The Pigeon problem
Sun, 11 Nov 2018
I was woken early one morning by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, to find Alun holding a pigeon.
"It's a pigeon, Jed," Alun said. "It's brought a message."
"A message, really, who for?"
"It's for you Jed. Shall I read it?"
"It says: 'To Jed, Come immediately, you're needed here. Jed'."
"How strange," I said. "I have no recollection of sending that message. I wonder what I meant, it's a very cryptic message."
"Don't be a fool Jed. Have another look at the pigeon."
I had another look at the pigeon.
"I don't recognise it. I have no memory of sending this pigeon to myself. It's not your pigeon, is it?"
"That's not what I mean, Jed. What breed is it?"
I had another look at the pigeon.
"Good lord!" I said. "It's like no other breed on Earth. Where has it come from?"
"Clearly if there's no such breed of pigeon currently on the planet it must come from the future, Jed."
"So a future version of me has sent a message to me by means of a newly-evolved breed of pigeon traveling back in time."
"Exactly Jed, it's a fairly simple plot all told."
"But what shall I do? The pigeon may have had access to a time machine but I don't. I don't have any way of traveling to the future to help a future me with some unspecified emergency. The whole sending a pigeon back in time with a message idea has been a waste of time for everyone involved."
"You forget Jed, it's a tradition of time-traveling pigeons that the left leg contains the message and the right leg contains instructions for how to build a time machine."
"You're right, I had forgotten that. What's in that canister on the right leg?"
Alun removed the message from the canister on the pigeon's right leg and read it.
"It's instructions for how to build a time machine, Jed."
Alun left, to start work on the time machine. I placed the pigeon in the pigeon loft, which I had had the foresight to build in case for just such a situation, and continued with the rest of my daily chores.
The next morning I was woken early by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs to find Alun in an excited mood.
"I've built the time machine, Jed. It was quite simple, I'm amazed I'd not thought of it before."
He pointed outside, to what looked like a hastily-adapted shed."
"I know it doesn't look much, Jed, but I used my spare shed as the basic structure."
"You've built a time machine in your shed."
"My spare shed, Jed. I'd hardly use my best shed just to travel back and forth in time. The important thing is that it works, so it's safe for you to use."
"You've tested it? You've been to the future? What's it like there?"
"I can't tell you that Jed, it would spoil the suspense. Are you ready to go?"
"You mean travel to the future now, before I've had breakfast."
"There's no time like the present, Jed. Besides, they have breakfast in the future, you can eat there."
"Oh very well. Where in the future do I need to go to, the message didn't say?"
"Try ten years to start with, Jed, you can always jump further into the future if you need to. I'll show you how the time traveling device works."
"Aren't you coming with me?"
"The message clearly said that it was you who was needed, Jed."
I pressed the dials as Alun had shown me and lept into the future. I was consequently woken early one morning by a hammering on my back door. I quickly dressed and rushed downstairs, where I found a younger version of myself standing in front of a shed.
"Did you send me a pigeon?" I asked.
"No? Why?" I said, puzzled.
"An older version of myself sent me a pigeon via a time machine with a message to come and help him. He didn't give a date though."
"So you built a time machine."
"Well, Alun built it. It's his spare shed I'm traveling in."
"No, it wasn't me. It must have been sent by a future version of me, us, whatever."
"I'll try five years time."
"You're going back into the future?"
"Yes, or possibly forward into the future." I'm never sure who owns the copyright of the various titles.
"Can I come too?"
"I suppose so, it's quite a roomy shed. Have you had breakfast."
"Why, can't you travel in time if you've just eaten."
"No, I'm starving, Alun made go straight into the shed without brekkie. Do you mind if we stop for a bite before we go. It's not as if we're on a schedule or anything."
After breakfast, myself and myself traveled forward another five years, but the Jed we woke up was as mystified as we had been by talk of time traveling sheds and new breeds of pigeon.
"Can I come too?" I/he asked as we were about to set off.
"I suppose so," I said. "It is quite a roomy shed."
The next Jed we encountered was also the wrong Jed, but he had heard the Alun was busy working on a time machine, so we were close. We set the dials for another week ahead and all four of us/me sped to the future.
"You're late," the fifth version of myself said. "I was expecting you five minutes ago."
"You were expecting all four of us?" I said.
"Of course. We can hardly play a five-a-side football match with any less."
"You sent a time-traveling carrier pigeon so that I would bring a shed-full of myselves of various ages and fitness levels to play a five-a-side football match?"
"Yes, didn't I make that clear?"
"But who against? There's just myself/yourself and Alun on the island."
"Exactly, the five of us/me versus the five of Alun. The Aluns are already here."
Thus was held/will be held the finest five-a-side football match in the history of Happy Island, Jeds versus Aluns. It was/will be a tight game and went to extra time, where the Jeds won 17 goals to 18 (apparently in the future 18 is less than 17).
"Same time next year?" I said to everyme before I left.
"Why not," I said. "I'll send a pigeon."