The Adventures of Danny Prime: Time Wizard

Editor’s note: I just got a hair up my butt to publish this short story I wrote a long time ago and never really showed anyone. The file on my hard drive is dated 2008 which makes it older than any song on this site. It came about because I dreamed it, so if you don’t like it, don’t blame me, blame my subconscious (for bad spelling and everything).

The Adventures of Danny Prime: Time Wizard
by Rhune Kincaid

“The manipulation of time is the province of time wizards,” explained Danny. “A person may not even suspect that they possess the powers of a time wizard until after the powers manifest. This ‘awakening’ occurs as a result of an extreme emotional experience. At least, I think that’s what happened…”

He traced his rendition of a Lorzenz attractor on the blackboard and ran his other hand through his unwashed mess of hair. He returned his attention to his students. “I had been seeing, well, going out with, I guess you could say dating… I was dating a girl named Valerie. This was before I knew I was a time wizard, by the way. I was in my early twenties at the time, so it was about a week ago for me. As I grew more and more fond of her, I had these chaotic feelings inside of me. She had an effect on me that I didn’t understand. Love or something.”

He giggled sheepishly, embarrassed to reveal such personal information in front of his classroom.

“Anyway, we were playing chess in this cafe. I’m pretty good at chess, as you might’ve guessed.” He stroked his stubble and fixed his collar, which did not improve his appearance beyond that of a disheveled, homeless bum. “She started to move into a certain checkmate, but I was having such a good time that I didn’t want the game to end. I reached out and grabbed her hand to stop her… It was electric. My subconscious started to bubble over. It was tingly in my brain.

“We kissed,” he raised his eyebrows, dust billowing out from them. “That’s when everything changed. I wanted it to last forever. I wanted time to slow down around me and stand still. And it did.

“It did, it did, it did,” he muttered to himself, trailing off into silence.

“Does anyone know the term, ‘paradigm shift?” Danny looked over his classroom and seeing no spark of recognition, turned to his blackboard. He drew a six pointed asterisk, each line turned into an arrow pointing away from the others. As he finished the last arrow, he resumed his lesson. “A paradigm shift is just what it sounds like; an alteration to the current state existence. By focusing on an idea, by making it our sole thought and banishing all other thoughts, we can generate the power to turn that idea into reality. I realized that if I focused on it, I could stop time, and I did.

“I did, didn’t I?” he said under his breath. “I stopped time with my mind, but I pushed too hard, see? When I opened my eyes, she was gone. Time had slowed to a standstill and then ‘wooshed’ backwards around me. I was slung into the past. I didn’t realize what was happening at first. For a moment, I thought she’d gotten up and left, but now I know what really happened. I traveled back in time, and it changed the course of history.”

He leaped up on the teacher’s desk and proclaimed, “I am Danny Lewis, and I am a time wizard from the future.”

Scrambling down, he continued. “I traveled backwards through time, not far, but far enough to send ripples across the cosmos. Surely, you’re all familiar with the space/time continuum?” He drew a long line with points at either end. “This is the kiss,” he said pointing out the right-most point. He then drew a looping line back to the start of the line. “This is now. The introduction of a foreign body, myself, into the the past is warping reality. It’s altering the future and the past. He drew squiggly lines radiating from the leftmost point on his line.

“I shouldn’t be here. I should be,” he pounded the end of the line. “Back here.”

He paced in front of his scribblings which included the space/time continuum, the Lorenz attractor, a chaosphere, the equation, “E=mc^danny,” the note, “Substitute for Mrs. Hartwick, Dan the Man” and a hangman game with a solution reading, “Valerie.”

“You’re thinking, ‘Danny, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Everything seems just like it was before,’ right? That’s what you’re thinking, aren’t you? And you would. For you, nothing has changed. Since I’m the only one who has already lived through this past, I’m the only one who can see how it is different. Exhibit A is this; I cannot seem to find my way home. The geography of this town isn’t what I remember, and I get lost in the streets when I look for my apartment. I’ve been living like a homeless person since I left the coffee shop. Exhibit B: I cannot find my wallet, when I’m sure it used to be in my hip pocket. Exhibit C: The phone number given to me by Valerie in my time is now…”

Danny pulled out his cell phone and speed dialed dramatically. The familiar three beeps followed by a recorded woman’s voice confirmed his deepest fear.

