Author: Tony D’Aloisio

He’d been in the hospital room for what seemed like weeks, although really it was just a matter of a couple days. The nurse had assured him earlier that morning that he would be able to leave soon. His parents were coming by in the afternoon to pick him up.

They still had him on Valium. He didn’t know how he had gotten any sleep that first night. They had given him several shots of Thorazine and still he was wide awake, pacing the corridors. At times it felt like he was going to explode. As if he was all wound up deep down inside, and there was no way anyone or anything could get in there to put a stop to that whole upheaval.

The worst part of it all was that it had been his fault. As he knew only too well.

His parents had just gotten their Hereafter device installed. “Your Very Own Window Into The Future,” to quote from the ads. It came with all the usual caveats: how it was intended “for entertainment purposes only,” and that any images that might “lead to unfair knowledge or advantage” were blurred (or blocked) by the circuitry.

His parents told him that he wasn’t allowed to touch it (use of the Hereafters was after all prohibited to anyone under eighteen).

Only he couldn’t help himself. High school had so far been a perfect horror to him, with all the awkwardness and shame and feeling like an alien throughout. He was hoping to see that everything he was going through at the moment was simply a phase, and that someday a life of luxury and achievement might be his.

So late at night, while his parents were asleep, he snuck down to the den and switched the device on. He had it set for thirty years to come. By then (for so he imagined) he would have accomplished everything that he might set out to do in the world, with all the pain of growing up and adolescence far behind him.

The receptors focused upon his brain waves, preparing to follow them through the many divergent timelines until they all converged into one and the wave function collapsed, just the way it said they would in the commercials (the whole business was guaranteed to be ninety-nine percent accurate, based upon a thoroughly exhausting series of pre-release tests and trials).

Eventually the screen lit up. And some guy was sitting there.

Balding. Looking a bit disheveled, even slightly deranged. Hovering over a cup of coffee in a dingy little room.

The man who would–someday–be looking out at everything from his eyes. Him.