I was just about to start eating my dinner when there was a knock on the door. I sighed, put down the plate of food onto the computer desk and then walked up the hallway, smiling as Eve, my cat, raced ahead of me to see who was at the door. Opening it, I looked out at the elderly man standing there.
He looked to be in his mid to late 50's, wearing blue jeans and a brown suede jacket with a white shirt underneath. His eyes were a faded blue, and there was what looked like an amethyst crystal hanging on a leather necklace around his neck. His hair was almost crewcut, and it was mostly grey with a bit of dark brown filtering through it. My quick appraisal of him told me he wasn't the average religious door-knocker, and the crystal around his neck gave me the impression he was a spiritual man. There was also a sense of warmth and peacefulness about him,. Eve came out and sniffed at his feet, and he smiled warmly as he looked down at her, and then looked back up at me, still smiling.
"Hi," he said, and his hand began moving out in an obvious gesture to shake hands. He seemed to change his mind though, and it awkwardly dropped back to his side. He stood there looking at me, seeming to be unsure of what to say.
"Hi," I said in reply, curious as to what he wanted. "How can I help you?" As was usual for me, I was observing his mannerisms, body language, and face. Being a 'student of human nature' always inspired me to look at more than just the surface features of a person, as it was what they were trying to hide that showed who they really were.
He looked at me in the eyes for a couple of seconds, and smiled again. "I take it you don't recognise me…"
Cocking my head as I looked closer at him, I had images of people going through my head; people who had been in my past and who were potentially his age now, and elderly people I had met recently. I couldn't match him to anyone though, but he did look a little familiar. I wondered if the familiarity was only because he had suggested I should know him.
"Sorry," I replied, shaking my head. "Should I know you?"
He leant down and scratched Eve on the back of her head, just where she likes it, and she started purring and rubbing herself against his leg. At least she liked him, I thought. That was usually a good sign. I'd recently been looking for a flatmate, and I had disregarded any applicant that Eve didn't like, or that she hid from, while those that Eve liked were put onto the short list. However, none of those short-listed applicants got the spare room, as they all found somewhere else to stay, so my girlfriend Deidre had moved in instead. Eve liked her as well, which was a good sign.
"She knows me," the man said with a chuckle.
I frowned, trying to work out where we had met. For Eve to know him, he must've visited at some stage, but for the life of me I couldn't remember. I stood there for a few more seconds in silence, watching him patting Eve. My dinner was getting cold, and I was standing here wsating my time on this cryptic stranger who seemed to be here only to pat my cat.
Seeming to sense my thoughts, he stood up again and looked me in the eye. "I'm Alan," he said. This didn't surprise me, as I already knew a few people called Alan, but what he said next certainly was surprising. "I'm you… from your future."
I didn't know what to say as I stood there looking at him, but the sense of familiarity became stronger. His eyes… yes, they looked like mine, but slightly different. It could have been that I've only seen my eyes in the mirror, so looking at his was like seeing the reverse of what I was used to seeing on myself. But they were older, obviously, and they seemed… wiser. More peaceful. I looked again at the amethyst crystal hanging in front of his neck and remembered back to when I had my own amethyst crystal hanging there some years ago. He was looking at me closely, observing my reaction, a small smile on his face.
My first thought was to close the door in his face and go back to finish my dinner. What do you say to a lunatic at your door who's telling you that they are you, but from your future?
"I guess you should come in then," I told him instead, standing aside and letting him enter the flat. After he walked past me into the hallway, I closed the door, leaving Eve outside. He was looking around, glancing into my bedroom and the spare bedroom. Some of Deidre's stuff was still scattered around the spare room, not having been packed away after she recently moved in, and he smiled before walking up the hallway and into the lounge room. "Coffee?" I asked as I went into the kitchen.
"Thanks," he said from the lounge room, and I put some water into the kettle and turned it on. As I started preparing the cups of coffee, I remembered the food I had almost started eating, and I went into the lounge room to get it and put a dish over it. He was standing at the window, looking out at the view over Wellington harbour. I picked up the plate and took it back into the kitchen, putting a dish over it, and then stood there leaning against the kitchen sink. My back was to the window but I was facing the kitchen's doorway; I didn't trust him yet, and if he was to come into the kitchen I wanted to know about it.
My mind was a mess with the questions running through it. He's me? From the future? What does that mean? Why is he here? What does he want with me? How did he get here? Is the world going to hell and he wants to warn me about it? Am I going to be taken on a mission to the past or future with him, and I'm the key to his success? Or was I going mad, and this was just an illusion, or a dream, and I'd wake up or snap out of it any moment, to find that he wasn't here? I've been 'mad' before, but this was really taking the cake.