“Disconnected.”

He turned and furiously scribbled “555-4444” on the chalk board behind him. “Try it for yourselves; it’s been disconnected every time I’ve tried it. I’m stuck here, and I can’t find her. My disruption of the space/time continuum sent ripples forward and backwards in time. Valerie could be lost in the time of the wild west, the bubonic plague or the distant future, her existence erased. To prove that this is not the time I belong in, I give you Exhibit D: the girl I fell in love with simply doesn’t exist here.”

He surveyed the silent classroom with angry, squinting eyes.

“There is, however, a past version of myself somewhere in this town who I must avoid at all costs. If he were to see me, the sight of his future self would likely drive him insane. If my past self went insane, that would mean I’d be insane right now,” he laughed and shook his head. “Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet.”

He paced slowly, as if the weight of each of his problems slowed his movements by a fraction.

“There is a far more pressing problem. I don’t even want to say this, because I know how much it will upset all of you. I am in the past and my every utterance and every action is reshaping the future. It’s what Edward Lorenz called a “Butterfly Effect.” Something as seemingly harmless as a flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a shift in air currents that, over time, leads to a devastating hurricane. Well, I’m a lot bigger than a butterfly, right? The alterations I cause in the past will become magnified over time and build upon each other to form a different future. Just by being here, I am changing the course of history. I am the catalyst that intensifies the ripples in time, and they are getting more severe the longer I stay. By the time we get back to the time of that fateful kiss, everything will be different. It could be harmless changes that nobody’s going to notice, or it could be…” He trailed off.

“Well, it could be a really big change like wiping out all reality as we know it and erasing human existence, but I haven’t really done all the calculations,” he said. “It’s best not to dwell on it. Still, every second I spend in the past sends me one step closer to my personal doom and sends all of us closer to a much broader, more general doom.” He pounded Mrs. Hartwick’s desk with his fist.

“Which brings me to my primary concern. The most important thing in the entire universe is that I get back to my proper place in time and back to Valerie,” he said. Sensing that he may have understated the direness of the situation, he added, “It’s for the good of the space/time continuum.”

“Here’s the problem,” he sighed. “My powers have deserted me. The chaotic feelings have abated, and nothing I try seems to bring them back. I have tried meditation, rituals, spells and incantations. I have oujied with dark deities only to be rewarded with gibberish. I have looked for the library, but only become more and more lost. The mastery of time and space is locked inside of me, but I’ve lost access. It’s a gift, to be sure, but I’d give it all away just to be back in that coffee shop playing chess with my girl.

“So the question is…” He wrapped his chalk against the end of the space/time continuum diagram. “How do I get back here?”
A little girl raised her hand and said, “Maybe you just gotta fall in love again.”

Her first-grade classmates nodded in agreement.

Danny blankly stared back at their twenty little faces warped into various states of boredom and confusion.

“Yes, yes, that is it,” he screamed pointing his finger in the little girl’s direction. “That’s the trigger. That’s the way home. I’ve got to recreate that moment!”

There came a crash from the rear of the classroom where Danny’s homemade barricade of several desks, a few chairs, one flagpole and an entire Encyclopedia set fell to pieces. Mrs. Hartwick forced her way through the wreckage to scream, “Who are you, and what are you doing in my classroom, you maniac?”

“I’m about to become the greatest time wizard you’ve ever seen.”

“You’re insane,” screamed Mrs. Hartwick. Students gasped.

Mrs. Hartwick picked up the 11th volume of the Encyclopedia and hurled it over Danny’s ducking head. With renewed confidence and vigor, the vagrant wizard opened the classroom window and leaped to safety exclaiming, “I just needed someone to talk to.”

#

Danny hit the personal ads and narrowed his sights on a girl named Jill. She had long curtains of black hair and dimples that reminded him of Valerie. He fixed himself up in the coffee shop bathroom and rubbed cologne samples from the cafe’s staggering magazine pile onto his wrists. Satisfied with his appearance, he licked his thumb, smoothed his eyebrows and went to meet her for their first date.

