I thought, you know, there would be something spectacular when I arrived. There were no arcs of electricity that would make Tesla proud, no electromagnetic waves bowing my visual perception of reality, nor the stench of burnt hair. I know the last one seems strange, but when you test out a device that needs as much power as my time machine, you’d expect to ride the lightning, too. Thankfully, I didn’t.
Anyway, I appeared in my old backyard. That was where I had hoped to materialize because that was where the machine sat in my future self’s time. Besides, the device wasn’t capable of transport. Well, I could theoretically move it elsewhere, but it would require a heavy-duty truck and trailer. I didn’t actually need to move it because it sat exactly where I wanted to go and because I knew there was nothing occupying that same exact space in the past. Only God could know what would happen to me if I materialized where an object already existed. I didn’t want to find that out the hard and probably painful way.
After exiting the device, I walked across the rain-soaked lawn. The clouds above still sprinkled small beads of glassy water onto the world, and because my fever had turned up the heat before I left, it felt good against my skin. Fissures of lightning crawled along the dark sky, and a rolling roar of thunder boomed. The cold weather irritated my chest, and I coughed. Remnants of blood stippled my hand, and I wiped my lips hoping the rainwater would wash away whatever I missed.
No doubt, this story is as you expected. The only reason I went back in time—as anyone else would—was to change the future. Unfortunately, I wasn’t here to save myself. No, that wasn’t it at all because I knew how a paradox worked. I knew that going back and changing my life may have an impact on everything else, sure, but it might also alter the timeline in a way that ensured I never traveled back. Of course, if I never travel back, then how could I change the future? Exactly. I wasn’t prepared to figure that out because I had more important things to worry about, and the fate of the world was more important than my survival in the future.
Despite what I’ve just told you, I don’t want you to think of me as selfless. What I had to do in the past was selfish. True, I went back to save the world, but I only did it to save my daughter. Furthermore, and this is the part you’ll likely think of me as a maniac who doesn’t deserve to live, I had to kill hundreds of people. Men. Women. Children. All murdered by me.
Still here? Well, it all started ten days from now—or twelve years before I used the time device. It started with a woman and a child. A birth that would end the human race. A birth that some called the coming of the antichrist—the end of times. That woman was my neighbor.
As the rain fell harder, the subtle ping and pong of it hitting nearby pottery and buckets, I went to the shed. I had the key in my pocket, so I opened the door. Inside there were few things of interest to me. I would later needs some of this stuff to make more weapons, but for now, I had only need for one item, and that was the hand spade. After picking it off the wall mount, I closed the doors, followed the side of the house, and exited through the gate.
The neighbor’s house was aglow with amber light, but only through the big picture window. It was there I was able to spy Michelle sitting at the dining room table nursing a small bowl of hot soup. She gently scooped up a spoonful, puckered her adorably pouty lips, and blew on it.
I wished I didn’t have to kill her. I knew I had no choice, though. If she didn’t die, then many more people would. In fact, the ratio, if I remember correctly, was for every one person I killed, I saved close to ten thousand others. It was an obvious answer to the choice I had in front of me, but it disturbed me nevertheless.
In the past—before this day, not in the future of this day—she had asked me to water her plants while she was away. She had told me that she kept a spare key hidden in a fake rock and buried in her garden. According to her, she was a klutz and often did things like lock her keys in the car or had locked herself out of the house. It was fortunate for me that she kept it there at all times.
After opening the door, I listened for a moment. The sweet scent of tortilla soup made my mouth water, but it also bothered my sensitive throat. I held my hand over my mouth and coughed. They came as nothing more than soft chuffs of air. When they subsided, I wiped the blood on my pants and listened. There was still only the soft clink of the spoon against the bowl as she scooped up the soup. No indication of her hearing me.
Now inside, I stood behind her. The spade felt slick in my hand, probably a combination of sweat and rainwater. My heart hammered, thumping hard in my ears, deafening one of them. My face burned, and maybe I was pale, I couldn’t know. Anxiety had worked its magic, and my illness had taken it a step farther.
As she blew on the soup, I came up behind her and stabbed her neck with the spade. She dropped the spoon, grabbed her throat, and looked up at me. Surprise was what I saw on her face, but had she known the kind of hell she would rain upon the world if given the chance to live, it might have been a look of acceptance. At least, that how I wished it were, because I needed something to acknowledge that I was doing the right thing. However, the world in the future and the world in the now would never know what I had to do, what I would do, and why I needed to do it.
I don’t need to tell you what I did next, but suffice to say I had to make sure the baby did not survive. As sure as I sit here and write to you all about what I had to do, that baby probably wouldn’t have survived the mother’s death. That wasn’t a chance I could take. Just one life can take so many more lives, and that risk alone was simply too great.
When I finished, I rushed to the kitchen and vomited. I would have liked to blame by illness on my stirring stomach, but the reality was that I had never killed anyone, let alone a pregnant woman. That sickness lasted for days, and thankfully, it ended before I had to find the next person. A man named Albert Pinchot.
I didn’t immediately leave her house. Instead, I went upstairs to the master bathroom to see if she had any Tylenol. She did, and although I took some, I wasn’t sure it would help with my now pounding headache. It helped a bit, but as I suspected, it wasn’t enough to ease my discomfort.
The master bedroom had a balcony. I swiftly opened the sliding door and stepped outside. The cold water felt good, and my thrashing head seemed to settle a bit. I glanced at the device I had arrived in, and it was gone. Probably I had left the system running, and it had either returned to a different time or gone back from whence it came. It was okay, because I didn’t need it anymore.
The horizon of twinkling lights from homes of people who would die one day made me take a deep breath to calm my nerves, and maybe it made me cough, but that was okay. The pain in my chest reminded me of why I was here and what I was doing. It was for my daughter. For me. For the future.