Philo's Stories


in a storefront between a small grocery store and a dry cleaners sits an unassuming shipping company with signs for UPS and DHL in the window
most people walking down the Toronto side street that it's on pay it no mind

the bell on the door rings as a businessman walks in holding an envelope
"I'd like to send this to last Monday" he says, setting the envelope down on the counter
"is regular mail at the other end fine?" asks the girl behind the counter
"okay, that'll be three hundred"

"it's worth way more than that to get this deal right"
as he counts out Canadian banknotes, she prints off a shipping label, reads it over, and sticks it to the envelope
she counts the money she was just handed and puts the envelope in a bin marked ChronoPost

she knows that as a result of being a regular, he's become one of the top lawyers in Toronto and can easily afford it

a woman heads in clutching a bubble mailer
it's clear that she feels like she's doing something illegal, and in a way she is

"is it true that you can send things back in time?" she asks, barely above a whisper, the nervousness audible in her voice
"yes we can" says the girl behind the counter, taking the parcel and putting it on a scale
"how much would it cost for this to arrive March 22nd, 2016?"

she looks at the scale, types some numbers into her computer, and then notices the colors of her customer's watch strap and smiles, knowing exactly what she's sending
"how does a hundred sound?"
"didn't you just charge him three hundred for just a letter?"

"yeah, but we trans folks need to stick together"
"thank you" she says, handing over the money
you don't pay for temporal crimes by card.

as the working day comes to a close, she flips the open sign around and locks up the shop
she carries the ChronoPost bin into a back room and sorts the mail, finding two for last week, one for six months ago, and one for 2016

she stuffs them into cylinders and scribbles today's date on the outside in grease pencil
with a rumble akin to a distant subway train, the air pump starts up

she turns a set of cranks to set a series of dials and pulls a lever opening up a lightly hissing breach in a pneumatic tube
she shoves the first cylinder into the breach, pushes the lever back and feels the timelines tear apart and reweave

every time she pushes the lever, she moves into a new timeline differing slightly from the one she left
with how many times she's swapped, what she remembers about her past differs from what actually happened in this timeline

the further back she sends something or the bigger the impact it has, the more the timelines differ, and she's been limiting the distance to ensure she still exists and that her past is relatively intact

once she's sent off the day's outgoing ChronoPost mail, she shucks what came in from its cylinders and sorts it into bins for conventional shipping
her future self usually remembers to put the correct stamps on everything, but she always checks to prevent anachronisms

this line of business began years earlier when cylinders with parcels and letters began appearing in a bin in the back of the store
the first thing she received was a letter in her own handwriting that she tore to pieces in anger and disbelief after reading the first sentence

thinking about that sentence and unable to sleep, she went back to the shop in the middle of the night, taped the pieces back together, and finished the letter
when she finished reading it, she cried, wishing she had enough tape to hold who she thought she was and the world she thought she lived in back together

a cylinder full of estradiol pills arrived the next day

she stared at it and read the letter again and *knew* that nobody else could've written it
as she dissolved a pill under her tongue, she hoped her future self was right about how good it feels

one day months later, she dropped a heavy box while carrying it into the back of the shop to wait for it to be picked up
it hit the linoleum floor so hard that it left a large crack, through which she saw some pipes

in a fit of curiosity and rage, she tore up the floor with a prybar she'd found among the future cylinders, she found a set of tubes, some of them capped off and some of them not

her hand slipped and she dropped the prybar down one of the pipes, and a moment later she realized what happened and that the second half of that letter was as true as the first

after months of trial and error with air pumps and launching cylinders and some plans received from the future, she built a machine to launch the cylinders
the first thing she sent was the letter that set her on this course in the first place