The summer sun poured in through dusty Venetian blinds and splashed across the glass counter full of muffins and scones. The reflections threw little star lights into her green eyes. He nonchalantly suggested a friendly game of chess and happened to know exactly where to find the board and pieces. They discussed each others’ families, and Danny skirted around the fact that he had no job in this timestream. Jill moved her pieces absent mindedly, sipped her coffee and jealously belittled the waitress.

Jill was better at conversation than chess, and Danny started to like her. Simultaneously, he identified the weakness in her game and exploited it to prolong the match without making himself vulnerable. She had a biting sense of humor and a coy but happy demeanor. Her dimples formed only when she smiled, and he kept finding ways to make that happen. She made the pain of time displacement melt away, and he forgot all his struggles against the flow of time and simply enjoyed his date. The coffee in this place hadn’t been as good when he’d come here with Valerie.

The time came to spring his trap. As she picked up her king to make the fatal move that would ensure checkmate, Danny shot out his hand and grabbed her by the wrist. She looked down at his grip, surprised and enticed at the same time.

“You don’t want to move there,” he told her.

“Why not?” she asked, biting her lip.

“Because then the game would be over, and I don’t want this night to end.”

The king fell from her hand, ‘plinked’ off the table and rolled away. She pulled herself over the board to kiss him. He kissed back passionately. His heartbeat sped up, and time seemed to slow down, but it didn’t. She lips and tongue kept flipping at full speed as he opened one eye to look around him. He expected a worm hole to open, or some kind of time portal, but saw nothing. The people around them should’ve been moving backwards at steadily increasing speeds, but they weren’t. She nipped at his lips and he pulled away.

“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?” she asked.

“No, this just isn’t working out the way I’d hoped,” he said.

He lunged desperately toward her, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her out of her chair for a standing kiss. People started to stare. He broke away leaving both of them gasping for air. No mystic swirling sands of time nor tears in the fabric of the space/time continuum appeared before him. The throb of panic took hold of his stomach. A cold sweat broke on his brow.

“This is all wrong, all wrong,” he muttered to himself. “Why isn’t my time portal opening?”

“What do you mean?” she pleaded as he cast impotent spells from hands coiled into mystic waves.

“Quiet please,” said Danny. “I am concentrating very hard to make this work.”

She obeyed with reservation as he began to whisper a magical incantation and frantically flick his fingers.

“Pratisamaadadhaati madiiya visthaapita prakRtti antaH kaala!” Nothing changed.

He conjured up frightened and curious glances from the cafe’s other patrons, but no time portals. Jill’s almond eyes scrunched down into frustrated slits.

He squeezed her by the arms and kissed her again, and this time, she was less enthusiastic about it. She resisted the urge to push him away until he let her go and swung his arms wildly. All hint of wizarding proficiency had left his movements, as he performed what looked like a very amateurish crawl stroke.

“My will be done!” he cried before collapsing into his chair, suppressing a sob and shaking with anger. Nothing bubbled inside him, and the wave of failure he felt held no spark of magic.

Their waitress moved between them and began to shepherd Jill away from Danny and towards the door.

“Danny, what’s wrong with you?” asked Jill. “Are you sick?”

“This date is a waste of time,” he said with a laryngitic rasp. “Here I am, kissing you, and nothing has changed. Nothing. I’m not in love.”

She sucked in a sharp breath and bit her tongue. Her shoulders stiffened, but she resisted the urge to scream.

“I’m still stuck in this God-forsaken time, kissing some girl I don’t even like,” he said.

“You need psychological help,” she said throwing caution to the wind and letting her contempt take over her expression. Her dimples had permanently disappeared. “You need some serious help.”

As she left the cafe with a sob, a desperate grin spread across Danny’s face. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. “Maybe I just need a little help.”

He let out a low cackle and looked on his own reflection in the muffin counter.

“The time has come,” he said. “Let’s take a risk.”

