My time-travel experiment had failed. I was doomed to spend the rest of my days travelling between the past and the future with no hope of returning to the moment I had ignited the engine on my time-vehicle. I lived in the knowledge that I would travel through the cold conduit of time until I swallowed the last gasp of artificial air generated by my time-vehicle’s on-board oxygen farm. I spent five years moving from the past to the future and back to the past; desperately trying to find a way back to the moment I had set off into this nightmare.
In the past I argued with younger-selves about the mistakes they were going to make in their futures.‘You must stop this at once,’ I told my twenty-five year old past-self who had just come up with the idea that the boundary of time could be broken. He dismissed me with a wave of his hand and told me that what had happened to me would not happen to him because he was not me and had no intention of making the same mistakes as I had. My thirty-two year old self had listened to me, but had still refused to heed my warning. My forty-one year old self told me that he would stop immediately, but due to the fact that I remained trapped in the frozen wastes of time I could only assume that he had lied to me.
It was a strange sensation to argue with myself, even stranger was my past-selves reluctance to change their ways despite my warnings of their fate. It seemed that they refused to believe that my future was their future. Time and time again I exhausted myself in the past and time and time again I travelled forward to my future self, but discovered that time was like a gambler who never puts all its money on one horse. It seemed that time wanted to hedge its bets and presented me with every possible scenario where an infinite number of my future selves involved themselves with every possible future scenario a person could imagine. I met a version of me that had lost his wife to cancer. Another future me had witnessed the death of his two sons. A particularly sad future-self had lost his sight due to a tumour caused by leaking radiation from my time-vehicle. Time after time I met tragedy and desperation, poverty and heartache. How could all those futures be so sad? Back and forth through time I went. Five years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty… Arguing and pleading with past-selves to change their ways, but each time ignored and forced to watch them continue their foolish pursuit.
It was on my fiftieth birthday that I decided I could take no more. Travelling faster than light itself I smashed the engine with a hammer somewhere in-between my past and future. My time-vehicle drifted and eventually came to a stop somewhere dark and lonely and far from anything I could call ordinary. As I lay there waiting for death to come I had the strangest sense that something else was happening. After several hours I began to hear the faintest of sounds that at first seemed alien, but after listening intently I discovered they were the sounds of people talking. Low murmurs at first that soon became more intelligible until I could understand every word. Then came smells and sights. I sat there for hours and then days and then weeks and very slowly, a world appeared outside of my time-vehicle like a photograph in developing fluid. People popped into existence, frozen like waxworks: A young boy riding a bike. An elderly couple walking hand in hand. A teenage girl holding a red-balloon on a string. After a day or so I saw that I was in the park next to my house. Suddenly, every person I could see came to life, completely unaware of me and when I had been.
I can’t express to you how elated I felt to be back in my own time. Even more so when I returned to my home and saw that it was only one hour after I had departed all those years ago. Of course I was older now by many years and none of my family or friends recognised me as being me.
‘You’re too patient,’ said one of my colleagues.
‘You’re too relaxed,’ said another.
‘But you are not angry!’ said Professor Mcflorish of the University physics department.
I laughed at all their comments and let them wash over me like water off a duck’s back. I never travelled in time again. I destroyed the time-machine and spent the rest of my days fixed in the present, free from a lifetime of travel between an unchangeable past and an infinite number of hellish futures. Free to live my life in the present in any form I fancied.