Damion Skinner finished his homework, his extra credit, and was researching an Unbelievable Story he’d been told when Enkeli Starwing shuffled into the house.
“I thought you were spending the night at Yuma Heights,” he said.
“Muhh huh,” Enkeli managed to say.
She went straight back to her room and was turning back the covers when she remembered something.
“Huzzuh fummuh,” she muttered.
“Oh,” Damion said.
Damion had set aside his studies and was making dinner when he heard Enkeli come back into the room.
“I thought you went to bed?”
“Gawddapee,” Enkeli explained sluggishly.
“So, I guess you’re probably heading straight back to bed?” Damion asked when Enkeli emerged from the bathroom.
Enkeli canceled her pending Sleep interaction and tried to perk up.
“That was the plan,” Enkeli said. “Why; what’s up?”
“Oh, I was just wondering about a gaping hole in the plot,” he said.
Enkeli walked to the dining chair opposite her young ward.
“Which gaping hole would that be?” Enkeli asked.
“The concern that it might cause the destruction of The Skinner Saga’s if my future Mom meets me,” Damion said.
“Well, yes. The ontological paradox is a well-worn theme in science fiction,” Enkeli said. “Any object or information from the future that is brought to the past via time travel has no discernible origin. Since such a paradox cannot persist, it could result in the spontaneous collapse of that particular string of space-time.”
“So that’s why Mom can’t know who I really am?” Damion asked. “Because I’m her son in the future?”
“That’s right,” Enkeli said.
“That’s bullpoop!” Damion said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, maybe not bullpoop, but if it is true, then Skinnerville is already doomed,” Damion said.
“What have you done?” Enkeli asked. “Have you talked to Thalia?”
“No, I haven’t done anything,” Damion said. “Grandma did.”
“Peyton? What did Peyton do?”
“What did Peyton do? Guh! Don’t you guys even read your own blog?”
“Well … maybe not every single word,” Enkeli admitted.
“’Cause it’s all right there,” Damion said. “Grandma has been reading The Skinner Saga since she got here, and she’s already told Mom all about her future.”
“Well, the collapse of Skinnerville isn’t the only possible effect of an ontological paradox,” Enkeli said. “It could spawn a parallel universe, or it may have no effect at all if neither Thalia nor Peyton use the information in a way that changes the future.”
“But if Mom and Grandma already know about me, it won’t hurt for them to meet me, right?” Damion asked.
“Wrong,” Enkeli said. “I mean, I subscribe to the parallel-universe theory, but do you really want to risk it for a couple Friendly Introduction interactions?”
“I’m just not convinced there is any real risk,” Damion said.
“Well, let me talk to Karli before you do anything,” Enkeli said, “but not tonight. I have got to get to bed. Big day tomorrow.”
Early the next morning, while Enkeli was leaving for work, she saw Karli Wheeler walking by.
“Hey chica! You just saved me a trip to Willowbrook. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Well, let’s see. How do I put this?” Enkeli said. “You know how you’re trying to avoid an ontological paradox that could destroy Skinnerville?”
“Yee-ah,” Karli said warily.
“Well, it may be a little late for that.”
Enkeli explained Damion’s discovery while Karli’s frown got frownier.
“Well, at least this gets you off the hook.” Enkeli said.
“Well, if an ontological paradox does eat Skinnerville, at least it won’t be your fault this time!” Enkeli said.
“That’s not very funny,” Karli pouted. “You know I destroyed The Desert Leaders Social Experiment.”
“I know you blame yourself, but I don’t know that it’s true,” Enkeli said.
Because time moves relatively slowly here, Karli reached The Desert Leaders weeks before she actually left to go. She received several text alerts from Desert Leaders before they were even sent.
“But I didn’t notice the time-stamp until I got one telling me my First Day’s Reflection Log had been posted – and I hadn’t even written it yet!” Karli said. “And then, as soon as I actually leave to go there, the whole project collapsed!”
Enkeli leaned in and patted Karli’s shoulder.
“There, there,” she said. “Even if your arrival did destroy Desert Leaders, it’s not your fault. I bet you never even heard of ontological paradoxes, had you?”
“Well, maybe once,” Karli said, glancing away. “Cassandra kinda mentioned the risk before we left.”
“Kinda mentioned?” Enkeli said. “What did she say?”
“Well, we found out that Thalia’s mom had also read about their future lives in The Skinner Saga before they left,” Karli said. “Cassandra warned that her arrival in Skinnerville could cause one of those paradox thingies.”
“But you all went anyway?”
“Yes, but … well, it didn’t seem like … Oh, I guess we were just being stubborn and reckless.”
“So it probably was your faul – but wait! If that was true, why didn’t Skinnerville poof out when the Osbornes got there?” Enkeli asked.
“I don’t know,” Karli said. “I think, maybe, the Osborne’s departure was delayed so long that Thalia’s mom had already turned Elder and died in Skinnerville before she even left here to go to Skinnerville.”
“So the information from the future would have died with her.” Enkeli nodded.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Karli said. “Does that make sense?”
“As much sense as … never mind. Still, I think the best thing is to keep Damion away from Peyton and Thalia,” Enkeli said. “It’s one thing to be told you will have a large family; it’s another to actually meet your son before he is even born.”
“Total agreement.” Karli said. “Just tell him to stay away from his future mom or I will make good on my threat.”
“You threatened him?”
“I warned him,” Karli said. “If he even looks at Thalia, or Peyton, it’s straight to the Local Gallery.”
“Well, I will make sure he gets the message,” Enkeli said. “I’ll text him and then shift the active household to Yuma Heights?”
“Great!” Karli said. “And someone needs to tell Peyton to lay off the spoilers. If Skinnerville does wink out, it’s not going to be my fault this time.”