Ouroboros – Chapter 9: The Endless Serpent’s Tail

“Looks like it’s not there. I guess I threw it out,” she said, opening up the VHS player to show that it was empty. “You, throwing something out? And forgetting what it was? You’re just full of surprises today. Does that mean you’ll finally let me try that one thing you said you’d never-” “Let’s not go overboard,” she teased, “It’d be embarrassing if the burn ward nurses recognized us from the last time we tried something new.” “Huh? I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said, clearly knowing exactly what she was talking about, “I just thought we should, uh, get a dog?” “You’re allergic,” she said. “That’s right!” he said, “That’s right, I said that because I was testing you, and you passed. Congratulations! I knew I made the right choice marrying you.” She laughed. Even to the end, he was still the same goofy idiot she fell in love with. Tears began to well up in her eyes. Like any man seeing his wife cry for no discernible reason, he began to panic. “I’m sorry! I was just kidding around! Er, I mean, I wasn’t kidding around when I said I made the right choice marrying you, of course, I was just saying… uh, unrelated question: What are the ethical ramifications of a husband bribing his wife into forgiving him with fancy chocolate? And this time, I’m not talking about my-” “It’s fine,” she lied, mind racing to come up with a cover story. “The tape just reminded me of the old days. Back when we first moved in together. I just got a little emotional. It was our first big… ‘volatile disagreement’? Is that what we called them back then?” “Probably?” he said, “I’m pretty sure ‘fight’ was the only word in the English language that we didn’t use to describe our fights. God, I can’t believe we used to be that couple. It’s a good thing we’re much more honest with each other now.” She smiled sadly at the irony of his words. If only he knew how much of her life she’d hidden from him since those times. “I love you,” she blurted out. “Yes,” he said, “Er, I mean, I love you too.” She could tell she caught him by surprise, but she had to say it. It was one thing she could always be honest with him about. And although she had no idea when he’d last heard it, she felt like it’d been an eternity since she’d last said it. She laughed to hide the tears in her eyes. “Oh my God, that must have been the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard, let alone said!” she said.

 
“As if,” he scoffed, “If you seriously think you’re cheesier than me, then we’re about to get into a ‘volatile disagreement’. You may be better than me at literally everything else, but when it comes to being a giant dork, you just can’t compete.” “Bring it,” she challenged. “Very well,” he said, “You asked for this.” He then hugged her tightly, looking deep into her eyes, their noses nearly touching. “I love you. I love you, body and mind, heart and soul. I love you, across heaven and earth, time and space. I love you, from the alpha to the omega, in every timeline, conceivable and inconceivable. I love your perfections and imperfections, your godliness and devilishness. I love your cleverness and compassion, your smokin’ ass and slammin’ titties. In your name I pray, Amen.” He kissed her on the lips, then did the sign of the cross with his hands. She couldn’t stop herself from crying. She always knew how much he loved her, but to hear him say it, for what she knew would be the last time, was almost too much for her to take. She dropped the VHS player and hugged him back. “I concede,” she said, “I can’t even hold a candle to your cheesiness.” “Don’t sell yourself short,” he said, “You’re still a giant dork.” “Hah. You sure know how to make a girl feel special,” she teased. “That’s my job, isn’t it?” he said, “And I still love you, even if you are a giant dork.” “Thanks,” she said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” She smiled, but it felt hollow. She used to enjoy the silence they shared, but now it gnawed at her heart, a grim reminder of her imminent fate. She needed to fill that silence with him: his words, his laugh, his everything. One last time. “So, if we’re so honest with each other now, I guess you admit that we still have fights?” she said. “What? Of course not,” he said, “We obviously love each other too much to do that.” “Obviously,” she said, “So what would you call what we do now, then?” “It’s a bit too nuanced to easily describe,” he said, resting his chin on his hand as if deep in thought, “I’m sure there’s a German word that describes it perfectly, but if I had to take a crack at it I’d say… angry sex?” She laughed. “Speaking of which, what’s the status on that fancy chocolate you said you were going to give me?” “Huh? Oh, I guess I could get some if you want… wait, what do you mean by-” he said, before getting cut off by a kiss that let him know exactly what she meant.

 
The next morning, she was startled awake by a familiar nightmare. They’d been getting worse recently, but this was the first one bad enough to wake her up. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time; her husband had kept her up until well into the morning, and she needed to be wide awake for her final day. Her convoluted scheme to fake her death to her own husband, while actually dying for a reason he couldn’t possibly understand, wasn’t going to come up with itself, after all. She needed to “die” in a way where it wouldn’t be suspicious if her body was never found. But how? She considered consulting the internet, but worried about implicating her husband; it probably wouldn’t look good for him if she went missing and “How can person a disappear forever” showed up in his search history. Ever since that one incident with The President, she knew better than to trust computers to keep her secrets. But even the executive branch of the United States Government can’t track a search that hasn’t been made yet, so she travelled to the future to safely conduct her research. When she got there, she nearly tripped over something. The gravestone. With so little of her life left to spoil, she decided to read it. As she’d suspected, the grave was hers. Though it was mostly eroded, there were flecks of paint on it, an outline of what looked like a person. There wasn’t enough detail to identify it, but she knew it was a painting of herself. Her husband’s final work. Seeing her death date – a day that she was living in just seconds prior – etched into the cold, grey stone really hammered it home: her existence was ending, and even this humble memorial would vanish along with it. But she had a job to do, and she wasn’t about to let a little thing like an existential crisis get in her way.