#

The local phonebook provided the names of several Daniel Lewises, but none that matched Danny’s old address. He even checked for Louis Daniel, but didn’t find a match. He decided to focus on the Daniel Lewis closest to his old address. It was no easy feat finding a specific home in the confusing neighborhoods of the past, but when he came upon the Lewis residence, Danny felt an eerie familiarity. It was like the home in his memory but with small differences, undoubtedly altered by minor alterations in the space/time continuum. The home he’d grown up in had white rose bushes in front. This house had flowers too, but they were sunflowers. The paint was white as it should’ve been, but the trim was green when it should’ve been brown. The couple that answered the door weren’t entirely familiar to him, but close enough.

“Mom, dad, hi,” he said. “You’re looking different in this timestream.”

“What?” said the man of the house.

An aged black labrador limped from behind them to sniff Danny’s filthy hands.

“Goldie!” Danny exclaimed as he knelt to pet the dog. “It’s so good to see you still alive.”

“That’s Sparky,” said the man. “What do you mean still alive?”

“Get me a Yoo-Hoo,” Danny said to the dog as it scampered back into the house. “Good girl.”

“Good boy,” said the man sternly. “Do I know you?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Danny said with a smile. “When I traveled back in time, there was a significant rupture in the fabric of space and time. It’s going to cause little differences in the locations and appearances of things and people. She looks different here, but she’s still my dog. Think of it as erosion, the further we get from the ripple, the more things are going to be altered. I probably don’t look exactly like what you’d expect either.”

“No,” said the man. “You don’t.”

“That’s because I’m not your son. Not exactly,” he said. “I’m your son from the future and you’re my parents in a past that is rapidly diverging from it’s original course.”

“Daniel?” called the mother, rolling her eyes. “It’s one of your role-playing friends.”

“I thought he was done with that now that he’s in college,” said the father.

“That’s what he wants you to think,” said Danny with a giggle. “Where is Dan?”

“I’m Daniel.” A teen who looked only slightly like Danny descended the staircase and looked suspiciously on the scene.

“So am I,” responded the time wizard. “We’re going to have to come up with a way to tell us apart. I’m going to call myself Danny Prime, because even though it seems like I come from the future, I’m really from the present, and you’re an alternate past version of me caused by my accidental tampering with time, emphasis on the accidental. Since you’re the alternate, I’m going to call you Alterna-Dan, all right? You should only wear blue shirts like the one you’re wearing from now on, or it will get too confusing.”

Alterna-Dan stared blankly.

“Who are you exactly?” stuttered the father.

“I’m here to save your son’s future,” said Danny Prime.”I can’t tell you much more right now. The less you know the better. I can’t risk talking to you and letting some detail about the future slip out.” Danny Prime laughed maniacally. “Knowing your own future could drive you completely bonkers, and none of us want that. I’d better have a chat with your son, Dan-to-Dan.”

“Ok,” said Alterna-Dan. “What’s this about?”

Sparky returned clutching a bottle of Yoo-Hoo in his mouth. Danny Prime took it, patted the dog and twisted off the lid. “Good girl, Goldie,” said Danny Prime. Alterna-Dan’s mother gasped and clutched her husband’s arm.

“How about some cookies, mom?” said Danny Prime as he bolted up the staircase, grabbing Alterna-Dan by the shoulder and leading him to his bedroom. Alterna-Dan’s body fumbled up the stairs, but his eyes stayed fixed on the playfully energized dog he knew as tired, old Sparky.

“Now, as I recall,” began Danny Prime in his professor’s voice. “You’re a pretty quick kid, Alterna-Dan, so I don’t think this will be too hard for you to get. You read a lot of science fiction, right?”

“Well, yeah,” said Alterna-Dan. His room was in a transitional phase from a high school nerd’s room to the bedroom of a distinguished college gentleman. His comic books sat beneath a pile of new physics books he’d brought home from college. “I used to.”

“I used to too,” said Danny Prime, “Back when I was you. Here’s the deal, you’re a time wizard. I’m a time wizard. We’re both the same person at different points in time. A few years from now you’ll grow up to be me. Then you’re gonna meet a girl named Valerie and fall in love.”

“A girl?” Alterna-Dan’s eyes lit up. “Powers?”

“That’s when your powers ignite, sending you back in time, where your arrival alters the past and writes Valerie out of existence. Now, we have to get me back into my proper place in time, or we’re both screwed.”

“That sounds crazy,” said Alterna-Dan.

