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I am looking for a short story where a young man is sent back in time to an age 1 million years ago. The professor who builds the time machine warns him not to touch anything when he is "there" but he moves a rock in water out of curiosity. And when he gets back to his own time he finds that everything is almost the the same, but a slight bit changed. Like the professor's name is slightly different and now he has a mustache, etc. I read this story years ago and although I remember many details, I don't remember the title or the name of the writer. Any ideas?

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"Me, Myself, and I", a short story by William Tenn, pseudonym of Philip J. Klass; first published (as by Kenneth Putnam) in Planet Stories, Winter 1947, available at the Internet Archive.

I am looking for a short story where a young man is sent back in time to an age 1 million years ago. The professor who builds the time machine warns him not to touch anything when he is "there" but he moves a rock in water out of curiosity.

It's 110 million years, and the professor actually instructed him to move the rock:

Ruddle watched while the check was carefully placed in the outer breast pocket of the ancient sweater. He picked up an expensive miniature camera and hung its carrying strap around his employee's neck. "Now, this is fully loaded. Are you certain you can operate the shutter? All you do—"

"I know all right. Fooled around with these doohickeys before. Been playing with this 'un for two days. You want me to step out of the machine, take a couple of snaps of the scenery, and move a rock."

"And nothing else! Remember, you're going back a hundred and ten million years and any action on your part might have an incalculable effect on the present. You might wipe out the whole human race by stepping on one furry little animal who was its ancestor. I think that moving a rock slightly will be a good first innocuous experiment, but be careful."

And when he gets back to his own time he finds that everything is almost the the same but a slight bit changed. Like the professor's name is slightly different and now he has a moustache, etc.

After the rich sunlight of the Cretaceous, the laboratory seemed smaller than he remembered it. The Professor came up to him breathlessly as he stepped from the time machine.

"How did it go?" he demanded eagerly.

McCarthy stared down at the top of the old man's head. "Everthin' O.K.," he replied slowly. "Hey, Professor Ruddle, what for did you go and shave your head? There wasn't much of it, but that white hair looked sorta distinguished."

"Hair? Shave? I've been completely bald for years. Lost my hair long before it turned white. And my name is Guggles, not Ruddle—Guggles: try and remember that for a while. Now let me see the camera."

That was the first of several trips back to that same spot in the Cretaceous. In the original timeline the Professor was a bachelor. The second time around he's a married man, so he sends his assistant back to undo the damage:

"Yes, of course. H'mmm. That may have been it. The centipede jumping out of the rock may have altered subsequent events sufficiently to make me a married man instead of a blissful single one, to have changed my name from Ruddle to Guggles. Or the rock itself. Such an intrinsically simple act as moving the rock must have had much larger consequences than I had imagined. Just think if that rock had not been moved, I might not be married! Gallagher—"

"McCarthy," the tall vagabond corrected resignedly.

"Whatever you call yourself—listen to me. You're going back in the time machine and shift that rock back to its original position. Once that's done—"

  • Published 5 years before Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder which covers the same theme. Funny how ASoT became so well-known and MMaI remained fairly obscure. – user56 Nov 12 '13 at 20:45
  • @Gilles William Tenn's 1948 "Brooklyn Project", less obscure than "Me, Myself, and I" though not as notorious as "A Sound of Thunder", also had relatively small disturbances in the past causing huge changes in the future. – user14111 Nov 12 '13 at 23:33
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    The twist in "Brooklyn Project" is that nobody remembers the changes, so purple slime creature that the human spokesman for the project turned into is still saying "Nothing has Changed!" to the audience. – Oldcat Sep 5 '14 at 0:23

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