Working With Myself

It all began on a normal, quiet morning as I sat in my favorite armchair, ruminating on my favorite subject – time travel.

I myself was only a humble electrical engineer, far from the lofty heights of theoretical physics where time travel could be found, but I understood the basics. Teleportation was well understood, and had been around for over twenty years – I myself had built a teleportation gate during my time in college. In theory, time travel would work on the same principles, but rather than just displacing the target in three dimensions, it would displace the target in four – the three spacial dimensions of height, width, and depth, and the fourth dimension of time.

Of course, the difficulty in building a time machine lay not in understanding the principles, but in applying them. To build a time machine would require crafting in three dimensions a machine that operated in four. So although many had tried to build a time machine that worked, no one had succeeded.

As I said, I was sitting in my favorite armchair on Sunday morning just after breakfast, thinking about these facts and the latest highly publicized failure, when there was a crackling blue mist in the middle of the room and a perfect copy of myself stepped out.

“Hello, me,” said the new me. “I’m going to build a time machine, and I’m going to help me.”

I blinked, startled and confused , and opened my mouth, but the new me interrupted before I could speak.

“Listen, I know you’re confused,” said the duplicate. “I’ve been exactly where you are. Let me explain.”

“Who are you?” I demanded. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m you,” he said with a smile. “In about one week. And as I said, I’m here to build a time machine with myself.”

I furrowed my brow. “You traveled back here, using the time machine that you’re going to build with my help… so that once the time machine is finished, I can travel back to do the same thing?”

“You’ve got it,” future-me agreed. “I’ll prove it for you, of course – my signature is the same as yours, and I remember everything you thought of. Are thinking of.”

“We need some new pronouns.”

“Yes.”

It didn’t take long for the me who had traveled from the future to prove that either he was from the future or he had been very thorough in his impersonation – he knew all my passwords, his signature matched mine, and his fingerprints and voice were close enough to fool my computer into unlocking for him. I still wasn’t quite convinced, though. Clones could be grown fast enough these days to make him physically identical to me, and everything else was just acting – although there was really no reason I could think of for someone to try and trick me like this. But teleportation and impersonation was still a far more likely explanation than time travel.

“Are we ready for the final test yet?” he asked me as we sat across the table from each other. He seemed kind of bored.

“You tell me,” I challenged him.

“Alright. You’re about to ask me to guess a random number that you’ve just thought of, which is a rather silly test as it wouldn’t stick in the mind for a whole week, but this answer did. The next test was to tell you what the design of your next product entails . You haven’t checked your email yet, but the answer is a capacitor for that Big Bang experiment Harvard is doing. After that you were going to ask me what tomorrow’s lottery numbers are.” He took an index card out from his pocket, six numbers written on it in thick black marker, and handed it to me as I stared. “Someone already bought them, though, sorry.”

“I’m… going to check that email.” I pulled out my phone and was halfway to the email app before he interrupted.

“Don’t bother, it won’t be sent for another…” he glanced at his watch, then shook his head and looked up at where a clock hung on the wall. “another half-hour. Now come on, we have a week of vacation to build this thing before I get back to work and you’ll be sitting where I am.”

I interrupted him before he could continue further. “Hold on, what makes you think that your… my… our attempt at a time machine will work any better than anyone else’s?”

“The proof stands right in front of you,” the other me declared. “But the answer to the question of why it will work is…” he paused. “I’m not entirely certain why ours worked, actually, as the version of me from the future, that would be me, from your perspective, never adequately explained it to me. I have theories, formed over the past week, but…”

“Let me hear them,” I told him.

“We don’t have time right now,” he said, glancing at a notebook and the clock. “We need to head out to the car and buy the materials.”

I wondered what was in that notebook as I stood and made for the door and the little box where I kept my wallet and keys.

“Don’t bother,” said the future-me, standing and twirling a set of keys – my keys – on his finger. “I’m driving.”

