‘It all leads to a catastrophic event. So you understand why this can’t be allowed to happen,’ Jenkins said.
The younger version of himself sat on the stairs with his eyes downcast, hands in his pockets, kicking pieces of the cup around. ‘How can you give up so easily? This is my life’s work,’ he protested.
‘Our life’s work. I’m you, remember?’
‘It’s hard to forget when you’re standing right in front of me.’
‘Look, this was the only way I could be sure.’ Jenkins took one last look around the basement, a pained expression on his face. It was time. He pulled out a pistol from his jacket and levelled it at his younger self. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered.
The younger man looked up at him. ‘Yeah, me too.’
A shot rang out, deafening within the cramped basement.
Confusion spread over Jenkins’ weathered face. He looked down to see blood slowly spreading across his chest.
His younger self stood and removed his hands from his pockets to reveal his own pistol. ‘Time travel is so interesting, don’t you think? Repeating the same event over to engineer the perfect moment. Manipulating the variables until you balance the equation in your favour.’
The older Jenkins slumped to the floor, his pistol spinning away with a clatter. ‘But… how?’ he gasped.
‘We already lived this moment before. Well, I did. You came back to kill me, and you nearly succeeded.’ He opened his shirt and pointed to a scar on his shoulder. ‘Unfortunately for you though, you weren’t quite as lucky. You did however destroy all of my research and sabotage my device. Which, obviously put me in a bit of a bind. I wasn’t about to forget about my entire life’s work. And I wasn’t going to spend the next ten years starting from scratch again after you destroyed everything.’
‘No, it can’t be,’ Jenkins gasped, feeling his consciousness fading.
‘So I bided my time and planned my next move. I used your device – the one you used to travel back. I took it from your dead body, along with this,’ he said holding up the pistol, ‘and I travelled back to before you showed up. This time though, I arrived before you had time to destroy everything.’ He waved his arm over the basement. ‘So now we’ve fixed that little error in judgement and I have access to all my research again, I can continue my work.’
‘You don’t understand. I lived through it all,’ Jenkins said, coughing blood. ‘The device only leads to destruction – we can’t hold back the onslaught once we open the gates.’
‘Maybe you just couldn’t control it. I won’t make the same mistake.’
‘We’re the same person!’
‘No I don’t think so. I’ll still be alive in a few minutes for a start,’ the younger Jenkins replied calmly. He reached down and rifled through the wounded man’s pockets until he found what he was searching for. He held the spherical device up to the light, examining it with a glazed expression. ‘So much to learn. It’s a shame you won’t be around to explain all these modifications. No matter, I’ll work it out.’ He smiled down at the bleeding man on the floor. ‘Are you ready?’
‘You’ve doomed us all.’
‘I suppose I always was stubborn, wasn’t I?’ He pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. The older man’s body jolted as the bullet lodged inside his brain.
Jenkins looked around the room and sighed contentedly. Everything was back to normal. He picked up the pistol from the floor and placed it on the desk along with his own. Looking at the matching serial numbers of the identical pistols he considered the idea of of duplicating rare matter. The possibilities were endless. He shook his head. There was plenty of time for that.
He grabbed the dead body under the arms and hauled it across the basement to the toilet. He opened the door and tossed the body in. Looking inside, Jenkins glanced at the other body. A crumpled heap, his neck extending at an impossible angle. The version of himself he had replaced in this new timeline. He shrugged and closed the door.
© 2015, Gavin Zanker.