 
It turned out that, even in the future, they still had libraries, so she made her way to the one where her journey nearly began. Using its historical records, she was able to devise a perfect cover-up for her death: an earthquake in a foreign country that happened on the same day, collapsing several buildings and trapping thousands inside. Using her position at her job, she arranged a business trip to ensure she’d be at the right place at the right time. Normally, it’d be impossible to get same-day approval for a business trip with no strategic value, but with a little time travel and a lot of past successes under her belt, she managed. She felt terrible about using the deaths of so many people for her own purposes, but she had to harden her heart; she just didn’t have enough time to save anyone else in the building. But all those thoughts melted away the moment she saw the looks of terror on people’s faces. She ended up time traveling a dozen or so other people to safety, though her Oblivion Ray ensured that they wouldn’t remember their savior.

 

Her next destination was the other date inscribed on her tombstone. Though there was no practical reason for her to record the new VHS tape in her parents’ old home, on the night of her birth, she found a certain poetic beauty in going right from her first night of sleep to her final eternity of rest. As if everything in between was just a dream. “Maybe I really am just a giant dork,” she thought, laughing sadly. She still had the script from the VHS that she watched all those years ago, and she stuck to it, mostly, but she didn’t see any harm in adding her own flair. As she ended the video with a warning that she could never reveal her secret to anyone, four words popped into her head: “Do not mention husband.” She searched the script, but she couldn’t find them anywhere, even though she remembered writing them. Or, rather, she remembered forgetting that she’d written them, back before she knew how to brace her memories against the flow of time. She spent no time trying to understand it, and just chalked it up to the mysteries of time travel, one last time. Her thoughts drifted to her husband. “What if I never marry him?” She thought. “Would I find someone else? Would he? Would everything we ever had just… vanish?” It was too much to take. She could feel her resolve weakening. It would be so easy to just go back to the “present”, into his arms, like nothing happened…

 

 

“Pew!” She heard the toy laser gun sound effect of her plasma cannon, immediately followed by a burning, excruciating pain in her left arm. She’d been shot. Despite the pain and shock, her reflexes kicked in. She drew her Disintegration Ray, and pointed it at the room’s only entrance. In her crosshair, she saw her own face. Another Anomaly. Despite how much her target resembled her, she pulled the trigger without hesitation. A red laser pulse hit the doppelgänger, and a wave of atomic fire propagated across its body. In mere seconds, nothing remained of it. By now, the sight of her own body’s utter destruction was commonplace. She felt nothing. Besides, there wasn’t enough time for sentiment. There wasn’t enough time for much of anything. Her personal kinetic barrier shielded some of the plasma blast, but she didn’t know if it was enough to save her life. She had to deliver the tape, fast. She rummaged around the house to find a package to put the tape in. After several minutes of ransacking, the best thing she could find was a thin brown paper bag. It’d have to do. She considered cleaning up the mess she’d made, but wasn’t like her parents would notice. They didn’t exactly run a tight ship.

 
With one last jump through time, she arrived at her final destination. Though the date didn’t appear on her grave, it was, in a certain sense, the day she was truly born. And, in a much more literal sense, the day she would truly die. As she approached her own front door, she removed the VHS from her pocket, and placed it in the paper bag. In permanent marker, she wrote “To”, and below it, “From”, each followed by a colon. She then wrote a single word, twice as large as the others: “YOU”. She was momentarily surprised to find that there was no doorbell on the door before her. Only a knocker. “What is this, the 1700s?” she thought, unsure if knockers where actually in fashion back then, and a bit disappointed that she didn’t have enough time to go back and check. She lifted the heavy metal ring, and dropped it with a resounding thud. Just then, it struck her that she had given no consideration to what would happen next. She never saw her future self when the tape was delivered to her, so surely she should make herself scarce by the time past-her answered the door. Right? What would she do? Walk to the nearest bar and drink until she faded entirely? Actually, that didn’t sound like a bad way to go out…

 
Her thoughts were interrupted by a shocked gasp. “M-mom?” She smiled. In that same old mirror that always welcomed her home, whether from work or a time traveling romp, she saw a face that looked more like her mother’s than it looked like the face of the young woman before her. It wasn’t the same one that she had seen in the tape all those years ago. It was older. Wearier. It had deeper wrinkles, from a life of more smiles, and even more frowns. She smiled, hoping that the woman before her could meet her end with all the more smiles on her face. And with that, nothing remained of her, save a sound like breaking glass.


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For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here

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Ouroboros – Chapter 8: Her Coffin’s Final Nail

But the voice in her head those many years ago was right. Determination was not enough to outrun time. In her race against time, she was the hare, time was the tortoise, and the race was without end. Though a human may run quickly, it inevitably grows tired, and must stop to rest. Though time may move slowly, it is inexorable; it never slows, and it never comes to a stop. A human can stay ahead for long, but it cannot stay ahead forever. She found herself out of breath. Her eyes were old in a way that no technology could fix. Though the attacks of the Anomalies had increased in neither frequency nor ferocity, she found herself more and more troubled by them. She knew not if it was her imagination, but she felt as if it had grown more difficult for her to alter the course of fate. Before, she was an artist, and history itself, her canvas. But as time wore on, she found herself struggling to even lift the brush. Sometimes, when she looked in the mirror, she saw as much of what was behind her as she saw of herself. She looked translucent, as if about to fade away entirely. This never lasted long enough to fully convince her that her eyes weren’t just playing tricks on her, but it worried her, nonetheless.

