What would happen if we had the chance to change the past? Alter the future? Would you take something back? Just remember... your choices affect far more than you can imagine.
It was a long room. Void of audible sound and vivid color. Perhaps ‘room’ isn’t the right word… The walls were paper, long sheets of pale white paper one after another that glared at me, daring me to leave a mark, a fingerprint, some sort of sign that I had been there…
“You’ve already done that.” A voice said. I turned, looking for its source, but saw no one.
“I’m right here.” The voice said.
I turned to look behind me, but once again, nothing was there.
“Where are you? Uh, and where am I?” I asked, not sounding quite as calm and in control as I would have hoped.
“I’m right here,” The voice emphasized, “And you’re currently in the Future.”
“The what? Okay, what’s going on here?”
“The future. Say it with me, fu-ture. Fu-ture.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, the future, huh? How’d I get here, then? Is this some sort of time-travel gag?” I said, skepticism rich in my voice.
“No, no gag, no prank. Perfectly real, I assure you. You are in the future.” The voice repeated.
“Why am I here? How’d I get here? All I remember was falling asleep and then, ‘BAM!’ I’m in some weird place.” I said with disbelief.
“Let me clarify, you’re not actually in the future… More precisely, you’re in your future.”
“You make no sense.”
“Would you make sense if you were trying to explain you were in your future at the moment you, yourself, asked it and had to explain to yourself that your future is where you presently are?” A pause. “I didn’t think so.”
My head spun. “Uh… right.” I felt light-headed and sat down, leaning back on the palms of my hands. “So… I’m looking at my future right now?”
“Yes, you are.”
“How come it’s blank?”
The voice was silent for a moment. “Well, it could be blank for multiple reasons.”
“Why. Is. It. Blank.” I demanded and stood, as if I were actually arguing with someone; I wouldn’t be sitting down for it.
The voice backtracked, “It’s not necessarily blank, per se, it might just be because it’s unwritten. You haven’t made the choices that define your future this far yet. You can’t see something you haven’t considered yet…”
This time, I was silent. I continued to walk towards my past.
“The future is limited to the choices you make today.” The voice said quietly.
“I want to see the past, then.” I said decisively. I stood, picked a direction, and began to walk down the narrow paper hall. The voice stayed silent as I watched. “So why can’t I see you?”
“I don’t exist. I am your mind’s way of explaining all this, compensation for the deluded we’ll say.”
“Hey! I am not deluded!” I paused, considering whether I wanted to argue with a voice I couldn’t see… “Why is my mind explaining all this? What is all there to explain? Why am I here?”
The voice grew silent again.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what can you tell me about this place?” I asked, becoming frustrated.
“It’s a recording mechanism. Each sheet of paper that you see records an event, or a day, or an individual moment in your life, all in chronological order. Starting from the moment you were created, every thought and every action that caused a change in your life is recorded in this hall on these sheets of paper. This hall is based upon a reciprocal agreement between choices and actions and consequences.” The voice stopped, letting it settle in.
“So, cause and effect basically?”
“Wouldn’t that have been easier to say?” I asked. The voice’s silence argued my statement. But then, something dawning on me, I began to feel a sense of dread. “So, every choice I’ve ever made… is here?”
“And every choice I haven’t made…”
“Will eventually be here as well if you choose to make them.”
I thought about all the choices I had made, good and bad. And as I did the walls began to darken. On closer inspection, small words were printed in black ink on the sheets of paper. I looked at the very last sentence, printed at knee-height. Sure enough, it was recording decisions I were making; decisions to read, to ask, to listen, etc. I watched as moment by moment, the words spread.
“You think I know that?”
“That’s your job isn’t it?”
“I’m currently unemployed.”
“Oh, haha. Very funny.” I rolled my eyes and kept watching the paper.
Then an idea came to me. I ran down the hall farther and farther, pausing every now and then to glance at the pages. I was out of breath by the time I got there, but it was worth it.
I looked for the exact spot… Ah, there it was. A memory. A choice. A bad one.
I looked around me before reaching out and touching the words. The paper was real, and the words penned were exactly what had occurred.
“It’s impossible.” The voice spoke.
“What?” I quickly withdrew my hand, as if a puppy caught chewing on a shoe.
“You cannot destroy it. Not without the Box.”
