The Sympathetic Universe: The End of Infinity Part 1

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I’m going to start labeling my short stories set in “The Sympathetic Universe” separately. For installations after the first, I’ll include only the story title, and leave “The Sympathetic Universe” as a category.

A yellow Prius screeched to a halt as Franklin Jones Watson crossed the street back to his apartment from Avengers: Endgame. Frank waved off the driver’s shouted curses. The movie’s approach to time intrigued him. He watched Back to the Future to see if it really was all bullshit, and indeed was appalled by the basic failure to understand even simple principles of cause and effect. Standing behind the desk at his neighborhood’s Best Buy, he fretted. “If Marty McFly disappears because his father never met his mother, how can he do it slowly? Doesn’t a slow change require time? Is there one time that we experience and then another time that governs changes to that timeline? If that’s the case, how can Marty see his history being erased? Wouldn’t his memory be erased along with it?”

Frank watched Terminator, Hot Tub Time Machine, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Looper, and came no closer to a satisfactory understanding. He wondered over a tepid hot pocket in his company break room, “If they cut off his limbs in the past, why is it only at that moment that we’re watching that they vanish? Why would he suddenly be unable to use the brakes in the car because he’s lost his leg? Why wouldn’t he not have been able to start driving the car in the first place, since he by necessity would have always not had the leg?”

Franklin lay in his folding reclining chair and watched through all of the old and new episodes of Dr. Who. “U R all being played,” he wrote on a Dr. Who fan site. “I thought at first Big Media just struggled with time travel, but now I know the truth.  In the modern Season 9, Episode 4 : ‘Before the Flood,’ the writers unambiguously brag about how the show has neither the desire nor the intention to take time travel seriously. This is really far from the first of a long series of offenses, but this one I found especially galling. The Doctor himself takes the time to carefully explain to the audience how what he is doing is a paradox. He points out that when he followed the instructions of a version of himself visiting from the future, he then gave those instructions to himself in the past simply because he remembered having been told them. Where did the instructions come from? Then instead of a satisfactory explanation of how in fact it is possible what the doctor has done, the show doubles down and suggests that the audience should be impressed that the writers have no respect for time travel. I’m starting a petition to boycott this show and all other attempts by Big Media to confuse the public and suppress knowledge of time travel. -FJW”

When a woman said in her OKCupid profile said that she liked to wonder about time travel paradoxes, Franklin meticulously explained to her how time travel has not once been properly represented in films and TV. He had recently rewatched Avengers: Endgame, for example, and realized that despite an initial promising confession that Hollywood and New York TV Establishment had been brainwashing us with lies like Back to The Future, it in fact was no less guilty. “If you believe the horseshit that Steve Rogers did not alter history appreciably when he decided to stick around in the past, what about chaos theory? Watch Jurassic Park. Every individual action we take is affected even if it’s in individually undetectable ways. If Steve Rogers appears and pushes air out of the way to make room for his volume and it moves a particle of dust an inch to the left such that it gets caught in a different air current and ends up in the nose of a passerby, it can cause him to sneeze when he otherwise would not, slowing him down by a full second. Not to draw the whole explanation out, but his interactions in the office will change when he meets everyone a second later, then their lives will be changed so on and so forth. If you say the big events won’t be affected, consider that Gavrilo Princep had given up trying to make the assassination that would begin World War I, and just by coincidence happened to be eating a consolation lunch on the street that Franz Ferdinand’s car was turning onto. Chance events make history.”

Curiously, this woman who supposedly enjoyed intellectual inquiry did not find Frank’s points intriguing and never responded. Frank brooded on humanity’s refusal to think seriously about time travel while waiting at the bus stop. What could we accomplish if this knowledge were not kept from us as a species? If only, Frank thought as he got off the bus, if only I could explore time manipulation myself. As he crossed the street, Frank was hit by a purple Jeep and killed.

In a great black expanse, Frank heard a voice. “THIS IS AN AUTOMATED PROCESS TO RESTORE YOUR MEMORIES.”

Then Frank remembered that his real name was BABBBABBABABAABBBABABBBBABABABBBBBBBABABAABBBABABABABABABABBBAA, and he could experiment with time as much as he damn well pleased.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.

2 comments

  1. I know I could not bear to watch too many Dr. Who’s but I could try Hot tub time machine. I love time travel movies and have watched most of the one’s you mention. Always problems with the logic.

  2. Love it!
    I think Franklin should, perhaps, look to science fiction books or even actual science for a better understanding of the (im)possibilities of time travel.

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