"It's time to take a break from this thesis," I thought to myself. "I can't focus any longer."
I was studying for my master's degree in Computer Science. It was strange, since I had studied economics in my undergraduate, and had a minor in chemistry. I was all over the place, but one thing could be said for certain: I loved science. In fact, I was studying Computer Science so I could create cryptographic protocols that wouldn't be crackable in the dawn of quantum computers.
I had only gotten as far as explaining some basic quantum mechanics when I realized a flaw in my cryptographic protocol. I felt as though there would be an easy fix, but after several days of sitting mindlessly at my computer, sometimes scrolling through an infinite continuum of Wikipedia pages, sometimes gleaning over quantum physics papers, sometimes flipping through the pages of cryptanalysis and finite-field mathematics textbooks, I found myself in need of a downright hedonistic break to rest my mind for a moment.
The carnival was in town. I was new to New Hampshire, so I didn't really have very many friends up there at the time. I managed to skim a few fellow free-staters from some local bars and from Porcfest, but what few I had were busy at the moment.
Implied there was that I also had no girlfriend. My ex was a bit younger than me, and had a still had quite a long way to go through the gauntlet of academia, so I broke up with her the day I began my hike up the Appalachian trail to get to New Hampshire.
I was woefully alone in New Hampshire, I must admit. But what kind of person has time to devote their lives to science while still maintaining a happy social life? Not me.
So as hard as I tried, I ended up going to that carnival by myself. I am not even sure why I did. It obviously wasn't for socializing. I hated rides. The feeling of my organs sloshing around in my thoracic cavity amidst the chaotic acceleration unsettled me greatly. I certainly wasn't there for that nasty carnival food, either.
Like a novice in the gym, who wanders without direction through a forest of bewildering exercise machines, I too wandered through a small city of colossal entertainment mechanisms, admiring each one from a distance, but keeping my distance nevertheless.
The screaming bodies being hurdled through the air all around me were obnoxious, but they never seemed to draw my mind away from my studies. In the infinite chain of diversions of thought through which my mind traveled, quantum mechanics popped up numerous times. This thought pattern was quite ironic, since I began to visualize the thoughts about quantum mechanics I cycled through as being represented by ones, and those that didn't pertain to quantum mechanics as being represented by zeros. Naturally, my cryptography-infused brain couldn't help but try to notice some repetitive pattern in the binary mess, and search for some quantum-computational method to resort to deciphering it!
After I had passed an idle hour, wandering around with my hands stuffed into my pockets, watching the fog billow from my mouth with each exhalation of the cold New Hampshire air, I happened upon the one thing at the carnival that actually interested me: the fun house.
It was labeled "Dr. T's Fun House", and while the name didn't explicate it, the airbrush art on the facade of the building made it look as though it was a mirror maze. The black-haired, Slavic bearded man collecting the tickets looked familiar. As I walked closer, he noticed me and smiled. His smile was so peculiar. It seemed to communicate something to me, and at the time, I couldn't understand it. I nevertheless stood in line, eager to do the one thing I would actually enjoy at the carnival.
When the line had advanced, I found myself standing before this man. I felt as though I knew him, and I felt as though he knew me, but without being able to identify him, the only word I could muster was a timid and quiet, "Hi." He didn't respond; he only smiled. When a crowd of young adults emerged from the exit of the building, he opened the gate before me, allowing me to enter.
He stopped me. He stood up from his chair, and with his eyes never breaking contact with mine, he pulled a big pair of dark sunglasses from his pocket and hooked them onto the button-cleavage of my flannel shirt.
"You will need these, my friend," he said.
I was so utterly confused by that gesture, that I couldn't even formulate the explosion of questions I had into a coherent sentence. In futile pursuit of words, all I could do was accept it and enter the gate. Soon, I found myself face to face with hundreds of clones of myself, staring back at me, mimicking my exact movements. Like a drunken and blinded man, I wandered through a dimly-lit canyon of mirrors, my arms extended before me to navigate. As I wandered further from the entrance, the maze became darker, and proportionally more difficult.
