I intended the "wednesday writings" to be individual exercises or stories but since April, I have been continuing the same story thread and doing some general free writing using the same characters and continuing the plot. There are some definite continuity issues in the overall course of the story, but I have slowly come upon a cohesive plot (which will require significant editing of earlier editions to make them valid). You can find the entire story by clicking through the following chronological links:
- Morning Machinations
- Communication Between Friends
- Daydreaming Decisions
- Off to the Park
- Coming Home
- Revealing Photographs
- Just a Dream?
- At the Tower
- The Watch
- Evan (part 1)
- Evan (part 2)
- Evan (part 3)
- Formulating a Plan
- Testing the Boxes
- Out of Time
- A Problem of Paradoxes
- Taking Charge
- The Chase Begins
- Friends Reunited
- Unraveling the Plot
- Applying Pressure
OK...today's bit left me a bit unsatisfied and I'm worried that the trajectory for next week will also leave me wanting something different. We'll see.
Gabby continued sobbing while hunched over Julie. She was barely aware of Evan's hand on her back, patting lightly, trying to comfort her. After a few moments, she looked up to find both Evan and Carlisle staring at her intently. She wiped the tears off her cheeks and twisted into a sitting position, leaning against the wall with her knees drawn up to her chest. She cleared her throat and took a moment to find her voice.
"So what do we do now?"
She looked back and forth between Carlisle and Evan, waiting for an answer. Carlisle avoided her gaze. Evan looked at her sympathetically but said nothing.
"He's destroying our lives. Literally killing us with some self-justified form of manipulation. What do we do to stop him? How can we stop him? I mean. He has this all planned. He watched it play out bit by bit to determine how to shape events to fit his needs. How do we counteract that sort of planning. How do we bring back…"
She looked down at Julie and her voice broke into sobs again. She pounded her head against the wall behind her and let herself erupt into wailing sobs.
"Can't we just kill him? Stop him from doing any more harm? Then go back and stop him from doing what he's already done? I just want…I want him gone!"
She leaned her head against the wall and stared at the ceiling. Carlisle finally broke the silence.
"I don't know all the details beyond what's been shared with me recently. I trust that we would be able to do what he wants us to do. I trust that somehow we built this time machine. And based on its functionality and the adamant strength of Dalton's belief, I am certain that we would be able to modify the device in the manner he suggests. But."
He paused and waited for both Gabby and Evan to look at him.
"But the question is. Should we indeed do what he asks?"
"If we don't do what he suggests, we're as good as dead. If he's really watched all of this unfold, then he'll know when we are straying from the right path and surely he'll punish us. He'll probably kill me first since I don't have the technical knowledge. But then he'll turn on either you or Evan. Don't you see. He has Time truly on his side. If we stray from his plan, he can simply kill us off then turn back time and prod us along again, only with more motivation. Maybe he'll kill us off and then come back to us with a picture or video of our own death just to reiterate his absolute control over us."
The fear and urgency in Gabby's voice had lowered her speech to a frantic whisper. Her vision was hazy from tears and her breathing was haggard. She shook her head from side to side, trying to shake off the realities pouring over her. Her breath shuddered and she fought back the urge to scream.
"You're right. You're right. He does have absolute control."
Gabby scoffed. As she looked at Evan, she felt herself comforted by the calm tone of his voice, even if his words seemed fatalistic.
"He has us trapped with no way out. And yet. He must rely on us to accomplish his goal. Just as he holds our lives in the balance, so too do we control his future. It's true that he has Time on his side to continue to replay events over and over again until we succeed in saving his wife and daughter. Hah. Who knows. Who knows how many times he's already had to relive this same moment in time due to our attempts to stop him? For all we know he's already been hounding us for weeks…months…to complete this task. It may seem like Time is on his side, but truly Time is on our side. He is forced right now to live outside of Time while we exist wholly in this moment. His own Time continuum is warped and muddled. We are more secure in the folds of Time."
