Where… am I?
The world swirls around me. Am I seated? Standing? Outside? Inside?
When my head finally clears, I’m able to answer at least a couple of those questions. I seem to be in an unfamiliar apartment. A cheap one, at that, based on the decor. The couch I’m seated on is too firm and clashes with the chair in one corner. Dingy vertical blinds cover a door to my right. The only items in this room that seem to have any sort of value are a TV across from me and what appears to be a computer screen on a desk to my left. The owner’s clothes and other smaller belongings are scattered haphazardly around the room.
Cautiously, I get up and breathe a sigh of relief when my vision doesn’t go all wobbly again. My heart thuds in my chest. I’m trespassing in someone’s apartment, and have no idea how I’ve gotten here. They could be home any minute-- hell, they could be home right now and I just don’t know it! Good luck explaining that one to the cops-- Sorry officer, I just woke up here, I swear I didn’t break in...
My eyes land on the end table to my right, and time seems to stand still. There’s a picture… of me. I’m six years old, holding the golden retriever puppy who would go on to be my family’s dog up until my high school graduation. My favorite picture from my childhood is framed on this end table in this unfamiliar apartment. As far as I know, I’m the only one who has a copy of it.
I’m… the only one…
With fresh fervor, my eyes dart around the room, taking in every single detail, desperate for information. I rush to the desk and furiously tap on the screen. It takes several moments, but eventually, it lights up with a login display.
Hello, Daisie Watson.
My name. That’s my name. Before I have even a full second to process this, an icon pops onto the screen below the welcome message. It’s… me? At least… it kind of looks like me, but everything about it is wrong. My hair is cut shorter than it’s ever been before, and although I’ve experimented with several hair colors, I’m sure I’ve never gone blonde. But most importantly- my face. It looks like mine, there’s no denying it. But that face… is not the face of a twenty-four-year-old. This woman has hints of crows feet around her eyes, smile lines around her mouth. She can’t… be me.
And yet, the computer has already begun its face-recognition scan, and it’s only a few moments more before a checkmark pops up on the screen and the login is replaced with a home screen. Confusion swirls in my mind. This computer, is it… mine? I quickly shake the thought from my head. How could I come into possession of it without remembering? But still, my face unlocked it.
My eyes dart to the bottom of the screen, searching for any information to ground me to my current time and place.
12:45 PM, 9/4/2030
The numbers glowing off the screen reignite the panic I felt mere moments ago. 2030? It’s not possible. The more information I gain, the less my current situation makes sense. And yet… the familiar picture only I own, the unfamiliar picture of me aged beyond my years, the date reading ten years in the future to the day…
No. There must be some other explanation. Something realistic. Anything but the absurd conclusions my mind is leaping to. I need more information. Something will make sense. Maybe I’m just having a really bad trip.
...I don’t do drugs.
Not unlike my own laptop, the desktop is cluttered with applications. Thankfully, I discover Google Chrome and open it. Google can find anything, right? The homepage, to my surprise, is set to Facebook. I nearly breathe a sigh of relief. There’s no chance in hell that I’m in 2030. Facebook will be long dead by then. But it’s only a few moments more before my eyes lock onto the account name. Daisie Watson. The same picture from the lock screen icon is beside it.
In a few clicks, I make my way over to the About section of the profile. If I’m going to humor myself with the idea that I might actually be ten years in the future, I might as well see what I’m up to, right? I try not to get my hopes up too high, but daydreams of my future come rushing in. Maybe I finally moved to Oxford and finished that book I’ve always wanted to write. This seems like a stretch, given the apartment surrounding me. So does any chance that I’m married with kids. That one comes as more of a relief than a disappointment.
Sandwich Artist at Subway
I blink a few times, convinced I misread the job marked as current. I scan the jobs listed as previous places of employment, but they’re all similar. Target, Dairy Queen, Sonic, all public service positions, all still in the same small town I grew up in. Who is this person? She’s certainly not me. These jobs, while perfectly fine, are nothing I could see myself doing for years on end. Where’s the college degree I dedicated four years of my life to? The Master’s degree I’m one semester away from completing? What… happened?
I remind myself of the absurdity of my current situation. I’m not ten years in the future. It’s not possible. Yet, the fear of this as my reality propels me forward to the profile’s timeline. Maybe there’s a post there that will shed light on the situation.
Unfortunately… there is.
It’s a simple post from only two days ago, composed of only 3 letters.
It takes several moments before the full meaning of those letters hits me. Surely, it must be a joke. Panicked, I scroll down the timeline and find no other posts like it. James Corchran, whomever he might be, must be playing a prank, and the two people who liked the post are just in on the joke. Right?
And yet, it’s mere moments before I open a new tab and search Daisie Watson obituary.
One of the results is from only a few days ago. My hand shakes as I click on the link.
The picture is there. Oh God. The picture is there. The icon on the lock screen. The profile picture on Facebook. It’s there. Oh God.
I have the sudden urge to vomit. On trembling legs, I rush to the trash can in the kitchen. My legs give out a couple of feet away from it. I reach out, pull it to me, and immediately dry heave into it. And dry heave. And dry heave. Over and over, my body tries desperately to purge the memory via my digestive system.
I have no idea how much time passes, or how many times I dry heave, but eventually, I find myself sprawled on my back across the cool tile floor. All at once, everything feels too real and nothing feels real at all.
At least I don’t have to worry about anyone coming home and finding me in their apartment.
Finally, I’m able to sit up again, then stand. I bring the trash can with me back to the desk. With (quite literal) morbid curiosity, I take a deep breath and begin reading. The obituary is sparse and direct. Probably written by an employee of the funeral home.
