“Hey old man,” My lover of more than 25 years said as he entered the study, carrying a box.
“You should talk,” I said in retort with a wink. “After all, you’re a year older that I am.”
“That may be true, Chris, but you’re the one turning fifty tomorrow,” my husband replied as he set the box down in front of me. Yeah, we’d tied the knot just as soon as Massachusetts had legalized gay marriage. We were one of the first couples in line.
“What’s in the box?” I asked.
“Don’t know,” he replied. “I found it up in the attic when I was cleaning out some of our stuff. As you can see from the movers’ sticker, it came with us from California. It’s still taped up and doesn’t look like it’s been opened since then. I thought maybe you’d have an idea what it was.”
Taking the scissors out of a drawer, I said, “Let’s find out.”
Cutting the tape that was holding it closed, I opened the box and found a file box inside. Suddenly, I felt intensely nauseous and I had to sit down.
“Chris, are you alright?” my soul mate asked.
“I’m not sure,” was all I could manage to say.
“Are you having a heart attack?… A stroke?” he asked.”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that,” I said. “It’s the box. It’s something about the box. We need to put it back. We need to seal it back up. We mustn’t open it… ever.”
“But why?” my lover asked.
“I don’t know,” was all I could say.
His curiosity piqued, he said, “It’s only a box, Chris, and there’s only one way to prove it to you as he pulled off the lid of the file box and blew out a layer of dust from within, where he found a series of hardcover journals that looked to be ancient. Taking out one after another, the covers were all labeled with my name, Christopher Allen Michaels, in my handwriting and dated from July 20 through July 25, 1978, when I was only twelve years old!
My curiosity overcoming my sense of dread, I opened the first book and started to read what was inside. The pages were yellowed and the handwriting was very large and neat… much neater than my handwriting of today. The book was filled with incredible drawings and diagrams of fantastic machines. What I read was very compelling and disturbing:
I have been asked to keep this journal by my friend, Christopher, who came to me in my dreams tonight. I know that sounds silly, but if what he says is true, then someday this journal will be the only record of what happened in the future. Of what almost happened. Well, of what happened the first time, and what happened when we tried to change it, and how messed up things got. You see, Christopher is I. Or rather, Christopher is me. He is me in 2 years, when I’ll be 14. He is who I will become, or who I once became, or who I almost became. Perhaps the best way to put it is that Christopher is who I would have become if he had not visited me tonight. He says that someday I’ll grow up to invent a machine that will let me send my thoughts back in time through my dreams. Well, he says that’s what I did the first time, but that I won’t be doing that any more, because the machine is evil, and must not be used, and that’s why he’s contacting me now.
I know this is all so confusing, but time is a paradox, and things that have not yet happened can sometimes affect things today. Time is not always a straight line. Sometimes it goes in circles, and sometimes it forms loops. Sometimes if we interfere with it, it may even spread out to form a web with interconnections and alternative paths. That is what has happened.
When I grow up, I’ll invent a machine that’ll let me send my thoughts back in time. That is what Christopher did with me tonight. He said I thought I was only changing time, but I was wrong. Each time I sent my thoughts back, I created a new branch in the web of time. As Christopher put it, I really fucked things up.
Christopher is going to help me fix things, because we made a lot of mistakes, and because the machine I will invent — the machine we invented — will fall into the wrong hands and be used to hurt a lot of people. First we have to document everything in this journal, just in case it’s ever needed again someday, and then we have to fix our mistakes, so the world is made right. Christopher says we’ll have to make sacrifices, but that we’ll be better off in the end. He’s going to tell me how to have a better life, so I won’t have such a bad time in school as I did the first time. He even says I’ll find a boyfriend — that it’s OK to like boys — that that’s what God wants me to do!
This is all so overwhelming, but Christopher says everything’s going to be fine in the end, and that if everything works the way it’s supposed to, I’ll even forget all about these dreams and this journal after we’re done. Christopher keeps talking about our sacrifice, but whenever I ask him about it, he changes the subject. I can sense the change in his mood, and I can almost see the tears in his eyes. There was one time he slipped and mentioned our kids, and then I knew. Maybe God did mean for us to have a boyfriend, but the first time around, we did what we thought we were supposed to do, which was to get married and have children. I’d always thought that was what I was supposed to do.
If we’d had children and been forced to give them up, I could not imagine the pain involved. The only thing I find worth giving that up for, would truly be to save the world, and that was what Christopher and I were going to do. The only consolation would be that I would never know what I had lost once my task was complete, but he apparently knew enough from his conversations with ourselves that in the future I would understand the incredible sense of loss I would feel, and that was enough to convey to me what I was truly giving up. It was a damn good thing I would forget this, or I could never live with myself for what was about to happen.
As I closed the first journal, I couldn’t help but feel the utter sense of despair of the twelve-year-old boy who had filled those pages. I had no recollection of having written those words, but apparently I wasn’t supposed to have remembered. I recalled getting off to a rocky start at the beginning of seventh grade, but then I somehow got into the rhythm of things and I learned not to let the taunting and the teasing get to me. I learned to take it and to dish it out in return, and I did indeed get a boyfriend, much to the dismay of my parents. 1978 in St. Louis was definitely not a time to be out. Even though we were careful, our parents discovered our relationship and the shit really hit the fan. My relationship with my parents remains strained to this day, thanks to those tumultuous times.
But what if that wasn’t what really happened? Twelve year olds aren’t supposed to have the balls to do things like that, and definitely not gay twelve year olds, especially, back in the seventies in the Midwest. My parents were so conservative, too.
My husband and I had both been graduate students at Stanford. We went on to do post-doctorates nearby, but by then had decided we were committed to each other and, for better or for worse, we weren’t going to look for jobs without consulting each other. I had a great job offer from Lawrence Livermore, but my better half really wanted to take an offer of an instructorship at MIT. I warned him that MIT had a reputation for chewing up and spitting out young professors, but he had family in the East and he really wanted to go there. Reluctantly, I applied for a job there as well and was also extended an offer, and so we headed to Cambridge.
As it turned out, it was the best move of our lives. MIT can be a cruel place for the average ‘best and brightest’ young minds, but once young faculty members start bringing in the research grants, they are rewarded handsomely. We were both full professors with tenure by the time we were in our mid-thirties. Frankly, we had more graduate students and post-docs assigned to us than we knew what to do with. Undoubtedly, I was in a much better position to follow my dreams than I would have ever been at Lawrence Livermore.
Of course, I never did get around to exploring the mechanics of temporal quantum variations beyond the theoretical, and the thought of actually building a machine to send communications back through time had remained the stuff of science fiction to me, until now…
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of
David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.