Addendum to Volume 2: Time Limits (The Death of Thomas Meriweather)

The following chapter is an addendum that did not appear in The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 1. Whereas the previous chapters of this book were written to be mainly instructive, this chapter differs in that the format is mainly narrative, and the only instruction contained is that which the individual reader may glean from the following personal experiences.

On April 21, 2001, at approximately 4:30pm, Thomas Meriweather discovered how to time travel for the first time in his life. About five minutes later, he was visited by an older Thomas Meriweather from the future.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“So this older Tom walks up to me, hands me a book, and says, ‘Here, kid. You’re going to need this.’ I look down and the title of the book is The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 1.”


“As he starts to walk off, he turns back and tells me, ‘Oh yeah. And don’t go reading Volume 2 if you see it on a shelf somewhere. You’re not ready for it yet.’ And then he just walks off.”

When Tom first approached me with the idea of writing The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, I objected that I was unqualified to write such a book, and that I was too busy. I told him I’d never written a whole book, and I wouldn’t know where to start. I produced a plethora of legitimate excuses for why I couldn’t write the book, but he just shrugged them all off. He knew I would eventually give in because he already had the book with my name as the author.

A year later I finally did give in, and we began having lengthy appointments once a week where I would interview Tom about his experiences, and we would discuss time travel in depth. Tom and I had been friends since we were kids, and we had kept in fairly regular contact over the years despite Tom’s time travel, but these visits were much more focused and consistent. We kept up these appointments for a little over a year, and I suppose I should point out that although these meetings were each a week apart for me, I could never be sure how much time he spent between them.

By the time Tom and I had our last regular meeting, I had a pretty clear idea of the book I was going to write. I was able to write the first draft fairly quickly, but each revision took me quite a while because I was editing it myself. It didn’t help that Tom refused to look at any of my drafts to tell me if I was on the right track. “I don’t want any stinking PRP’s popping up because I gave you feedback,” he’d always say.

Seven months after writing the initial draft, I was finally satisfied with the result and I sent Tom a letter asking him to come take a look at the manuscript. I remember expecting that Tom would finally read my work, shower me with praise over how magnificent it had turned out, and then we would discuss the next steps in pursuing its publication. What happened instead was the biggest argument in the entire history of our friendship.

An hour after the mailman picked up my letter Tom showed up at my house and proclaimed, “Finally! Let’s publish the [expletive removed] thing!”

“Be serious Tom,” I said, hoping he was joking. “I can’t submit it to publishers when you haven’t even looked at it yet.”

“No, no, no,” said Tom, waiving his hands. “You don’t have to worry about submitting anything. I’ve got it all worked out.”

“You do?” I asked. I became excited at the thought that Tom was finally going to use his knowledge of the future to make things easier for me. No need to send out countless submissions. No rejection letters! Tom would just tell me exactly to whom I needed to submit the manuscript, and they would be one that wanted to publish it! I never would have asked Tom for such a thing, but if he was offering, how could I say no?

“Of course,” said Tom, looking at me like I was an idiot. “I’ve had it figured out all along. Years ago I set aside some funds in an investment I knew would do well. Now I’m going to turn those funds over to you so you can self-publish a copy of the book for me, and then you can keep whatever is left over.” He elbowed me lightly in the ribs and grinned. “It’s not enough to make you rich, but it should certainly be worth your trouble.”

“Worth my trouble?” I began to become angry as Tom’s words sunk in. He wasn’t helping me at all. He was giving our book, my book, the kiss of death. “Tom, I’ve spent almost two years working with you to make this book! And now we’re not even going to try to get it published?”

“What’re you getting all bent out of shape about?” asked Tom, obviously annoyed at my lack of gratitude. “I’m giving you more than most writers make on their books, even if they do get published. Besides, who do you think is ever going to want to read it besides me?”

I like to think of myself as a fairly level-headed and thoughtful individual, but I must admit that after hearing Tom’s last question, I completely lost my composure. “Tom, you selfish Neanderthal!” I yelled. “All that time you spent convincing me to write this stupid book, and then all the nights we spent talking about it, you always made it sound like this big important thing. You really got me to believe it was going to help people and change lives.”

“Look,” he said, lowering his voice and putting a hand on my shoulder, “it helped me. It changed my life. Isn’t that good enough?”

I was still mad. “So you’re telling me that my book never gets published?”

Tom took his hand off my shoulder, and I suddenly realized I had crossed the line. I had asked Tom about the future, and I had told him I would never do that. Even worse, I had asked out of my own selfish and prideful benefit. I looked away, feeling embarrassed, and still a bit angry.

Tom and I stood there silent for a long time until Tom let out a long sigh and said, “You don’t get it. Out of all the idiots I’ve ever known, I thought you got it, but you don’t. I lived my whole life based on a book written by an idiot who doesn’t even get it.”

Tom shook his head as he started to leave. “Look, you’ll get a check in the mail by tomorrow. Just cash it and publish the [expletive removed] book however you want and mail the copy to my P.O. box. After that you can do whatever you want with it.”

I awkwardly fumbled some kind of agreement.

“Oh, one last thing,” Tom said. “You need to add ‘Volume 1’ to the end of the title of the book. Don’t ask why, just do it, OK?” Tom then put on his hat, and he was gone.

I was still brooding about this argument a month later when I took the manuscript to a local print shop to get it published. It was nothing fancy. No leather-bound cover or glossy pages like I had imagined. It was just plain paper with blue plastic covers and a sturdy but simple spiral binding. On the first page in big letters it read, “The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 1.” Underneath that in smaller letters it had my name and the copyright date.

Holding that book was one of the most pathetic moments of my life. Considering the amount on the check that Tom had sent, I felt embarrassed by how little money and effort I had put into publishing the book, and when you looked at the final result, it was easy to see I had gotten what I paid for.

I seriously considered throwing the book straight in the garbage and starting from scratch, but at that point I was so disgusted with the whole scenario that I just wanted the project to be over. I paid for the book and a large padded envelope and then stopped at the post office on the way home to send the package to Tom.

A few months went by and I had mostly put the book out of my mind. Between my job, family, and other responsibilities, it wasn’t very hard. Just as I was starting to wonder when I’d ever see Tom again, I received a letter from him asking me to come visit him.

The first thing I noticed about the letter was the handwriting. Tom’s handwriting was always difficult to read, but this letter looked like he had written it while sitting on an uneven washing machine. It was also strange that Tom was asking me to visit him, when he usually preferred for us to meet at my home.

The address that he gave me wasn’t far from my home, but it wasn’t one with which I was familiar. It was tucked away on a quiet road in a suburban neighborhood, and I actually drove by it three times before I realized where I needed to turn in. I hadn’t expected the address to be for a retirement community.

A kind-looking receptionist greeted me as I approached the front desk in the lobby. I told her I was looking for Thomas Meriweather, and she nodded and pressed some buttons on her phone.

“Hello, Mr. Meriweather?” I heard her say into her headset. “Uh huh. Yes. Yep, he’s right here in the lobby, sir. OK, I’ll let him know you’re on your way.” She turned her attention back to me. “He’ll be out in just a moment. Feel free to have a seat.”

As I sat in the lobby waiting for Tom, I looked around and considered how nice the place looked. It wasn’t elegant or expensive-looking, but it was very nice. People between their sixties and their eighties came walking through the lobby. They would often stop and talk to each other, and a couple of them even stopped to say hello to me. Some folks would sit down at a nearby table and spend a few minutes on a puzzle sitting there, most would just pick up their mail or leave a message with the receptionist and keep going.

When Tom walked into the lobby I was surprised by how immediately I could recognize him considering how much he had changed. He appeared to be in his mid-eighties or early nineties. He was wearing the same wide-brimmed hat as always, but underneath the hat were wisps of thin, white hair. His leaned heavily on a walker and his face was deeply wrinkled, but when saw me he still gave me the same smirk that he would give me as a kid when he was about to get us into trouble.

“Hi Tom,” I said as I walked over to meet him. “You look good.”

“I look like [expletive removed] and you know it,” Tom said with a wink. “Let’s walk back to my place and have a chat. The old ladies around here don’t remember a thing you say to their face, but they don’t miss a word when they’re eavesdropping.”

“We heard that, Tommy!” came a female voice from the corner of the room as we walked away.

“You go by ‘Tommy’ now?” I asked.

“Nah,” replied Tom as we exited the main building. “The old ladies just call me that because it makes my face turn red and they know they can get away with it. It’s probably their way of getting back at me for calling them old ladies. They’re a nosy bunch, but they turn into a flock of angels if you get sick or hurt around here. One week I didn’t show up for dinner in the mess hall for a few days and I must’ve had five or six of them knocking on my door to see if I’d keeled over.”

As we walked the grounds, I was surprised to see that the retirement community was considerably bigger than it appeared from the front driveway. The property stretched on for was appeared to be several acres as we walked past several small cottages on the grounds.

“Most folks who move in here live in one of these,” said Tom, nodding towards the cottages I was looking at. He hooked a thumb over his shoulder to gesture in the direction we just came from. “In the main building there’s a health center where folks go if they get sick or hurt or lose their marbles. Most don’t ever make it back out once they check in there, but some do. I have to go in there once a month to get my shots from the nurse. It’s more like the nursing home we used to visit as scouts. I never liked that place, but this one’s not too bad. It don’t smell like pee all the time like some of ‘em.”

The trip to Tom’s cottage took a while since Tom had to take so many small steps with his walker. At one point we sat down on a bench so Tom could catch his breath. I noticed there were quite a few benches placed periodically along the paved walkway that ran to the door of each cottage. Several rosebushes and other flowers also flanked the walkway. As we sat on the bench I heard a couple of birds chirping in a nearby tree, as well as the sound of a river somewhere off in the distance.

“This is a nice place, Tom,” I said, leaning my head back.

Tom laughed. “Yeah, that was intentional,” he said. “I set aside a good chunk of change to make sure I could get in here. Not a fortune or anything, but I did have to plan ahead.” He leaned over to me and added in a low voice, “I even had a little something to do with the creation of this place almost 60 years ago. I helped convince the board to go with the huts instead of a high rise.”

Once Tom caught his breath we continued walking, and before long we arrived at his cottage. A couple of his neighbors waved from a nearby porch as Tom opened the door. The inside of Tom’s cottage was small, but comfortable. His living room had a couch, a reclining chair, and a bookshelf that looked like it was about to collapse from the weight it carried. His walls were covered with photographs, maps, and souvenirs from dozens of time periods.

Tom walked up to the recliner and used a remote to raise it up to where he was standing. He sat in the chair and used the remote to lower it back down as he tried to catch his breath. He gestured to the couch as if to tell me to sit down, but couldn’t get the words out between his coughing and wheezing.

“Can I get you a drink of water?” I asked Tom, moving towards his small kitchen.

Tom nodded and then added, “There’s some lemonade in the fridge.”

I looked around in his cupboards until I found a glass, and then turned and opened the refrigerator. I was surprised to see that everything inside sported a piece of masking tape with different dates scrawled on with thick black marker. I brought the glass and a carton of lemonade over to Tom and started to pour.

After taking a drink, Tom pointed to the masking tape on the carton and said, “That’s an old time traveler’s trick. Mark everything with the date you bought it to make sure you don’t accidentally eat anything rotten or throw out anything that’s still good. Turns out that trick works out pretty good when you’re old and your memory starts going too.”

