Pair O’ Dons by Templeton Moss

WARNING: The following story is about time travel and will, therefore, be very confusing. Just read it through slowly and don’t be embarrassed if you have to go back and reread portions to make sure you’ve got it all. Hell, I wrote the damn thing and even I’m not entirely sure what’s going on.

Donny walked back across the street, barely lit by poorly functioning streetlights. It had gone about as well as could have been expected, but the fact is it’s always hard to break up with someone, even if it does go well. Donny and Amanda had been together for almost a year, which was an unusually long time by Donny’s standards. And he did care for her a great deal, but this breakup was inevitable. They wanted such different things from life, it just made no sense for them to stay together.

As he approached his car, he saw someone standing next to it, looking at it as though thinking about buying it. Cautiously, Donny walked closer, tightly gripping his keys in his jacket pocket as though he thought he could use them as some kind of weapon.

“Good evening,” he said as he approached.

The stranger looked up and smiled. “Hello, Donny.”

“Do I know you?”

“Why? Do I look familiar? I mean, I’m ten years older and it’s pretty dark out, but it still seems like you would recognize me.”

“Sorry, I don’t think I…wait.”

The stranger had stepped into the light. He was the same height as Donny and nearly the same build, though this man appeared to be a little heavier. He was older, as evidenced by the lines on his face and the faint graying at the temples. He was wearing a jacket that looked remarkably like the one Donny had on, though much older, and the two men were standing facing each other with exactly the same stance…then he looked more closely at the stranger’s face.

“You’ve seen it in mirrors,” the stranger said. “Pictures, home movies. But none of that is really enough to prepare you for the experience of seeing your own face from the outside, is it?”

“No way…”

“I mean, granted, it’s a little older now. Just like the rest of you. I guess I put on a few pounds. Sorry about that. Still, all things considered, you’re gonna look pretty good in ten years.”

“You mean…you’re…me?”

“Yes, Donny. I’m Donny. From ten years in your future.”

“Wow! This is…this is…what is this?”

“Surreal?”

“I’m not really sure what that word means.”

“Me neither. But I’m pretty sure it’s this.”

“So, if you’re me from the future, what are you doing here? Have you come back in time to warn me about my future?”

“Nope. Just here to say hi.”

“What?”

“I’m just here to say hi. I mean, I’m going to be pulled back into my own time in about,” he glanced down at his watch, “five minutes here, so that’s how long we have to talk. But, honestly, most of that is going to be taken up by exposition.”

“By what?”

“Exposition. This whole thing is crazy confusing so we’re gonna spend most of our time trying to make sense of it all.”

“So, wait, you’re not here to tell me about the future or change history or anything like that?”

“Nope.”

“You’re just here to…chat?”

“Basically, yes.”

“Then why did you come back in time at all?”

“Because I had no choice. I came back in time to talk to me ten years ago, so ten years later, I had no choice but to go back in time to talk to you.”

“Oh, I see…wait, no I don’t. What the hell are you talking about?

Donny…the other Donny…you know, Future Donny? (Let’s go ahead and call him “Don,” just for simplicity’s sake) sighed. “Let me try and explain: Ten years ago, I broke up with my girlfriend, Amanda.”

“Yeah, I just did that.”

“I know. I’m you, remember? Look, this will go quicker if you just let me finish before you chime in, okay?” Donny nodded. “So, I broke up with Amanda and was walking toward my car. Then I looked up and saw myself, ten years older. He said he had come back in time, I asked what it was about, we went back and forth like some kind of horrible combination of Abbot and Costello and Doctor Who and then, five minutes after I first saw him, he vanished right in front of me. So I knew that in ten years, I would have to go back in time to talk to myself, which is what I’m doing now.”

“So, the only reason you’re here talking to me is because…”

“Nice and slow, don’t try to force it.”

“Because you remember being me listening to you?”

“That’s the idea. And since the older me didn’t tell me anything about my future, I can’t tell you anything about the future.”

“Why not?”

“Because, we have to play this out exactly as it happened to me. Everything I’m saying to you is just something I remember hearing my older self say ten years ago when I was you.”

“See? This is why I hate time travel stories. I can never keep up.”

“You’ll get better at it after tonight.”

“So you know everything I’m going to say?”

“That’s right.”

“Even this?”

“Yes.”

“And this?”

“You got it.”

“And—?”

“Yes! And that and that and that and that and everything else you’re going to say. In fact, here.” Don reached into his jacket pocket and took out a notepad and a pen, wrote something down, tore out the page, folded it neatly and handed it to his younger self. “Now think of a color, an animal and a first name.”

Donny did his best to come up with the most impossible combination he could and finally said, “Chartreuse…okapi…Persephone!”

Don pointed at the piece of paper. Donny unfolded it and read the words:

PERSEPHONE THE CHARTREUSE OKAPI

“Okay, that was a little bit awesome.”

“I know, right?”

“But I still don’t understand why you’re here. I mean, there’s really no point to this at all, right?”

“None.”

“You can’t tell me anything about my future?”

“Not a thing.”

“So…what if, when I’m ten years older, I decide not to go back in time and waste five minutes of my younger self’s time?”

“Then the conversation we’re having now will never take place.”

“I think I’d be okay with that.”

“No, but this conversation is happening. So if you don’t come back in time, it alters events that have already taken place and you’ve already lived through. You’d be changing your own past and who knows what repercussions that could have?”

“Like what?”

“Honestly…we don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“Well, time travel is still pretty new. A lot of it is in the theoretical stage. The only reason I knew it was safe to come back was because I already knew that I had come back because—”

“Because you remember it from when you were me, right.”

