The door creaks as I enter the almost empty lecture hall and survey the area for a few moments. I finally spot the person I am looking for: He’s waving at me with a huge grin on his face.
“'Sup dude, I see you still can't be as early as me," he says while patting me on the back.
“I’m starting to believe you’re camping in front of the hall…” I reply as I take out my laptop.
My apartment’s only five minutes away from the campus, and I’m always coming early. So why is this guy always here before me?!
I’m suspecting that he’s a wizard, that’s the only plausible explanation.
The black-haired twenty years old laugh and points at a certain spot on his laptop’s screen.
“Look at what I got last night!”
My eyes bulge when I see that he now has one of the rarest cards in the entire game.
“This is bullshit…” I curse him before turning on my laptop. “I don’t know how you did it, but it doesn’t matter since I will beat you!”
I smirk to hide my uneasiness since the card he got is beyond overpowered. It’s so good that he’s guaranteed to win if he plays it properly.
He raises an eyebrow, “John, you know that I’m almost unbeatable now! And this card isn’t the only good one I got last night-”
I crack my fingers and send him an invitation, “Come on Riley! Or do I need to remind you how many times you lost?”
He grins and accepts the invite. I select my strongest deck and take a deep breath.
“Come on dude, you can’t be serious… That’s fucking bullshit!” Riley’s shoulders slump as the defeat screen appears on his laptop, thus inaugurating my fourth consecutive victory.
I pass a hand through my blond hair and smile, “You’re right, I didn’t scratch you… I obliterated you!”
He glares at me and punches me in the arm, “I must admit that you wrecked me, I wasn’t able to do anything.” My friend sighs, “That’s a surprise if I’m being honest. It feels like I’m doing worse despite having better cards.”
I nod,” And you are right. It’s obvious that your entire deck revolved around the cards you unpacked last night. And I was lucky enough to notice that you couldn’t do anything after I forced you to shuffle your hand in the first round. So I adapted my play style to exploit that weakness.”
Yep, my victory was planned from the beginning. It totally wasn’t the result of an incredible stroke of luck.
Riley exhales and turns his head towards the door.” Looks like the professor’s here. I guess we’ll continue later.”
“Hey dude, what about another round? I’m almost falling asleep.” Riley asks me with a pleading face after only twenty minutes. I believe it’s a new record...
I sigh and stop typing, “Come on man, can’t you see I’m busy?”
"Oh please, I can tell that you're paying even less attention than me." Riley glances at the lines of code displayed on my screen.” What are you even working on? I can’t recognize the language and the code is a complete mess.”
Hey now, it’s very well organized. It only takes me half an hour to find something!
…Maybe he has a point.
But I think I did a pretty decent job since the code is an amalgam of random snippets of code I copied from the internet and cobbled together to make them work properly.
I know what I’m doing, I promise.
“You know what it is. I’ve been working on it for the last two months!" I grumble while trying to fix the dozens of new errors that appeared on the screen.
“I can’t believe you’re still working on that! Are you aware that the mobile market is beyond saturated? And I’m certain that an app that looks like it came straight out of the eighties isn’t in high demand.”
“… Shut up, you’re only seeing placeholders at the moment.”
A vein bulges on my temple when I heard him stifle a giggle, “Placeholders? After two months?”
I glare at him and grab my earphones. “We’ll see if you keep the same attitude after I become a billionaire thanks to this app.”
He raises his hands, "I'm sorry Mr. SuperDev! My IQ is too low to understand why the clock on your app isn't synchronized with the one on your phone. I'm sure it's seven AM somewhere!”
He struggles to contain his laughter, and I do my best to ignore him while I transfer the new version of the app on my Smartphone. I then plug my earphones into my phone before pressing the run button.
At first, nothing happens. I am about to swear at the frozen screen when I notice that my friend stopped laughing.
In fact, I couldn't hear a single sound. I look up and what I see makes my jaw drop.
Nobody in the entire hall is moving. It’s like someone hit the pause button.
What is this? Was there some kind of event I wasn’t informed of?
But a sudden and atrocious pain coming from my entire head stops me from thinking about the situation. I grab my head and scream for help but nobody reacts. They all stay perfectly still while my cranium feels like it’s getting submerged in a lake of lava.
