The Persistence of Time | A Short Story

Time is a paradoxical thing. 

It always persists forward, slowing for no one. 

It doesn’t stop or start. 

I know time better than I’d like to. I must have aged forwards and back again, so many times, I theoretically shouldn’t exist. 

Then again, I don’t exist. 

I exist only in a place outside of time. I am a rip in the seam of the fabric of the universe. I was banished from time, long ago, or maybe it was just yesterday. It’s hard to remember these things. 

Time is a paradox, and within that paradox are paradoxes unto themselves. 

We’re never ready for it to continue forwards, but, still, it does. 

It can’t be paused. You can’t just decide to stop time for yourself.

But it can be bent. 

June 9th, 2018 11:29 AM

I prepare to warp. I have to stop Seven from doing it – again! Seven has been a particularly annoying one. She’s originally from the past, but going to go to the future to kill Eighteen – which in turn would kill Seven herself from being out of her original timeline, and therefore erase the need for her to have gone to the future or for me to go back in time to stop her. Ah, the time-continuum chain reaction. But Seven would save herself. She’d somehow get back to her original timeline. She’s smart.

But what if Eighteen isn’t there? What if Eighteen has pre-emptively gathered this information herself? I’ll bet she’s altered the timelines slightly, or she’ll outwit Seven at the last second somehow. I could also go to the future to save Eighteen before Seven would arrive, and of course Three will show up too, albeit exactly one minute and forty-six seconds late. Three’s always late. Every. Single. Time. 

 But I don’t know where Eighteen is in time-space right now. I do, however, know where Seven is.

And so I warp. 

November 5th, 1996 7:08 PM

I’m preparing to warp in the back alley in the rain. Eighteen will die – before she even thinks of the idea of killing the parents. I’ve already gone to the future, and Eighteen did it then, so she won’t hesitate to do it again. Thankfully, I warped into the past, and therefore they aren’t dead yet. Plus, Eighteen still exists, but not for long – at least, not in her own past timeline, anyway. If I eliminate her past self, it’ll stop the events of the future from happening. Time is a little confusing, but if you’ve literally been traveling since every moment of time that has ever existed like I have, you learn the rules. I grin. Prepare for this, Eighteen, I think. 

I’m just about to warp when she shows up. 

“Really, Seven?” Two’s voice comes from behind me. “I thought we were over this?”  Two is so meddlesome, always interfering with my plans. I assume she came to stop me from killing Eighteen. 

“You know, if you do this, Two, the parents will die,” I point out. 

“I know it full well,” she says. “And that’s why I’m going to stop Eighteen from existing myself.”

“You’ll die if you’re out of your own timeline too long, you know, Two!” I cry. Two always forgets the rules of time. 

“I know, Seven,” she says calmly. “And that’s why I’m going to get One to do it.” 

One. My heart stops for a moment. One can bend the laws of time more than any of us can. She can go hours in another timeline without dying. 

I quickly resume warping. Maybe if I can rewind time a few minutes, I can get out of here and into the future before One gets here. 

“And don’t even think about it,” Two continues. “I’ve already had a little chat with One in the future, and she’s coming to the past – right after this.” 

Two rewinds time on both of us. Ugh, I hate Two! Just because she was the second of us, she feels entitled to showing off her fancy time-rewind skills that only One and Three also have! 

I’m preparing to warp in the back alley in the rain. Eighteen will die – before she even thinks of the idea of killing the parents. I’ve already gone to the future, and Eighteen did it then, so she won’t hesitate to do it again. 

My mind feels a bit fuzzy, as if… someone rewound… 

“TWO!” I roar, warping into the future’s past. 

April 9th, 2056 10:38 PM

I prepare to warp. I need to stop this time paradox – now. Too many of us exist. Heck, I once saw Twenty-six in a timeline once. Putting an end to the parents should do the trick. But going so far back into the past will mean I have very little time to do it. 

I take a deep breath. Seven’s bound to show up soon, but tweaking the time on this third attempt by five minutes, she’ll be a little late. I smirk. Last time I tried this, Two, One and Seven all showed up. But I think it’ll be just Seven this time. Two and One were dealing with her, though, so it’s hard to know what became of her. 

I’m literally just about to warp when One appears out of nowhere and grabs me by the shoulder, breaking the warp. 

