The thing about time traveling is that it messes with your mind. It’s remember your past if it constantly shifts underneath your feet. After a while it’s impossible to tell which one is the master reality and which one is the alternate world. All you have left to guide you are half-formed feelings, fragments of emotions, a constant pressure on your chest, dread of something that happened or might happen. It’s this unbearable darkness inside me that pushes me onward, makes me press the buttons, set the time and jump once more.
I open my eyes in a world of flames. I can smell ash and burnt flesh. My past realigns itself, piece by piece memories returning to my broken mind. This world is one where my invention, my small machine is mass produced. Every man, woman or child can attach the cursed device to their central nervous system and jump into another time, another world. I remember the war this causes, the race to exploit resources of the past, time jumps meant to kill some leader or another, pointless changes of mistakes that must happen. The thing about mistakes is that in order to learn, we have to fail. There is no way to remain with the knowledge but erase the mistake, and the mistakes of this world are too much to bear. The war, the destruction it’s too much to witness. I press the buttons, spin the dials to a random date and jump.
I can feel the time flow, the strands of all possible times, all alternate worlds, ripples of our choices. There are infinite consequences, but I have all the time in the world. I will find the master one, the world where I choose to create my machine and where I jump for the first time. I will stop myself. I will explain the slow dissolution of memories, the loss of your very identity as each world is a shadow of the past and each shadow is more faded than the previous. Maybe then the dread, the gripping claw in my throat, maybe it will stop.
I crash into my body, memories switching place like cogs in a machine, an infinite machine that will never run out of permutations. With horror and surprise I realize this is the master world, or close enough. The ripples of my actions here could affect everything, change my future and therefore change my past. For a brief second I wonder how many times I’ve already been here. How many times have I stopped myself only to start once more when time continued its flow? Then my memories return in full.
I remember everything now. I remember the war, the plague, the millions of dead. The pain inside me flows over the dam of time, washing me in agony. I was not the cause of war. I was just a bystander, just one more number in a statistic of those who lost everything. Names, faces of family, friends and neighbors form inside my mind as dread engulfs me. The loss, the pain it’s too much and I cannot stand it. Without a second’s thought I switch the dials and jump once more.