Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Microstory 1248: Bhulan Cargill

Bhulan Cargill was born in 2069 to a world that she didn’t like, but thanks to her, it no longer exists. She spent years there, though, trying to collect all the data she could, to figure out what went wrong. She realized that a number of people in her family were either part of what caused history to turn out as it did, or would be in a position to help fix it, if only they were given a little nudge. Once she was finished gathering this information, she went back in time, and executed her plan. She visited her family, and other key people, throughout time. She helped them out of tough situations, sometimes without them even knowing, and directed the timeline where she wanted it to go. This was her temporal power. Sure, she could jump through time, but lots of other people could too. Her real gift was a keen insight into the way events unfolded, and the necessary skills to account for the plethora of variables. Something called the butterfly effect made it so that, for most people, history alteration is predominantly a one time deal. Once a traveler goes back in time, and starts making changes, everything they knew about the future becomes irrelevant. The more changes they make, they less their knowledge of what happened in the other timeline can help them make further decisions. Bhulan’s power was limited as well, but her ability to predict what kind of unintended consequences her temporal revisions would have far exceeded the average traveler. This allowed her to make multiple jumps; first all the way back to the earliest important moment in time, and work her way forwards. After all this, things were so much different than they were in the alternate reality she came from, that the world was unrecognizable. In fact, her actions had the effect of preventing her from ever even existing. It was unclear to her, or anyone else privy to the truth, whether she wanted to erase herself from history, or not. No matter what she did now, this version of her already existed, so it was probably better that she didn’t have some other self, running around the timeline.

The mission was finally over. Things could obviously be better, but with the butterfly effect in play, the variables would have been impossible to calculate. So now the question was, what was she going to do with her life in this new timeline? Other travelers have experienced this conundrum. They spent so much time focused on their goals that they didn’t consider what would happen when they succeeded. There were several options, a couple of which were not possible. There was no way for her to assimilate her consciousness with that of an alternate, since she was the only Bhulan here. That also meant she couldn’t destroy or exile her alternate, and take her place. Free from these ethical dilemmas, she could have integrated herself into society, and do whatever she would have done if the mission hadn’t been her sole focus, but she didn’t want that. She had interfered in the timeline enough, and she also wasn’t interested in going far enough into the future to avoid undermining her own prior actions. She could just go off and hide out somewhere, perhaps on an undiscovered planet, or so far in the past that she didn’t run into anyone else, though that didn’t sound enticing either, so there was only one last option. Time travelers who kill themselves generally do this so the timeline’s native version of themselves can be the one to live out their lives in peace, which again, wasn’t necessary in Bhulan’s case. Still, every time she thought about it, this was the idea she kept coming back to. She felt it prudent to remove herself from the equation, now that both sides were proverbially balanced out. It wasn’t the right thing to do, and few would have told her to do it, but her suicide was what happened, and it could not be undone. Her sacrifice was not a complete waste, however, as the act simultaneously saved an unknowable number of innocent people, none of whom would ever know what she did.

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