“See? You’re catching on.”

“No, I’m really not.”

“The point is, from my point of view, all of this already happened, which means it can’t change without creating a paradox.”

“There must be something you can tell me about the future. Something small? I notice you’re wearing a wedding ring. Can you at least tell me when I get married?”

“No, not even that.”

“Why not?”

“I told you: I never gave myself information about the future and that means I can’t give any to you.”

“What does that say about the idea of freewill?”

“It’s bad enough discussing temporal physics and causality; can we not get metaphysical on top of it?”

“No, I’m serious. We don’t have to do this like we’re following a script. You can say whatever you want. Then, as long as I remember to say it to me when I’m you, that would still maintain the timeline, wouldn’t it?”

“No, it wouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, because…because…I’m not really sure. Like I said, these are largely uncharted waters we’re sailing in right now…” As was his habit, Don was twisting the wedding ring on his finger while he was thinking. Which gave him an idea. “So let’s dip our toes in a little.”

“What do you mean?”

“Into the water. I was continuing the metaphor about the water from—”

“No, I got that. I mean dip our toes in how?”

“Well, I won’t tell you anything about your future…but I will tell you something about our past.”

“What?”

“If I only tell you about something that’s already in your past, something you can’t alter, then I think we’ll be safe.”

“Fine! What is it?”

“It’s this: You were wrong.”

“Wrong? About what?”

“About Amanda.”

“Amanda? Wrong about what? Breaking up with her?”

“Breaking up with Amanda is the single biggest mistake you will ever make.”

“What? No, that can’t be right. We broke up because—”

“I know why you broke up. Because you want different things. Because you’re on two different paths. Because it doesn’t make sense for you to be together. Because breaking up with her is the sensible, logical, mature and grownup thing to do…it’s also the wrong thing.”

“We never would have worked together. We were happy now, but two, three years down the line…”

“Neither one of us knows what would have happened two or three years down the line! But I know what is going to happen. You are going to wake up every morning for the next ten years and the first thing you will think about will be her. You’ll convince yourself that you made the right decision, you’ll even date other women. Then you’ll get into a passionless, but comfortable relationship with a coworker and marry her. Not out of love. Out of apathy. And she’s fine, she’s nice, but she’s not…the one. Amanda is the one. And even now, you know that. But you’re trying to pretend you don’t know because being with her is gonna be too hard. And every time something is too hard for you, you just run away. Until one day, you realize you can’t face the life you’ve built for yourself and you sign up for the government’s new research team working to develop time travel in the hopes of going back in time and stopping yourself from ever breaking up with her in the first place.”

“But I thought—”

“That was your plan. But in the course of your research, you came to understand that you could never get her back.”

“What? Why not?”

“If you help create time travel because you broke up with Amanda, then you go back in time to stop yourself breaking up with Amanda, you never help create time travel which means you never stop yourself from breaking up with Amanda, which means you do create time travel, which means you do go back and stop yourself, which means—”

“Enough!!”

“I’m sorry, Donny. I am so very sorry. But there’s nothing you can do. It’s over. You had her and you blew it.”

“I…I can’t believe it. I just broke up with my soulmate and I can’t ever have her back?”

“I’m sorry, Donny. But it’s true.”

Donny’s head was spinning. “Wait,” he said at last. “No, it’s not. When you were me…ten years ago…did the you from the future tell you anything about Amanda?”

“Well, no, but—”

“But you did! You already altered the timeline! And nothing happened. No wormholes, no paradoxes, no anything! That means we can change things.”

“Donny, no, whatever you’re planning on doing…”

“I’ll tell you what I plan on doing. I’m going to go back up to Amanda’s apartment, tell her I was wrong and beg her to take me back. And maybe she won’t take me back tonight, or tomorrow, or the next day, but I won’t give up. Because I’ve seen my life without her and if that’s what I have to look forward to…then, frankly, I’d rather be erased from existence.”

“But don’t you see? That will break the chain of events that led you to that decision. It can never work! It doesn’t make any sense!”

Donny smiled. “Of course it doesn’t make sense…it’s true love!”

With that, Donny turned and ran from his older self toward Amanda’s apartment.

“No!” cried Don. “Stop! Come back! Don’t do it!” He watched his younger self running down the sidewalk. “Wait! Don’t! Stop!” His younger self turned the corner. “No. Don’t. You fool. You’ll kill us all. Aaaaaaaand…he’s gone!”

Now that the coast was clear, Amanda could come out of her hiding place behind the car where she had been patiently crouching and listening to the whole thing.

“I cannot believe that worked!” she said.

“Yep. I told him exactly what I told myself ten years ago and he believed every word.”

“Incredible.”

“If I remember correctly, I’m already banging on your door, begging you to let me in.”

“I wanted to let you in right away, but I thought I’d let you dangle a little first. I mean, you had just dumped me!”

“Fair enough. Still,” he said taking his wife’s hand, “everything worked out for the best, right?”

“Yes, it did.” They kissed. “So, what now? Back to the future?”

“Yeah, I guess. No, wait! Remember that great little pizza place that closed down four years ago? It’s still open now!”

“Oh my God, you’re right! Let’s go!”

“I hope they don’t look too closely at the date on my money.”

With that, Donny and Amanda walked down the street to the pizza place they had loved so much before it closed, while, less than four blocks away, their younger selves were having some excellent makeup sex.

 

Templeton Moss

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

 

3 thoughts on “Pair O’ Dons by Templeton Moss

  1. Hi Templeton,
    The brilliance in this was the clarity throughout the confusion!
    This is a really clever and skilled piece of writing.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Like

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