Jos Crane

Official website of Jos Crane, author.

A recent experiment in quantum theory has enabled the potential ability to go backward in time. That’s as much as I know. I am not a scientist, but I volunteered to be involved in the study. The group of scientists received hundreds of thousands of volunteer responses. As a result, there were a dozen rounds of interviews and tests that potential candidates had to pass.

The first round was a video interview session. They asked a simple question: “Why do you want to go back in time?”

I didn’t have an answer so I simply said, “Because I have nothing better to do.” This passed the artificial intelligence screening. I believe what the AI was looking for was honesty in the response. Then, there was an exam we had to pass that was delivered online. The questions covered various historical topics like, “If the Wright brothers weren’t the first to fly a controlled engine-powered plane, when would the first plane be invented?” My answer to that question was, “the same year.” While I’m not knowledgeable on the timelines – which is why I didn’t give a specific year – I do know that several inventors were working on planes around the world so it was bound to happen regardless if they existed or not. I believe this exam was asking questions to point out the importance of maintaining history.

An oral exam followed, but this time it dived into the butterfly effect – where altering a timeline could have implications by something as simple as stepping on a butterfly. It was more about the details of certain events and it asked us to think through everything that could happen from such a simple difference. The question was about purchasing a shirt. I told them that purchasing one shirt would change the inventory of the store that sold it. By not purchasing it, someone may not have stocked the next one, and the delivery from the warehouse may not happen, the factory where the shirt was produced would’ve never made it, the people who made the shirt wouldn’t be working there, the manufacturer who made the cotton of that shirt may not exist, and the person who manned the machine that made the cotton may not have a job, and the people who picked the cotton wouldn’t have jobs to feed their families either. It was a much longer response than this, but it should give you an idea.

Other interviews were performed with the remaining people on the list. Generally, it was about our personalities, finding our integrities, and looking for any flaws in our personalities. For whatever reason, they chose me. When I found out that the initial test would send me back one year, my first question was, “what would I do?”

They said there would be a specific place I would be sent to and a person would be waiting for me there. I told the lead engineer that I thought it was crazy because why would someone wait for me when they never had a person there in the first place? Apparently, they had planned this a year before so they were already waiting for me, even though I hadn’t been sent yet. It didn’t make sense to me at all, but I stepped into the machine to see how it went. I had nothing better to do. The machine reminded me of those giant X-ray machines at the airport security lines. It was much bigger but looked the same with the white shell and an entrance large enough for a person to enter. On either side of the door there were a bunch of monitors with numbers that made no sense to me.

“You may feel some discomfort,” a voice said.

“Some?” I asked

“We don’t really know yet.”

“Am I going to die?” I should’ve asked this question before I stepped into the machine.

“We don’t think so. Other tests have had success.”

“How do you know they’ve gone well? If they went to the past, how did you find out about how the test went now?”

“Trust me, I’m a scientist.”

I rolled my eyes. “That doesn’t fucking help.” It’s the worst response I could’ve gotten; A meme. Suddenly, I felt a tingling like when I cross my legs too long and cut off the blood circulation so my legs fall asleep. Except, this time it was all over my whole body. Then it felt like I was being zapped as if I shoved a fork into a light socket. Uncomfortable at first, but then it started to mess with my head.

The machine’s walls slowly vanished and I found myself in the same lab. Some equipment had moved around and there were fewer people. Actually, there was just one person: the lead engineer who told me to trust him.

“What do you mean ‘trust you because you’re a scientist?'” Before he could answer I asked in a disorientated matter, “What the hell happened?”

He grinned, rushing over to me with a tangle of medical devices. “Quick, what year is it?”

“2024?” I had no idea anymore.

“Nope!” He began attaching sensors to my skin, his excitement palpable and it annoyed me

“Wrong!” he stated as he ran up to me and placed all sorts of medical devices on me. He was checking my blood pressure, temperature, and other necessities which I would consider to ensure I wasn’t going to die.

“Wait,” I said as he was reading all the devices, “how did you know I would be here now?”

