Of Ice Cream, Cake, and Fifth Dimensional Travel

To the layman, Dr. Ella Sinclair looked like she was wearing an astronaut costume. It wasn’t as bulky, and the material was a shiny silver instead of a muted white, but the general vibe of a baggy full body suit and helmet remained. Diedre, her assistant, had commented early on that the suit looked like a costume from a B-Movie about space travel. If only space travel is what Dr. Sinclair had been aiming for. Space travel was so much simpler.

“Remember,” Diedre told her as the final checks were being made to the chrono-capsule. “If this works-”

“When this works,” the doctor interrupted. “Confidence, Diedre. Confidence.”

“Right,” the intern corrected herself. “When this works, and you go back in time, you’ll still see yourself as you are now, more or less. Your present mind will overlap its own residual self image over your past body, but everyone in the past will see you as you were back then.”

“I know, Diedre,” Dr. Sinclair said. “I literally wrote the book on all of this.”

“Yes Doctor, I know. You told me to tell you, though.”

That was true, too. She had told Diedre to remind her. There was a statistical probability, that in sending her essence back along her own personal timeline, Dr. Sinclair might get caught up in the temporal wave and not so much forget things as much as forget that she was time travelling. It wouldn’t do to be the world’s first chrononaut, forget about it, and then end up reliving her whole life over. Having an outside voice remind her of such a possibility drastically reduced that likelihood; a verbal string around her brain’s index finger.

Dr. Sinclair had all but proved her own pet variant of string theory. Theorizing that each person’s lifespan left a trail of chronotons indelibly in the fabric of existence, Ella realized that it might be possible to follow that string back and ride it like a soundwave traveling down a taut string, and thus witness and perhaps even change the past.

Today, theory was about to be put into practice. She’d travel back, observe the past through her own eyes, and then come back to the present. The biggest risk, assuming all her calculations were right, was being overwhelmed in the temporal wave, and then losing herself in the process. In short, her mind and very essence was about to travel back to a younger version of herself. She was about to try and cram close to thirty years of time and experience into the mind and body of a much younger version of her.

Whether those memories, skills, and personality traits would be shoved deep down into a coma-like state or just blend with her present self wasn’t immediately clear. The problem with being a trailblazer in any field was there was no such thing as hindsight. It wouldn’t do to go back in time to middle school and have to relive her crush on David Bowie, (rather to have it feel fresh…she’d never gotten over Jareth the Goblin King but who did?).

It’s why she was going back even further than middle school. Much farther back. If she inhabited the body of herself at age one, it’d be both a radical leap back in time as well as a fairly safe state for her in terms of psychological health and minimum risk of damage to the timestream.

Chrono-physically, going back to her time as an infant would give her minimal agency to disrupt her past, but more than enough opportunity to test her theory. Going so far back would also help rule out the possibility of her just having a particularly good memory. Chrono-psychologically, her baby-self made the most sense too for a maiden outing.

A McDonald’s McFlurry had most of the same ingredients as a Betty Crocker cake, but less so. It just hadn’t been given heat or baking powder. If Dr. Sinclair’s adult essence mixed with her baby self’s essence, there was nothing she couldn’t likely handle. At worst, she’d have a child’s moodiness that she could more than temper with her adult mind and patience. She’d gone through being one year’s old before. This would be just mixing a little extra “one-ness” in with all the other years she had.

Conversely, if instead riding the wave and vibrating along her timeline resulted in her shoving her infant self deep down into a back room of her own mind palace, then it wouldn’t be so bad for either her or her past self. Who cared about missing time when they were a baby? If her baby self existed separate and simultaneously from her present self this would just be another nap for the kid. Middle-school her would be justifiably freaked out about missing out on half an hour of her life. Suddenly going under the mental temporal displacement equivalent of anesthesia might traumatize the poor girl and send unforeseen consequences into the present.

Damn, it was weird thinking of her and her own past selves as distinct and separate individuals. It literally gave the phrase “I’m not that person anymore” a much more literal meaning.

Dr. Sinclair placed the helmet over her head. It was a pain to tie her long light brown hair back enough so that it would fit inside, but she’d refused to cut it for this. ‘I shaved my head for a failed attempt at time travel’ was not a story she wanted to tell.

