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A Time Traveler's Headache

To travel through time, that’s a really funny concept.

By Stephen Kramer AvitabilePublished 2 years ago 17 min read
A Time Traveler's Headache
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

“To travel through time, that’s a really funny concept.

A concept that many find to be impossible. A concept that many feel cannot happen for time is a rigid construct, unable to be tampered with.

But many forget, time wasn’t here before us humans. We invented it. Time is a construct we created to make us feel more comfortable about how we progress through life. Something we invented so that we can keep track of the days, so that we can make it so that groups can gather in one place together, so that we can chastise directors for creating a movie that’s ‘too long.’ But again, we created it.

Now, something like the oceans, those have been around for far longer than we have. How do we know this? Well, time, of course. But without going off on a tangent, the oceans were here before us. Yet, we figured out how to travel across oceans. So, if we can navigate that which has been here since before us, then why couldn’t we navigate something which we pre-date? Something which we invented? Why can’t we travel across time?”

Those were more or less my words when I pondered them to Bart. It sounded so strange and so infuriating hearing him repeat them back to me… and the other 100 scientists in the room. Along with all of his other “findings.”

A lot of findings that I hypothesized that existed. A lot of theories that I came up with. But all of which Bart was the one to first solve. Science cares less about the person who addresses a problem with a possible solution and more about the person who accurately takes action on that solution.

And I get it. I don’t deserve 100% of the credit for Bart’s findings, his… invention… if you want to call it that. I don’t even deserve the bulk of the credit. But I absolutely deserve some credit. Can I get a 70/30 split? I’d settle for 20% credit. A by line below Bart’s name. Hell, can a scientist get a fucking mention?

Instead, I was neatly collected into the “and thanks to all my fellow colleagues who supported me since Day 1.” Mother fucker, I was there since before Day 1. I came up with these theories!

I resent Bart, for that speech, for his attitude afterwards, for a lot.

We both started out with humble beginnings. Similar one-bedroom apartments with poor layout plans, horrible misuse of space, walls thinner than my skin (yes, both literally and figuratively), and floors creakier than the setting of your favorite Horror movie.

Neither of us were well off… and living in a big city… those with decent income live like the cockroaches that frequent the kitchen. It’s expensive to live in this city. It’s tough to manage to own property here, it’s tough enough to even imagine owning property.

After several years in our profession, both Bart and I managed to upgrade to better apartments. I went from dark views of brick buildings to plentiful light and a view with some green plants. What an upgrade. Still stuck in an apartment that’s too small, still experiencing poor use of space. A nightmare for any HGTV show host, but at least an upgrade for me.

And then came Bart’s findings. And then came Bart’s speech that lacked a “Thanks for your genius thoughts and theories Damien.” And then came Bart shaking every hand stuck in his face. Fellow scientists, Louis our boss, everyone with five fingers and a grip.

“Where’d you come up with all of this, Bart?”

“Not fucking Damien, that’s for damn sure!”

Okay, he didn’t say that. But that would’ve been better than, “Just allowed my mind to wander.” At least he would’ve uttered my god damn name.

Now, the rest of it is quite confusing, so I’ll explain it to you the best that I can. I got time, don’t I? I want you to understand… whoever you are. An audience, a stranger, a friend, another personality that once hibernated in my mind and has since arose from an all-life slumber, whoever.

Bart of course did a fantastic job explaining this to everyone numerous times. Again, my words... warped and stretched to fit his vernacular. Now branded as “Bart’s thoughts” but they weren’t the first time around, were they? Again, Bart acted on them more efficiently than I did. I tried. I couldn’t close the deal. But I created the deal in the first place!

Time travel isn’t so much about creating the right machine and finding the right concoction of ingredients. No, it isn’t a matter of getting enough plutonium, a shiny DeLorean and crafting a flux capacitor. It isn’t so much about Guy Pearce tinkering with his tools. It’s largely us.

Again, time, not exactly real. We created it, right? So, why do we think we need a car or some machine to navigate it? It isn’t a highway. We created it. It comes from our mind. It’s our mind that’s most essential.

You ever heard that whole thing about how we only use 10% of our brain? Yeah, that’s pretty close. On average, it’s closer to around 14% for most people. Others may go as high as 20% All these assholes believing Bart’s words… I figure them to be down around 8%. But it’s our minds that are the key. Tap into that extra 80% plus. You would be astonished at what your mind can accomplish.

I always am.

I always was.

Apologies if I shift tense a lot. Present tense, past tense, ah who gives a fuck, really, right? Just listen to the god damn story you… whoever you are.

If you want to “time travel” and the human mind created “time” and also “travel” well, then… why isn’t the main device the human mind in any time travel movies, huh? Because none of them actually completed time travel. They just made bomb ass movies… that I wish I could watch again.