“You can’t do this, Eighteen!” she shouts. “I’m tired of having to fix your mistakes!” 

“Theoretically, if it weren’t for your own mistakes, my mistakes would have never happened! I shouldn’t exist! None of us should!” 

“You’re right, Eighteen,” she snarls. “You shouldn’t exist.” 

Before I know what’s happening, I can feel myself reverting, blinking in and out of timelines. One is rewinding me – sending me to the past! I’m going to die! She’s removing me from my original timeline!

I can hear Seven arrive, and a minute and forty-six seconds later, Three. At least Three saved me in another, slightly separate timeline, by about a minute. But whenever One’s involved, that timeline always has the most major effects on the people who are in it. None of the others do, or at least as much

The last thing I hear is One laughing as I blink out of existence.

May 7th, 2023  3:52 AM

I’m preparing to warp. Seven is going to the future to save Eighteen, who she originally had planned to kill, but I’m going to kill Seven. Either that or she’ll die on her own from being separated from her timeline. 

Ha. In your face, Seven. 

She does a lot more time travel than most of the rest of us do, and it has not affected her well. Two almost always rewinds her, so Seven has a hard time finding the correct timelines now. She once tried to kill Two in the future but couldn’t find the right timeline to do it in. Now, that was funny. 

I’m going to warp a minute and forty-six seconds earlier than I have to, because for some reason I’m always late. It’s probably because I met One in her original timeline once, and it put some kind of weird time curse on me. My traveling is always slow now.

I sigh, and I warp. 

Seven, Two, Eighteen, and Ten are there. 

“There’s Three,” they chorus exactly as I show up. 

“Ten! Haven’t seen you in a while!” I say. “How was the Cretaceous period?” The last time I saw Ten, she was riding the dinosaurs. 

She rolls her eyes. Ten hates me. All of us hate each other, actually, now that I think about it.

“So, Seven, you came here to kill Eighteen originally… but Two stopped you?” I ask. 

“Yes,” she sighs. “Good old Two.” Her voice is loaded with sarcasm, and she glares at Two.  

“But… wait… didn’t One kill Eighteen?” I ask. 

“You’re in the wrong timeline,” Seven and Two chorus. Eighteen’s eyes widen. Oops. Well, at least she knows that One’s coming now. 

I warp again, prepared to stop One from killing Eighteen. 

February 18th, 2002 11:56 PM

I, Ten, have to put an end to this. The time paradox has gone on for too long. One has somehow managed to escape death every time while the rest of us are left to die, stranded from our timelines. Well, your escapade of death will be short-lived, One. I chuckle at the play on words, and then sort through the timelines. This should be the correct one… but then again, I’ve been a little messed up in hunting for them ever since I was in the Cretaceous period. It was hard to get out of that timeline. I shudder. 

I’ve just come back from talking with Seven, Two, Eighteen, and Four in the future. We all agree that we want to stop One. Then dumb old Three shows up, and Two warps her back, but just as quickly (okay, a minute and forty-six seconds later) Three’s back again, and she’s in on the plan whether we like it or not. 

I search the thousands of timelines for the others. Why, One, did you have to start this? I sigh. There are at least ten versions of myself in different timelines right now, let alone the others’ selves. 

I find a timeline. Eight, Six, Thirteen, and Twelve are all standing together. I warp to them just as Four shows up, rapidly explaining the plan. I give her an irritated look. I wanted to explain it!

Twelve pipes up. “We’re going to get all the others and their selves, right? And then go to One’s timeline?”

“Yes,” Four says. I nod. 

“Then why don’t we skip to One’s timeline, since all of us will know and will be there?” she suggests. 

“Very clever, Twelve,” Four smirks. 

“I know,” Twelve acknowledges. Twelve’s a know-it-all. She even wears glasses, which probably worsen her vision because she doesn’t need them.

“A time-skip?” I say dubiously. “Those can be very risky.” Time-skips gloss over the events that you technically did, but you at the same time didn’t do them and land in the future (or past of the future) after those events take place. I can barely even wrap my head around them.

“Seven’s done them before,” Thirteen chimes in. She’s a suck-up to Seven, who in turn hates her. I almost pity Thirteen. Seven’s ruthless. “Why can’t we?”

“Seven is an experienced time-traveler,” Four and I say at the same time, and then glare at each other. 

