This is part of a world descript for a science fiction setting. If you got here by accident, hit the back button on your browser.
Time travel is a mindf*ck. That’s an actual author’s note I had in some of my editings. But here goes.
For descriptions of how a time machine actually looks, see the link off the main world descript for technologies seen in time point three. This page is for the established theory for the setting. Here is a paragraph from Into the Unknown:
“He only had to repair the controls. The containment chamber was entirely intact, the base singularity intact. There was enough energy in the stores to regulate matter consumption by the singularity for decades before it radiates out. The device can still curve space time (the theory is that space time has a positive curvature, time travel requires a negative curvature). When active, the device would launch forward, carrying the chosen one (Ha! I could practically feel Aiden’s thought at that – I did not have to look to see his smug grin.) a set distance to allow for traveling across a set time. Wild-hair was exceptionally proud of his work (and his rudimentary understanding of time travel mechanics).”
A singularity in this case is a tiny black hole. But, do not panic at that – black holes actually decay. Therefore, to use them in this setting as a power source, I established that they have some way of containing it and feeding it at the same rate it decays, therefore allowing them to use a stable black hole as a power source. Curving space time is a common basic sci-fi time travel theory. Now that we’ve covered the mechanics, here’s the superstition (and the setting’s namesake), also in a quote from Into the Unknown:
“ “I’m not thinking about the chosen one. I’m thinking about our souls.” She explained. That superstition made even Aiden hesitate, but I saw no value in it. Supposedly, like Wild-hair feared, time travel can mess with your soul. There have been reports of people returning with pieces of themselves missing, or another voice in their head. Some even talked about prophetic dreams and surreal realities. Also, supposedly, having extra souls in a particular time causes our world to try to rebalance the number of souls (through an increase in attempted suicides, for example). However, if someone is not meant to die yet our world will not let them pass away, so really it’s like telling us people might get hurt, but no one will die. Like Aiden had ranted earlier, it was just another way for the powers that be to keep control, mostly to keep people from leaving. ”
N does doubt the superstition at first. They have grown up in a world that teaches them that the Pyrrh are a result of the fault of humans: too many people jumped away in time, therefore creating an imbalance in the number of souls in a particular time. The Pyrrh are (supposedly – see their link off the main world descript for more info) an alien race of unknown origin who came because of the technology that suddenly came into awareness as a result of that imbalance. The Pyrrh demanded that they could control the world better than humans.
Essentially, all times in Earth’s history are meant to naturally have a set number of souls, but no one really knows for sure how much time travel can affect that. If you jump to the past in pursuit of a criminal, you can find the area they are hiding out in by comparing the time’s attempted suicide record against what you brought as historical data from your own time. Anywhere with a spike in attempted suicides has an extra soul and the world is trying to rebalance. However, since the souls already in the time are not meant to pass yet, their suicide will fail. The biggest concern about time travel is how the jump with affect the jumper themself: bizarre dreams, missing pieces of themself, new voices in their head. (Minor disclaimer: I recognize that suicide is a real and depressing issue. Please be respectful of this if you intend to explore and potentially use my setting.)
It should be noted and clarified that it’s not literally your soul. As Emalyn explains in Will to Speak:
“It’s not literally your soul. It’s you. It’s the hats you wear, the masks you take off, the way you present yourself. It’s your . . .”
She stops off there since no one really has a good way to describe it. They just know that there’s a lot of superstition for a reason.
(Minor disclaimer – this is not to say that someone who’s mentally ill with, for example, schizophrenia is automatically a time traveler in this setting. Schizophrenia has been consentually cured by time point two. However, a traveler to time point one from time point three might suddenly start thinking about that. If you love that head cannon, go for it. Respectfully and with humanity.)