 
“Hey, honey, do you remember getting this VHS player?” Her husband was cleaning out the garage of stuff they didn’t need anymore. Could it be? “Wait, did you use this to finally watch that one VHS that you left sitting around for months?” She tried to play it cool. “Uh, yeah, I guess I probably did.” “What was on that, anyway?” he asked. “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” she joked, though it was less a joke than he knew. He laughed. “Really, though, what was it? I hope it was worth the wait of however many months,” he said. “I don’t actually remember,” she said, “Probably just a prank or something.” He pulled out his cell phone and held it to his ear, as if making a call. “Hello, yes, is this the Wife Factory?” he said, “Yes, I’m calling because mine just admitted that she doesn’t remember something. I think she may be defective?” She snatched the phone from his hand. “I’d also like to report that my husband isn’t nearly as funny as he thinks he is.” “Sorry, ma’am,” he said, as if he were on the other end of the phone, “That’s not a defect. That comes standard issue with every model of husband.” She had to admit that he was actually pretty good at ventriloquism. She never could quite convince herself that it wasn’t a side effect of the Oblivion Ray. “OK, I’ll admit, it was pretty funny,” she said, giving his phone back with a smooch.

 
“Hey, I wonder if it’s still in there,” he said. This was bad. She couldn’t allow him to watch the tape. “Yeah, let me check,” she said. He handed it over. “Knock yourself out.” She knew she had left the tape in there, but she couldn’t let him know that. Once she had the player securely in her possession, she hopped to the distant past so she could dispose of the tape without him catching on. She had planned on watching the tape one last time so that she could more accurately replicate it, but it was now too dangerous. With a flourish, she threw the tape straight up in the air, whipped out her plasma cannon, and fired at it without even looking. She imagined it looked pretty cool. At least, she did until the tape crashed back down into her head. It turned out that there was a reason people look at the things they’re trying to shoot. Was something wrong with her cannon’s Auto-Lock™ motion targeting? Whatever. She took aim at the tape, now lying motionless on the ground, and fired several shots for good measure. With that taken care of, she took a quick look around before hopping back to her discussion with her husband. That quick look turned into a long look as she froze in shock. She recognized this place. It was familiarly surprising. Like she remembered forgetting it…

 
It hit her. She pulled out her Oblivion Ray. The sight of it in her hand, in this place, was familiar. This is where it ended. Her Forgotten Adventure. She looked to the smoldering remains of the VHS tape. There was nothing to be found. There should have been some remains, even if it was just plasma residue. Nothing, not even the smell of ozone produced by a plasma blast, remained. Unless… a horrifying realization sent shivers down her spine. It ceased to exist entirely. “If I don’t record that VHS tape, it won’t have been made, which means that I will never have learned time travel, which means…” She couldn’t bear to finish her thought. She couldn’t tell whether these were the memories that she had lost, or if she was deducing it on her own. Regardless, the conclusion was the same: If she didn’t complete the cycle soon, it would be broken forever, and she would cease to exist, having never become a time traveler in the first place. She had been running for a long time. Long enough to know that this wasn’t a race she was going to win. She had to surrender, or she’d be trampled. The thought of continuing to defy fate crossed her mind, but… that would just be selfish. Worse than selfish. Depriving her past of the incredible life she had lived just to cling to a dying future. “Only a fool would do that,” she thought, suspecting that she had once made that very decision in this very place. “Well, I’ve had a good life. No regrets,” she thought. “Well, except for all those things that I regret doing. And all those things I regret NOT doing… But I guess it really wouldn’t be life without regrets. My life wasn’t perfect, but nothing ever is. Trying to make something perfect only gets in the way of actually making it. And it’s always better to make something that isn’t perfect than to just dream of something that is.” She had a thought, one that she was sure she was remembering from something long forgotten. “Life doesn’t always give you enough time to make sense of things. But that’s exactly what it’s given me. And I guess I never really appreciated it until that time ran out.” But she couldn’t stand around moping. She knew what she had to do.

 
Except… there was still one loose end left. Her husband. Part of her wanted to run away, to die without ever having to see his face again, knowing it’d be the last time. But that’d hardly be fair to him. Who would believe that his wife vanished while checking a VHS player for an old tape? He’d go mad. But what else was she to do? Come up with a convoluted scheme to fake her death to her own husband, while actually dying for a reason he couldn’t possibly understand? After spending a few seconds moping, she willed herself to stop. “No,” she thought, as if scolding her own thoughts, “I won’t lose to sadness. I can overcome this. I will overcome this.” She aimed the Disintegration Ray she was still clutching at an imaginary opponent, and fired it, atomizing a nearby tree. “I have already overcome this,” she said aloud. Disintegration Ray? “GODDAMNIT!” she shouted. Of course. She had recently replaced her plasma cannon with a Disintegration Ray, and hadn’t gotten around to installing the AutoAim upgrade. That also explained why the tape disappeared entirely. A wave of relief washed over her, but it quickly soured, like bile rising in her throat. “I will not be betrayed by hope. Not this time. Never again.” She knew she could hide from the truth no longer. Even if all the evidence for her conclusion had been refuted, she was certain of its truth. Call it a woman’s intuition. “Thank God the fellas at work can never learn of this,” she thought. The sentiment rang familiar in her mind, and reminded her that she still had the mother of all boy troubles troubling her.


For the next chapter in the recommended order, click here

For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here

Ouroboros – Chapter 7: She Mourns Amongst The Hale

She apologized to the Chrononauts. Though they weren’t the type to let bygones be bygones, they accepted, just this once.

 
She traveled a date which lived in infamy. She knew better than to try to prevent the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but did everything she could to help those injured.

 

Using a bit of trickery, she managed to get a certain British show about time travel to air an episode based on one of her real life exploits. She wasn’t too thrilled with the way they portrayed her.

