Time machines abound. Once easily created, they were routinely produced and rapidly spread around the world, from then on.
Consequences? Multiples of men running into each other, which cannot be. What would they do? Explode, vanish, converse, converge, discuss their inherited similarities, their not-so uniqueness?
“Maintenance.” Was the single word given after ringing up for assistance.
“This is Maintenance. How can I help you?” became the second response. I waited on the phone, unable to determine how to answer.
“Click.” The phone became silent. By the noise we knew it had been obviously hung up on the other end.”
“Geez. I didn’t know they were so impatient.” I complained to myself, and myself, and myself.
Let me explain while I dial once again.
I bought a time machine. No, it wasn’t top of the line, but it wasn’t the cheapest version of them either, but I didn’t buy it from some guy hawking them on the street corner either.
“Yes. Ah.. ah.” I stumbled to say something before they hung up on me once again. It was partly because I heard two simultaneous echoes, one in each ear. I had a triplicate on either side of me, both trying to listen to the phone conversation at the same time. Since there was only one phone, one of them listened to my open ear in hopes that something might make it through my head (I guessed). I was in a hurry not to get cut off for a second time.
“Yes. Well, I bought one of your time machines a while back…” I started explaining, hoping that the person on the other end of the line would start asking questions. Questions that would lead to the solution of my particular problem.
You see, I guess you must since I’ve just explained that I have one of me on either side of me, each of them trying to be dominant, and therefore, not expendable, if it came to that. They were Me, after all.
“What exactly is your difficulty?” The so far pleasant man from the maintenance department asked. I noted the odd reverberation that he had in his voice, but I pushed it aside for the time being. Of course he couldn’t see me, but my frustration was leaking out of me as the other two of me kept pushing each other to gain position at the phone. I frowned in disappointment, not knowing how infantile I could be at times until then.
“I have three of me trying to talk to you for one thing. But that’s only half of the problem. Or should I say, a third of the problem.” It was a weak attempt at humor after yelling into the mouthpiece of the phone in a hurry to speak. I hoped that maybe he could hear the triple resonance as the three of us spoke together every time I tried to speak alone. It would make it easier if he understood.
“Was that model XPQ202, or model XPQ404?” he asked politely. I was only getting more frustrated.
“How am I supposed to tell that, I’m not in my home time.” echoed from either side of me. “The box is lying way back there, or then…”
“Just calm down, I will talk you through it.” Came the sickeningly pleasant reply. “Look under the handlebars of the time machine. Under the left side bar, near the fork, the number should be clearly stamped into the aluminum alloy.”
There was a sudden shuffle as three heads banged together while trying to see under the controlling bars. Sounding like cocoanuts, I hoped the phone repair guy was at least getting a giggle out of it, we certainly weren’t. we rubbed our pained heads simultaneously.
You might be tempted to say that we should have worked it out beforehand, who would make the call, who would stand by idly, etc. Well, we did make that attempt. It was successful right up until I did the dialing, and right up until I put the receiver to my ear. After that our agreements went to pieces, in three different directions. That’s how I ended up with two human earrings on either side of my head, and then two barbells hitting me in either side of head while I searched for the serial number.
We all recoiled in pain, but the number was recovered.
“It’s 202.” I called out after clearing my head from the smack that it had taken on two sides.
The problem was, as soon as something was decided, each of us thought of ourselves as being the lead person of our little exclusive, nepotistic group, and each of us acted as we expected the lead person to act. So we all did the same thing, and knocked our heads together. Even at that, we each believed that we were the one that could move the fastest, and therefore moved together, quickly, and painfully. The only reason that I got to the phone was because I was nearest to it, being in the middle at the time. I had to fight several fingers away from the dial. As it was it took several attempts to hit the numbers in the right order. It was a form of synchronicity gone wrong.
