The Eastwood Story
A/N: The 'tombstone paradox' of BTTF3 is the one BTTF paradox which has, for some reason, both intrigued and bothered me the most. If Marty saved Doc and destroyed the tombstone in 1885, then he wouldn't have seen it in the graveyard in '55 and wouldn't have gone back to save Doc and destroy the tombstone...classic paradox! However, a while back, I came up with a theory to resolve this paradox and provide Marty with another reason to go back to 1885...and I decided, for the heck of it, to make a story out of it, to 'rewrite' the early part of BTTF3 to fit the final 'Eastwood' timeline...
I must make a special mention of 'bttf4444', perhaps the most prolific BTTF fan-fiction writer, who some time back, told me about his own theory about the 'tombstone paradox', which coincidentally happened to be more or less the same as my own! The fact that another fan of the trilogy shared my theory was a major factor in encouraging me to write this story...
Sunday, November 13th, 1955
"You know...I always wanted to be a cowboy", Dr. Emmett Brown shouted over the sound of the crane. "And now, knowing that I'm going to spend my future in the past...it seems like a perfect way to spend my retirement years".
It had been a busy day, for both Hill Valley's most eccentric scientist and for his young companion, the teenager who wouldn't even be born for another thirteen years-Marty McFly!
Marty, who, over a week ago, had arrived Doc's doorstep, with a wild story of being from the future. Marty, who prematurely revealed to Doc, the culmination of three decades worth of scientific labours he had yet to live through-the time machine...
Marty, who, when a lightining bolt struck the clock tower last night, had been sent back to the future...only to return a mere second later...having come back from the future...with a tale conceivably more bizarre than his previous one. A tale which, as with the last one, proved to be true. Doc had seen the proof written in his very own handwriting! Well, that of his future self anyway...
And now, they had unearthed the Delorean time machine which his future self had buried in the Delgado Mine seventy years ago...the Delorean which, not very long from now, Marty would drive back to the year 1985, for the last time...
Doc didn't really understand why his future self wanted the fruits of decades of labour to be destroyed...he supposed there was a story behind it, which he would live through thirty years from now...
But his true destiny, as he now knew, lay not in the future, but in the past...
"It just occurred to me Marty", he continued, voicing the curiosity that suddenly engulfed him, "since I end up in 1885 perhaps I'm now in the history books. I wonder...do I go to the library and look myself up in the old newspaper archives?"
"I dunno Doc", Marty replied. "You're the one who's always saying it's not good to know too much about your own destiny".
"You're right, Marty", Doc agreed, with only a hint of resignation in his voice. "I know too much already. Better I not attempt to uncover the circumstances of my own...future".
He had been about to say something else, something else which had been nagging away at the back of his mind ever since he'd read his future self's letter. Was it dead? Was that what he had been about to say out loud, and had just been able to stop himself at the last moment?
After all, it made perfect sense. If he was trapped in 1885, there was no way in hell he would still be alive today. A chill ran down Doc's spine as he considered the fact that right now, at this very instant, somewhere in Hill Valley, there could be a grave that contained his remains...he would have, after all, technically died before he was even born...
No, Doc told himself sternly. He couldn't afford to brood about the future, regardless of how he knew or guessed. He had a job to do, a task which had been delegated to him by...himself. He had to send Marty back to the future, before his presence in 1955 could possibly cause any further disruption to the space-time continuum.
"Copernicus, come on boy", Doc called out, having noticed that his dog had wandered off into the cemetery.
"I'll get him Doc", said Marty. "Copernicus", he shouted. "Come on, let's go home boy", Marty said, as he walked into the graveyard proper.
Doc saw the teen disappearing amidst the graves, and again, couldn't stop a chill running down his spine...it was the graves! Something about the graves bothered him, beyond all rational reason...almost as though, he...
No...no...that didn't make sense! He was just being needlessly morbid when there was no reason to be. After all, hadn't he just assured Marty that morning that there were plenty of worst places to be than the Old West...
The dog was standing by an empty patch in the land. Marty approached him and kneeled down beside him, torch in hand. "Come on, let's go home boy", said Marty.
As Marty and Copernicus made their way back to the truck, an odd sense of relief flooded through Doc. He didn't know why...he didn't know what he had expected to happen...he just felt relieved that nothing had happened...
"Come on, Marty, let's get home", Doc said. "Somehow", he admitted hesitantly, "This place unnerves me".