 
She snuck a massively dirty word into the vocabulary of the first robot butler, only to be uttered when users treated their Butler with extreme disrespect. Nearly 80% of users wealthy enough to afford the first model reported hearing it.

 
She designed her own Chrononaut Regalia, specifically tailored to look out of place in any era (other than the 80’s, when it inspired one of the most embarrassing fads of the decade).

 
She started having recurring dreams in which she lived her mundane, day-to-day life. These dreams became nightmares, when they suddenly ended with a plasma blast from a cannon held by someone looking exactly like her.

 
She showed great restraint by not going to Salem and showing them what REAL witchcraft works like.

 
One year she played Santa Claus, and set out to deliver gifts to the whole world. She barely got through her own hometown before realizing how implausible the whole thing was.

 
She had a laser beam trapped in a tiny box of perfect mirrors, worn on a pendant at all times. She never knew what would happen if she were to open it.

 
She delivered letters between two pen pals, later lovers, who unknowingly lived a hundred years apart. Allowing them to fall in love was her biggest mistake that she refused to regret.

 
She gave Jean d’Arc a merciful death and a proper burial. It wasn’t easy to hide her grief from her friends and family, but she remained strong.

 
While she was never romantically involved with Shakespeare, the two came to be pretty good bros. They were an unstoppable tag team of dick jokes.

 
She threw a bunch of matter into the early universe. This may or may not have contributed to the broken symmetry between matter and anti-matter. She never was too keen on that kind of stuff.

 
She suggested to the first Pope the idea of being crucified on an upside down cross just to stick it to poser Satanists for generations to come.

 
She convinced some druids that it’d be cool if they stacked a bunch of rocks into a circle. She admits she was wrong about that one.

 
She mistook her errant clone for an Anomaly, and very nearly murdered her in cold blood. When she realized her mistake, she apologized for being a terrible mother.
She convinced Hitler’s barber to give him an ugly mustache. That way, the world of facial hair didn’t lose much when it fell out of fashion.

 
She dropped the most fire mixtape of 420 AD. But she couldn’t take all of the credit; gravity did most of the work.

 
She provided her favorite Renfaire-punk band (a popular genre in the future), Veni Vidi Vinci, with historically accurate outfits from the Renaissance. Ironically, since they looked so different from what is found at Renaissance fairs, they were criticized as “unrealistic”.

 
She tried to put an end to Nixon’s corruption. She didn’t really succeed, but at least she prevented the “-gate” suffix for any controversy from catching on.

 
She followed The River Styx to its source in Ancient Greece. Whatever she found there, she spoke of only in incoherent whispers as she lay asleep.

 
If it didn’t compromise her time traveling secrets, she could easily win the record for worst sleep schedule in history.

 
She witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Unfortunately, her universal translator glitched, so she couldn’t hear what He said. At least, she thought it was Jesus; it could have just been some dude on a cross.

 
She met Sacagawea, but said nothing to her, save a congratulatory “You go, girl”.

 
She convinced all airplane captains to talk like Chuck Yeager, and all spaceship pilots to talk like Samson Harding.

 
She never failed to impress party guests with her selection of aged wines and cheeses.

 
She arranged caveman remains in ridiculous poses, hoping that they’d fossilize that way and brighten the day of an anthropologist.

 
She secretly signed her name on The Declaration of Independence in a highly advanced invisible ink that won’t be discovered until years after The Declaration’s destruction.

 
She saw The Sun as a red giant, on the brink of swallowing Earth. It wasn’t easy to travel to a place where she’d be able to safely observe it, but it was well worth the effort.

 
For laughs, she opened a fortune telling shop, used her ability to perfectly tell the fortune of exactly one person, and disappeared. This may or may not have inspired one of the most prolific creepypastas on the Internet.

 
She gave a hug to the first robot capable of hate.

 
She started blowing kisses, ironically at first, but it wasn’t long before she started doing it sincerely.

 
She wrote young adult dystopian fiction in the future, based on the even further future, under the penname “Nick Ignition”. Praised for its prediction of the future, but panned for everything else, the only part of it that she was really proud of was the penname.

 
She pitched the idea of a system of naming batteries wherein battery size increases in proportion to the number of A’s. It never caught on.

 
She found the point in history when people were wonderful to each other. She didn’t use time travel; she just realized she’d been living in it all along.


For the next chapter in the recommended order, click here

For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here

Ouroboros – Chapter 6: Amidst Forgotten Pleas

Of all the unusual dangers she had encountered as a time traveler, she could remember none more unusual, though plenty more dangerous, than the Anomalies: hostile doppelgängers of herself which always seemed to show up out of nowhere when she least expected it. Some looked older than her, or younger, or fatter, or thinner, or taller, or shorter, or different in any of a thousand ways, but they were all unmistakably her. She didn’t know what they were, but she knew that they weren’t clones; they were something far more sinister than that. Their movements created unusual ripples, like bubbles in spacetime; It was as if the universe itself was afraid to touch them. When they died, they would vanish just as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared. Luckily, they died rather easily; whatever they were, they were just as susceptible to plasma blasts as most living things. She disliked the idea of gooifying someone who looked so similar to her, but she quickly learned that she very much disliked what happened if she hesitated. She’d considered consulting other Chrononauts to ask if they were familiar with these Anomalies, but decided against it. Whatever this was, she made up her mind that this was her battle to fight. Or surrender, if it came to that. But even she had to admit that it was difficult to fight an unknown enemy with unknown motives.

