On The Bus
By William Grewe-Mullins
I ran into myself on the bus today. One minute he wasn't there, the next he was. He didn't introduce
himself, as I immediately recognized me, and of course he remembered that. I turn out a bit
chubbier, and wrinklier with a lot more white hair, but still a lot of red, and still in a ponytail. He
had a mechanical hand.
"Still wearing the ponytail." I said.
"Shut up." I replied.
This is going to get confusing, so I'm going to refer to old me as he or him, even though it's actually
"We only have about 5 minutes," old me said, "So let me do most of the talking. I came here
because I knew you'd be here, because of the bus schedule. An easy target, as it were. First off,
have that lump on your collarbone looked at."
As soon as I promised him that I would, in the space between seconds, his mechanical hand turned
into a regular fleshy hand.
"Wasn't it cool to have a mechanical hand?" I asked old me.
"Who had a mechanical hand?" he replied.
"Well, if you didn't come here to fix your hand, what did you come here for?" I said.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I came here to tell you that in about twenty-five years, we
develop time travel, and that although it is fun and sometimes pretty cool, it's also pretty much
worthless. Before you ask, I could give you the lottery number that I have for next week's lottery,
but by the time I get back to my time, the number I brought you won't be the number that's in the
historical record, the same one that I copied to give to you. My coming back here has changed
everything just a little. Many have tried that, none have succeeded. Perhaps I did come to fix my
hand, but now that you will keep me from losing it, I never lost it. That actually makes sense." he
"Yes, that actually does make sense." I replied.
"Shut up." He said. "Historians are going to waste about five years going back into history, seeing
what actually happened at controversial points, but each time they go back to, say, JFK's
assassination, where everybody goes, they don't see the other travelers there, and every time the
scene is a little different. It's like this, Oswald is the shooter in all the scenarios we've explored, but
in some, and only in some, there is a second shooter, sometimes a third, and in one, as many as
eight, on the overpass, behind the fence on the grassy knoll, whatever, but also, the other shooters
never make the shot. Miss every time. Our theory is that there is a very narrow range of possible
outcomes, and that history always bends back towards the timeline of the original traveler's reality.
When you go there, carry an umbrella. That's the rule. You won't see anybody else with an
umbrella, although you will show up on the Zapruder film. Don't turn to the camera. Just don't. And
by the way, you can't kill Hitler, because without Hitler, no German scientists developing
electronics, without electronics, no time travel. So many have tried and failed that it's banned,
except for documentaries about how it doesn't work. The one called "Stop Trying To Kill Hitler, It
Doesn't Work" is a good one. And you can't go back to before Homo sapiens evolved. We still
don't know why, so no dinosaur hunts, although seeing the pyramids brand new is pretty awesome.
"How's Patty?" I asked.
"She's fine, surrounded by dogs as usual, more dogs than you can imagine. Seriously. I think that
may be actually why I came. Don't stop playing the lottery, and only when it's over a hundred
million jackpot. Just don't. You're going to need a lot of dog food."
By the time I could say anything else, in the space between seconds, I was gone.