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

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.


For the next chapter in the recommended order, click here

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.


For the next chapter in the recommended order, click here

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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Ouroboros – Chapter 2: Hearing Words Before They’re Said

“It is of the utmost importance that no one else sees or hears the contents of this tape!” The warning was still echoing in her ears from a few days ago. At the time, the voice sounded familiar, but she was too flustered to recognize it. Hearing it again, she realized that it almost sounded like her mother’s. Immediately after the warning, an older woman appeared on the screen, saying “You are me. Or is it ‘you are I’? I can’t remember if predicate nominatives were a common thing back then. It sounds kind of weird, like I’m saying an acronym. ‘URI’. Anyway, that’s not what’s important right now. You see, I am you. From the future. Well, right now, I’m in the past, but…” She was too shocked to pay attention to what the woman onscreen was rambling about. Had she been duped? Had she really lost a day of work to some sick joke?

“HEY!” The stern voice of the woman onscreen snapped her back to reality. “I know you weren’t paying attention just then. I remember how this plays out. And I promise you, this is not a prank, nor is it a sick joke. Except for that part you weren’t listening for; that was pretty filthy.” She couldn’t believe what was going on. Could this tape read her mind? “No, I can’t read your mind,” the woman onscreen scolded, “Though I admit, responding to what you were thinking just then probably wasn’t the most convincing argument. I just remember how this conversation played out, and am now saying the things that I heard. Well, ‘remember’ is a strong word. I had someone write a transcript for me.” She looked around desperately. Was someone else listening in? “The someone was me,” the woman onscreen said, “Er, well, you. Whatever. You know what I mean. I’ll give you some time to get a pen and paper.” She rolled her eyes and took out her phone to begin taking notes. “No, don’t do that!” the woman onscreen cried desperately, “If you record the secret of time travel digitally, it’ll destroy the universe!” “Then why didn’t you say that in the first place?” she asked, out loud. “Because this is how I saw it. And if I don’t record the video exactly as I saw it, I’ll cease to exist!” She begrudgingly got up to retrieve a pen and paper. When she returned, the woman onscreen was laughing. “Oh, shit, you’re back, aren’t you? I hoped I could get it all out of my system, but it’s just too funny.” “What’s too funny?” She asked, as she began writing what she remembered of the conversation so far. “Just you, scurrying around, doing whatever I say because you really think the world will end if you don’t. I’m just messing with you,” the woman onscreen said. “What the Hell is wrong with you?” she demanded.

“What the Hell is wrong with you?” the woman onscreen repeated, “You are me, after all.” “You’re nothing like me.” She said, angrily. “I’ll say,” the woman onscreen said, “You don’t know a damn thing about time. I know that you’re worried that writing this script so I can read it to you is a paradox. But it’s more like circular reasoning. You are hearing these words because I am saying them, and I am saying them because you heard them. Where did these words come from, if neither of us came up with them? The answer, as you know, is that it doesn’t affect the bottom line, so who cares? We don’t. It isn’t going to cause a contradiction that destroys the universe, and it’s not going to undo the invention of chocolate, so it’s not our problem. It turns out that the chain of cause and effect is actually pretty sturdy.” The woman onscreen gave her a few moments to transcribe her words. “Since I can’t pinch you, you’ll just have to take my word for it. This isn’t a dream,” The woman onscreen said. She hadn’t even considered that it might be. Her future self continued, “At least, not literally. You could argue that, figuratively, it’s a dream come true, since I’m giving you an incredible opportunity: the ability to travel through time. And, to answer the question that you haven’t even asked yet, I’ll tell you how you learned how to travel through time: by paying attention to this video. It’s the same circular logic as before. And that’s the true paradox of time travel. No one has ever invented time travel, yet people know how to do it, because they traveled back in time and taught themselves. All time travelers learn this way. Oh yeah, by the way, there are other time travelers. They call themselves Chrononauts, but you don’t need to worry about them. They’ll find you. But not, like find you in a scary way or anything. They’re mostly pretty chill.”

She started to get impatient. Was she really destined to become this blathering old woman? “OK, there’s no need to be rude. You have all the time in the world. Literally. Or, I guess, you will soon. Fine, I’ll get on with it.” And just like that, she learned how to instantly transport her body to any time period, past or future, with nothing more than the power of her mind. It was the kind of thing that was almost impossible to explain to someone else, but seemed so obvious once you understood it. Luckily, the woman onscreen wasn’t explaining it to someone else, which made it a bit easier. It was so complicated that she wasn’t surprised no one had guessed it before, yet at the same time, so simple as to be breathtakingly elegant. But there was one thing she wanted to get straight before she tested it out. “No, you can’t travel through space. Yes, I realize that the Earth is always orbiting around the sun, which is always hurtling through the galaxy, ect., but it’s all relative anyway. You’ll end up where it makes sense for you to end up, so don’t worry about dying in the cold void of space. Well, unless you’re in a situation where that seems pretty possible, in which case you should really worry about dying in the cold void of space. Anyway, my time’s just about up. You’ve learned all I can teach you. And remember, you cannot discuss the contents of this tape with anyone who is not a Chrononaut. Not even your husband,” Her eyes lit up. Did this mean that she would marry her current boyfriend? Her stomach fell at the next word: a name she’d never heard before. “Well, good luck. You’ll do great. I would know.” With that, the woman onscreen blew a kiss, and the video ended.

