“What’s the matter? I’m busy.”
“He’s dead,” my ex-wife gulped through her sobs. She didn’t have to continue. I knew who she was talking about. “Are you still there?”
“Yes,” I take a second to brace myself like a dam against the news I knew was coming.
“Come to the desk.” The order flung me to the present and then my eyes are fixated on the woman in the sharp white suit. The whole room was so white. I felt like a giant piece of dust that would be devoured if I dared step farther in. “You have given up all your worldly possessions?”
“I have not a penny on me.”
“You are wearing a watch. You can’t have it.”
It’s a cheap digital watch my youngest son gave to me when he was a kid. The same one I practically threw in his face for wasting his money. I found it after his death. I haven’t taken it off since. “You said I can give a gift,” I explained while caressing the watch. “I choose this.”
I give her the watch as she inspects it by the millimeter. She approves and gives it back to me. “Did you bring any other items?”
“No, just a letter,” which I wave. Without warning, she grabs the envelope and guts it and spills the continents no one but my own eyes should see. As she reads it my anger, shame, and discomfort forces my mind back in time.
“Sorry about your son,” my aide Fremont said. “When is the funeral?”
“I have no idea. My ex and my other kids don’t want me there. My youngest dies because he drops out of college and joins a cult and I’m the bad guy.”
“Sorry, but maybe you should find out and go anyway. It won’t look good in the press if you don’t.”
“Here, you now have seventy-two hours,” the woman in white again forces me back to the here and now. She gives me back my letter with a fresh envelope and the money I will need that has the correct series date on them.
As she is shoving me out the door, she asks me one more time if I truly understand what I’m doing. Of course I do. Go back in time and with a letter and one gift for my younger self to change my future for the better.
“Your path can fracture into a thousand roads. No one can predict the consequences,” she warns again.
She unceremoniously dumps me outside an abandoned industrial center like a stray amongst the gravel and garbage. As I walk to the nearest bus or gas station, an odor rises and attacks my senses. It must be from the old factories but I don’t remember it when I first came here. It was ominous, a dreadful warning but ineffective to one who no longer wants to remember the pain.
After a week, I’m back here in the same white office. The woman in white was getting ready for her next transaction when I walked in. She stares at me but says nothing. After a few seconds, I stammered, “It worked perfectly. I got everything I wanted.” After some painful seconds of silence. “ there’s another better me out there. I don’t know where else to go.”
She eyed me up and down. “Level three-point five…no… point four anomaly. You exist on another plane of reality. Welcome, to the realm of the immortals.”