I lose control of my body and fall off my chair before convulsing on the floor. My vision loses its colors and foam forms at the corners of my mouth. My suffering then increases tenfold when something that sounds like a jet engine roars next to my head, making my ears bleed.
The world turns faster and faster, and the last thing I see is blue light engulfing my vision before I lose my consciousness.
I gasp for air and suddenly wake up. I have to take a few minutes to notice that I am back in my room, lying in my bed while drenched in cold sweat.
That was the worst nightmare I ever had!
I try to go back to sleep but the fresh memories of the pain is still lingering, and I can’t keep my eyes closed for more than a few minutes. A deep sigh comes out of my mouth when I glance at my alarm clock. It’s a little over seven in the morning so I have to wait for a few hours before going to my classes.
I have nothing to do...
My laptop that’s poking out of my bag catches my attention. So I decide to work on my app instead of staring at my ceiling for hours.
It’s been an hour, and half of that time was wasted by staring at the compiler’s error logs.
I am stumped on a particularly stubborn piece of code I recently added. It wouldn’t work no matter what I did. I was about to give up in frustration since my last attempt at fixing the problems failed. In fact, it had the opposite effect and added hundreds of new errors.
I then think of something that makes me smile.
Why not use the line of codes I saw in my nightmare?
I am a bit desperate for a solution, and at this point the only ones I have left is either copying the code from my dream or sacrificing a goat to Satan.
I’m surprised to see that the code isn't throwing more errors as I type, and it’s over before I even realize it. I re-read the program a few times to make sure that my eyes aren’t deceiving me but there’s not a single error message.
I am about to shout and do a victory dance but I stop myself at the last second. After all, I have neighbors and very thin walls.
My alarm rings just at this moment.
Time’s a lot quicker when you’re doing something you enjoy… This gives me an idea: Should I go to the lecture earlier than usual?
The idea makes me smile as I step into the shower. The flow of hot water slowly wakes me up as I clean myself.
I then get dressed and eat my breakfast once I finish washing. But the ridiculous notion of following what happened in my dream to stick it to Riley is still stuck in my head.
Now come on, don’t be ridiculous. Dreams can’t predict the future!
But the thought now refused to leave my mind. So now I’m standing in the middle of my apartment, wondering if I should enjoy the warmth of my apartment for a few more minutes or go to the lecture hall.
Heh, what do I have to lose anyway?
I make a decision and grab my stuff before heading out. The biting cold of the morning wind is seeping into my bones despite wearing my warmest clothes. I’m already regretting my decision, but it’s too late to turn back.
Something catches my attention as I walk through the frozen campus, and it isn’t the women dressed like we were still in the middle of summer. Instead it’s a weird sensation that can be best described as quasi-déjà vu. But, unlike feeling like something had already happened, it was like everything was off key, that the timing of everything was slightly wrong.
I shake my head to chase the thoughts away.
Don't be ridiculous, you have dreams that predict the future and now that weird déjà vu? I guess I’m more addicted to coffee than I want to admit…
Yeah, a lack of caffeine is probably the reason behind that weird feeling. I have the habit of drinking a cup of the bitter beverage each morning, but I finished my reserves of instant coffee yesterday and forgot to buy more.
Note to self: Go to the grocery store before going home.
I rush into the lecture hall since my brief trip made me desperate for warmth. But pushing the doors of the building only made me very disappointed: The heaters had only been turned on for a few minutes so the building’s interior was still cold.
It looks like I’m the only one here.
I sit in the back of the hall and grab my laptop before plugging it into the socket on the wall.
Maybe I was too early. But at least I have a socket…
Those things are rarer than gold, and it’s impossible to find a free one when I arrive at a more reasonable hour.
I press the power button and start to work on the app’s next feature: I want it to be able to send text messages by pressing a button.
But my work gets interrupted by the creaking door before I can even start. A familiar voice echoes in the empty hall.
“What?! Seriously dude?!” Riley says before seating next to me.
“I’m impressed! How did John Thomson, known procrastinator, arrive earlier than me?”
I sigh, “I woke up earlier and couldn’t go back to sleep so I came here. But why on Earth do you arrive so early?”
Riley smiles and takes out his laptop, “That’s a secret! But enough about that, you will never believe what happened!”
“What? You unpacked all the rare cards from the new expansion?” I say in a joking tone.
