by David Novak
There was nothing to it, really.
No flashing lights.
No claps of thunder.
No Austrian man with a monotone voice and a crew cut.
There were no flux capacitors or automobiles from the 1980s designed by a cocaine drug lord. No steampunk time sleds or jet engines falling from afternoon skies or flying phone booths filled with teenaged marijuana enthusiasts. Nor was there a madman with a bowtie and a funny looking hat hurling through space and time in a bright blue police box.
There wasn’t even a single, solitary hot tub.
All there was, was a blink.
As in: Nate blinked, and he was five years into the future.
Which, in fairness, was everything FlashForward Conglomerate Industries© had promised it would be.
Instantaneous time travel and the like.
The ultimate form of self-realization, as they advertised. The opportunity to step into your world, five years from now, and see who you are. Where you’ve been. What you’re doing. Where you’re going.
To see what becomes you.
And all with no money down and no payments for the first two months.
Technically, it was everything that Nate had been told it would be.
It’s just that he had still expected something a little more.
He had expected time travel to feel like traveling. To feel a journey, really. One that would bring him from point A to point B and put miles and miles between the two, miles filled with beautiful and wondrous things like forests and mountains and deserts and plains and waterfalls and ancient places that reverberated through years.
Yet when the whole thing was said and done, it hadn’t even felt like he moved an inch. All he had to do was lie there and do nothing, and space and time simply rushed right past him.
Just like that.
In one moment, he was in a safety harness at the Flashforward Conglomerate Industries© lab, staring with an intent yet silent infatuation at just how nicely the attending nurse’s scrubs wrapped around her body and dreaming of ways to start a conversation which he’d never dare initiate, and in the next he was suddenly back in his apartment, standing in his living room and staring at his television.
Professional wrestling was on.
Clearly, Nate figured, there must have been a mistake.
He figured somebody at FlashForward© Conglomerate Industries must have calibrated something incorrectly. That maybe they got distracted and put in the wrong date or pulled the wrong lever or pressed the wrong button. That, whatever they had done, rather than sending him five years into the future, they sent him five hours into the past. Or five days, or maybe five weeks or five months.
Whatever it was, it was most definitely not the future.
It couldn’t have been.
Everything looked the same as he had left it that morning. The same crappy Ikea furniture that he didn’t put together correctly and never got around to fixing. The same coffee table with the ring stains on it. The same dusty television set with the missing pixels. The same supposedly off-white walls that looked a lot more yellowish than off-white. The same overall lack of décor.
This was not the future.
This was not right.
None of this was right.
Which shouldn’t surprise him, he thought.
Things never seemed to go right.
“May 25, 2015 already?” he heard himself ask.
It took Nate a moment to realize that his voice had come from behind him.
And when he finally grasped the implications of that realization, he turned around and he saw himself sitting on the couch.
He looked the same.
Or rather, he would look the same.
Sure, he’d become a little heavier. And there were some wrinkles that were beginning to crawl away from his eyes and form creases across his face. And his hair might have receded just a tad. But, overall, he looked the same.
Nate was surprised at how quickly he was able to recognize himself.
He was surprised that he was surprised.
Nate stuttered at first. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “Well. Actually. I guess it was May 25, 2015 already, today, five years ago.”
The off-white but really yellowish walls turned into a dark shade of blue as a commercial for erectile dysfunction came on. The sound had been previously lowered, but Nate was able to hear the occasional hushed word trickle out of the television.
Get things done.
“You don’t need to think of a question,” his future self-interrupted.
“You don’t need to think of a question. I just end up telling you what you want to know,” he said. “You know. How things are going.”
“Oh,” Nate said. “Okay.”
“Well,” his future self began. “Things are going okay, really. Still living here, obviously. The rent hasn’t gone up all that much, which is nice. Still working at the same place. Things are basically the same there. And still single. But, you know. Overall? Everything’s okay.”
“Yeah,” Nate said. “That sounds okay. Really. Not bad at all.”
“Yeah.” His future self looked back at the television. “And that’s basically it. You’ll be transported back soon.”
“Really? This seemed kind of short.”
“I know. But you’ll live through it again, five years from now. And it’ll seem twice as long to you then. Trust me.”
Nate was about to respond.
But instead, he blinked.
And just like that, he was suddenly back in his safety harness, staring at a nurse whose scrubs wrapped nicely around her body. She began to unstrap him, and had him sit up on the side of the gurney, slowly. She made sure he wasn’t feeling dizzy or nauseous or fatigued, or that he didn’t feel displaced.
He was told time travel could do that to people.
Make them feel displaced.
But truth be told, Nate wasn’t even the tiniest bit tired.
It hadn’t felt like he had moved at all.