There was a thread on Reddit that asked what you would do with your future self for 24 hours. I got to thinking, what if my future self were genuinely evil? What if they were coming to visit me for 24 hours to see how much damage could be done to further their aims in the future? What if that future self wasn’t that far removed from my present, say 2 years from now? That blows my mind! I burst out laughing, and then I wanted to cry when I realized this would be my response. I can only hope that my future self isn’t evil and that if she comes to visit, she’ll say how fabulous our life became.
I love AskReddit threads. They’re great writing prompts. I took it further. See below:
I fell out of sleep and crashed into that familiar mountain of trouble. Every day was a new day but they all started like a broken record: a ravenous dose of stressful anxiety. Perhaps that’s why I respected ghouls before I learned the hard way. The hunger pangs of depression follow you when you’re the Hollywood undead. I knew today would be no different. My emotions were compounded by the appearance of a migraine. I took meds the night before to counteract its death grip on my brain, but they failed me. Like everyone, I’ve ever counted on.
My pet dog snuffled on the queen bed next to me. I rolled over and tapped the power button on my smartphone to see the time. I swore my life by that phone. I would go through thousands of phones in the intervening years but I had a special place in my heart for that model. I squinted at the backlit screen in between the death rays of the early morning sun trying to break through the cloud cover. I wore glasses at the time but they were on the nightstand across the room. I entertained the same anxious thought I had decided on every previous day of my life. “I’ve got another 20 minutes to sleep.” Instead of closing my eyes for a few precious moments of desperately needed slumber, I instead fired up a video game application on that exquisite piece of hardware. It was something to keep my mind preoccupied. My anxiety levels were the great equalizer then. It would be the only thing keeping me alive.
Breakfast was forgettable. I’m surprised I made it work on time. As a child, I was a firm believer that conformity would be the death of me. Humanity should be the individual. No one should be proud to march off the same cliff, dressed alike with robotic movements, slow dancing in concrete jungles and entertaining various thought crimes. I valued my independent nature, as much as one could without dwelling on being shamed by the people that swore they loved me. I allowed myself the fluidity of moving through the crowd without fear in those days. A rare permission to be granted now.
The over-sized smoke gray suit jacket amused me. Conformity was a hard and fast rule I had to adhere to. Feed me, clothe me, drain me of my individuality. I gots to get paid. I reassured myself this stop in life was going to be a temporary stepping stone to something better. Naïveté kept my blood warm. I had lost weight over the past year but I could not justify speaking to the wardrobe department to downsize. I had no emotional attachment to the clothing, a sentiment that I would carry with me until the very end. The arm of the jacket faded into the stone counter beneath me. I could see from my vantage point that hiding in the background was never my strong suit. Front of house, I thought to myself. That’s where I used to work.
“You should take it off the sign,” I overheard the unremarkable female Caucasian said. I smiled and shrugged. I didn’t give a shit. It was an inactive promotion designed to draw people in. From there, I was supposed to be some ghost of who I was. I was paid to slather on the false charm and upsell them to something else. Strange what minute details reappear when you’re forced to compartmentalize everything else.
I strolled towards the stanchions and waited to be greeted. I glanced at the timer in two places consecutively. Once on the PC desktop; the other on the phone beside my workstation. In that order. Perhaps I believed one would lie and needed the reassurance. Or maybe I needed an excuse to look at something that wasn’t a flat screen with tiny, coded pixels. 12:10pm. Another employee would join me behind the counter momentarily.
She greeted me without feeling – an indication of the morale of the time. She was businesslike if not polite, took in the small details, made no small talk. She hustled through the transaction as neatly as she could wrap up.
A familiar song was being piped through the overhead radio. “Stars are blazing like rebel diamonds…” I found myself involuntarily bopping my head to the beat. It was a rare movement to a comforting song that I would only ever do in this time.
“You like them?” she asked. I was flabbergasted that no indication of recognition had washed over her yet. The skin was a few shades darker, and the hair I wore short by virtue of the fashion of the time was peppered gray. I remembered why I never smiled. It gave me wrinkles.
“Yes, they’re my favorite band. I had a website for them back in the day.”
“Oh wow,” she said, sounding like a character from that TV show. “Me too. What was it called?”
“TKO,” I said.
Her face went pale, as she continued to type on her computer. “No way… my site was named TKO too!”
I stared at her, wondering when I would pierce the veil in her mind. She glanced at me again. I would continue this issue of maintaining eye contact. But there was something processing in that hamster wheel churning in her head. I could tell. A weakness of mine was never admitting weakness. It served me well, kept me out of scrapes when everyone else was on the brink of disaster. But it definitely would work against me when I wore that horrendously unfashionable uniform. Relentless training would stomp that discomfort soon enough.
“Let me give you a piece of advice,” I began, as she leaned over to gather up the show tickets I would never use. “When someone gives you the choice to run or fight, I sincerely hope you choose to fight.”
“I’m sorry?” she asked. That was a filler phrase. I knew that she knew. I could see her struggling to speak.
I couldn’t hold back a moment longer. “You know who I am.”
She raised an eyebrow. I had to remember that familiarity was another weakness. She hated to relate to others in any way. It protected her from the emotional bruises that laced the ventricles of that icy heart. She stared at me, unable to speak.
I leaned forward. “I have 24 hours, but you? You have plenty of time left.”
“For what?” she said. She finally held my gaze, as the line multiplied behind me. Neither one of us broke eye contact for what seemed like a lifetime. In a way, it was. For me.
“When it begins, remember today.”
“I don’t understand. If you’re me…” I glanced at the crowd behind me. “Why can’t you tell me more? Wouldn’t I need to know more in order to get to where you are?”
I nodded sadly. “24 hours isn’t long enough to say goodbye.” I turned on my heel to walk away.
“Wait, please!” the great stone face shattered and tears burned in the corner of her brown eyes.
I knew I had scared her enough to make her listen to anything I would ever say. “I have to go. You’ll know what to do. I want to remind you to never lose your faith.”
I continued on my way, blending into the crowd. She would not follow me. She couldn’t. She wouldn’t risk her job back then. My heart wrenched in my stomach, knowing what I did. It was strange; I could feel what she was feeling at that precise moment. It was a sense of abandonment, a slash of hurt pride, and the reassurance that time travel is possible and that with that power, the past can be changed.
I knew that coming back here to compel her to make the right decision when the war begins tomorrow.
It’s a fascinating idea.