I had spent the morning in futile battle with a couplet that would never see the light of day. I had spent the afternoon telling myself I should go as far away from my writing as I possibly could, and never come back.
I might have listened to myself, too, if only I could be sure I was right. I mean, of course, naturally, I could find out if I was right to give it all up. There were ways. They were silly, and expensive. So pricey, in fact, that I felt like a spendthrift just thinking about it.
Then again, if the process managed to finally free me from the shackle of my pen, then it might be worth it. If it somehow renewed my commitment to my work, then at least I could write it off on my taxes.
I entered the waiting room and made way for the receptionist.
“Hello, ma’am,” the receptionist said. “And how can I help you with your temporal needs today?”
“Yeah…” I said cautiously. I wanted to be able to tell on sight if this was some sort of practical joke, but came up short. “I was wondering if you see people on a walk-in basis. I want to see my future.”
“Yes, of course, ma’am. If you’ll fill these out.” She handed me a stack of paper latched to a clipboard and one of those Bic stick pens whose ink always gums up. “And have a seat over there, someone will be right with you.”
I quickly filled out the pile of liability waivers thicker than my thumb. A man then emerged and beckoned me toward him. He took my paperwork and escorted me to a back office. There, a woman sat behind a simple oak desk. A small metallic dome—like a strainer without holes—sat on the desk.
“Hello,” she said. “And what can we do for you today?”
“I’m… Uh…” Suddenly, words were starting to fail me. Story of my life, I suppose. “I’m a writer, and it… uh… hasn’t been going well, lately.”
“I see,” she said. She touched the metal dome and it glowed and hummed in response. “So you’re wanting to figure out your next big idea before you come up with it.”
“No,” I said. “Ideas were never the problem. I need to know if what I’m doing is going to be worth it, whether or not I’m wasting my time.”
She stopped. “Oh. We normally don’t get requests like that… aside from romantic questions, that is.”
“Is it a problem?”
She started poking at the dome along its hemisphere. “No, just requires a slightly different approach is all.”
“So, what do I do?” I asked.
She removed her hands from the dome. “Easy does it. We have to go over a few things. First, it’s not like you see in our commercial, not exactly, anyway. We’ll shoot a current of free-range tachyons through your body. Do you know what tachyons are?”
I shook my head.
“Well, they’re particles that are always traveling faster than the speed of light. When you deal with them, causality gets a little… scrambled. Things happen to you before you have the opportunity to observe them. Effect becomes cause. Chickens become eggs. And Schrödinger’s Cat is most certainly dead.
“Now, as causality is one of those fundamental rules of physics, you cannot under any circumstances retain any memory of your peek into the future.”
She must have seen my dubious face. “Don’t worry. The experience is still well worth the investment. You are able to write a description of what you see, so that you have at least a sense of the answer to your question. Now, if you’d put your hands on the faraday cage.”
I assumed she meant the dome and reached out to the object. It felt ice cold to the touch.
“When do we start?” I asked.
“Actually, we’re already done,” she replied.
“We are?” I pulled my hand away from the dome.
“Yes, ma’am,” she said. She opened up a drawer and took out a small sealed envelope. She placed it in front of me. “May I say, you’ve had quite a trip.”
“What’s this?” I asked.
“It doesn’t seem like much…” I eyed it suspiciously.
“Oh, it can’t be of any considerable length… It would mess with causality, and that is one of our bugaboos, after all.”
I started to open it up.
She put a hand up to stop me. “It’s not a good idea to read it so close to the device…”
“Causality?” I asked.
“Yes! Why, maybe you should come work for us!”
The man who escorted me to the back office returned and shuffled me out the back door. Back in the world, I opened the note to myself.
What an unbelievable crock! Did that woman have a stack of fortune cookie-esque notes ready to hand to customers on their way out the door?
And yet, I couldn’t help but wonder how they mimicked my handwriting so precisely… Maybe there was some kind of fantastic science at work here.
But even then, what did that message even mean? Should I keep going with my writing? Did I miss a comma? It wouldn’t have been the first time. Did “DON’T, STOP” mean to tell me I should quit while I am well, well behind?
Either way, this was easily the dumbest 300 bucks I ever spent.