I returned the lemonade to the refrigerator and took a seat on Tom’s couch. “Speaking of time travel,” Tom said, “now that we’re out of earshot, I’ve got some things I need to tell you. Let me start by asking you something. If I’ve got the date right, you’re still steamed from that fight we had about the book, right?”

I was often caught off guard by Tom’s directness, and this was no exception. “No,” I stammered. “No, not really.”

“You can’t lie worth [expletive removed], you know that?” said Tom. “I had almost forgotten that about you.” Tom smiled for a moment and then his expression became serious and he looked away. “You’re right to be mad.  I don’t like apologizing more than once, but since you won’t hear the first time for a while, I guess I’ll have to. I was selfish and careless. I took advantage of your good faith, and I’m sorry.”

I looked over at Tom fidgeting in his recliner and staring down into the glass in his hands. I wondered how long he had lived thinking this fight between us was still important. “It’s OK,” I said. “Really, I’m not mad about it. I probably overreacted anyway.”

“Yeah, you did,” said Tom as he set his glass on an end table next to his recliner. “You should have had more faith in me, but that doesn’t matter now.” He finished his statement with a wave of his hand as if to keep me from responding. “We’ve got other things to discuss. How much time have you got?”

I looked down at my watch. “Well, it’s the weekend so I’m not in a big rush, but I was planning to be home before dinner-“

Tom cut me off. “Well I haven’t got much.”

“Much what?” I asked.

“Time, obviously,” Tom replied, gesturing to himself. “I’m an old fart if you hadn’t noticed.” Tom let out a deep sigh before he continued. “And I definitely don’t have time for tiptoeing around old fights. So are you sure you’re not mad?”

“I’m sure,” I replied. “Really. I’m fine and you don’t need to say another word about it.” As I said the words I was surprised to realize they were true. “So what do we need to talk about?”

Tom visibly relaxed and sat back in his chair. “For one thing,” said Tom, “I’m not time traveling anymore.”

“Really?” I asked. It was hard to imagine Tom ever giving up time travel.

“Yes, really,” said Tom, a little annoyed. “Time traveling was never entirely safe under the best circumstances, and these days it would just be downright foolish.”

“I’m just surprised,” I said. “I always assumed if you ever retired, you’d want to go back to whatever time period you’d be in if you never time traveled. You know, several decades from now when you would have been old naturally.”

“For a long time I assumed that too,” replied Tom, “but I’ve got a list of reasons why I settled on this time, and you’re on the list.”

I could tell that Tom’s last statement carried a lot of weight, and I took a moment for his words to sink in. “What do you need me to do?” I finally asked in a low voice.

“Bah!” Tom said waving his hand in my direction. “Don’t go getting all that serious on me. It’s not like I’m going to ask you to save the world or find my buried treasure. I just want you to visit me every so often. I’ve got no wife or kids or really any family worth mentioning. I just want somebody around during the time I’ve got left.”

Tom’s expression softened and his voice lowered as he continued. “Can you do that for me?” he asked. “Can you spare some of your time before mine runs out?”

I looked in the eyes of my oldest friend and saw a pleading and longing that I’d never seen in his eyes before. Tom was a proud man, and for him this request may have been one of the hardest things he had ever brought himself to do.

“Of course,” I replied. “What do you say we start up our weekly meetings again?”

After that initial visit to Tom’s cottage, I continued to meet with him every weekend for three months. Tom would sometimes be irritated at the constraints of giving up time travel, but for the most part he was content and always expressed gratitude for my visits. During my last visit in Tom’s cottage he seemed a bit dizzy as he walked around, but assured me he was fine and just needed some rest.

When I returned to visit Tom the following week, the receptionist at the front desk informed me that Tom had been moved to the Health Center in the main building, and that I could visit him there. I learned that Tom had fallen in his cottage, and the experience had left him unable to get around by himself. The staff said that they would try to help Tom get back into a condition that would allow him to return to his cottage, but Tom obviously thought that was unlikely.

“I knew once I bought my ticket in here, it would be a one-way trip,” he had said to me.

Tom’s words proved to be accurate. I continued my weekly visits, but Tom’s condition never seemed to improve. A few months after going into the Health Center, Tom had aspirated some fluid in his lungs and it became difficult for him to carry on a conversation with me for very long. After that our visits mostly consisted of me telling him about news in my life or reading aloud his old notes and journals that he had left in my care.

One day when I came to visit Tom, the nurse informed me that Tom had been sleeping since the night before, but I was welcome to try to wake him. Tom had always been a light sleeper, so when I couldn’t arouse him from sleep within a couple of minutes, it was clear he would not be waking up for me.

Roughly one year after my first visit to Tom’s cottage, I received a phone call at around 2:00 am. The caller had hung up before I could get to my phone, but I recognized the phone number as the phone in Tom’s room in the Health Center. I called back, but didn’t receive an answer.

I had considered calling the nurse’s line there at the Health Center, but I knew from previous experience that confidentiality laws would keep her from telling me anything specific about Tom since I wasn’t a family member. An hour later I kissed my wife on the forehead as I left to go see Tom.

The building was dark when I arrived, but luckily I met up with one of the caregivers who was outside taking a break. Since they recognized me, they let me follow them inside and talk to the nurse. The nurse informed me that she didn’t know of anyone there who would have called me, but I was welcome to sit with Tom since I was already there.

When I sat down in Tom’s room the digital clock on his table read 4:35 am. Tom’s breathing was shallow and raspy, but steady, much as it had been ever since he had failed to wake up. At 5:03 am Tom made a noise that sounded like an incredibly loud snore, and then his breathing sounded drastically different. His mouth began moving open and closed in a way that reminded me of a fish freshly brought out of the water.

After that, time moved in a bit of a blur for me. It was more like watching a movie go along than experiencing the events for myself. I pressed the call light in his room and one of the aides came in a minute later. The aide saw Tom’s breathing and quickly went to fetch the nurse. The nurse arrived to take Tom’s pulse and listen to his lungs with a stethoscope.

After listening to his lungs, the nurse sighed and looked over to me with a kind expression. “He’s already gone,” she said. “This is just his body going through the very end. You can stay with him if you like, but there isn’t anything we can do at this point.”

I stayed with Tom for a few more minutes until his movements stopped, and then it was over. His complexion became pale and a couple of minutes later the aide next to me put a rolled up towel under Tom’s jaw so it wouldn’t get stuck open.

For all the experiences I had ever heard about death, I had never expected it to be so peaceful or normal. One moment Tom was alive, and the next he wasn’t. There was no drama or suspense. He had no significant last words or insights to share with me. It wasn’t climactic or anticlimactic. It just was.

I stayed with Tom a few more minutes before another aide came in and informed me they would need to change Tom’s clothes and prepare him for getting picked up by the funeral home he had hired months ago.

I walked out of his room and stopped at the nurse’s station to thank her for everything. “It’s just wonderful you could be with him,” she had said. “I don’t know how you got that phone call, but obviously somebody wanted you here.”

I walked back to my car with a feeling somewhere between shock and contentment. I was sad that my friend was gone, but I was glad that he had gone so peacefully. I felt grief at the loss, but grateful that it was over. Perhaps that is why I was so surprised when I saw Tom leaning against the door of my car.

Of course, this was not the Tom I had just left in the Health Center. This Tom appeared to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s. The hair under his wide-brimmed hat was still dark brown, with only a hint of grey creeping in. He smiled broadly as he saw me walking up to him.

“Hi Tom,” I managed to say. “What are you doing here?”

“Not really sure, myself,” Tom replied with a shrug. “You were the one who gave me the breadcrumbs that brought me to these coordinates. So I think the real question is, what are you doing here?”

I was unsure how much I should say to Tom. He had always lectured me about limiting knowledge when speaking with time travelers, but also told me the best rule of thumb with time travel was to trust your instincts. I had never been terribly confident in my instincts, but I decided that if I had really given Tom the information that got him here, then I should probably go with what felt right.

I decided to tell him the truth. “I just came away from your deathbed, Tom,” I said. “You died about 30 minutes ago, and I was about to head home after seeing you die.”

For once, Tom genuinely looked surprised. “Oh,” he said. “Heh, well I didn’t see that one coming.”

After a moment he added, “That’s actually where I just came from too.” When I looked at him puzzled he clarified his statement. “From your deathbed, I mean. That’s where I got the breadcrumbs from. You had this letter in your pocket.” He pulled a crumpled and stained envelope from his inside jacket pocket that had his name written in my handwriting. “You know I’ve never been a very patient man, so I decided to jump to the coordinates as soon as I could break away from your family.”

I came up next to him and leaned against my car. I don’t know how long we both stood there just leaning on the car and looking up at the sky, but by the time one of us spoke again, the clouds were starting to light up from the rising sun.

“So,” I said, “we’re both dead, huh? That’s kind of weird.”

“Haha!” Tom laughed, “That’s got to be about the least eloquent thing I think I’ve ever heard you say!” After a moment he added, “True though.”

We heard the birds start to chirp in the trees and we saw the morning shift arrive to relieve the night shift nurse and aides in the Health Center. I could hear the traffic start to pick up on the busy street a few blocks away.

“Look,” Tom said, “about the book…”

“Don’t worry about it,” I interrupted. “You’ve already apologized, and I’m already at peace with it.”

“I did?” Tom asked, surprised. “Huh, OK. But look, that’s not what I was going to say. I wanted to talk to you about Volume 2.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You want me to write another one?”

“No, no,” Tom said, “that’s not what I mean. I mean a few times when I’ve time traveled to the future or met up with other time travelers, I’ve seen copies of The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2. They’re real books, not like the one you printed for me, and they have you listed as the author. I’ve never looked at them before because Future Tom had told me I wasn’t ready, but I think I get it now.”

“Go on,” I said.

“Look,” Tom said, “I’ve been selfish. I get that now. Time travel has been a lot of fun over the years, but that’s been about it. Fun. It’s always about me, and I think it’s time for me to change that.”

“How do you plan to do that?” I asked.

“I’ve met a lot of different time travelers in my life,” said Tom, “and I’m not the only one who would benefit from reading that book of yours. It really is very good.”

“So here’s what I’m suggesting,” he continued. “You find a publisher and get them to publish The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2, and then I can buy copies of the book and distribute it to time travelers I met when they are just starting out.”

“Who on earth would be willing to publish a ‘Volume 2’ book without a ‘Volume 1’ first?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” said Tom, “but you’re a smart guy. I’m sure you can figure it out.”

“Do you think I need to change much of what I’ve already got for Volume 2?” I asked.

“Nah,” Tom replied. “Maybe a footnote here or an edit there, but for the most part I think you can keep it pretty much as-is.”

“How would you feel about me adding an extra chapter at the end about your death and this little exchange we’re having now?” I asked.

“I guess that would be OK,” Tom said, “but what do you think the reader would get out of it?”

“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “Whatever they want to, I guess.”


The Currency of Time

As some of you already know, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our third child a little over two weeks ago. I mention this event for a few reasons. First, because I am very proud of my little family, and I like to shamelessly brag about them whenever possible. Second, to give my readers and followers an explanation for my recent lack of posts or updates to my book and to this blog. Third, because spending so much time with my new daughter and the rest of my family has provided me with an opportunity to ponder on the nature of spending time.