His shoulders slumps,” Well you ruined the surprise…” he says before removing his leather jacket.
“How did you know?” he asks while we wait for the game to load.
“Just a wild guess, I was expecting something like that since you’re always so lucky.”
All those coincidences are going to make me believe that a dream that can predict the future is actually possible.
I’m worrying about nothing. It’s just an amazing series of coincidences.
I bury the thoughts in the back of my mind and accept the invitation that popped up on my screen.
What the fuck.
He played just like he did in my dream.
This is weird, is this some kind of elaborate prank? Or am I the luckiest person in existence?
Either way, something is fishy. My déjà vu went into overdrive during our game, to the point where I could predict what card Riley would use or what he would say. It felt like we were following a script but I was the only one who could read a page ahead.
Now we are both working on our own projects: Riley is finishing an assignment and I am working on my app to distract myself from the panic welling in my stomach.
The message system didn’t take too long to finish since it was far easier than expected. I transfer the new app to my phone just as the professor enters the hall.
Well here goes nothing! I hope that the last part of my dream doesn’t happen…
My thumb hovers over the Run button for a few seconds. But I finally ignore my inner turmoil and press it. It’s silly to think that a simple app could kill me like that…
My vision darkens for a split second and I am back in my bed. I feel like I am falling for a brief moment before getting back to my senses.
What?! What happened?!
At least I didn't feel the atrocious pain that ended my first dream again. I glance at my alarm clock, and it’s still seven in the morning.
I fall on my bed and sigh, "Just what is happening? Was it a dream within a dream, like in that movie? I thought that wasn't something that actually happened."
But my musings are distracted by a blinking green light on my ceiling. I realize that it’s coming from my phone.
I wonder who would even text me…
I click on the icon before freezing in place. My jaw drops while my phone slips out of my hands.
The cause of my shock is the message displayed on the screen. It was coming from me:
Send the 8th of March 2017 at 9:32 AM.
This is a test message.
This can’t be happening!
This is impossible! I had written the message function in the dream. And even if today is the eighth, it was only seven AM!
But this doesn’t change the fact that I have an impossible message sent by a program that doesn’t exist right in front of me.
I stare at my wall in silence, unable to process the information displayed on the device.
My stupor lasts for ten minutes before I finally snap out of it. I grab my computer and open the app's files, and I confirmed that the code to send the message wasn’t here.
“What am I supposed to do now? This is way too elaborate to be a prank…”
I am left with two possibilities. And they are both equally frightening: The first and most likely one was that I had gone completely insane. The second one was that this message, along with my memories, somehow traveled back in time.
I stare at my screen with a blank expression before cracking my knuckles. I had to find out the truth, no matter what.
Rewriting the code is pretty quick since I already wrote it before, and only time will tell if it was in a dream or in an alternate future.
I wait ten minutes before changing the clock on my app to arrive at a time when the code is completed because I don’t want to write it again. But I’m not sure if manipulating the clock actually does anything, and maybe I would always wake up at seven AM.
There’s no time like the present, so here we go!
I press the Run button and the world in front of me blinks out of existence before reappearing.
At least I’m still in my chair.
I turn my head towards my alarm clock and the thumping of my heart resonates into my skull. I stare at the big blue numbers with a gaping mouth and bulging eyes: The hour on the app matches with the one on the clock.
Furthermore, I also received another text that confirms my hypothesis:
Send the 8th of March 2017 at 8:48 AM.
This is a test message.
This is time travel.
I slouch in my chair and stare at my ceiling while the revelation washes over me.
What I discovered could be considered the biggest invention that mankind has ever produced. Ways to exploit it sprouts into my mind, but I have to control myself. Time travel would be invaluable for governments or corporations. And I know that those groups wouldn’t hesitate to silence me to keep their secrets hidden.
Maybe there's a CIA agent on its way to kill me right at this moment.
I exhale, “There’s no way that’s possible, and I’m just being too paranoid…”
But I also thought time travel was something that was pure science fiction until ten minutes ago. So anything’s possible.
That’s not very reassuring, is it?
I shake my head to chase the terrifying thoughts away and focus on more important matters, like the possible limitations of my time travel capabilities. I know I can rewind for at least two hours, but I don’t know if there’s an upper limit on that.
So I create an alarm that would ring every hour and prompt me to rewind back to this point as a test. A single notification appears after I press the Run button.
