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Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

April 28, 2023, I don't know where to start. You asked me to write down my experiences so that I can further your research into time travel. I don't know what I saw or even believe. 


Perhaps it's some sort of psychotic haze. I've been on my current medication mix for some time and thought I already knew all the side effects, but perhaps I was wrong. Or maybe it's all true. I don't know. 


Why did you choose me as your 'temporal target"? It is very inconvenient. I'm sure three generations from now, you have heard the whispers of my mental health and consequent suicide attempts. There's a good chance no one will believe me as a witness. I'm crazy, or so they say. 


Or perhaps by your time, there are no whispers, and I am just a name bouncing through the Census rolls, just a birth date, a death date and nothing more. No marriage. No children. My hands are already full with depression and anxiety, so I tend not to go on many dates. Not that I'm looking. I don't care that no one swipes right. 


After forty years, I have my own way of doing things. As Simon and Garfunkle put it, "I am a rock. I am an island." My lifestyle has long been set. I don't leave my apartment except for my weekly dose of compassion from my therapist and my monthly check-in with my psychiatrist. Of course, you don't really care about all that stuff, and honestly, I don't care that you don't care. Here are the details you requested. 


Yesterday, I met Myself for the first time. It was all very peculiar. At first, I wasn't sure if I was seeing things. 


 I had just walked into the kitchen of my tiny apartment, intent on retrieving the key to my strong box from a block of ice stuck at the bottom of my freezer. It was part of my safety plan, put in place to slow down the time between impulse and action. If I started to thaw the block, I was supposed to call the suicide crisis line and have them talk me down. I had done that before, on a couple occasions, but this time I was determined and was not interested in being calmed. I had had enough. The noise in my head would not stop. It had engulfed me at 9:00 pm, just as I was about to go to bed. I tried to stay still. I tried measured breath and a body scan, but they did not reset my thinking. 


I ran the small ice block under hot water and watched as the stream carved a smooth hole to the bottom. Once I could pop the ice from the Tupperware container, I picked the key off the melting block. From there, I meandered through the stacks of magazines and collectable junk in my apartment and returned to my bedroom, where I retrieved the strong box from under the bed. Inside was the powder I would mix with chocolate milk to create my forbidden elixir. It had been carefully researched. I knew the MLD (minimum lethal dose), and my measurement was precise. I knew I had enough. Calm and steady, I slid the key into the lock. There was no drama, no cry for attention, no tears. It was a transaction, and my life was the currency. I opened the box. Everything was just as I left it. 


I carried it into the kitchen so I could mix my ambrosia. Then suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him, I mean Myself, sitting in my comfy chair, where the cushions are so threadbare and broken in that they mould to the contours of my body. I was, or rather he was, wearing the only dress clothes I own - black pants, a pale blue shirt and a dark blue tie, no shoes, but black socks. I only wear them to weddings and funerals.  


He didn't seem to notice me at first. He was very still, so I initially put the apparition down to some sort of trick of the street lights splitting through the curtains. But as my eyes adjusted, I could clearly see his features, my features that were familiar from the mirror. I was about to step closer when suddenly, to my amazement, he came to life. He first blinked, then slowly began to look around to get his bearings. When his gaze finally landed on me, he seemed just as surprised as I was.  


Myself spoke first, "Hello, I'm from the future."


It's very strange to hear your own voice directly, not from inside your head or through a speaker but directly from mouth to ear. My first thought was, "Great, it's one of those Christmas ghosts, and go figure mine comes at the wrong time of year."


"OK." I replied, unsure what else to say.


This seemed to stymie Myself. He was expecting something more. He again surveyed my apartment, assessing my endless stacks of boxes and books as if hoping to find some sort of teleprompter to continue the conversation.


I stepped closer to get a better look. It's strange to hear yourself, but even stranger still to see yourself from angles not visible in the mirror. My balding crown was particularly shocking. He stared at me with the same fascination. 


I was not entirely convinced I was awake, so I looked around for a clock. I remember reading somewhere that you can't tell time in your dreams. Or maybe it was you can't see clocks or at least recognize them. Or something like that. I wish I could remember the detail because I could see the digital clock on the microwave flashing 12:00. I had never bothered to set the time after the power outage in the winter. That was a blistering storm. The power went out all over the city. High winds and everything. That would have been a good night to be haunted. The atmosphere was perfectly spooky. Nothing like today. I cursed the ambivalence of the flashing 12. Awake. Asleep. Awake. Asleep.


I finally broke the silence, "So why are you here?"


"You're my temporal target." Myself replied.


"Are you here to warn me of something?" Perhaps my ghost needed a memory prompt.