After pondering the matter for what seemed like a few days, (though her guess is really as good as anyone’s) she remembered the day that she turned her Oblivion Ray on herself. Though she had no idea what events led up to her losing her memory, she was certain that they had something to do with these Anomalies. She could remember none of her time travel escapades that could have caused something like this, and that was the only one that she couldn’t remember. Well, that and that one time that she underestimated the strength of the liquors at The Carnival. But it’s impossible to party so hard that the universe itself is out to get you. At least, that’s what she hoped. And once the impossible is eliminated, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. She really hoped that she had quoted that to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle after he’d come up with it himself.

The Anomalies themselves were honestly more of an annoyance than a proper threat to her. She had become a rather skilled warrior throughout her adventures, and knew how to keep herself safe, while keeping her enemies very much the opposite. Furthermore, they were completely unarmed, and it goes without saying that it isn’t a good idea to bring fists to a plasma cannon fight. But they were a major annoyance, nonetheless. Seeing a woman melt someone who appears to be her twin sister looks a bit out of place in any time period, especially ones where even a flashlight is enough to provoke accusations of witchcraft. Making sure no one remembered what they saw could be quite a hassle. But they didn’t just attack while she was time traveling. Not even her own home was safe.

“What’s the matter, sugar?” her husband asked. He considered asking if she felt well, but he’d been a husband long enough to know that that was a rookie mistake. He would be implying that she didn’t look good, and you don’t say that about your wife. The thing he thought was his wife only stood there, eyes darting around, looking for the thing that was actually his wife. She called from downstairs. “Did you say something, sweetie?” The woman in front of him didn’t move her mouth. “I didn’t know you were a ventriloquist! Much less such a good one,” he said, uneasily. It was the only explanation he could think of for what he just saw. But he wasn’t quite convinced. Downstairs, she knew something was wrong. She burst through the door to find her worst fears confirmed. She didn’t know whether or not it was a danger to her husband, but she wasn’t about to wait to find out. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “I-I didn’t know you had a twin sister,” he said, quite certain that she didn’t. “Me neither,” she quipped. The Anomaly shrieked with an unearthly sound and lunged at her. She sidestepped, and kicked the Anomaly away to put some room between them. She pulled out her plasma cannon, which she had learned to always keep concealed on her person. She took aim and fired. One shot was all it took. The Anomaly began to singe, burn, and melt, right before her very eyes. But, more worryingly, right before the very eyes of her husband. Shortly after being shot, the Anomaly simply vanished, leaving nothing but a wooshing sound as air rushed to fill in the empty space left behind. Though the monster was gone, his terror remained. “W-What the Hell was that? Who the Hell are you!?” “Your wife,” she said. She knew she would have to erase his memory of this. “Your wife, the time traveler.”

“Why should I trust you? How do I know that my wife isn’t the one you just melted?” he asked. “Is that what you think I sound like?” she asked, gesturing towards the dresser where the Anomaly had disappeared. “I guess not,” he said, “But a time traveler? Are you crazy?” “Crazy in love,” she said. He couldn’t help but chuckle. That was something she’d say. “But also crazy good at time travel,” she added. That was definitely something she’d say. She never was one for modesty, saying it went against her policy of honesty. Then again, so did lying about being a time traveler. “Surely you must have some proof,” he said, “I trust you, honey, but not that much.” “Of course. Here.” She handed him a newspaper that she produced from her pocket. “Check the date.” When he did, he laughed out loud, despite having seen his wife murdered before his very eyes by an exact duplicate not even five minutes ago. She knew she made the right choice marrying him. “So, why were you carrying around a newspaper printed on 4/20, 2069? You didn’t plan this all out, did you?” he asked. “Of course not,” she said, “I got it just now. Popped into the future right after you asked for it. Finding it was something of a chore. As you might imagine, newspapers aren’t super popular in 2069.” “What are you talking about? You haven’t moved an inch,” he said. “Not an inch, but many years. It’s time travel, not space travel, remember?” she said. “Wait, so you’re telling me that you don’t have a time machine? That you can just move through time at will? That’s incredible!” he said. “Well, Man is one of the most incredible machines of all. And, as you well know, Woman is considerably more incredible than that, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise,” she said. But something was still bugging him. Before he could speak up, she answered his question. “You didn’t see me disappear because the eye is like a video camera. It has a frame rate of about 60 frames per second. When I came back, I landed about 1/200th of a second after I left, so I left and came back too quickly for you to perceive.” “Your time travel is that precise? Damn…” he said. “Well, I wasn’t lying when I said that I was crazy good. Not many are that skilled,” she said. “Not many?” he said, “You mean there are other time travelers? Would they know anything about that… thing?” “Huh?” “What do you mean, ‘huh’?” he shouted, “The ‘you’ that you just killed! Whatever the Hell that was!” Oh yeah. She had gotten so caught up in her opportunity to finally confess the secrets she’d been keeping for so long that she’d forgotten what had been, to her, a pretty routine event. “Oh, yeah, I guess. But the Chrononauts and I don’t really see eye-to-eye anymore. Even though that universe-shattering catastrophe I almost kicked off was totally averted,” she said. “I’m serious,” he said, “That thing looked dangerous. I know you’re strong, and you can do almost anything you set your mind too, but you can’t do everything. Not by yourself.” She sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I guess I should apologize.” A silence hung in the air. She reached into her pocket.