Daisie Watson, 34, passed away Sunday, September 1st in an accident. She is preceded in death by parents Derek and Janelle Watson. A graveside service is scheduled on September 4th at 2 PM at Auburn Heights Cemetary.
I check the clock again. 12:55. Another tab. Another Google search. It’s less than a mile away. I'd better prepare to leave.
Maybe… nothing will happen. Maybe it will conclude once and for all that this isn’t happening. I don’t want to think about the alternative.
I spend a few minutes exploring the apartment further, looking for things to make myself incognito at the graveside. I finally enter the bedroom and find it just as furniture-sparse and clothing-cluttered as the living room. A bed sits against one wall, just a box spring and mattress, flanked by two small nightstands. The final piece of furniture is the dresser opposite the bed. I open the closet and quickly find a hoodie. Some sunglasses are stowed inside a purse. I try to ignore the fact that both the purse and sunglasses look eerily like the ones I currently own.
Decently satisfied, I return to the computer to peruse her Facebook one last time before I leave. I have to know more about… this person. I go to the Photos tab, and apart from photo albums I recognize from my current Facebook, there’s not much here. Any new pictures are just selfies. Some of which appear to have been taken on the couch beside me. Those date back at least five years. Has she… have I… really lived here for five years?
Lastly, I return to the timeline. I avert my eyes as I scroll past the first post and move on to see what else is on there. Much like the apartment, the timeline is extremely sparse. None of the posts are from anyone but Daisie, and… none of them have any likes.
Got yelled at by another customer today. Apparently, mistaking dijon mustard for regular mustard is grounds for a temper tantrum. Might be time to move on again…
Hands shaking again, I cautiously type a name into the search bar. Sydney Castro. My best friend. The one person who’s been by my side since college. Her account pops up and I click on it.
Underneath her icon, it gives me the option to add her as a friend.
I exit the browser and log out of the computer.
When I exit the apartment, I quickly recognize my surroundings. A few things look different- the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street looks like it’s been out of business for years, and the local chicken joint next door now has a KFC logo on it- but the street is still familiar. This probably isn’t an area I should be walking around in, even in the middle of the day. Nonetheless, I trudge on. As much as I try to fight them back, thoughts of 2030 Daisie plague my mind for the duration of the walk.
I arrive at the cemetery with ample time to spare. It’s small, and the graveside tent is visible from the road. I make my way toward it, leaving a wide berth between myself and the tent. I’m still several yards away when I realize… no one’s there. There’s a man who appears the be the officiant, but every last seat is empty.
I find a tree nearby to hide behind and try not to chuckle at how pathetic my current situation is. I feel like a villain in a movie, watching from the shadows after bringing down one of the hero’s most trusted allies. But instead, it’s just… me.
About the time the service should be starting, I peer around the tree to look at the graveside. No one. Before I can stop myself, I’m moving toward the tent. I brush the hood off my head and remove the sunglasses. What's the point of hiding when there's no one to hide from? I take a seat in the front row of chairs. The presumed officiant’s eyebrows raise in surprise.
Oh...I wasn’t expecting anyone.
Those words, unsurprising at this point, still cut deep. I pause several moments before finally asking how she died. My first words in this weird reality come out scratchy, barely audible.
Her car swerved off the road. She appeared to be… under the influence at the time.
Under the influence? That can’t be right. I’ve never touched alcohol in my life. Not after my parents… I swore to myself I’d never fall victim to the same addiction that claimed their lives.
My body stands abruptly without thought, and I mumble something about needing a moment. I stumble over my own feet and nearly fall over on my way out of the tent. I move faster, faster, unsure of where I’m even headed. By the time I’m back at the tree, I’m sprinting. This time I trip and fall in earnest, sprawling out on the ground. This can’t… be happening. Who is… was… this woman?
I sit up and rest against the tree, taking in huge, ragged breaths. Tears flow freely from my eyes as I wrap my knees into my chest and hug them to my body. The Daisie of 2030 is the Daisie I swore I would never become. She never left this godforsaken town, never had enough ambition to do anything except jump from dead-end job to dead-end job. She succumbed to the same issues that plagued my parents’ entire adult lives. And worst of all… no one cared about her. About… me. Her life… my life...could hardly be called living. I merely existed.
I cry, I sob, until all that’s left is complete and total darkness.
Where… am I?
The world swirls around me.
When I come to, I’m sprawled out on a couch again, but this time it’s in my own living room. My neck is stiff from leaning back against the wall, and my back aches from the contorted position it’s been stuck in. To my right, a Playstation controller glows a dim yellow from low battery. Whatever game I’d been playing sits paused on the TV screen across the room. I scramble to find my phone, and when I fish it out from between couch cushions, it too shows a low battery warning.
It’s 10 AM, and I’ve managed to sleep through my 9 AM class. Again. My phone shows several texts and a couple of missed calls from Sydney; some from last night that I probably forgot to reply to while gaming. And if I crashed at god-knows-what hour while gaming, I probably hadn’t done the assigned reading either. I groan and drop my face into my palms. What am I doing to myself? I’m nearing the end of my Master’s degree and still haven’t managed to get my act together.
I look up and survey my surroundings, much as I had in 2030 Daisie’s apartment. The furniture isn’t much better off than hers, although I chalk this up to being a grad student. My belongings clutter every possible surface in the room, including the floor. Somewhere in this mess is last semester’s midterm report shoved beneath the clutter to avoid looking at my barely-average grades.
They say dreams are a reflection of your real life-- your desires… your fears. My life, my death, in 2030 might not be real, but the seeds planted that could make it a reality are scattered all throughout my present life.
With newfound determination, I snatch my phone from the couch again, tap through my contacts app, and press call.
Hey, Syd. Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA lately. How’ve you been?