Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Flashback: I Saw Myself Coming The Other Way

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it--and a hundred similar stories--can be purchased on Kindle in a new collection.

I Saw Myself Coming The Other Way
Word Count: 600
Published: 11/30/12

I was coming back from Thanksgiving spent with my mother’s family on Europa when I saw myself going the other way at the spaceport. I knew this was a possibility—I’ve seen the safety demonstrations. TSA-Space swears it has nothing to do with time-travel. It’s just, well, when you’re traveling at relativistic or faster-than-light speeds, sometimes things like this happen. So I was warned. But I wasn’t really prepared for it.

The demonstrations tell you to just keep walking. If you make eye contact, you can wave politely, but don’t talk to each other and don’t stare. So when we saw each other, each of us with the verge of a friendly smile at the tips of our mouths, we each nodded to the other as we walked past.

The other me wore a black suit with no tie. And he had no gray hair—I guess I will start dying it, eventually. He had broadened, the way a man does over the years. All told, he looked about ten--no, fifteen years older. He looked world-weary. Not unhappy, just… tired. A little beaten-down.

Questions flooded my mind--I couldn’t help it. Where was he—where was I, I suppose I should say—going? Home? Saturn? Farther out? Was it business or personal? Why was I traveling alone? I turned back, trying to see what gate he was headed for, but the moment had passed. I almost—almost—tried to follow him, but it wouldn’t have done any good. My future self had wandered out of my timeline and back into his own.

Still, I wanted another glimpse, a window of insight into my pending life—to know more than that I’ll be alive in fifteen years. What would have happened if I’d stopped him? What would I have said? I squinted, searching the crowd, but all I could see was the rush and bustle of commuters busily making their way through the terminal. Sometimes they would go blurry on the edge of my vision and pass from one timeline into the next, but for the most part, they just kept walking.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I turned towards the voice. It was an automated travel assistant. She was completely mechanized, but designed to look like a young woman with a friendly smile. “I’m fine,” I told her. “I just thought I saw someone I recognized.”

“That happens, sometimes, sir,” she said, doing a quick scan of my retina as she spoke. “I suggest you head to your gate. You wouldn’t want to miss your flight. It’s already started boarding.”

“Right,” I said, not wanting to argue, but my gaze lingered back in the direction of my future self.

“Do you need to talk about it, sir?” she asked. “We can step out of the timeline if you need a minute.”

“I… no, that’s fine, I just…”

“Even if you followed, you wouldn’t find him. The future’s always in flux.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for us to page a customer, sometimes,” she said, smiling.

A joke? The robot was trying to cheer me up with a joke? “Right,” I said.

“May I make a suggestion, sir?” she asked.

“Go ahead,” I said.

“Board your flight, have a drink, and put it out of your mind,” she said. “And don’t worry. Your future will still be here when you get back.”

I nodded, turning towards my gate. Someday I’d see this from the other side. I’d remember my questions.

Until then, I had a flight to catch.

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