's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" A Problem With Other Minds "

Submitted by R. Breen

This was it, here at the state carnival. This was most revolutionary invention of the century. The magic of science fiction had been made physical and then commercial.

This was a machine that would allow one person to read the mind of another. It was affordable, it was fantastic, and it was right there in the tent in front of me my two friends.

“Oh please, please, please can we do it!” Louisa exclaimed.

“I’m kinda scared of it,” said Louisa.

A middle-aged woman emerged from the tent and grinned at us with her face tilted down. “You’ve come at just the right time. Usually there’s a long line.”

“We’ll get two tickets,” I said quickly.

Louisa groaned.

I paid the manager in cash.

“My sons will give you instructions.”

The three of us went inside. The room was bare and empty, except for a table and two chairs, and two helmets. “Who is going first?” said the older-looking young man.

“Not me,” laughed Louisa.

He turned to Roxanne and I. “Take a seat.”

Roxanne and I glanced each other with nervousness and excitement. We sat at the table. The older brother spoke. “You put these helmets on your heads, and then we’ll turn on this machine here-” He pointed to a small box on the table. “-which will make one of you aware the thoughts of the other. You can tell us to stop at any time. Do you understand?”



“Good. Who wants to go first?”

“I want to read her mind first,” said Roxanne.

I nodded. “That’s fine with me.

I put my helmet carefully onto my head. It was surprisingly light. Roxanne put on hers.

The older brother spoke. “Three. Two. One…”

Then the brothers stepped away.

I felt nothing. Roxanne’s eyes widened. I tried not to think about anything appalling. “Think about me,” she said.

You are so vain, I thought. You just want to know what I think about you.



After a few minutes of asking and answering questions, we were stopped.

“Your turn now,” he said to me, and flicked a switch.

This time I instantly felt something. It was not an expanding of the mind, as I had thought it would be. It was more like tickling.

Roxanne grinned mischievously. I could not tell what she was thinking.

I spoke to the brothers. “Are you sure it’s working?”

“Definitely. It doesn’t work for all people, but the light on the side of your helmet shows everything is connected properly.”

I nodded, disappointed.

“What am I thinking?” asked Roxanne. “Please try.”

I made a random guess. “The Ferris wheel?”

“Yes! It is working.”


“What about now?”

I shrugged. Again, I made a random guess. “You don’t like the TV show on my shirt?”

She grinned. “Yep.”

“Are you sure?”

“Would I lie?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“I forgot that you can read my mind when I asked that.”

“When you read my mind before, could you feel what I was thinking?”

She nodded. “It’s hard to explain, but yes.”

“So you weren’t just guessing?”


A few seconds passed. I decided to randomly guess another thought. “You’re thinking about words that rhyme with ‘water’.”

“What else?”

This was ridiculous. I began to suspect this was a prank, but Roxanne was not that sort of person, and I had read about this machine all over the Internet for months.


After our time was over, Roxanne was highly impressed. “That was amazing,” she said. “It was like you were me! But I don’t want to go again.”

That was good for me. I looked at Louisa. She had not said a word all this time.

As she walked over, I quickly undid my own helmet and made my way to the other seat, in case the machine was faulty. No-one complained.

Louisa took her seat. Like Roxanne, she demanded that she be the first to read my mind. I did not care. Like Louisa, she had no problem knowing what I thought.

Then came my turn to read hers. I tried to think of the most ridiculous thought I could.

The younger brother flicked the switch.

She shifted nervously in her seat.

“You are thinking that Harry Potter should have married McGonagall, aren’t you?”

She grinned and nodded once.

“I guessed that,” I exclaimed. “That was a pure guess. I tried to think of the most ridiculous thought I could, and that was it.”

I turned to the brothers. “Are you sure it’s working properly for me? I’ve been guessing everything.”

“It’s definitely working normally,” the elder said. “There’s an orange light if anything is unusual.”

I sighed.

Without meaning to, I started to doubt that they had minds at all.

I kept my eyes focused on the table. I was too ashamed to look at anyone.

No-one spoke.

I knew it was wrong to think these things, but the more I tried not to, the more difficult that became. Was there any way to be sure that they were real people?

After what felt like a long time, I looked back up.

Louisa stared at me with a steady gaze.

“We need the manager,” she muttered.

The manager walked back into the tent.

“What’s happening?” I asked, worried.

She spoke. “Did you ever really believe that, in the year 2015, there would be a mind-reading machine at a carnival?”

I did not know what to say.

“We know you didn’t.”

“What’s happening?”

She took a deep breath and spoke in a strangely down to earth voice. “There can only be one conscious being in the universe, and it is you. Everyone else is merely a mindless mimicry of you. The purpose of this machine is to let you see this for yourself, so that you will believe me now.”

I could barely think of words to say. “Why would you say that?”

“In a few hundred years, you sent my sons and I back to the 19st year to tell you.”

“Is this a prank, like on TV?”

Louisa shook her head. “Sorry,” she mouthed.

The manager continued. “For a long time you tried to create another being like you, or to travel back in time to befriend your past self, but when you saw that this and everything else you tried was impossible, you focused your energies on ending your life. When you realized this was impossible as well, you sent me and my sons back in time to kill your future self by changing her past.”

“But that doesn’t make sense. I would never have considered anything like that if you hadn’t said it to me.” “This is not the first time your future self has done this.”


“You will learn how the cycle goes. In time, you will send someone else to a point in time before this one, to end your torment.”

I turned to Roxanne and Louisa. “Don’t follow me.”

Then I pushed past the manager, and went outside. It took a second for the carnival scene to load.

I had lied to her when I told her I would never have considered it. The thought had plagued me as a child.

Strangely, I was calm now. Calmer than I had been before. It was like everything was finally in place. She had said this had happened before. However, it could not be a stable time loop. That would not kill the future me. It would, in fact, create her.

The future me must have sent the manager and her sons to a point in time before her timeline began. If I continued the cycle, I would live for hundreds of years and then send someone to a point in time before I came to this carnival today.

Was I merely the next link in a chain of timelines?

I walked to the train station. Neither of my friends followed me.

“Try to look on the bright side,” said a young girl to me as I walked past.

“It’s not over as long as you have lives left,” added an elderly man.

I tried to smile to them both.

There had to be a way to break the cycle and find meaning.