“Why are you driving?” I demanded as he strode out of the house.

“Seniority!” he cried, almost singing the word. “I’m a week older than you.” Then he laughed. “You have no idea how good it feels to be the one saying that. Not yet, at least.”

“You-”

“More importantly,” he said with a wry grin as I glared, “I know where we’re going.”

Two hours later, I was helping load my trunk with aluminum sheeting and rods while I explained to myself why we were shopping at the hardware store that was farther from the house.

“Yes, it has a generally smaller selection,” the future me agreed, “but that’s offset by you not being a regular customer. Do we want to deal with people commenting that they didn’t know you had a twin brother?”

“No,” I said. “But that’s not the only reason we drove for an hour and a half to get out here, is it? You bought something while I was looking at that set of drill bits – something that isn’t at the closer store?”

“Guilty,” he admitted. “But I didn’t find out until Wednesday, and if I could survive waiting for no reason other than future-me remembering he had, then so can you.”

I rubbed my temples. “Do we ever come up with those new pronouns?”

“Sorry, no.”

When we got back home, I was ordered, again by virtue of seniority, to copy a file from the future me’s flash drive to the computer and print it out, without opening it. “It’ll be more impressive that way,” he told me. As the disposable flash drive was helpfully labeled ‘time machine plans’ I assumed that was what it contained.

I left the old printer rattling and returned to the sitting room to find myself lying back comfortably in my favorite armchair, notebook in hand. He was writing something down, but snapped the notebook shut and slipped the pen into his pocket as I entered.

“I can hear the printer,” he said. “I know it isn’t finished. Also, your jaw isn’t on the floor.”

“It can’t be that impressive, and that’s my seat.”

“Seniority.”

“…fine. But since that old printer takes way too long to print even one page, tell me your theories on why the time machine will work.”

“Let me think on that,” he said lightly. “No.”

“Why not?” I asked. “Is there a real reason, other than that’s how you remember it?”

“Well, trying to avoid a paradox seems like a pretty good reason to me,” he retorted, seemingly a bit defensive.

“A bit annoying, you mean.”

“I’ve been there, and believe me it’s more fun from this end.”

“You are the most aggravating…” I stopped as I realized that I was literally insulting myself, and he laughed.

“Listen, let’s order some pizza,” he suggested. “My treat.”

“Our treat, our credit cards are linked to the same account-”

“Details, details! Let’s order some pizza, we’ll play some video games while we wait for the printer to finish, and after dinner you can have your mind blown.” He smirked. “Remember, I’ve been there too… We can do the basic frame tonight.”

I had a sudden thought as he reached for a phone. “Where are you going to sleep?” I asked suspiciously, eyeing him where he sat in my favorite armchair. “You aren’t going to take the bed and claim seniority, are you?”

“We’re literally the same person. We can share.”

I was speechless.

He laughed at the look of stunned silence on my face. “Don’t worry, I’m not that cruel. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Just under an hour later, I tried to make sense of what I was looking at as I stared at the blueprints the old printer had laboriously produced . There were a lot of them, spilling out across the paper in a rather confusing fashion.

“Will you stop that irritating count-down?” I snapped at my older self, who smiled.

“But of course,” he said, stopping the countdown from 83 he had started when I picked up the sheaf of paper. “It may help to know that there’s a picture on the last page.”

I looked through the blueprints for a few moments more, recognizing most of the pieces as parts of a teleporter, but put together in a way that made no sense. Unless I was reading the measurements entirely wrong… “This can’t be right, some of these parts pass through each other!” I objected.

“17,” he said smugly. “Look at the picture.”

I looked. It showed me standing with myself next to the finished time machine – the machine was an awful lot smaller than it had any right to be, not much larger than a doorframe. A teleporter, which the technology was based on, was the size of a trailer truck! Hell, a Gammet-Edelman transformer alone, which was a key part of a teleporter, was bigger than –

“Oh.” I said, getting it. “Oh! That’s clever!”