“Hey, I know that asking this question is a terrible idea, since you just made it pretty clear that you could easily murder me and not get caught, but… how old are you?” “Well, that’s a tricky question for a time traveler to answer. I don’t really know,” she lied. “Older than you, though.” He couldn’t help but be weirded out. “Old enough that this relationship is weird?” he asked. “I like to think our age difference is the least weird thing about our relationship,” she teased. He smiled weakly. “So, have you always been a time traveler? Are you actually from the future? The past? Am I just another one of your time traveling escapades?” “No. No, not at all,” she said, hugging him tightly. He was too distraught to notice what she held in her hand. “I became a time traveler before marrying you, but after meeting you. I love you. I promise.” “If you had to choose between me and time travel, which would-” She pulled the trigger. A flash of white light. The sound of breaking, fracturing, shattering. An empty look in his eyes. “I don’t,” she whispered.


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Ouroboros – Chapter 5: Repairing Histories

She woke up somewhere unfamiliar. “Where am I?” she asked aloud, to no one in particular. “More importantly, when am I?” She had the decency to not ask this aloud. Only as she checked her watch did she notice that she was holding something in her left hand. “What the Hell is this? Why can’t I remember what this… Oh yeah!” Her lack of memory reminded her. “The Oblivion Ray, right? Who did I shoot with this?” As she looked around, a sinking feeling settled in her gut. With no one else nearby, there was only one possible target. But what reason could she have for using it on herself? She had no idea, but decided that she trusted herself enough to know that it must have been a damn good one. If she re-learned whatever secret she was trying to keep from herself, she’d probably have to erase her memory for what she hoped would be only the second time. So she resolved not to repeat whatever mistakes she had made, even if she didn’t know what they were.

 
And so, her time travel adventures continued…

 
She traveled to 1912 to prevent the catastrophe of The Titanic. As is unfortunately common for a time traveler, she succeeded in her mission, only to set off an even greater disaster, (in this case, the acceleration of global warming, not to mention ruining the career of Leonardo DiCaprio) forcing her to go back once more and bring about the catastrophe she originally prevented.

 
She “accidentally” told the newspaper that Alfred Nobel was dead.

 
She went around in ancient times convincing everyone that it’d be pretty cool if there were giant magical flying lizards that breathed fire. She was right.

 
She made a few adjustments to the world’s first pineapple right-side up cake.

 
She climbed to the top of Olympus in Ancient Greece. Whatever she found there, she never spoke of.

 
While exploring an ancient church, she accidentally spilled some wine on a glass window, causing it to stain. It caught on.

 
She once broke into Fort Knox. She took nothing, and left only a note that said “Catch me if you can <3”, along with a jumble of letters that looked like a cypher, but was, in reality, just randomly typed.

 
She dabbled in a form of fencing that made use of laser swords, but couldn’t deny the satisfaction of swinging a blade of genuine steel. Unorthodox and ineffective as it was, she had a penchant for wielding a photon-blade in one hand, and an atom-blade (read: blade that is composed of atoms) in the other.

 
She volunteered to serve a few shifts on the patrol of Chrononauts who talks new time-travelers out of killing Hitler.

 
She embarked on a quest to save Joan d’Arc from burning at the stake.

 
She convinced Dr. Schrödinger to adopt a cat. She made sure his wife kept an eye on it, though.

 
She visited 16th century Japan, in an attempt to find out, once and for all, whether or not ninja really existed. She never found any, so results were inconclusive.

 
She misplaced a decimal point in a book reporting the iron content of spinach. Certain facets of cartoon history must be preserved.

 
She made sure Edison was remembered as the “Entrepreneur” he was, rather than the inventor he claimed to be.

 
She carved “CROATOAN” onto the tree in Roanoke, figuring it would clear up the mystery of the “lost colony”. Apparently, it did not.

 
She sailed the seas as one of the most fearsome pirates in history. Several, actually. She occasionally wore a different colored beard and switched which eye her eyepatch was on.

 
She convinced The Beatles to keep the typo in their name. Dropping the “Silver” from “The Silver Beatles” was a different time traveler’s idea.

 
She was the first person to ever slice bread, shortly after being the first person to ever say “yo, check this shit out.”

 
She was the first to put pineapple on a pizza. She knows not whether this makes her a hero or a villain.

 
She met one of the great composers of history, and began humming one of his most famous songs. When she realized that he hadn’t written it yet, she worried she’d started a time loop, but then she remembered that it was Beethoven.

 
She got an hourglass tattoo to distinguish herself from her clone. But she never worked up the courage to confront a stranger and ask “Hey, are you a clone of me?”

 
She taught James Madison how to diagram a goddamn sentence. The wording of some of the amendments changed, but unfortunately, everyone still interpreted The Constitution as saying exactly what they wanted it to say.

 
She stole all of Fermat’s scratch paper on the day he had his epiphany, just because she enjoyed a good mystery.

 
She ran around young Einstein’s home while pointing a flashlight in front of her, just on the off chance that she was his inspiration to invent relativity.

 
She worked as a magician’s assistant a few times, using her time travel powers to disappear for real. The magician’s surprise at her disappearance was so much more believable when it was genuine.

 
She thought she saw the Great Wall of China from space, once. It turned out that it was just a speck of dust on her camera.

 
She went back to the “Good Ol’ Days,” when everyone was nice to each other and “Kids These Days” hadn’t ruined everything. At least, she looked for it, but it proved to be exactly as difficult to find as she anticipated.


