Jim suddenly found himself in a parallel world. Jim knew that was the case because he had noticed how the things around him had changed from how they had been before when he had gone to sleep – a sure sign that something was up. This was not a new circumstance for Jim, having had found himself in many a parallel world before. Jim’s mother would often warn the boy about this sort of thing. “Watch where you’re going, Jimmy!” she would shout. Jim never listened, though. But this (space-)time was different; Jim was fed up and determined never to allow himself to get so lost ever again. Jim was going to keep his eyes open from now on – forever.
Suddenly, Jim saw his grandfather. Jim’s grandfather looked a lot younger than when Jim had last seen him. Something was up, Jim knew. An urge then fell upon Jim – not of malice but of a scientific kind of curiosity – to kill his grandfather. Reaching into his pocket, Jim discovered a gun. He tried to use it to shoot his grandfather.[i] Unfortunately, it didn’t work; the gun had misfired. Evidently, something was stopping Jim; Jim felt as if he had lost something from within.[ii]
Confused, Jim lost interest. Jim decided (or so it would seem) to sit down for awhile, and, despite his better judgment, Jim closed his eyes. Sure enough, Jim fell fast asleep. When Jim later woke up, everything had changed again.[iii]
Suddenly, Jim saw his grandfather. (This is what the French refer to as déjà vu. Jim didn’t know that, though, not having taken any French.) Recognizing the significance of the moment, Jim pulled out his gun and aimed. (Though some may find it disturbing that a kid like Jim should be carrying a gun, remember the old adage: Better safe than sorry.) Fortunately, Jim shot his grandfather, who died instantly and didn’t suffer, so don’t worry. Jim then felt the world change;[iv] Jim felt that he had gained something from within.[v]
Feeling free, Jim kept on walking. As luck would have it, Jim stepped into a hole.[vi] Jim didn’t know it was there, of course, because holes are invisible.[vii] Falling all the way in, Jim didn’t even bother to struggle, knowing pessimistically that he was already beyond the point of no return.[viii] Coming out at the other end, Jim was now somewhere (or some-when) else.[ix]
Suddenly, Jim saw his mom. Jim’s mom looked a lot younger than when Jim had last seen her. Jim thought she was kind of hot, so Jim asked if he could kiss her. “Ok,” she said. (Though some may find it disturbing that a son should desire his own mother, remember the old adage: Honor thy father and [especially] thy mother.) Nevertheless, Jim could not shake the strange feeling that this woman, despite appearances, was not really his mom.[x] Anyway, perhaps out of guilt for killing her father, Jim decided to propose. “Ok,” she said. Eventually, they got married, bought a house, and had kids – predictable. Jim felt pretty awesome; Jim was doing what he wanted to do (including his mom) without anything stopping him.
After several years, Jim got bored of the married life (who doesn’t?) and decided to leave his mom/wife and siblings/kids. Jim got into his convertible and drove off, never to see them again. Serendipitously, Jim found a gun in the glove compartment.[xi] (Jim had forgotten all about the time he had purchased and put it there after having decided to kill himself because the marriage was driving him crazy [we’ve all been there] but ultimately decided against it.) The gun had collected a lot of dust over the years.[xii] Jim put it in his pocket in case he later changed his mind about killing himself. Jim hit the convert button, and the car changed into a starship. Jim wanted to get as far away from everything as possible.
Jim was travelling really fast in space.[xiii] But, no matter how fast he went, whenever Jim looked out of the window, there was always a beam of light passing him by.[xiv] “Show-off,” Jim thought. The time away actually helped clear Jim’s mind, for he had decided to come back home to his family, after all. However, when Jim returned back to the Earth, a million years had passed.[xv] Intelligent machines now ruled the world, and there were no humans left.[xvi] Jim looked at his watch; Jim was only gone for a few hours.
Jim was pretty bummed out. Jim needed people in order to determine how good to feel about himself. Eventually, Jim learned that the intelligent machines had built a time machine – predictable. The time machine, essentially, was an immense spinning cylinder in space.[xvii] So Jim got back into his convertible and orbited it until he got dizzy and passed out. Later (or before), when he came to, Jim realized that the time machine wasn’t there anymore. Frustrated, Jim decided to head back to complain and tell the intelligent machines that their time machine didn’t work. When Jim got back, though, there were no intelligent machines to be found. “Predictable,” Jim thought. Then Jim saw people again, many of whom Jim knew he was better than; Jim was pretty stoked.
Jim decides to live his life in this here-now and change the world.[xviii] Jim still receives letters from his mom/wife and kids/siblings on occasion.[xix] But Jim doesn’t write back; Jim was already paying child support and felt that that was enough. Besides, the whole situation had become awkward all the sudden. This time around, Jim ended up marrying a robot girl, though he didn’t know she was a robot at the time. (What don’t women lie about?) Thanks to breakthroughs in nanotechnology and medicine, Jim is able to live forever.[xx]
Eventually, the end of the world will come – predictable. It will get very dark and very cold.[xxi] The cyborgs of the future will decide to build a giant machine. The machine will use powerful lasers that focus all their beams on a single point of space-time.[xxii] It will get very hot.[xxiii] This will naturally make Jim very sleepy, and, though he knows much better, Jim will take a nap. A window will be opened.[xxiv] And when he wakes up, Jim will find himself in a parallel world.[xxv]
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[i] Theoretical time travel engenders a number of paradoxes. The grandfather paradox occurs when a time traveler goes into the past and kills his grandfather (or one of his parents) before he is born, therefore, inhibiting the series of events that lead to his birth in the fure. However, the question then becomes: If the time traveler is never born, then how could he have traveled back in time and killed his grandfather in the first place?