“You see it?” he asked.

“I think so. But how did you get it to work? Building a four-dimensional machine when we’re three-dimensional ourselves…”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “But I’m going to figure it out at some point this week. I’d tell you, but…”

“Right. Paradox.”

It was an angle no one had ever tried before, I mused later that night. We had built the basic frame from the aluminum we purchased that day before collapsing into bed, but I couldn’t sleep yet, although I suspected that one week older, I was sleeping peacefully on the couch.

Previous attempts at time machines had tried to build three-dimensional machines that affected the fourth dimension, like cutting a piece of paper into a shape that would let it move a marble up and down. But no flat paper can move anything in a perpendicular plane.

However, this time machine was going to work because it would exist in four dimensions. Somehow, our three-dimensional materials would be folded into four, like folding a paper into a spring. No longer flat, it would have the same size overall, but the flat part would look smaller if you were two-dimensional. That was why the machine had looked smaller, in the picture, than was logically possible – a three-dimensional camera couldn’t see the four-dimensional parts.

“However we accomplish it,” I said to myself.

By Wednesday night we had built three different outer frames for the machine, following the plans brought back by my future self. Each was almost identical, from screw placement to paint detailing, but contained a different electrical layout.

“So,” I said to myself as I sat at my table, eating a burger.

“Yeah?” I answered, eating a hot dog.

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m going to ask,” I said. “It’s Wednesday.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked to me like a black bar with glowing green numbers on it. “The closer store doesn’t sell these.”

“A coordinate finder?” I said, raising an eyebrow. They were occasionally used in conjunction with teleporters. Normally a teleporter worked on an offset, instantly changing something’s location to a certain distance and angle from the teleporter itself. However, they could also be used to set something to a certain set of spacial coordinates – the coordinate finders gave out a set of coordinates in three dimensions that a teleporter could send to at any point, as the coordinates would be swept along with the gravity well of the Earth and not degraded by time.

“The last few parts of the machine needs to be time traveled in at an offset,” he explained. “It’s, well, most of it, actually. They’ll get traveled in, completing the time machine, and then we have to use the time machine to travel back the parts we built to complete the time machine.”

I rubbed my forehead. “Does this make more sense after you’ve gone back in time?”

“Nah, you just know what to say,” he confessed.

“Okay, so… building a time machine requires collaborating with someone who already has a time machine,” I said. “Would that be why no one has ever finished one before; they never thought of collaborating with themselves in the future?”

“Stanford, three years ago,” he denied. “They tried something similar. I don’t recall the details, though.”

“That’s right,” I said, confused again. “They wanted to have a time machine sent wholesale, then duplicate it. They never got one.”

We argued for another half hour before giving up and going to bed. As I told myself, the real work began tomorrow.

On Thursday, I started to wire the electronics into each of the frames, while my future self was writing code – another piece of information carried back from the future, with no apparent origin. After he finished, he printed it out and tucked it into his notebook, tearing up the sheet he had been copying from.

On Friday, we were ready to receive, then send the parts which would overlay each other. There were three outer frames that needed to be traveled back in time to connect to the central doorframe, all being sent into the same location.

“I’m not entirely sure what it means,” my older self confessed to me, “but we’re going to be sending them off at 90 degree, 180 degree, and 270 degree offsets to normal reality. Our guess is-”

“That the four-dimensional shape is roughly circular, with our three-dimensional shapes being located at 0 degrees on the axis.” I interrupted.

“Hey, I should get to say it,” he said, annoyed. “Seniority.”

We used the coordinate finder to check where the location of our central doorframe was, then waited for a minute or two.

There was a crackling blue mist around the frame, which dissipated, leaving absolutely nothing changed. One minute later, it happened again. The third time, though, the blue mist remained, stretched out in a thin skein across the center of the frame.

