Scott, you've got a bizarre mind. Keep up the good work.
| The set ended, and I was off the stage and halfway towards the back of the night club before the weak applause had managed to fade into an uncomfortable silence. It was bad enough that the bastard hidden in the shadows of the empty back tables had heckled me throughout most of my routine, but he had gotten more laughs than I had, and that just isn’t right.
I’ve never actually sought out a heckler after a show, and I have no idea what my intentions were. A physical or verbal confrontation would have been high on my list of predictions. Stopping dead in my tracks and standing in stunned silence would have been somewhere below buying him a drink and thanking him for his constructive criticism, but stunned silence was all I had to offer. What would you do if the guy tearing you apart on stage turned out to be you?
The hair and beard were more grey than brown, the suit was blatantly more expensive than anything I could ever afford, and the foul smelling cigar was definitely not my style. But as much as I wanted not to believe it, I couldn’t shake the absurd reality. The heckler was me, but about thirty years older.
“Yeah, that’s how I thought I’d react.” He tapped an inch of ash from the cigar and looked me up and down with a healthy dose of disdain. “I suck more than I remember. God, that was painful.”
I tried to deliver a response that communicated my outrage and surprise equally, but all I could manage was a choked whimper.
The future version of me shook his head. “No, this will take too long if you try to ask questions, and I’m having dinner at the White House tonight. Here’s the short version. Tonight is a turning point in our life, one in which we gave up comedy and went back to school, where we found we had a knack for quantum physics and theoretical sciences. Within twenty years we not only turn the scientific world upside down with our radical theories, becoming amazingly wealthy through multiple patents and inventions in the process, but we also become the first to figure out how to manipulate the space/time continuum and travel within it.”
“We built a time machine?” I had trouble believing this, even though the proof itself had spent the last fifteen minutes heckling me mercilessly.
“No, I did. But you don’t make the same choice I did back then, you will spend the rest of your life struggling to make it in the comedy world, and doing so quite unsuccessfully. The most you will ever hope to achieve is a guest spot on a failing sitcom as a clumsy waiter.”
“But if you’re from the future, hasn’t it all already happened?”
“No. It’s really too complicated to explain, especially to you. But if I can’t persuade you to come to the same decision I did, then I will effectively cease to exist.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” This was all coming too fast.
My future self ground out his cigar and doubled the disdain in his expression. “It’s pretty simple. You have two possible futures to look forward to. Either become the Nobel winning physicist that discovers the secret of time travel, or spend the rest of your life as a mediocre funnyman. It’s your choice.”
He was right. It was an easy decision, and the minute I made it he dissolved into the ether, leaving a small greasy cloud of orange smoke and the echo of a somewhat surprised yelp.
After the shock wore of I went straight to the bar, ordered a round for everyone, and toasted to my deceased future self. I could live with never becoming a wealthy award winning scientist. I could even handle never becoming a successful comedian. But a heckler? That’s a future I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
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