yeah, this sometimes happens. Mad dream that, upon entering that weird, semi-logical half-sleep state, somehow became rationalized enough to actually make enough sense for me to consider doing something with it.
This is a weird idea.
Try to get it straight: basic plot – four (five?) guys build a time machine and try to travel back in time. Only they fuck it up; they in fact travel forward in time, ever so slightly, maybe a year or two. Which is absolutely fucking useless, because it turns out it is impossible to travel backwards in time. And it breaks the world.
How to travel through time: make it relatively simple. One of the characters (the professor who is not a professor: he is in a field of chronophysics that he has entirely invented from scratch, there is no accrediting institute.) devises the theory that time is somehow connected to the laylines that criss-cross the Earth’s magnetic field. Dowsers merely follow the positive timestream with their stupid little sticks, thus gaining a slight forth dimensional advantage over their non-timestream following companions. Dowsers, by following future timestreams, can temporally access their future knowledge and use it to attain their goals in the present.
Of course, the ironic thing is that dowsers are only ever concerned with finding water with their stupid little sticks.
The professor uses this trick (or TIMEHACK) to access this week’s winning lottery numbers. Unfortunately, he can only access this week’s winning lottery numbers a full twenty seven seconds before this week’s actual lottery draw. The timesteam simply isn’t strong enough to let him see further into the future than that.
The professor has won the lottery over four-hundred times, which is a shame because he never has a lottery ticket.
But the theory is sound. The professor speculates that animals all over the world also have access to the timestream; giraffes that know how to walk mere seconds after they are born, instinctual behavior, everything previously attributed to intellectual coding on the DNA level.
Even humans occasionally get the hairs rising on the back of their neck when danger threatens. Doom. Dread. All attributable to limited fourth-dimensional access.
The professor tries to measure it and fails miserably. The experiment is always affected by the observer, after all. He comes to the conclusion that by measuring time one affects the outcome of the experiment and alters the universe on a quantum level. This is why animals have such ready access to the fourth-dimensional timestream: animals do not have pocket watches.
With this breakthrough, the professor can finally begin to design the time machine. The time machine cannot use computers or anything that analyses or documents the passing of time. The professor goes dowsing to access the timestream to hack into his future knowledge and memories and begins to instinctively piece together the time machine.
The machine itself has to be both simple but complex. Clockwork, for obvious reasons, is out. As are machines and computer components.
The time machine looks a little like a non-submersible submarine with a big paddle at the back of it.
The professor discovers a layline that runs the length of the River Tay. However, he cannot paddle fast enough to get any closer than thirty seconds away from winning the lottery. Additional paddles and oars are added: he recruits three alcoholics from the pub, drunk and incapable of counting in a straight line, to aid him in his quest.
This is probably where the book should start; all the rest is background material.
This time they miss the lottery queue by no more than fifteen minutes. The professor unveils his discovery to the alcoholics; as proof, he shows them the lottery numbers he accessed from the timestream, buys them all a pint and they sit in the pub and watch the lottery draw.
The professor weeps into his pint as millions of pounds are cruelly snatched from his grasp for the 432nd time.
One of the alcoholics, who has an even less-sound grasp of the universe he lives in, suggests the possibility of traveling backwards through time and winning the lottery that way. If they could find a layline that moved backwards against the rotation of the Earth then they would be traveling fast enough, relatively speaking, to break whatever bullshit Einstein came up with to make the job of science fiction writers harder.
They venture outside and see three of their names engraved into the wall outside the pub. None of them remember doing this; it must be a message from the past; it is themselves telling their present incarnations that they will indeed succeed.
It also suggests that one of them doesn’t survive the process. This flies right over the poor victim’s head, but his friends pick it up. Greed, desperation for the winning lottery numbers, mean that the three would-be survivors come to an unspoken pact that such a sacrifice is acceptable.
And so, we come to our drunken heroes in their time machine, paddling like fuck against the current in a desperate attempt to break the laws of physics. A battle that they must surely lose, because the time-machine leaks somewhat. They fall into the river and nearly drown, are washed ashore on the banks of the Tay and traipse home to their miserable beds.
And have, inadvertently, traveled forward through time.
They awake to discover they have broken casualty; time is all fucked up. People around them are moving too fast or too slow, their eyes won’t adjust, the entire universe is glitching. They have crashed the laws of physics and the entire system is heading towards terminal breakdown.
Explanation: the creator of the universe, be it God or whatever, laid down the laws of physics to hold everything together. The universe we live in is God 2.0 operating system, which was installed by his child, Jesus, on the eve of the new testament (children are always better than their parents, on a technical level, and always end up performing their IT tasks for them). God 1.0 was old testament style, which explains why everything was so fucked up back then. Upon seeing this new operating system, the population of the world pulled a Mac Fanboy style rage-reaction and killed the person they held responsible.
God got understandably annoyed by this and moved to a new universe shortly afterwards, but only after inventing Linux.
So the rules of physics are in fact the code that stops the system from turning into a buggy shit-feast. And the thing that is breaking the system are the same, identical, atoms co-existing in the universal timestream at the same time. Which means, if you think about it, our heroes manage to return to their own time after all, later in the novel, in order to be present in the future. But no one think of that, mainly because they are idiots.
Time and space continue to bork up: at its worst, events happen to the characters out of sequence as they desperately try to fix things. The time machine is sitting at the bottom of the River Tay so that’s out. Every time one of them tries to consult a watch or clock, everything goes even crazier. The world and the people around them are going riot-apocalypse crazy.
Then one of them sees himself. His future-self, probably doing something really crazy. The professor comes up with the ‘co-existing atoms’ theory as a result.
He knows how to fix the universe. They must remove the offending atoms from the present timestream. They have to either kill themselves or assassinate their future incarnations and somehow remove their atoms from the current timestream. Firing their remains from a cannon at sub-lightspeed might do it (theory of relativity) or the Large Hadron Thingie would do. Even loading them onto a spaceship and firing them out of earth’s atmosphere would, in theory, save the universe after a thousand years or so.
They are in the future. These things are (maybe) possible.
Thus begins a game of Cat and Mouse, kill or be killed. Even though their future incarnations have already lived through this once already on the opposite team, they don’t know the timescale of events (watches break the universe, remember?) Finally they corner one of their number and prepare to bash his skull in, but they are not murderers; they can’t do it.
This is when a third, super-future version of the Professor turns up on a new, superdooper time machine and casually executes their intended victim. Time begins to shit itself less noticeably; the professor explains that he came back in time to kill all the present versions of the chrono-naughts and save the universe. He has already driven a bus over two of them and vaporized the remains with his new raygun, which is made out of a mirror and some dowsing sticks. The only person that remains to be removed from the timestream is the super-future professor himself; he can’t kill himself in the past, because then he wouldn’t exist to save the universe in the future.
The present-day professor must kill his future self with the raygun. “It’s suicide, either way, when you think about it.”
The friends jump aboard the new time-machine and head back to their own past. They burn the infernal contraption to the ground outside the pub, shortly before realizing that they forgot to get the lottery numbers en-route.