Hello, time travelers.
The path of time is something else, isn’t it? We’re always looking back, yet at the same time always moving forward. The past can shape our futures, or can make us choose to stray from the path and start our own journey. So hold your head high and keep moving forward, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
Hello, Future Me
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Well this was certainly a long time coming. A bit ironic that we had to wait for so long for a prompt… about the future. But, here we are at last.
Putting aside that this prompt reminds us of a certain wonderful nerdy friend of ours, this prompt seems to bring with it a sense of hope. It’s about looking forward; about the world of tomorrow and what it can bring.
There are so many things that can come from this prompt. A child writing a letter to their future self, or even that future self reading said letter. It could be a small simple office worker finally preparing for that big step up the corporate ladder to secure their future in the company. Perhaps one person aspiring to be like their parents, to carry on a family legacy. But maybe… maybe they don’t want to carry that legacy. Maybe the future they want is something else, and they decide to strive for that. Maybe the future one hopes for is just to make it to the next day, dreaming of a day when they don’t need to live in fear of whatever looms over them. Perhaps even a mystic peering into their crystal ball to read what the future may hold for some poor soul.
Or perhaps we can take this in a literal sense. Our future selves coming back to deliver a message, whether it’s of encouragement or of warning. Or perhaps we travel the other way, stepping into the future and meeting ourselves from that time. Perhaps we meet our future selves in a sort of crazy time loop and we need to try and break the cycle.
This path has many branches you can choose from. What direction will you travel on this one-way course?
The clock is ticking. Whatever you choose, we look forward to seeing what the future holds.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
Time Trunk (Working Trademark)
“YES! Eureka! I’ve done it!” I pulled out the freshly-bitten-but-not-anymore apple out of my Time Trunk Tee-Em, searching for other phrases garage scientists say when they’ve made history. “Uh… I’m gonna be rich!”
“Yeah, yeah, except this time you have literally made history.” I whirled around to see a stranger leaning on a crumpled refrigerator box.
Me from the future—it had to be!
“Look,” they continued, “we can do the Q-and-A session on the way, but right now we gotta go. Hop in, and bring the microwave.”
I sidled in, disappointed future-me’s fridge box was so squishy inside. We were practically belly-to-belly, and I had to hold my prized creation overhead.
Somehow, this machine that was clearly just a box rumbled to life. There was the weirdheck feeling of moving in every direction at once, and the smell of—coffee?
“You weren’t having a stroke,” my other self commented. “That’s toast. Yeah, turns out instant coffee is the only common product that’ll utilize temporotrons without losing stability.” They smirked. “You are now free to move about the cabin. And ask questions.”
Where to even begin?
“Uh. Where are we going?”
“Boring but fair. I’m taking you to the Grand Induction of Dimension Traversers Everywhen.” A genuine smile crossed their face. “You did it, man. You invented time travel.”
I brightened. “So the Time Trunk really works!? I really am gonna be rich!”
“Uhh, no. Sorry,” said future-me, ;;convincingly;;. “No marketing this stuff. Even coffee dude is on thin ice, and he doesn’t even KNOW. Also, never say ‘time trunk’ again, please.”
Well that sucked. Still, TIME TRAVEL! Worth it!
But wait, if there was a whole Grand Insomethingsomething, that meant there were other people who must know about time travel.
Just as the rumbling stopped, I asked, “How many people are gonna be here? And what—?” I didn’t even know how to finish that.
My companion threw open the flap and sprinted outside. “No time!” they called. “We have to get to the induction! I’ll explain in the next installment!”
Next…? I took off after them.
A Future Without Me
By L. L. Marco
Knock. Knock. Knock.
I stood, annoyed, my finger hovering over the light switch. Moments ago I had meant to flick it off and head to bed. I’d pulled an all-nighter and exhaustion ate at my brain. Who the Hell was knocking on our door at 6AM?
Begrudgingly, I headed towards the front door. The blue dull light of early morning poured in through the blinds as I peeked through them to see who was lurking on our porch. Cops? Jesus, what had my stepdad gotten into this time? Before I could even finish the thought Mom joined me, rubbing her eyes and grumbling.
Mom immediately perked up, alert and awake. Her face set and her shoulders squared; recognizing that look, I took a quiet step back as she adjusted her robe and opened the door.
“How can I help you?”
The two officers stood there awkwardly, lacking the normal macho demeanor cops usually had. They seemed… uncomfortable. The morning light cast heavy shadows across their faces as they spoke.
“We regret to inform you that your daughter–”
I froze. My mother only had two daughters: my sister and me. And I was right there. Somehow, I knew how that sentence ended even though their voices faded and twisted into nothing but a shrill white noise that rattled through my brain. My fingers numbed at my side. I felt sick.
Mom dropped like a rock. All at once the muddled sludge of my thoughts was pierced by a wail of grief and agony. My stepdad was at her side, gently holding her as she stared blankly ahead and screamed with all her might. I don’t know how long I stood there. The sun rose fully and with it brought a new horrible day with an even worse reality that my mother sobbed over and over. My sister was gone.
Another realization struck me as I stood there, frozen and numb even as the summer heat pulsed in through the front door. The me that lived beside her was also gone. A cold, uncertain me took its place.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
James buried himself in as many covers and blankets as he could find. Sporadic thoughts strung from one to the next, lulling him into a slow, dim sleep.
“I just don’t want to exist anymore…”
“Then perhaps I could make that happen.” The darkness answered, slithering around James’ neck.
“It’s for the best. After all no one believed in you.”
“Some people did…”
“Not really. Sure, they said they did. But did anyone ever really go the extra mile to support you? Was there ever anyone standing by your side when you needed it? No. No one.”
“I’m not going to let that stop me.” James muttered.
“Oh?” The darkness mocked.