"No."


I was beginning to understand how frustrated others got when they talked to me. Monosyllables are usually my specialty in conversation. People leave you alone if you don't elaborate.


 I got annoyed and became petulant. "You're in my chair."


"Oh, I'm sorry." Myself looked down as if he didn't even realize he was sitting, then got up and proceeded to knock over a stack of boxes. He sent a treasure horde of series 4 Mighty Beanz bodies scattering across the floor along with several multi-coloured fidget spinners. "Oh, I'm sorry." He repeated less sincerely, then frowned as if it was my fault he was so clumsy. "Why do you have so much stuff?" He asked. 


"Why are you trashing my apartment?" I replied. This was all too bizarre. Now I will admit I do have a lot of boxes, OK stacks of them but for good reason. I buy up really cheap items from manufacturers that are dumping surplus product online and then sell them through my eBay store. Sometimes the stock doesn't sell as quickly as I buy it. OK, it never sells as quickly as I buy it, so my apartment is a bit of a warehouse. It doesn't matter, though. I am on disability, so that helps. It's just me, and I know how to get around.  Myself then turned to move away from the chair and knocked over a box of Disney Princess Christmas ornaments.


"What are you doing?" I shouted. "Those are breakable. Just sit down!" 


"Where?" He asked blankly. 


He had a point. There was really only one chair in the apartment. "OK, OK, sit in my chair.  Myself sat back down. I regretted my own company. Frustrated, I sat on a stack of World at War encyclopedias. "What are you again?"


"I'm from the future. You are my temporal target. You need to write down a description of everything I do in your journal so we can improve the process of time travel." His tone was matter-of-fact, as if his words explained everything.


"What? Wait. Why me? I'm hardly interesting." I replied tersely, darting my eyes back to the microwave, hoping to catch it betraying my somnolent state. The flashing 12:00 just mocked my sanity. 


"Because you kept a journal on your phone." He replied. 


"You mean in the future they read my journal?" I was both flattered and horrified. I would have to edit some of my entries as soon as possible. 


"Only your great grand nephew reads it."


"Oh." I was not so flattered. "my great grand nephew? What does that mean?" I asked impatiently. My mind was desperate to sort out the sense of this dream or hallucination. My first guess would have been the psychiatric medication coursing through my veins. I've been on many different pills over the years. Some like marzipan (actually mirtazapine - I can never remember the drug I take, so I gave them nicknames. For example, zeppelin for Zoloft and Pam Pam for Clonazepam and Zap for Clozapine.). When I was on marzipan, I had mind flashes like a sudden lightning flash inside my mind. And when I lay down and shut my eyes, you were instantly pulled into a vivid dream state. Marzipan would have been a perfectly plausible explanation for Myself if only I was still on it.


Myself must have been something I ate. The Chinese food. That was it. I always order dinner for four and stock my fridge with three or four days worth of leftovers. I think yesterday was the fifth day. I shouldn't have eaten that last clump of General Tao's Chicken. The grease-stained red dragon "Chinese Food" box still lay abandoned on the floor by my chair. Dried bits encrusted the tongs of my fork beside it.  


"Write in your journal when I arrived." Myself explained "Describe what I do, what I say, how I act and let him know his temporal experiment was a success."


"You're really from the future?" I asked. I decided to play along, at least until my alarm went off to wake me. I usually don't set the alarm because I have nowhere to go, but tomorrow I have an appointment with my therapist. I remember setting it before I laid down. In a few more hours, it would go off. 


Myself nodded.


"But how?" I asked skeptically, "You're me."


"Not really." Myself explained, "I'm more like an echo of you."


"So can you travel through all of time and space?" I became interested.


"No. Not really." He looked down, knowing his response would disappoint me. "The temporal conduit is specific to this time and place and your DNA. It's a one way trip. That is why we need your journal to report back."


He was right; I was disappointed. "Wait, my DNA. How did you get that?


"Grant found it in an Family Tree DNA bank." 


"Oh ya, I forgot about that." I reflected momentarily on the Christmas gift my sister gave me one year. I was more interested in what it would reveal about my health than who I was related to. 


"Why are you wearing my Sunday clothes.


"They're from your funeral." Myself replied as a matter of fact.


"Guess that makes sense."


I paused for a moment, trying to comprehend everything he said. "So you're stuck here?"


"In a sense I'm not really here." He explained.


I looked at the spilled merchandise strewn across my floor and then back to the remnants of General Tao. "I see." I frowned. This was a stupid dream. "Can you read my mind?" I put the image of a banana in my conscience as it seemed like an excellent random choice. 


