Time's really starting to get to me. Just yesterday I ran into my younger self over coffee, and I blinked.  This hadn't happened. I didn't remember it. I remembered each and every visit from my older self in the past. Except, as I suddenly remembered - realized - that some of those earlier meetings hadn't happened after all.

It's not supposed to happen like that; as they keep telling us, time shifts can't change the past, just allow us to see it again. Whatever happened, happens. And yet, whatever happened, isn't happening.  Or whatever didn't happen, is happening. 

I bought coffee for my younger self, or, more specifically, tried to - that particular coffee shop hadn't encountered the time shifts then, and they didn't believe in the money I tried to hand over. They wanted one of those old chips from me instead. I couldn't explain the way the time shifts have made banking and chips utterly useless, since no one knows when you really put money in or took it out, the way we've all gone back to a cash and barter society.  Luckily, my younger self remembered the bits I'd told him - or would tell him - about this - and he handed over his own chip.

"You're not looking so good," he said.

"When we'd last meet?"

His eyes widened. I'd never asked that of a younger self before. Never needed to ask.  I'd always remembered each meeting with my younger self, no matter how confusing the other time shifts got, remembered each and every detail -

I felt sick. I pushed away.  "Hey -" my younger self said, alarmed, and suddenly I could remember the fear of this moment, remember knowing that something about this wasn't right.  The memory almost choked me.  "What is it? You - we - we're not going to die, are we?"

Typical of the young. Always assuming death is the worst.

I charged out of the coffee house, heaved as time shifted again, and crashed into Carolyn.

"Oh," she said, and pulled me into a tight hug.

Time was, we would have had a lot to say to each other, but not now. "I need another coffee," I said. I could almost feel time pressing upon me, for all the scientists said that was an illusion, nothing more than irrational panic.

"Of course," she said.  

The coffee shop I'd just left had vanished, of course, as these things will, but we lumbered down the street, arms intertwined, and found a tea shop, which worked just as well. That owner wasn't even bothering with barter anymore; she just waved wearily at us and put her head in her arms and wept.

"It's not supposed to be like this," said Carolyn, who retained a touching faith in things other people said. "They say it's supposed to just slow down as we get pulled to this event horizon thingy."

I shook my head. "It's not an event horizon." The experts agreed on that. Nothing else. "We'd have tracked a nearby black hole from its red shift, even if we couldn't actually see it. This is something else."

Her eyes glazed over, as they always did when conversations got even remotely technical. I switched gears. "I can't take this anymore."

She reached for my hand. "I know. I know. I saw Trish two days ago and I didn't even know if she'd slept with you yet --"

"Wait. What? Me and -- me and Trish?"

"And then of course I'm like, so how do I explain the dead part, I mean, about her being dead, and I couldn't tell her --"


Carolyn dropped my hand. Things shimmered, and the tea shop was an antiques store. I picked up a Victorian tea cup and held it in my hands, wondering if it had been saved from the tea shop, or if the tea shop had rescued it from the antiques store.  By then, Carolyn was in another time, and Trish --

Trish might be dead, or planning to sleep with me. Depending on what time it was.

That was yesterday, or what felt like yesterday. After all, today has already been yesterday three times today.

I can't take much more of this.

But if the past is changing - really changing - then I think - I think - 

See, what's killing me, what's really killing me, isn't the shifts so much, but the way everything - people, places, coffee houses - keeps changing between shifts.  It's been getting worse in the past five, maybe ten years. I get it - why hang on to the past if you're just going to be visiting it soon anyway?  That's great for other people, but not for me.

So I'm heading out and away, deep into the mountains, to a cabin my younger self bought years back, but never got around to visiting. I don't remember telling myself to buy it, but I must have started guessing that I'd need something like it some day. It's primitive, of course, and utterly isolated, and yeah, I'll be missing coffee a lot.

But at the cabin, the only things that will be changing are the seasons and the colors of the trees. Those are changes I can endure, I think. It's not the past or future I remember. But that's something I'm willing to change.


Mari Ness  Mari Ness's website lives near a large, alligator infested lake in Central Florida, which she claims has a tendency to eat her words. Her work has previously appeared in numerous online and print venues, including Fantasy and Polu Texni. She keeps a disorganized blog at, and lives under the delusion that she may, one day, convince her two cats that her laptop is not a cat bed.

Other works by Mari Ness