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Today's Story by Mary Kalin-Casey

It could be an alien experiment, though I don’t know what purpose that would serve.

The Shift

Time travel is exhausting. Especially when you’re just trying to figure it out. In some circles, I’d be considered an expert simply because I’ve done it. But I’m an amateur. I can’t explain the science. I only know that it’s happened.

The problem with talking about it is that people want to see proof. They want to meet Jesus, or sometimes Ben Franklin, or they want to know their future. But I’m not a circus animal. You can’t ride me into the past. And I don’t remember the shifted time; it’s not a vacation escape. It’s more like origami, folding my life into sync. I wish I knew what shape I am—a swan, a flower, a frog?

The first shift happened when I was six. I was playing on the swing. It was lop-sided, and I used to get pinched where the seat planks pressed together. I pumped my legs as hard as I could to make the swing sail higher. At the top of the arc, you’d feel weightless—the perfect moment to jump. Just let go of the ropes, let the swing drop, and fly until gravity takes over. I meant to jump, but I couldn’t see. My eyeballs began to stutter. The sun exploded and swallowed the sky. Then the weightlessness came. But I never flew. I never fell. I was sitting on the swing, still holding the ropes, like I’d never left the ground.

It took half my life to recognize a reoccurring pattern—the fluttering vision, the voided space, a sense that the world had changed. It wasn’t until the headaches began that I sought a medical opinion. But there aren’t many doctors, even in Berkeley, who can diagnose temporal symptoms, and nothing they gave me for migraines had any effect on the shifts. I began to suspect a nervous disorder, because who looks for time-travel illness? I thought my brain was misfiring, but then chance revealed the truth. Right before one of my episodes, I’d looked at the clock in the kitchen. 6:20 it said, ten minutes till dinner, and then the symptoms began: the ping-ponging eyeballs, the blackout, the shift … then the clock said 6:19.

Take it from me, when you learn something like this, you do not want to tell a doctor.

It’s happened when I’m driving, which makes me nervous, of course. Loss of vision, loss of control; I could kill a person. Maybe I did? Or maybe I crashed? That would be a future worth changing. But most of the incidents—the ones I remember—occurred on an ordinary day, nothing before or afterward of any importance at all.

Whenever it happens, I ask myself, why this moment? Why now? What was so special about that day that warrants altering the past? This brings up the unanswered question of who is behind these shifts? I have to assume that it’s Future Me. If it’s not, then I’m really in trouble.

I think Future Me must be making adjustments to avoid catastrophic events. So when a shift happens, I feel lucky that day, but I never understand why.

I wonder if technology is involved, if I’m doing this with a machine? Or have I just expanded my mind and developed a super-brain? Is this an advance in human evolution? Are we all time-shifting at once? That seems like a paradox nightmare, an infinite temporal web. If everyone is constantly changing the past, is anything ever real?

The alternative is that I’m not in control, that none of us really are. Which would mean that the shifts are natural events or there’s a higher intelligence at work. It could be an alien experiment, though I don’t know what purpose that would serve. More likely, it’s organized chaos—and infuriating if that’s true. That would explain a few glitches though, like why bad things even occur. For example, if I can manipulate time, why was I fired last month? Wouldn’t I go back to change that so I wouldn’t be out of a job? Or perhaps the better question is, why was I working at all? I could predict the lottery, and yet I’m on the dole—which brings me back to chaos and a depressing lack of control.

Right now, it’s a beautiful, sunny day that most people would enjoy. But it’s difficult to accept this world, knowing that it’s always in flux. I walk through life in a heightened state of anticipation and dread. Who knows if I’ll be here a minute from now, or if I’ll remember a thing?

This is why I’m determined to become the Future Me. My mood will improve when I learn how to shift, and I’m very close to that now. If you don’t count the penguin incident (and I don’t, because who knows?), I’ve achieved one moment of frozen time, one hint that I’m on the right track.

But I shouldn’t pretend to be something I’m not. It’s much too early to brag. I could easily fail in my efforts and disappear altogether. I just have to keep reminding myself that Future Me will succeed. So from here on out, it’s everyday practice until I meet my goal.

I hope you didn’t want to meet Jesus. I warned you that I had no proof. But now you know the signs of a shift, if it ever happens to you. If you suffer any symptoms, please feel free to call me. The shift will drive you crazy—unless you can master time.


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.   

Read more stories from Action Fiction! productions.


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