The Duplication Paradox: short short time travel story
DRIVE-BY STORIES #4
Gavin Dailey discovered time travel on the fifteenth, a Friday, in his garage in Lacey, a bedroom community adjacent to the Washington state capital of Olympia. For thirteen long seconds, he stared at the calculations on his laptop screen, his bowl of oatmeal forgotten, the last spoonful making the sluggish migration from the spoon back into the bowl.
“Holy shit! I’ve done it!” He turned, looking over his shoulder, thinking there was someone there—
And there was someone standing right behind him. Gavin gave an inarticulate shout and stumbled off the bar stool. His spoon fell, hit the side of the bowl and flipped over to dump the last of its load onto the kitchen’s marble bar.
“Easy! Don’t give us a heart attack!”
The other person was—himself. The other him wore the same Doctor Who t-shirt stretched over his modest gut, blue jeans, and most telling of all, his feet were bare. The scar on the top of his right foot was the same as Gavin’s scar.
Gavin grabbed the bar and straightened. “You’re me.”
“Right,” his double said. “I had to stop us from making a big mistake.”
“Mistake?” Gavin was still trying to process talking to himself in a physical sense of being in two places at once. “I don’t understand—”
Except he did. It had to be his discovery. “Time travel! It works! You came back?”
Other him gave him a thumbs up. “Right! One week, to be precise. I had to stop us from inventing time travel.”
“What?” Gavin said.
His doppelganger walked over to the bar and shoved the bowl of oatmeal and spoon aside. The spoon left a trail of spilled oatmeal. His double pulled the laptop closer. “We just delete—”
“No!” “No!” Gavin’s shout was echoed by another voice.
Another version of himself had appeared and grabbed the first copy’s wrists. “You can’t delete it!”
This new copy was wearing their Lego Star Wars t-shirt. He struggled with the first copy, but they were equally matched.
“Get off me!” The first copy said. He twisted and finally pulled away. “What are you doing? Are you crazy?”
The third Gavin planted himself in front of the bar, keeping a wary eye on Gavin and the second Gavin.
Gavin said, “Will one of you explain what is going on?”
The first double to show up pointed a finger at the other one. “This! This is what happens when you try to travel in time. You don’t travel—you’re duplicated at that point in spacetime from potential quantum particles.”
Another voice, sounding much the same as the rest, spoke. “Why don’t we all grab a drink, go in the living room, and talk about this reasonably?”
There, on the other side of the bar, was yet another Gavin. Counting himself and the other two, that made four copies of himself. This one was dressed much more professionally in a suit he’d never seen. And he had a beard, trimmed close. He looked like a lawyer, but it was undoubtedly another Gavin. Maybe older?
The first two looked at each other, over at him, and then back at the Gavin who seemed like he knew what he was doing. They shrugged at the same time—just as Gavin was about to shrug. He shivered.
“Yes, thank you,” Lego shirt Gavin said. “About time we started making sense.”
The first double glared. “Is that a joke?”
Gavin shook his head and went around the bar into the kitchen. He pulled open the fridge and pulled out a six-pack of root beer with one missing. As he turned, he held it out to Suit Gavin.
“No thank you,” that version said. “I’ve given up sugar.”
Three heads turned to look at him. He smiled and spread his hands. “I also get more dates now.”
Gavin looked at the other two and knew what they were thinking.
“Fair enough,” all three of them said. They started laughing.
Suit Gavin head to the living room. The others followed. Gavin brought up the rear. You don’t travel. That’s what the one dressed like him had said. That meant that in each time they were from they still existed. These were extra copies. He’d never get to experience another time. It’d be some copy of him.
Screw that. Gavin spun the laptop around. He selected the work he’d just completed and hit the delete key. He saved the now empty file.
Except for him, the house sounded empty. “Hello?”
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
This is a new challenge. I’m writing short short stories, under 2,000 words, many under 1,000 words. I’m sharing them to my Instagram stories. They’ll drop off that, but premium READINARY subscribers can read the full archive of stories here. When I have 100 stories, I’ll publish a collection of them all.
Best wishes, always — Ryan
The Duplication Paradox
Copyright © 2022 Ryan M. Williams
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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