“It’s been crazy allright.”

“No, I mean, really crazy,” said Alterna-Dan. “You don’t even look much like me.”

Danny Prime rolled his eyes and sighed heavily.

“I don’t remember myself being this slow when I was you,” he mumbled. “I’m you from the future, you’re me from the past. We don’t look perfectly, exactly, super the same, because we’re at different points in the Life of Dan, I’m a little older. At some point, you’re going to be me and have this same frustrating conversation with yourself and wish that you were a little sharper. You want the Life of Dan to end up in the right time stream with a girlfriend, right?”

“Yeah, but…”

“She’s super hot.”

“Ok,” said Alterna-Dan.

“And you sure don’t want the Life of Dan to end up dead in a ditch, alone and unloved, right?”

“No.”

“Or in a never-ending time loop where you get right up to your first kiss and then go back in time and then wait until you get back to that kiss and then go back in time again and where you keep reliving the same events over and over because your past self isn’t getting with the program, right?”

“I guess not,” said Alterna-Dan shrinking away.

“Then it’s simple. I’m you, you’re me. What’s good for Danny Prime is good for Alterna-Dan. Our goals are in alignment and right now, I really need your help, buddy. You help me save myself, and you’re saving yourself. Plus, you get a girlfriend out of it.”

“How far in the future are you from?” asked Alterna-Dan with the slightest hint of skepticism.

“I would say probably…” Danny Prime’s voice trailed off. “I’m not really sure what year it is now.”

“Do you know what year it was when you left? Who was President?”

“President of what?”

“So, you’re completely disoriented and confused?” asked Alterna-Dan. “Doesn’t that worry you?”

“Of course a time traveller is going to seem disoriented,” Danny Prime shot back. “You’d be disoriented in the future, there’s technology and discoveries beyond your grasp. It would boggle your prehistoric mind. So it’s only natural that I’m boggling your mind right now. I can see how boggled you are, but if you ever want to get past a first kiss in your life, you need to focus on fixing my problem… our problem.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Alterna-Dan forced himself to say.

“We’re going to reactivate my powers,” said Danny Prime. “We’re going to give them a jump start the same way they were triggered the first time. I need to fall in love again. Once I fall in love, I will use my powers to return to my proper time just as my original incarnation is sucked back through time. I must be precise, down to the second. Then I’ll slide into my seat across from Valerie and pick up the kiss where it left off. She won’t even know what’s happened.”

    “How will you know when to aim for if you don’t even know what year it was when you left?”

“It was summer, and the President was some old guy,” snarled Danny Prime angrily. “Little details are inconsequential to time lords like us. I’ll know. I’ll just know where to aim when I get my powers back, but first I need to find a girl. That’s where you come in. I need someone who knows the intricacies of this timestream and who also happens to know some girls. You know some girls, right?”

“My sister, Lily, is coming home pretty soon, you could go on a date with her.”

“I can’t date my sister,” roared Danny Prime. “Wait… you have a sister? I don’t have a sister. The ripples in time are spreading faster than I thought. The longer this takes, the weirder things are going to get. We could be seriously damaging the future, Alterna-Dan. What other girls do you know?”

“I don’t really know that many girls,” said Alterna-Dan. “And I’m going to be pretty busy this summer.”

“Maybe you don’t know any girls right now, but that’s what we’re going to fix,” said Danny Prime.  “That’s what summertime is for, not jobs and studying.

He picked up a physics textbook and tossed it out the window.

“In fact, if you’d done a little less studying, we wouldn’t be in this predicament because you would’ve found us a girlfriend a long time ago,” said Danny Prime. “This is all kind of your fault.”

“Maybe you should ask somebody else,” said Alterna-Dan as he scrambled to protect the rest of his textbooks.

“Somebody else?” cried Danny Prime. “”Who else knows my taste in girls? Who else knows ‘my type?’ No. If anyone is going to help me fix the space/time continuum, it’s got to be you.”

“If I find you a girl will you leave me alone?” asked Alterna-Dan. His voice cracked with desperation.

“I won’t just leave you alone,” replied Danny Prime. “I’ll leave your entire plane of existence.”

“I guess I can make some calls.”