The kettle switched itself off, and I made two cups of coffee, taking them into the lounge room. He was sitting on the window sill with his back to the window, looking at me as I entered the room. Standing up, he took the coffee I offered him, and sat down on the couch normally used by Eve. I inwardly winced as I thought about the cat fur that was all over the cover and getting all over his suede coat, but he didn't seem to notice or care. I sat down as well, and I realised that I'd made his coffee exactly as I make mine; was I testing him to see if he would like it as I did? I watched him as he sipped it, and saw him smile slightly as he leant back on the couch. It obviously met with his approval, but I guess it didn't mean he was really me. Odds were good that many people would like how I made the coffee. Milk and two sugars was a standard style.
We looked at each other for a few moments, my mind still whirling with thoughts. I was beginning to see more of myself in him; the eyes, the smile, the nose… but it didn't mean anything, as he could be someone who simply looks like me, but older. My skeptical mind was trying to find an explanation for all this, but the reality was that my curiosity was stronger than my skepticism. If he was my future self, then this night would see the biggest change of my life. Ever.
A question came to mind, and I thought I'd ask it. At least to 'break the ice' and get the conversation started.
"Do you remember meeting me?" I asked him.
He shook his head. "Not at all."
I frowned. "So if you're from my future but don't remember me, then the alternate timeline theory are true?" He nodded, and took another sip of the coffee. I thought for a moment more. "What happened to me today?" I asked, wanting some more reassurance that he was me.
He smiled again, and looked upwards slightly, recalling his own past in order to relate it to me. "There was a meeting today at work that I… that you… didn't attend, which was the introduction of Computerland's new boss. Last night you were organising yours and Deidre's budget, and this week has been one of organising the financial logistics of the holiday to Taupo this coming weekend."
I nodded. "Yeh, but there's a few people that know all that. An obvious question is: tell me something that proves you're me." The skeptic in me was hoping for reassurance. If he couldn't provide it, I'd feel damn awkward about having a lunatic in the house. How would I get rid of him? Would he get dangerous? My thoughts were interrupted by his answer.
"Well, the only thing you've never told anyone about was the one time that you experimented with homosexuality with Andrew, but mum caught you, and you and Andrew both got a hiding for it." He smiled, and I frowned. He was right. I could talk to those close to me about my homosexual experiences that I'd had with my father, which were more sexual abuse than anything else, but I had never talked about that one time with Andrew, my brother. I realised that I'd never mentioned it to anyone because the experiences with my father could be seen as 'outside of my control'. This made it easier to discuss, as I was more of a victim than anything else. It was easy to discuss with those closest to me, but the experience with Andrew, my youngest brother, was something that I had initiated, that I had chosen to be involved in. I think I've always felt guilty and ashamed about that. Nothing had really happened, with the two of us only lying naked on top of each other before mum walked through the door of my bedroom and found us, but the fact that I had wanted to see what it was like was something I haven't really fully accepted. I'm straight, dammit! At least that was the predominant thought in my mind for all these years since then. I was maybe 16 or 17 at the time, and today I'm 38, still not talking about it with anyone. Until this man so casually commented on it.
We were staring at each other. Him watching my reaction, and me reliving the past in my mind, before returning to the present moment. I could feel my face redden slightly with embarrassment, and I looked away from him, looking out the window. He sipped the coffee again.
I shifted on the couch, feeling hot from my embarrassment and trying to get more comfortable. Then I realised that he had actually told me about something that I'd never told anyone else. Only Andrew and my mum knew about it, and my dad as well, if I remember correctly. But I doubted that that this one event in my life would be the one event that this person would know I had never told anyone else about. I also doubted that my family would be behind any attempt to have me believe that this stranger was my future self. There was no logic in that. The only conclusion could be was that he was me.
"Why are you here?" I eventually asked. I sipped my own coffee, almost afraid of what his answer might be.
"I had the opportunity to come back in time, and I took it," he replied.
"Why now? Why not 20 years ago, when I was all screwed up and could have done with some advice?" The years of anguish, insecurity and loneliness as I had grown up had always been on my mind. If I only knew back then what I know now, everything would have been different. Don't we all wish we could go back in our past to change who we were, so that we could create a better history for ourselves? Or was it only those who didn't like who they were that had those flights of fancy?
"You forget what I told you a few minutes ago," he said, standing up and moving over to the window again. The sun was about to set, and the clouds above the hills were glowing with glowing red and orange shades of light. The water of the harbour was still, and the view was beautiful. He was enjoying it, but I didn't even notice it as he continued. "Alternate timeline theory. Remember what you used to quote to people whenever you discussed it? 'For every choice we have available to us, an alternate reality is created where that choice becomes real'." He turned around to face me again. "But we only know of the reality that is a result of the choice we make. The choices we discard don't exist in our reality, but they become realities in their own right. I don't remember visiting you, because in my own timeline, my own reality, I never did. My presence here has created an alternate timeline where you will now live through your future years with the memory of me visiting you. The act of travelling back in time created another timeline where I appeared in the past, but this past is no longer part of my own timeline. Do you understand?"
