They had been drinking for several hours when the subject came up.
“What’s the worst thing that ever happened to any of us?” said Laura.
“Just now,” said Mike, “when I tried that abysmal cocktail.”
“I’m serious,” said Laura.
“Let’s go round the table,” said Frank.
“Let’s not,” said Beverley.
“Let’s yes,” said Phillipa, “I mean, yes, let’s.”
“It’s Mike’s birthday,” said Beverley, “we’re supposed to be celebrating good times.”
“Bad times can be turned into good times,” said Frank, “I mean, now that we can change the past.”
“No, no, no, we can’t,” said Beverley.
“Yes, yes, yes, we can,” said Frank, “with a warp-sphere you can do anything.”
“That’s not true,” said Beverley, “I’ve read about it.”
“So have I,” said Frank, “and ladies and gentlemen, we have a scientist here who can back me up.”
“Thank you,” said Phillipa, rising and taking a bow, “as your friendly neighborhood physicist I can tell you that you’re both right.” She sat down.
“Boo,” said Frank.
“How can we both be right?” said Beverley.
“Because, my dear,” said Phillipa, “it’s true that a warp-sphere engine can take you to the past, within the years of your lifetime. It is also true that once you are there you can do anything, but, and here it comes, the past you travel back to will not be your past, but one very similar. To be precise: you will be in the nearest dimension to our own, of which, we now know, there are an infinitytude.”
“Don’t you mean infinitude?” said Mike?
“Shush,” said Phillipa, “I’m speechifying.”
“Right,” said Frank, “so we can’t travel back to our reality, but it will be a very, very similar one, and we can change things there, for our past selves who aren’t quite our past selves, so that the bad thing will never have happened, at least not to them. Those who are we, only not quite.”
“I’m glad I’m drunk,” said Mike, “this is almost making sense.”
“Twenty thousand pounds,” said Frank, “twenty thousand pounds and you can take a private trip back and makes things better for the you who isn’t you, but almost.”
“You know what,” said Laura, “we should do it. Tonight.”
“How about we just have more wine?” said Beverley.
“No, wait,” said Laura, “this is interesting.”
“I told you,” said Phillipa, “I told you physics was interesting, but would you ever listen?”
“It’s Mike’s birthday,” said Laura, “so what if we did it? We can afford it, between us all. What better gift than to go back and change a nearly-Mike’s life for the better?”
“Wow,” said Frank, “wow. But what would we change?”
“I can think of one thing,” said Mike.
“Oh, Jesus,” said Frank, “Mike, I’m sorry. How could I forget?’
“Forget what?” said Phillipa.
“Back when we four were in college,” said Frank, “just after Mike and Laura got together, Mike here was the star of the running team.”
“Coach had me down to try out for the Olympics,” said Mike.
“What?” said Phillipa, “why didn’t I know this? What happened?”
“Sean Patterson happened,” said Frank, “that a-hole spiked Mike’s shoes with broken glass. Cut right through his tendon.”
“We don’t know that it was him,” said Mike.
“We could find out,” said Frank.
“Let’s not do this,” said Beverley, “this is a bad idea.”
“No,” said Frank, “this is justice.”
It only took a cab-ride to get them to the nearest Cyber-Sphere café and minutes later they stood around the glowing orb, breathless.
“I can’t believe we’re going to do this,” said Laura.
“Remember the plan,” said Frank.
“Huddle round people,” said the engineer, “this Is going to be a blast.”
When the blue light faded, they found themselves fifty miles away and twenty years ago in an empty locker room with sunlight streaming in through frosted windows.
“I don’t believe it,” said Frank, “it’s real.”
“Those are my shoes over there,” said Mike, “this is trippy. Any moment now I’m going to walk in that door.”
“Behind the lockers,” said Frank, “quick.”
“I’m sorry,” said Beverley, “I was out of my mind.”
“Someone’s coming,” said Laura, “get ready.”
“I loved you, Laura,” said Beverley, “I couldn’t bare the look in your eyes when you watched him run.”
“He’s coming in,” said Mike. But it wasn’t Sean Patterson who walked through the door with the glass bottle, who smashed it upon the floor and fed the pieces into Mike’s shoes. It wasn’t quite Beverley either, but almost.
Chris Wheatley is a freelance journalist, writer and musician. He is forever indebted to his wife, his son and his mother, without the advice and encouragement of whom he would never have come so far.