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For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here

Ouroboros – Chapter 4: On Shattered Memories

But her greatest adventure began one morning when she saw a face that was unnervingly familiar in the mirror. One that she recognized, not only from the previous morning, but from many years ago. It looked exactly like the face of the woman in the video tape. She blew a kiss at the mirror, and what she saw sent chills down her spine. It perfectly matched the woman onscreen. She was as sure as she could be of anything. The last time she was this sure of something, she ended up being so mistaken that it almost destroyed the universe. Almost. So she decided to watch the video tape one more time to make sure. Unfortunately, she couldn’t; she thought she had left it in the VCR player down in the basement, but it wasn’t there. She started searching all around the house for it, despite finding it inconceivable that it could be anywhere other than where she had already looked. “Looking for something?” her husband asked as she inspected a drawer in their room that hadn’t been opened in over a year. “No, just my morning ritual of looking at all the places where something could get lost while having a worried look on my face,” she said, sarcastically, “I usually finish before you wake up.” “Really?” he said, “I do the same thing, but I usually just look in your eyes.” She had to stifle her laughter. She could not have her husband thinking it was OK to be that cheesy. “Because I get lost in your eyes,” he explained after a beat. “No, I got that,” she said, “I was just thinking of all the poor life decisions that lead to me marrying such a lame boy.” “I can’t believe you’d call me that!” he said with mock indignation, “I am a lame man, thank you very much, and deserve to be treated as such.” She couldn’t help but laugh this time. “Besides,” he continued, “I know that you’d make all those poor life decisions all over again, if you could. Because you love me, for some reason.” She sat on the bed and gave him a kiss. “You have no idea how right you are.”

“So, er, not to ruin this romantic moment, but what were you looking for, anyway?” he said, kind of ruining the romantic moment. “I’m afraid I can’t say,” she said. She couldn’t have him getting suspicious about the tape. “OK, since you have met a man in your life, ever, you must know that that just makes me want to know even more, right?” he said. “Can’t a lady have a secret?” she said, coyly. “Huh? Oh, I get it. You must be looking for a,” he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to the heavens as loud as he could, repeating it as if it were echoing “BIG OL’ DILDO…dildo…do.” “Oh, I don’t have one of those,” she said, laughing, “Trust me, if I did, you’d be the first to know.” “Is that a threat, or a promise?” he asked. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said, “But I don’t have time to sit around listening to you being horny. I have important job business to do.” “What about the embarrassing sex toy you were looking for?” he asked, “Did you try looking in the last place you’d expect? Because I may have gotten tired of it lying around and put it where it actually belongs.” “And where, pray tell, do the embarrassing sex toys belong?” she asked, “Have you been holding out on me?” “I think you know exactly where the embarrassing sex toys belong,” he said, waggling his eyebrows as hard as he could. “Do I?” she asked, “I think you’ll have to remind me. But you’ll have to wait until tonight. I have a meeting that I can’t miss today. Someone has to pay for all these embarrassing sex toys, after all.” “Hey,” he said, “My art may not make enough to buy the BIGGEST ol’ dildo, but it could pay for a pretty big ol’ dildo.” “And, in the end, isn’t that what True Art is all about?” she asked. “FINALLY, someone gets it. Anyway, good luck with your adult stuff, and also with your adult stuff,” he said, using finger quotes the second time.

While at work, she came up with a plan to find the tape. She’d go back in time, to the day after she first watched it, and stealthily retrieve it before it could get lost. She then realized that if she did that, then she would be the reason the tape went missing in the first place. But the tape was already missing, so did that mean that she had already taken it? She remembered that it didn’t matter, as long as she got the tape, and went ahead with the plan. She decided to watch the tape as soon as possible; her husband was thoroughly engrossed in his drawings, so she wasn’t worried about him catching her. And, though she prayed that she’d never have to turn it on him, she could always rely on the Oblivion Ray to keep her secret. After putting the tape in the player, she realized that she might as well double check the script while she was at it. While she read it, she started to wonder why she even needed a script at all. Why couldn’t she just use the video itself? Was the whole thing another prank by her future self? She laughed to herself. She had to admit, it was pretty funny. But then she read four words that gave her pause. “Do not mention husband.” The words were familiarly surprising, like she remembered forgetting them. Suddenly, she felt an unusual sensation, one that she had become familiar with, but never quite accustomed to. It felt like her mind was moving, while her body remained fixed. It felt like her memories, and perhaps reality itself, were being rewritten. But it was different this time. Her mind was moving faster, farther than ever before. Just when she thought she could bear it no more, it abruptly came to a halt.

“What the Hell was that all about?” she thought to herself. Much to her surprise, something responded. Not quite a voice, but an awareness of words was forming in her head. “It is your time. The cycle must begin anew.” She had encountered a lot of strange stuff in all her journeys, but this took the cake. “What’s going on? Am I hallucinating?” she thought. The thing in her head, whatever it was, responded. “Your time is running out.” She scoffed. “How can you say that about me? I, who can outrun time itself?” It sounded so cool in her head that she almost wished she said it out loud. “You do not understand. A Chrononaut may think herself capable of outpacing Time by sprinting, but Time is an endurance runner. It will catch up to you. In fact, it already has.” “And what happens when Time catches up to me? What does that mean?” she asked, no longer able to restrain herself from speaking out loud. She remembered her husband upstairs. It wouldn’t be good if he found her talking to herself. “Excuse me for a moment while I find us somewhere more private to discuss this,” she thought. She went back in time, until she was pretty sure that she was chronologically upstream of the first human civilization. “It means that you must record a new tape, deliver it, and teach me how to time travel.” This time, the words took the form of a voice. One that came from behind her. She turned around, and was greeted by her own face: A young face, unblemished by years of adventure. “Who are you? What are you?” she asked. “I am you. Your past and your future, catching up to you,” her doppelgänger said, “And you are an anomaly. A debtor to the bank of cause and effect. It’s time to pay up.” “What the Hell does that mean?” she asked. “You must go back and teach yourself time travel, the way you were taught,” the doppelgänger said. “And what happens to me after that?” she asked. “You know the answer to your own question.” Whatever it was, it was right. Logically, it didn’t make sense for delivering the exact same tape to change her past enough to erase her present, given that she’d already altered history several times without that happened. Yet she knew that that was exactly what would happen. Call it a woman’s intuition. She would die. Or worse.