This was not my time zone, and pulling the plastic circle with holes in it around an axle for each number, wasn’t familiar to me. Thankfully the other two weren’t familiar with it either, or one of them would have taken control. As it recoiled, that is, spun backwards to get ready for the next number to be turned with it, we all became familiar with it at the same time, so each number after that was made more difficult by having three fingers in the hole specified by the number to be dialed.
“Oh, well okay.” The man on the phone line muttered lowly. His sense of disappointment was obvious although I couldn’t say why it made a difference that I bought the cheaper version. “It should have a ‘D’ right after that number. I hadn’t seen it myself, but through the images that I saw from the other two’s thoughts, I could see it. This, despite the stars that were still floating around in my visual cortex from our multiple collisions.
“Yes. What does that matter?” we asked. Maintenance hesitated, and we all held our breaths so that we could hear his inevitable reply.
“Well, quite frankly, your model was never supposed to be released without the patch. All the XPQ202’s were supposed to be fixed prior to release.” We took a short breath and waited for more of the explanation. We waited quite a long time, and the Maintenance guy wasn’t saying anything. We could only assume that he was looking for a solution. When he finally began to speak again, we all cut short our breath and listened to the receiver that we held to our heads. Our heads continued to knock together in a wrestling match for control of it. My ears were getting sore from the friction between two heads on either side of them.
“There are two possibilities how this could have happened.” We waited with silent breaths. “One of them is if we made a mistake here at the manufacturing plant.” Nodding together, we all hoped that this was the case. It would be easiest to rectify if they knew just how they had erred. By now they would have found a solution. But this was not the solution that he had found.
“Yes, yes, yes, go on, go on, go on.” We spoke, politely hesitating for each other. We all knew what we were going to say anyway. We could have agreed not to repeat ourselves, but then our competitiveness forced us to speak, even if we were not the first to do so. We were just trying to catch up to the others.
“The only other solution…” he hesitated. We held our breaths. It seemed a long time, but none of us were willing to exhale first and give in to the others. So we waited for him to continue, our faces surely turning bluish after a while.
“Well,” he waited again while we made very frustrated faces alongside each other. It was surely the same face, but unfortunately, the man on the phone line couldn’t see our multiple images of it, and the rising anger right behind it. I could feel the heat rising of the other two faces on either side of my face.
“The only other possibility is if one of you stole the machine prior to it being fixed. One of you broke into the factory, stole it, and timed yourselves right out of the hands of our control police!” He sprang the trap and we all sucked in breaths of need, surprise, and then horror (but for different reasons). Our mouths gaped open, filling the mouthpiece of the phone with a sound that must’ve sounded like something inside of a wind tunnel.
Two hands pushed the phone right out of mine, and into the cradle. There was a click, and the three of us stared at each other with looks of guilt, fear, and astonishment. Both of the faces I saw were red, their mouths open as thought to speak, but nothing was coming out of them.
I tried to stop them, but the handle of the time machine was wrenched from my own fingers and turned. Then the weaker hand turned it back again in the other direction. As the first triplicate disappeared, the feelings of guilt disappeared. There was also remorse, but it faded with the visible body of the triplicate. I was left with feelings of surprise and horror, somewhat surrealistically, from my left side. As the control bar was turned in the other direction, these emotions also faded.
Of course I had felt all of these inside of myself as well as from outside of me, but with the disappearance of the other two appearances of me, the emotions were balanced within me once more. I knew exactly what had happened, and I had no one but myself to blame.
I was suddenly left alone. I had no idea where or when in time I was, but at least I was alone. The rotary dialed phone remained in my grasp, but I left it sitting on it’s cradle. The problem had been repaired, at least for the time being. I decided to wander around and locked the mechanism so that I could not be left in this time, for any longer than I wanted. I didn’t want to have to buy another machine so that I could get back to the time where, and when, I started in.
Back in the Maintenance Pool, three men sat side by side. The man in the middle nodded with satisfaction to the others. He knew that the lesson had been successful. “See.., it works every time.” The value of a threat had been expressed to the students in real time, each having an instant reaction.