Early on in my writing of The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2, I knew that one of the major themes I wanted to address was the finite amount of time each of us has in this mortal existence, and taking a look at how that time is used. I’ve heard it said that time is our one truly limited resource. One of the concepts I try to convey early on in my book is that even time travelers have only so much time in their lives, and they must be as mindful as the rest of us concerning how they spend that time.

In truth, I think that the ability to time travel would add some significant challenges to the already difficult task of managing one’s time. I know that I would have a difficult time overcoming the temptations to skip back and forth only between the times and events in my life that are particularly exciting or gratifying. Why sit through the drudgery of the middle of a project if I could instead jump right from the excitement at the beginning to the satisfaction at the end? If I only have so much time in my life, wouldn’t that time be better spent on the really big, important stuff?

Ah, but there’s the danger in such a temptation. Most of the time the most important stuff is not really all that big, and the big stuff is often not really all that important. Of course some things are both big and important, like the birth of my daughter two weeks ago, but that lasted only about twenty minutes, and was surrounded on both sides by a lot of tedious waiting.

This very moment, I am writing this blog post at a slower pace as I type one-handed because I’m holding my daughter in my other arm. But what would be the alternative if I were a time traveler? Jump ahead a few months to when she doesn’t need to be constantly held? Jump forward a couple of years when she can talk and I can tell her to not bother me? Jump ahead a couple of decades to when she and her siblings have moved out and started their own families?

Though I can see the allure of these options, there is a voice in my head that firmly says, “No.” I am spending my time with my daughter. I am investing that temporal currency into a relationship with her as a father, and if I don’t make those deposits now, when will I?

And I don’t believe this temptation to “time travel” through life is an entirely fictional concern. One year ago this month, I read the following Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams:

Dilbert discovers the time machine in his pocket…

I was startled to realize how accurate this joke portrayed my own habits. There is no shortage of distractions and diversions in our modern world, and technology makes those distractions ever-easier to access at any time. How often do I “fast-forward through the boring parts of life” and dilute the investments of time I should be making to those people and endeavors in which I should be investing most heavily? Certainly I am as guilty of this practice as any.

I think that this diluting of time investments will only continue to escalate in a world that increasingly praises multi-tasking, and in which distractions are increasingly available. I hope that one of the outcomes of reading The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 2 will be causing the reader to reflect on the way the spend their own currency of time, and to be mindful of the dangers of fast-forwarding through the boring parts.

Informal Profile of Thomas Meriwether

I decided to call this an “informal profile” of Thomas Meriwether because I didn’t want anybody getting the idea in their heads that anything I write here is set in stone as a part of Tom’s character. As soon as I’d written the title for this post, however, I realized that if there is any kind of profile I could write about Tom, it would be an informal one. Tom, after all, is nothing if not informal.

When my good friend Todd read the first chapter I posted on this blog, his first question was, “Who is Tom?” I was surprised that the first chapter gave an insufficient introduction of the character, so I started explaining who Tom is and what role he plays in the book. After I finished, Todd clarified, “Oh, so he’s not a real person then.”

Let me take this moment to point out that Tom is, in fact, a fictional character. Like most characters though, he is inspired by a composite of many real people from both my own life and second-hand accounts. Keep in mind that at the time I write this post I am only seven chapters into the book, so his character is still somewhat pliable in my mind, but I would like to share who he is and who he is becoming in my mind.

Thomas Meriwether is a male time traveler, and a very close long-time friend of the narrator of the book. Tom was born in the early 1980’s and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. He and the narrator have been friends since their youth, but at some unspecified point in Tom’s young adult life he learned how to time travel and spent many years apart from his old friend until re-entering his life to begin collaborating on this book.

Tom is brilliant technically and scientifically, and capable of comprehending complex abstract concepts. His skills in writing and language would be considered average in the late 20th to early 21st centuries. Tom’s interpersonal and social skills are slightly below average, and he has a difficult time getting along with most “normal folk” (people who do not time travel.)

Despite his scientific brilliance, Tom considers himself more of an explorer than a scientist. He would probably identify more with Indiana Jones than with Doc Brown. (And being a child of the 80’s, he would be familiar with both references.)

The last name “Meriwether” is inspired by Meriwether Lewis of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. Growing up in the Oregon myself, Lewis and Clark are always the first people that come to my mind when I think of explorers, and I wanted Tom to have some kind of “explorer” last name. (I should point out, that based on my understanding of the two men’s personalities, Tom is really more like Lewis’ partner, William Clark, but I thought Meriwether was more distinctive.)

The majority of the quotes we get from Tom in the book are from when Tom is between his early 30’s and his late 40’s. (I should point out that while Tom and the narrator were the same age in their childhood, they are usually not the same age during their meetings after Tom begins his time travels. There is an advantage to this because of the maturity gap between the two friends.)

It has been suggested by a few people that I try to give the book more of a structured storyline with a traditional rising action, climax, and falling action. Though the final chapter of the book does give some form of resolution to Tom’s life, I have avoided painting a clear story arc to Tom’s life because I believe that most of us don’t really experience life that way. I think that we all experience periods of life with our own rising and falling action, but I don’t think most of us remember them that way. The book ends not with the conclusion of Tom’s conflict, but with the end of his life (and yet not.) The reader will just have to stick around to see how that plays out.

As I stated earlier, Tom is an amalgam of several influences. His intellect is necessary for his role, but also influenced by several of my brother-in-laws, many of whom have shown extreme intelligence beyond just the good sense of marrying my sisters. Tom’s pragmatic outlook and attitudes are largely based off my maternal grandfather (as well as Tom’s choice of wardrobe, though this is never expressly mentioned in the book. Lots of flannel and wide-brimmed hats.)

For Tom’s relationship with the narrator, I draw a lot of inspiration from my own childhood friendships that have continued into my adult life. Those emotional reference points have been especially instrumental as I develop the final chapter of the book.

Tom’s use of swearing is an interesting exercise for me. Like the narrator, I am really not comfortable with expletives, but I couldn’t bring myself to have gruff, unrefined Tom using words like “darn” and “crap” when he gets worked up. I do not think of Tom’s language as particularly vulgar or rude; he doesn’t swear to shock or impress the people around him. He’s just a guy who developed some bad habits in his language when he was younger, and he’s decided not to worry about it too much when it slips out. When I was a Mormon missionary in Arizona, I served with another missionary who once said, “It’s OK to swear if it makes the joke funnier. Some jokes just don’t work with ‘poop’ as the punchline.” I think Tom would probably say, “It’s OK to swear if it makes the story better.”

The more I write from Tom’s voice, the more attached to him I am. I hope my reader feels the same way as they make their way through the book. I also really want to make Tom believable to the reader, especially because of the fictitious subject of the book. I’d like to assume I’m off to a good start if one of my own best friends has to call and ask whether he’s real.

What are your impressions of Thomas Meriwether so far? Does he remind you of anyone? Does this description confirm or conflict with your own first impression? I’d love to know what you think in the comments below!

Chapter 7: Discretion is the Better Part of Valor [Preview]

As discussed in the last chapter, selectively limiting one’s knowledge of events outside of one’s normal timeline, known as “temporal cherry picking,” is a vital part of decreasing one’s Potential Paradox Proximity. On the other side of that proverbial coin is the practice of limiting one’s causal impact on visited timelines as well as limiting the contamination of one timeline with influences of another. Tom’s name for this practice is “temporal tiptoeing,” which is also the term we will use in this book.

For this chapter we will discuss the concepts and guidelines for successful temporal tiptoeing in two parts: limiting one’s impact on historical events and individuals, and minimizing the contamination of contemporary timelines with chronologically anomalous pollutants.

“Leave It as You Found It”

Recall from previous chapters that your Potential Paradox Proximity increases the closer you come to actions towards events or people that could lead to  self-contradictory scenarios. This applies not only to interacting with events or individuals that are formative in your own life (as discussed in Chapter 4), but also to events and people that have a significant impact on large populations.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“Remember back when we were Boy Scouts and we had that one adult leader with the bushy eyebrows and mustache who was really strict on campouts? I can’t remember his name, but we always called him Mr. Bushybrows when he wasn’t around.”


“I remember how whenever we were cleaning up the campsite, he’d go over every inch of the site and whenever he found something he’d say, ‘Leave it as you found it!’ We thought it was pretty obnoxious at the time, but it turns out that slogan applies pretty well to time traveling too.”

Chapter 6: Ignorance is (Sometimes) Bliss [Draft 1]

Among other things, time travel is first and foremost a means of discovery and exploration. Perhaps that is why the idea of purposefully limiting one’s knowledge seems so counterintuitive to so many time travelers at the beginning of their journey. In fact, there is a great deal of knowledge that is essential for successful time travel, and the key is to discern which knowledge to seek, and which knowledge to avoid.

The act of deliberately limiting one’s knowledge of events and facts outside one’s typical chronological order is a practice that Tom and I refer to as “temporal cherry picking.” This chapter will attempt to give you an understanding of why temporal cherry picking matters, as well as provide you with tips and guidelines for avoiding “rotten cherries.”

Curiosity Might Kill the Cat

To understand the importance of temporal cherry picking, it is important to understand the concept of temporal superpossibilities. Recall from earlier chapters that according to the Continuity Principle, any event that exists in a given timeline must exist in that timeline. The concept of temporal superpossibilities is the idea that the events in one’s timeline are capable of nearly infinite possibilities until those events are observed.

The name of this concept is derived from similarities to the concept of quantum superposition. In very simple terms, the idea of quantum superposition is that some particles exist partially in all of their possible states until they are observed. Once observed, the state of that particle is defined, and henceforth exists in only one state.

One famous illustration of the mathematical implications of quantum superposition is “Schrödinger’s Cat.” In this example, a cat’s life hangs in the balance based on the state of a sub-atomic particle. The cat and particle in question are both hidden from sight, so until the result is observed the cat is, mathematically speaking, considered both alive and dead.

At this point the reader may ask, “But what do sub-atomic particles and undead cats have to do with temporal cherry picking?” The answer is that they have nothing at all to do with temporal cherry picking, other than their use as analogies. The states of these sub-atomic particles (or the physical well-being of poor Mr. Schrödinger’s cat) are undetermined and capable of multiple outcomes until observed. Likewise, the events in your own future, as well as the timelines of others, are open to untold possibilities until observed.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“For folks who don’t time travel, they go through every moment of their lives with the next moment in a state of temporal superpossibility. They have no idea what will happen, so nearly anything can happen. I understand how that scares the [expletive removed] out of some people, but I think that’s because they’ve never had to think about the alternative.”


“When I first started time traveling, all of my trips were just to the past and back. I had been at it for a couple years before I tried my first jump forward. I had some vague idea about temporal cherry picking, though I didn’t call it that at the time, so I decided to jump a full 200 years into the future.”


“I had a fun time on that trip. I avoided looking up any info about me or people I know, and I felt like I had done a pretty good job at temporal cherry picking. But here’s the thing, you can’t time travel without gaining some knowledge. If nothing else, I learned that the earth was still around in 200 years.”


“Before that trip, every day I woke up was a day that the planet could’ve been hit by an asteroid and blown to smithereens. After that trip I knew there was no way that could happen for at least 200 years. To at least some small degree, my future was in a decreased state of temporal superpossibility.”


“Not that I’d ever wish for the earth to blow up or anything like that, of course! But something is lost when the possibilities of your future are limited, even slightly. It’s something every time traveler should keep in mind.”