“That’s not fair!” she shouted, overcome by frustration, “I’m just getting started. You can’t just give me a vast world of possibilities to explore, and then snatch it away before I even get the chance!” Her own voice shouted back at her. “I am you. You are the one responsible for this. You were always living on borrowed time. The very time that you must now lend to your past self.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” she muttered. “Life doesn’t always give you the time to make sense of things. Sometimes you must act, even if you do not understand.” the doppelgänger said. “And if I refuse?” she asked, in the most defiant voice she could muster. “If no one lends you their time, you will retroactively lose your ability to time travel. Everything you’ve done since that day will be lost, and you with it.” “So my choice is between dying and dying? Pass.” If this was some kind of prank form a future version of herself, it wasn’t funny. “You said that I was running out of time, yeah?” she said. “That is correct.” The doppelgänger said. “I guess I’ll just have to make time, then!” “What? That doesn’t make sense!” “Life doesn’t always give you the time to make sense of things, sweetie!” As she pulled the Oblivion Ray out of her pocket and pressed it to her temple, she felt grateful that she wouldn’t remember calling herself “sweetie”. As she pulled the trigger, she could hear the sound of something, perhaps her own mind, fracturing.


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For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here

Ouroboros – Chapter 3: She Dances with The Dead

It goes without saying that she did the same thing anyone would do upon suddenly gaining the ability to travel through time: She went on adventures.

 
For her first adventure, she went back in time to see what dinosaurs really looked like (kick-ass). For her second adventure, she went to a future hospital to treat a condition that she called “Dinosaur Flu”.

 
She traveled to 79 AD to try to prevent the catastrophe at Pompeii. As is unfortunately common for a time traveler, she may have inadvertently caused the disaster that she sought to undo.

 

She went back in time to kill Hitler. As it turns out, all time travelers go back in time to kill Hitler.

 
After Benjamin Franklin flew his famous kite through a thunderstorm, she came up with a series of increasingly stupid and dangerous dares for him to see when he’d put his own safety before his curiosity. He didn’t.

 
She convinced Alexander Hamilton and Évariste Galois to not throw their lives away in duels. In a spectacular coincidence, they killed each other in a duel years later.

 
She played a part in the assassination of a US President. No, she won’t say which one.

 
She managed to convince Newton of the importance of his scientific work over his mysticism, and that, seriously, there are only 6 colors. Indigo is just another name for blue.

 
She occasionally used the science of other eras to better the present. But she never pilfered from the future; she only recovered the secrets of the past.

 
She attended the first Thanksgiving dinner, bringing plenty of donuts for everyone. They caught on as tradition, which she considered to be her greatest contribution to history.

 
She commissioned a clone of herself, to see if it would have her time-travel capabilities. Unfortunately, it proved to be too faithful a recreation, and was clever enough to escape.

 

She never did test her hypothesis, and it caused her to wonder every time she met a version of herself that she had no memory of.

 
She assassinated a lesser known dictator who was less well-guarded by time-travelers.

 
She may have accidentally inspired the invention of the corset.

 
She bought a black-market Oblivion Ray to cover up some of her more daring escapades in the past. She could never remember how well it worked.

 
She gave Jack the Ripper a fitting end. His name wasn’t even Jack.

 
She noticed a gravestone near the site of her home in the future. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, she decided to leave it be.

 
She helped free some slaves in the pre-Civil War South. It seemed that southern gentlemen were much more willing to listen to what a woman of color had to say if she was holding a plasma cannon.

 
She nailed five extra theses, “Stop being assholes”, “Hey, remember when Jesus said be nice to people? Maybe you should actually do that”, “Women are people too”, “They’re actually better than men in a lot of cases”, and “Seriously, can it with the whole ‘being assholes’ thing”, to the church door after Martin Luther. It bothered her that it fell just short of 100.

 
She met Shakespeare with hopes of being his “dark lady”, but she was far from the only time traveler vying to be his muse.

 
She worked as a Vice President for a big tech corporation in a time of unparalleled industrial growth. This was, of course, between all of her time traveling shenanigans.

 
She witnessed the controlled demolition of The Old Internet. She paid close attention to make sure all her poetry from middle school was completely destroyed.

 
She figured every continent should have at least one animal as ridiculous and unbelievable as the platypus. She didn’t understand a lot about genetics, but had plenty of time for trial and error.

 
She used her power to win the lottery, but just once. Even then, she gave all her winnings to charity. Well, most of them, at any rate. Plasma cannons aren’t exactly cheap, especially when you insist on an auto-aim upgrade and a toy laser gun sound effect when it fires.

 
She got her hands on future technology that allowed her to halt aging and alter her appearance. She convinced herself that this was not for vanity purposes, but to ensure that her antics didn’t cause her to appear to age differently from her friends.

 
She took a bullet meant for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Well, technically, it was her Personal Kinetic Barrier that took the bullet, but that doesn’t sound quite as noble.
She gave a hug to the first robot capable of love.

 
She convinced everyone at The Battle of New Orleans to chill the Hell out.

 
Her boyfriend, the one she had when she first learned how to time travel, proposed to her. Unlike the woman who taught her time travel, she accepted.

 
She went forward to the point in history when people stop being awful to each other all the time. At least, she looked for it, but it proved more difficult to find than she anticipated.


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For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here