“You see, the trick with Time Travel is what I call ‘The Law of Neutrality‘ that means that you can change any timeline except your own,” the old man states as if I know what he is talking about, “You can change others’ timelines because you always have changed them, but you cannot change your own timeline as it can never be different because then you would never be there changing it. And, therein lies the paradox of the All Clock.”
I am certain that I have never met the grizzled old man before, but something about his manner feels so familiar. It is midnight and, other than his growling voice, there is silence all around us. He is standing in my dorm room gazing down at me with a strangely tender expression. The window is still closed and the bedroom door that I always locked before going to bed looks intact and unopened. I have no idea how he got into my room, but this strangely does not bother me.
“I tell you all of this, but I also know that you will not listen. I never did, so you won’t. When she dies in the Spiral Feeds, you will go back to try to stop if from ever happening. Not if, but when this happens, just remember to come back here now and I will remind you what to do next.”
Suddenly there is another man standing in the room. He is older than me and carrying a gun of some sort. He looks at me and nods before looking across at the older man. It is then that I notice that, although he is dressed differently to the older, grizzled man, he bizarrely looks like a younger, less sinewy version of him.
“You were right,” the younger man states flatly, his voice exactly the same pitch and tone of the older man, “It did not work. Each time I tried it, I was another variable in the timeline making it happen. I cannot save her. We–” he glances at me, “We cannot save her. What now?”
The older man smiles and walks across to the side of my bed where I am now sitting straight up, my eyes wide.
“First, let me introduce ourselves ,” he smiles at me, it looks like a leathery skull grinning and I notice a fine scar from his left eye down to his jaw, “Your thesis works. You invent Time Travel, but you are not alone in doing this and the others are our enemies. We are your various future versions of you and there are a number of things I must tell you,” he glances at the young man, “and some that I must remind you.”
A thrill of excitement runs down my spine at this news. My rough thesis lies across the room on my study table. But the excitement quickly dissipates as I see the pained expression of the middle-aged me and start to notice all the criss-cross scars on the old-aged me.
I suddenly realize that my future holds a lot of pain for me.
“The All Clock offers us a unique opportunity to save the world. The Law of Neutrality prevents us saving our future, present and past daughter from the coming Spiral Feeds, but it does allow us windows into multiple world end scenarios. This allows us to travel backwards in time and prevent others from dying in the first place. We save the world countless times in our loop. It is interesting how often, though, saving the world involves killing another Time Traveller, but it seems that this technology offers many temptations to those that control it to alter the world in unexpected ways.”
“How do I know where to save the world? How do I know where to go and what to do? How do I know how I can survive all of this?” the middle-aged me asks the old-aged me.
“You will know because I will tell you,” the old-aged me smiles and hands the middle-aged me what looks like a black leather-bound book, “And I knew because I once in your place being told by an older version of me, who handed me this book. It has all the dates, times, co-ordinates and details needed to execute our time loop.”
The middle-aged me takes the book in silence and nods. The old-aged me nods back, grimly. And the room’s dark silence weighs down on me sitting in my bed speachless.
But suddenly I find my voice: “W-what is the All Clock?”
The old-aged me turns to me. He kneels down to my level, places his hand on my shoulder and look directly into my eyes. Even in the darkness of the room I can pick up the faintest sparkle of metal and circuitry in his eyes.
“We are the All Clock,” he growls narrowing his eyes, “And the All Clock is us. Remember to love her while she is alive. There will be plenty of time for revenege after she is gone.”
The old-aged me looks up at the middle-aged me and nods: “It is time. I would say ‘good luck’, but you don’t need it. I did it, so I know you will, and so will you,” he say swinging his gaze at me.
And then his head explodes. Blood splatters out across me, the bed and the wall behind me. It is warm and sticky.
The loud bang from the gun is still ringing in my ears hours later, long after the middle-aged me has time travelled away and I am left all alone.
He told me I will go to jail, but there I will learn to fight. He told me that my thesis is correct and I do not need a PhD for our future. He tells me that after jail I will her and we will have a daughter. He tells me to spend time with her, but to build the Time Travel Machine then according to me theory. He tells me that I will forget about much of this meeting, but when the time comes that I will travel back to right now and remind myself.
He tells me not to worry. He survived it all, and so I will survive it all. He tells me that I will survive everything and see such wonders that mortal cannot comprehend.
He tells me all of that as he is wiping the blood-splatter from jacket and placing his smoking gun onto the bed at my side.
“I am the All Clock,” I whisper again and again under my breath as the world wakes up around me, “and I will save the world.”
Any moment now, someone will walk into the dorm room and find body of the old-aged version of me with my fingerprints on the gun on my bed.