The park was empty aside from a few joggers and a couple of moms watching their little ones play on the jungle gym. I dropped my McDonald’s bag on the picnic table and sat down, my belly pushing up hard against the table and half of my butt hanging off the back of the bench. It wasn’t super comfortable, but it was far better than squeezing into one of those tiny booth seats at any restaurant.
I started pulling out my cheeseburger and fries when I noticed a woman striding towards me like she was on a mission. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a loose pony tail, and she wore a form fitting black t-shirt and a pair of jeans. She also looked like an older, thinner version of myself.
I watched her from behind mirrored sunglasses as I bit into the burger. She was coming right towards me! I glanced around behind me but no one else was there so I braced myself for the inevitable interaction two strangers crossing paths. She would either stomp by me without a word allowing me a quiet observation, or she would meet my gaze and force me to say “hello”.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” She demanded coming to a halt in front of the table her hands waving up in the air. My family is full of hand-talkers and people have joked that if you tied our hands we wouldn’t be able to speak, however, that was not what I was thinking as I tried to desperately swallow the chunk of burger.
“WmmmFth? Which roughly translated to “I’m sorry, what are you speaking of?”
The woman, or should I say, Joyce the older, thinner model (OTM) scowled at me and gestured to the McDonald’s bag, “That is going to be your downfall! You can’t eat that stuff, it’s so horribly bad for you!”
Great, even Joyce-OTM thinks I’m fat and feels it necessary to lecture me. “Fuck off, it’s none of your business what I do.” Okay, that’s not what I actually said, I’m way too much of a chicken to actually say the words I’m thinking. Instead I just looked down at the bitten burger, the taste of charred hamburger still lingering in my mouth, “I know, but for one day I just wanted to not think about calories and my weight, I’m sorry.” I was apologizing to myself?! God, I really am a loser.
Joyce-OTM rolled her eyes, “Jesus Christ, was I always so damn pathetic?” She slipped onto the bench so that she was facing me. It was like looking into a mirror, same eyes, same big German nose, that little scar on my chin from a sledding accident. It was also like looking at relative that had a striking resemblance but something was just a bit off keeping them from being a twin. Joyce-OTM looked confident and secure, no trace of all the shit she/I had been dragged through before we hit thirty, and definitely much healthier.
Joyce-OTM leaned forward on her elbows and used her just-listen-and-shut-voice, the same one I always used when people weren’t listening to me and hearing what I had to say. It was rather weird to hear it, did I really sound like that?
“Yeah, the food will make you fat, but that’s not the thing. You were right. You were so right that it’s going to change the way America eats!”
“Right about what?” I searched my mind trying to grasp what obscure opinion I might have spouted that just happened to be spot on.
“The preservatives, girl, you were right about them!” Joyce-OTM threw her hands in the air, “You wrote about it in our blog, how you were certain the long term effect of decades of food preservatives were responsible for the increase of autism and ADHD issues.”
Cool, I was right. I frowned, “Wait, and how are you here? Time travel, really? “
“Technology surges forward super-fast in 2025, a ton of things changed.” She answered impatiently, waving her hands as if to get rid of that train of thought, “Now listen to me… it was that article that got the attention of some researchers and conspiracy theorists. They investigated and stumbled upon something much worse than autism.” Joyce-OTM leaned forward so much I could see the flecks of gold in her eyes of brown.
“But what about...”
“Girl, there’s no time, I have to get you to safety. It was you that started it all. Now people want to stop you.”
“Oh…. MY….. God.” I said it really slowly so Joyce-OTM would know I was being sarcastic, “Is a killer android coming here to terminate me? “
Anger flared up in her eyes and she grabbed my chin in a painful squeeze, “They found a chemical in there, one that makes some people go crazy. All those mass shootings? Those are the people that reacted badly to the chemical… it triggers the aggression in them.”
I jerked my head out of her grasp, “Isn’t there some kind of law of time travel that you’re not supposed to touch me?” I rubbed my chin and glowered at her.
Joyce-OTM opened her mouth to speak but the sound of something solid clunking against wood caused her to jump up and yell, “Get down!”
Dumfounded, I stared at the newly form pits in the picnic table. There were no bullets. I said as much.
“You’re an idiot!” Joyce-OTM hissed and pushed me hard in the chest and I fell ungracefully backwards and landed with a grunt, my legs caught up on the bench and the rest of me lying on the grass. My eyes closed instinctively and I let out strangled groan as I mentally assessed any damages. Aside from a sore ass and raw elbows, everything felt normal.
I opened my eyes and let out a chuckle, realizing I had let my imagination run away with me again.
I turned my head.
Joyce-OTM was squatting in the grass, watching me, a knowing smile on her face.
“Welcome to the year 2098.”