Back in February, a friend of mine – with whom I’ve been traversing the precarious and unmerciful road that is sequential storytelling – sent me a writing prompt as a means to coax an idea from the birth canal of our collective minds, and hopefully (with a possible prayer to the Scribbling Gods) relinquish a tale to the cosmos worth reading. The prompt, that my compatriot shared, instructed the both of us as follows:
Your future selves see you tonight. What do they make of who you are? Write eight lines from them to you and eight lines back to them, from you.
Now, there are a great many things I’d like to tell my younger self, most of which would be laced with colorful metaphors. But, in the end, I chose to imagine things from the perspective of a learned Jedi, and through the prism of wisdom, not adolescent vexation. Below is the resulting summation of a night commingled with slightly inebriated brainstorming and imagined conversations betwixt multiple versions of myself.
The three men stood in the shadow of a nearby street light, seemingly inconsequential to the casual observer, but oddly identical to the eagle-eyed viewer. All three men were of the same carbon footprint, each sharing an identical genome, down to the very last Y-chromosome. How could I possibly know this? I know this because all three of these men were me. Well, different versions of “me,” from what the other two divulged, anyway. One of the time-displaced “clones” (that’s what I’m calling them) said he was “me,” as I would eventually be, ten years from now. The other, however, gave me the creeps. I couldn’t see him, even in the artificial light being cast down by the lamp overhead. All I could make out was his basic shape, which wasn’t all too different from that of the other clone.
“Why can’t I see your face, or any other part of you, for that matter?” I asked him.
He stared at me for a second, before cracking a grin – or at least, I thought it was a grin – and speaking.
“Because I’m merely a possibility, an unformed idea that may or may not see fruition. You can’t make out my features, or my appearance, because my-your future is still evolving,” he said, pointing to the other clone. “He, on the other hand, is you based on every decision you’ve made, and action you’ve taken, since the beginning.”
Before I could respond, the other one chimed in.
“We both won’t waste your time, because you’re well aware of the disappointment you’ve been.”
To this, I had no response. The ten-year clone continued.
“We both came here, not to share with you how things will inevitably be, should you continue on with your meritless existence, but to guide you onto a path that will yield far greater promises of what could be. This path, of course, is your decision to take in the end.”
“But what if, as you so bluntly put it, my ‘meritless existence’ is all that life has in store for me? What if I’ve blown all of my chances of becoming something that I hoped I would become when I was a child?” I responded in frustration.
The “creepy” clone spoke next.
“You’re not that dumb, man. You know, as well as we do, that every day is another chance to change an ever-shifting future. Nothing is set in stone – we are not set in stone. Cut the bullshit. Everything that you want to do, but don’t have the confidence to do – take the leap and see what’s waiting for you on the other end. What’s the worst that could possibly happen? You endure another humiliating defeat? Boo-hoo. When life attempts to toss you into a Sarlacc Pit, you push back, and refuse to be digested over a thousand years, bub.”
I didn’t say anything. Although, I smirked. Only I would make a reference to Star Wars in the same sentence that I’m using as a means to teach a meaningful lesson in wisdom. But still, I kept quiet, and didn’t respond. I mean, how could I? He was right. But before I attempted to say something, the ten-year clone spoke.
“Don’t give us any more regrets than you already have. I don’t want to exist.”
“And neither do I,” the “creepy” clone chimed in. “Trust that you can be better than you are.”
“I….I will. I’ll do better.” I said, looking down at the ground, embarrassed of myself.
“I hope so,” both clones said in unison.
Before more could be exchanged, a Lyft car pulled over to the curb by the three of us, and both clones walked over to it.
“You’re taking a Lyft? Where’s he taking you? Back to the future?” I asked, completely bewildered, and feeling a bit ridiculous uttering that last line. Who was I, Marty McFly?
“Where else? We’re going home.” The ten-year clone said.
But before I could ask where, exactly, home was for the both of them, the car was already making a right at the nearest corner, before it disappeared into the night. I was left in the presence of my own shadow, trying to comprehend everything that had just happened. Was I that drunk? Had I imagined all of it? Or did I really just have a conversation with two future versions of myself? I honestly couldn’t tell you. But, I felt strangely invigorated. Whether it was me, inside the confines of my own head the entire time, or a science-fictiony episode of The Twilight Zone come to life, one thing was certain: tomorrow was another day to make a change. I think I’ll listen to my selves for once.