you?”
“The butter cups!” Betsy exclaimed as the Other Betsy stopped short in surprise. Rupert looked from one to the other and back again. “Don’t…” Betsy began, but it was too late. In her utter shock and horror, the Other Betsy dropped all the cups full of butter that Rupert had won playing party games onto the driveway with a hideous shattering of glass and splattering of salty dairy products. One of the resulting shards of glass cut Rupert’s foot a little and, man, did he ever freak out about it. Betsy took the opportunity to run away into the night as the Other Betsy loudly lamented the destruction of the party favors.
Bert missed all of this in his quest to enter the house unseen from the back. Not sure exactly what he was going to do, he found himself suddenly in the kitchen. Not sure exactly why, he opened the refrigerator door.
You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you? You figure Bert’s going to find the grape juice and drink it before the Other Bert comes inside and it’ll be one big sci-fi geek circular storyline demonstrating a linear theory of time travel where everything happens the same way no matter how many times you try to change it, huh? Well, you’re half right. The incredible snap ending you’re about to witness does, indeed, support a linear theory of time travel, but Bert doesn’t get to drink the grape juice. Remember how everything looked familiar to him at the beginning? Well, it’s because he’d already done this all, like, seven times, so all he found in the fridge was a note that said, “Dear Bert, remember to buy some more grape juice, I finished it all on my third trip back here. And, next time you invent a time machine, remember to properly calibrate the fallorhythms or else you’ll forget everything. AGAIN.”
“Consarn it all,” Bert said.
Well, for all the creative leeway and silliness we were prepared to allow ourselves here here with a time travel story, it was surprisingly bereft of huge plot holes and continuity errors. Thank God it was still silly, at least. We’ll try harder next week. Yeah, right.
See you in seven,