There are a million of me. There are me’s who are the lead singers of top ten pop groups, me’s who wrote the latest bestseller, a me even cracked the cancer vaccine. Don’t ask me how, I’m not that bright. Once there was a me who was Vice President, but not President oddly enough. As if he didn’t want the responsibility, just wanted to be near the throne. That sounds more like me. Maybe he just wanted to see the inside of the White House since they don’t give those tours anymore. I’ve seen me’s dating glamorous celebutantes and Hollywood flavors-of-the-week. You’d think that with all the me’s floating around that they’d want to be with someone more…unique, but there’s no one quite like me, which is strange, because I’m everywhere.
The scientists who studied me can’t really put their finger on whatever it is that makes me different than the next schmoe. Your molecular biologists, physicists, theoretical quantum specialists, lots of people with lots of letters at the end of their names, none of them had anything helpful to offer. Even after the six months of testing they couldn’t tell anyone too much more than what we already knew; versions of David Webster, which is to say me, had been popping up all over the world for the passed thirty years. All the me’s have appeared in various times and locations, but they are all genetically identical to each other, which is to say, they are all me.
The docs know that I’m the original though, the road from which all others branch, they are certain of that much, if nothing else. They said they figured that out easy because I’ve lived a very unextraordinary life. I’m very unremarkable, they said. Plus I’m younger than all the others, that’s not too hard to see. Some by a few years, but most by decades. You could confuse some of them as being the same age as me, but you can tell, if you look closely.
In a couple years, they said, that’s when it happens, whatever it is. The Event. For now, I’m just a third shift security guard for the new particle accelerator on the University’s campus. Just a guy trying to scrape his way through fourteen credit hours a semester and five grand in tuition every four months. I have dreams, sure, everyone does, but I don’t see myself as a rock god or a billionaire or as a picture in the dust jacket of the latest bestseller. My older, slightly grayer, slightly coy face appears in at least 15 of the New York Times Best Sellers as it stands. I’m pretty sure none of me wrote any of them. I think everyone knows that by now, but the books are good, so we read them anyway. I especially enjoyed the series I wrote about the boy wizard and his friends. The movies were great. Even if they didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations.
There’ve been books written about all the me’s and there’s even a gossip show on E! that follows all the rich and famous me’s gallivanting on cruise ships and private islands with pop singers and the daughters of royalty. About one-tenth of all the me’s that have shown up have been incarcerated. Funny statistic, that. There’s a show about all of them on CourtTV. They’ve had to make a separate department in the judicial system dedicated to prosecuting all the me’s because they all have the same name, facial features, and DNA which proves to be the main defense in almost ALL of their cases. Defense lawyers aren’t that clever apparently. It wasn’t me, they say, it was another me. I’m very quick to blame myself when the chips are down it seems.
More than a few David Webster’s been caught standing over the beaten bodies of luxury whores, mad-eyed and sweaty from the coke and meth; cornered in trash-laden alleys with smoking revolvers or bloody kitchen knives in their hands and screaming like jackals as they’re hauled to the backs of police cars. The camera crews are always there, they’re always following the famous me’s around, waiting for the story to drop, and when they get just what they’ve been waiting for, the red-faced me’s, sweaty and launching spittle in every direction, scream into the camera…change it! change it you god damned fool!
They’re all talking to me. Me specifically. Because I still have an unwritten future, to me anyway. They’ve already changed theirs.
The scientists say, according to the most popular theory of the moment, that in a couple of years, I’ll be exposed to a…novel element. That’s what they call it, because they don’t really know what the hell it is, so they came up with a name for it. That’s science.
The novel element is something unique, they figure, a once in a lifetime occurrence and it will combine with my genetic make-up to produce an unintended side effect: namely that I will be able to travel backwards along my own timeline.
They don’t know if I’ll be able to travel forwards as well, but they don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to. We just don’t know, since we’re living in the future me’s past, not the current me’s future. I think I got that right. But they don’t think very many of me will be tempted to go the future since there’s obviously a pattern to the me’s that arrive in the past. I have some deep-ceded desire to be a great man, they say, to be famous and loved, or infamous anyway. I don’t think so, never thought of myself as the lusting-for-fame sort, but the proof is in the pudding. We all yearn for glory, for the wealth and power, but who really gets offered the chance to change their fate, to change the fate of the world. Not many really, so I suppose anyone might be surprised by the choice you might make. I certainly am.
As soon as I’m presented with this…moment of choice, the prevailing theory goes, when I become unglued to the current timeline, that’s when the future me decides to go for whole she-bang, as it were. When the future David Webster decides to travel backwards, it’s also apparently a one-way trip because none of the thousands that are in jail ever disappear, unless they get an appeal, that is. And certainly none of the two hundred and seven me’s that have ended up on death row in various countries has ever escaped their fates through holes in the fabric of time and space.
