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Location, Location, Location

Xander lives in Washington state with their family and two tiny elephants disguised as kittens. Xander is an avid reader, compulsive writer, enthusiastic paper artist, and rabid chocoholic. Their work can be found at Daily Science Fiction, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders, Podcastle, Crossed Genres, and Galaxy's Edge. You can find them on Twitter at @WriterOdell or on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/oddfellowcreations.

A high-pitched whistle, a rubber band snap, and suddenly a future version of Phil appeared right in front of me in the middle of the Mercer and 9th crosswalk. He looked like a total freak old man with a blue mohawk and a neon purple catsuit. The rest of the crowd glared at us as they finished crossing the street, the red hand signal flashing and timer ticking down.
Future Phil looked around and swore, something he never did now. He looked at me. "Where am I?"
I sighed and rolled my eyes. All my posse come back in time and acting like I was Google maps for the Geriatric Spandex Avengers. "Probably back at your place with your head under a pillow."
He nodded then leapt into the sky with a burst of ozone and lightning and was gone. A couple people gasped; one driver stuck his head out the window and stared at the sky.
"You should probably text first!" Phil never opened the door unless he knew you were coming. Dude probably knew that, anyway.
I finished crossing the street right as the light changed.
Future Liam popped in right before I clocked out for lunch. He had thick gray braids, a long red cape over his white Spandex bodysuit, and a green sort of Roman helmet with white feathers over his ears. He looked around, noticed me, and frowned. "You! Tell me where--?"
Another whistle and snap and Future Pearl was standing beside him dressed in the same outfit and goofy helmet. I did kind of dig their glowing axe, though. They looked from Future Liam to me. "Where can we find--?"
I wasn't in the mood. It was delivery day at the co-op, I'd worked my ass off all morning in the oven of a storeroom unloading boxes, and Kevin kept texting me excuses about why he didn't want to get married. I dragged them behind the lettuce before anyone else saw them. "Jesus, what's with you people? Why you keep bugging me, huh?"
Future Pearl cleared their throat. "It is beyond our ken the workings of time and space."
"Well, it's beyond my Barbie to get written up so get your asses out of here, will you?" I jabbed a finger at scarred-up Liam--"You're at the computer lab,"--and axe murderer Pearl--"and you're probably at your mom's doing laundry and eating Oreos."
They exchanged a look, then Future Liam bowed to me. Future Pearl smiled. "Our thanks and know that you have saved the world."
I'd heard it all before. They never said anything about future me but wouldn't stop talking about saving the world. "Fine, yeah, whatever. Just go before anyone sees you."
Like that, they ran out the backdoor. I took off my apron and headed for the breakroom.
Future Ziggy caught me two days later taking a dump. Day after that, it was Future Wagner on my way home from work. Day after that, Future Mia came out of the steam while I was in the shower and I gotta say her look was some cold grandma shit when I didn't cover my junk.
This was getting old. I didn't know what was going on, and they all looked so weird, not just old but the whole Superman vibe. They never said anything about me, either. No lie, I worried about a lot of stuff but that straight up frightened me.
Maybe that was why I was so surprised when my future self found me at the bus stop outside the co-op after close. I was waiting for the 18 Uptown, about to text Kevin and tell him I didn't need him anymore, next thing I know I hear that damn whistle and snap and the future me is beside me on the bench smoking a cigarette. I, I mean he, looked at me and sort of smiled. "Hey."
Older, lot of gray in my hair and beard, glasses, camo jacket, jeans, steel-toed boots. I looked like Dad but with longer hair and pierced ears. No flash, no Spandex, just me smoking a cigarette. I felt that kind of sick where you knew you'd throw-up if you moved too fast. "Hey."
There were usually questions or claims. Future me didn't say a thing. "Um... When do I start smoking?"
He took another drag. "Not for a couple years. After everything blew up, I figured it couldn't hurt."
Oh crap. "Like explosion blew up or...?"
He shook his head. "Figuratively speaking."
Good to know. "So, a Spandex bomb."
Future me laughed a little. "Something like that."
I waited for him to say something about saving the world or give out some dire warning. All he did was flick the butt onto the sidewalk and watch the cars go by. That kind of got me thinking about something else. "So, how come you knew where to find me and no one else was where they were supposed to be? And how the hell do I suddenly know where everyone is, like, all the time?"
He picked a bit of something off the tip of his tongue. "Yeah. Sorry about that. I need a fixed point to send someone back and since I always know where and when I am I figured I was a good anchor. The rest is probably just splash over."
That was not what I expected. "Wait. So all those others from the future. That was you?"
Future Me stretched out his legs. He tapped his steel-toes together like Dorothy going home. "That was me."
It made sense and didn't make sense at the same time. "When'd I figure out--?"
"After everything--"
"--blew up, right, right."
"Clear as mud."
Mom always said it was okay to talk to yourself and answer yourself just so long as you didn't answer yourself and then go "Huuuuh?" I was way past that.
We didn't say much after that. The 23 Newton went by, then the 10 Express. I checked my phone; the 18 Uptown would be along in a couple of minutes. People came and went without giving us a second glance.
I had so many questions: What happened to the world? Were my folks okay? Was I still working at the co-op or had I dumped Kevin and joined the Army? Were there still cat videos? Did we cure cancer? All those questions, and what do I ask? "So, no Spandex?"
Future Me shook his head. "No Spandex. Not my thing."
I nodded. "That's a relief. Are you going to send more people back to me?"
He hesitated, nodded. "A few more, yeah."
"Got it."
More silence.
Future Me looked left. "Bus is almost here."
I could see it heading this way. Ask about Kevin, ask about cat videos. For Christ's sake, ask about something! "I don't have to catch this one. There's another one in a half-hour."
He shook his head. "Nah. You go on ahead. I got to be heading back."
"I mean it. I can--"
Future Me stopped me with one of those smiles Kevin always said made him feel better. "Dude, it'll be okay."
Would it? Would it really? "Is that why you came back? To tell me it'd be okay?"
Future Me shook his head. "No, but it's something you needed to hear."
"You mean you needed to hear."
He gave a little shrug. "Something like that."
Maybe that's why I stood when the bus pulled up. I clutched my phone and hope. People started getting on the bus. I didn't have much time. "Then why?"
Another one of those smiles. "Call Kevin."
And he was gone like he'd never been.
"You getting on?" the bus driver said.
I paid my fare and found a seat at the back of the bus. Stop and go for three blocks, I watched people doing what they did, living their lives, wondering about the future.
Whistle-snap and I was jammed up against the window, Future Brian dressed like a walrus with long white tusks sticking out of his gray beard beside me. He did a doubletake at the sight of me, opened his mouth to say something. I beat him to it. "You're either at work or about to hit O'Malley's."
Future Brian closed his mouth. "The world thanks you."
He lumbered towards the front of the bus, bellowing at the driver to let him off.
I fished my phone out of my pants pocket and dialed Kevin, feeling pretty good about myself.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, December 24th, 2021

Author Comments

I don't recall the inspiration behind the story. All I remember was a rubber band snap and a senior citizen in a purple Spandex suit demanding to know where someone was before he ran off in a puff of logic. Stories are like that.

- Xander Odell
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