“The Constant Present”
Written by Joe Janes
145 of 365
(Lights up on Marty and Arnold, two US soldiers guarding the wall of the Green Zone in Iraq.)
MARTYI’m just saying, maybe it already has happened, Arnold. Maybe somebody did it here. Maybe someone from the future came back in time to Iraq and made sure we killed Sadam Hussein. Maybe there’s a future where Sadam Hussein lived and became an even bigger evil asshole.
ARNOLDThat would mean he’s still alive.
MARTYMaybe he is. If someone came back in time to kill him.
ARNOLDWhoa, Marty. That’s nuts. If someone came back in time and killed him, then they changed the future. He’s dead. They changed the outcome. It would happen in a flash and we wouldn’t even notice.
MARTYI don’t think it works like that. Suppose tomorrow you went back in time and killed Hitler.
ARNOLDI would so love to do that.
MARTYLet’s say Hitler, turns out, banged some German barmaid who got pregnant, had a son and that guy turned out to be your grandfather.
ARNOLDHey, my great great grandmother did not bang Hitler.
ARNOLDShe didn’t do it that way, either.
MARTYAll right, it was my great great grandmother. Okay?
ARNOLDThat is a more likely scenario.
MARTYSo, by killing Hitler, you prevented me ever being born. So, what does that mean about right now. Are you on this wall right now talking to me? Or am I simply erased from the world in the blink of an eye? Or maybe you’re not here at all. Maybe my not being born threw things off so much you went on different path in your life. Different job, different location.
(They start making sandwiches as they are now working behind the counter of a Subway sandwich shop.)
ARNOLDYou’re making it too complicated. You kill Hitler, the Jews don’t die, everything is hunky dory. We would still be having this conversation because I don’t leave till tomorrow, right?
MARTYWell, I actually agree with half of what you are saying. It’s like this foot long chicken teriyaki sandwich with tomatoes. Let’s say the sandwich is a timeline. (He holds up the sandwich.) Let’s say I go back in time and eliminate the first tomato in the sandwich’s history. Now, did that get rid of all the tomatoes that follow?
ARNOLDNo. I can still see them tomatoes.
MARTYRight. This end of the sandwich is the present, as we know it. It doesn’t change. However, by altering that sandwich’s past, we create a new sandwich that exists elsewhere.
ARNOLDAnd we live in that new sandwich, too?
MARTYMaybe. If we do, we don’t know it. It’s a different reality. This is our reality and this is our constant present. The “now” that we live in.
(They shift to making a dam by hand with logs.)
ARNOLDA constant present. Like, for us, there’s always us, here, now. If someone goes back in time and changes something, it doesn’t affect us.
MARTYThat’s right, Arnold. Now you’ve got it. It creates a new timeline. It’s like a reboot at that point in time, but it goes off in a different direction, leaving this one the way it is. The end of that log is too wide. Gnaw it down so it will fit in the dam.
(Arnold uses his beaver-like teeth to gnaw down the end of the log as Marty uses his beaver tail to pat down some logs into place.)
ARNOLDSo, if I was a Jew and invented a time machine in my concentration camp and went back in time to stop the holocaust, I’m not really stopping the holocaust.
MARTYYou are for a new reality, but not for your own. Not for the ones you left in the “present.”
ARNOLDAnd when I come back, do I come back to my old timeline or the new one?
MARTYYou are just you, so you come back to your old timeline. Things don’t change for you. I mean, if they did, all sorts of things would happen. Not just circumstantial things, huge evolutional things could happen. We could like, lose our tails and fur because we accidentally changed nature and nature figures we don’t need ‘em anymore.
ARNOLDI would be lost without my tail.
(They are now floating outside a spaceship making repairs.)
MARTYBut, you know, we wouldn’t even know or realize because this is our reality, our constant present. It is what it is. Man, I think we’re too close to that black hole.
ARNOLDI didn’t want to alarm the rest of the crew, but, yes, we are. Once we get these thrusters repaired, we’ll warp out of here.
MARTYAll in all, I think it’s probably best not to mess with time travel. Be happy where you are.
(They are back to guarding a wall.)
ARNOLDYeah. I guess you’re right, Marty. Make the best out of your constant present because you really can’t change things.
MARTYThat’s right, Arnold.
ARNOLDLet’s hope those Texans don’t try to change things by trying to sneak over this wall.
MARTYGod bless Oklahoma.
ARNOLDWhy would I want to kill some guy named Hitler?
MARTYI don’t know who that is.