Evan paused and looked around. Gabby's mind whirled with confusion and she was sure her face was wrinkled with a confused look of doubt. She looked over to Carlisle to see if he understood what Evan was implying. Carlisle's tired features looked pensive, but still beyond understanding.
"Don't you see? We don't know the future. We only know the past in our direct memory. If we assume Dalton is being as ruthlessly persistent as he's shown himself to be, then we can also assume that he's gone back and forth through Time both as an Observer and a Participant again and again. Who knows how many times. Carlisle. You haven't yet used the device. Gabby. You've only used it a few times. At least one of those instances, you were nearly lost in the Machine. Stuck somewhere outside of Time.
"No matter how persistent. No matter how careful. Eventually, Dalton is going to make a mistake. And even if he doesn't, the mere strain of constantly pushing and pulling himself through Time will take its toll on his body. On his very soul."
"Alright. Sure. But we don't know when he's going to have problems and we don't know what those problems will be. We don't even know if any of this is true. We're just guessing. How does any of this help us?"
When no immediate answer came, Gabby stood, walked to the table and poured herself a glass of water. Just before the glass reached her lips, she turned and looked back at Julie then slowly sat down on a nearby chair and deliberately set the glass on the table. Her breaths began to grow frantic once again. Evan walked over and pulled her into a soft hug, gently stroking her hair.
"Wait. I've got it. I've got it."
Carlisle's sudden outburst made Gabby jump in spite of herself. Evan hugged her tightly in reassurance and Gabby noticed that as Carlisle continued, he dropped his voice almost to a whisper.
"OK. So. We know Dalton has walked through this bit of time at least once. Even if just as an observer. Evan. You told me that you can sometimes tell if someone is observing, right? You see some sort of disturbance in the force or something, right?"
Gabby felt Evan shift as he nodded in reply.
"Yeah, but I can't always see Observers. I can't see anything now. In this room. But that doesn't mean he's not here."
"Right. Right. That's alright. It's okay. We assume that he's watched us at least once. We don't know when he's present and how much he's seen and how much he hasn't. But we know that he's at least traced the trajectory of Time from the point of his family's deaths until some point in the future when we manipulate the Machine to allow him to save them."
"That's what he claims. Yes."
Evan relaxed his hold on Gabby and pulled a chair up beside her. He then wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her down to rest her head against his. Gabby could see the excitement in Carlisle's face. She wasn't sure why this was so exciting as he was just reiterating what Dalton was claiming.
"OK. So, what stops us from doing the same thing? What stops us from using the device to stop him?"
"Dalton. Dalton stops us. He'll always be there….always ready…he'll stop us. He's got us…"
Evan stroked Gabby's hair to calm her back down.
"She's right Carlisle. Whatever plans we make, Dalton will be aware of them and be right there to stop them. If we try to go back in Time, all he has to do is come back himself and head us off. Even if we are able to successfully Observe him, all that does is prove to us what we're already speculating. What he's already told us he's done."
"Ah, but there's the rub. In order for us to arrive at this moment in time, with all of the information we have, with Dalton's level of control and knowledge, he must have gone back and forth from past to future a number of times, modifying events to result in just this particular scenario. Each time a change was made, Dalton has created new Parallel Universes. We exist now in one of those universes. The one he believes will best lead to reuniting him with his family."
"Not this again."
"Sorry. I know this is a new discussion to you. And to Gabby as well. But during our initial work, you rambled on about Parallel Universes so often that we had to put a ban on the conversation unless you could justify a special circumstance based on our work."
Carlisle's quizzical look became a small grin and then he shook his head.
"Well surely some of what I told you must have sunk in at some level. Can't you see how we can use this?"
"Frankly, I don't. I tuned out on your discussions when you talked about the Nazi time travelers who socially engineered Earth to their own purposes and that in some alternate universe a clone of myself is suffering under some dictatorial regime."
