Changing the past?

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris

Tyrannosaurus rex, Palais de la Découverte, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very uncomfortable night. I dreamt so much that I felt as if I didn’t get any rest at all. A few times I woke up thinking it was much later. Every time I lay there listening to the incessant rain outside. Then I would fall asleep again and dream once more.

I had one very interesting dream. It’s set sometime in the near future, the cities are in ruins and dinosaurs and lions roam the countryside. I escape from a pack of ravenous lions and pick my way cautiously through the remnants of the city. Most things are wrecked and looted, and the people seemingly disappeared. Here and there I come across people as I seek shelter and food while I wonder what has gone wrong – it’s as if I’ve been parachuted into the place.

I discover what happened in the fragments people tell me. Not long before, when society was at the height of its wealth, a time machine had been invented. It had been big news. A team of adventurers went back in time twice and returned with their fantastic tales. Everything changed though on their third trip into the past.

Even as they returned things were changing. Quite remarkably dinosaurs had appeared on earth along with other prehistoric creatures. They ravaged the countryside and overran the cities. It turns out that on their third trip into the past the adventurers had changed something, which in turn changed the future. Rather than the dinosaurs dying out they had lived, along with myriad other artefacts from the past. It was the doom of civilisation.

It’s a fascinating concept, and quite cinematic. I might write of it except that Ray Bradbury already has in one of his stories.

Anyway the dream goes on, and it becomes a quest to find the time machine somewhere in the ruins of the city and to go back to a time just before the third trip in order to prevent it – and to set things back to the way they were.

The dream ends before that happens, but along the way I have many adventures on the side. I remember too my mind being taken up in the paradox of time travel – of which there are many. I felt as if I was awake thinking these things in breaks in the dream, but I think that was an effect – this was part of the dream to, whatever it means.

What I couldn’t get my head around was the notion that if the past had been changed then there would have always been dinosaurs, rather than suddenly appearing as they did. And if there had always been dinosaurs then chances are civilisation would not have flourished as it did and the time machine would likely have never been invented – which means that the trips into the past would never have occurred and therefore the critical changes to the timeline would never have happened – ergo, the dinosaurs would have died out just as the history books tell us. Which means there would not have been dinosaurs about to prevent time travel…

It’s a variation on the grandfather paradox. You figure it out.

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