“I’ll keep going day by day… until I can make a difference in my own life.” Defiance rose inside him. “To hell with what people think! I don’t care how long it takes. If something stands in my way, I’ll tear right through it!”
“Ah good, so there is some fight left in you then,” The darkness seethed and retracted.
It was hot and sweaty and the blankets were thick and pliable. James clawed and scraped, unable to find an edge until he started tearing away at the soft barrier. Slowly he scratched and clawed until he could tear his way out of the suffocating prison, cleaving away hunks until he could finally stretch and grasp and reach his way out.
After James had finally wretched himself free, what he thought was sweat, was actually blood. And what he had clawed his way out of was the bloody husk of his own body, still curled up and waiting for nothingness.
James would not be like that pathetic wretch. He would not wait around to die. He went to the mirror. He was still himself, his features were all the same as they had been. But he couldn’t say he looked the same. There was something different he couldn’t quite place. James knelt down and washed the blood from his face and greeted his familiar reflection with a smile.
“Time to make some changes.”
Incident 9872-2398B5[Aleph null sci fi]
I see a sky, full of beautiful stars. The majestic view is interrupted by a ping on my display.
>Identity confirmed: ship identified as The star Ship unity, id ESS-002. Data lookup verified.
What! We are on the starship unity. Impossible. I quickly input a retry command and open a call to the ship. The meeting interface covers the window.
We connect. An image appears just as I receive a ping from the system. Identification is verified again. The image looks… like me. Older.
“Who are you? And how are you tricking our ship into misidentifying your’s?”
“I’m Jonathan Bogdan, captain of the starship Unity, we aren’t-”
“Bull-shit!” I exclaim. “The star ship unity has a unique id, and our ship is the only one in the universe with it. I am Jonathan Bogdan!”
“And why should we trust you? You clearly can’t be who you say you are because we have that ID.” He seems so much more in control.
Suddenly, the ship AI sends a message. Another ship approaching. Chronos protocol triggered.
What the hell is the Chronos protocol? The meeting disconnected. The other ship asks us to talk. A meeting opened up before I pressed the button.
I butt in before the other person has a chance to speak. “What’s this about?”
“What do you think it’s about?” Their voice is cold and calculating.
“This starship claimed to be us, clearly hoping to frame us for something or replace us. I have no clue how they got our unique identification passcodes, but it probably wasn’t legal.”
“That’s what we think, too. We’ll deal with them. You suffered no damage, correct?”
“Let me check.” I enter a command to run a diagnostic. “Everything looks good. Thanks for the help. We’ll be on our way.”
As we leave, I can’t help but feel something was off about that situation.
A Destiny of Darkness
Across the shadowed veil, swirling in a tempest of tendrils burned a kingdom set ablaze. Children crying, sons screaming, and daughters dying, all reduced to cinder. Atop the ashen mound of what once was, stood a maddened emperor, smiling. This destruction was his beauty, a glorious flame.
Then, a dark wave washed away the fires, leaving behind the black veil a solitary man. His aged face bore the scars of battles long ago, yet his eyes watered with sorrow still fresh. Before him stretched a field of endless graves. His weeping drowned all things, for this emperor reigned no longer; His grief claimed him as slave.
The veil dissipated into dark mist and the horrified emperor froze. This was the man he would become? Two destinies foreseen; one of mad destruction and the other of crippling woe. His fate, it seemed, was destroyer or destroyed.
Surely the prophet’s veil had been wrong! Surely something was amiss…
The prophecies faltered not; their visions came true. The emperor knelt alone in his quiet chamber. None would know what he saw, and would he tell them? Certainly, to speak of their doom would only cause prolonged pain. Let it be instant so they may at least enjoy their final moments.
He watched despairingly as the remaining mist of the veil danced on the floor.
Destiny. Most men live believing their choices are of their own free will; They believe in lies. The free-will of man was slain long ago with the passing of the Elder. The fate of man is sealed alongside him in torment everlasting.
Yet, the Elder is to return. He is said to hear the cries of man and grace them again. Where then is he? Still, locked away? Chained to his agony as man is chained to fate? What is a god bound? He is nothing, as man is nothing.
The emperor sighed and stalked away. Fate, it seemed, desired his defeat.
Yet in the dark chamber, the misty veil swirled still, and in its infinite depths stood an emperor triumphant, for fate itself that day changed.
Dear Future Self
By Jesse Fisher Edits by Luna
“I’ve had it with all these damn gods of time.” Demon growled as he stood on the side of this section of the bar.
“Tell me about it.” A similar dressed navy blue demonic wolf with yellow eyes.
“So when are you from?” The first one asked.
“Not sure.” The second replied as more of them ran from one place to another. “Due to the amount, I’ve lost count.”
“Do ya recall talking to yourself on the side of this section?” The first inquired as they watched another past/present/future self being sent to the kitchen by the god of time so they did not have to waste time waiting.
“A few times.” The more relaxed second replied. “You know we are all just the same person thrown around in a crazy non-linear time loop.”
“I figured.” The first replied. “Or one or both of us are abnormalities caused by the large number of going back and forth.
“Could be.” The second was in thought before one of the gods wanted a refill on a drink, and the first was the one that vanished to get it for him.
“So that is how I started on that round.” The second Demon spoke before he moved to the bar.
The mustached barkeep with heterochromia looked at the waiter as he sat down.
“I take it you are the farthest in the craziness of the Times dinner.” He spoke as he began to make the Wolf’s bloody mary.
“Korun, at this point I’ve got no clue.” Demon replied.
“And I see you must be tired if you’re not doing snarky comments.” With that, the dapper being placed the drink in front of the wolf.
“You try to not cause paradoxes as you are shot from one end of this place and then to the other.” Demon commented as he drank.