Setting Limits on the Limitless

Aside from the sentimentality of preserving a state of temporal superpossibility in one’s own future, temporal cherry picking is also important as it has a direct impact on your efforts to avoid potential paradox situations. Recall the account of the time traveler Ralph in the last chapter, and his failed attempts to prevent his father’s accident. One of the great limiters of Ralph’s actions in that scenario was the fact that it was knowledge of those events that had motivated his trip through time in the first place.

But what of changing or preventing events based on knowledge of what will happen in one’s future? Again, the Continuity Principle still applies.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“I knew one time traveler named Debbie who used to take her dog with her on all of her trips. She loved that dog more than I think some people love their families. Well one day Debbie gets a visit from Future Debbie, and she knows something’s wrong because there’s no dog with Future Debbie.”


“Future Debbie is in hysterics screaming about the dog getting hit by a car, and she has to stop it. Now Debbie’s a smart lady and a good time traveler, but she just lost all her good sense once she heard about the dog.”


“So to try to protect her dog, Debbie starts locking the thing up in the house and only lets it out to do its business. Well of course that doesn’t go over well with the dog. It was an outside dog and didn’t like being cooped up like that. So one day Debbie gets home and opens the door to come inside and the dog bursts out the door at top speed, and its so excited to finally be outside again that it doesn’t see the car zooming down the street.”


“Now you might be thinking, ‘But Debbie wasn’t trying to change the past, she was just trying to change her future. Why couldn’t she stop it from happening?’ But you have to remember that it was Future Debbie who warned her about it in the first place. Why would she have come back with a warning unless it had actually occurred?”


The Clear Advantage of Vague Information

When faced with the limitations that come with knowledge of events in one’s timeline, it is worth recognizing that not all knowledge is equally restrictive. Depending on the information and the manner in which it was gathered, there may still be variation possible within the events leading to that information. Tom likes to refer to such a range of variation as “temporal wiggle room.”

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“The more specific and detailed the info is, and the more credible the source, the less temporal wiggle room you have. Likewise, the more vague and general and inaccurate the info is, the more temporal wiggle room you have.”


“Remember when I told you about Lenny and his lost backpack? See, he knew that the backpack went missing, but he didn’t know what exactly happened to it. That’s why he was able to take it back into the future with him, because what he did still fit with the knowledge that he had. If he had known that the backpack was burned to ashes or blew up or something, going back in time and getting it never would have worked.”


“Since Lenny’s knowledge of the backpack was vague, he had a lot of temporal wiggle room.”


It is also worth noting that the concept of temporal wiggle room applies to past events as well as future events. Once again, the amount of temporal wiggle room is in direct relation to the precision, accuracy, and quantity of the information available.

A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“I once dated a girl named Jane, who was also a time traveler. Now any relationship is bound to have its share of complications, but two time travelers dating each other is just asking for trouble. There’s nothing more awkward than getting a visit from your girlfriend in the past who doesn’t realize that you end up breaking up in the future.”


“Well anyway, Jane was beautiful and smart and totally idolized Amelia Earhart. Jane always thought of herself as an explorer, and she said it was Amelia Earhart that had always inspired her.”


“So Jane traveled to the past a few times to meet Amelia. She even took me with her once. It was never anything big or remarkable; she just wanted to meet her. Turns out Amelia was a real nice lady, and actually did remind me a lot of Jane.”


“After a few more visits, Jane gets the idea into her head that she wants to save Amelia’s life. I tried talking her out of it, but it turned out she had really thought the whole thing through, so decided to just stay out of her way.”


“Say what you will about Jane’s taste in men, but that woman knows how to time travel! She worked out the timing and location so good that she ended up getting Amelia, her navigator fellow, and the whole [expletive removed] plane in one jump. She ended up dropping them off sometime in the mid-24th Century where they lived out the rest of their lives pretty comfortably.”


“And you know why Jane could do that? Because even though everybody knows that Amelia Earhart disappeared, nobody knows for sure exactly what happened. It was that uncertainty that gave Jane the temporal wiggle room she needed.”


In my own life, the concept of temporal wiggle room became particularly clear one December when my daughter had a hard time withholding information about one of my Christmas presents. As we enjoyed a quiet evening at home, she snuggled up on my lap and whispered in my ear, “I’m so excited for you to open the sweater me and Mom got for you!”

At that moment, the concept of temporal wiggle room suddenly became very real and concrete for me. I knew that the object in the box under the tree was a sweater. (There was a chance of course that my four-year-old was lying to me, but it seemed unlikely.) On the other hand, I knew nothing else about the gift. I did not know the color, style, or material of the sweater. Perhaps it had a picture of a reindeer or the words “World’s Best Daddy” emblazoned across the front. I still had some “wiggle room” that allowed me some mystery before Christmas morning.

Fallible Sources

As long as we are on the topic of four-year-olds, let’s discuss the first guideline to temporal cherry picking: Gather information from fallible sources. Ironically, it is often advisable to use sources with a high margin of error when researching events with which you desire to participate. Often these sources will give you a good overview of events, but still leave some temporal wiggle room with the details. Below are a few tips for identifying such sources:

  • Seek second or third-hand accounts of events from neighbors or relatives of involved parties.
  • In general, avoid written sources, especially in print. Instead, try to obtain information through oral means, such as personal interviews.
  • When interviewing sources, try to ask questions about how events made them feel or what kind of personal impact they experienced rather than a direct accounting of events or details.
  • If conducting research between the years 1993-2036 A.D., try to search for information on websites that feature several repeating animations or advertisements for dating websites and weight-loss supplements. Avoid any websites ending with “.edu” or “.gov” in the address.
  • Avoid any video or audio recordings whenever possible. If researching news broadcasts becomes necessary, try to focus your research on news pundits and commentators, rather than actual reporters.

Quit When You’re Behind

If you gain access to information about your future that you find troubling, resist the temptation to uncover more details about that information. Keep in mind that even the most disturbing news can turn out all right in the end if you give yourself some temporal wiggle room.

One example of this (though an unintentional one) is the case of Debbie and her dog.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“So it turned out that when future Debbie went back in time to warn herself about the dog getting hit by the car, the dog hadn’t even died yet. She took it to the vet, and the vet told her, ‘Well, it doesn’t look good,’ and that’s when she flipped out and went back in time to warn herself.”


“Once Future Debbie gets a hold of herself and goes back to the vet’s office, she finds out the dog lives after all! It has a limp for the rest of its life, but the dog still lives for several more years.”


Written In Stone

Successful time traveling requires planning, preparation, and research, but time travelers would do well to avoid excessive information gathering about the future. The key takeaway of this chapter is that when time traveling, try to focus more on the time you are in than the time you traveled from or the time you are traveling to next. Getting some hints about your Christmas presents might be fun, but it can also limit what you might get.

 Glossary Terms Glossary of Terms

  • Temporal Cherry Picking – The practice of selectively gathering or avoiding certain information in order to prevent limiting possible events or outcomes in one’s timeline.
  • Temporal Superpossibilities – The theoretical state of being in which events and outcomes exist until they are observed. A events in a state of true temporal superpossibility may play out in nearly infinite ways.
  • Temporal Wiggle Room – An informal term for a variance in possible events or outcomes provided through varying degrees of vague, general, and/or incomplete information of events in one’s timeline.

Chapter 5: Avoiding a Paradox (When In Doubt, Guess) [Draft 1]

In popular works of fiction about time travel, the word “paradox” is often brandied about in dark and foreboding tones of potential doom. Brilliant scientists ominously warn of the destructive and far-reaching effects of paradoxes, heroes must often attempt to prevent or correct them, villains carry out dastardly plots without heed to their dangers, and always in the background the paradox awaits to be unleashed at even the slightest misplaced movement of a butterfly wing.

But what of the reality of paradoxes? What are they really, and what actual threat do they pose to time travelers? If they are really so destructive and easy to create, as works of fiction would have us believe, then why hasn’t the space/time continuum already been blasted asunder by so many amateur time travelers out there?

Defining a Contradiction

A paradox is any event or series of events that is self-contradictory. It is the antithesis of a temporal causality loop. According to the Continuity Principle, a paradox is theoretically impossible. An expression of a paradox could be a scenario in which Event A causes Event B, Event B causes Event C, and Event C prevents Event A from taking place. In such a scenario, the prevention of Event A would also prevent the subsequent occurrences of Event B and Event C, in which case Event A would not have been prevented in the first place.

 Further Understanding Further Understanding:

Often in the English language you may hear the term “paradoxically” or “a seeming paradox” when referring to attributes or relationships that are counterintuitive, but not truly a paradox.


A well-known example of such a concept is the story of the time traveler who kills himself. In this story a man invents a time machine and uses it to go back in time one year and kills his younger self before he finishes building the time machine. Because the time traveler is killed and his machine is unfinished, the existence of the time traveler’s future self becomes impossible, as does his subsequent attack on his past self.

If the concept of a paradox gives you a headache, consider that a good sign. Think of that headache as your brain trying to tell you not to steer clear of paradoxes, which also happens to be the key takeaway of this chapter. Creating a paradox is impossible, and attempting to do so will inevitably lead to complication and often misery to those who try.

Where’s the Harm?

To ask, “What is the danger in creating a paradox?” is to ask a flawed question. It would be similar to asking what would happen if one were to create a perfect vacuum in a jar, cool an object to below zero degrees Kelvin, or accelerate to a speed greater than 186,283 miles per second. There is no danger in doing any of these things, because they are all theoretically impossible.

The danger of a paradox is not in creating one, but in attempting to create one, or finding yourself in a situation that approaches a potential paradox.

A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“You ever heard the expression ‘nature abhors a vacuum’? Well, the universe really, really abhors a paradox. I’ve met plenty of time travelers who have tried to create one, and they’ve all failed.”


“Why would anyone actually try to make a paradox? Well I guess they’ve all got their reasons. Some think they’re being noble by trying to evacuate Pompeii or prevent the bubonic plague or stop the 9/11 attacks. Some just want to disprove the Continuity Principle for academic reasons. A few are just crazy [expletive removed] who want to see if they can make the universe explode. Whatever their reasons are, they never succeed, and it usually blows up in their faces.”


“I figure most paradox attempts aren’t even recorded because so many of them are done by one-offs. A ‘one-off’ is one of those guys who invent a way to time travel, and then jumps into it without thinking things through… including Spatial Correction. Their paradox creation attempts usually just end with them floating in space or buried under a hundred miles of rock.”


“Paradox creation attempts by accomplished time travelers usually don’t end as quickly or fatally, but do tend to be a lot more complicated and messy.”


“I knew this one time traveler named Ralph who was always really upset about an accident that left his dad with brain damage after a construction crane dropped some supplies on him. Ralph was a pretty smart guy and a decent time traveler, but he let himself get too hung up on changing the past. Eventually he decided to go back in time and force the crane operator to leave for the day, and take his place to keep anyone else from getting in.”


“But Ralph has no idea what he’s doing using a crane, right? So he ends up being the one who dropped the load on his dad in the first place! Ralph tried a bunch more trips to try to stop the accident from happening or even stop himself from getting involved, but each time he just implicated himself further in the event until he just went nuts and killed himself.”


“See one of the things that Ralph didn’t think about (which a lot of people don’t think about) is that if he had actually succeeded in preventing the accident, then Young Ralph would have had no reason to make that trip to the past in the first place. And if he didn’t make the trip, he couldn’t have stopped the accident. And so on, and so on.”