“That means, technically,” Twelve starts, a glint in her eye, “so are we.” 

We all grin at each other for what may be the first time ever, and then we warp simultaneously.

March 26th, 2021 6:52 PM

I know they’re coming. How could I not? I can see them between timelines right now. The others are coming to stop the time paradox. So, in theory, I have to stop them

I prepare to warp to where past Thirteen, Twelve, Four, Ten, Eight, and Six all stand. Seven’s coming to join them – yes, there she is now. Always meddlesome.

Ah, well, the more the merrier, I think. 

I warp to the timeline, and rewind them all. They scream as they fall out of existence. I laugh. It was that easy. 

“Nice try, One,” I hear a voice from behind. I whirl around. Future Seven! I should have anticipated this! Thirteen, Twelve, Four, Ten, Eight, and Six are also back, and they begin fighting me. 

“Where,” Six screams – “is Three?” 

And exactly a minute and forty-six seconds after the others had come, Three shows up. Before I can react, she rewinds me, throwing me back into my original timeline. 

September 24th, 2021 3:17 AM

It’s my birthday. It’s all of our birthdays. All of them up until Forty-two, of course, and I’m pretty sure that Forty-three was just born. Sure enough, the two of them warp onto the scene.

All of the others are crowded around me, unimpressed. It’s the first time we’ve actually all been in one timeline together, as our present selves. 

Two begins to talk, and then Seven. The two of them glare at each other. 

“Why did you do it, One?” Eight asks softly. “Why did you start the time paradox? Why do all of us exist?” 

“I…” I start. You see, Two, Three, Seven, Eighteen – all of them, they’re all various versions of me. Whether past, an alternate present, or future, we’re all the same person. I don’t dare warping out of there – although I’ve probably already done it in another timeline – they’ll surely stop me, or someone’s future or past self will kill me. 

“There are too many of us running around,” Ten continues. “We’ve all killed each other a hundred times, been spared a hundred more.” 

The others nod. I want to agree with what they’re saying, but the time paradox is too complicated to just unravel like that. And so I glare instead.

“One, can’t you see?” Eighteen says. “With all of us that exist, it’s a miracle we haven’t destroyed time completely already. Eventually, one of us would have married, and then one of us would’ve been born unto us, or something like that. We can’t be mother, daughter, cousin, aunt, everything else, and the same person all at the same time. It would tear the fabric of the space-time continuum. This needs to end now.” 

I know she’s right, but I’m too far in over my head already. 

“You know, I could end your life right now, Eighteen,” I threaten.

“You already have, and died yourself afterwards,” Eighteen lightly replies. Figures. I would’ve done something like that in an alternate timeline.

“You don’t have to die, One,” says Thirteen slowly. “But you can’t exist within the reaches of time anymore. You are slowly destroying our world – and yourself – with every warp you make.” 

“Isn’t not existing and dying the same thing?” I say. 

“You can exist – we can exist – solely in a place out of time. But we can bend time no longer.” Thirty speaks up.

I sigh. They’re right. They’re all right. I can hardly remember when or how this all started. It might as well end.

“Skip me,” I say after a moment, beckoning Seven forwards. “Skip me out of time.” 

She comes up to me. “Really?” she says. 

I nod.

She gives an apologetic look, and sucks in her breath. There’s only a moment of hesitation before it happens.

I feel myself – the others – ceasing to exist within time. I am being transported beyond its reaches, to the rips in the seams of the fabric of space-time.

And then there’s only me. One. No more late Three. No more snaky Seven. No more Eighteen or Ten or Twelve. They’re all gone, and this time forever. 

There’s only me.

Time is a paradoxical thing. 

It always persists forward, slowing for no one. 

It doesn’t stop or start. 

Time is a paradox, and within that paradox are paradoxes unto themselves. 

We’re never ready for it to continue forwards, but, still, it does. 

It can’t be paused. You can’t just decide to stop time for yourself.

And it will be bent no more.

Published by Kadotake-san

Kadotake-san. ENFP. Possibly a criminal genius. Currently writing an 8-book series.

3 thoughts on “The Persistence of Time | A Short Story

  1. Hey everyone! Kadotake-san here. I wanted to publish this story that I wrote a while back for you guys to read. It’s about time travel though, so let’s hope it isn’t too confusing 😂 I hope you all enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

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