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Issue number twelve




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Time's Square by Edmund X. DeJesus

I was at home working on some calculations for a time machine when the doorbell rang. I adjusted my very best baseball cap and opened the door. Who should be standing there but me.

The door opened, and I saw myself wearing a baseball cap and looking surprised. I said, "I thought I'd find you here tonight."

Astonished, I took a step back. "Well, it looks like my idea for a time machine really will work."

I nodded and crossed the threshold, pulling out my gun. "Yes. All too well."

"Whoa," I cried, holding up both hands to defend myself. I didn't like the looks of me: hair tousled, clothes unkempt. My face had a gaunt, anguished expression and my eyes were wild. Add the gun, and I didn't make a pretty picture. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I'm going to shoot you," I said levelly.

"You can't be thinking straight," I objected. "If you shoot me, then what's going to happen to you? You're going to be caught in a time paradox. By shooting me, you stop me from finishing the time machine. But that means you can't travel to the past to shoot me. Which means I can finish the time machine and you can travel to the past to shoot me. Round and round like that."

"Don't you think I know that?" I growled. "I've been agonizing over time paradoxes for the past three years, and you haven't. Will I cause one? Won't I cause one? I'm sick of it. I'm going to shoot you and cause one and that's the end of it. I can't stand it anymore."

"But wait a second," I said soothingly. "If you're me, then you must remember this night. You must have been here working when I showed up like this. But you finished the time machine anyway. That means I didn't shoot you. Doesn't that count for something? What happened that night?"

"I don't know. I only have a hazy memory of that night. I remember working on some calculations. Then something happened and I got conked on the head. I woke up with this terrible feeling about time paradoxes."

"Then don't you see? You can change that now. If you just go away and don't shoot me, none of that will happen. I'm not worried about time paradoxes. I can just finish the time machine and things will turn out different for you."

"No," I insisted. "You're just confusing me. I came here to shoot you and I'm going to shoot you."

"Don't do it," I begged.

I tightened my grip on the gun. Suddenly, I heard a sound close behind me. I was turning to see what it was when something conked me on the head. I blacked out.

Suddenly, the me with the gun turned to look behind, then went limp and fell to the floor. I stepped forward to thank my rescuer, when who should walk in but me.

"Looks like I made it just in time," I said, looking down at my crumpled form on the doormat.

"You!" I exclaimed, fully aware of how stupid this sounded. "What are you doing here?"

I sighed. "Well, after I left here that night, I was filled with remorse about what I'd done to you. So, I decided to come back and try to stop myself."

"Well, thank heavens you did. You almost--I mean, I almost--I mean, that one almost shot me. I guess that ends that. Now I can get back to my calculations."

I sighed again and looked down at the floor, then up at me. "I'm afraid it's not that simple," I said regretfully. I pulled out my gun.

"Oh, no," I moaned. "Don't tell me you're going to shoot me too."

"No, no. Nothing so drastic. But if you just go back to your work after this, the whole time paradox thing is going to prey on my mind. Eventually you might become so unhinged that I would do something like this." I gestured at myself on the floor.

"So what do we do?" I asked suspiciously.

"I'm going to conk you on the head," I explained. "Then you--I--will wake up with only a hazy notion of what happened here tonight. You--I--can work on the time machine without worrying about time paradoxes. Then I--you--won't want to come back and try this."

"Well, that's just dandy, but I don't want to get conked on the head. Besides, if you conk me on the head, I might wake up with a terrible feeling about time paradoxes."

I sprang forward and conked myself on the head. "Sorry," I said as I slumped to the floor. "You don't have much choice in this." I turned away from myself, pulled the other me outside, shut the door, and left.

I waited a few seconds, then called from the back of the house, "Am I gone?"

I opened my eyes and looked around. I was gone, and so was I, so I must have pulled myself outside so I wouldn't see me when I woke up. "Yeah," I called out, getting to my feet. "You're gone."

"Good," I said, coming in from the back hall. "How's your head?"

"Fine," I said. "That special padding under the cap did the trick. Thanks for the tip."

"My pleasure," I said. "Let's get back to those calculations."

"Sure," I agreed. "You've saved me a lot of time already. It really would have taken me three years otherwise--like that other me said."

"Right. This will save me a lot of grief."

"There's just one thing. You came back in time to help me get the time machine done faster. But that means that you in the future won't see the need to come back and help me like you're doing. Won't that cause a time paradox?"

I gave myself a long look, fingering the gun hidden in my pocket. "Don't start with me," I said.

Edmund X. DeJesus has published a mystery short story, "Troublemaker," in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Leading Edge published another science fiction story, "The Maltese Quantum," in their last issue. He recently found out that Alfred Hitchcock will be publishing another short story, "Home Defense System," sometime in the fall.

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