“Now they’re not all that bad. I knew one guy named Lenny who had a pretty harmless brush with a paradox attempt. Lenny isn’t stupid, but his is a bit slow. I tried to explain the Continuity Principle to him, but he just didn’t get it at first.”


“So Lenny loses his backpack one day, and he’s really upset about it because it has a lot of his stuff in it. He looks and looks and can’t find it, so he decides to go back in time to when he lost it so he can just put it back in its usual spot. Well, when he gets there he sees that it’s already in its usual spot.”


“Fortunately at that point the light bulb finally clicked on in Lenny’s head and he gets it. He finally understands what I was trying to tell him about the Continuity Principle. So instead of making things any harder on himself, he just picks up the backpack and takes it with him back to the future. And of course that’s how it went missing in the first place, so he’s closed the temporal causality loop.


There are countless more examples of paradox creation attempts that went awry, and many of them are far more tragic than the previous account of Ralph, but the overall lesson to be learned is this: Don’t go chasing paradoxes, and don’t try changing events in one’s timeline. Like all scientific theories, the Continuity Principle cannot be definitively proven, but every attempt to disprove it has failed. For all practical purposes, the reader would do well to consider the Continuity Principle fact.

 Important Note IMPORTANT NOTE: If you or someone you know is still considering the pursuit of paradox creation, please seek further support from the time traveling community. Time travelers in the United States with access to the early 21st century can contact “Time 4 You,” a paradox support group, by telephone at 4154-TIME4U (415-484-6348).

Based on the motivation behind paradox seeking activities, seeking the help of a mental health professional or grief counselor may also be appropriate.


Keeping a Safe Distance

The most important step to protecting yourself from the effects of potential paradox proximity is to consciously make the choice avoid paradoxes. Once you have resolved to avoid potential paradoxes, there are some good general guidelines to keep yourself as far away as possible from such situations. The remainder of this chapter will focus on some of these guidelines, while the two following chapters will offer more detailed instruction.

The first guideline is to keep a safe distance from any events that approaches a potential contradiction event. In general, time travelers are encouraged to visit each point in time and space only once. Avoid interacting with people, events, or objects that were formative in your personal development or significant factors in choices made in your past.

Avoid participating in temporal causality loops. By their very nature, temporal causality loops cannot be prevented, but you should avoid seeking them out or putting yourself in situations where they might occur. Every temporal causality loop comes precariously close to a potential paradox scenario, because any incomplete temporal causality loop is a paradox. Do not go seeking temporal causality loops unless you are prepared to see them through their completion.

Keep interactions with your past and future selves to a minimum. Recall from the last chapter that Perpetually Recurring Knowledge can have considerable drawbacks, so minimizing these encounters is often good advice in general. There is no quicker route to a temporal causality loop than talking to yourself.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Most folks would get along just fine and avoid a lot of headache and heartache if they’d just remember to use some [expletive removed] common sense. Of course that doesn’t mean I’ve always used common sense, but just look at the headaches I’ve had to deal with because of it!”


When in Doubt, Guess

Sometimes, despite your best intentions or planning, you may find yourself in a scenario or series of events that skirts precariously close to being a potential paradox. What do you do if you find yourself in such a predicament? The first step is to remain calm. Remember that as long as you are not actively trying to cause a paradox, the Principle of Continuity is on your side.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Oftentimes getting all worked up over how to prevent a paradox can create almost as much grief as trying to cause one. There’s no need to over-think it; you’ve just got to let things play out.”


“A couple of years after Lenny had his backpack epiphany he came to me all panicked and upset. See, Lenny had just been visited by his future self with some trivial piece of advice, and he was worried about closing the loop right. He got especially fixated on this fancy wristwatch that Future Lenny was wearing, because he didn’t know where to find a watch like that.”


“I tried telling Lenny to just go on normally and not to worry about it, but like I said, Lenny is kind of slow. So he spends a small fortune trying to manufacture this watch that Future Lenny had. (Lenny’s slow, but he’s also filthy rich.) But he’s never satisfied with the result, so he just keeps making watch after watch because he’s afraid that if he doesn’t get it just right he’s going to cause a paradox.”


“So here’s Lenny getting more and more stressed out every year because he’s afraid he’s getting older than Future Lenny looked during his visit, or he nicked himself while shaving and it might give him a scar that Future Lenny didn’t have. And I mean he is really losing sleep over this. He thinks if he can’t figure this out it will literally be the end of the world.”


“And then one day Lenny goes to the mall to get a cinnamon roll, and he sees this kiosk selling the exact same watch that Future Lenny had on. Turns out the watch wasn’t even that fancy; it was just a cheap knockoff! So Lenny sees the watch and that light bulb finally turns on in his head again. He buys the watch, goes back to visit Past Lenny, and closes the loop.”


“All that all worry and effort was for nothing! The best thing to do when you’re in a temporal loop is to just relax and let things happen. If you’re not sure exactly what to do, go with what feels right. Here’s my personal rule of thumb for closing temporal loops and avoiding paradoxes: When in doubt, guess.”


In some ways successfully avoiding paradoxes can be compared to learning how to ride a bike: The more you focus on not falling down, the harder it is to stay up. Just keep moving forward, don’t break any rules of the road, and pay attention to common best practices. The following two chapters will provide you with greater detail on how to follow two important best practices of time travel: limiting excessive event knowledge and limiting excessive temporal exposure…

 Glossary Terms Glossary of Terms

  • Temporal Causality Loop – A theoretically impossible phenomenon in which the events in a timeline are prevented by the very effects of those same events, leading to chain of events that is self-contradictory. For example, Event A would lead to Event B, which would lead to Event C, which would prevent Event A. Without Event A, Event B and Event C could no longer occur, preventing the prevention of Event A, and so on.

Chapter 4: Neither Made Nor Unmade [Draft 1]

Among experienced time travelers, no topic evokes quite as wide a range of emotions and opinions as the use of Perpetually Recurring Phenomena. Some time travelers view these phenomena with distrust and distain and will go to great lengths to avoid them, while others endow in them a level of faith and reverence that borders on worship. Some view them as tools to be used and others regard them as a force of nature.

This chapter is intended to define what Perpetually Recurring Phenomena are, as well as explore some of the controversy surrounding them, dispel some common myths, and provide some advice for dealing with them.

Without Beginning or End

A Perpetually Recurring Phenomenon is anything that exists in a given timeline that has no origin other than its own existence. They exist in unending temporal loops and lack any defined creation or conclusion. They exist because they exist. The three classifications of Perpetually Recurring Phenomena that we will address in this chapter are Perpetually Recurring Knowledge, Perpetually Recurring Objects, and Perpetually Recurring Beings.

An Idea from Nowhere

The most common type of Perpetually Recurring Phenomena is Perpetually Recurring Knowledge. Tom likes to call these “hand-me-down ideas” because they are often passed on from one’s future self to their past self. Perpetually Recurring Knowledge is any fact, suggestion, or concept that has no defined origin, but is perpetuated by being passed along in a temporal causality loop.

For example, let’s say that I’ve purchased a new puppy and can’t decide on a name. Suddenly I am visited by myself from a year in the future, and my future self tells me to name the dog Clyde. Trusting my future self, I name the puppy Clyde and find that the name suits the dog just fine. One year later I decide to travel back in time to inform my past self what to name the dog.

In this scenario, where did the name “Clyde” come from? You might say that the name originated from my future self, but where did my future self get the idea? He received the idea from his future self, who received it from his future self, ad infinitum. (And for the sake of clarity, the reader would do well to remember that all those “future selves” are really the same person.)

So where did the name “Clyde” come from in this scenario? Many philosophical and metaphysical answers have been offered for that question, but for the sake objectivity, in this book we will say they come from “nowhere.” Within the temporal causality loop in which they exist, these ideas are passed along and received in an infinite cycle, with no beginning or end.

It is worth noting that unlike the other two classifications of Perpetually Recurring Phenomena, Perpetually Recurring Knowledge can, and often does, continue to exist outside of its own infinite loop. In the example of Clyde the puppy, after going back in time to pass on the name to my past self, the infinite loop would be complete, yet my dog would presumably live beyond that first year, and his name along with him.

Later in this chapter we will address the validity and accuracy of Perpetually Recurring Knowledge, but for now we will move on to exploring the other two classifications of Perpetually Recurring Phenomena.

The Unbreakable Sword

Like all Perpetually Recurring Phenomena, Perpetually Recurring Objects lack any defined point of origin, but they also possess one specific property that make them considerably more rare and valuable. This property is the fact that all Perpetually Recurring Objects must remain entirely unchanged throughout the duration of their own respective temporal loops.

 Important Note IMPORTANT NOTE: If you ever encounter a time traveler offering to sell you a Perpetually Recurring Object, it will almost certainly be a fake.

One of my personal favorites of Tom’s accounts is also perhaps the best way to illustrate the concept of Perpetually Recurring Objects, as well as this unique quality that they possess.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“One of the most interesting time travelers I’ve ever met was a guy named Myrddin Wyllt. You’d know him better as Merlin. And let me tell you, I don’t think there’s ever been a human being, in the past or future, who is as much an expert on Perpetually Recurring Phenomena as him.”


“One of the crazy things about Merlin is that he doesn’t just understand PRP’s, he uses them like [expletive removed] tools on a tool belt. His brain just kinda works different than most folks and he… gets it. He gets it at a way deeper level than you or me ever could. Most of the legends about his magic and stuff are from the way he could use PRP’s.”


“The most impressive thing that Merlin ever did was Excalibur. See, there was this kid that Merlin had been messing with since before the kid was even born, and Merlin knew that he was going to make him king. So one day Merlin takes this kid down to a lake near the kid’s home and tells him to get in. Well the kid’s gotten used to Merlin’s crazies after all these years, so he does.”


“The moment the kid disturbs the water, a Temporal Doorway opens up in front of him and a [expletive removed] woman steps through, and she’s carrying a sword. A [expletive removed] sword! So the lady hands the kid the sword, turns around and goes back through the Temporal Doorway. After the doorway closes Merlin turns to the kid and basically says, ‘OK, you’re the king now. Good luck!’ and just leaves him standing in the lake.”


“So there’s two things you need to know about this sword. First of all, it’s unbelievably sharp. You’d probably have to measure its sharpness at the molecular level. You know that story about the Sword in the Stone? That story comes from this one time when some guy challenged the kid after he became king, and instead of fighting him the king just walks over with Excalibur and stabs a [expletive removed] boulder. And then he pulls out his sword and cuts the [expletive removed] thing in half! After that nobody ever really felt like bothering him for a long time.”


“The other thing you need to know about Excalibur is that it’s invincible. Now you know I don’t like to exaggerate, so you should know I don’t just mean it is really tough or durable or something. I mean it is literally invincible. It can’t break, it doesn’t dull, it can’t be scratched, and it can’t even be polished. And of course that’s essential because it’s a Perpetually Recurring Object.”


“OK, so to cut a really long story short, the king’s life is great, except when it’s not, and Merlin is in and out of the picture a lot. During one particularly bad battle, the king is mortally wounded and Merlin shows up and tells the king to come with him to the same lake where he got Excalibur. The king thinks that Merlin’s got some way to magically heal him, so he goes with him.”