“I’d say the person next to ya would know that.” Korun said, pointing at a passed out Demon with many bloody marys next to him.
“Well, atleast I know my future now.” The drinking Demon replied as he enjoyed a break.
One Second A Child The Next A Killer
By The Wandering Mind (Cansas)
“WOULD THE THREE OF YOU SHUT UP AND LISTEN!”
Uncle Mor and the twins fell silent.
“Thank you,” I huffed. “It will be tight, but I think I can squeeze through the vent.”
Chance scoffed, “Don’t be ridiculous, kid. You weren’t even supposed to be on this mission.”
Fawn said coolly, “If Crimson wants to risk her life to save our idiot brothers, I say let her. Better her guts on the wall than mine.”
I started to regret sneaking along.
Uncle Mor knelt in front of me. “Don’t let them get to you. Saber and Blaze are idiots but they’re our idiots. Family is the only thing we’ve got. So if you think you can shimmy through that vent, then by god girl, do it.”
“I can, Uncle Mor.”
“Good girl. Can you use a gun?” he asked holding out a small handgun.
“Of course, you taught me yourself.”
Uncle Mor smiled and put the gun in my hand. “I meant, are you ready to pull the trigger?”
A lump formed in my throat. I swallowed it down and replied as confidently as I could, “I am, Uncle Mor.”
It was indeed a tight squeeze but I made it through and dropped in the middle of the prison control room. Three guards came at me, I dodged one hitting his head with the handgun. I kicked the next guard’s knee and winced as it cracked. The third guard reached for his gun but I shot his thigh first.
“Don’t move!” I commanded.
I walked to the control panel keeping my eye on the guards, and opened the door.
Uncle Mor came in with Chance and Fawn bickering quietly behind him.
“Good work, Crimson,” Uncle Mor said looking at the three guards. “Kill them.”
“Wha-what?” I stammered.
“You said you were ready, Now kill them.” Uncle Mor repeated.
The gun shook in my hands. I took a breath, then nodded.
The gun fell to the ground as my knees gave way.
I felt Uncle Mor’s hand on my shoulder.
“Say hello to the future you, Crimson.”
Message for the Memory
By minergirl778 (Aka frogfireFantasy)
Well… Here we are again.
A Manticore. A Mountain. And a blubbering moron.
I’m not gonna fall for your sappy grief routine. Wah, wah, wah! I’m so sad! The only one of my friends who I felt like I could still connect to is dead! Woe is me, boo hoo!
Cut. The. Crap. We both know this is your fault.
How many times did he tell you that those boots were heavy? 10? 20? I know you saw those suckers in action multiple times! They pulled him to the bottom of LAKES, for gods’ sakes! Of course he wouldn’t have been able to get out of the way!
And you could have totally grabbed him. You were in range of him. You and him were standing right next to each other when that tail swing attack happened! As heavy as those boots are, if you were able to hold him all those times you did cute crap, you could definitely grab him and pull him out of the way. But nooooo, you just couldn’t be bothered, could you? Too focused on the monster, on the “Greater Good!”
How could you get so wrapped up in your hero persona that you forgot who you cared about!? You didn’t know jack shit about any of the people in that village, and yet you charged off after that thing because “That’s what a hero DOES!” You NEVER think about the consequences your actions have on others! Do you even have a brain up there!? HELLO!? ANYONE THERE!? A single brain cell? An OUNCE of forethought!? If you weren’t such a braindead idiot, He wouldn’t be plummeting to his death! Maybe if you had a brain, he’d still be alive!
Maybe you could have even… told him… instead of keeping it to yourself all those years because of dumb anxiety. Maybe you could have actually gotten closure before he was gone.
You… could have been together.
This is STUPID!
A-And pathetic, and dumb!
I can’t believe I was ever you!
And I’ll never BE you!
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
“Uuggh. Why is my alarm going off?” Jenny lazily rises from her bed and ambles to her phone. She opens it.
“Spotted another one. Wilson’s St., hairy, fast. Check your notes.”
She stares at her phone, too tired to understand the ramifications. ‘I didn’t set this alarm… did I?’ she thought. ‘Ugh, I’ll let future me handle this.’ She sets her phone down and jumps back into bed.
Three hours later, the sun breaks the horizon and light once again floods the room. Reluctantly, Jenny wakes up, more groggy than usual. Stammering to her feet, she heads back to her phone.
As she scrolls through it, checking the time and her favorite social media platforms, she suddenly remembers the alarm from earlier. She opens the message again. ‘Check your notes?’ she thought. ‘Might as well. Even if it is a sick prank.’
She navigates to the Note app and opens it. As it opens, she sees the alarm from last night in note form. But it isn’t alone. There are several more alarms, all at odd times, with similarly strange messages.
“Spotted a tall one, Avory St. thin legs.”
“Spotted a big hairy one, St. George’s Rd. sharp claws.”
“Spotted a small one. Wilson’s St. a bit of an attitude.”
Finally, at the end of a string of notes, there is one with a file attached. It reads:
“Met a friendly one. Duck Blvd. Finally got a picture!!!”
She hesitates. What could these horrible creatures be? Why did she forget about seeing them? Finally, her curiosity takes over and she clicks on the file.
‘Oh it’s… A PICTURE OF A DOG?’
She puts her phone down, grabs her face, and lightly chastises herself for being so jumpy. Finally, she collects herself and re-examines the image.
‘Yup it’s just a normal dog.’ she thinks to herself. ‘Wait, when did I post this note?’ She checks the date.
‘Two years ago?!?’ She racks her brain until it clicks.
“Oh yeah!” she says out loud. “I was a mailman.”
‘I kinda miss these guys.’
“Dear Future Me”
I pray this letter reaches you in good health. We have recently put down a vile daemon of the Oregon woods, and events have urged me to preserve some memory of my current status, in order to provide some reflection for you in the future.
