Split Decisions

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash

Bacon and eggs, right. But pancakes? I cannot cook pancakes. They may not be that difficult, but I can’t. I never learned. And coffee smells too good.

The conclusion is obvious. There’s a new me. And yes, of course, I appear from the kitchen, wearing an apron.

“Hi! Grab some breakfast, will you?”

Fact is, my stomach growls, so introductions will come later. 2012 and someone else are already sitting at the table.

“Hi,” 2012 says.

“Hi, bro,” the other one says. When did I start using bro? I look at myself and make a correction: when will I start using bro? What bad choice yielded this version of me? I sigh. It doesn’t really matter.

I attack my breakfast. It comes with toast and marmalade and butter. There’s also yogurt and cereals. It’s like a bloody hotel buffet, only at home. Great. I don’t like the Bro (he’s just been christened), but I’m loving the Cook (equally just named). We’ll see how long they last.

The door opens and I enter. I’m not exactly sure who this is, but he stomps towards me. He has a blue eye that’s swelling by the minute. He then stops and stares at me, 2012, and the Bro. He realizes there’s the Cook too and stops for a second, considering each of us.

And then he punches the Bro, who falls from his chair. He stares up, his broken lip bleeding.

“That’s from Sarah. She wants you to know you’re an asshole.”

I cannot recall any Sarah, but the Bro obviously does.

“Sarah? You’ve seen her?”

“Oh yes.”

“I have to see her!”

“No you don’t. Asshole.” And I leave.

There’s still breakfast to be eaten. And I’m going nowhere without a shower. 2012 pours more coffee for the two of us as the Bro tries to convince July 2015 (I think this is July 2015 because of his tee) to let him see Sarah. July 2015 seems so angry.

“Do you think we may find out what happens if one gets killed?” 2012 says.

I’m not surprised. I was thinking exactly the same. It doesn’t always works, but sometimes it does.

“As an experiment, it may be interesting,” I say, munching. I drink some more coffee. “But I don’t think July 2015 has it in him.”

“None of us does,” 2012 sighs.

“The Bro’s pretty irritating, though” I reply.

2012 guffaws.

“The Bro?” that’s great.

We drink some more coffee, as July 2015 leaves, telling the Bro not to follow him. The Bro does follow him. The Cook is still in the kitchen, and the smell is awesome. There’s curry and there’s spices and there’s lamb. It brings me to the start of all this.

*****

“One more wish, mortal,” the djinn said.

I knew I was lucky. Regardless of the sugared versions we Westerners often read, djinni usually were not friendly. Not that this guy was exactly friendly: he was resentful and carrying out his duty. Still my wishes had been granted, and I could see no ill effect.

Silly me. I should have gone for something equally mundane. More money. A quiet life. One more wish. Whatever.

But no. I allowed myself a moment of weakness, and my mind wandered to my childhood and those science fiction novels I loved. And my favourite stories, the ones I still enjoyed, though these days they more often took the form of TV series and movies, were those including time travel.

I thought I knew the risks. I had read about the paradoxes. I had studied the different theories, the possibilities. Could there be loops? Could I find my grand-dad and kill him before he had any child?

I voiced my wish. The djinn smiled. It wasn’t a pretty smile.

For weeks I thought he had deceived me, but at the same time I knew that was impossible. There are rules, and the rules have to be met. They have enforcers. The djinn knew it very well: one transgression was all that was tolerated. But no matter how much I tried to, I couldn’t travel. Well, yes, I could: exactly at a speed of one second per second towards the future, just like everybody else.

Then the others started appearing.

At first I thought I was mad, seeing versions of myself here and there. Then we started talking to each other, and we understood.

We could indeed travel in time. But not like I had expected.

I thought the splits would take place continually, but we discarded it: the world would be filled to the brim with us if that was the case. In the end we reached the conclusion that one was created whenever I took a life-changing decision. The problem was, of course, that I had no way to know which decisions were life-changing. Dumping my old toothbrush and getting a new one didn’t seem to qualify, for example. But a new job or a new friend did.

So new copies kept popping up. I tried not to think a lot about it, because it was mind-boggling: did the decisions of these others also cause splits? I knew what an exponential growth meant, but it didn’t seem to be happening, and I had read somewhere that, in the end, it don’t matter much if there was, say, a split per second, or once a week, as long as the splits didn’t stop. Two would become four would become eight would become… I deduced the splits didn’t cause new splits in turn.

Small consolation.

*****

I finish my breakfast. 2012 finished his a few minutes ago and is in the kitchen, where the Cook is telling him what groceries and vegetables and who-knows-what he needs.

I sigh and stand. I still have much to do today. The djinn gave me the money, so I don’t have to worry. Everything should be ready; it’s just the details that need finishing, but they can be so tedious.

2012 was right, and he wasn’t.

Kill another me? No, I couldn’t.

Myself?

Definitely yes.

I briefly wonder who Sarah is.

~~~~

This is my entry for this week’s Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Travel Woes. Chuck had some trouble at the airport and he thought this week’s challenge would be just that: 1000 words involving travel woes. And then I thought: “Time travel is still travel, right?” And things got weird from there.

I hope you like the story.