This story is by Stacey Knox and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“You don’t often get street performers round here, eh,” I said, in that weary tone Londoners often put on when we’re faced with anything deemed ‘for tourists.’
I’d unsuccessfully avoided bumping into my colleague Mathieu on the way to the cyber security firm where we worked. Noticing an oddly attired figure posing as a statue across the road, I took the opportunity to steer away from embarrassing small talk. His usual weekend tales of elite bars and women would surely trump my eight hour GTA marathon in the masculinity stakes.
Mathieu looked around quizzically.
“Goldie over the road,” I gestured towards the figure. “I mean, I’m used to seeing them in Covent Garden. Not on a Monday morning in St Paul’s.”
“I don’t see a performer there.”
I stopped in my tracks and tried to get a better look at the seemingly male figure, faced away from us. He wore some sort of iridescent gold body suit or perhaps body paint, because in the hesitant spring sunlight, he seemed to be glowing. It was an alien sight in this part of town.
“See?” I jabbed my finger towards him hopefully. The figure began to walk in the opposite direction.
Mathieu shook his head; amused curiosity becoming bewildered awkwardness. Commuters hurried past, not appearing to notice anything unusual.
“Hey!” I called as the performer disappeared down a footpath. I yanked Mathieu’s arm and hurried towards him, but it was futile. As we turned the corner, I couldn’t see a hint of gold anywhere.
Mathieu shoved me playfully. “Still recovering from the weekend, Danny?”
Maybe Mathieu needs glasses, I thought that afternoon as I sat alone in our CEO’S sleek office, cleaning up some files on her laptop’s hard drive. As for the street performer, well he’d clearly dashed off to seek a more lucrative tourist spot. Maybe quick vanishing was part of the act.
The thing was, though…the thing was…what? I shook my head.
It wasn’t a street performer. Somehow, I knew it. And I knew him. But how? A familiarity swept over me, so present, yet so incomprehensible, that I had sit back and close my eyes.
“Who are you?” I whispered. The air conditioning unit clicked and hummed suddenly, as if trying to answer me.
My eyes shot open and I jolted upwards. Standing opposite me, across the office, was the same figure. His gold, skin-like body suit illuminated the room. His head was almost entirely encased by an elaborate gold helmet. Like a budget C3PO, my subconscious ridiculously noted.
Except none of this was as startling as the face. His face shook my very being and tore my words from my throat.
The face was mine.
“Dan? Can you hear me?” I cried out in surprise as something covered my face with warm water. It took the edge off the pounding in my head and I gingerly opened my eyes. I was still in the CEO’s office.
Sitting up carefully, I realised that the person washing my face and speaking was, in fact, me. I was looking straight at myself in a bizarre gold glowing suit.
“You passed out and bumped your head on the way down. Look; I know this is strange. But I promise this isn’t a dream; you’re not crazy. I am you. I’m just you from the year 2117.”
I stared dumbly back at myself. Is this a nervous breakdown? I began to laugh.
“That’s a hundred years away! Pretty fucked up.”
GoldMe didn’t laugh. He removed his helmet, revealing thinning hair that was silver at the temples. I then noticed bags hanging darkly around his eyes and lines pulling at his mouth. Still, though. He was sixty at most.
“I’ll turn 141 in September.”
“Bollocks.” My tone turned scornful. “You look a lot like me though, I’ll give you that. Crazy long-lost relative or something? Sorry pal, if it’s money you want, I have none. I work in computer coding.” I went to stand up, ready to shove GoldMe out of the way, but his hands were quickly and firmly on my shoulders.
“I am you, okay? I know you secretly like One Direction songs. You’re obsessed with video games. You still read old Marvel comics. You’ve fancied Claire in marketing for months but have barely said two words to her.”
My cheeks burned. I stared at him defiantly. “That proves nothing.”
Impatiently, GoldMe pointed to a small patch behind his ear where hair wouldn’t grow. “Remember this?”
I touched my identical scar, proof of a drunken tumble down some stairs at university. I briefly considered running in the opposite direction. Instead, I sat back down, swallowed hard and took a deep breath.
GoldMe asked if I’d just found anything strange on our CEO’s computer. I had: a heavily encrypted file which seemed, on first look, to be infected by a virus. As I inspected further, though, I recognised names. Countries, world leaders, intelligence services. When the word nuclear appeared, I’d felt a little uneasy.
I looked into my own wide, pleading eyes.
“Listen to me. If you do nothing with that file, generations of people will suffer. Go to the Chief of the SIS. Immediately.”
“Hang on. If you’re me in a hundred years, we live longer and can time travel. What’s the problem?”
“We’re mutants!” GoldMe shouted, peeling his body suit down to his waist. Horrified, I saw my own skin was angrily red underneath; covered in flesh wounds. In visible pain, GoldMe covered himself again quickly, as if the suit provided relief. “Radiation has killed whole countries and destroyed the rest of us in other ways. Some people are riddled with disease, yet can’t die. Our lives are long and agonising. Please.”
I never saw my golden self again after I went to the intelligence services, but my heart still stops every time I see a street performer.
Maybe I’ll never know if I saved us all.
Maybe time will tell.
Robert Ranck says
This story is a nice take on the time-travel paradox. Wait and see.
Stacey Knox says
Thank you, Robert! I had to think a lot about that one. My first attempt at a short story writing contest, and it’s been an interesting experience! Stacey.