When I had arrived in total darkness, the sound around me had ceased abruptly. I couldn't even feel mirrors around me anymore. It was as if all of my senses had turned off completely. Then, in the utter silence of sensory deprivation, a light more blinding than anything I had ever seen flooded into the maze from a very clearly defined exit. It was so bright that the fleshy red light that filtered through my eyelids was painfully bright. Stumbling around in that maze with my eyes aching, I recalled the sunglasses the mysterious gatekeeper had hung from the opening of my flannel shirt. I put them on clumsily, with my hands shaking.
With my vision restored, I saw the exit, and was able to walk into the blinding outside world. Before doing so, I looked all around me to verify that what I was experiencing was real. The mirrors behind me had closed in. I was befuddled by that circus trickery.
I stepped outside to arrive in a silent and white parallel of the world from whence I entered Dr. T's Fun House. The blazing light in the distance obscured my vision such that I could only see some faint shadows of objects around me. In awe, I walked but a few steps forward before I bumped into somebody. I panicked at first, then apologized. I became afraid when the person did not respond. In my desperation to see the victim of my blinded incoordination, I strafed around him.
It was actually a woman. She was frozen in time, with her arms drawn before her face in a cross, and her mouth open, screaming in agony. I stepped back in terror when I saw her. This was not the product of funhouse trickery. This was outright witchcraft.
Before I even had the chance to process the gravity of the situation, a voice thundering from all around me compounded my disquietude.
"Come to the Ferris Wheel."
I visually scanned my entire circumference, but to no avail. I could see nobody through the white veil, except the paralyzed woman with whom I shared a short radius of distance. I was even more perplexed when I realized that whoever brought me into this strange netherworld did so against my will, yet he asked me to come to him at the Ferris Wheel.
"Who are you!?" I screamed, spinning around to project my voice in all directions.
"Come to the Ferris Wheel," he responded. Upon his second command, I noticed the Slavic accent. It was certainly the gatekeeper of Dr. T's Fun House.
I knew that, while he asked me to come to him, I had no choice. This strange man was in complete control of my world. So, in my fruitless resistance, I proceeded to the Ferris Wheel, which I could faintly make out as a silhouette in the distance.
Fortunately, there were no buildings in my path. But my despair grew ever greater as I had to navigate through an entire crowd, frozen in time, their mouths ajar and eyes closed. Their arms and hands were drawn before their faces to shield their eyes from the scalding light. My stomach heaved in horror when I realized that they were all facing the direction that I was headed.
I felt as though I was walking to my own noose. Just a few minutes before, I was a lonely graduate student, wandering through the crowd of jubilant carnival-goers. Within a few minutes, I found myself stepping somberly towards my death.
There was no sound to narrate the last few minutes of my life and its enigmatic conclusion. Even the whistle of the air past my earholes was absent. Even the shuffle of the dirt beneath my shoes was silent. The birds had nothing to say. Nary a gnat could be heard, flapping its petite wings.
When I had come to the stairs of the Ferris Wheel, and placed my hand on the gate, I thought to run. I could imagine nothing else this mysterious and powerful man could want with me but to kill me. So I paused. I ran. Darting to my left, I sprinted through time-stopped carnival-goers, sprinting for anything that could be an exit.
I found myself halted, suddenly. The terror drew a quivering breath from me. I was paralyzed. I couldn't even rotate my head to see what was behind me. I was being dragged by a bodiless force to the Ferris Wheel from whence I ran. I was lifted off of the ground, and found myself ascending toward the top of the Ferris Wheel.
Shivering in fear, I was dropped on the roof of one of the two highest cabins. On the roof of the other cabin stood a man, staring down at me as I trembled on my knees. I could hardly see him, but I recognized him. He was the gatekeeper: Dr. T.
Scarcely able to issue a word from my quaking jaw, I asked of him:
"Please. Please don't kill me."
The world around me went dark. Instantly.
"You may remove your sunglasses now," he said with tranquil indifference.
My arms were exhausted from the constant surge of adrenaline, but I managed to raise them to my face, and draw off my shades, and put them in my shirt pocket. I could see now. All of the world, save for our small sphere of the top of the Ferris Wheel, was covered in blackness. Dr. T and I were floating on two Ferris Wheel carts in a black abyss.