"No. I'm not really you."


"Wanna guess?" I concentrated on the banana harder. "Just to see if you can."


"No."


"Can you tell me about the future?"


"No."


"You really are useless, you know. How do I know you're from the future?" 


"Write a question in your journal and when I come back, I'll give you an answer."


"You're coming back?" I was not impressed by his threat. 


"It's all part of our temporal tests. We are working to make time travel possible. Now ask me a question and I will bring back the answer as proof. "


Now this seemed like a reasonable offer until I realized that any answer he gave would be unprovable. I could ask who is the president in 50 years or who wins the Stanley Cup, but he could say anything. Then it occurred to me I'll write something in my journal after he is gone. If my great grand nephew really is reading my cellphone journal, he could relay that fact with his next temporal test. 


"What's my great grand nephew's name?"


"Grant."


"Really?" I was incredulous. It didn't seem like a name from the future.


"Yes."


Myself was so tedious. Nothing about him was interesting. I decided to choose a word that he would never guess, so Grant, prove that you're reading this: Dendrochronology. I said nothing to Myself. Instead, I asked, "Do you have a message for me?"


I'm from the future, and you are my temporal target. You need to write down a description of everything I do in your journal so we can improve the process of time travel."


"It certainly needs improving."


"Pardon."


"Never mind." I replied, and with that, I suddenly saw him fading. He didn't seem troubled at all; in fact, he didn't even seem to notice; rather, he just sorta pixilated and then dissolved into the space around him. Well, Grant, I think your test was a failure. 


I put away my locked box and put the key back underwater and into the freezer. I then took my regular dose of Zap and went to sleep. Can you dream inside a dream? Whatever the case, I slept soundly until my alarm went off. I got up immediately and examined my chair for evidence of time travel, things like psycho plasm or radioactive lint or whatever it might be. I have read many science fiction books and knew what to look for. There was nothing but General Tao's splattered sauce. It was just a dream. I looked at the fidget spinners strewn across the floor and decided I must have stumbled when I got out of my chair and went to bed last night. It had all just been a vivid dream. 




April 29, 2016 


Woke up in the middle of the night, convinced it was time to finally end things. Sometimes the pull just happens like that. My appointment with my therapist didn't go well. I made no mention of Myself. I had just had enough. I went into the kitchen to start preparations when I was scared half to death. Someone was again in my comfy chair. "What the hell!" I shouted when I finally recognized Myself had returned.  


"I'm sorry." Myself replied though his tone was hardly apologetic.


"Couldn't you knock or something?"


"Would you answer the door?"


"No."


"Then that would make no sense."


"Go away!" I yelled. 


"I seem to end up in this chair each time."


"I noticed." I replied.  


"Oh ya, Dendrachronology."


"What did you say?" I was stunned.


"You wanted me to say that word as proof the future exists. Oh ya and Toronto last won the Stanley Cup and Garth McMillan is the president."


"What's with names in the future?" I asked incredulously. I was taken aback by the fact he knew what I had asked. Was this actually time travel?


"What?" He didn't understand my comment.


"Grant, Garth, Never mind." My mind was spinning. Now if he was an apparition of my mind, he would know those same answers, so nothing had really been proven. "Was Grant happy with his initial experiment?"


"He was ecstatic. You proved that it worked. Overnight your Jotterpad file changed. New entries actually appeared."


"You're kidding me."


"No." Myself said excitedly. 


"You mean as I am tapping into my phone, it is saving into the future."


"Yes."


"That's brilliant!" Suddenly this was real. "I'm rewriting time, literally!"


"Actually it is more your life you're rewriting. When you complete suicide you open a small window in time because you are cutting short your life line. It is a fissure that starts just moments before death. Because you journal so frequently we can identify your exact moment of death."


"So are you here to stop me?"


"Neither Grant nor I have any idea what you are going through. We're in no position to offer counsel. Grant sends me every time you get close to suicide so you don't have to die alone."  


I was taken aback for a moment. No one had ever shown me such kindness. I put the box away.



May 21, 2053


Reading back over my journal, I suddenly realize I have not seen Myself for some time. Though true to his word Grant sent him whenever I needed him. He didn't badger me or try to make me feel guilty for my intentions. He just listened and sat with me, giving me that moment to pause and step back. 


Today is my 80th birthday, and my grand nephew came to visit and show me his new baby boy.  


"Uncle John, this is my new son, Grant."


I took you in my arms. You were so tiny. "I whispered in your ear, "One day, Grant, you'll save my life, and I will always be in your debt." 

 





May 05, 2023 23:47

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