“Every time someone says ‘live in the moment’ I wanna laugh, because why would you want to live in the moment when you can live in a vivid daydream while listening to the same song on loop for two hours,” Leela told Mack, her roommate.
“It’s just a phrase, Leela. No need to monologue,” Mack said as she searched their apartment for her curling iron. “Do you know where my curling iron is?”
“You mean where my curling iron is. Underneath the bathroom sink.”
Mack snapped her fingers. “Right.” As she physically harassed every shampoo bottle searching for it underneath the bathroom sink, she said, “All I was sayin’ is that you should come out with tonight and live in th…” Leela gave her the side eye and Mack drifted off the rest of her words into a murmur. Taking a new approach, Mack asked, “What’s wrong with going on for ladies’ night with me and the girls?”
Levels crossed her arms. “What’s wrong with staying home and daydreaming?”
“It’s a waste of time.”
“Anymore than drinking the night away, playing video games, reading, or pretty much any hobby that doesn’t generate monetary value?”
Mack pulled out the curling iron. “Damn, I really hate it when you make valid points about things I don’t want you to have valid points about.”
Leela grinned. “I know.”
As she curled her hair, Mack said, “You know, why don’t you at least write down your daydreams? So there’s some kind of physical progress or something. All hobbies have them. Reading has piles of finished books. Video games have completed levels. And drinking the night away has hangovers, texts to your ex, and bad Instagram posts that you laugh about when you’re thirty.”
“Nope. Absolutely not. None of these daydreams are gonna leave my mind. They’re for my entertainment and mine alone.”
“Hey. Hey. Heyheyhey.” Mack pinched the curling iron together a few times, but nothing happened. Half of her curled hair bounced in front of her face, taunting her.
“If you broke it, you’re buying it a new one.”
“There’s no ‘buying a new one’, because we’re gonna get it fixed.” She headed for her neighbor’s apartment. “There’s certain perks to having an evil genius live next door.”
Leela nodded. “Like him making a clone of me for my birthday and having her trying to strangle me.”
“You consider that a plus?”
With a shrug, she said, “I consider winning a plus. It was a very weird confidence boost.”
“Damn, I was talking about those weight loss brownies he made me.”
“Those were just brownies with laxatives in them.”
“And I still lost five pounds,” Mack said as she knocked on their door.
Leela trailed after her, waiting silently behind her. “No answer. Try the doorknob.”
“Leela, please. Maxwell is a mad genius with tons of experimental technology in here, there’s no way he just—and it’ unlocked.”
At the same time, they agreed, “Alex,” They said. Who else but Maxwell’s roommate would leave it unlocked. Alex had a heart of gold—and brain of lead. And a questionable amount of body glitter that Mack borrowed too often.
“Hey, Maxwell, are you in here?” Mack stepped inside. “I need you to fix my curling iron.”
“My curling iron.”
The girls stared at the empty mess of an apartment. Trash was everywhere. Pizza caresses rotted in the corner, crying to be put out of their misery. There was a concerning smell coming from Maxwell’s room. A rare mix between sweaty armpits, oil, and rabbit toenails. “I don’t think he’s here.”
“Then why are we still here? I feel like I’ll catch HPV just standing here.”
“Just—just look around for anything to fix the curling iron with.”
“Or…” Leela pinched a curling iron and held it up in the air. “We could just borrow theirs.”
“Good idea, I’ll leave a note.” Mack scrambled for some paper.
“They had some on the table; you just couldn’t see it under the questionable pile of hamster fur.” Her eyes widened in realization. “Is this what happened to Captain Flufferton? You told me he went to a hamster farm.”
“Well, now your curling iron can join him. Give his locks a new bounce.” Mack said as she ditched Leela’s broken curling iron for Maxwell’s. She shifted it awkwardly in her hands. It didn’t look like a normal curling iron. It was bedazzled in all the wrong places and had a strange timer dial on it. “What do you think these numbers mean?” Leela took a step closer to see as Mack cranked it to the five. “Like five minutes of curling time? And where do we plug it—”
“In…” Mack stopped talking as she took a second to squint up at the sun. Even though they were just in the apartment. “A teleporter? What did it send us like five miles away?”
“Worse,” Leela pointed at a huge billboard with the year on it. A smiling actor in a knight costume advertised for a movie that released in 2025—but a slapped on message said it was now in theaters. Leela focused on the actor for a second. She could have sworn it was the spitting image of one of her daydreams’ characters. She shook the thought from her head and focused on the more pressing matter. “It sent us five years into the future.”
The streets were cleaner, but still looked the same. A few stores were tacked onto the pre-existing ones with walkable balcony-sidewalks in front of them. It looked like a giant was playing jenga with fashion boutiques.“This place doesn’t look that much different.”
A white, middle-aged lady with moving cat ears and a thousand dollar handbag wearing a mask walked past Mack, making direct eye contact the entire time. “I take it back. Rich entitled white ladies are finally wearing masks. It’s like we’re in an alternative dimension.”
