Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 16
“So we are agreed. If any member of the Quantum Trans-chronometrical League of Scientists is successful in developing human time travel…”
“Ah!” Sergei Konstantinovich Krikalev thrust a hand into the air.
“Forwards doesn’t count!” The chairman banged his gavel on the podium thrice for emphasis. “If any member of the League is successful in developing human time travel, they will make their way to this location, at this time…” he checked his watch. “…nnnnnnow!”
Absolutely nothing happened.
“Well, that’s most disappointing.” The chairman leafed carefully through his notes, selected the next seventy-three pages precisely, tapped them straight on the wooden surface before him, and chucked them in the bin. “However, I understand that there have been numerous insightful developments in the study of relativistic aberration of cosmic rays at velocities approaching ten percent of the speed of light. If you will all turn to page eight hundred and six of your…”
There was a blinding flash of light, and a deafening bang.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” announced the newcomer. “I bring news from the future!”
“You’re late!” cried the chairman.
“Ah.” The time traveller grimaced. “Funny you should say that: I’m actually early. I had intended to get here after you leave the stage, as my violent arrival dislodges one of the auditorium’s stage lights, and…”
Suddenly, the chairman was killed by a falling stage light.
“Shoot! Not again.” The time traveller anxiously checked his watch. “Never mind. Never mind. I don’t have a whole lot of time. It’s of the utmost importance that I inform you all that time travel doesn’t work.”
“What?” spluttered one of the delegates in the front row.
“Time travel doesn’t work,” repeated the time traveller, slowly. “Forget about it. Can’t be done. Go with that relativistic aberration thing. That’s actually quite promising. Boring, but promising.”
“What do you mean time travel doesn’t work?” asked Sergei, who had in fact travelled forward in time one fiftieth of a second over the course of his distinguished career in space.
“It doesn’t work! It’s impossible! Trust me, I’m from the future!”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!”
“What doesn’t make any sense is why you would keep asking me about this when: A, I know how all this turns out; and B, I have very little time before—”
There was another blinding flash of light and another deafening bang. Another time traveller appeared upon the stage.
“Ah,” said the first time traveller, and promptly exploded, showering the stage, the second time traveller, and the first two rows of delegates with entrails.
“Ahhh!” yelled the second time traveller. “Oh my God! Was that the first guy? Did I just explode the first guy? I knew I should have worn a raincoat! Why was he even still here? And is that another dead guy under that lamp? What’s going on here???”
The delegate in the front row wiped his glasses on his shirt, then put them back on. “Is that why time travel doesn’t work? Do you explode if you meet someone else from your own time?”
“I don’t know, man! I don’t know!!!”
There was yet another blinding flash of light, and yet another deafening bang. A third time traveller appeared upon the stage.
“AHHHHH!!!” yelled the second time traveller, but didn’t explode.
“I can answer that,” said the third time traveller. “You see, in the future the vast majority of theoretical discoveries have inevitably been made, and the League of Scientists is concerned primarily with ensuring that those innovations are pursued in an ethical and, above all, sensible manner.”
“What? That doesn’t answer the question at all!”
“Oh, hang on. Did you ask ‘Do you explode if you meet someone else from your own time?’ Sorry. I thought I arrived after a different question.”
“But why would you just pop in here without telling us anything pursuant to our research?” demanded a different delegate.
“Well you see,” explained the third time traveller, “in the future the vast majority of theoretical discoveries have inevitably been…ah! That was the one. I’m all caught up now.” He turned back to the delegate in the front row. “But you wanted to know about the exploding thing. No, there is absolutely no causal link between meeting another time traveller and violently exploding.”
The second time traveller let out a sigh of relief. Then he exploded.
“You just explode,” continued the third. “That’s why time travel is effectively impossible. And why I’m wearing a tarp.” Very carefully, he folded up the plastic sheet and placed it on the floor. “In hindsight, I wish I’d gone for wellies as well, though. This place is a mess.”
“Well,” said the delegate in the front row, wiping his glasses on his shirt once again, “I’m sure we’re all extremely grateful to you for coming to tell us all that at what I’m sure will be a great personal cost.”
“What?” asked the third time traveller, blinking. “Oh, no! You see, fifteen years from now the chairman of this very society devises a method of sending just one traveller back, just once, with no ill effects. Of course, there’s always the risk of altering history in such a way that subsequent timelines are irrevocably altered and that’s the chairman under that light fixture, isn’t it?”
The entire auditorium nodded glumly.
“Oh dear. Well, let this be a lesson to you: time travel is a no-no. Go with the whole cosmic rays thing. I know it’s not as glamorous as…”
The third time traveller exploded.
The room remained silent for a long, long time.
“I think we can surmise,” said the delegate in the front row, attempting to wipe his glasses again but struggling to find a portion of shirt that was not already covered in gunk, “that since no further time travellers have appeared, it is our destiny to give up research into time travel altogether.”
“It would appear so.” The scientist to his left stared at his severely soiled shoes.
There was another long silence.