"Yeah I know, Doc...me too", Marty replied with a slight shiver. "It remind me of the graveyard where my father...never mind, all that was erased anyway..."
Doc didn't enquire about what Marty meant. He figured he would find out anyway, in the natural course of time.
Yes...the natural course of time...the next thirty years of which he would spend inventing the very time machine that was now secured to the back of his truck...the time machine that was destined to strand him seventy years in the past...
"Say, Doc", Marty said, breaking the silence as they drove back to his lab.
"Hmm", he grunted absent-mindedly in reply, lost as he was in thoughts about the Old West.
"I really don't like this idea, you know...of leaving you there...or 'then'..." Marty said softly.
"Please, Marty", Doc said guessing where this conversation was going. "Please don't tell me you want to go back for me...you read what I wrote in that letter...don't ask me to go against my future self's wishes"
"I know, Doc", said Marty. "And that's not what I'm saying...I just...you know, I would feel a little better about leaving you behind if I knew what happened to you...after all..." he almost choked, "I most likely will never see you again after I leave here".
That thought hadn't occurred to Doc at all...naturally, given that his friendship with Marty, for him, was in the future...but for Marty of course, it was very much, quite literally now, a thing of the past...
Doc knew how attached Marty was to his future self...and he knew that the boy needed closure...he needed to be assured that he wasn't abandoning him to a less than desirable fate...
"I promise I won't tell you anything, Doc", Marty added, insistently.
Doc sighed. Oh well, there was no harm in it, was there. After all, Marty already knew far more about the future than him...hell, he was from the future after all.
"Go ahead, Marty", he said. "In fact, I'll drop you off at the library as soon as we're done putting the time vehicle in the lab. I know the night watchman fairly well."
"Thanks a lot, Doc", said Marty.
Marty poured over tons of newspapers and journals, far more than he'd ever gone through while working on a history project. Thus far, he had turned up with nothing. Sure, he had learnt a fair amount of useless trivia about 19th century Hill Valley. He had learned all about the notorious gunman Bufford Tannen, and the twelve men he'd allegedly killed (honestly, thought Marty, was there a Tannen in any era who wasn't a jerk!) He had even come across an old photograph of the McFly family, and saw his great-grandfather William McFly in it. But so far, nothing whatsoever about Doc.
Marty sighed, as he buried his head in his hands and wondered, depressingly, if Doc's fate was truly lost to history, when a pile of photographs he'd absent-mindedly placed to one side suddenly caught his eye. He flipped through the pictures, and it was a flash of silver that caught his eye...
He stared long and hard at the picture. A picture of the famed Clock Tower on the day of its inauguration. And he stared at the man standing on one side of it.
It was Doc.
There was no doubt about it. It was Doc!
He was alive and well...in 1885 anyway. Marty glanced down at the caption below the picture... 'The New Clock...September 5th, 1885'
September 5th...Doc had had this picture taken a mere four days after he'd written the letter...
It was only in the moments after the euphoria of this discovery had faded that Marty noticed that there was someone else in the picture with Doc...someone standing to the other side of the clock...
Marty stared at the younger man standing on the other end of the clock, and his first impulse was...Clint Eastwood! And yet...there was something...something intensely familiar about the person in the picture...Marty glanced at the face of the other person closely...
...and nearly fell off his chair...
It was him.
He, Marty McFly, was standing there, dressed in cowboy clothes, besides the new clock, on September 5th, 1885.
He had to be dreaming.
Marty stared at the old photograph again. He pinched himself. He pinched himself again. The picture stayed the same. After all, the picture represented the past...and the past was set in stone...
He had been to 1885...he had found Doc, had posed for a picture with him by the Clock...it had already been written into the past; and by extension, into his future...
He had to go back for Doc, now...because he was destined too!
"Tell me Marty...honesty", Doc said grimly, staring at the photograph Marty had brought back from the library. "You weren't planning on going back to get me, were you?"
"No Doc, I swear", Marty insisted. It was true, he had abandoned any idea of going back to help Doc...after all, Doc may just have led a peaceful fulfilling life in the past...and he had no right to take that from him. Besides, he had to admit, he'd had just about enough of time travel to last a lifetime. He just wanted, above everything else, to get back to 1985 and enjoy the new, better, life his original trip to 1955 had created for himself. And even more than that, he wanted to check if Jennifer was okay...
"I believe you", Doc said softly. "You know, this can only mean one thing then".