“Great,” exclaimed Danny Prime. “Until then, I’ve got top bunk.”

“I don’t have a bunk bed.”

“Why don’t you have a bunk bed? I had a bunk bed at your age. In fact, I still do.”

“Ripples in time?” guessed Alterna-Dan.

“Probably,” replied Danny Prime. “Now, let’s find us the kind of girl I… that we like.”

#

During Danny Prime’s tenancy in Alterna-Dan’s bedroom, many things changed. Chalkboards were installed and covered with an endless stream of diagrams and equations, half concerning parallel universes, time-travel, chess and dimensional drift anomalies, the other half concerning pheromone dispersion, grooming tips, pick-up lines and dating advice. An issue of GQ was used as a place marker in A Brief History of Time. On Alterna-Dan’s bookshelf, Cosmo mingled with Cosmos; Redbook mingled with The Book of the Law. The VCR was set to record Dr. Who when it overlapped with Dr. Drew, and while Danny Prime spent most of his time expounding on his theories of time travel and “studying” the women of the past in Playboy and on The Bachelorette Alterna-Dan managed to find him a few dates.

Alterna-Dan loaned Danny Prime his nicest shirt and slacks and donated funds from his summer job at the observatory to acquiring some decent cologne. He observed the dates from beneath a disguise, which Danny Prime insisted he wear, lest they “look like twins.”

The first date didn’t go well.

In his eagerness to be rid of Danny Prime, Alterna-Dan had booked an overamorous young lady who responded to Danny’s advances by grabbing his hand and stuffing it into her shirt. The waitress had them thrown out of the cafe, but Alterna-Dan smoothed things over before Danny Prime’s second date. After patiently playing through his patented chess gambit, Danny declared this girl to be “the worst kisser in two timestreams.” This date also ended abruptly. The next girl declared Danny Prime to be “the worst kisser in town.” The next date did not advance so far as a kiss, as the young lady announced her unabashed polyamory and stated that she was not so much in the market for a new primary or secondary, but for a “fifthendary.” Danny Prime did not approve, provoking the calamitous end to another date and a snicker from the waitstaff. One girl’s boyfriend broke up the date and the next smacked him for his presumption.

Alterna-Dan intensified his search, turning to internet matching engines to crunch the numbers and find a personality that could satisfy Danny Prime. When he presented Danny Prime with a list of potentials, all but one were rejected based on their pictures. Tess was a long legged redhead that sparked Danny Prime’s interest right away. They traded pictures on-line and agreed to meet at Danny’s favorite cafe.

When she came into the cafe, the wind rushed through her hair and the sunlight shone in her eyes. Danny Prime stood up to meet her and moved to take her coat. She thanked him and then sat down across from Alterna-Dan.

“Dan, right?”

“Yeah, but…”

“I recognized you from the pictures you sent,” she said. “But you look more handsome in person.”

#

Danny Prime sank deep into Alterna-Dan’s bean-bag chair, dejectedly channel surfing, or as he called it “researching the alternate history of this timestream.” In a matter of weeks he had caused several chess pieces to wriggle from the fingers of breathless girls before kissing them, but failed to fall in love. Alterna-Dan had run out of ideas and begun to hide in the closet with his phone. Danny Prime could no longer see the proverbial light at the end of his wormhole. To dull the pain of temporal displacement, he started spiking his Yoo-Hoos with whiskey.

Between Animal Planet segments concerning mating rituals, he muted the commercials to eavesdrop on Alterna-Dan’s phone conversation.

“Why does it cost so much to have someone committed to your mental asylum?” asked Alterna-Dan in hushed tones. “But he’s really crazy, no evaluation necessary… Well, what am I supposed to do with him then? I can’t just leave him on the side of the road… Oh, I can? And that’s free?”

“Who are you talking to?” asked Danny Prime, opening the closet door where Alterna-Dan was hiding.

“Nobody,” said Alterna-Dan, hanging up his phone. “It was my grandma. Grandma Shady Pines.”

“Ha!” said Danny Prime. “You and I both know that our grandmas are dead.”

“Right,” said Alterna-Dan. “I forgot that we’re supposedly the same person. Have you thought about seeing a therapist for your…”

“For my what?”