With the blinding light now gone, I could see him clearly. His smoothly waving black hair was parted down the center. His triangular face was parted by a long, but thin brow. A well-trimmed moustache garnished his upper lip. It was clear to me who he was now, but I could hardly process it in my bewilderment.
With no verbal affirmation, he nodded. My fear yielded to amazement. Before me was no monster, but instead my idol! My hero! The object of my undying admiration! Before me was the most brilliant mind that was ever fortunate enough to bless planet Earth. I had so much to ask him, and I was so excited to see him, but it was clear that he was in no mood to respond to my adoration.
I came down from my high, and slipped again into fear.
"I brought you here to show you what you will cause if you do not make the right choices. Witness now the product of your reckless audacity."
The raising of Tesla's hand partially lifted the veil of darkness, allowing me to see the crime for which I was the culprit. It was so far away, but yet it was so large. It was so darkened, but it was still so bright. It was the undeniable epitome of human voracity. The gleaming monument of death I saw drew tears from my eyes. It was a mushroom cloud. It was the explosion from an atomic bomb.
"My message is clear," he said as he drew me closer with his telekinetic pull. I was inches from his face, when he stared into my eyes and said:
"Don't fuck with time travel. The universe is too complex for two gods."
He took the sunglasses from my shirt pocket, and with a snap of his fingers, he vanished, and time resumed its course. I was stripped of my sunglasses. My eyes were naked and exposed to a light that could be seen through a brick wall. Behind me I could hear the heaving screams of agony of the carnival-goers, being roasted by the light energy of a thousand suns. I, too, was screaming.
For a brief moment, my eyes witnessed the brightest light, then boiled into darkness. My ears heard the loudest thunder, then ruptured into the quietest silence. My skin fried in the hottest heat, then I felt nothing but cold numbness. I was dematerializing in a white-hot flame, which blew back too fast to even exhibit the turbulent dance that most fires do.
A final blast of hot air, as dense as a brick wall, pummeled my body with the concentrated force of an entire space shuttle. My liquefying body was bludgeoned so hard that what remained of me vaporized. My molecules were split into atoms. My atoms were split into particles. My particles were split into quarks.
...then I walked out of Dr. T's Fun House. I was awestruck. I could not formulate words, nor commit to any action. I just stood there for a moment, with my mouth ajar. A group of teenagers walked by me, and the alpha male among them asked me: "Hey, dude, are you alright? That was just a mirror maze." It was a rhetorical question, of course, as they walked off, laughing at me. I could only stare at them.
In confusion and frustration, I turned to the gatekeeper. I would have killed him for putting me through such torture! To my woe, however, it was not Nikola Tesla. It was an entirely different person. Then I realized that my sunglasses were missing, verifying the entire nightmare. I looked down at my smartphone to realize that only two minutes had passed.
I went straight home, slowly processing the entire event piece by piece. Strangely enough, when I sat down at my desk to resume writing my thesis, I was able to focus quite clearly.
Then it all made sense. As I read over the last sentence of my basic overview of quantum mechanics, it dawned on me. It was a loophole in the laws of the universe. After reading over that single mathematical equation over and over again, I confirmed it more and more. It was so simple, and so obvious, yet there was no publicity for it.
I could have built a time travel device for a few hundred dollars. I could have traveled to any time, accumulated as much knowledge and material wealth as I wanted, then went elsewhere in time. I could have advanced towards the future and learned the secrets of longevity, and made myself immortal. I could have siphoned energy from the big bang into whatever present purposes I wanted. I could have become God himself.
But Nikola's warning was very clear: I was not competent for the task.
Many physicists before me probably knew about time travel, but our god is a jealous god. Nikola Tesla wanted no other idols before us. I can only imagine the horrible fate of those who defied Nikola Tesla.
Staring down at what may have been the most pivotal equation in the history of mankind, I solemnly deleted my entire thesis. I could not handle the truth, and neither could anybody else.
I dropped out of grad school. Instead, I'll be in church every Sunday, like all of the other physicists, worshipping our lord and savior: Dr. Tesla.