“When they get to the lake, the same Temporal Doorway opens up and the exact same lady steps through. She’s just come from the moment right after the kid first took the sword. Merlin tells the king to give her the sword, so he does. After that the lady goes back through the doorway, and she goes back to the past to give the sword to the king when he was still a kid, and the cycle goes on and on.”

The reason that I share that story (other than its significant entertainment value) is because the sword in this story is such an excellent illustration of a Perpetually Recurring Object. Excalibur exists within its own temporal loop with no definite origin. Its inherent invincibility is essential for its existence because if it could be scratched or dulled (even slightly) it would be worn away into nothingness in an infinite temporal loop.

Angels, Demons, Sphinxes, and Ladies in Lakes

In addition to providing an excellent example of a Perpetually Recurring Object, Tom’s story about Merlin and Excalibur also offers us an account of a Perpetually Recurring Being. Recall from the story that Tom mentioned a “woman” who gave Excalibur to the young king and then took it back at the end of his life. (In western mythology this being is often referred to as the aptly named “Lady of the Lake.) A being such as this is an example of a Perpetually Recurring Being, and not simply another time traveler like Tom, Merlin, or many of you reading this book.

There are some key distinctions between Perpetually Recurring Beings and normal time travelers. Like all Perpetually Recurring Phenomena, Perpetually Recurring Beings have no defined origin, and exist within a temporal loop. Strictly speaking, they are not mortal. The Lady of the Lake was never born and she will never die. Her entire existence consists of carrying Excalibur from the future to the past, and then returning to the future to retrieve it again in an infinite loop.

Another distinction between Perpetually Recurring Beings and normal time travelers is their utter constancy of characteristics throughout their respective temporal loops. For some that may mean indestructibility similar to the quality seen in Excalibur, and for others it may mean an ability to heal, repair, or restore any damage or other change sustained during the duration of its temporal loop.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“The most helpful Perpetually Recurring Being I’ve encountered is an autonomous robot we call Deus. Deus isn’t its real name, but me and a bunch of other time travelers named it Deus Ex Machina as a joke because it’s inexplicably saved our necks in so many tight spots.”


“Deus isn’t indestructible, but it has the ability to fix itself perfectly. I once saw it get one of its arms blown off, and then later reattach it exactly as it was before. And I mean exactly. It’s capable of self-restoration at the sub-atomic level. No circuitry or battery degradation. The tech inside that thing defies any time period because it wasn’t created in any defined time period.

Another clue that a creature is a Perpetually Recurring Being is its lack of observable emotion. This is not a defining characteristic, but rather a commonly observed trait. This trait is likely advantageous, if not essential, for Perpetually Recurring Beings because of the nature of their existence.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“One of the most destructive PRB’s I ever came across was a sphinx over near the Mediterranean a few thousand years ago. (I was about to call it the ‘meanest’ PRB I ever came across, but terms like ‘nice’ and ‘mean’ really aren’t accurate for PRB’s.) This thing’s entire existence consisted of giving some [expletive removed] disturbing news to King Laius about his son Oedipus, and then just hanging around killing anyone who couldn’t answer its riddle. When someone finally did answer the riddle, the thing jumped back in time to start the whole thing over again.”


“Now I’ve met some reprobates in my time, but I’ve never met a human that could do something like that an infinite amount of times, and still keep the same steely gaze that thing had. If a creature like that possesses even an ounce of compassion or emotion, that existence would have to be one special kind of hell. Not to mention just the boredom of doing the exact same thing for all eternity.”

Perpetually Recurring Beings can appear in myriad forms or incarnations. There are accounts of Perpetually Recurring Beings that looked like regular humans, wild and domesticated animals, divine messengers, demonic tormentors and tricksters, ghosts, legendary beasts, and other mythical figures and creatures. No two accounts of Perpetually Recurring Beings are exactly alike, and all should be handled with caution.

 Further Understanding Further Understanding:

Some have speculated that Merlin himself is a Perpetually Recurring Being, due to the rumor that as a time traveler Merlin sired himself. While not entirely impossible, based on an understanding of human genetics this theory is highly improbable at best.

Even if this rumor were true, the fact that Merlin was at some point born and at a later time died would exclude him from being considered a Perpetually Recurring Being. In such a scenario Merlin’s existence could be viewed loosely as a Perpetually Recurring Phenomenon, but such a hypothetical scenario is purely conjecture.

Divine Intervention or Temporal Flatulence?

Much of the controversy surrounding Perpetually Recurring Phenomena stems from the debate around the many theories of where these phenomena come from, especially concerning Perpetually Recurring Knowledge.

Some time travelers hold the belief that because Perpetually Recurring Phenomena have no defined origin; their actual origin lies in the very fabric of the universe itself. They therefore conclude that Perpetually Recurring Knowledge is a form of pure absolute truth, and regard any recorded Perpetually Recurring Knowledge as infallible and elevate it to a status similar to scripture.

Some time travelers subscribe to a belief that all Perpetually Recurring Knowledge comes at a terrible price, and is, in a sense, cursed. Many of them believe that Perpetually Reoccurring Phenomena are some kind of cosmic retribution against humans who break the laws of time. They acknowledge that much Perpetually Recurring Knowledge does contain truth; but that much of it also twists or modifies the truth and some of it just spreads outright lies. They also hold that a life touched by any Perpetually Recurring Knowledge (regardless of its degree of veracity) is irrevocably changed for the worse. Time travelers who subscribe to this philosophy will often resort to extreme measures, and some would say paranoia, to avoid contact with any Perpetually Recurring Phenomena.

The majority of time travelers’ views often sit somewhere between these two extreme views. Tom’s opinions on the subject tend to rest in a more pragmatic middle ground.

A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“I’m going to read you a poem. This poem is written down in my notes, so for once you can include it word-for-word in your book. I was given this poem last week by my future self, and next week I’m going to go back in time and give it to myself exactly as I’m about to read it to you.”


“Here it is:

I once had a cat who was very fat

Outside he played, and he liked to get laid

He clawed up my couch when he was a grouch

He shredded my oranges and made my life [expletive removed]


“Now you know what’s cosmically significant about that poem? Absolutely nothing. It’s a crappy poem about a cat I’ve never even owned. And you know who wrote it? The exact same [expletive removed] that creates all Perpetually Recurring Phenomena. So you’ll excuse me if I regard hand-me-down ideas more like temporal flatulence than divine intervention. The only inherent quality that all hand-me-down ideas have is that somebody was willing to pass them on.”

So if the example provided above is so benign, what is the reason for the ominous warning at the end of the last chapter? Well besides attempting to use a literary device known as a “hook,” it is my desire to convey a sense of caution in overusing or over-seeking Perpetually Recurring Knowledge.

A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Like I said before, Merlin really knows his stuff when it comes to PRP’s. It’s the guy’s specialty, and he really knows how to make them work out in his favor. But for every example like Merlin, there are probably twenty or more like my buddy Phil.”


“Phillip Starsmoore is a time traveler that I’ve bumped into several times in my travels. He kind of reminds me of you, actually. I’ve seen him young, old, and in-between, and he’s always really smart and good for a conversation about time travel. (Unlike you, he’s also a genius when it comes to the technical side of the discussion.) All-in-all, the guy’s got a terrific brain.”


“But here’s the sad part. When he was young he was visited by himself from about forty years in the future and Future Phil gives Young Phil plans for building a time machine. Future Phil also explains that the plans are hand-me-down ideas, and so he should stick to them. So Young Phil builds the machine, and despite some moderate nausea he experiences every time he jumps, he’s pleased with the result.”


“The first time I ever met Phil was when I was taking some photos in Georgia during the American Civil War. Phil was there doing some research on some unmarked graves he had been writing a paper on. We traded tips on good places to eat in that era and talked shop about time travel tech.”


“When Phil mentioned the nausea he was experiencing every jump, I thought the problem seemed pretty obvious, and offered a solution. Phil admitted that he had thought of the same thing, but since the method he was using was a hand-me-down idea, he was sure there must be some reason that the method existed that way, and he didn’t want to mess with the design.”


“I continued to bump into Phil several times after that, and we even met up on purpose now and then. Every time I would ask how things were with his nausea problem, and he always just said that he didn’t want to mess with it, and he was getting by just fine. Truth be told, he always looked a bit worse each time, but I figured that was just on account of his age.”


“Several years later (as measured in Phil’s personal timeline) he tracked me down to let me know that he had finally taken the trip to visit himself in the past, pass on the hand-me-down plans, and close the loop. He also wanted to let me know that after finishing the trip he took another look at his machine and realized that we had been right about the problem all those years ago. He also discovered that the flaw in the machine that was making him nauseous every time was also exposing him to temporal radiation that had eventually given him terminal cancer.”


“Phil’s a smart guy! He’s got a [expletive removed] amazing brain! But because he was using hand-me-down plans, he stopped using that brain and assumed that it was impossible that he could improve on it. He put too much trust in a [expletive removed] PRP.”


“Hand-me-down ideas can be useful every now and then, but I’d much rather trust an idea that actually comes from someplace, you know? Even if it is a regular old human brain.”


“So you know that book we’ve been talking about making? That’s why I want you to write it, and why I don’t want you using any [expletive removed] recording devices when we talk. Because I’m going to give the first copy we ever make to Young Tom back when I first started. I know I’m going to do that because I remember getting that copy years ago from Future Tom, and I’ve still got that copy in my suitcase back in my hotel room. And before you ask, no you can’t copy from it to save you the trouble of writing it, because I don’t want the book to just be full of hand-me-downs. It needs to come from an actual brain, and I want it to come from your brain.”


“I know you’re not cut out for time travel. You’re too squeamish and too attached to other people in this time period. But I looked you up all those years ago because you are cut out to write this book.”

The reader will forgive me if I take a moment to reflect on the personally spooky nature of writing that last bit. An in-depth evaluation of this work may discover that some key concepts or terms are still technically Perpetually Recurring Knowledge, but Tom and I have really done our best to minimize that.

I suppose the key takeaway of this chapter is to never stop using your brain. It is the single greatest tool you will have to use as you navigate through your wonderful and perilous travels through time. In the next chapter we will discuss how to use that tool to navigate yourself as far away as possible from the perils of a potential paradox…

Glossary Terms Glossary of Terms
  • Perpetually Recurring Phenomena – Anything that exists in a given timeline with no defined origin other than its own existence.
  • Perpetually Recurring Knowledge – Any fact, suggestion, or concept that has no defined origin, but is perpetuated by being passed along in a temporal causality loop.
  • Perpetually Recurring Object – Any object that exists in a given timeline with no defined origin. Perpetually Recurring Objects must be capable of retaining all exact defining attributes throughout the course of their own temporal loop.
  • Perpetually Recurring Being – An entity capable of autonomous activity with no defined origin. Perpetually Recurring Beings must be capable of retaining or restoring all exact defining attributes throughout the course of their own temporal loop.
  • Temporal Causality Loop – A temporal phenomenon in which the events in a timeline are caused by the very effects of those same events, leading to an infinitely recurring chain of events. For example, Event A would lead to Event B, which would lead to Event C, which would cause Event A, and so on.

Chapter 3: Time AND Space [Draft 1]


 Important Note IMPORTANT NOTE: The subject of the following chapter is considerably more technical than I generally prefer, but it could also save your life. If you have already experienced time travel and are still alive to read this book then I can only assume that either you already understand the concepts in this chapter, someone else was responsible for the navigation of your time travel, or you are just ludicrously lucky. In any instance, I believe a comprehensive study of this chapter will still be in your best interest before attempting any further time travels.


