I wrote a short story the other day. I tend to get ideas for stories–the beginnings–fairly often, but the usually don’t go anywhere. I found the opening line of this one typed into the notepad function on my phone. The more I thought about it, the more it grew….
Game Theory, Part I
My future self just showed up and demanded I write this. Not just this entry; this whole diary. She said I have to start keeping one to keep track of what’s going on, which makes sense as she’d know just how poor my listening comprehension is. Like, she’d tell me to go somewhere at some time at a certakin date, and I’d nod because it’s all very clear, and then she’d leave and I’d realize I don’t remember any of it.
I pointed out that if she doesn’t want any errors, she should write these notes herself, but then she showed me what had happened to her right hand and said it’s better this way, anyway. If it’s all written by me then we’ve got plausible deniability, because what’s more likely; that I’m making this all up or that I’m really a time traveler? That’s right.
So if you’re reading this, just assume this whole thing is a figment of my fevered imagination. Literally fevered, soon enough. My first assignment is to skip getting a flu shot so that I catch something when I pick Jen’s kid up from daycare despite the fact that I told Jen that I wasn’t going to do that anymore.
My future self is such a pushover.
Looks like my listening comprehension sucks even when I’m writing stuff down. I’m supposed to write in here even when I don’t have any instructions. She says it’s to bury any important information amidst a flood of trivialities and then left, which I took to mean there’s more to it and she doesn’t want to answer questions. Important ones like, “I thought the whole point was that no one would believe that this is true. Who are you expecting to read my diary for clues?”
And less important ones, like, “What’re you doing in the future that makes everything in my life now a mere ‘triviality’?”
Actually, I guess that one’s pretty important, too.
THE YEAR.MONTH.DAY 1000 ISH
THIS IS A NOTE TO MYSELF. IM SUPPOSED TO BUY BEEF INSTEAD OF CHICKEN SOUP AT THAT FOOD PLACE That’s not one of the big ones….
Temps 103 take tylnenoul when
I seriously hope she isn’t steering me toward food poisoning, too. I hate beef soup. What the hell? How do I know that note isn’t a result of my fevered imagination? No way to tell. I’d better go now while the Tylenol’s still working. I guess she means the family-run supermarket on Haverford. Except it’s not that super, so I think it fits.
Why’d she visit while I was half unconscious? To make sure I took something for the fever when I woke up again, maybe. I dunno.
Guess I look almost as bad as I feel, cause the guy at the register looked all concerned. I said “Don’t worry, I drove here,” because I thought he was worried about me collapsing or getting hit by a car or something, but from his face I think it was not the answer he wanted. He insisted I buy chicken soup instead of beef, though I insisted back on the beef and in the end I bought more of both than I’ll need for the rest of my life.
I’m not sure how that happened. He was really nice, though, and helped me carry the bag out to my car which was apparently a good move because I kept tipping over trying to carry it into my apartment.
When I got home I found out that I must have called Jen while I was out of it, too, because I found a text on my phone saying that her brats were also sick and she didn’t have time to take care of me. She hastened to add (my words, not hers) that she was very grateful for all my help and she’d be glad to help me some other time. She always says this, but it’s usually not true because she’s got two kids and a husband who’s always being sent away to run business seminars. They both get paid a lot, which is why I told her to get a nanny or something but she insists having strangers look after her kids is creepy. I’d pointed out that the daycare people are strangers, plus all the people running the kindergarten center Haley goes to are, too, but she said that’s different. Yes, I suppose it is; there are more children for a disturbed caretaker to choose from. Hers are beastly enough that they probably won’t get picked.
Unless the disturbed person is a vigilante, set to rid the world of horrible children. Then they’d be first in line.
I didn’t say any of this to Jen, though, both because she’d tell me I’m being morbid and also because I hadn’t thought of it then. If I were a time traveler I could go back in time and tell myself these arguments. I wonder why I haven’t done that yet.
Oh crap soup burning.
Thanks to being sick I only lost three days of work. Hah, only. I’m hilarious. Future me is sadistic, though. I was certain there was some big plan at stake, and now I’ve realized there is; she wants to ruin my career. There is no other explanation for why she’d make me get sick and miss the chance to go to the conference.
Dave’s all smug because he got Ellen’s place. She got sick, too. Looks like something’s going around.
I would have gotten Ellen’s place, if I’d been available. Whenever he sees me Dave gets this smarmy look on his face and asks me if I’m feeling better. I overheard him talking to Shelly and realized that he thinks I wasn’t actually sick, that I was just using the “seasonal allergies” I had on Monday as an excuse to take sick leave. I think Shelly believes him. Why are my coworkers such jerks?
I’m supposed to go back to the family-run un-supermarket on 2011.10.31, 1500.
She just showed up and told me to write about why I’m doing what she tells me to do, which is, in my opinion, a pretty stupid question to ask. You don’t tell a person whose cooperation you want to write an essay about why they don’t really need to cooperate. Unless this is some sort of reverse psychology, or something like that one experiment where they made people do really tedious tasks and then paid them. Only, some people got five dollars and some got a hundred. And then they were asked to give their opinions on the task, and the ones who were paid more completely trashed it but the ones who were paid less said stuff like “it was interesting!” and actually believed it. It was all about how they justified it to themselves. The ones with a hundred dollars could say they did it for the money. The ones with five dollars couldn’t say, “Oh, it was really annoying and boring and tedious as all freaking hell, but at least I got paid,” because that’s just pathetic. They could have made more money in the time it took to do that stupid experiment if they’d been waitressing. So they had to justify to themselves that it was a worthwhile.
If I know this then she should know this, which is why this entire exercise is meaningless.
Today I found out that she’s been reading my diary, because she popped up and told me that I didn’t do the last assignment correctly. She even called it that, an assignment. As though I am in school and she’s my teacher. She doesn’t actually look much older than me, I think. Then again, they’ve got time travel in the future. Maybe they can reverse the aging process, too.
I didn’t see the point and told her so, and she said there is a point (even if I don’t know it) and that should be enough for me. I think she really must be a lot older than me, because I can’t imagine changing so much in the next few years that I won’t want to explain anything to myself.
So I guess I’m doing what she tells me to do because, well, I figured that there must be a point. I can’t imagine I would do this sort of thing just to mess with myself. I mean, I wouldn’t go back in time and make myself catch the flu for shits and giggles. That’s not the kind of person I am.
Also, I might be wrong but practical jokes seem like a trivial way to use time travel. It’s probably really complicated. If it weren’t, we’d have figured it out by now.
I just had a thought to add. I was falling asleep and it just popped into my head. Sometimes that happens. I hope future-me is glad I bothered to turn on the light to write this down.
She knows how rarely I bother, and how absolutely illegible two lines of text become when one’s superimposed on another thanks to my blind scribbling.
Anyway, I think I’ve realized the real reason I listen to her: because she is me. Someday, whatever happens, whoever I become in the mean time, I’m going to end up as her. I’m going to travel back in time to issue myself mysterious assignments and I’m going to have a really good reason for doing it. And when that happens, I want younger-me to cooperate.
Call it karma, or paying it forward. I think that’s why I cooperate.
I didn’t want to say this because thinking about it makes me feel a bit panicky, but maybe she’s doing this because she wants to avoid whatever accident that did that to her hand. In which case I’m willing to help as long as it’s not going to tear all of space-time asunder, or something. I don’t think I’d do that. Do something that might tear space-time, that is. Especially not for something like a hand. That’d be stupid.
I really hope I haven’t changed that much.