“Because your body in the here and now will be in a set of stasis inside the chrono-capsule, but you’ll need to be conscious, we’re only going to try for a short ride,” Diedre said. “Half an hour at most.”

“Right,” Sinclair said. “So only half as long as it takes Australians to lose a war against flightless birds.”

Diedre cupped her hand to hear. “What?”

Darn it! A perfectly good joke ruined by the muffled acoustics of a helmet. Sinclair would have to try and work in that line when she got back. It was no ‘One small step for man,’ but darn it, she wanted this!

Nervously biting her lip, Dr. Sinclair climbed into the pod and ran a final systems check. Damn, she needed a cigarette.

“Three…two…one…”

Before the world turned upside down and she was blinded with the electric blue and neon green hues of time itself, Dr. Sinclair briefly wondered if she could stop herself from developing a smoking habit if she just abstained from sucking her thumb for the next thirty minutes or so.

“Ha-ppy birth-day dear El-la! Ha-ppy birth-day toooooooo yoooooooou!”

The flash dimmed and Ella rubbed her eyes while a place and time far removed from her plain sterile laboratory rushed into her missing senses.

“D’awwwwww!” She heard a familiar, almost forgotten scratchy voice. “Looks like somebody’s all tuckered out already.”

“What did you expect?” Ella’s grandmother said. “She just turned one. All this attention is a lot at this age.”

“Her? I was talking about me,” Ella’s grandfather joked.

Grammy?! Grampy?! Her mother’s parents- Grammy and Grampy- had been dead for years relative to Ella’s experience. First Grammy over a decade ago when Ella was still in high school. Grampy died a few years later, fallen to pieces and unable to take care of himself without his wife’s gentle reminders. She’d just been finishing her doctoral thesis when the news reached her.

Here they were, literally right in front of her eyes, sitting on the loveseat and eating rainbow frosted chocolate cake. Across from them were her father’s parents, Nana and Pop-Pop. They weren’t dead yet, but they were younger than Ella could ever remember seeing them. Imagining Pop Pop with hair or Nana with dark locks had been more of a thought experiment growing up.

This more than anything else, proved her right. It’d worked! It’d really worked! She’d gone back in time! Ella started bouncing up and down in her highchair, a giant beaming smile spreading on her face as her bottom crinkled beneath and bare feet kicked out in exhilaration. “Looks like you spoke too soon, Frank.” Pop Pop said between bites of cake. “Birthday girl just got her second wind.”

Second wind didn’t begin to describe the amount of exhilaration flooding little Ella’s system. The baby girl was so excited she could…! She could…! She did.

The big birthday girl barely noticed how her diaper went from dry to damp. It was just that absorbent, but clever girl that she was, she did know that it had something to do with how excited she was, and how her muscles between her legs relaxed. That’s how it had always been. She was such a clever girl! The light squishy feeling when she bounced made her giggle even more and she clapped her hands with glee.

“Here’s cake for the birthday girl!” A younger, fitter version of her mother said, sliding an entire plate of rainbow frosted cake onto the tray. It wasn’t sliced, but instead it’s own miniaturized cake. Smash cake. No silverware provided. Ella was going to have to eat it with her bare hands.

When she got back, Ella promised herself to shove her mother’s physique in her face. She had totally lost the baby weight by Ella’s first birthday, and now Ella had the memories to prove it! Bare feet swung back and forth, and the time traveling scientist wriggled in her highchair.

With both hands she plunged wrist deep into the cake. The first mouthful was for sustenance and enjoyment. The second one was for sensory and for show. Her diaper got a little bit wetter. The cake was so delicious and moist that she was now delightfully squishing from her top to her bottom. Another delayed twitch beneath her added an exclamation point to the thought.

“I wish I could get that excited by cake,” Daddy said, taking a bite of his own.

“Cake’s not why she’s smiling,” Nana said, “She just peed.”

Mommy reached under the tray, and slipped two fingers past the leg cuffs of Ella’s diaper. “Wow,” she laughed. “You’re right! Just a little wet, but yeah. How’d you know?”

“Body language,” Nana said. “You change five sets of diapers, two of ‘em twins, you start to notice things.”
Ella’s laughter sent crumbs sailing through the air. She looked down past her naked breasts towards what was left of the smash cake and went in even though she hadn’t finished swallowing the first two handfuls.

