In the Wake of Things to Come

Aug 14  |  David Contara

I’m surprised by how calm I am when I turn off the monitor and lean back in my chair. Not a common experience, to watch from your desk what happens the day you die.


I had sworn to not look past a few years. But then I saw two kids playing in my backyard, three years from now. I never wanted to have children, so I assumed I’d moved. I fantasized over which prestigious institution might have appointed me, but didn’t find my name anywhere.

Not that the machine was always correct. Normally, you entered the four coordinates, and the most likely outcomes of the multiverse unfolded in front of you, beautifully rendered on the pixels of your screen. Sometimes, though, you hit degenerate eigenstates with multiple potential solutions, and you didn’t know if you were looking at the right one.

That’s what I thought, or rather hoped, when that room first appeared on my monitor. My fingers trembled as I tuned my algorithms. A few keystrokes later, they confirmed that there I was: neon lights, plastic tubes, and stacks of whirring and beeping machinery around the bed.

And Mary.

I wasn’t interested in exploring the past but had indulged in checking when she first cheated on me. It stung to find out it was much earlier than I’d thought. How could I blame her, when I’d spent most of our time together holed up in my studio cracking the secrets of spacetime?

Yet she sat there in that hospital room, two years, four months, and twelve days from now, her teary eyes staring at the pale gray skin of my emaciated face.


I leave my desk and pace to the window. After a light sprinkle earlier, the late afternoon sun is timidly emerging through scattered clouds. The hills are gorgeous in their golden greenery, descending gently toward the bay. A motorboat leaves the dock; it must be the neighbors on their evening ride.

What will I miss out on? Slices of time left to explore. Scores to settle. Loves to live fully and then despair about. Finish lines to yearn for. Troubles big and small to stamp out.

Given enough time.

Farther on the water, the boat races over the waves, and the foamy crests in its wake return to the shore. The same shore they’ve crashed on since time began, and where they’ll keep crashing long after I’m gone.

I’ll call Mary now. While I still have time.

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