Anyway, Bart figured out the concoction. It’s not for the faint of heart. Again, literally and figuratively I mean this. Starving oneself for at least 36 hours. Oh, you mean to tell me, time plays a factor in traveling through time? Cute. Then, this starving person must drink a special blend containing just enough lye to make you sick enough to heave and pray to the almighty lord to just take you now… but not enough to cause you too much harm or death. That is… no death. I don’t mean, not too much death. No more than zero death is acceptable in this equation.

Now, once this poor starved individual has thrown up their… well, not their lunch, right? Not their breakfast. Not last night’s dinner. Just… you know, stuff… now, they need a quick shooter. A shooter of… I think the going rate is about four shots worth. Enough to loosen the mind up. Don’t forget, your mind is a fragile and surreal place after all the vomiting. You aren’t, how do you say, in touch with reality. You’re just miserable and floating in your own consciousness. After the alcohol… well, you better keep it down. Next, that’s the fun part.

A little microdosing of some herbs and fungi collected from an area near Machu Picchu. You ever hear of these people who take hallucinogens and they claim they’re able to see more of life, understand more of life, speak to spirits?

That’s because they can. Now, it’s not like hallucinogens give you the ability to speak in a new tongue that the dead can hear. It doesn’t change your surroundings. It’s helping you tap into those unlocked portions of your brain. And the spirits… they’re also talking to you. The voices are always there. You’re just finally allowing yourself to hear them now. Louis helped Bart create the special headphones that filter out wavelengths that spirit’s voices travel through, otherwise you’d probably have trouble concentrating. They get noisy. Oh, and of course Louis got a shout out in Bart’s acceptance speech. I guess I should’ve focused more on creating some Beats By Damien if I wanted some god damn recognition.

Now, if you think you’re able to just travel through time at this point, you’re incorrect. And okay, there is a little bit of machinery required. Apologies, my mind is all over the place, literally. Just literally. But you just need a vessel to travel through. And you need something to extract this power you have unlocked. Otherwise it will all just be wasted on self-realization and some other junk, am I right?

This is the painful part. Bart and his other fellow scientists created this boat-like vehicle, fully enclosed with a roof and all. Hey, I even helped on my free days. But the most important part to make all of this work… to connect all of this madness… it’s that horrible, horrible rod.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t pinch. If it didn’t sting. Alright, it hurts like a bastard. It has to be expertly inserted into one area near the base of the brain, just a smidge. You feel that pinch for just a second, amazingly. But now all the juice is extracting from your beautiful brain that’s opening up, turning around and around, and it’s feeding right into the machine. What do you do then? You think of the time. You think of where you want to go to.

Bart’s first test run, he tried something simple. Five days in the future. Got the results of a few football games. Made some bets for the hell of it. 12 out of 12, including some massive upsets. He detailed the conclusions, the players who scored, the spots in the end zone where they caught the balls, did they happen on 2nd and 12, 3rd and 5, 4th and what the fuck about Damien? Yeah, all too much to be lucky.

Oh yeah, what about Damien? Bart did two more test runs. One unsuccessful attempt to go ahead one year and a successful one to go back in time one month. But then, I was the guinea pig to do the first Non-Bart test run. I went ahead seven days. Worked like a charm. I was confused, I was still miserable. Why would that be? Ha! If only I knew then what I know now… even though I think I could have…

We soon came to realize we had limitations ourselves. Even after tapping into the rest of our brains, no one was able to travel more than 160 days at a time… backwards or forwards. Bart managed 140 days, several of our colleagues managed 120 days, 110 days, almost everyone could pull off 100 days. Guess who was the only one to hit 160 days. Yeah, yours truly, the unnamed, the uncredited.

In fact, I did it on three different occasions. Each time I was miserable. Not the now me, the later me. The now me was always… well I was always malnourished and feeling like garbage took a holiday in my organs.

From humble beginnings to… to very different endings. I earned more money. I managed to get myself a quaint, little house. That was an accomplishment on its own. But my accomplishment lived in the dark, looming shadow of Bart’s mansion. Everyone loves the guy who figured out time travel, blah, blah, blah. I’d say I’m over it but I am so invested in despising and hating it.

So, now what has Bart figured out? We’re limited in our time travel because we’re limiting ourselves to one brain. With two minds… you might at first think, 160 plus 140, Damien and Bart should be able to travel 300 days, close to an entire year. I can do math.

No, Bart figures this to have an exponential increase. Two minds together, we should be able to travel a few years into the future. Or the past. We just have to make sure the two of us think of the same year. Visualize that year, the time, if it’s the past, envision a specific image. If it’s the future, focus on a makeshift timeline in your own head or some image you can conjure up that represents a moment in the future. But by God, both of you, envision the same thing.