"What?" asked Marty.
"We...both you and I...are living in an altered timeline", said Doc.
"Well...I mean, that's obvious isn't it?" exclaimed Marty. "I mean, when the other you went to the past, the timeline would have skewed off into a tangent of some sort...at least, that's what the other you said happened when Old Biff went back..."
Doc decided to ignore what Marty had said about Biff. "No...what I mean is, that the timeline has been altered once more since my own trip back to 1885. Here, let me show you".
He walked to a nearby chalkboard. "I'm not sure I can be as good at this as my future self...but I'll try", he sighed.
He then drew one line on the board. One end he labelled '1885' and near the other end he placed another label, '1955'.
"This is the original timeline, the one which existed before my future self was struck by lightining. In this timeline, my future self was never in the past, hence the Delorean was never buried in the mine, Western Union never received a letter to deliver...and so on. You came from this timeline, as did my future self. However, at the end of this timeline", Doc tapped his chalk at the part of the line labelled '1955', "my future self got struck by lightining and was sent back seventy years to the past".
Doc drew a curve from the 1955 end of the line back to just below the 1885 end of it, and then drew another line, parallel to the first, beginning from the part where the curve ended, and ending just below the '1955' end of the first line.
"My future self going back caused a new timeline...one where he was present in Hill Valley in 1885. He wrote the letter to be sent through Western Union and buried the Delorean in the mine. In the meantime", Doc drew a dotted line connecting the 1955 ends of both time-lines... "since the first timeline was erased, you were shifted onto this new timeline the moment the time vehicle was struck by lightining...it was in this timeline that you received the letter from Western Union..and I have no doubt you sought me out just as you did in this timeline..."
"Man, this is heavy", Marty said rubbing his head. "So what happened to this other timeline?"
"I'm not sure", Doc said, in the tone of one who seldom had to use those words. "I can assume that there was something in that timeline...something different from what you and I have experienced so far...something that caused you to go against my wishes and travel back to 1885. Maybe...when you went to the library, you saw something about my...future...that compelled you to go back and rescue me. Maybe it was...something else you saw...(for some reason, Doc couldn't but help think of Boot Hill Cemetery)...anyway, whatever it was, as soon as the time machine was operational again, you went back..."
He drew another curve, from the '1955' end of the second line to below the '1885' end, and then drew another parallel 'time-line'. "When the 'other you' went back to 1885, he created a third timeline...the one we are in now. In this timeline, you met me in 1885...you took the picture with me besides the Clock...we don't know what else happened...however, in 1955...even along this timeline, you received the letter from Western Union, we've uncovered the time vehicle, and...here we are..." Doc said, tapping the '1955' end of the third timeline.
"So now what?" asked Marty. "Do I go back again and create a fourth timeline?"
"No, Marty...there is no question of 'again'...all you need to do is make the same jump back which the 'other you' of the second timeline made...so that you become you're other self, and do whatever you needed to in 1885 in order to create this timeline", said Doc.
"I don't get any of this", said Marty.
"Truth be told, it beats the shit out of me too", muttered Doc. "It seems that your trip back to the past caused a paradox of some sort...the information which caused you to create this timeline doesn't exist anymore in this timeline; however, thanks to that picture, we now know that you were meant to go back".
"Okay, Doc...I get it. After you fix the time circuits and put new tires on the Delorean I'm going back to 1885, and I'm bringing you home", said Marty.
Wednesday, November 16th, 1955
"The clothes fit?" Doc shouted out.
"Yeah, everything except the boots Doc, they're kinda tight!" Marty replied. "I don't know, are you sure this stuff's authentic?"
"Of course. Haven't you ever seen a Western?", Doc reassured him.
They were both standing in a Drive-in theatre on the outskirts of Hill Valley, a spot which Doc was certain would have been completely uninhabited in 1885; and thus the perfect location for temporal displacement. Doc had also insisted that Marty get himself dressed for the period, and Marty, who still remembered all the jokes about his 'life preserver' jacket from his original trip to 1955, had agreed without much reluctance; at least until he'd first set his eyes on the outfit Doc had chosen for him. Not that it mattered much of course...once he was there, he would get his hands on more suitable clothing; the photograph was testament to that. Still, despite knowing it was temporary, Marty couldn't but help feel ridiculous wearing the outfit...
"Yeah Doc, but Clint Eastwood never wore anything like this", he said disparagingly.
"Clint who?" Doc asked.