"Yes, of course I do," I said, a frown appearing for a moment. I was a little annoyed for having forgotten what I've always been promoting to others over the years. Now here I was, actually experiencing something that proved what many spiritualists, and even quantum physicists, had theorised and believed. Every choice we have creates another universe where that choice becomes real. If I can choose between A, B or C, I might eventually choose A. In my timeline I know I've chosen A, and discarded the other choices. But B and C were chosen by me in other timelines running parallel to this one, having branched off from this one at the point those other choices became available. In this way there are an infinite number of realities, where everything that can be conceived actually occurs.
He smiled again. "Good. So if I went back to my 18 year old self and taught it everything I knew, I create an alternate timeline where I grow up with knowledge that will help me. But that still doesn't change my OWN past. Time travel doesn't change your past, it only creates new realities where those changes you make become real. It doesn't make sense for me to travel back in time and kill my own father before I'm born, does it. If he was killed before I was born, how could I travel back in the past to kill him?"
I smiled as well as I thought of something to add. "And for those who say time travel's not possible at all, they need to understand that if we can imagine a universe where time travel occurs, then we have created that universe."
"That's right," he said, nodding his approval. "Most people are 3-dimensional with their thinking, and they can't expand their minds to imagine possibilities outside of this 3-dimensional reality." He smiled again, remembering something. "Thirty years from now, you'll still find people who can't imagine looking at this universe from outside of it. Most people can't escape from the point of view that has them stuck inside this universe. Our understanding of it makes us unique, no matter when we exist."
"We?" I asked, unsure of what he meant. "By 'we', do you mean you and I, or people in general."
"You and I," he said.
I smiled. I could see that my arrogance about my own uniqueness still carried forward into my future. But my smile faded as my mind went off on a tangent about this. If I could see my own arrogance from an outsider's perspective, just like I'm looking at my future 'arrogant' self right now, then surely that would change how I develop over the years from this point forward? Do I want other people to see that arrogance as well? Unless, of course, I continued to appreciate that arrogance, of thinking I'm more unique, more 'special', than anyone else. I shrugged to myself. I really couldn't see anything wrong with being this kind of arrogant, in knowing that my understanding of non-linear thinking made me unique. I enjoyed being able to get my mind around multi-dimensional concepts, and the challenges of explaining them to people in terms that they could understand. I enjoyed the feelings of superiority this gave me. But as I thought this, I realised that it really made me insecure. I enjoyed feeling superior only because I felt inferior. I frowned as my mind brought these things to my attention, and my visitor chuckled.
"I can see on your face what you're thinking," he said. "The biggest lesson you'll learn in the future is to simply accept who you are, without wanting to be any particular way, and without luxuriating in the feelings of believing you're special."
"But you just said we're unique," I said defensively.
"That's right," he replied, nodding. "But I accept it. I know it. Unlike where I'm at right now, you're still enjoying the feelings of superiority it gives you. I've come to understand that it's just who I am. Everyone has their special abilities and strengths that make them unique in various ways. Understanding timelines in a non-linear fashion is just something you and I can get our heads around, that many others have difficulty with. But I still don't know how to fix a car engine," he added with a grin. "We're as unique as the next person."
"I see you still like playing with words and concepts," I replied, smiling. Playing with words and concepts was something I did a lot. He chuckled again. I was silent for a few moments more while I was thinking, and went to sip my coffee, but it was cold. I put it on the coffee table. "So why did you come back to this time, to create a new timeline that's separate from your own? What good does it do you? It's not going to change your own past; all you're doing is creating a different future for myself. What are you really here for?"
He nodded. "I'm doing this for you, but I'm primarily doing it for myself. Do you remember that clairvoyant years ago, who told you that your life was going to be a holiday until you're in your 50's, and then you'll really start teaching people about spirituality? And that's when your real work will begin?" I nodded, and he continued. "I'm almost 70 now. I've done a lot of teaching, and I've got a lot more to do before I die. Part of my own growth is to change my past, but this is the only way I can do it – by changing your future. Our consciousness is linked, and we are the same spirit experiencing different things in different timelines. The influence I have on you – that we have on each other – affects both of us, and ultimately our existence as a higher being. So my being here is for us, on a spiritual level." He smiled as he added, "And remember, in another timeline, I didn't appear here tonight. Life goes on as normal, where time travel doesn't exist, and you continue living yor life without your future self visiting you. So playing with timelines is just part of spiritual growth – that's why I'm here."
I nodded, liking the thought. "So you can potentially teach me how to do the same thing?" I asked.
"We'll see," he said, smiling. "Do you have any dinner left over? I'm starved."
"Deidre will be home soon, and I've got only enough for her."
"Ah yes," he said, his eyes seeming to look into the distance. "Deidre. I'll enjoy meeting her."
"I haven't agreed to you staying yet," I said, frowning but with that glint in my eyes which made it obvious I wasn't seriously frowning. Well, maybe only to those that knew me. Which he did. He grinned at me again, and I could see that it was true – I do get better looking as I get older. I grinned back. "Fine. You know where the kitchen is. I've got to write about this in my online journal."
He smiled as he stood up, moving out to the kitchen, and I sat down at the computer, writing out this story before I forget the details. I'm wondering where this is going to take me….
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