So, that’s where we sit now. Or then. Bart and I, in his stupid boat machine. I hate the shape of this thing. I long for a DeLorean.

“So, we’re agreed?” Bart checks with me. “Three years exactly into the future.”

“Yep.” I agree. As long as we’re both hooked up to this ugly thing, I’ll be thinking the same year as him. If I’m on my own, I got different ideas.

The doors are closed. Our colleagues wave and wish us luck. I wave, noticing my shirt sleeve. My cheap shirt, the flannel pattern luckily covering the tatters and tears on the shirt. Sure, I own a house, and that took some financial well-being. But keeping up with payments, well, that means other things suffer. You’d think a time traveling scientist could afford some better threads.

I look over at Bart. Of course, his threads are far superior. A sturdy knife might not be able to tear through those. Maybe we should test that out. His designer label, bullshit, beautiful shirt. I hate it and I love it. I want it. I don’t need it but I deserve it.

Bart smiles at me.

“Excited to help with the next step on this exciting journey?” He asks with a smile that looks genuine but it can’t possibly be with that corny ass line. Are you auditioning for the next made for TV movie?

“I was excited to help with the first step.” I let slip from my mouth. Did I really say that? I have often thought that line. It became like a mantra to me. I practiced it so many times in my head, I had it perfectly rehearsed… and nailed it.

“What’s that?” Bart is confused with a hint of anger. “My time travel findings… you had the first step for?”

“Are you forgetting where you got these ideas from?!” Now, I’m mad and now I’m going off script. This isn’t rehearsed. This is just emotions.

“Oh yeah!” Bart is getting angrier. “The rantings and ravings of a mad scientist! I guess we have to take any stupid theories and ‘what ifs’ into account when we credit people in their inventions! If that was the case, we’d have every philosophy student and homeless person on a street corner in here taking credit for traveling through time!”

“It was my stupid theories that led you to this point!” I am bewildered. I was bewildered. Always was. Still am. How could he have ever thought like that? And how could he still?!

“You may say some shit but I did some shit!” Bart retorts. “You haven’t done shit. As is clear if anyone were to see your mortgage.”

Ohhh… hooo… it did go there. It did get personal. He knew… he knew what bothered me the most. Ol’ Barty Boy has been using the entirety of his brain for more than just time travel. He delved deep into my psyche and figured out what irked me most. While he was in there, he must have discovered the truth. Found it in the deep recesses of my mind. He must have not liked what he found. A small body of water with the reflection of nothing more than his scowling face.

“You really are an asshole.” I say plainly. But the violence and the anger is bubbling deep below, rising more and more. My hope is to quell this boiling hot anger, just let it go. But that might take some time. Something we got plenty of, right?

And if Bart would have just let it go.

“We’re all assholes. I’m the asshole who did something with his life. You’re just an asshole with nothing. That’s why that’s all anyone ever sees of you.”

Oh, he just couldn’t let it go. It’s his fault really. Because at this point, I’m not even in control of my actions. The recesses of my brain have taken over. Here we sit, in this stupid-ass boat, starved, lye in our systems, cheap tequila from Bart’s collection, herbs conjuring up colors and emotions and dimensions and lights I’ve never seen before… just coursing through my body. And now… pure rage introduced to the cocktail.

“This asshole thinks this is his invention.” Bart says to… himself? Maybe to a spirit nearby?

The long, sharp rods position themselves behind our seats as we recline back. The machine whirs on and the rods crank towards the backs of our heads as we lay back. Crimson reds and deep oranges circulate through the air, they streak past my face and glide along my body. I’m unsure these are from those herbs or from my rage.

It’s alright. I have the perfect solution. I’m in the perfect solution. Bart scoffs at the fact that I think this is my invention. This is my invention. At least, it will be once I’m done. Head back, create everything before he can, find those herbs in Peru, make the concoction of lye and other ingredients, do everything. Do it myself, then this will all be mine.

I can go back in time and take care of that. But Bart’s mind can tamper with that. How about I just take care of his mind? That rod is really sharp. It would be a shame if it was inserted too far.

Bart looks off to the side, readying himself for the pinch. I reach over with my hand, readying myself to give Bart more than a pinch. This will be great. I don’t want to sound sadistic, but I can actually end Bart, without the consequence of committing murder. I have a taste to harm him to the point of ending him after he stole my idea. I obviously don’t want to deal with those repercussions. But if I head back to when he was alive, create everything myself, then the invention is mine. And Bart’s still alive. And Bart can live in the little house. Bart can tend to my rose bushes that I hate. I can live in the big mansion!