Yet the name of her future husband was all that remained in her mind. Was her current relationship destined to fail? Could she stay with her boyfriend, knowing that each intimate moment is just another step closer to heartbreak? And how would she treat this stranger, knowing they were fated to be married? She laughed in spite of herself. “I just learned the greatest secret in the universe, and I’m worried about boy troubles,” she thought to herself, “Thank God the fellas at work can never learn of this.” 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 thought of the woman she saw on the tape. “I already have overcome this,” she said to herself aloud. She knew what to do. On the script she penned, she wrote the words “Do not mention husband.” The moment she finished writing the last letter, a curious sensation filled her brain. She felt as if her mind was moving at unimaginable speeds, yet her body was stationary. The motion came to a stop as suddenly as it started. She noticed that she was clutching the manuscript with white knuckles. Something about it looked out of place. Four words: “Do not mention husband”. The handwriting was unmistakably her own, yet she hadn’t written it. She only transcribed the contents of the tape, and the tape made no mention of any romantic partners. A second watching of the tape confirmed this. After pondering it for a few minutes, she gave up trying to understand, and chalked it up to the mysteries of time travel. This was her first time doing this, but it was certainly not the last.


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

Ouroboros – Chapter 1: The Endless Serpent’s Head

“Ding-doooong!” her doorbell rang, not with the classic “ding-dong” sound that she had insisted on, but with a sound that lingered just a bit longer than it was supposed to. The difference was subtle, almost imperceptible, but she wasn’t one to let subtleties escape her detection. In any case, she had more pressing concerns than her doorbell, namely, whoever was ringing it. But when she opened the door, she was greeted, not by a person, but a small, plain cardboard box, an unusual smell that she couldn’t identify, and the sound of breaking glass. The sound caused her to recoil sharply. Force of habit. But she only lost her composure for a moment; she immediately assessed her environment to determine the source of the sound. She was unsuccessful; none of her nearby windows were broken, nor was the mirror behind the door. That left only the package before her. Had someone dropped glass on her doorstep and run away? But the glass shattered as soon as she opened the door, and whoever left the box was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t add up. Could it have been the doorbell? It was sounding strange, after all. She pressed the button several times, failing to replicate the anomalous sound produced earlier.

 

In doing so, she inadvertently summoned her boyfriend. “Who the Hell is at the door?” he asked. “Oh, it’s just me. I was trying to get it to make the weird sound it made the first time,” she explained. “What weird sound? And why’d you ring it the first time?” he asked. “The first ring was a bit longer. Like, a ‘ding-doooong’ instead of a ‘ding-dong’,” she said. He was definitely one to let subtleties escape his detection. “And I didn’t ring it the first time. No idea who did. I just found this on the doorstep,” she continued, picking up the package. “Huh. I guess this doesn’t contain broken glass,” she said. “Huh? What’s that supposed to mean? You picked it up before knowing that it didn’t contain broken glass?” he asked. “When I opened the door, I heard glass break, so I thought maybe it was in here, but…” she shook the box around a bit, making a sound that was certainly not the tinkling of shattered glass. “It’s not.” “Jesus Christ!” he shouted, panicking unnecessarily (in her opinion, at least). “Be careful! Even if it’s not broken glass, there could be anything in there!” he said. “Yeah, like what?” she scoffed. “I dunno,” he said, “A rare, lost work of art that could sell for millions of dollars?” “This seems too small to fit any art,” she said, “So I don’t know why you’d say that… unless you already know that it’s art because it’s one of your little drawings that you had someone deliver to me!” “I was just joking, sweetie,” he said, “I 100% did not do that.” “Well, that’s a shame. I think I’d like a drawing of myself. Then I could see how you see me. I could even pay you for it,” she said, “Do it up real official.” “Sorry, but I can’t use you as the subject of my art,” he said. “Really?” she asked, “that seems kind of rude.” “It’s not like that,” he said, “It’s just that I’m not nearly good enough to truly capture how beautiful you are. And if I did manage to draw something as beautiful as you, it’d have to be my final work, because nothing I made afterwards would ever even compare. It’s a catch-22. Or something.” “Oh, sure,” she said, skeptically. But she believed him. He was definitely the kind of dork who would say something that cheesy and mean it with all his heart.