What accounts for the vast number of me’s, they say, in various professions, positions of power and celebrity, is that I am aware of the others. As I progress down (or up?) this timeline, I am aware of the other me’s and their choices, so when the moment of novel element occurs, I decide to choose a different point in time and therefore a different outcome, a different fate, while the others remain where they were. They say that the first one of me must have decided to seek myself out which created the first paradox and the resulting exponential growing appearance in the number of all these David Webster’s. Because, as the theory goes, the next me decided not to find his previous self, it created an additional strand in the timeline, a new branch. An infinity of paradox. A fountain of me’s erupted after that. All those old sci-fi movies were right, you shouldn’t talk to yourself in the past, it screws everything up. You’ll never decide to make the same choice as the secondary you that the primary you already experienced. Why would you? You’ve already lived it. Just from a different angle.
A whole branch of theoretical physics has been created and made canon merely from the existence of all the me’s. What they figure is the most likely source of the novel element has something to do with the new particle accelerator on campus that I am currently the night security guard for. They say that’s their best guess as to where I could come into contact with it; not in the breakfast cereal aisle and certainly not in American Lit 330, in which a much older me who wrote a series of books about a gunslinger and a tower retired and became my English professor. I even failed myself in the midterm. Shows no imagination, the older me wrote in red ink.
I wonder if I really ever thought up the story about the gunslinger, or if it’s just more stolen imagination which can never be credited to the real author. That keeps me up a lot of nights. I’m probably the only David Webster out of the thousands that has trouble sleeping. None of the others are the real David Webster, per say, but I’m responsible for all of it, in a manner of speaking. I changed the destiny of the world. That’s a lot for an undergrad to deal with.
The concept presents another quandary, say the scientists who study all the me’s and discuss them in the bi-monthly academic journal, “DW”(dedicated to the study of all David Webster’s), since all the me’s have more than likely usurped the original works of others, to be credited themselves and reap the benefits, if they cut off the original branch of me that splits off into the million growing forks in the road, those books and vaccines and inventions, might all disappear as well. It’s not worth the risk. In case I really am a genius. So they put up with all the me’s. The ever-growing population of me.
I wonder sometimes how long until I take over the whole planet, until all the me’s have usurped everyone’s lives and creations and extravagant wealth; until there’s a country of just me’s and hundreds of well-fed, balding David Webster’s converse in the halls of hallowed government buildings, deciding the fate of the world. I wonder if all the decisions would be unanimous. I wonder if that’s a good thing. To be in perfect agreement with one’s self. I should have majored in philosophy.
I have a girlfriend, Stacy, she’s nice, but I don’t think she really thinks I’m the real me. She thinks that I’m just another David Webster, come back with a great idea and a get-rich-quick guarantee and I think she’s waiting to cash in on that happening. I don’t force the issue too much. It’s hard to find company when all the other me’s are driving sports cars and wearing thousand dollar suits and I still ride my bicycle to work.
I’ve thought a lot about what I might do, when I finally meet the novel element, that is. The physicists said it won’t really matter, because at that moment, I’ll cease to be the original, I’ll have progressed down my own timeline to the moment of transmission, that’s what they call it. When I go through that…whatever it will be, the previous David Webster, the one farther back down the tube will be waiting to understand, but that’s what they told me. I’ll become like all the other me’s, I’ll just have to decide what I want to do, who I want to become, whose life I’ll usurp. They say that’s inevitable. The appearance of over one million and growing me’s proves that it’s a cycle I can never escape. That I can never choose to escape the cycle. They said that’s why we’re everywhere, I’m always trying to outdo myself.
I think the first me was probably just trying to get laid, or pass a final exam, which I can understand. Pretty soon, they say, all the governments will be headed by me’s, with me congresses, me parliaments, me military dictatorships. A one me government. I find that incredibly disturbing. I don’t think of myself as particularly good with decisions. The political parties are in an uproar trying to curry favor with all the me’s and deciding which end of the political spectrum David Webster falls under because once all the me’s are running the government, they’ll get anything passed that they want, and probably stay in office…forever.
For now, all I’m worried about is passing my classes and staying awake for my night shift. I have to remember to bring more coffee next time because it’s getting really hard to stay awake in my little security booth, looking at a panel of lights and black and white monitors that never change. Every day, the same as the last. For me anyway.
Wait a moment, the fire alarm for the inner chamber of the accelerator just went off. I better go inside and make sure everyone’s out of the area. It’s probably nothing, but I better check, just to be sure. I’ll be right back, I have an English exam to study for after all and I wouldn’t want to failed by myself.
© 2011 James L. Carey