I grip the rod as it moves towards the back of Bart’s head. Just as it’s about to insert, I unlatch the safety clamp. And I shove it forward!

Bart jerks forward, rod sticking out the back of his head. He falls forward, face slamming into the dashboard of this ridiculous boat. And then… there is my pinch!

It stings. It stings so good. And I think of a day exactly 160 days ago. Who’s been keeping count, right?

Bart lay motionless, face forward on the dashboard. But I notice his eyes twitching slightly. Hm, must be spasms of the body. A peculiar and horrid reaction… but nothing to worry about. He couldn’t possibly be alive.

The process starts off the same as always. A process too difficult to describe. But I have some time to try, don’t I?

I don’t know, everything is passing by you, but you’re passing by it. You’re moving past it, like you’re swiping past images you’ve collected on your tablet. They roll on through you, you roll on through them.

And then it gets a little strange. There I am in my shitty apartment. Interesting, that was long ago. Then, there is my upgraded apartment. Still further back than I thought I should be going. There was the ugly brick wall out of my first apartment. There is the fresh green tree outside of my second apartment. There is my house. There are those rose bushes. There’s me and Bart, teaching a class together?

There’s Bart, time has not been kind to him. Skin sagging, wrinkled, bags under his eyes, his hair almost completely gray. And then there is me… in the coffin. Bart weeps over me. I am clearly dead… but I am not clearly there. Flashing in and out of existence. Fading, reappearing, transparent.

Like a ghost that has died.

And then it starts over. In some sort of accurate timeline but still a jumbled mess. Becoming less linear and more confusing. Images of the past soaring past, what I can only imagine are images of the future floating by, haunting me. A day when I should have died… a horrible car accident.

And Bart weeping over me in a coffin again.

And my first apartment again. The cockroaches. Me letting them live. Because they reminded me too much of myself.

The ugly brick wall. The green tree. The rose bushes. And Bart weeping.

What the fuck is this?! We should have been there by now! We should have been there… excuse my use of non-existent time… about 15 minutes ago.

I look over at Bart, now completely motionless. Eyes no longer twitching. And I notice something wedged under his forehead. I reach over, rod still lodged in the back of my head. Ooh, I feel that pinch again. I’m not supposed to feel that again. I’m trying to reach Bart’s head to move it and uncover what is underneath it. I am having difficulty reaching. I redirect my fingers towards this thing, looking like a piece of paper… or plastic?

I finally get a finger on it and slide it just enough to reveal half of it from under Bart’s dead head.

Ooh, exasperated. My hand falls to my side. I don’t know if I can lift it again. I’m feeling drained. I focus on this thing… I now see it is a picture. Oh, just some stupid picture Bart keeps with him when he travels. We all put pictures of past events on our desks at work. I guess his stupid boat doubles as his desk. But wait… this image… this image that Bart’s face landed on… that his eyes were facing directly at… I remember this.

This is a picture he took from the future to prove to non-believers that he could indeed travel through time. An event that had not yet happened. Bart at the opening of some stupid mini mall, cutting the tape with some giant scissors for some establishment that had not yet been opened. A day, roughly four months in the future.

As the rod entered his brain, it didn’t kill him immediately. And it still entered through the same spot in his brain. It still served its purpose. So, the image Bart had in his mind as we were sent off… was a moment four months in the future. Here I am, remembering a moment 160 days past.

And here goes this boat… in circles through time.

Ooh, I really feel that pinch now.

Images keep streaking past us. My first apartment. My second apartment. My house. My death.

Over and over again.

They move through me. I move through them.

I really feel the pinch. It started turning into a headache.

Once again, I apologize for any tense shifts. I’m having trouble keeping track of which one I should be using.

Then again… I got all the time in the world to get that right, don’t I?

Short Story

About the Creator

Stephen Kramer Avitabile

I'm a creative writer in the way that I write. I hold the pen in this unique and creative way you've never seen. The content which I write... well, it's still to be determined if that's any good.

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Comments (3)

  • Naomi Gold11 months ago

    What a wild ride! 🤪 I am so glad you shared this, because it was one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read on here. I laughed out loud several times. I love this zany, darkly humorous sci-fi.

  • Oh wowww, that was a helluva trip! Gotta love Damien's sense of humour! This story made my head spin but I enjoyed it!

  • Incredible story. I have just one concern. Lye is extremely dangerous to ingest capable of causing severe (3rd degree) burns. Using it in your story to cause purging might encourage others to try something similar even though you have it contained in a special blend. You could use Ipecac (or simple gag reflex), but it might be even better simply to use one of the materials they have you ingest before a colonoscopy if the purpose is simply to have a completely cleansed system.

Stephen Kramer AvitabileWritten by Stephen Kramer Avitabile

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