Her…?

Naked…?

Breasts…?

Dr. Ella Sinclair hesitated as she came back to herself.

“Don’t tell me she’s pooping now,” her father groaned.

“Nope,” Nana answered. “That ain’t it. She’s just thinkin’.”

Slowly, she chewed and swallowed the cake and blocked out the conversations and comments going on about what she was doing in her pants.

Mouth closed, Ella finished chewing and swallowing, using it as an opportunity to exhale and take stock of the situation. The sheer exhilaration of success; it had been overwhelming! The sensory input, so vivid! The complete lack of embarrassment or shame on any level whatsoever! She had felt infinitely herself, not at all babyish…but babies didn’t feel babyish either. They just were.

Dr. Sinclair had been a cake, ingredients carefully measured and prepped and baked with the heat of the passage of time. Baby Ella had been ice cream with mostly the same ingredients, just prepped differently. Now, Dr. Ella Sinclair was experiencing both truths at the same time. She wasn’t experiencing cake ala mode, but instead was a kind of ice cream cake with all the bits and pieces smashed in and mixed together. A cake McFlurry

Theory confirmed. Probably still a good thing that one-year-old her wouldn’t remember this.

It had been the sight of her own breasts and the reminder from Diedre that had settled her back into place. Her present day mind, unable or unwilling to fully comprehend riding the temporal wave back along her own personal timeline, was modifying her perception of herself.

The highchair in the middle of her old living room wasn’t actually oversized. Nor was the wet diaper she was sitting in big enough to fit around her hips. More accurately, her hips weren’t actually all that big. Nor did her one year old body actually have breasts. But her present day mind was pushing certain preconceptions through; like an injured athlete dreaming about playing and waking up sore.

What did that mean for her hair?

“Oh oh oh!” her mother darted with near super human speed. “Not in your hair, baby, not in your hair!” Ella sat in her highchair, stunned, while Mommy…er…her mother, started taking a baby wipe to her fingers. She’d barely been thinking about touching her head when her body started doing it on its own. Even with her adult mind, her one year old body didn’t have much in the way of a filter or impulse control.

She waited until her hands were clean before feeling the Pebbles Flintstone top knot in her hair.

“If cake’s the worst thing that ends up in our little girl’s hair, I think we’ve done a pretty okay job,” her father said. That got a dry perverted chuckle from Grampy. “See? Frank knows how boys can be.”

“Phil!” Nana said. “This is a one-year old’s birthday party! Why would you even say that?”

“What?” her father said. “Better now when she won’t remember it!”

“Wow!” Ella said. “Rude!”

Her assembled relatives from yesteryear all stopped and stared directly out of her. “Did she just say, ‘rude?” Grammy asked.

Too late, Ella realized she might have made a mistake in speaking up.

Dad just threw back his head and slapped his knee. “That’s my girl!” he laughed. “Smart as a whip!”

“Well she didn’t get it from you, then.” Mom said. More wipes found their way to Ella’s face and chest. “You may want to be careful from now on, Phil.” Miraculously, she boosted up Ella onto her hip, needing only one hand to support her bottom. “This might mean she’s advanced for her age. No more swearing around the B-A-B-Y.”

“Fine fine,” Dad crossed his arms. “From now on I’ll only spell the curse words, not say them out loud.” Both sets of grandparents were glaring disapprovingly at him. “Fine, no more swearing.” Then he added, “We should probably start saving for a college fund while we’re at it.”

“I think for now,” Mom said. “The only thing we need to worry about is dry Pampers and a nap.”

Ella let out a yawn. Whether or not she had the mind of an adult or not, she still had the limitations and needs of a baby’s body. A little bit of sugar and excitement went a long way towards a crash.
“Damnit…” she whispered, her eyes beginning to droop even as she was toted around her old house. How was she going to convincingly prove she time traveled instead of just hallucinated all this? She’d have to do that next time, she supposed.

She hadn’t whispered as quietly as she’d thought. “That was NOT me!” Dad said.

“We’ll talk later,” Mom said. She wasted no further time in taking the one-year-old back to her nursery.


“Dr. Sinclair,” Diedre whispered. “Dr. Sinclair? Ella? Wake up, sweety. It’s time to come back to the present.”