“Hey, Mack. Look.” Leela pointed at yet another billboard because they certainty hadn’t gone easy on those in the future. Maxwell’s cheeky grin was plastered across it. Taking a closer look around the, Leela realized that Maxwell’s cheeky grin was plastered everywhere around them. Flags bolted to every door. The sides of buses. It was even lasered onto a poodle’s fur.
Mack whistled. “Well, it looks like Maxwell finally succeeded in his world domination plan. Good for him. I’m proud.”
Leela and Mack exchanged a look. “Maxwell,” they exclaimed in sync.
“We need to find him so we can figure out this stupid time traveling curling iron so I can get to my hot date,” Mack said.
“I thought you were trying to get me to go on a girls’ night with you?”
“I think we both knew you were never actually going to come.”
Leela shrugged, and off they went to find Maxwell.
The good news about having an egocentric evil genius take over the world is that he will put his home location on every map because he wants everyone to see how grand it is. Leela and Mack found it within twenty minutes.
Staring up at the giant golden palace with Maxwell’s face carved out of gold on the front, Mack’s jaw dropped, hit the floor, then smashed through into the sewers. “Dammmmmmmmmnnnn,” She said. “Maxwell’s got style. Never would have expected this from a guy with dying pizzas in his old apartment.”
Cautiously, they walked up to the giant gold gate surrounding the house and hit the buzzer. “Who is it?” A security guard’s voice crackled over the speaker.
“Ah, it’s Mack and Leela? Maxwell’s old neighbors from the past?”
“One moment, please.”
After a pause, the gates slowly grinded open. A pair of security guards walked out. “Follow us, please.”
“Ooh, uniformed guards. Fancy,” said Leela.
“This is a palace made of gold and the guards are what you call fancy?”
Again, Leela shrugged and off they went after the guards. That seemed to be her response to everything lately.
Sitting high on a golden throne in his huge golden living room, Maxwell’s voice boomed across the room to them. “Welcome. To. My—”
Alex appeared out of nowhere, ran up to the girls, hugged them, and kissed their foreheads. Leela especially. “Oh my god!!! Look at you too! So young!” He squealed.
“You’re still living with Alex?” Mack questioned with a raised eyebrow at Maxwell. “I thought you only used to live with him for the rent.”
“Palaces are expensive… but mostly lonely,” Maxwell said.
“Aweeee…” Leela said with a smile. “You have a soul.”
Alex set kind, merciful eyes on Leela. “Leela, it’s so good to see you up and about just like you used to be.”
Leela stepped back alarmed. “Used to be? What happens to me in the future?”
“Well,” Maxwell stepped off his throne and sauntered over to them with a glass tablet in hand, “You started selling your daydream ideas for movies for big money and become a famous writer.”
Leela snapped her fingers. “I told you that that movie had my idea—wait what? Nonono. I am not okay with this. My daydreams are personal. I don’t want to be famous from sharing them. How many have been turned into movies?”
Maxwell handed Leela the tablet with a dated list of the movies. “This is awful. I don’t realize the first couple, but the more recent ones are some of my old daydreams. It seems the more recent the movie is, the older the day dream. At this rate, the next movie will be—” Leela paled.
“What?” Mack asked. “What is it?”
“Seventh grade…” Leela hissed. “Oh, hell no. I cannot let those daydreams become published and popular. Where is future-me? I gotta smack her silly.”
Alex shifted nervously on his feet. “Well…”
“You’re in a coma in the hospital on 3rd Street,” Maxwell deadpanned.
Alex shot him a dirty look then tried to comfort Leela. “It’s a very nice hospital. Maxwell got the best in the country for you.”
As Leela turned to leave, Alex asked her, “Wait, where are you going?”
“To smack my future-self silly. A coma isn’t going to save her.”
“Hey, wait up,” Mack called out in a whisper when she jogged up to Leela as they snuck past the hospital’s front desk. “You know, you stormed out of there so fast, you forgot to ask how to use the time traveling curling iron. You’re lucky I did.”
Leela looked from side to side, trying to find herself. Distracted, she replied half-heartedly, “Thanks, you’re the best.”
Only one thing was worse than finding a needle in a haystack, and that was your future-self in a hospital. You couldn’t ask anyone for help. One good look at you and the questions would never end.
Leela peeked into a hospital room. “I think this is it.”
“What makes you say that?”
“An older version of me laying unconscious in bed.” Leela ducked inside and Mack followed.
“Woah, would look at this place?” Mack said as she spun around the room.
Gift baskets of every shape and product consumed all the available counter space. And when that ran out, someone brought in a table with a bow as part of another gift basket. Get well cards littered the floor—most of which were from Alex or Mack. A few stubborn ones were from Maxwell.
“From Justin Lanterns,” Mack read from a particularly large gift basket with headshots. “Hey, that was the actor on the billboard for your movie. And you gave you…” Mack reached in the gift basket, it swallowed her arm up well past her elbow. Grabbing something at random, Mack pulled out… “A freaking sword? Oh, an autographed sword. Are you kidding me, I bet this is worth big money, Leela. Leela?”
Meanwhile, Leela was violently shaking herself to wake up. “Leela, knock that off.” She pointed the sword at Leela and bellowed in her lowest voice, “I command you, wench. Back off from thee self.”