“We did it,” I breathed, having trouble believing it. “We really-”

“Picture time!” cried the other me. “Front and center, come on. This is your accomplishment!”

So I stood, still feeling a little dazed, as I took a picture of myself. This was the picture, I supposed, that would be brought back in time.

“Okay,” said the older me, “let’s get to work. I wrote down the times that the pieces appeared, so we just have to manhandle our pieces into the final product and send them off.”

I looked at the page of his notebook where he had three times written in heavy black marker: 8:30, 8:31, and 8:32; then at his hand, where he held a pencil. He shrugged.

So we carried the three identical shells over, programmed the time machine, and it was a simple matter of subtraction to send them back in time to the correct moments.

“Tomorrow,” he said to me, “it’s your turn.”

I had never been so excited for the next day.

But the next morning, it turned out that time traveling wasn’t as simple as crossing the border. In fact, it was a lot more complicated. Now was the time when many of the oddities I had noticed about my older self came to light.

First, he let me see the contents of his notebook, containing notes on what he had done in the past. “Be very careful not to let your past self see the inside,” he warned me. It held the important times to remember, along with the code the time machine ran on, printed out on my old, slow printer. There was a record of all our conversations as well as a spreadsheet carefully keeping track of all the purchases that we had made, both related to the machine and not. A listing of the necessary parts. Everything.

“Go out to a convenience store and buy,” he glanced at the last few entries in the spreadsheet, purchases not yet made. “a standard plain red AlanCorp brand notebook, that’ll become this; a disposable 8 gigabyte MemDISC flash drive; and a water bottle.”

“A water bottle?” I asked incredulously.

He tapped the very last line: one pure spring water bottle. “I’m thirsty,” he said.

“We have water here.”

“Seniority.”

“You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to saying that,” I muttered as I grabbed my keys and headed for the car.

When I got back, I began hand-copying the contents of the old notebook into the new, while the other me, soon to be the only me, copied the plans for the time machine onto the new flash drive.

“I can’t just take yours back,” I remarked to him, “because if I did, then they would enter into an infinite loop, and minor damage would build up until they were destroyed.” I had noticed that while the new notebook was pristine, the one that had already time traveled was bent and had crumbled papers.

“That’s right,” he agreed. “For a similar reason, I can’t go back to enter the loop again.”

The last step of the preparation was to look up and record Monday’s lottery numbers on an index card in thick black marker, slipping it into my pocket, then, with some ceremony, transfer the papers containing the code for the time machine into my own notebook.

“I’m ready,” I told my older self, and he nodded. A quick double-check of the spacial coordinates, and then he set the time machine to send me backwards exactly six days.

I took a breath, and stepped through the doorway.

There was a loud crackle, buzzing in my ears like a thousand bees at once, and then it was gone, leaving nothing behind but ringing in my ears and the rather unpleasant taste of copper in my mouth. I wanted to spit as the blue that filled my eyes began to part, revealing myself sitting in my favorite armchair, open mouthed with shock, but I remembered, and knew that I couldn’t.

“Hello, me,” I told my younger self. “I’m going to build a time machine, and I’m going to help me.”

He just stared in shock and confusion, so I continued.

“Listen, I know you’re confused,” I told him. “I’ve been exactly where you are. Let me explain.”

“Who are you?” he asked. I could see a touch of fear – I remembered a firm demand. How odd. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m you,” I said with a smile, to assuage the fear I must have been repressing. “In about one week. And as I said, I’m here to build a time machine with myself.”

He furrowed his brow, taking the statement as a puzzle and working it out instead of becoming more afraid. “You traveled back here, using the time machine that you’re going to build with my help… so that once the time machine is finished, I can travel back to do the same thing?”

“You’ve got it,” I agreed. “I’ll prove it for you, of course – my signature is the same as yours, and I remember everything you thought of. Are thinking of,” I corrected myself.

“We need some new pronouns,” he pointed out.

“Yes.”