The first of these events was the sudden and tragic death of one of our initiates at the hands of a Wendigo. Jakob was a promising lad, with a surprisingly saintly countenance for one of his generation, which surely drew the daemon’s ire upon him. The second was the discovery of poor old Brother David. The creature had taken him some months before, which is why we had come in force, and we found him in the daemon’s lair. By then, he had already lost his mind, and begged us to give him his last rites and put him down. I am to assume that you’ve not forgotten the manner in which Wendigoag multiply. It pained Father Smith deeply to conduct a cremation on such a devout soldier of the Inquisition.
To see a youth of our Order perish so prematurely, and to see one of our established members lose himself to madness in the cold North, made me anxious of our own future, dear Francis. If any doubt plagues you, ten years from the writing of this letter, know that our work is absolutely critical in this day and age. Though we lost two of our own to this monster, we put it to death, and have preserved untold lives from its evil. If some of us must lay down our lives to scour evil spirits from the wild places, then it must be so. Whatever toils we face, they are necessary sufferings we must bear for the salvation of souls.
Francis Michael Ignatius Plantagenet.’
Francis laid the parchment back down on his desk. He had risen far since those days, now vested in the titles of the Pontificate, yet the cost weighed down on him. He picked up a picture of his estranged son, Arthur, and wept.
Nestled in the Walls
By Giovanna J. Fuller
The sledge hammer smashed the drywall separating the kitchen from the dining room in the old, Victorian, suburban home. Three more hard swings and the young man could see to the other side where his wife stood smiling. He grinned. The house was a fixer upper when they bought it, but around two grand and one baby later it was beginning to feel like home.
“Looking great, honey!” she said, bouncing the baby on her hip.
He waved and went to knock down more of the wall. However, something shiny caught his eye. It was placed in the space between the two sides of drywall. He put the hammer down and stuck his gloved hand in the dark space.
“What is it?” his wife asked.
“Some sort of box.”
They brought the newfound object to the kitchen table and opened it. The lock was so old and rusted, it broke open. Inside they found a small envelope.
To the new owners of this home,
We were the Hausenbergs.
We came here in 1885 through Ellis Island from Prussia.
Congratulations. We hope you fill these halls with laughter and love just as we have. Remember that nothing worth having is obtained easily. Hard work yields the sweetest fruit. Stay together and weather life’s storms as a team and you’ll do well.
Tucked inside the envelope was a black and white photograph with the year 1887 written on the back. There was a worn, leather bound Bible with several passages carefully underlined and notes in the margins. There was a square of yellowed linen embroidered with bluebirds and white flowers. In the corner was a pocket knife, perfectly preserved. A collection of paper dolls with an impressive amount of paper dresses. And, all lined up in a row, were ten tin soldiers painted with bright, blue uniforms.
The man looked to his wife. She looked at him. The baby laughed.
Leap of Faith
by Lunabear (I relinquish my spot to WolfsbaneX)
Leeland leapt into the rip. The swirling portal displayed blinding neon lights. Every color on the spectrum fragmented and pixelated. He felt his body wind and separate.
She had run to the future, through literal space and time, for the sole purpose of escaping her past. Too bad for her that she didn’t predict his connections or how he’d use them.
Before he could sort out his feelings, the rip spat him out, and he collided with the ground in a bone-rattling impact.
He was prone on his back. The dark gray sky spun. A thin fog covered the ground. He slowly sat and examined his weightless body. Beyond a twinge in his tailbone and a dull ringing in his ears, nothing felt out of order.
He took the longest time patting his left pectoral beneath his armor. A memorized note from his past self rested there.
He better took in his surroundings. All was silent and still.
Leeland winced when he stood. His stomach lurched during the lifeform scan. He wrestled for control. Aside from him and one other being, this time was barren.
He was near to dry heaving thanks to the teleportation.
“You’ve returned for another fight, coward?!”
He swiveled to face the fugitive he’s hunted through multiple times. She stood before him wearing a grin. Her cyborg anatomy was complete save for a triangular shape in her center breastplate.
She wasn’t human anymore. He had to bring her down.
“It’s time to face justice, Rachel!”
He couldn’t mess up. Not again.
“Time, you say?” She brandished a blue, crackling pyramid. “With this, I AM time!”
“You’ve nearly overloaded it. It’s corrupted.”
“It’s IMPROVED. No more shall I be bound by time!”
He COULDN’T let her assimilate it. That would spell the end of time as he knew it. He activated a magnetic pulse wrist device.
The pyramid and Rachel were attracted, but Leeland allowed enough of a breadth to jerk it from her palm. His laser cube ensnared her.
His face contorted into a wide grin. “At long last. Time is MINE to control.”
The Future is Set in Stone
This is truly a momentous occasion! My fingertips, now having gone numb from so much writing, still eagerly mark every detail as it happens. The great stone trolls gather around the mother, so close to giving birth. Troll births only happen once every few centuries. I am lucky, beyond lucky, to have visited at this time.
Perhaps I should not use the term ‘mother.’ After all, trolls produce a-sexually, but using a word like ‘host’ or ‘carrier’ feels inadequate for a species that feels and knows so much. They carry such a vast empathy it is hard to not use an endearing term for this occasion. If my superiors insist, I shall have to adjust the title before publication, though it would pain me to do so.
There does not appear to be much pain for the mother, unlike human birth, but it does appear incredibly difficult. The sound of cracking stone echoing off of the cavern walls hurts my ears as the infant finally comes forth, walking out of the mother’s stone body rather than being birthed from within, leaving behind a small hollow resembling its new shape.