No longer in the chrono-capsule, Ella woke up on a gurney, staring up at bright lights. “Hmm?”

“There she is,” Diedre chirped. “There’s my big smart science girl! You gave me quite a scare, there!”

“Sorry,” Ella yawned. “I was having a nap in the past. My past body gave out on me.” She sat up, hearing the crinkle of her chrononaut suit.

“I’m just glad you’re back, hunny bunny.” Diedre cooed. She offered her hand to the doctor. “Here. Let’s get you sorted out.” Ella took it and sat up. “Steady now. Steady. Easy does it. That’s a good girl!” Bowlegged, Ella stood with her feet more than shoulder width apart. “Oops. Somebody’s a wobble butt!” Diedre laughed. “Come on! This way!”

Following her assistant out of the lab, Ella took in her surroundings. She had the strangest feeling of not-quite deja vu. She didn’t feel like she was waking up from a nap or any other kind of natural sleep. It was closer to the feeling of regaining consciousness after anesthesia. Except that didn’t quite fit the bill, either. Emotionally, and intellectually, the closest parallel Ella could draw was turning on a video game that she hadn’t played in a long time, loading up a save file, and refamiliarizing herself with the saved game’s objectives.

It wasn’t shock and revelation. Nor was it a proper memory. More like one giant, ‘Oh yeah’.

The walls just outside her lab were painted murals of grassy hills and rainbows instead of sterile white. Ella had always liked pleasant colors and happy pictures.

Oh yeah.

Diedre opened the door to Ella’s quarters. Like always, it was plastered with her findings, theories, and fifth dimensional calculations. In place of holograms, desktop monitors, or just white boards, every bit of data was on pristine white printer paper, and drawn on with crayons. It was disorganized in a way so that no one but Ella knew what was actually useful information and what was toddlerish gibberish scribbled down.

Some people thought the doodles of snakes and kitty cats on the back of some might indicate special importance. That was true, Ella remembered, but the important part was that those particular papers looked better with crayon drawings on them, nothing related to time travel.

Oh yeah.

“Hold still,” her assistant said. “We’ll get you into something more comfortable in just a second.” She unzipped the suit and slid the chrono-suit off of Ella’s shoulders. Gravity did the rest, sending the shell around her body crumbling to the floor like jammies on Christmas morning. “Step out,” Diedre Instructed. With a little help (the material always clung to her ankles for some reason) Ella did and got praised for it. “Good girl! So big!”

As she did with most genuine praise, Ella fairly melted inside and gave her assistant a big warm hug even though she was almost naked. Diedre took the closeness as an opportunity to check the doctor’s diaper. “My, my!” she said. “Someone’s wet!”

Ella had never been potty trained. Never went to school. She hadn’t needed it. She’d been a genius, walking, talking, and writing complex theorems since she was at least one year old.

Oh yeah.

“Up we go.” Like always Ella allowed her assistant to boost her up onto the changing table in Ella’s nursery. Bartholomew Ignacius Capernicus Smith - her stuffed ocelot- joined her and she held her buddy in her arms while her big person assistant worked at changing her diaper.

Diedre took care of Ella now. Had for years. They were about the same age, but Ella had never grown up. Never needed to. She’d gotten older, and with it had come certain physical changes, but in terms of her lifestyle, she never really got much older than one.

Oh yeah.

“Somebody’s thinkin’ real hard.” her assistant teased. She worked quickly. The swollen sagging diaper had already been balled up with the used wipes and replaced with fresh padding and sweet smelling baby powder. Ella had never really learned anything in her entire life; she just always knew stuff for some reason. The results were incredibly lopsided, but they’d worked in her favor.

“Yeah,” Ella sighed, putting Bartholomew Ignacius Capernicus Smith aside. “Just thinkin’ about stuff.” Her new diaper fastened on, she sat up as Diedre got out a nice, comfy lavender onesie and pulled it over Ella’s head. “Ya know.” She gingerly and thoughtfully sucked her fingers while Diedre snapped the two halves of her onesie over. She used her other hand to give the stuffed ocelot a cuddle.

“Like time travel?” Diedre asked.

Ella slid off the changing table. “Hmmm? Not really. Well…yeah…kinda.” On some level she was always thinking about time travel, about riding the temporal waves, going back and changing not only history, but herself, even if she never did. The only thing that changed about Ella ended up in the bottom of a pail when she was done with them.

