I watched on the screens as the red circles slowly engulfed the map of the world. I turned to the General next to me, “What does it mean?”
“It’s bad Mr. President. Every country has deployed their nuclear arsenals. We didn’t know who North Korea was targeting so everyone desperately launched their missiles before they themselves were hit, which created a cascading effect.”
I stare the screen in disbelief, “Did I cause this?”
Everyone in the bunker shares a glance and no-one says anything. Deep down I know what they’re all thinking. It was my tweet. A hollow threat to the North Koreans, meant only for show, for ratings. It wasn’t supposed to be real, but that’s not how their leader saw it. He thought it was a challenge. Their missiles were in the air before we had a chance to intervene.
Billions dead, all from 140 characters. This isn’t how the world was supposed to end.
“Isn’t there anything we can do?”
More silence. Only one person raises a hand, the crisp white sleeve of his lab coat contrasting with the damp grey of the walls. I nod at him and he speaks in a quiet murmur, “Mr. President sir, there may be a small chance we can do something to prevent this tragedy.”
“Prevent? It’s a bit late for that!”
His pushes his glasses back up his nose, “Actually, it might not be. I’ve been working on a concept, something that would allow us to communicate with the past using a wormhole in the fabric of time and space. It’s just a theory, I never tried it because of the possibility that it get out of control and envelope the earth, but I don’t suppose that matters anymore. We’ll need a tremendous amount of energy, but I believe we can utilize the radiation from the surface. The only other limit is the bandwidth. I don’t know how long the wormhole will be open for, it might not be long enough for video or even audio. We should stick to text.”
I don’t understand half of what he just said, but if there’s a chance I’m going to take it, “What do I need to do?”
“You need to draft a message to yourself in the past, something that will convince you to take a different path. Keep it short, we want to ensure the message gets through. We can email it to your past self…”
“No, not email. I never read it, I just send it all to trash.”
“What do you suggest Mr. President?”
“Could I tweet myself? I’d probably listen to a tweet.”
The scientist nods, “I think that would work. We’ll only get one shot at this though sir, so you have to get it right. I’ll need a moment to get everything setup. You take as long as you need to draft your message.”
“No need, I’m the best at tweets. Are you ready?”
The scientist adjusts some dials and a steady hum fills the room. He hands me a smartphone with a faded keyboard, “Ok Sir, do it quickly, I don’t know how long I can keep it open. Anything you send now will be sent to your past self.”
I tap out the message with practised ease. Even now I can’t bring myself to absorb the blame, I tweet in the third person. It makes me feel a little better about ending the world:
The President needs to stop golfing and start doing his job, his horrendous leadership is going to cause World War 3!
As I hit send I look up at the Scientist, the last shreds of hope lingering in the air, “Did it work?”
He scans the screen and his head droops, “I’m sorry sir, I miscalculated. Instead of tweeting to you in 2017 I tweeted to your 2013 self. Do you think you would listen to this warning in 2013?”
I take a moment to think about it and then utter the only words that come to mind, “We’re f*cked.”
Full credit for this concept to @juliangough from this tweet: