“The thin veil between us and parallel universes or time-lines is thinner now than it usually is, easier to penetrate. It’s what the Celtics would call a ‘Thin Space’. Something has weakened the structure of spacetime here or near here. The global weirdness and so-called ‘abductions’ are the clearest sign yet!” After a moment, Chris leaned back in his chair and smiled.
“What?” Thaddeus said.
“It works.” Chris thought for a moment, then added, “Well, I think it does.”
Thaddeus nursed his hot coffee. “What, your Nintendo?”
“No, my machine.”
“Your time machine? Get out of here!”
“Shhhh! No, really. I think it works.”
“What do you mean ‘you think’? What happened?”
“There are still a lot of kinks, but I went to my house in 1991 and I was naked and…”
“Are you sure you didn’t just bump your head real hard?”
“Yes! I went back to 1991, and I ended up in someone else’s house, which is my house now.”
“If that didn’t make flawless sense, I’d tell you how crazy I think you are right now.” Thaddeus stared at Chris for a moment. “What were you trying to do?”
“I was trying to go back to high school and give Hannah her journal back.”
“Okay, now I do think you’re crazy! When I said get rid of it, I meant, like, throw it away or something, not travel back in time and return it to its rightful owner!”
“Yeah, but if I give it back to her in the past, then I never had it!”
“Again, with the flawless logic—”
“If I never had it, then my wife never leaves.”
“I’ve run all the scenarios. If Hannah doesn’t forget her journal that day, then my life doesn’t fall apart yesterday.”
Thaddeus gave him a skeptical look.
“The problem is, according to my initial test-run yesterday, I can’t take anything back with me: no physical objects, no food, no clothes, no jewelry, nothing. So, I can’t take the journal. Only my body can go—”
“The journal is already there.”
“What? Oh, man… You’re right! I just have to make sure she doesn’t forget it and that my younger self doesn’t get it!”
“Exactly,” Thaddeus agreed.
Chris’s clock radio was between stations and blaring static. It was 7:21 AM. He reached over to shut it off and noticed anew that he was alone in the bed.
In the hall closet, over the low hum of the machine, Chris dictated into a mini-cassette recorder. “Given the experimental nature of this project and the inability to transfer lab notes and other materials as discovered in the initial test run, I am recording these sessions from now on.” He adjusted the controls and set the recorder on a shelf among the machine’s many components. “I am Christopher Bridges, Ph.D. Candidate in Theoretical Physics at Texas Tech University.” He took a drink from a half-empty cup of coffee. “I have assembled a device for the purpose of time travel via temporal projection. I have successfully visited the past on one occasion so far. This will be the second test.” He put the cup down beside the recorder and turned a dial on the machine.
“I am setting the chronometer for 11 a.m., Sunday, September 1, 1991.” He turned two dials and flipped a switch. The machine hummed louder. He picked up the Nintendo controller. “Initiating projection sequence: Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start… Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start—”
The machine popped and sputtered, and all the lights went out.
Chris hung his head and dropped his notes and the recorder on the floor. “Dammit.”
Chris was finishing up a lecture in his Intro to Physics class. His students were slowly trying to quietly pack up their books.
Chris turned from writing on the chalkboard, “All right.” The students paused their packing. “Review the first two chapters in your book, as I know you’ve already read them, and read chapter 3 for Thursday. See you then.”
The students scrambled out of their seats. Thaddeus stepped in just as the students crowd the door. Chris was packing up his notes. He didn’t look up, as Thaddeus approached him at the podium.
“How may I help you?”
“What was the homework again?” Thaddeus asked in a meek voice.
Chris looked up and frowned.
“Yikes. What’s up, man?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“C’mon. I’ll buy you lunch.”
Chris picked up his bag. “I’m not hungry.
“You gotta eat, man.”
In the cafeteria, Chris pulled out a crumpled piece of paper with notes scribbled all over it. “It stopped working.”
“What, your digestive system?”
“No. The machine.”
“That’s probably for the best.” Thaddeus gestured at the notes with his fork. “Is this your notes?
“Yeah, something like that,” Chris flattened the paper on the table. “Here’s what I’ve learned from my research and the one brief trip I was able to take.” He counted them off on his fingers: “1. You can’t take anything back with you, including clothes. If it’s not a part of your corporeal body, it stays in your native present. 2. You’re not really traveling through time but being projected to another point in time. That part is confusing in that it doesn’t follow the way we normally conceive of time travel and that it leads us to, 3. Hours spent in one time are taken from the other. So, if you’re in another time for 24 hours, you’re not anywhere else for those same 24 hours.”
“I wondered about that,” Thaddeus said. “So, you can’t just come back to the moment when you left?”
“No. It’s like the temporal entropy in McKenna’s Time-wave. There’s conservation of time the same way there’s conservation of energy. Memory is heat, and heat is the source of time—”
“How long do you need to be there?”
“Not long, but I’ll only have the one chance. None of it matters if it doesn’t work on the day.” He looked out the window. “I’m going to have to move out, man. The house is hers.”
“I know.” They ate in silence for a while, Thaddeus noticed something among Chris’s notes and books. “What’s this?”
“A calendar from 1991.”
“When exactly are you trying to return to?”
“Well, September 9, 1991 is the day Hannah leaves—”
“Left—” Thaddeus corrected.
“Her journal on the bench outside the Art building.”
Thaddeus pulled out the calendar and took a closer look. “When did you go back to last time?”
“I didn’t set the day. I didn’t think it was going to work, and I got sent back before I was ready.”
“When was that?” Thaddeus asked.
“Two days ago?”
“So, Sunday, September first.”
“I don’t know, man. I’m just trying to help.” As Thaddeus finished eating, Chris stared at the calendar. He had his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. He hadn’t touched his food. Thaddeus swallowed his last bite, “Did you set the time for the trip last time?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you said you didn’t set the day. What did you put into the machine for your destination?”
“I didn’t. The only thing I adjusted for was the year, 1991.”
“Okay. Well, I obviously don’t know enough about it, but it seems like that might be part of the problem.”
“I appreciate your help,” Chris added.