“T’uk chrat irrr?” What is your name? The trolls all chant in ceremony. Though trolls are born with all of the memories and skills of their mother, they are given their own identity at birth. Their choices and the knowledge they obtain shall differentiate them from their siblings, if any.
“Chocuk, chrat ire” My name is Chocuk. The young troll replies.
One by one, Chocuk approaches everyone in the circle, each troll in turn placing one hand on their chest and the other on Chocuk’s shoulder as they repeat his name. I also do so, since I am here to witness. He completes the circuit around the room and turns to his mother, who places both of their hands on the young troll’s shoulders and completes the ceremony.
“Kivaque, Chocuk. Vra ke t’ire.” Greetings, Chocuk. The ‘me’ that is yet to be.
The sound of clicking heels was clear. Even without being able to see until his mind was fully awake, the person always visited him at 9 AM sharp. Punctuality was a virtue to them, as they always expressed.
It was a blur at first, but once his visual sensors kicked in, he lifted his head. Yes, she was there, as per usual. Legs were crossed and hands were resting in her lap; the woman exuded professionalism.
“Are you awake, Voi?” Her voice was always emotionless, even more so than his.
The woman nodded and picked up a clipboard from the stand to her left. The questions she asked daily were embedded into his memory, but he didn’t dare interrupt.
“How long did your start-up take today?”
“What is your physical condition?”
“What is your heart rate?”
“74 beats per minute.”
“What is your mental condition?”
The woman looked up when she didn’t receive an answer in tempo. Already, Voi could see irritation on her face.
“I am confused.” He replied, unable to think of another word.
“Explain, please.” Her voice showed her disinterest, but this was her duty.
“I know I cannot dream, that was made clear. But if I cannot dream, why do I continue to see myself when I am not awake?”
The hand that was scrawling information stopped. She looked up at him, as if she were finally interested in what he had to say.
Voi nodded. “I know it is myself because we are identical, down to our heterochromatic eyes. He will stand there and smile to me, but it is not…a joyful smile. He looks depressed. Mentally damaged.”
He looked up. The woman was still writing.
“I think he was trying to say “I’m sorry, future me.” May I ask, why is he apologizing?”
The woman clicked her pen and shook her head before standing. “You are still not perfect. We need to run more tests, so please put yourself to sleep.”
While he wasn’t satisfied, Voi didn’t object.
“Yes ma’am. Good day to you.”
Julien groaned as he lifted himself up, cradling his throbbing head and shielding his eyes against the harsh early sunlight. He partied too hard again, didn’t he? Maybe he shouldn’t do that again…. Then again, he’s had several other hangovers, and thought the same thing every time, but did he listen during those times? Nope.
After furiously wiping his eyes, a cup of coffee was offered to him, and he took it without thinking, gulping it down gratefully.
“How is your head feeling, Nira?” a female voice asked. He almost replied, when his still groggy brain realized some things:
His name is not Nira.
He didn’t remember returning to his apartment.
And, he lived alone. So who’s the woman sitting next to him?
He blinked at her for a long time, mainly because the sun was still in his eyes. He could see long dark hair and bright blue eyes, but not much else with the glare.
“Who’re you?” he croaked out, sipping at his coffee expectantly. The woman seemed taken aback, before chuckling.
“I figured this would happen,” she said, her voice quiet as she turned away to rummage through her purse, “you—ah, well, you warned me about this before.”
“Did I? I don’t remember meeting you,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Then again, I don’t remember anything from last night.”
“Don’t worry, you prepared for this, um… here.”
She pulled out an envelope with a black wax seal, and held it out to him. Curious, Julien took it, opening it and unfolding the letter with his free hand while he took another sip.
“Hello, Future Me.
“If you are reading this, it means I got incarnated, again. Well, no matter the circumstances, I shall explain the situation in this letter.
“To start with: you are me. You are a god. And your name is Nyraniel.”
He nearly spit out his coffee.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Meliora fidgeted in her chair as an elven lady heated a white powder in a glass flask over a low flame. The flask attached to another via a rubber hose surrounded by a cork. Meliora’s ears twitched as she watched.
“Bel, when is it going to be ready?” the cait sith whined, her fidgeting rocking the chair.
The elf, Belruth, just shook her head as she concentrated. “Melly, do you want my lab to explode?”
Meliora’s eyes went wide. “No, absolutely not! Bel, your job is dangerous!”
“Well, discovery is not something one does easily in safety, especially in alchemy.”
The last of the powder sublimated, and Belruth pinched the hose, trapping the gas inside.
“There we are: one gaseous mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide. Now, we apply the mixture to water so we can stabilize you.”
Meliora’s tail swayed back and forth in excitement. “And then I can astral project beyond the Temporal Reaches?”
“Theoretically. However, we needed… someone willing.”
Belruth connected a flask of water to the flask containing the gas and forced the water through the hose. The solution bubbled as the elf uncorked the apparatus. Taking a short glass tube, the alchemist pulled up a drop of the liquid.
“One drop should be enough,” Belruth said, holding the straw as still as she could.
Meliora opened her mouth and extended her tongue. Belruth rolled her eyes, obliged the cait sith, and grabbed her notebook. A flood of colors washed over Meliora’s senses as her body jettisoned her spirit, a silver cord attaching to her. The acceleration was exhilarating. Meliora was a tree, then a rock, then the sky.
Then, a room. A room containing a graying cait sith wearing similar vestments to Meliora. That’s when she saw it: a ruby-encrusted golden ring. Meliora smiled. Tears fell as she plummeted, racing them to the bottom.
The cait sith fell to the floor.
“Melly!” Belruth dropped her notebook and rushed to her side. “Are you okay? What did you see?”
Meliora stroked her bare finger. She knew she would find it. It was a matter of time.
By RVMPLSTLSKN (a story from Hizkanamun’s Flesh)
East of Sirodor is the greatest wonder of the world: an unnatural Tree whose limbs are held together by fungi and mass calcification.