Send the 9th of March 2017 at 8:24 AM.
This is a [email protected]*$t mes_s**/)age.
I cancel the alarm and look at my phone with a satisfied smile.
Looks like I have my answer… From what I can tell I can rewind for a maximum of twenty-four hours, any more than this and only the message gets through. It also seems like it heavily degrades the more I go back.
At least I know the limits of the rewind, but the implications escape me.
What would happen to the futures from where I sent those messages? Would they still continue as parallel timelines or would they be erased?
I need to stop thinking about it; I am an IT student, not a physicist...
A quick look at my alarm clock takes me back to reality. Messing with the app was so fascinating that I lost track of time and completely forgot that my classes started ten minutes ago!
Oh well, it’s not like I can’t fix that now, can I?
I configure the Project_01’s clock to a more reasonable time and press the Run button. My eyes stop working for an instant, but my surroundings didn’t change when I regained my vision.
A smile creeps across my face as I get ready. I am in a hurry so I don’t pay too much attention to my surroundings, but it feels a little weird since it’s like I pressed the forward button compared to earlier.
This gives me an idea: I know I can rewind time. But could I make it go forward?
I grab my phone, set the clock to ten minutes in the future and hold my breath before pressing the Run button.
The only thing that happens is a crash message.
Looks like I’m only able to go back in time and not forward, that’s a bummer…
I smile at the ridiculousness of the situation: I have a way to travel back to the past, something that is a just a dream for everyone else. But I still complain about it.
The trip to the lecture hall is uneventful and I enter the crowded room. I have no difficulties finding Riley since I already know where he is and sit next to him.
"Hey John, I thought you wouldn't show up!" he says with a smile as I grab my laptop from my bag. “What happened, you didn’t hear your alarm or something?”
I make a wry smile,” Yeah, something like that.”
“It’s too bad you arrived so late. If you were quicker we could’ve played a few games. And you wouldn’t believe what I unpacked last-”
“Yeah, I’m sure you’ve gained some bullshit cards again.”
I wasn't just sure, I was certain since this is the third time we had this conversation.
Our chatting is cut short by the professor’s arrival so we both focus on our computers. I already know the contents of the lecture since I repeated it two times so I focus on upgrading the time travel app.
I make it able to send custom messages and change its name. It’s now designated by a more glamorous Rewinder instead of Project_01.
Doing this the normal way would take me hours upon hours. But a few Rewinds allow me to make it in only two hours of ‘real’ time.
“So what should we do now?” Riley asks after we leave the lecture hall.
I cup my chin: At this hour most of the surrounding cafeterias and restaurants were full, so finding a place to eat would be difficult.
He nods when I voice my thoughts, "We could always try to go to that new sandwich place that's nearby, according to my friends it's not too expensive and its good."
My nod prompts him to lead the way. Our trip is regularly interrupted by Riley who stops to greet one of his friends, and I wave at them when he introduces them.
"You know you don't have to be so reserved, they won't eat you or anything," he says with a worried expression as we make our way through the crowded campus.
Of course, but if I am more open I would have to make conversation with those people. And it would become clear that I couldn't hold one at all, causing an awkward silence to follow.
Really, I’m doing both of us a service by barely acknowledging their existence.
I answer with a dismissive sigh and we walk in silence before finally arriving at the sandwich place. The new medium-sized building is swarmed by chatting students and a bright neon sign with the words “The Hot Spot” is hanging above the door.
I am famished since I ate nothing this morning and the smell of grilling meat makes me salivate as soon as we enter the building.
A grumpy-looking man in his forties takes our order. We only have to wait for ten minutes before he hands us two paper bags. We thank him and leave the crowded restaurant for a more isolated spot where we can enjoy our lunch.
We finally settle on a bench next to one of the campus’ main plazas.
“Man, I’m famished!” Riley says as he pulls out a foot long sandwich generously filled with ham, cheese, and salad while my meal is a large cheeseburger accompanied by a hearty serving of French fries.
We devour our lunch in silence, too preoccupied with the delicious food to talk to each other.
“That was nice, wasn’t it?” Riley says while slouching on the bench.
I nod, “So what should we do now? We still have an hour before our next class.”
“Let’s go to the classroom. I’ll show you why you can’t beat me now!”
How can someone be so wrong?!