“Your, um, depression?” said Alterna-Dan. “I’m a happy guy, so if we’re the same person, you shouldn’t be so depressed.”

“You’re not happy,” said Danny Prime.

“Yeah, I am. See?” Alterna-Dan faked a smile. “I’ve got an insane vagabond claiming to be a time traveler living in my room, who can’t find a single girl he likes out of all the ones I’ve wasted my summer finding. I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in weeks because of your ‘research’ and I can still manage a smile. I’m a happy, happy guy.” He smiled maniacally so his eyes bugged out. “I have to go back to college at the end of the summer, and I don’t know any more girls.”

“Geez, touchy,” said Danny Prime.

“If you’re so whacked out because this Valerie girl left you, why don’t you just kill yourself? Or better yet, why don’t you just get over it? Why don’t you find somebody new?”

“Like who?”

“My sister Lily will be here tomorrow,” said Alterna-Dan. “She’s got no plans, and she isn’t going to want to hang out at the house for the rest of the summer. Why don’t you take her out?”

“You know how I feel about inter-dimensional incest,” countered Danny Prime.

“Yeah, but you haven’t researched it like I have,” said Alterna-Dan, erasing one of Danny Prime’s doodlings which viewed up close appeared to be a Mandlebrot set, but viewed from afar revealed a nude pair of breasts.

“Hey! That’s an important nature-of-the-universe-time-and-space drawing you just wiped out,” Danny Prime complained.

“This isn’t time travel,” huffed Alterna-Dan, drawing up a mock family tree. “This is genetics. Let’s say we’re dealing with only one timestream. Within a family you have different degrees of consanguinity. That’s the degree to which you share the same genetic material. Me and my sister are a 25% match, and that’s too close to safely mate.”

Alterna-Dan began drawing percentages into their places on the family tree.

“A half-sibling is a 12.5% match, and it keeps on cutting itself in half. A cousin is a 6.25%, a second cousin is a 3.125% match and a third cousin is a 1.0625% genetic match. Do you know where a random stranger falls on this chart?”

“No,” said Danny Prime. “I have not spent nearly so much time studying inbreeding.”

“A random stranger falls in between a second and third cousin. The genetic similarity between you and a third cousin isn’t that far from the genetic similarity between you and a stranger,” Alterna-Dan smacked his chalk against the bored and huffed in triumph. “Even at random, we’re all just kissing cousins.”

“I’m kind of starting to worry about you Alterna-Dan,” said Danny Prime. “Maybe you should see a therapist.”
“Ok, now we jump to string theory,” Alterna-Dan flipped the chalkboard over revealing it’s other face where Danny Prime had drawn a woman wearing two Lorenz attractors as a bikini. Alterna-Dan frantically erased this and replaced it with several lines representing branched time-streams. “In string theory, we think of time as constantly branching. Each event causes a new string to break off from it’s original timeline and start a new one. So if grab the VCR remote and stop it from taping Battlestar Galactica…”

    He did so, causing Danny Prime to cry out in pain.

“…I’ve caused a new string of time in which you’re mad at me. Meanwhile, in the original timeline you get to watch your show, and that timeline continues until the next event causes a new branch. These branches happen with every single action that occurs. The possibilities approach infinity.”

“I am still mad at you throughout infinity worlds for turning off the VCR,” said Danny Prime.

“Right,” said Alterna-Dan without listening. “There are literally infinity different time streams because a new one begins at every point in time. Your chances of randomly dating your cousin within a single time stream is slim, but in infinite time streams, the odds that you’d share any genetic similarity with Lily are literally infinitesimal. So all I’m asking… All string theory is asking is that you go one one date.”

“I don’t know,” said Danny Prime. “There’s still a cha…”

“You have to get out of my house,” growled Alterna-Dan. “You have to stop living in my time and space, and you have to get over this Valerie girl, who I doubt was ever real in the first place.”

“She was real,” mumbled Danny Prime.

“Oh yeah,” replied Alterna-Dan. “Then tell me what she looked like.”

“She looked like…” He rubbed his temples and tried to shake the cobwebs from his memory. “I don’t remember.”