Hanitl was phthisic. She was not one of those souls damned to hear the catarrhal snores and other rhystic life-sounds of the diseased; they were aphthisic. No, her life had purpose, a destiny.
Listen, these are the lies we tell ourselves.
Her phthisis started early. She couldn’t remember life before her muscles itched with the onset.
The Tree (it’s said) chooses folk like a god on its throne and graces them with a piece of itself. In the far west, this disease is called the Melting; here, it’s simply an unspoken part of life. Its mark grows within them, silent and cancerous, before calling.
Those chosen age before their time. They grow into skeletal beings, knobby and unique. When the Tree calls a phthisic, that ugly form will walk, naked and in agony, to the sacred valley. There, the phthisic dies and becomes part of that tree.
Aphthisics are given to the birds and they are forgotten. Only the phthisics matter for only they have a memorial; only they live forever and give voice to the god-Tree.
She stands now in the sacred valley, under that human tree, but it’s not her turn. Not yet. She comes here to plan, to pick her place and face her future. The opaline sunset of early dusk calls her home, but she feels no loyalty to that village. Hanitl, who fancies herself chosen and not cursed, longs to face her future.
She isn’t ready and her young mind rages against that knowledge, even as her young body rages against the disease that wracks it.
Soon, her body will harden and she’ll take that slow arthritic walk and join her enfossiled forebears. When her knuckles are no longer uniform, perhaps. Maybe she’ll have horny growths on her occipital ridge or visible spurs on her ribs, shins or arms.
She laughs. Eager. She will face her destiny and be part of that piece of humanity that is beautiful. Not today, but soon.
It’s All Relative
by Astrid Jones
“I can’t believe it! I finally found you!”
I looked up from my computer screen to see who was disturbing the peace in my tiny book and coffee shop. A woman bounced toward the counter. She looked oddly familiar, but I would know if I’d met someone like her before.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Yes, I need some advice.”
“Uh, okay. What do you typically like to read?” I brought up the book-search program on my computer.
“Aren’t you looking for something to read?”
“Why would I be looking for something to read?”
I stared at her for a moment. “You’re in a bookstore, honey. Most of the time, when someone asks me for advice, it’s about reading material.”
“Oh.” She looked around. “A bookstore isn’t what I expected.”
I ignored her statement. She seemed to be saying it to herself, anyway.
“Right, I came here for advice,” she said, turning her attention back to me. “I want to know all about what to expect. I want to know about things you regret so I can avoid them and things you wish you’d done so I can do them.”
“Is this a project you’re doing for school or something?” She could easily have been in college. But why she was popping into random shops and interviewing strangers rather than interviewing a family member was beyond me.
“No, silly. I thought you would have remembered by now. You are me from the future! I thought for sure the future version of me would remember what I did in order to get here.” She chewed her lip, suddenly looking much less confident than before.
“Are you saying you time travelled from the past to talk to your future self?” I couldn’t remember doing any such thing, but there was a story that had been passed down about a crazy relative who claimed they could time travel.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“You’re a few generations off,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “But I can tell you about yourself, if you’ve got the time.”
Kurotori held his newborn child in his arms. It had only been a few months, but he was still so elated to see the child. It was so soft and fragile. He was so afraid he might drop it, strangely. It was such a strange feeling. This child was his flesh and blood. No… it was him.
“Did you ever hold me like this, mother? Father?”
The baby mumbled, completely ignorant and unknowing of the world around it. His feeble hands reached out at nothing.
He was so fragile…
He could simply be dropped and…
Kurotori’s work phone rang, much to his annoyance. He answered it quickly. “This better be important or else I’m going to dock your salary.”
“Sir, uh, the woman you sent away a couple of days ago.”
“Yes? What about her?”
“She’s, huh, waiting outside your office.”
He felt his eye twitch. He had originally chosen her for her brazenness, thinking the quality attractive. Now he had realized that was a mistake. “Let her in.”
He soon heard the clacking of heels get closer to his door. The doors slammed open, as the woman he thought he had already paid off came in.
Kurotori looked down at her, barely turning to face her. “What more do you want, woman?”
“I would think that would be obvious.” She took that tone he had always hated about her.
“I already paid your hospital bills and gave you enough money to compensate for your time.”
“I want to see him.”
The twitch in his eye got greater as he heard her insufferable words.
“I want to see my son.”
Kurotori couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. He walked over to a crib beside his desk and placed his child down. He then turned on the woman, slowly walking towards her,
“He isn’t your child. You won’t be raising him. You aren’t a Nagotomi. You are simply someone I thought worthy of completing an important task. And now you have.”
He got face-to-face with her, “So I suggest you face the consequences of your actions. Now, leave my son alone.”
Draven scribbled in his planner, marking down places and times, colors and…
He groaned, leaning back in his chair with his hands over his face. What was he forgetting? Tuxes, decorations, chairs, the venue… but something was missing.
“It’s awful late, Drave.” Nathan’s sultry voice drifted in from the office door.
“I know. I’m just trying to get the plans in order.” Draven sighed, lowering his hands and glancing over to the figure in the doorway.
Nathan approached, leaning on the desk beside his fiancé and smiling gently. “Do you plan on coming to bed at some point?”
“Ha-ha.” Draven rolled his eyes, but couldn’t hold back his smirk. “I will, I just want to make sure we’re ready.”
“We will be.” Nathan lifted Draven’s chin, the lamplight reflecting off his engagement ring and dancing over the wall.
“Nathan, honey, we still have to get the caterer, half the chairs are still missing, we need the flower arrangements, the table coverings, the cake is on back order, and—”
“And we need to pick the rings. I know. I—”
“That’s it! That’s what I was forgetting!” Draven turned and scribbled in his planner. “How could I forget the rings?! They’re the most important part!”
