“How do you keep them separate in your head? I’d have thought you’d be constantly getting them mixed up.” Sara was rummaging in her toolbox for something to undo a stubborn nut in the cabinet between us. Given the amount of swearing I’d heard the last five minutes, I’d half expected her to have dropped the subject.
“Well, it’s like when you’re reading two books at about the same time, and you have one for sitting on the sofa, and another for by your bed. You read each for different reasons but keeping those stories separate isn’t that difficult really.” She continued to scratch around in the box without success.
“Really? I don’t think I could do that.” She frowned and straightened up to look round the room. I saw a monkey wrench on the floor behind her but decided not to say anything. I didn’t want to detract from her sense of achievement when she found it.
“Oh it’s not so difficult.” I said. “You don’t have any difficulty remembering the differences between your siblings do you? You know their favourite foods are…?”
“I’m an only child.” She said. She turned round and saw the wrench, giving a brief triumphant cry.
“Ah.” I said, and juggled my next sentences around. “But you can imagine can’t you? If you had one who liked certain things and another who liked others – you’d remember and tailor your conversations accordingly.”
“Okay,” she said cautiously, “so you’re saying navigating timelines and paradoxes is like reading two books at once?” She’d turned back to the console cabinet and was busy at work again.
“Yes, and at the same time no, because both stories are in the same volume and they keep flipping depending on the moment and what you’re doing while holding that book open. Flicking the pages means you can have a different version of the story each time you flick back and forth.”
“Still sounds like you’re making it up. How come you can remember both versions?” She was plugging replacement components back into place now.
“Oh that’s because I exist in the old one and have travelled into the new one. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s simple enough. How are we doing there?”
“Nearly done. Don’t know what caused that surge and blew the console but should be good as new now. So, where next for you?”
“Oh not far, and yet it’s probably longer than you’d credit. We’ll probably not meet again – thank you, as ever, for your quick work.” I handed over a wad of bills in payment and escorted the engineer out of the control room. She had a frown on her face.
“What do you mean, as ever?” I heard her say as he closed the hatch and hurried back to the console.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have your family back soon Sara.” I said, and flipped the launch switch.