He was busy typing on the computer as he spoke, “It’s a bit complicated, but the machine is already functional. I knew, or at least will know, the day I wanted to send a candidate like you back in time. So, future me knew that I would be here today waiting for you.”

“But, did future you meet me already?”

“Yes, which is why you were chosen.”

“So you’re telling me I went through all those pointless tests for nothing?” I snapped, my frustration boiling over.

He shook his head. “We couldn’t have known it would be you specifically.”

“But you just said future you already met me!”

“Yes, but that hasn’t happened for me yet, don’t you see?”

“It’s happening now, though.”

He clicked his mouth and pointed a finger at me. “This is why we will choose you.”

I sat down on the floor out of frustration. None of this made sense to me. How could they possibly know that I was and wasn’t going to be here simultaneously?

He finished typing away at his computer and then turned to me. “I’m sorry this is confusing to you and probably frustrating. I have worse news, though.”

I blinked hard.

He hesitated, his expression turning serious. “I’m afraid sending you back to the future isn’t possible.”

“Why not? What about the version of me from the future?”

“You are the future version now. There’s only one of you.”

“But, then I won’t be selected as a candidate to move back in time.” I grabbed my hair and screamed, “I don’t get any of this!”

He emphasized and tried to explain, but it didn’t help. He said my best move was to live like I did before any of this happened. They would call me on occasion to check up on me and my health to ensure time travel was safe for future, or past, users. He explained that the problem with going back to the future is that there was a potential that two of me would simultaneously exist. I asked if that wasn’t already a problem now that the future me is here now with current me, but he said that current me already existed so only the future me exists now. I gave up trying to understand it.

I returned back to my old life. Literally my old life. I tried to relive events exactly as I did. I went to the same job for work, talked to the same people, and had the same conversations I remembered. Most of them I didn’t, but the strangest deja vu happened when I did. It was like an amplified version of deja vu and it made me dizzy enough to want to throw up on a few occasions. Sometimes when speaking with friends I would say, “Oh right, and this happened.” They would look at me confused wondering what I was talking about, but then I remembered that it hadn’t happened yet. The same happened with work when I heard a project was launching and claimed, “This is going to be a colossal failure.” My boss berated me, but I knew the outcome already. Even certain football games had the same outcome I remembered.

I bet $50 on a game that I knew the outcome already. It worked as expected and I earned $150 out of it since most people thought the other team would win. I knew they wouldn’t, but I didn’t want to spend enough money to jade the other bets. Then, a question hit me: if I already knew the outcome of sports games, and it didn’t impact anyone, what else could I do? The answer hit me: the stock market.

I scrolled the list of stock prices of various companies to see if any rang a bell and then found one that piqued my interest. I remember reading about this technology company in 2024, the future, when its stock price went up by over 1,000% in one year. I found their price on the market and saw it was in the pennies. I quickly looked up how much money I had in my accounts, including my retirement, and decided to pull it all out. I invested everything I had except my budget into this one company. I figured that the future me would thank me later and I could retire younger than I originally planned.

I had to play the long game and continued my life not thinking about it. I relived every day. A perpetual Groundhog Day. I was fully confident in the investment outcome because I had already seen it, just like I had already seen every other event that was thrown in my direction. A few months passed and I received an email from my brokerage company. The stock had been closed from public trading and sold to a private investment company. My heart dropped, and a cold sweat broke out on my forehead as I realized my gamble hadn’t paid off.

Desperate for answers, I reached out to the investment firm that had purchased the stock, hoping to glean some insight into their decision. They directed me to their press release, which offered little more than vague platitudes about the company’s potential. It dawned on me that my own investment had likely caught someone’s eye, setting off a chain reaction I couldn’t have predicted.

With this knowledge now weighing heavily in my mind like a snake wrapping its slithery body around my brain, I remembered the exams I had taken previously. The one with the butterfly effect began to circulate in my head as I asked myself, “What else will happen because of my investment? What employees will be impacted? What employees will never get a job? Will their families be fed?” The consequence of a simple investment for bettering my future ultimately led me to step on the butterfly.