Nathan chuckled, shaking his head. He gently pulled the pen from Draven’s grip, setting it down on the desk and closing the planner notebook. “Drave, look at me.”
“Nathan, I need—”
“Look at me.”
Draven huffed, turning and looking to the taller man. His heart skipped as he met Nathan’s deep, longing gaze.
“We’ll be fine. We have almost everything ready. You’re sending yourself into a frenzy.” Nathan brushed his thumb over his fiancé’s cheek. “I promise, my love, everything will be okay.”
Draven glanced at the two tuxes that hung on the closet door. He pictured the two of them in those tuxes, standing on the beach in the gold, white, and blue archway, finally united as husband and husband. It felt so close, yet so far away.
He took a deep breath and nodded. “You’re right.” He smiled at Nathan. “We’ll be okay.”
By Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
Eddie walked alone through the aisles, bored and frustrated since Killian was still haggling with the old shopkeeper. He let his mind drift, gazing at everything and nothing in particular. The store was chock-full with weird things, but that was the fun of going to such a strange antiquary.
Suddenly his eyes latched on something sparkling. In the back of the store, distant from anybody else, laid a half-covered mirror.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” A young clerk girl startled the boy, coming from nowhere. “It’s super old. It’s said to project your future-self in the reflection.”
She gestured with her head, and he raised the cloth covering it.The boy looked confused about his own reflection.
For a moment he saw nothing, but slowly the image morphed into a taller and buffer version of himself. At first, it highly amused him. He never considered that his petite frame could ever gain any muscles or even grow a beard. But the reflection on the mirror looked like someone he always wanted to be.
He turned back to the clerk, but she wasn’t even there. Was he imagining it all?
Locking his eyes with the mirror, the image changed again. And only a sunken feeling in his stomach remained. Like his body was going numb from what he was seeing.
Stretched infinitely out of the shop’s ceiling, crushing everything under, was himself. He didn’t have limbs anymore; they were all tentacles protruding from his torso. He could see in all directions like he had a thousand eyes in his face. And a disorienting demonic chanting was vibrating in his ears.
Overwhelmed with the maddening vision, he thought he would disappear.
“Eddie!” Killian laid a hand on his shoulders, somehow shaking him back to his senses, and back to reality.
The boy looked at Killian, and just from a glance, he realized Eddie had seen something he was too scared to tell.
Killian hugged him and pecked in his cheek. “It’s okay, babe, you’re safe now!”
Eddie kept looking at the mirror as they headed out. That thing… It couldn’t be him… Right?
Licking its lips in the dark
by Gage Jarman
“Well, all those weeks of hard planning certainly paid off.” The demon spoke.
Pools of blood sat stagnant in the concrete basement below several inanimate teenagers; their delicious screams were still swimming in the demon’s mind. The being looked at the nervous boy.
“Oh, I suppose I should give you your half.”
“Ye-yes, you should.”
The demon laughed, “forming a little backbone, are you?” It pulled out an ornate standing mirror from a portal. “Your reward.”
“A mirror? I thought you were going to finish it.”
“Me? Ha, no. Takes too much energy. We use objects infused with lost souls. Of course, I don’t do that boring shit. The emotions the living possess are so much more delectable. So, I go out, find those who are willing, and provide a slight nudge.”
“Yes yes, it’s all terribly exciting. Now, let’s get on with this. Speak your desires and the mirror will change you to fit them.”
The boy looked into the mirror. He saw nothing, not himself, not the basement, just a blank silver surface.
“I don’t want anyone to control me ever again. I want to be powerful enough to do whatever I want, to get what I want. I want to be happy.”
The demon smiled. The smooth silver shifted like smoke. The amorphous clouds began to gain form. A silhouette appeared from behind the veil.
“I didn’t ask for this! It’s a trick,” the boy snapped at the demon.
“But you did ask. We did,” the lustful woman in the mirror sneered. “There are many things to fill the holes in one’s heart, and this is certainly the most pleasurable for us. Oh, I can’t wait for us to become one.”
The woman sucked her finger, pulling it out with a pop. Saliva dripped down onto her chest. She spun her finger in it, tracing her voluptuous form which grew more crimson. She fondled her ass, and grabbed the start of a tail, pulling out with a low moan.
“…Fuck, I shouldn’t be excited…Fuck!”
The succubus giggled, “this is going to be fun.”
A Kind Voice
By Calliope Rannis
In the moonlit morning, Nyssa sat on her bed, staring at the back of the mirror with vision still blurry from tears. (Just look at yourself, you coward,) she thought. She blinked rapidly, shook her head, and forced herself over to the mirror, making a pained noise as she turned it to face her.
She still wasn’t used to how her body had been changed by the magic wriggling through her veins. Her hair was bleached white, the curls forever unravelled into dry, frizzy strands. Her skin likewise was greyer and drier, and her eyes had been stained with a vivid blue that glowed faintly within her irises. (Fuck, I look awful.)
None of this was as horrible as what she had seen in her nightmare, of course. But that provided no comfort. (Is THAT what I’m going to become? Just a walking crystallised corpse standing on a mountain of broken bodies?) Her lip trembled. (I…can’t. I can’t do that to myself. I can’t let that be my fate. I-)
A voice, deep within her, replied: I’m scared. But it’s okay to be scared. Perfectly natural, in fact.
(Sure. For a pathetic welp like me, it is.)
Bravery is not an absence of fear. It is being able to act in spite of that fear. And I am brave.
(NO. I’m not, I’m not, I’m n-)
I am brave, strong, and smart. I designed a machine that could give me power that I was never destined to have, and it worked! They all thought I was wrong, a failure, and it WORKED.