Unconsciously, she wiggled her hips, enjoying the simple and fresh contrast between her new underwear and comfy clothes as compared to what she’d just been stripped out of.

She sat down on the floor and crawled. Today was probably going to be a crawling day. Sometimes, waddling around and walking was just too much trouble for Ella’s big preoccupied brain.

“When did you go this time?” Diedre asked. On top of things, as always, the tow headed girl brought a cold baby bottle of apple juice. “Do you want me to do your hair up?”

Ella took the bottle and sucked it down with both hands, getting so into the experience that she laid back and stared at the glow in the dark star stickers on the ceiling while she suckled. She’d almost forgotten that anyone was there in her nursery with her. “No thank you,” she said, a few moments later. “I’ll keep my hair down today. Was her hair down? She could have sworn that her hair was up in a pig-tail, except that was in the past.

Oh yeah.

Her caregiver had asked her another question. “Hmmm?” Ella said to no one in particular. “I went back to the beginning.” She finished draining the bottle.

No sooner had she finished, than Diedre had swapped her bottle out for another one. “Gotta keep hydrated,” Diedre said. She started to walk away. Rubber nipple still in her mouth, Ella started whining and mewling. “Oh oh oh! Sorry, baby! Sorry!” Diedre went back and hunkered down next to her.

She started patting and rubbing Ella’s back, half massaging Ella’s tensed up muscles, half stirring up the contents of her stomach. Within thirty seconds, Ella had let out a healthy belch. “Good girl!” She sat all the way down, and let the time traveler’s head rest in her lap. Ella moaned as Diedre started gently stroking her hair. “Better?”

“Mmmhmmm.”

“You really like going back to your first birthday, don’t you?” Diedre asked in that way that the big dumb people always used to indicate that they didn’t really want or expect an answer. Ella loved that tone. It made her feel so safe and smart and taken care of. Nothing expected of her and she just had to be her magnificent self. If she hadn’t just woken up from a nap, she would have been content to drift back off in the woman’s lap. “Kind of where it all began?”

“Hmmm?” Ella cocked an eyebrow and looked up at the wonderful woman who took care of her between trips through the fifth dimension.

“That’s when you had the idea for time travel, right? At your first birthday party?”

Oh yeah. It had been. “Yeah,” Ella said. “I never thought of it that way, but yeah.”

“What’s time travel, like?” Diedre asked. Like a lazy tiger after a full meal, Ella rolled off her caregiver’s lap and crawled for some paper.

“I thought I already explained it to you,” Ella said. “Or maybe I went back and changed that.” Still on all fours, she shrugged. Big people were so weird, sometimes.

“Maybe you did,” Diedre conceded. “But maybe it went over my head. My job is to keep you happy and dry. Everything else is just coincidence and osmosis.”

“Fair enough.” Ella reached for some crayons. “Where’s the teal ones?”

“I took them all away,” Diedre reminded the doctor. “You tried to eat them all last week, remember?”

Oh yeah.

Ella was feeling particularly mischievous. Mischief and science went hand in hand she found. “Well, I’m gonna need teal if I’m going to explain this properly. And some marbles….”

“Ella…” her caregiver warned. “No ma’am, little miss. You may be my boss, but I can still put you in the corner if you’re getting fussy or acting up.”

The babied time traveler sighed “Fine.” She settled for green, though green wasn’t nearly as good. Tasted too much like vegetable wax.

“So how does this work, again?”

“Tickles.” Ella harumphed.

“Fine, fine,” Diedre laughed. “I’ll give you plenty of tickles. But first show me your big girl science brain.”

Ella started doodling on her paper. “So I travel back along my own personal timeline,” she explained for what might literally be the umpteenth bajillion time- being a super genius she might actually be one of the few people who could actually count that high. “And when I jump back, who I am now mixes with who I was then, while my conscious mind in the present kind of pilots and takes over my past body and lets me fix things or warn people.”

The diagram was starting to look less and less like a linear graph and more and more like a green wiener dog. Green was a neat color for a wiener dog. “Then when time is up in the present, I ride the temporal wave back here, you change me out of my work clothes, and we get to play the rest of the day.”

“Didn’t you say something about seeing yourself different in the past or something?”

