I sat there, stunned.
Just then, Mum came back in.
Dad said, “I was telling him how you came to be at Woodstock. It was about a month before you came back off that New York assignment, wasn’t it?”
Mum frowned, but did not answer. I made my excuses and headed for my flat.
Could there be any doubt? No. I had cuckolded my own father. Hell, I was my own father. And as for my mother…
Of course, it would only have been natural when, as I grew up, I began to resemble the guy who had… And anyway, she had been pretty stoned at the time – there was no reason for her to have ever suspected the truth.
Poor old Dad. He had always figured I was his. But – in this existence, at least – I was mine.
So what now?
Well, the reason Moonchild had not come with me now seemed obvious. She was already in this time line. And it followed that my entry into it meant the other version of me was no more, either.
At least everything was still as it had been when I left. Or was it? I jumped up and checked myself in the mirror. The familiar face looked back at me.
Then again, if I had changed, Mum and Dad would have said something. Unless they had changed too…
But if I had been born as the result of a union between my Mum and original Dad, how come I still looked the same as before – now being the result of a union between my Mum and myself?
I began to appreciate the full import of the word paradox. My head was beginning to hurt.
I had to move on.
I began by re-examining The Device. Cleaning it properly for the first time, I discovered it was gold in colour – with facets. Plain, hard and smooth.
It was obvious that trying to open it would likely destroy it. In addition, it probably had a lot of power, so cracking it apart might actually be dangerous.
Whatever, I needed to find a better way of protecting it than sewing it into my clothes. Then I had an idea.
I scoured the Internet and eventually found what I needed. It was a tough plastic bracelet with a compartment that was designed to hold pills. It was intended for people with important pill regimens – but it would also serve for time travellers who needed to protect their Devices.
Time travellers. There was a thought. Was I the only one – at least, on this planet? I had heard it said that time travel had to be impossible – otherwise we would be inundated with them. But on another planet…
To business: I measured my leg, just above the ankle, then measured The Device and ordered a bracelet that would fit both dimensions – once again, to be couriered to me.
So now what? If I was not safe at Woodstock, where would I be safe?
I spent the rest of the day considering options and doing Internet research on them. But the problems I could encounter with any trip seemed insurmountable.
For instance – how about a trip to pre-historic times? No danger of encountering anyone, there. But I would have to survive being chased by dinosaurs for a day – not to mention being crapped on by giant pterosaurs.
Of course, had this been an American movie, I would have gone tooled up – but as a middle-class Brit, I could no sooner procure a Kalashnikov than I could a nuclear sub. Plus I was not Arnold Schwarzenegger – more Margaret Rutherford.
No, that one could wait.
How about finding out who Jack The Ripper was? Yes, but at best all I would discover was that he was some bloke. Unless he turned out to be someone famous. Unlikely. Even if I photographed him, he would still just be some bloke. And while I would have finally solved the mystery, I could not tell anyone about it.
I could go and see Sinatra perform in Vegas. The Beatles do Shea Stadium. Oh… there were no Beatles here. Okay – Gershwin play “Rhapsody In Blue” – Tod Slaughter perform at the Elephant and Castle – they were before 1936. Hell, I could even check out Prokofiev. The world’s greatest artists were there for the enjoying.
Yes – that was what I would do. Period money and clothes. And talk to no-one.
There was a knock at the door. It was Dad. “There’s another package for you – I signed for it.”
“Thanks Dad.” After he had left, I opened the package, placed The Device in the bracelet’s pill compartment and secured the thing to my ankle. It was more comfortable than I had expected – I would hardly be aware I was wearing it. I pulled my trouser-leg down over it and went through to get some dinner.
Mum had calmed down and was her old self once again – but I could not bring myself to look at her.
Afterwards, I returned to my flat and scanned my library of Greenray disks for some entertainment. “James Bond: Goldfinger” caught my eye. I had seen it many times before, but would it be the same here? There was only one way to find out. I undressed and lay on the bed to watch it.
But I had forgotten to remove the bracelet…