To discuss traveling through time without discussing traveling through space would be not only foolish, but also murderously neglectful on my part. When I refer to “traveling through space,” I do not mean a journey through the cosmos in the deep vacuum between celestial bodies. Rather I mean to move from any spatial location in our three-dimensional environment to another.

First, let us discuss why traveling through time without consideration of altering one’s physical location is so dangerous.

Let us imagine that you a time traveler who is traveling in an airliner across the Atlantic Ocean. After the first hour of your flight you decide that you are bored with such a long journey, and so decide to travel eight hours into the future when your plane will be nearing its destination. So you jump ahead eight hours to the exact same place you are currently sitting.

You have probably already realized that in eight hours time, the plane in which you were traveling would already be hundreds of miles from your current location, leading you to fall to a messy and watery death below. This example is drastically simplified from any real-world scenario, but it hopefully helps illustrate the point.

Of course, if the only danger were in time traveling while in moving vehicles, then the very simple solution would be to travel through time while standing still. Alas, it is not that simple.

Let us imagine that instead of sitting on an airplane flying across an ocean, you are aboard a vessel that is hurtling through the cold, lifeless vacuum of space. And instead of moving at a rate of hundreds of miles per hour, this vessel is moving thousands of miles per hour. Let’s also imagine that this vessel is very, very large. Let’s say it’s the size of a planet.

Thanks to our understanding of the Heliocentric Model, we know that everything on the earth is constantly in motion around the sun, whether we know it or not. So a time traveler on Earth who jumps ahead just one day to his or her exact same location, would very unfortunately find themselves in the deadly vacuum of space.

So what then is the solution to time traveling without ending up in space or embedded somewhere in earth’s rocky mantle? Any solutions to that question are grouped into a broad practice referred to as “Spatial Correction.” The methods of achieving Spatial Correction are as varied as the methods of achieving time travel. I lack both the technical knowledge and the space in this book to give comprehensive instruction on addressing Spatial Correction, and so I will not attempt to do so.

However, if you possess the intellect to produce a means of time travel, then I am confident in your ability to overcome this obstacle as well, given some guidance. The rest of this chapter will therefore provide you with broad suggestions and special considerations provided by Tom as you devise your own means of achieving Spatial Correction.

Blinking and Temporal Doorways

            One of the first considerations to account for as you tackle the issue of Spatial Correction is recognizing into which category your own method of time travel fits. As I stated in Chapter 1, this book will not cater to any one method of time travel, but for the purpose of this chapter it will be important to identify two broad categories defined by Tom.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Like I said before, there’s lots of ways to get around in time traveling. But most of the ways I’ve seen folks use can be grouped into two categories; Blinking and Temporal Doorways.”


“Blinking is pretty much what it sounds like. You disappear from one spot in time and space, and then reappear in some other time and place. Oh some folks’ll have a big flash of light or puff of smoke. Some have to get a running head start or turn themselves into photons or something, but the end result is the same. If the trip seems instantaneous, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re blinking.”


“With a Temporal Doorway, on the other hand, you usually have some kind of opening at both ends that exist for the same duration. I’ve seen a few naturally occurring doorways that were open permanently, but most of them are artificially made, and only open for a set amount of time. But it’s not instant like blinking is. Usually time traveling by doorway involves some sort of motion like stepping through or falling through or something like that. I once participated in a tug-of-war where we were pulling a rope from two sides of a doorway and the teams were about a hundred years apart from each other. It was all plenty of fun until the [expletive removed] doorway collapsed and we all fell on our [expletive removed].”


Correctly categorizing your method of time travel is important because the methods of achieving Spatial Correction are somewhat different between Blinking and Temporal Doorways. Since Spatial Correction is relatively simpler for Temporal Doorways than it is for Blinking, we will start with the simplest method and then work up in complexity.

Leaving a Backdoor Open

            The simplest way to achieve Spatial Correction with a Temporal Doorway is to open a Backdoor. A Backdoor is one side of a Temporal Doorway that you have opened yourself at some point in time. The term refers to the fact that Backdoors are used only to travel back to a time and place that one has already experienced in their own timeline, rather than exploring a time and place wouldn’t ordinarily encounter.

For example, if I possessed a machine that allowed me to create Temporal Doorways, I could open a doorway for an hour right now and take note of that doorway’s unique Doorway Signature. Then tomorrow I could turn on the same machine for an hour with the same Doorway Signature, thereby producing the other side of the Temporal Doorway and allowing my future self to travel to today or allowing my present self to visit tomorrow.

 Further Understanding Further Understanding:

The term “Backdoor” is sometimes viewed as a misnomer because the other side of a Backdoor often leads to a time that the time traveler has not yet experienced at the time they create the first side of the Temporal Doorway. Remember however that the other side of the Backdoor is also created by the time traveler, and so that is also a point in time and space that would already be experienced in the normal course of their individual timeline.

For more information on advised behavior and protocol for Backdoors, see Chapter 5: Surviving a Paradox (When in Doubt, Guess) and Chapter 6: Ignorance is (Sometimes) Bliss.

            Since this scenario involves producing an artificially created Temporal Doorway, and the doorway itself is being continually sustained by a physical machine that is moving along through space at the same speed and direction as the rest of the planet, I don’t need to take any further measures for Spatial Correction because both ends of the doorway have already been created and maintained at the correct spatial coordinates.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“There’s no question that Backdoors are the safest and simplest method of Spatial Correction. They also require a lot of planning and thinking ahead. Not to mention the fact that it’s just not as exciting to boldly go where you’ve already gone before. Still, for beginner time travelers, opening a Backdoor is a safe place to start.”

Setting an Anchor

            If your interests in time travel include more than returning to where you’ve already been, then you may want to consider using Spatial Anchors to determine the location of your Temporal Doorways. A Spatial Anchor is anything that physically exists at both ends of a Temporal Doorway to which the doorway can be created in relative proximity.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Nothing’s made me laugh quite so much as seeing what some folks choose for their Spatial Anchors. Usually it’s something normal like a huge boulder that hasn’t moved for thousands of years or a historical marker. But like I said, you meet some strange folks while time traveling. I once knew a guy whose anchor was a baseball signed by Babe Ruth. Now he ended up in some interesting places!”


“Using an anchor is safer than some types of Spatial Correction, but it can still have some crazy results. One gal had set her anchor on a specific brick in a historical building in her hometown. Well, she didn’t realize that they did some restoration projects on that building and she ended up making a doorway knee-deep in the city dump instead.”


“Some time travelers get clever and try using the planet as their anchor. That’s kind of like buying a plane ticket with a destination of ‘Europe.’ It leaves a lot of room for error. Better to make your anchor as specific as you can.”

            The third method of achieving Spatial Correction for Temporal Doorways is creating a Freehand Doorway. While it is also possible to create Freehand Doorways, this method is not recommended. Since creating Freehand Doorways is similar in many ways to the degree of complexity required for Freestyle Blinking, we will briefly touch on that subject in the last section of this chapter.

Gathering Breadcrumbs

            The simplest method of achieving Spatial Correction when using a means of time travel in the Blinking category is to use Breadcrumbs. A Breadcrumb is any combination of temporal and spatial coordinates that have been previously recorded for the purpose of traveling back to those coordinates. Breadcrumbs are similar to Backdoors in that they are primarily a means for time travelers to return to where they have already been.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“Gathering Breadcrumbs becomes an obsession for some folks. They collect them the way some people collect baseball cards or postage stamps. I knew one guy who kept his recording equipment on all the time, even if he didn’t plan on going back there.”


“I’ve met some time travelers who try to sell Breadcrumbs that they claim they’ve gathered. Got to say, I’ve never been so [expletive removed] desperate that I’d be willing to use a Breadcrumb gathered by someone other than myself. It only takes a couple misplaced digits to have a very ugly ending, and there’d be no way to get a refund on a bad sale.”

 Important Note IMPORTANT NOTE: When collecting Breadcrumbs, keep in mind that recording a location by means such as longitude and latitude only record that location in relation to its position on the planet, and are therefore insufficient for Spatial Correction. Before attempting to collect Breadcrumbs, a more precise and reliable method of recording locations is necessary.

Going Freehand

            The most complex and dangerous form of Spatial Correction is Freehand Blinking. Freehand Blinking is the process of using precise calculations to predict the placement of a given location at a specific time in order to derive a set of specific temporal and spatial to which the time traveler can go. When done correctly, Freehand Blinking provides the greatest amount of options to time travelers as it allows them to theoretically jump to any point in space and time.

            Freehand Blinking is also substantially more complex and dangerous than the other methods of Spatial Correction already discussed. It provides for very little room for errors in calculations, and requires factoring in a dizzying amount of variables.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:

“You see, I enjoy math. When I was a kid I used to collect calculus textbooks and see how fast I could do the problems just for fun. Did I ever tell you that? Numbers and variables and vectors and matrixes; all that stuff gets me excited, you know? But there’s nothing that will test a man’s love of math like having his life depend on it.”


“Think about it. We’re all sitting on a planet hurtling thousands of miles per hour in an imperfect orbit around a star. Oh yeah, and we’re doing a crazy wibbly-wobbly tilting barrel roll the whole time too. And the [expletive removed] star isn’t even standing still! It’s orbiting around a [expletive removed] black hole in the middle of the galaxy, and even the black hole doesn’t stay put! That’s not math, that’s an equation that nightmares are made of!”


“Normal folks go skydiving or white-water rafting to get a thrill. But let me tell you, there’s nothing like the adrenalin rush you get from figuring out a Freehand Blink on a [expletive removed] chalkboard. That’s just crazy.”

            If you have resolved to attempt a Freehand Blink, start by collecting several Breadcrumbs in the same location over a specific course of time. Make sure you are collecting the Breadcrumbs at different times of day, and if possible during different seasons of the year. Collecting as many samples as possible will give you a greater chance of triangulating the location you need.

            Before trying a Freehand Blink yourself, try experimenting with some expendable objects, and record the coordinates where you are expecting them to appear. See how close you get. Don’t be surprised if the first objects you experiment with are never seen again.

            Most of all, realize that Freehand Blinking is a method of Spatial Correction that should not be taken lightly. It is a complex and risky process, but if done correctly can be worth the effort.

            As stated earlier in the chapter, the process of time traveling by means of a Freehand Doorway is similar to traveling by Freehand Blink. Keep in mind however, that because traveling by Temporal Doorway is not instantaneous, you will need to account for allowing the coordinates of the doorway to change as time passes at its desired location. Otherwise you could end up with a Temporal Doorway that stays put while the rest of the world moves around it. And that is a mess.

            Time traveling presents a host of challenges and hazards, and the most dangerous ones are those that the time traveler just hasn’t thought of or expected. While this chapter is not intended to provide any easier answers to Spatial Correction, hopefully it has made you sufficiently aware of the risk so you can face it head on.