"That's right...you haven't heard of him yet", replied Marty.
"Marty", Doc said suddenly, glancing at the teen's footwear. "You have to wear the boots! You can't wear those futuristic things in 1885...you shouldn't even be wearing them here in 1955!"
"All right Doc, as soon as I get there I'll put them on I promise", Marty assured him hastily.
"Okay", said Doc, content to let the matter rest. "I think we're about ready", he continued, running to the Delorean which had been towed all the way from the lab, again. "I put gas in the tank...your future clothes are packed...just in case, fresh batteries for your walkie-talkies", he added, producing Marty's walkie-talkie; one of a pair which Doc (the 'other Doc' as Marty had to remind himself) had brought from 1985. "Oh, what about that floating device?"
"Hoverboard", Marty replied, as he retrieved from Doc's car, the futuristic skateboard he had acquired in the year 2015.
"Right", Doc said, taking the hoverboard from him and putting it in the car.
"You know, Doc", Marty said, looking around at their isolated surroundings and imagining how much more isolated it would have been seventy years ago, "It's going to be a hell of a long way back to Hill Valley from here".
"It's still the safest plan", Doc argued. "After all we can't risk sending you back to a populated area...or to a spot that's geographically unknown". He walked to the back of the car, gesturing towards the wide stretch of dirt road behind him. "You don't want to crash into some tree that once existed in the past". He ran into the path, gesticulating as he spoke, "This was all completely open country, so you'll have plenty of run-on space when you arrive!"
Marty, who suddenly vividly remembered crashing into a pine tree mere minutes after his panicked original arrival in 1955 (which had, amusingly enough, had changed the name of the Mall which stood at that site in 1985), now couldn't but help agree with Doc's logic.
"Remember, where you're going, there are no roads!" Doc added, running back, and Marty smiled to himself, remembering Doc's (his Doc's) quip about not needing roads in 2015. "There's a small cave over there", Doc pointed to his right, "which will be a perfect place to hide the time vehicle".
"Well", Doc said finally, having inspected the new time circuit control tubes he'd hastily built using 50's components, "the new time circuit control tubes are warmed up". He ran to the driver's seat. "Time circuit's on", he said, as he activated them. "I wrote the letter on September 1st, so we'll send you back the very next day-September 2nd; that's a Wednesday...September 2nd 1885, 8:00 AM", he added as he entered the Destination Time. "We took the picture on Saturday, the 5th, so you have three days to locate me. According to my letter, I'm a blacksmith, so I probably have a shop somewhere". He handed Marty the photograph of the two of them standing by the Clock Tower.
He then said loudly, pointing at the theatre screen. "All you have to do is drive the time vehicle directly toward that screen, accelerating at 88 miles per hour".
"Wait a minute", Marty exclaimed suddenly, "Doc! If I drive straight towards the screen, I'm going to crash into those Indians!"
"Marty", Doc replied, "You're not thinking fourth-dimensionally! You'll be transported to 1885 and those Indians won't even be there!"
"Right", Marty said, acknowledging for the umpteenth time that Doc Brown, past or present, always had all the answers...
"Good luck", Doc said, patting Marty's arm, "for both of our sakes. See you in the future".
"You mean the past?" Marty asked, reflecting once more on the irony of Doc's future being in the past.
"Exactly", Doc said.
Marty got into the Delorean and drove the car right back to the starting point.
"Ready, Marty", Doc shouted, starting pistol in hand. Marty had recognised it earlier as the very gun Doc had tried (unsuccessfully) to use on the night of the first temporal experiment against the Libyans.
"Ready", Marty shouted back.
"10...", Doc started counting down, looking down at his watch.
"High-O-Silver", Marty muttered to himself, waiting for the moment...
The shot rang out, and Marty floored the gas pedal. The now seventy year old vehicle shot forward, as though its first run had been only yesterday.
As Marty sped past Doc, he could hear the scientist gesticulating wildly and shooting into the air.
Marty sped forward, his eyes on both the speedometer and the figures of the Indians inched ever closer with every passing second. As he watched the speedometer readings slowly crawl upwards, Marty began to get nervous...what if the time machine hadn't been fixed? What if this Doc wasn't as good as the Doc from '85? What if he didn't end up in 1885 before he reached the wall?
But as the Delorean started crackling with the energy Marty was now familiar with, he heaved a sigh of relief, and watched the speedometer reach 88 miles per hour...