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Science Fiction Fiction Contemporary

There’s something they don’t tell you about being able to glimpse into the future: that eventually, you start living two imaginary lives. You can see a conversation that will happen in five minutes in the future: you can hear everything that’s said as if it’s happening in real-time, you can formulate your responses as if it’s happening in real-time, but you can’t say anything because it’s happening in the future. And then five minutes later, the conversation will happen, but you won’t say anything, even though you had a perfectly thought-out response, because, well, the conversation had already happened. At this point, you were just reliving a very recent memory.

So you see my problem. 

It wasn’t too long after my time-travelingesque ability (time-traveling five minutes into the future in your mind is still time-traveling, apparently) appeared that people started to comment on the fact that I had become quieter and more withdrawn. My then-girlfriend even once said it seemed like I wasn’t here anymore. “Here.” It’s such an interesting term to use. Where is “here?” What does it mean for a person to be here or there? I am neither here nor there at any particular time. I am not in the future, and I am not in the present. 

They asked me to turn it off every once in a while. (“Live in the moment, y’know?”) Which I could (can) do, of course. But then there was the chance that something bad would happen, and I wouldn’t have seen the future and been able to stop it. 

It’s easy to let your guard down about the future. After all, bad things don’t happen most of the time. Most of the time, the worst thing that can happen is someone drops a glass or they get a paper cut or they forget their phone at home. Of course, you still have to warn people of these minor annoyances, or they get upset: “Why didn’t you warn me?” But you never know when something truly terrible is about to happen. You can never know if that truck is going to stop for those people crossing the street or if the driver isn’t going to see them and is going to plow right into them. So I always have to be on the lookout for that. 

Of course, once I establish that something bad is going to happen, I have to deal with it accordingly. The truck turning pedestrians into pancakes is easy enough. That time, I ran out of the car as fast as I could— my friends had gotten used to me rushing away at any (seemingly random) point in time. I screamed at the people who were oblivious to the fact that I had just seen their insides splayed across the road (how fast was that truck going?) that they needed to run. 

Other situations are a bit more complicated. What about two cars about to smash into each other at traffic lights? What do I do? Other than placing my car in the way of the oncoming traffic and assume I won’t die in this new and unexpected future, of course. (And of course, I would see the new future as soon as I made the action, which would probably show me dying, which would mean that suddenly everyone else would refer to me in the past tense. I love the irony.) 

Eventually, Chrissy and I broke into the police precinct and we stole the mobile infrared transmitter out of a cop car, so we could change traffic lights if we needed to. 

Yes, you heard that right. We stole from the cops. What kind of psycho steals from cops? Once that can see the future. It was easy enough, really. Once you know where people are going to be and when it’s pretty simple to stay out of their way. Of course, by getting out of their way you were constantly changing the future, which made it a lot more difficult to keep track of things. I guess you could say I’m lucky that when I’m seeing the future I’m not in some sort of trance or something, which means I can still do things while I’m seeing the future. But that also means that I see the present and the future together (which, most of the time, are very, very similar) and I’m still expected to be a productive member of society or whatever. 

You might be wondering why Chrissy would help me. I don’t know why. I knew she would, so I never asked. 

Other situations were still more difficult to work with. For example, I once had the extreme luck of trying to enjoy my day at the mall, and I ended up seeing the future where some jerks in masks shot up and robbed a jewelry store. What the hell was I supposed to say to the store employees? “Hi, some dudes who look like the bad guys in Home Alone are going to break in and make a dramatic robbery, upping the ante with hostages?” No way. Call the mall security? And tell them what? “I know someone is about to shoot up that store because I can see the future, fear my power, bitch!” No. Besides, adding more guns to a situation starting with guns is bad luck. Cops would take too long to get there and would have the same problem with guns. Eventually, I just pulled the fire alarm and everyone got out that way, including the robbers. Chrissy left an anonymous tip for the police since the robbers had clearly already cased the place and would probably be back. 

According to the local news, there was a break-in at the store four nights later. They stole everything worth more than $60 in the place. No one was hurt. The cops had a feeling the false fire alarm and an anonymous tip to the store were somehow related to the break-in. Hilarious. I even laughed the second time I heard it in the present, even if it was old news. 

Chrissy once said my ability to see the future was a curse. Which I rolled my eyes at. A curse? A gift? What difference did it make? (Maybe I should have used that time to ask why she had helped me steal from the police before. But I hadn’t done it in the future, so I didn’t do it in the present.)

So you see my problem. 

I didn’t know what to do or where to go, eventually. As you can see, I’m pulled along by my future self, which really isn’t any self. My friends took to calling me Oracle, which I always loved. Do love. Will love. I think. 

And then my girlfriend broke up with me, because there was (is?) only “Oracle,” no “me” left. 

Ask me what your future will be like. I won’t tell you anything you want to hear. I can tell you that in a couple of minutes, you’re going to brew some tea. You’re going to get a phone call from your mother, she wants to tell you about the squirrels in her garden. She will quietly whisper that your father took up drinking again. You’re going to look at a sweater online that you’ve been wanting to buy for months. You’re looking to look because you’re hoping that the price has gone down since the last time you checked. It hasn’t. 

“But that’s not what I meant!” you’re going to say when I tell you this. “I meant the future!”

What you mean is you want to know when you’re going to get a promotion at work, what your birthday is going to be like, when we’re all going to have self-driving cars, when your mom is going to die, when you’re going to have kids, when you’re going to die. But I won’t be able to tell you these things. 

Because here’s a little secret from your friendly neighborhood oracle: life isn’t made up of car crashes and jewelry store robberies and mothers dying and birthday parties. We think that’s what it is because those are the things we remember. But life isn’t made up of big events and years and decades. Life is made up of five-minute increments. Life is brewing tea talking to your mother on the phone and feeling excited about something as silly as a sweater. It’s being able to look your girlfriend in the eyes and being able to just see her— not the present, not the future. Just her. You don’t want to be an oracle. Turn your blind eyes to the uncertainty in front of you. Turn your blind eyes to here

July 14, 2022 20:37

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3 comments

Michelle Konde
20:56 Jul 17, 2022

Great story! I loved that back and forth between the present and future, and how you played with perception. Also, the message at the end is on point!

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Lindsey B
23:11 Jul 17, 2022

Thank you! I had to do a lot of editing to get the tense down. I realized when I finished one draft that a whole section of it should be in present tense when I'd written it in past tense... my notebook is all scribbles at this point!

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Michelle Konde
00:52 Jul 19, 2022

Well, it was worth it because you nailed it! Ah, so witty and well-thought out.

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