[ii] This is a reference to free will, which doesn’t exist in this hypothetical universe. One of the solutions to the grandfather paradox is that there is one universe and no free will. Therefore, a time traveler to the past who attempts to kill his grandfather is somehow prevented from doing so, thereby not engendering an alteration to the timeline.
[iii] The protagonist travels into parallel universes via sleep. He now finds himself in a different universe with a different physics.
[iv] The other solution to the grandfather paradox is that there is a virtually endless number of universes in existence (known as the multiverse) where all possibilities play out. Hence, when a time traveler alters the timeline, a new universe is instantaneously created, thus, preserving the original universe the time traveler came from – and his timeline.
[v] Another reference to free will, which exists in this hypothetical multiverse.
[vi] This is a metaphor for a wormhole (or Einstein-Rosen Bridge), a space-time bridge connecting a black hole, which consumes matter, and a white hole, which emits it.
[vii] A black hole is not itself visible, for not even light can escape its powerful gravitational pull.
[viii] Once within the event horizon (or outer edge) of a black hole, nothing is known to be able to escape the immense gravitational attraction.
[ix] The center of a black hole, a black hole being a rupture in the space-time continuum, may, theoretically, lead to a distant part of the universe or, as is the case for the protagonist, a different point in time.
[x] Parallel people, or the equivalents of others in a parallel universe, may look alike or have the same memories, but they are, in fact, different people within a different timeline.
[xi] This is the same gun from earlier in the story. Therefore, this is an example of the ontological paradox, whereby an item, or information, is sent back in time and then becomes the same object sent back in time. Its origin in time is impossible to determine.
[xii] The accumulation of dust is what causes the gun to misfire earlier in the story.
[xiii] The protagonist was traveling close to the speed of light, which is about 300,000 km/s.
[xiv] This is a reenactment of perhaps Einstein’s most famous thought experiments. Essentially, at 16, Einstein pondered what it would be like to race alongside a light beam. Older and wiser, he eventually concluded counter-intuitively that a light beam always appears to be moving away from us at a constant speed no matter how fast we may be traveling in relation to it.
[xv] According to relativity, if one is traveling near the speed of light, time for the traveler slows down. Therefore, the traveler, effectively, journeys into the future via time dilation, or the slowing down of his “clock.”
[xvi] This Terminator-like scenario is certainly a plausible reality. Many have long predicted the eventual surpassing of biological intelligence by technological intelligence. Technological intelligence is already more efficient in terms of its speed, accuracy, and instantaneous information sharing ability. Futurist and inventor Raymond Kurzweil, for instance, has estimated that a technological singularity, where the exponentially increasing rate of technological evolution will become unperceivably quick, will occur in the year 2045.
[xvii] This is a reference to a van Stockum cylinder. Named after Dutch mathematician Willem Jacob van Stockum, it’s a mathematical solution using Einstein’s equations that theoretically allows for time travel into the past or future. It involves an infinitely long cylinder spinning at the speed of light, which distorts the space-time around it.
[xviii] The world, indeed, changes due to our protagonist’s existence in a foreign timeline.
[xix] According to the multiverse theory, people coexist with their parallel neighbors. Therefore, any such people a traveler to parallel worlds would encounter continue to exist whether the traveler stays in that universe or leaves it.
[xx] Aging, which results from the accumulation over a lifetime of genetic damage, and by extension death, has long been theorized to have a cure. Future advances in nanotechnology may make this a reality. Nanobots could swim in our bloodstreams and instantaneously and simultaneously repair and prevent genetic damage from taking place.
[xxi] This is a reference to the Big Freeze, which is the most widely held scientific theory for the end of the universe. As the observable exponential increase in the expansion of the universe with time continues (known as metric expansion), eventually there will be no stars left in the sky and temperatures will reach absolute zero (or 0 K), where individual atoms stop moving.
[xxii] This is a description of a theoretical machine described by physicist Michio Kaku in his Parallel Worlds. The machine would allow a highly technologically advanced civilization to escape their dying parent universe and enter a budding baby universe.
[xxiii] The theoretical machine works by “boiling” a point of space-time by raising its temperature extremely high. This temperature is known as the Planck energy, where all known physics breaks down.
[xxiv] A window into hyperspace (or the space that separates parallel universes) is opened.
[xxv] The protagonist finds himself back where he was at the beginning of the story. This is an example of a paradox of time travel known as a causality loop; the protagonist is stuck in a loop of events which cause him inevitably to continue to travel back in time with no end.
James Noguera is a speculative fiction writer, blogger, and poet from the Bronx. He received his BA in English from Fordham University and is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing from City College. He is currently working on a novelette.