Aha! She had explained this to Diedre before! “Kinda. My residual self image imprints on my mind and I see myself as I do now instead of how I was then.” From the look on Diedre’s face, she wasn’t getting it. “So like, if you went back to yourself in Kindergarten, you’d see your big people body, but you’d be dressed like a Kindergartener.”

“But you’ve always been in diapers and onesies and stuff,” Diedre said. “So how can you tell when you’re in the past?”

Ella finished coloring in the doggy and started chewing on her hair. Maybe she did want it up, now… “I don’t know. I just do. It’s like I’m made of cake and my past self is made of ice cream, and I go and mix it in.”

Positively charmed, Diedre covered her mouth as she laughed. Ella thought it kind of sounded like a guinea pig’s happy squeak. “So my boss, who has prevented at least three national disasters, is just walking-talking ice cream cake?”

“Technically,” Ella said, “I corrected the disasters, but I can see how from your point of view it was prevention.” When you could travel through time and warn the right people, hindsight was a literal super power.

“Good thing you’ve been able to do all this stuff since you were super little,” Diedre said. Playfully she laid on her stomach so she could maintain eye contact with Ella. “If you just started showing everyone how smart you were today, my little ice cream cake, people might not listen to you.”

“Yup.” Ella said.

“So speaking of ice cream cake,” Diedre asked, “what happens when you come back to the present?”

“It’s happening right now,” Ella said. She felt both right and wrong in saying that in the most profound of ways. Maybe it was gas.

Diedre frowned, but didn’t seem particularly mad about it. “I guess what I mean to say is, you mix your present self with your past self when you ride the temporal wave. What happens when you ride it back? Do you get all the cake out of the ice cream? Or does some get left behind? Do you only bring back cake, or does some of the ice cream of who you used to be come back with you?”

Ella stopped blinking. She had never thought of that before. Had she caused a causality loop of some sort? She’d been a genius the likes of which had never been seen ever since she was a baby. She’d skipped all forms of formal schooling and had advanced the progress of mankind to unprecedented heights.

She also never grew out of diapers. Or stopped watching children’s cartoons. Or snuggling. Or eating crayons. Or playing pretend games that made no sense to anyone but her and the caregivers who humored her. She’d used the ice cream cake metaphor all her life to describe it to people who were just not otherwise imaginative enough to understand what the experience was like, but it had never felt that way to her. If ice cream was ‘baby’ and cake was ‘adult’, then all of Ella’s personal timeline from age one to present day was one big Baskin Robbins special.

It was just how she was made. Or had she made it herself?

What if Dr. Ella Sinclair had once been a brilliant but relatively normal person, and when she’d traveled back in time to when she was an infant a piece of that experience had been left behind in the past, and a piece of the past filled in the gaps? What if she created a self fulfilling prophecy, and had somehow meddled with her own personal timeline so that she invented time travel, but also never got a chance at a normal adult life?

Ella felt a deep rumbling inside her, one made of doubt and existential crisis. All these years of never growing up and being pulled between the two extremes of giving the middle finger while having these infantile habits and needs…had she accidentally done this to herself? Finally, she let out a final belch and felt better. Nope. Not an existential crisis brought on by a causation paradox. It was just gas.

“Ella?” Diedre said. “Baby, are you okay?” Before Ella could respond her caregiver got up and patted Ella’s bottom. “You’re fine; there…” she said.

“Just thinkin’ hard,” Ella said. “Thinking of new ideas and possibilities.”

“Like how to use temporal waves to travel to your own personal future?”

“More like how to fit as many marbles as possible into my mouth without swallowing.” Being a time traveler, Ella already had had several decades worth of being not surprised. Why would she want to double that on herself? She knew enough of the past to be more than happy here.

“You are not getting marbles, baby girl!” Diedre corrected her. “What you are getting…” she paused dramatically, “is…” the fingers of her hand went stiff and crooked, resembling.a dragon’s claw or a spider’s legs. “TICKLES!”

“NOOOOOOO!” Ella shrieked while the big person descended on her, tickling her mercilessly. Ella laughed and writhed on the ground, kicking uselessly in the air, enjoying herself but not wanting to hurt her sweet sitter. “No, no, no, no! NOOOO!”

What Ella had really meant, though, was ‘yes!’.

Oh yeah.

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