Writing Prompt: As a kid, you made a “time travel password” as a joke if your future self ever tried to contact you. You had forgotten all about it until today — when you received an email with it as the subject line.
Subject: Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows
I can’t write your name. You know who I am. You made this up 27 years ago. We promised that if anything were to happen — and I mean THAT thing — this would be the code for you to believe.
I don’t have much time — and, neither do you. You have ten minutes to get out of the house. Take only what you need. Lock your front door. Turn on the security system. Leave your garage door open. Get in your car and drive north on 75 for two hours, then off the exit at timestamp until you see a little town with a church with a yellow steeple. Park behind the church, in front of the tree with the red circle on the trunk. Enter the back door and through the kitchen, into the pew. Sitting on the playing organ’s bench is someone who will be able to help you.
There is no guarantee that doing this will change the future. But we have no other choice. We are more important than we could have ever realized. Someone is coming to your house. If you are caught, they will kill you. And everyone and everything that you know will be gone.
Please, for all you know, LEAVE. You have ten minutes.
When I was eight years old, I read my mother’s doctorate thesis on temporal causality, and how forcing the past to repeat itself could be achieved if the proper action was sent back in time. In this case, the action was the future telling the past what to do to create that same, identical future.
Say that your future self was kidnapped. Your abductors knew that you were important to the fate of the world, yet you were so brilliant, so cunning, or just so off the radar, they would never find you or capture you (or even know who you were in the first place) with their skillsets or technologies alone. If they used violence to weed you out, they would waste too many resources and still be unsure of who they actually needed to obtain. They only have one option:
You would have to come to them.
How would they know that?
Because that’s what happened the first time.
Can a causality loop be stopped? My mother’s thesis answered this question.
What we see happening over and over again, she hypothesized, is not in fact a perfect loop. It is, in fact, a spiral.
Each cut of the spiral is a parallel universe, each with a future you and a past you. To keep the spiral going , the future you reaches out to the past you — but not behind itself to the past you in the same spiral cut. Instead, it reaches forward into the spiral cut of the next universe–to the past you directly in front of it. The new past you follows through to become the future you of the same universe, then begins the cycle again.
My mother’s thesis went on to say that the spiral could go on through multiple universes. In the case of my example above, if abductors tortured the future self that walked right into their camp, that future self might weaken enough to convince its past self to walk into the abductors’ trap by receiving a message that could have only been sent by her future self.
They would demand proof that the future self wasn’t warning herself. How, then, does the past self know that the message was sent by a future self?
After I read my mother’s thesis, I made myself a promise. I would never get caught in a causality loop. Even if I wouldn’t remember it or see any proof of such a catastrophe, I didn’t want myself or other universe me’s to repeat the same thing over and over again for the rest of time. I–present me–would be the one to break the cycle. Somehow, I wouldn’t be the one to fail.
So, I created a password that only I knew. I shared it with no one, not even my beloved Mr. Nekko-man, my stuffed rabbit. I wrote it on a piece of paper, burned the note on the gas stove while chanting the phrase, sang it to myself, danced to its tune, mumbled it backward when the teacher called on me in class. No one, not anyone, could ever get this password back to me — except myself.
Then, I turned 10. I threw all the silliness of childhood out of my mind. After all, I was an adult now.
Torture could be cruel. It could make people say or do things nothing could ever make them do otherwise. It could resort you back to the fun, harmless times of your childhood, make you go to the sweet, safe inner sanctum where you were truly happy and carefree. It could make you remember things thrown away carelessly after a year or two of simple thinking.
Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows
What if the abductors are telling you what to write? What if they’re looking over your shoulder, making sure you’re transcribing exactly what they’re telling you? What if they said, Write this, or we’ll kill you and everyone you love?
You tell them the password. They watch you write it. They tell you exactly what to say to continue the loop. You have no choice.
But what if the password wasn’t just a stamp for recognizing yourself? What if it stood for something else, too?
What if you made more than one password?
Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows
I loved rabbits. Mr. Nekko-man was my best friend, even after I stopped being a child. When I was sick, or sad, my mother would make Mr. Nekko-man talk and make me feel better. I always listened to Mr. Nekko-man. He always loved me, always made me feel good about myself. If he told me what I should or should not do, I would listen to him. Things always turned about better when he was near me.
One night, my father and some friends watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Fatal Attraction as part of a strange, surreal movie marathon. I remember peeking around the corner into the living room and loathing how he cracked up at the rabbit scenes. He laughed even harder when the Holy Hand Grenade blew the bunny into bits, or the camera just did a tight close-up on the rabbit in the boiling pot. I had left Mr. Nekko-man on the couch, and one of my father’s friends grabbed it and chucked it at him. Mr. Nekko-man cracked my father in the head, but it was an accident. He didn’t mean to, and I’m sure he would have explained himself if my mother had been around.
My father scowled at Mr. Nekko-man and threw him at the wall; I heard him hit the wooden paneling with a sickening thump. Mr. Nekko-man never moved on his own, but this time, he moved even less.
My father was a hunter. He thought he was the perfect marksman if he could nail a rabbit between its eyes. He killed one once and laughed as he dangled it by one bloody, half-torn back leg right in my face.
Suit juicer is another name for
When my father laughed, foam would spittle down his mouth, frothy and putrid like from a wild dog. Just hearing him would make me want to close my eyes and plug my ears and stay as far away from him as possible, just so I didn’t have to hear him laugh. It made me want to erase him, stay away from him at all costs. He wasn’t fun, really, not to me or my mom.
Suit juicer is another name for
rabbit rabid rainbows
What captor would think that an 8-year-old would have not one, but two passwords to call out to their selves of the past? Who would care when she’d said the password aloud? After all, they both sounded pretty much the same when you spoke them.
Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows
In one of the spiral cuts, the old future me finally got smart. She knows the abductors have no idea where past self lives. So she can follow their instructions to the letter. When they execute her–because that was always going to happen–they’ll lose their chance. Because now–finally–past self knows what happened in the future of the previous cut. And she will know what to do to avoid it in her own.
Patting the matted head of Mr. Nekko-man, I archive the email, then rise from my desk and head downstairs for a cup of tea.