It took quite a while before I satisfied myself that I was from the future. I had to use my fingerprints and voice password to unlock the computer, re-login to all of the websites I was signed up on, and access my bank account, then copy my signature next to his ten times before he agreed that I was probably from the future. Of course, I knew he wasn’t entirely convinced, but he soon would be.

“Are we ready for the final test yet?” I asked him, suppressing a yawn, as we sat down at the table.

“You tell me,” he challenged.

“Alright. You’re about to ask me to guess a random number that you’ve just thought of, which is a rather silly test as it wouldn’t stick in the mind for a whole week, but this answer did. The next test was to tell you what the design of your next product entails . You haven’t checked your email yet, but the answer is a capacitor for that Big Bang experiment Harvard is doing. After that you were going to ask me what tomorrow’s lottery numbers are.” I took the index card with the numbers from my pocket, and tried to hand it to him, but he was just staring. I dropped it on the table instead, and he reached out and took it with fingers that trembled slightly. “Someone already bought them, though, sorry.”

“I’m… going to check that email.” He pulled out his phone and had already unlocked it before I remembered that we were running out of time.

“Don’t bother, it won’t be sent for another,” I glanced at my watch, then, mentally slapping myself – my watch was still set a week in the future – looked at the clock on the wall instead. “another half-hour. Now come on, we have a week of vacation to build this thing before I get back to work and you’ll be sitting where I am.”

“Hold on,” he said. “What makes you think that your… my…” my younger self floundered for a moment before regaining his footing. “Our attempt at a time machine will work any better than anyone else’s?”

“The proof stands right in front of you,” I pointed out. “But the answer to the question of why it will work is…” I stopped. Why had it worked, when no other attempts had? I hadn’t managed to think about it, despite the scripted words tumbling from my mouth. “I’m not entirely certain why ours worked, actually, as the version of me from the future, that would be me, from your perspective, never adequately explained it to me. I have theories, formed over the past week, but…”

“Let me hear them,” he demanded.

“We don’t have time right now,” I claimed, glancing at my notebook and the clock – we didn’t, but I really needed to figure out why it had worked… “We need to head out to the car and buy the materials.” My younger self headed for the door, but I interrupted him, just as I remembered being interrupted. “Don’t bother,” I told him, twirling the keys I had brought back from the future on my finger. “I’m driving.”

“Why are you driving?” he demanded as I walked out of the house.

“Seniority!” I declared with a wide smile. “I’m a week older than you.” I couldn’t help but break out into laughter. “You have no idea how good it feels to be the one saying that. Not yet, at least.”

“You-” he spluttered.

“More importantly,” I informed him as he subsided, “I know where we’re going.”

Two hours later, he was helping to load the car, arguing with me about coming to the farther hardware store.

“Yes, it has a generally smaller selection,” I agreed, “but that’s offset by you not being a regular customer. Do we want to deal with people commenting that they didn’t know you had a twin brother?”

“No,” he said, grudgingly. “But that’s not the only reason we drove for an hour and a half to get out here. You bought something while I was looking at that set of drill bits – something that isn’t at the closer store?”

“Guilty,” I said with a smile, remember my annoyance at what I was about to say. “But I didn’t find out until Wednesday, and if I could survive waiting for no reason other than future-me remembering he had, then so can you.”

He rubbed his forehead. “Do we ever come up with those new pronouns?”

“Sorry, no.”

Once we got back home, I asked him to take my flash drive, copy the file on it to the computer, and print it out. “Don’t look at it before printing or while it’s printing, though,” I told him sternly. “It’ll be more impressive that way.” I sat down in the armchair and took out my notebook, planning to try and figure out why our time machine had worked.

I was about to start writing a list of qualities we had had when I remembered why I couldn’t do that. If I did, then my younger self would copy it into his notebook at the end of the week, and thus never write it. I slapped myself in the forehead, and went to fetch a piece of paper.

