The Trials of Time Travel
by Andrew Murphy
forum: The Trials of Time Travel
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Trials of Time Travel


      The truth is, some people are scum. In fact, most people are scum. Your narrator would like to dismiss this notion as cynicism, misanthropy or one too many beers - but it's true. What's worse is that most people don't even know they're scum. But it's not all bad; if most people were brilliant, brilliance would be a mediocrity. And if it weren't for a small, scummy pool, life on this planet would never have evolved. For better of for worse - who can say?

      Anyway, the point is, that sometimes by pure cosmic coincidence, someone realises they're scum. Such moments fill your narrator with a warm, fuzzy feeling; but possibly because he's a sadist... It's a frightening experience, to so suddenly have a conscience. They look back on everything they've done in life, and as their eyes glaze over they realise their self-perception is about as warped as a fun-house mirror. Not only that, but they have to live out the rest of their lives knowing they're a gigantic disappointment. That they're something like dog shit on society's sole.

      Phil was one such shitty person. He first realised he was scum at the age of fifteen, when the girl he drugged still managed to turn him down unceremoniously, and he thought somewhat inconsiderately, by vomiting all over him. It wasn't until the next moment, when the thought: "what a bloody waste of money!" passed through his mind. that the truth collided with some dormant, unused, brain cells to create his conscience. Even then, like a newborn or a rusty old machine, it was a while before his conscience could make itself heard. Meanwhile, Phil carried on fighting, fucking, drinking, lying, smoking and doing drugs. The standard activities for sub-human entities.

      One night, however, when Phil had spied a smallish half brick, tested its grip and weight, and was waiting in a bush for the next firm, young woman to walk by, his conscience found its voice. In its loudest and firmest tone it said: "put the brick down you piss-poor excuse for a human being and go home!"

      Phil took his conscience's advice, but mostly out of fear from hearing an alien voice inside his head for the first time. This was a grave mistake as it set a precedent, and forever afterwards Phil's conscience thought its opinions mattered.

      For the next twenty years or so Phil wasn't permitted to do anything fun. No muggings, rapes, murders - not even an innocent little beating. Instead, he fell into a sort of puddle of self loathing. This was allowed because his conscience reasoned it so: for him to hate another human being was bad. Therefore any action of hate against another human being couldn't and wouldn't be permitted. Self-loathing was fine, because Phil didn't count and therefore no human beings were involved. Still, Phil felt that his potential was being wasted.

      One day Phil was reading the newspaper, trying to live vicariously through all the bad news and obituaries, when his eye was caught by a small black and white advert at the bottom of the page. It said: "Trialists needed for Time Travel experiment. Preferably people with nothing to lose." and a phone number. He rang the number, stated that he was human filth and promptly given an address and a time.

      On the given day Phil arrived at a reasonable house out in the suburbs. He knocked on the door which was opened by a small fat woman with enormous jowls. For a moment, he considered whether or not he should rape this woman - but his conscience didn't even have to interject in that decision.

      "Hello, I'm here..." Phil began.

      "Whatever you're selling we're not buying," she said, her neck wobbling hideously.

      "I'm here..."

      "Look, I already told you!"

      " volunteer for..."

      "How many times will I have to say it? I'm a very busy woman you know!"

      "...Time Travel," Phil said.

      The woman looked at him blankly then shouted "Harold! Someone here for your silly time trial darling. He's downstairs." She turned away, into the sitting room where a half empty box of millionaire's shortbread was quietly melting into a chair.

      Phil walked downstairs into a dingy room, where a single dirty plastic tube stretched from floor to ceiling and was crudely connected to a PC on the floor. The whole thing was plugged into the mains. Harold ushered Phil into the tube, shoved a few sheets of A4 paper into his hand and stood behind the computer.

      "Mum makes me leave this room in ten minutes and I've already spent over budget on electricity so I can only afford to send you about ten years into the past; have fun and don't screw anything up!" He said and double clicked his mouse.

      There was a low humming. A bright white light. An obnoxious 'BING!' filled the room. When Phil's vision returned to nomal, he rubbed his eyes, held his breath and looked around. He saw Harold behind his computer hammering control, alt, delete and cursing under his breath.

      Before Phil could ask what was happening the humming started again and he covered his eyes.

      When he opened his eyes he was standing in the middle of a field, he assumed ten years in the past. It was suspiciously unimpressive. He looked at the paper in his hand. Written at the top in rushed biro was: "Simpal rooles for Time Traval." Phil decided to overlook the spelling considering he'd just been hurtled through space-time. Scribbled next to a number one in the margin was: "Under no circumstences attempt to contackt yourself. I've no idea what'll happen, but I'll guess it's probubly bad." Phil read this, scrunched up the paper and set out to find himself.

      It turned out to be quite easy to find himself. He knocked on the door and stepped back. He opened the door and stepped back.

      Phil had put a lot of thought into this meeting and said with complete confidence: "Hello, I'm you. Please kill me."

      Phil reasoned it like this: he loved killing, but he couldn't kill people anymore. But - as his conscience made so frequently and so abundantly clear - he wasn't a person. Therefore he could allow his younger self this charitable act without his conscience having a hypothetical leg to stand on. His conscience reasoned it like this: Phil was a fucking smart arse and it couldn't care less if he died.

      Past Phil - or would it be Present Phil? I guess they're both, technically, in the Present, as that's the only time one can exist. But one does permanently live there and the other's a sort of tourist, one of the worst kinds that only visits places they've been before. Anyway, Phil the younger only hesitated because he couldn't believe his luck. He blissfully beat himself into a pulp.

      It was only afterwards that he started to consider the implications of this. Was it a crime to kill yourself? He knew suicide was a crime, but this was more like murder. But one can't murder one's self. It was a conundrum; even the Judge and Jury didn't really know whether it was a crime or not, but decided to lock Phil up for the rest of his natural life for the general benefit of society - who didn't really like Phil that much anyway.

      While incarcerated, Phil became quite interested in, what was at the time, speculative physics. He speculated that because he had met his future self, that he would be destined to go back in time. The event had happened, but it couldn't have happened without him going back in time, so for it to still have happened it would be necessary for him to go back too. This means he was destined to meet, and be killed by himself, again, again and again, for all eternity, infinitely recurring. Phil reclined on his bench and smiled knowing he'd always have the satisfaction of one last murder.

      Something did puzzle him though, how was he supposed to go back in time if he was stuck in prison? No sooner had the thought crossed his mind then a huge tear in space-time localised itself in his cell and sent him spiraling back in time - still holding onto a cup of tea. He landed outside of his own house and saw Phil the second younger's face smiling at him. Despite being killed every twenty years, the Phils' lives carried on pretty much as normal.

      There was one rather important, and somewhat unforseen, consequence in tearing the fabric of reality however; and that was that every time Phil went into the past, suddenly there was a cup of tea that hadn't existed a few seconds ago. Normally, this wouldn't be a big issue, but after about the fiftieth million repetition of the event, there wasn't a lot of living space left anymore.

      It was approximately the one billionth cup of tea that finally caused the world to reach critical mass and implode in on itself, killing all life. Needless to say - Phil's conscience was less than impressed.



copyright 2006 Andrew Murphy.

Andrew Murphy:

I'm currently eighteen, working in GAME in Bracknell and waiting for my UCAS to go through so I can study psychology at Nottingham University; but I'm somewhat contemplating staying on indefinitely in retail as it's an amazing place to meet and greet society's worst.