"But it's the very multiplicity of Time that provides a mean to save ourselves now."
Gabby had lifted her head and was watching Carlisle as he spoke. He had begun pacing the room and moving his hands and arms in quick gestures. With each word he seemed to grow more animated. She decided to take the bait.
"Alright. So Dalton's created new alternate realities. Without going into Nazi control, explain how this helps us."
"Not alternate reality. Parallel Universe, well, the phrasing doesn't really matter now. Just as Dalton folded the fabric of Time again and again to meet his needs, we too can work with that same fabric for our own needs. We will fold and unfold the fabric until we arrive at the situation most to our own advantage."
"But how do we do that without Dalton interfering?"
"Because we will widen our scope. Throw open the windows of Time and go beyond Dalton's narrow frame of reference. Think about it. If Dalton had Observed us and manipulated Time enough to arrive at a linear continuum where the Machine was modified and his wife and daughter could be saved, why would he need us? Why not simply Observe us, make note of our progress and our methods and then do away with us and make the modifications himself?
"Or, to provide him some benefit of the doubt. Why not learn how to modify the machine and then just make the changes himself and leave us alone to live our own lives? Why not leave us ignorant of his entire plan?"
"Because he's a psychopath?"
Carlisle chuckled. For a brief moment, he reminded Gabby a little of Dalton and the thought made her shudder. Had she simply traded one lunatic for another?
"Because he can't."
The surprised confidence in Evan's voice made Gabby look around at him then back at Carlisle. Carlisle smiled and nodded.
"Exactly. For whatever reason, our friend Dalton cannot go back and retrieve his wife and child himself. This means he is relying on us not only to modify the technology but also to directly aid him in his goal."
Carlisle grinned wide and nodded his head as if someone else had just proposed the idea and he was simply agreeing. Gabby tried to take in the concept. It made sense. But still, she shook her head.
"I still don't see how this helps us. It's just another way he's holding us hostage. What good does that do?"
"It means, that at some point, he has to rely on us wholly. To trust us. It is during this instant that we provide our own salvation."
"And how long will that take? How long before you and Evan modify the Machine to do what he wants it to do so he'll let you use it? Can it even be done?"
Gabby was on her feet now and pacing the opposite end of the room. She strolled to the corner and leaned back against the wall.
"We're just grasping at straws, aren't we? There's no way out."
Evan stood and looked at Gabby, sympathy painted on his face. Then Carlisle walked over and stood in front of her. He placed a hand on each shoulder and stared at her for nearly a full minute before speaking.
"There is always hope Gabby. And the more I think through this, the more I realize that we have greater hope than we realize. Dalton's reliance upon us provides our certain freedom. And even if he were to realize this danger, his overconfidence would lead him to dismiss it. Worse still, if he intends to follow through on his plans, there really isn't anything he can do about it."
Gabby brought her own hands up to cover Carlisle's hands and squeeze them gently.
"I'm sure you're well intentioned in all of this. And you've got to remember that I'm not a physicist or even a real scientist of any kind. I still don't see how this helps us."
She stared into Carlisle's calm grey eyes and saw his comforting smile grow from his eyes down through his entire face. He nodded then looked over his shoulder at Evan. Gabby followed his gaze. He looked back at her and shrugged, the same confusion mirrored in his face as was etched on hers.
Suddenly a huge booming sound erupted from somewhere else in the mansion. Gabby felt the walls shake around her and she threw her arm out to grab the table for support. Carlisle held her steady and turned back to face her, smiling.
"And now, you shall see what I mean."
He smiled and then walked over to the door. He nodded to Evan and Gabby before walking into the hall.
"I believe our freedom has just been assured."
As soon as he disappeared into the hall, Gabby hopped over to Evan who was already moving after Carlisle. She grabbed Evan's hand, nervous but more hopeful than she had been. And together they followed the lingering noises of chaos from down the hall.