Using the notebook as a table, I wrote the heading: WHY THE TIME MACHINE WORKED, and was about to start really thinking when I heard my younger self returning. I closed the notebook and stuck the pen in my pocket.

“I can hear the printer,” I said, a little irritated at being interrupted, “I know it isn’t finished. Also, your jaw isn’t on the floor.”

“It can’t be that impressive, and that’s my seat,” he told me.

“Seniority.” I smiled. Once again, being able to say that cheered me up.

“…fine. But since that old printer takes way too long to print even one page, tell me your theories on why the time machine will work.”

“Let me think on that,” I said, trying to keep the light tone in my voice while I tried to remember how the older me had stalled. “No.”

“Why not?” he asked bitterly. “Is there a real reason, other than that’s how you remember it?”

Yes, that was it! He had just kept putting it off by saying, “Well, trying to avoid a paradox seems like a pretty good reason to me.” I hoped I had gotten the wording right. I would check later.

“A bit annoying, you mean.”

“I’ve been there, and believe me it’s more fun from this end.” That was a lie, I thought.

“You are the most aggravating…” He stopped, realizing that he was insulting himself, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Listen, let’s order some pizza,” I suggested. “My treat.”

“Our treat, our credit cards are linked to the same account-”

“Details, details! Let’s order some pizza, we’ll play some video games while we wait for the printer to finish, and after dinner you can get your mind blown.” I smiled kindly. “Remember, I’ve been there too… We can do the basic frame tonight.” I reached for the phone to call up the nearest pizza place.

“Where are you going to sleep?” he asked suddenly, eyeing me. “You aren’t going to take the bed and claim seniority, are you?”

“We’re literally the same person,” I joked, still in a good mood. “We can share.” He sputtered again, and I laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m not that cruel. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Just under an hour later, I checked my notebook as my younger self fetched the blueprints from the printer. 83 seconds until realization, I read, and nodded. “Okay, you can look at them now,” I told my other self, and he flipped the blueprints over and began looking at them in confusion. “83… 82… 81…”

I got all the way to 74 before he snapped at me to stop, but I continued counting in my head. At 17, he spoke.

“This can’t be right,” he objected. “Some of these parts pass right through each other!”

“17,” I said smugly. “Look at the picture.”

He flipped it over, and I saw the picture of me, standing next to the machine that had sent me here. He just stared at it as I continued to count down. The moment I got to 0, he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh. Oh! That’s clever!”

“You see it?” I asked.

“I think so. But how did you get it to work? Building a four-dimensional machine when we’re three-dimensional creatures…”

“I don’t know,” I confessed. “But I’m going to figure it out at some point this week. I’d tell you, but…”

“Right. Paradox.”

Later that night, I finally had time to consider why our machine had worked. The how, I roughly understood: it was a teleporter that had four dimensions that it could change, the three spacial dimensions plus time. And it was able to do that, unlike previous attempts at the same thing, because it existed in all four of those dimensions, not just in three.

And yet… how had we been able to do it? Why was it possible for me and myself to build the time machine? Surely, others had come up with the same idea – in fact, I remembered my older self reminding me about Stanford’s attempt at it. But they had never received a time machine. And attempts to hold conventions for time travelers had only received pranksters and hoaxes.

Suddenly, I saw it – or at least, I thought I did. I had to check the notebook to see if my hunch was correct.

Sure enough, there was an index card slipped in over the instructions left for me, telling me how to set the time machine. It told me to add an offset of 1 degree when sending myself back in time, and had my signature on it.

So I was no longer a simple, three-dimensional figure. I felt the same, but of course it was my relationship to everything else that was different. Like a piece of paper held at the slightest angle to another. It may look just the same from above, but it can do things the flat paper can’t.

Like build a time machine, perhaps.

By Wednesday night, the outer frames for the machines were finished, although they didn’t have their wiring in yet. I felt as though I was on autopilot as I followed the script in my notebook, explaining to my younger self why I had bought a coordinate finder at the hardware store.