 
“A VHS tape?” she wondered aloud as she opened the box, despite her boyfriend’s worries. “You use it to play videos,” her boyfriend explained, “you see, in the days before Netflix, back when the world was young, this is how people watched movies at home.” She scoffed. “I know what a VHS is. I’m only two years younger than you. What I don’t know is why anyone would use one these days.” “Maybe it’s a dangerous secret that got delivered to my house by mistake?” he offered. “Who’s it addressed to?” “Me,” she said, before clarifying, “well, not ME, but… here, just look.” She showed him the only adornment on the box, a sticker, the kind you put on gifts that says “To:” and “From:”. A single word was written, large enough to fill both spaces. “Me”. “Does that not seem freaky to you?” he asked, “It seems freaky to me. And speaking of freaky: is it just me, or does that package smell like lightning?” “Lightning?” she asked, skeptically, “How does lightning have a smell? And how do you know what it is?” “I think the heat of the lightning somehow fuses oxygen molecules into ozone molecules, and that’s where the smell comes from. As for how I know… I get around.” “Get around Wikipedia, maybe,” she teased. “Maybe so,” he said, “in any case, whatever that VHS is all about, I want no part of it. You can keep it.” “Maybe I will,” she said, “Anyway, I gotta get going. See if you can fix the doorbell while I’m gone.” With those words and a peck on the cheek, she was gone. While her drive to her job was filled with questions about the mysterious package, a busy day at work drove these thoughts from her mind, until she forgot about the VHS tape entirely.

 
She only remembered it three months later, during a “heated discussion” (“fight” was too strong a word) with her boyfriend, who complained about her clutter around the house. “I’m sorry, but you know how busy my job keeps me. I just don’t have the time!” The words were on her tongue, but she swallowed them; the matter of his employment was a touchy subject, and she knew him well enough to know he’d misconstrue her explanation as jab at him for still not having a job. The catalyst of this “passionate debate” was the tape. “I let the damn thing sit out for three months, in plain sight, but you still haven’t done anything with it!” She rolled her eyes, almost by reflex, and that’s what really set the whole thing off. She tried to explain that, after a certain point, stuff like that just becomes part of the background, to the point where you don’t really notice it anymore. He brought up the, admittedly valid, point that a VHS is a pretty remarkable object these days. And so, the “spirited conversation” continued. Eventually they forgave each other, and made up in a manner which needn’t be discussed here.

 
The tape had piqued her curiosity once more. But how would she play it? She certainly had enough money to buy a VHS player from somewhere, but she didn’t get that money by spending frivolously. Maybe she could go to the library? Did they still have those anymore? Deciding she had nothing to lose, she dedicated the next free spot in her schedule to visiting the library. She could tell from the moment she stepped through the door how out of place she looked. Dressed in a sharp suit from work, she approached a librarian with tape in hand, and sheepishly asked “Um, do you know how I could go about playing one of these?” She admired the librarian’s professional courtesy, though she could tell that she was being judged for her ignorance. The librarian escorted her to an old VHS player that they’d allow her to use. She realized that trying to give a tip to the librarian probably made her look even more out of place, but she tried anyway. Courtesy is courtesy.

 
After finally managing to find the correct orientation to insert the tape, (these things could give USB a run for its money) it became immediately apparent that whoever used the device last had not turned the volume down. “IT IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE THAT NO ONE ELSE SEE OR HEAR THE CONTENTS OF THIS TAPE!” echoed throughout the quiet halls, followed by an even louder sigh. She immediately ejected the tape, curtly thanked the librarian, and pulled up Amazon on her phone as she walked out, angrily searching “old-ass technology (for fogeys)”.

 
In two shipping days, (She was not a patient woman) her doorbell rang, and she was greeted by a small cardboard box. Déjà vu. Though she could no longer remember why it was so important to her, she had her mind set on watching the tape on that day, which meant that, come Hell or high water, she was watching the tape on that day. She’d used one of her sick days, her first one in over a year, to ensure that she wasn’t too busy with work, and she made sure her boyfriend was out running errands, so he wouldn’t be a problem. After what seemed like an embarrassingly long time, she finally managed to find the right combination of cables and connections that hooked up the ancient player to her cutting-edge TV. She inserted the tape into the player, (on her first try, this time) and pressed the rewind button. She realized that there was no point in doing this, as she’d already heard the warning, but if she was going through all this trouble to watch the tape, she wasn’t going to half-ass it. As she reached to press the play button, she noticed her finger trembling. Was she really that anxious? She recalled all the mysterious circumstances surrounding the tape. Who delivered it? And what was did it contain? There was only one way to find out…


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