The voice stayed quiet. That was starting to annoy me.
“I need it.” I said.
“It will cost you more than you could ever hope to gain.”
“Stop giving me that Confucius logic. I don’t care. I need it. Now tell me where it is.”
“It’s selfish to destroy your past.” The voice said. I was taken aback at this statement, but swiftly recovered.
“Where is it?”
“Do you really, truly want it? You can never take it ba-“
“Yes.” I replied without hesitation.
If the voice had a body, I imagine it would have sighed. “It’s in your pocket.”
I eagerly shoved my hand into my pocket. My fingers collided with a smooth, hard surface . I didn’t remember putting anything there, but that didn’t matter now. I withdrew the box.
It was small, about the size of a pencil case. Its wooden surface was smooth, finely made. On the cover, a drooping rose was roughly burnt into the surface. I ran my fingers over it; the wood was warm to the touch. Finally, I opened the lid.
Inside the box sat one pen, one pencil, and one eraser.
I lifted the eraser on impulse and held it up to the paper. But then I realized… the writing was in pen and the eraser would have no effect.
I sat back and threw the eraser into the box, slamming the lid shut. The box clattered to the floor with an echo, its contents scattering next to me. My eyes glanced to the floor. My conscience got the better of me and I began to pick up the pen, the pencil, the eraser, and… What’s this?
Matches. Three of them.
I held them up carefully, hardly believing my luck.
“Don’t do this.”
“I have to.”
“Don’t do this… please!”
“I-I have to!” I looked at the first match, looked to the canvas before me, and made my decision.
I greedily held my match between my thumb and forefinger, a glint in my eye that could only be identified as crazed. I looked around for some surface to scrape with my newfound weapon. The paper wouldn’t work and the floor was too smooth… Then I remembered the box. I quickly kneeled and held the match to the box with trembling hands. I scraped it once, twice… Finally, on the third try, it lit. The small flame glowed before me, hardly menacing or dangerous. This flame would take care of my little problem and that would be that.
I lifted the match slowly to the paper. At first, it flickered away from the words, scared to spread its glorious flame. But, finally it caught, hesitantly jumping to the paper. I watched with fascination as it ate the words before me. It spread. It ate. It destroyed, no, relieved me of my least favorite memory. I stood back and closed my eyes, I felt lighter. I felt… free.
“See? That wasn’t so bad. I don’t know what you were do worried about.” I said.
The voice was hushed.
“What? Afraid to be wrong?”
I tried unsuccessfully to shrug off the foreboding feeling of the hairs rising on the back of my neck. “Voice? Conscience? Hello?”
I looked around, but of course, no one was there. The flames were licking at the ceiling, but it didn’t catch fire. The flames curled at the edges of the paper. Then, to my horror, the fire spread to the pages on either side of the one I had originally lit.
“No… No! No! You’re not supposed to do that!” I yelled, waving my hands at the fire. I flapped my arms madly, smacking the burning canvas. But it grew; my efforts to fix things only serving to make it worse.
After a time, I sat back on the floor, my wrists resting on my knees and my scalded palms facing up. My tears blurred the terrible scene before me as I cried openly. I could feel the memories leaving me. I could feel time catching up with me.
I looked to my left, watching as my past was reduced to ashes. I glanced to my right and saw the fire eating up the present. I could remember nothing now. My memories had left me with nothing more than soot that settled on my hands…
What was going on? Where was I? I looked around. Fire surrounded me.
I lifted my hand to my face to cover my mouth from the fumes, only to feel something warm and wet. I looked at the blood on my hand. What was going on? Why was I falling apart?
“What’s going on?!” I shrieked at the flames, “Where am I?”
I stood with barely enough strength to get to my feet. I ran, with barely enough clarity to see my path. My vision was fading. My stamina failed me and I fell to my knees.
“No! Not like this… Not here…”
My mind was racing, my breath coming in short pants. The smoke did nothing to help and I coughed up more blood. I couldn’t see through the haze. Whether it was caused by smoke or by my own mind, I wasn’t certain.
I laid back and closed my eyes. I could feel the cradle of heat around me and somehow I knew: I’d caused this. I’d caused this tragedy. And as my future exploded in a final wave of heat, I took my last breath.
I never got to see the paper walls beyond my own.
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