A cold night it was. The frosty wind swept on the snow-covered streets, where a lone figure walked along. The stout, lanky man had his body wrapped up in a thick capote, his neck with a long, curling shawl, and his head with a wide-brimmed fedora, completely shielding his face from the brutal blustery weather. He arrived at a series of stairs, and gently ascended the rickety steps with heavy thuds from his boots. Then he reached the top, at the penthouse of the roof.
His mitten fingers fumbled his capote pockets for a key to the lock. Then, gently creaking open the rusty-hinged door, he peered into a dim-lit room, where he saw his colleague, known by the name J, crouched in front of a computer with his back behind the door, as always. He stepped in, taking off his hat, coat, shawl, boots and gloves, closed the door and switched on the lights.
The room brightened up to reveal an enormous machine concealed in the darkness. It was not anything a person should have seen before, and too complex for anyone to know what it was for, save for the man and his colleague.
“Ah, you returned!” exclaimed J when he realised the presence of a man, though he was too absorbed in his work to even look.
“Yes I have. I’ve been keeping myself away from here to think thoroughly about it. And I’ve decided that I’ll do it. Today will be.”
J was startled. Nevertheless, J had expected this kind of answer to come from that kind of a man, only a little too soon from his anticipation.
“Before you do this,” warned J, “I’ll have to clarify a few things with you. Have you ever seriously taken the Grandfather’s Paradox into consideration?”
“Oh, so you still can’t get over that silly myth I’ve tried to debunk from time to time? Do you really believe that a grandson who travelled back in time and murdered his grandfather will cause universal havoc? Most importantly, do you still believe that time-travel is IMPOSSIBLE?”
J winced at the menacing glare his colleague gave him. Yes, J admitted that he was a strong sceptic in tall science fiction. But the man he was working with was just the opposite.
“Well then,” said the man, “let me remind you again that time travel is absolutely possible! That time is just another dimension, the fourth dimension, and definitely a vector! In the 3D world where you can travel from the United States of America to Japan and back again, it is the same for the 4D world. I don’t see why you cannot go back to GMT 0900 to brew a cup of coffee you’ve forgotten in the morning.”
He walked towards a big slide on the opposite wall. And then, picking up a marker, he began to draw, starting with a big M.
“Let’s say time is a vector that can be measured with an imaginary ruler and its direction can be determined with an imaginary compass. Thus time will comprise small measurable fragments, which we will call them as events. But time is different from length, breadth and height, because the fragments obey the law of the causal-effect relationship, which are entirely dependent on each other. Each event is caused by a preceding event, and in turn will cause an infinite probability of successive events! To put it simple, the past can affect the present, and the present can affect the future.”
As he lectured, his marker traced squiggly arrows towards other symbols. “Now, this main event, M, which I’ve on the board, will cause an infinite series of successive events. For simplicity’s sake, let’s limit them to two. I call them events A and B respectively. Now let’s expand this series further by assigning a number to the secondary successive events. And so we’ve A1, A2, B1, B2… and so on! Now, let’s assign a scenario to each event. Event M is ‘me’ waking up at GMT 0800. Event A is where I brewed coffee, while event B is where I brewed tea. Event A1 is when I spilled coffee, while A2 is when I don’t. Event B1 is when I spilled tea, while B2 is just the opposite.
“Here comes the interesting part. Let’s say I exist in this time frame, therefore I exist in all of these events. All of these events are real, and they’re really part of me doing different things at different times. But now, suppose I’m in event B1 and I spilled tea. I don’t care about that tea anyway because I love coffee more. And so….”
He drew a crude line from B1 back to M, “suppose I went back in time to event M to tell myself to not brew tea but coffee. Then I continue to warn myself in event A to not spill the coffee, forcing myself to take the path A2.
“But now this situation arises: is it really event M that I’m going back to? Does event A really happen because I made it so? The problem is that the moment I arrived at event M, it’s no longer the event M that I’ve experienced, because event M is not supposed to be visited by a time traveller. Therefore, with me appearing inside M, it’s already a contradiction. But let’s say that this event exists, so the conclusion we can make is that this is not actually event M, but event pseudo-M, which I’ll denote as M’. Event A is also a fraud, because event A is supposed to occur by its own free will, and not because of me dictating what should happen. So definitely, it’s A’, and A2’.”
J laughed, nodding his head in awe. “So what you’re trying to tell me is that no matter what you do to try change history, you never will, because you’ll only set another course of history in action that has no connection with the one you have really experienced?”
With his colleague’s doubts dismissed, the man walked with a proud stride towards the machine and hopped into the single-seated compartment, while J collected the man’s clothes and stuffed them into the trunk. Then, the man activated the controls with a deafening, whirring jump-start, loud enough to wake the neighbourhood in the middle of the night. He explained.
“This “time machine” actually hijacks any opened wormholes that it detects on this level of space. Surprising to say that for every split second, millions of wormholes open and close periodically. It’s only that present scientific apparatuses fail to detect them. With these wormholes, I can travel to any designated time-event that I desire.
“The only complication that will arise is that the Universe Constant, equivalent to 1022 suns, cannot be breached. Therefore, in order to time-travel, I need to perform an equivalent trade. The amount of mass which I’ll carry must be returned from that particular dimension….”
Without even hesitating further, he hit the big, red button (like the ones in game consoles). And in J’s sentience, it happened all too quickly. Without even realising that his friend was long gone, he could only gape at the sight of a huge rubbish bin that stank nine-heavens high.
“Oh man, why would he do this to me?” lamented J, as he tried to waft off the stench emanating from the garbage. His only consolation was a litter of kittens found beside the waste, which he decided to adopt.
“At least they’ll keep me company while he’s gone.”
This mysterious man could perhaps be one of the world’s most renowned scientists of his time. But he didn’t want to be known, nor did he want to be named. But for convenience’s sake, let this man be known as E.