“It doesn’t matter if she was real or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re really from the future or if you’re just having a psychotic breakdown. You need to move on,” said Alterna-Dan. “It’s time to stop living in the subjective past.”

#

Danny Prime begrudgingly agreed to entertain Lily for an evening as a favor to Alterna-Dan.

“Do you like chess?” he asked her.

“Not really,” she said drearily.

“Well, you’ll love it after you play a game with me,” said Danny Prime.

“Ok.”

Nothing felt right to Danny. The cafe was too crowded and it had never been crowded in his time. It was raining outside and fall was on it’s way. What should have been a summer of love would soon end in a fall of indifference. He picked at his muffin while he dryly managed the quickest chess victory he could engineer.

He reached to grab her hand and said, “You don’t want to move there.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to move there?” she asked dryly.

“Because then the game would be over, and I don’t want this date to end.”

“Date?” she said, without dropping her chess piece. She set her it back on it’s square and stood up.

“Wait, don’t leave,” called Danny Prime as she headed for the door.

“Sorry,” she said, stifling a laugh. “I’m just not interested in my brother’s nerdy friends.”

Danny Prime sunk into his chair, finished his coffee and set his mug down with a rattle. He folded his arms on the table, rested his head in the crook of his elbow and made plans to fall asleep there until he died. The waitress who had laughed at him through so many dates took pity on him and gave him a refill.

“It’s bad enough to be stuck in the wrong time,” he told her. “It’s even worse when none of the girls there like you. I’m as lonely as I am displaced.”

“Where did you say you were from, Mister…?” she asked.

“Prime,” he said with his head buried in his arms. “I’m Danny Prime, and I’m from the future.”

“Oh,” she said. She thought for a moment and shifted her weight. She looked to see if anyone else was in hearing range. “Well, I’m Denise. I’m from another planet.”

He lifted his head from his arms. She was a petite girl with thin brown eyes, a sharp nose, a wide smile and smooth, black hair. She didn’t look at all like an alien. “Another planet, huh?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding furtively. “I’m from Gliese 581c.”

“No, you’re not,” he said dismissively and sunk his head back into his arms. He closed his eyes and let the blackness surround him. Then he heard the clack of a chess piece and the chair across from him scooting in. He looked up to see Denise smirking over the chess board. He suspiciously surveyed the situation and made his next move.

She countered, and he straightened in his chair. He moved again, and she made her move in the next instant. He brought his rook down with a slam and she responded in kind. She leaned back in her chair with folded arms. She raised her eyebrow, but he confidently slid into check. Denise picked up her queen, but Danny caught her by the hand before she could place it.

“You don’t want to move there,” he said.

“Why not?” she asked. “Then I’d have…”

Danny stood and kicked the table over in one sweeping motion. As the pieces scattered across the cafe floor, he reached his arm around Denise’s waist and pulled her close to him. She put her hands on his chest and stretched her mouth up to his. As their lips met, a draft stirred in the cafe, but the door hadn’t been opened. Magazines, coins, muffins and chess pieces were swept up in the accelerating vortex while Denise and Danny kissed in the calm center.

A glow came from behind Danny and lit the cafe in an unnatural purple hue. The winds closed in around them, whipping at their cheeks. The glowing light stretched out from it’s center until a purple cat’s eye stretched from the ceiling to the floor. White lightning crackled at its edges and a dark haze lay beyond.

Danny Prime broke the kiss and stared upon his route home as Denise gasped for air. The winds had picked up furniture and people, and the couple could no longer see beyond the wall of swirling air. The wind speeds had become so severe that the entire cafe eroded under it’s sheer force. Only Danny seemed unaffected, and she clung to him to avoid being swept away. He took his eyes from the crackling portal and looked into hers, deep and brown.

“If you could go anywhere you wanted, and any time,” he said, touching her cheek with one hand and holding her with his other. “Where would you go?” His voice rang out clear over the whipping wind as it began to tear at their clothing.

“My home planet,” she said without hesitation. “When it still had life.”

He took his hand from her face and grasped hers. The winds no longer seemed to pull on her, and she no longer felt the cold as they walked through the portal together. It sparked for a moment as they disappeared into the haze and then neatly closed behind them.

Artist's Depiction of the Space/Time Continuum


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