“Holding a sword doesn’t make you important,” Leela said. “Besides it’s from my gift basket. Stop stealing my stuff without permission.” She took it from Mack. Shifting it in her hands, she nodded. “Feels pretty good, though.”
Just as the girls were settling into the hospital room, the doorknob squealed as someone on the other side twisted it. Leela dove underneath the bed with the sword, as Mack stood there and put her best I’m-not-up-to-anything-evil-I-swear smile that she learned from Maxwell.
A well groomed man in an expensive suit walked in. His eyes went wide with surprise when he saw Mack standing there, but he quickly returned to a neutral expression. “Oh, Mrs. Kernon. I wasn’t expecting you today.”
“Mrs. Kernon?” Mack whispered under her breath, confused because her last name was Roberts. Did I get married or does he think I’m someone else, Mack wondered. What if knowing this affects the future? What if I have a secret younger sister with the name Kernon? Why would this guy know her? Is he some sort of creep, preying on younger sisters?
“Mrs. Kernon?” The man repeated when he noticed Mack was spiraling into conspiracies.
“Huh? Oh yes.” Mack snapped back and tried to look casual by leaning against future-Leela’s bed.
Her elbow was barely touching a weird metal helmet on future-Leela’s head when the man called out, “Mrs. Kernon, please be careful around the Mind Helmet.”
Mack backed off. “Oh right, of course. The Mind Helmet. What’s a Mind Helmet?”
The man sighed. “In order to complete Ms. Baros’—” Leela’s “—contract, we commissioned a Mind Helmet that could fetch past and present daydreams.”
“You had a machine made to enter Leela’s head while she’s in a coma?” Forget jaw-dropping into the sewers. This time is stopped and burned up in the earth’s molten core. “That can’t be legal.”
“It’s legal enough.”
“That doesn’t sound like proper reasoning.”
“It’s reason enough.”
Mack’s eyes twitched, irritated. She took a deep breath. They could go on like this forever.
Meanwhile, underneath the bed, Leela covered her mouth with his hands to stop herself from laughing at the stress-out Mack. Then, she remembered it was her brain being read and it was her daydreams from the seventh grade on the line here. Suddenly, she didn’t have to resist laughing anymore.
Glancing up at the bed, she noticed a bag of white fluid strapped underneath the table that was feeding into her future-self. What’s weird is that it looked hiddened, but the hospital would have no need to hide their own supplies… unless…
Leela grabbed the bag and read the medicine’s name. Propofol. Quickly, she pulled out her phone and hoped it still worked in the future. Six bars. That’s new and nice. When she googled it, Leela wanted to scream. But she had a sword and a better idea.
“You bastard!” Leela roared as she climbed out from underneath the bed with the bag in one hand and the sword in her other. “I’ve pieced your sneaky little plan together, producer man.” She held up the bag to the gods. “It. Ends. Now!” With a single slash, she cut the tube that fed the propofol to her future-self.
“What are you doing?” Mack screamed. “Don’t screw with your future-self’s medication. She could die!”
“Or wake up.” Leela held the sword in front of the producer’s man chest. He held his hands up in the air defenselessly. “This is all your little ploy, isn’t it? After all, you’re the one who said I agreed to sign a contract with.”
“Leela?” He gasped. “But you’re? What? And I—I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, but I think you do. I’m guessing future-me also didn’t like the idea of selling all of our daydreams to you—especially the earlier ones. So, she decided to pull the plug. But she was way too good as your golden goose to let her go. So you slipped her into a medically induced coma so you could take our ideas without a fight.” She swung her sword around wildly. “Well too late! Now you’re gonna get a fight. And I gotta warn you, buddy. I have daydreamed about sword fighting a lot. I had a medieval phase in highschool.”
“And college,” Mack chipped in.
The producer man scowled. “You have no proof weird version of Leela!”
“This propofol, your Mind Helmet, and my future-self’s testimony when she wakes up will be proof enough,” Leela said.
Realizing his options were thin, the producer man bolted for the door.
“I don’t think so.” Leela slashed at his chest, just barely drawing blood. But thankfully, the producer man didn’t know how deep it was and passed out at the sight of the blood.
The girls were able to tie him up with some gift basket rope and leave a note for the nurses explaining why there was a new bleeding patient waiting for them.
As they prepared to leave, Mack prepped the curling iron and snagged a bunch of gift baskets. Leela was satisfied with just the sword. “You ready to go back to the past?” Mack asked.
Mack reversed the dial. “Hey, what were your seventh grade daydreams about anyway?”
“Ah, I guess I can tell you after everything that’s happened. They were—”
And in a flash of white, the girls were deposited back to the present in Alex and Maxwell’s apartment—with Alex and Maxwell staring at them.
“Vampire erotica fanfiction.”
“Just what the hell did you do with a time traveling curling iron?” Maxwell asked with a face full of shock as he stared at Leela’s bloody sword and Mack’s mountain of gift baskets.
Leela shrugged. “Ah, you’ll find out eventually.” She raised the sword to look at it closer. “Meanwhile, Imma go sell this autographed sword and make a fortune.”
“You do realize that that actor hasn’t become famous yet, so it’s just a regular sword?” Mack said.