(This is the last post I’ll be making as part of this game, though I’ll be following up later this week with my thoughts on the experience.)
… and then I am home, here at this desk, looking at my computer screen. My wife and son are still sleeping in the next room, I realize, hearing their breathing through the slightly open door. I shut the door, to avoid waking them, and then sit down to process everything I’ve seen.
I find myself glancing around, muttering, “Can you see me? Can you hear me?” There must be others, here, on the verge of my worldline—older and younger versions of me, observing an preparing to slip into this moment. But I know they can’t reply, just as I couldn’t intervene or intrude without first slipping into time again.
I chuckle, and rise, not sure why, when I hear it: a faint buzzing, over by where I keep our 3D printer. It’s my old MacBook, which I left on its side, battery charging, but machine turned off. It was off, wasn’t it? Sure, it had to be—I haven’t used it in months, not since spring semester.
But now it’s on, the fan whirring softly.
I pick up the laptop and unplug the adapter, carrying both over to my desk. After I plug in the adapter, open the latop and am surprised to find the image on the login screen is different than I remember. It’s… a picture of a family in a park. They look familiar…
I log in—at least the password is the same—and, just as I expected, there’s a Scrivener window open, full of text. I sit down to read it.
Hey. Sorry I couldn’t be here when you got back, but, well… long story. It’s safer this way.
The picture you saw—I assume you noticed it, if not go back and look at the login screen. That’s not a promise. It’s, at best, a probability if you play your cards right. This year is fucking with your life expectancy. You need to find a way to go for a walk a little more often.
But yeah, if you do that, and you’re careful… there’s a reasonable chance that picture will actually get taken. It’s a park in… well, I have to be careful what I say, but I can tell you that it’s not in Korea. You knew that, though, didn’t you? You could tell from the looks on all your faces.
I’ll be honest: I remember being upset about things there, more than I remember the things I was upset about. I know it’s more vivid for you, that you’re living it. The moms and their loud xenophobia every time you take your kid to the playground. The stream of disorganized nonsense from administration. You know what I remember? I remember the pandemic years as… well, as being quiet. I remember playing more with our son, remember it being a year when things started turning around in a lot of ways.
Not that things got easier. I mean, it’s October now? There’s stuff I… well, I can’t even get into. But there’s stuff you can’t imagine, in the pipe right now. So much. But if you can get through that filter, the sieve of this year? Then it’ll recede into memory, in some ways… making room for new insanity, new chaos. It’s going to be insane chaos for a while.
The thing is, you’re right about some of it. There’s things you’re worried about, that nobody else seems worried about, that they should be worrying about. There’s things you’re worried about that should have been first and foremost in the minds of people, but wasn’t. But… well, you know, there’s also things you’re worried about that don’t matter.
Remember what you said to Charles? “Sometimes, the safe option is actually even riskier, just in a way that people don’t realize at the time.” You were right about that, and right even in the way you meant it: familiarity, even an unpleasant one, can start looking like safe harbour, and when it does, it’s likelier to become a prison.
What you need is a to get a better grasp on probability. I mean, not the math…. well, maybe the math, but I mean just in terms of basing decisions on how likely this or that outcome actually is. There’s the stuff you should be worrying about, because it’s statistically likely to matter. And there’s the stuff that would be catastrophic if it happened, but probably won’t. You could do a lot better at telling the difference, and following through.
Beyond that? It’s funny how many things you’re right about—and how many of the aren’t the things you expect you’re right about.
Anyway, the time’s come. Get to it.
Good luck. Oh, and… I wasn’t kidding. Go for a walk now and then. Seriously.
I save the file to my hard drive as NOTEFROMTHEFUTURE.scriv, and then close the laptop. I close my eyes, take a breath, and then press the space bar on my big desktop computer, to wake it up from sleep. The login pops up, and I’m about to start writing something, to try process this all, when the door to my home office swings open. It’s my son, somehow shirtless now and bright-eyed. When did he wake up?
“Papa,” he says. “I wanna play with you.”
I smile, and nod. “Okay. Get a shirt on, and we’ll go to the far park, okay?”
“Yeah!” he says, and runs off through the apartment to his plastic dresser to find a shirt.
My memories of everything have begun to fade already, growing fuzzy around the edges. I fight for a moment, trying to remember them, but then I realize: this has happened before. This will probably happen again. Maybe it’s supposed to?
I scribble a note onto my work schedule: “Scriv file, laptop. NOTEFROMTHEFUTURE.” By the time I finish writing it, I’m not even sure what it refers to. And then my son is back at the door, struggling into a shirt with a big green dinosaur on the front—the one I picked up for him while I was traveling last year.
I rise from my chair, go to the door, and help him put his shirt on. When I glance over at my wife, she’s awake now, or at least half-awake, anyway.
“It’s time to go!” my son informs her.
I laugh, and think, Yeah, it really is.