(And it KILLED EVERYONE ELSE WHEN IT DID. That’s all my work has EVER done, it just hurts-)
What’s done is done. The past is past. I cannot change it, or reverse my mistakes. But I can change the future. I can make things so much better. I can help so many people…
I can. I can do this. I can ascend. I can throw the gods of storm and death from their thrones.
I will be a better god than they could EVER be.
Borne on the Wings of a Pigeon
Nabiki and Myoni watched as the genre break faded away, leaving them back in their school.
“So, that just happened,” Myoni said.
Nabiki looked at him. “What?”
Myoni grinned. “Wait, even better. I bet you’re wondering how I got into this mess. It all started last week.”
Nabiki’s left eye twitched. “Can you stop making western references, Myoni?”
Myoni’s grin managed to widen. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.”
Nabiki clenched her fists, her face red with anger. “Stop making western references!”
Myoni laughed. “You’re funny when you get angry, Nabiki.”
Nabiki started screaming, saying the first thing that came to mind without thinking. “I’m funny? Funny like how? Like I’m a clown? Do I amuse you?”
Myoni snorted as he laughed.
Nabiki took a step towards Myoni, ready to punch him. She was stopped by the sound of a pigeon cooing behind her.
Slowly Nabiki turned to look at the pigeon. It was perched on the window sill, bobbing its head around.
Her eyes traveled downward to its leg. She saw the paper note tied to it. Quicker than the eye could see, Nabiki’s arm shot forward, and she caught the pigeon around the neck.
It let out a strangled squawk, looking vacantly at her.
Nabiki pulled the pigeon to her, and untied the message from its leg. She snapped the note open with the flick of her wrist.
“Nabiki, you know better than to do that, sweetie,” the note read. ”Please don’t use western references. Love Nabiki, from the future.”
Nabiki let out a primal scream and threw the pigeon as hard as she could. It seemed to wobble as it flew, spreading its wings to try to stabilize itself. As it fluttered, a white portal opened up in the air in front of it, and swallowed the bird up.
“Look what you made me do!” Nabiki yelled, waving the note in front of Myoni.
“Yeah, I made future Nabiki tell you to stop making western references.” Myoni fell to the ground, laughing.
Get Advice from your Future Self, Paradox-Free!
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
I stepped into the Communication Chamber and flinched as the door sealed behind me. Across from me, the portal turned on, and a young woman—20-year-old me—stepped through.
“Hello?” I murmured.
“Hey!” Her face lit up. “Oh wow, it’s so weird being back! I remember having this conversation with you, er, me, and I knew it was coming, but this is…surreal.” She adjusted her beanie. “Smart call on the no-paradoxes thing. Anyways, how’d this conversation start again?”
I stared at her, jaw wide. “Well, uh, it’s the start of sophomore year, and—”
“Oh right! Hey,” she placed her hands on my shoulders, “ditch your current friends. They aren’t good for you. Just skip their next social thingy, the girl with weird eyebrows’ll have a fit, then bam! You’re free.”
“Yes! And then you go make new friends, and you’ll meet the cutest girl—oh yeah, biromantic demisexual, you’re welcome—and you may not like her at first but she’s great and awesome and perfect and…you’re gonna love her.”
“This, this is a lot…” I felt a smile spread across my face. Answers. This was so worth three months’ of allowance.
My future self smiled back. “And one more thing: these next few years aren’t going to be easy. Heck, I know you’re still gonna go to that, was it a picnic?”
“Right, you already bought a present. Well, there will be bad spots. But you WILL get through them, okay? Heck, I’m living proof of that. You got this. Chill?”
“Uh, thanks so much, I—”
“Oh yeah, you start saying ‘chill’ unironically around the start of senior year. Anyways, I’ve got a date to plan for tomorrow, and I’m running out of time here. Any last thoughts?”
“I…thank you so much.”
“No problem!” She smiled. “Oh! Five years from now, October 19, 2:33 PM. Put it on the digital calendar thingy. See you soon!” Her face disappeared into the light.
The door reopened behind me. I was already saving the time on the calendar.
I was certainly going to be an interesting person in the future.
A Cage of Will and Bone
Smoke drifted through the streets, and the burning shop spat cinders from its thatched roof.
The townsfolk had fled into the big barn.
For now, the brigands were satisfied with clearing the houses of valuables, and letting the scared people hide. Until they would come to collect whatever they had on their person.
I sat crouched in the hayloft, looking out of the window.
The Shopkeeper had fought valiantly, but now his dark form had slumped to the ground.
Flames turned the plundering brigants into twisting shadows half-hidden by smoke. It seemed to me there was only the noise of shattering doors.
And each brought them closer to my home.
I took a deep breath, clamping down on the rising urge to leap out and stop them.
The hot fire of the beast burning against my ribcage demanded to be freed, but I resisted.
As long as my foster-father was safe, we could rebuild.
For what the beast promised was not just power; it was a future drenched in blood.
Turning back, I looked for Syrus’s reassuring face…without success.
“Has anyone seen my father?! Has he not sought shelter with the rest?”
They flinched before the Tailor in her colorful gown answered. “I think he didn’t even leave the house. Oh, dear! I hope he doesn’t try to fight!”
Whilst they were still talking, I ran towards the opening, and leapt through it and out.
One of the brigants noticed me and came towards me with his saber raised, a confident expression on his face.
I darted forward. One hand clasped his wrist, the other closed around his neck, and the heat flared brighter than it had in decades.
In the wide grey eyes of the man I saw a figure with wild red hair and an even wilder expression on their face. Deep red holes instead of eyes.
A beast with a man’s face. My face.
A scream cut through the silence, and with a flex of the fingers I crushed his neck, taking the saber as his eyes broke, and the beast vanished.
Released into Freedom.