Conservation of Bullshit

Urgh. Time travel. Let me tell you about time travel.

Doing anything successfully with time travel, my friends, is like finding your way through a mirror maze using trails of breadcrumbs that you have to lay yourself. It's like doing a ten-thousand piece jigsaw puzzle where all you have to go on is a blurry photograph of an earlier edition of the puzzle, upside down and half-complete, as seen through a stained-glass window that hasn't been cleaned in months. It's like building a machine, the purpose of which is unclear, using only instructions written in Dutch and a French-to-German translation booklet, compiled by a drunk translator who wasn't fluent in either. Also, one in ten pieces are missing, and one in a hundred pieces are for a different machine entirely.

I exaggerate, of course, but only slightly — it should at least help to convey why I retired. Over my time at the Foundation, I came to hate time-travel with a burning, firey passion. It's only really a problem because I'm starting my retirement in 1999, and I'm a 39-year-old (or 278, depending on how you quantify it) Task Force Commander who was/will be born in 2026.

People never fully retire from the Foundation. Not really. They usually know too much to be happy with a life of ignorance, or have been there too long for amnestics to be any use, which grants them a permanent place on the radars of countless other groups. Most opt for contract work — occasional research for an increased salary, or the odd investigation into an extranormal event that doesn't seem to be causing too much trouble. It's for that reason that I found myself standing over a dead body, with a child staring me in the eyes with a look of surprisingly calculated suspicion for one so young.

I decided to do the obvious thing and took out a bar of chocolate, half of which I offered to the kid. Poor thing seemed pretty cut up about the whole 'murder' issue. As he munched away, he began to talk.

"Are you going to kill me?"

I smiled. Kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for.

"No, no I'm not. I think this man might have been trying to, though."

I gestured to the sheet-covered mound on the floor, and the bullet hole in the wall opposite. The child, bless his heart, looked unconvinced.

"Are you a policeman, then? You don't look much like a policeman."

"Oh? And why is that?"

"You've got a gun. Only killers and soldiers carry guns. Are you a soldier?"

"Hah, sort of. We detected a… well, do you know what the word 'temporal' means?"

The kid shook his head vigorously.

"It means, sort of, to do with time. Something nearby isn't exactly when it should be, and I've got to figure out what it is." I had an idea. "Do you feel like helping?"

He nodded, slowly, and I started to grin. "Great. You can call me Dick-" A smirk, which I did not appreciate, "or Mr. Miguel, if you prefer. This man fired a gun at you, right, and then someone," I paused. Best to be honest here, I think. "or something, stopped him. Do you have any idea what that thing looked like?"

Another vigorous head-shake, and a miniature snowstorm of dandruff. "No. There was… uh… weird purple light, though? Like fire, but, sort of, cold?" The kid realised what he was saying and clammed up. "I probably just imagined it though."

I sigh. Nothing for it, I was going to have to cut the veil. It's always easier with kids anyway — they're much more willing to believe things, and memory-wipes work better on unformed minds.

"No, no, that sounds about right. That's what we call an 'anomaly'. It's something that, ah, shouldn't really exist, but does anyway. My job is to go around and help sort them out."

"Oh, like that 'temporal' you were talking about?"

"Exactly! It's an anomaly, and probably has something to do with the purple light. That sounds like exactly the kind of stupid crap," a phrase that elicited a giggle from the kid, "that they'd slap on to a time machine to make it seem more impressive. You'll never find a more unbearably self-centred group of nerds than temporal researchers."

"Hmm. Well there was the fire, and a kind of buzzing noise, and then the man appeared."

"This would be the man who died?"

"Yeah. He appeared, and so did another man about a second later. The second one, uh, punched the first one and then stabbed him with a sort of syringe."

"And the first man, he shot at you and missed, yes? And then the other man disappeared?"


"And that's all you saw, before I got here?"

The kid nodded, and looked down at his feet. I patted him on the back, and sighed.

"Your parents. I expect they're probably out at the moment, right?"

He murmured something that may have been "shopping".

"Right. Why don't you go outside for a little bit while I finish up here — it's a lovely day, after all. I'll make sure everything's when and where it should be, and you won't have to worry about any of this any more. Sound good?"

A hesitant nod, and I caught a glimpse of his face beneath a tangled mop of hair. He looked like he was trying hard not to cry. I handed him the rest of the chocolate, and motioned him through the door. Another day, another job, another chrono-mess to sort out. I clicked my neck, and settled down to work.

I popped a pill — a mild mnestic agent to counter the delayed amnestics I'd stuck in the chocolate bar — and began pacing the room. Someone (it seemed like a 'one' at this point; 'thing's don't normally have the imagination for stuff like this) was screwing with time, and that upset me on a very personal level. I began examining the shelves, searching for some clue as to why someone would want to kill a kid like this, and why someone else would risk a paradox to stop them. Photographs, ornaments, books, nothing out of the ordinary. This was a normal, run-of-the mill townhouse — Victorian, terraced, slightly messy but only in the way of all houses containing a young child. Familiar to anyone who's done any amount of fieldwork.

Extremely familiar, actually. Those photographs, those souvenirs — oh goddamn. I swung around, yanking the sheet off the body, revealing a face I'd seen many times before. Every time I looked in a mirror, in fact.

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck."

I stared out of the window at the kid, who was in the process of forgetting the last hour or two.


I'd been stupid. I should have recognised him from the haircut, to be honest: my parents were never that good at hairdressing. Of course, I went by Richard back then, so he wouldn't recognise me based on my first name, and Miguel was a pseudonym — the most basic form of identity concealment the Foundation had on offer. I glanced at the tasteless kitten-themed calendar, which confirmed it. 2038, twelve years after my birth. Which meant that three of the four participants in this charade had been the same person. Extrapolating from that, I could only assume… ah. Hmm. Of course the murderer wouldn't be around for comment, but knowing him, or rather, knowing me, he/I'd have left a message somewhere. I flipped over the calendar.


You've probably worked it out by now. Or maybe not, I don't really care. Point is, I'm in a loop-catalyst timeline, which means that anything I do now can affect the overall outcome. You know that already, but I can't stress it enough. I killed me/you, which means it's technically suicide, so you don't have to worry about prosecution; a small benefit, but one worth noting.

It's up to you what you do now, since I'll probably be back to attempt to murder the kid in a couple years or so — continuity, am I right? I don't know why I/you/we did it in the first place. Maybe we were blackmailed, or bribed, or just wanted to bring the timeline crashing down on our heads. In any case, you're technically investigating a paradox I've just resolved, so you're free to go.

Try not to fuck everything up again,
Richard Miguel, Iteration 1, 2038 (at least for now).

I barely even noticed the body behind me disappear in a flash of self-correcting purple light as I made the decision not to kill my childhood self, and ended up never having been going back to stop me. I slumped against the wall, head pounding.

Fuck time travel.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License