            In the next chapter we will move on to a topic that may does not present such an immediate threat as appearing in the vacuum of space, but in many ways poses challenges that are even less expected…

 Glossary Terms Glossary of Terms

  • Backdoor – One side of a Temporal Doorway opened for the express purpose of providing a destination for the other side of the Temporal Doorway, which will be created at another time.
  • Blinking – A category of time travel methods characterized by a seemingly instantaneous disappearance from one point in time and space, and the equally instantaneous reappearance in another point in time and space.
  • Breadcrumb – A set of temporal and spatial coordinates that have been previously recorded for the intent of later traveling to those coordinates.
  • Doorway Signature – Any particular characteristic unique to any specific Temporal Doorway. Doorway Signatures are often used to align two sides of a Temporal Doorway.
  • Freehand Blinking – A highly complex and dangerous method of achieving Spatial Correction by jumping to a set of specific temporal and spatial coordinates derived through correctly predicting the placement of a given location at a specific time through precise calculations.
  • Freehand Doorway – A highly complex and dangerous method of achieving Spatial Correction by creating a Temporal Doorway at a set of specific temporal and spatial coordinates derived through correctly predicting the placement of a given location at a specific time through precise calculations.
  • Heliocentric Model – The model of celestial movements characterized by its assertion of the earth’s orbit around the sun. Depending on the time period, care should be taken in referring to this model.
  • Spatial Anchor – Anything that physically exists at both ends of a Temporal Doorway to which the doorway can be created in relative proximity.
  • Spatial Correction – A means of adjusting one’s physical location during time travel to account for movements of objects and places over time.
  • Temporal Doorway – A category of time travel methods characterized by corresponding openings that exist at two different points in time and space. These doorways exist for a specific duration, linking the two doorways for that duration.

Table of Contents and Key of Features

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Disclaimers

Chapter 2: The Branching River and the Tangled Knot

Chapter 3: Time AND Space

Chapter 4: Neither Made nor Unmade

Chapter 5: Surviving a Paradox (When in Doubt, Guess)

Chapter 6: Ignorance is (Sometimes) Bliss

Chapter 7: Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

Chapter 8: Even Time Travelers Need to Eat

Chapter 9: Setting S.M.F. Goals

Chapter 10: Perspective (When to Keep It and When to Change It)

Addendum for Volume 2: Time Limits (The Death of Thomas Meriwether)

The Thirteen Laws of Time Travel (OK, Some Are Suggestions)

Glossary of Terms

Key of Features

A Word From Tom A Word From Tom: This symbol is used to signify a statement or experience from the perspective of Thomas Meriwether, an accomplished time traveler, and authority on the subject. (See special note in Chapter 1: Disclaimers regarding these statements.)
Image Important Note: This symbol is used to attract special and urgent attention from the reader. The information in this feature is typically regarding the safety of the reader and/or others.
Image Further Understanding: Information in this feature is meant to provide additional insight to the chapter topic and/or refer the reader to another chapter(s) with additional information on the topic.
Image Glossary Terms: This feature appears at the end of any chapter that included terms unique to time travel, or are specific to this book.
Image Volume 2 Addition: This feature contains larger portions of information or concepts that were not present in The Time Traveler’s Definitive Guide, Volume 1.
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Chapter 2: The Branching River and the Tangled Knot [Draft 1]

As we begin our discussion of time travel, it is important to define precisely what the term “time travel” means in the context of this book. After all, time travel has been the topic of countless works of fiction, both in literature and other media, and while these sources have provided much entertainment to their audiences, they have also been the source of much misinformation.

The most popular among these stories usually use one of two concepts of time travel, and I will refer to these two concepts as the Branching River and the Tangled Knot. This book is based solely on the Tangled Knot concept of time travel, but because distinguishing between these concepts will be important for the understanding of the reader, I will define both concepts in this chapter.

The Branching River

Of the two concepts discussed in this chapter, the Branching River tends to be the one most often used as a plot device in popular fiction. The Branching River makes for much more exciting plots and causes far fewer headaches for the audience. It is also a concept riddled with inconsistencies and gaps in logic, and to the best of my knowledge is impossible.

To understand this concept, start by visualizing a river running down an enormous hill. This river splits and branches in several places on its way down the hill, and each of those branches also forks and produces further branches. This branching goes on and on, producing an infinite number of branches of the river.

Most objects float along down the river, going this way or that as the river branches, never to return to that particular fork in the river again. However, a creature such as a fish or a person in a motorboat would have the ability to return back upstream, thereby changing the branch of the river they are on.

In this scenario, the great hill represents the steady progression of time, and the braches in the river represent the choices and events that occur in a given timeline. Furthermore the time traveler is represented by the fish or the motorboat, which has the ability to travel to a previous point in time and alter events or make different choices, thereby putting them on a different path as they continue into the future.

This concept of time travel allows for the changing of past events and the resulting cascading effect of causing untold changes to the further progression of events in that timeline. From the storyteller’s point of view, it also allows for the ever-popular cruel irony that occurs when the protagonist’s own hubris causes greater misfortune than that which he tried to prevent.

One of the problems with The Branching River is that it is not, strictly speaking, time travel. If anything this may be seen as the successful navigation of parallel realities (a familiar concept in quantum physics.)

From a storytelling perspective, another problem is that in such stories, were they true, nothing would have truly changed. The timeline from which the time traveler began would still exist (whether or good or ill) and the alternate timeline in which the time traveler ends had always existed. The only difference is the presence of the protagonist at the end of the story.

Much more could be said regarding the fallacy of the Branching River concept, but I believe it will suffice to say that this book will treat the concept as erroneous and not worth further discussion.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“In time traveling, you tend to meet a lot of strange folks, and time traveling tends to make some folks strange. I’ve met a few who claimed they were able to make it up the river and change the past, or that they were from the future, and were in the process of changing the past. They usually have some cockeyed story where they paint themselves the hero. Well, I’ve met my share of time travelers. Lots of them are decent folks. Some of them are filthy [expletive removed]. But none of us are what you’d call heroic.”


“I’m not one to use the word ‘impossible’ because I think it’s asking for trouble. But nobody I’ve met that’s claimed to make it up the river has had any proof that I found convincing, so I’d have to call B.S.”

The Tangled Knot

The topic of discussion in this book is time travel as understood by the Tangled Knot concept. I must confess that explaining the concept in written word is a daunting task for me, since my own understanding required countless lengthy discussions with Tom over the course of several years.

Even now I wrestle with the finer points of the picture, and from time to time when I am alone with my thoughts, a statement of Tom’s will come to my mind and another piece of the puzzle will fall into place. I share this confession in the hope that the reader will grant himself or herself patience in understanding this concept.

The first time Tom explained the Tangled Knot to me, he thought it would be helpful to use some props. He took a piece of rope and a ruler out of his backpack, and laid them next to each other. He then used a marker and made drew a thick line on every half-inch of the rope. Tom said to imagine the rope was my life and the ruler was the linear progression of time.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“See, for most folks this is how time works. They’ve all got their own personal amount of time to live their lives, and most of them are happy to just move along at the same pace as everyone and everything else. There’s some real benefits to that. Keeps things nice and consistent. A tree would probably have a much longer rope, a fruit fly would have a much shorter one, but you’d all be moving along the ruler at the same pace. It certainly makes relationships with other people a whole lot easier. Most people like it when the fight and the making up happen in the right order. So it makes sense that most people prefer to go with the flow.”

Tom then took the rope and began looping it around and tying a series of knots along its length. When he laid it back down next to the ruler I couldn’t tell if it was a tangled mess or a work of art. Some of the knots in the rope were simple, and others were quite elaborate. The rope looped around and doubled back on itself in such a way that it was difficult to tell which way was coming or going out of a knot.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“This is what a time traveler’s life looks like. We can jump forward or back along the ruler, and we can even loop back to where we’ve been before. I could be older ten years ago than I was five years from now. I’ve been visited by an older Tom, and I’ve paid a visit to a younger Tom. Both times was just one time, but each time was different because I was different. I’ve eaten an apple from a tree, and then jumped back and planted the tree, and then jumped ahead to see that tree finally fall down.”


“To most folks who move along with the ruler, my rope looks like a big tangled mess, and maybe it is. But here’s what I want you to understand. For all the knots and tangles and loops that you see, the rope is still the same. The rope’s not any shorter or longer than it was to begin with, even if it comes out differently in relation to the ruler. And no matter how tight I may tie a later line on my rope to an earlier an earlier line, it can’t change the line.”

The key takeaway from the Tangled Knot concept is the idea of the unchanging rope. If the focus of the Branching River is in the ability to travel back and alter course, the focus of the Tangled Knot is that the only course is the rope itself. No matter how the rope moves or twists in relation to the ruler, the rope itself retains all of its original properties. This idea inspired what Tom and I call “The Continuity Principle.”

The Continuity Principle states that “Any event that occurs in any individual timeline occurs in that timeline irrespective of interaction with itself or other timelines.” In other words, nothing can alter or prevent an event that has happened in my own personal timeline, nor any other timeline. If you get a paper cut reading this book, there is no way you or anyone else can stop that paper cut from happening.

As a writer, I’ve often found it easier to understand The Continuity Principle by thinking of a book. With the book in your hands, for example, the most common form of reading it will be starting at the first page, and ending with the last page. (Of course, in all honesty the most common form of reading this book will probably be to read the top half of the first page and never make it to the second page.) But as the reader, you are not forced to take that linear approach.

If you choose, you can jump ahead to chapter 6 before you read chapter 5. You could go back and reread a chapter you’ve already read, and there is even a good chance that the second time you read it will be different for you because you could relate the concepts to ideas you learned in a later chapter.

Personally, this ability to go back and forth among pages is something I find quite enjoyable about books. However, no matter the order in which you read this book, the contents of its pages will remain the same. You may read something in a later chapter that you think should have been included in this chapter, but if you come back and read this chapter again, the words will still be the same. The book has already been printed, and the ink stays put regardless of your reading style.

 Further Understanding Further Understanding:See Chapter 5: Surviving a Paradox (When in Doubt, Guess) for a more comprehensive understanding of The Continuity Principle, as well as an exploration into the logic behind the principle.

Contemplation of The Continuity Principle almost inevitably leads to a question of whether choice or free will can actually exist. Some have erroneously renamed the principle The Eventuality Principle or (even more cynically) The Futility Principle. Tom and I have had numerous conversations on the subject, and I have come to the conclusion that although the existence of free will is too abstract to definitively prove, I do not believe that The Continuity Principle and the existence of freewill are mutually exclusive. Tom is significantly more vehement in his views of the subject.

 A Word From Tom A Word From Tom:“I’ve met more than my fair share of time-traveling [expletive removed] who felt like they could justify anything they’d ever done because ‘it was gonna happen anyway.’ That is total [expletive removed]! I may not be able to go back and change the choices I’ve made, but that don’t mean I didn’t make them in the first place. Just because I can warn someone about a choice they’ll make, and they go and choose the same thing anyway; well guess what? It was still their choice to make.”


“You know who buys into that ‘Futility Principle’ crap? Dirtbags. A few of them may be decent folks who are just over thinking it, but most of them are [expletive removed] dirtbags who don’t want to be responsible for their own [expletive removed] choices.”

But then, if altering past events or preventing future events is impossible (my word, not Tom’s), then what is the point of traveling through time at all? Well, what is ever the point of traveling? When is the last time you went on vacation to change the place you went to visit? The “point” of time travel (or at least the emphasis of this book) is to see amazing sights, experience incredible experiences, and to make the most of the finite piece of rope that we all call life.

So, let’s discuss what you need to know to get the most out of your travels through time. I think the most prudent next topic is how to do this without getting yourself killed in your first trip…