On Thursday, I copied code as my past self wired electronics. The code was startlingly short, but I couldn’t even begin to follow it. I just typed it into the file which would be transferred to the computer, and made absolutely sure I wasn’t making any mistakes. When I was done, and was absolutely certain I had typed it in correctly, I printed the code out and slipped it into the notebook, tearing up the old sheets.

On Friday, we were ready to receive the overlaid parts.

“I’m not entirely sure what it means,” I lied, “but we’re going to be sending them off at 90 degree, 180 degree, and 270 degree offsets to normal reality. Our guess is-”

“That the four-dimensional shape is roughly circular, with our three-dimensional shapes being located at 0 degrees on the axis.” my younger self interrupted. I nodded approvingly – he was starting to figure it out. Out loud, though, I pretended to be annoyed.

“Hey, I should get to say it. Seniority.”

We used the coordinate finder to check where the location of our central doorframe was, just in case, then waited for a minute or two.

There was a crackling blue mist around the frame, which dissipated, leaving absolutely nothing changed. One minute later, it happened again. The third time, though, the blue mist remained, stretched out in a thin skein across the center of the frame.

“We did it,” he whispered. “We really-”

“Picture time!” I called. “Front and center, come on. This is your accomplishment!”

I had to almost manhandle my younger self in front of the time machine in order to snap the picture, and then he was still too dazed. I snapped my fingers in front of his face until he was roused enough, and took the picture.

“Okay,” I told him, “let’s get to work. I wrote down the times that the pieces appeared, so we just have to manhandle our pieces into the final product and send them off.” I was, in fact, holding the notebook open to the page with the correct times recorded, but I didn’t have a marker on me, so I was holding a pencil. Oh well. We hefted the outer shells of the machine over to the blue gateway, set the machine, and sent them off.

“Tomorrow,” I said to my younger self, “it’s your turn.”

The next morning, I finally showed him the notebook. I made sure that he knew everything that was in it, as well as giving him the important warning: “Be very careful not to let your past self see the inside.” Then he had to go and get his own copies. I sent him out to buy a notebook, a flash drive, and a water bottle.

“A water bottle?” he asked, clearly not believing me.

I tapped the very last line on the list of purchases made: one pure spring water bottle. “I’m thirsty,” I said defensively.

“We have water here.”

“Seniority.” It was the last time I would get to say it to myself, I thought, and it still felt good.

When the younger me got back with his own notebook, I set him to hand-copy the contents of the my notebook into his, while I pulled up the plans for the time machine itself and put them onto his flash drive.

“I can’t just take yours back,” he said to me, “because if I did, then they would enter into an infinite loop, and minor damage would build up until they were destroyed.”

“That’s right,” I agreed, approvingly. “For a similar reason, I can’t go back to enter the loop again.”

The last step of the preparation was to write the note to myself and slip it between the pages of the notebook. I would set the time machine myself, so he would never know that he was at a 1 degree offset until he figured it out himself.

“I’m ready,” he told me, and I nodded. A quick double-check of the spacial coordinates, and then I set the time machine to send him back exactly six days at a 1 degree offset.

He stepped through the doorway.

Influences

No work of art exists in a vacuum. All things have their influences. Although it would be impossible to identify everything which influenced me in the writing of Working with Myself, I do wish to pay tribute to those which I am aware of as well as to those I paid conscious tribute to.

Time travel is a very classic subject for science fiction stories, and I owe a great deal of thanks to H. G. Wells The Time Machine. My particular story, featuring a closed time loop, also owes its existence to Robert Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps, which pioneered paradoxes of this type, and more directly to Heinlein’s All You Zombies, which inspired me to write Working with Myself.

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2 thoughts on “Working With Myself

  1. Huh, interesting concept, though it’s worth noting that with your new setup, side stories like this are not distinguished from Family Trade on the RSS feed.

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