In that future, we learned to see all the other futures. The one where we found out the world really was only 4,000 years old. The one where the dinosaurs invented the abacus, the one where Deinonychi fought in cock-fights, bright feathers scattering like disintegrating fans. The future where cold-eyed aliens bought Manhattan for a handful of radioactive beads. A future of emotion and glass sculpture, where something danced like a quivering bird on the steps of a cloud coliseum for the en-couched, plugged-in ranks.
When we slept we dreamed more futures. Worlds where everyone was a superhero, worlds where nothing died but lived on in clanking golem form. A world of floating cities in the sky and the kite warriors that defended them. Worlds of darkness and peril as well as ones filled with sunshine and marvels.
We talked about them on the subway, online, face to face and mind to mind. I loved the one where mermaids taught us harmony; you preferred the future of textured light, where sorrow slanted sideways, slipping away along the grain like rain on nylon.
The unjust futures haunted many of us, the ones where the corporations sold us our jobs, where we lived on rotting beaches, walked among pine stakes tipped with black mold. Futures of plague and zombies. Realities of saliva and hunger and the arrogance of existence. So many of them that they eclipsed all the rest, obliterated the more whimsical, the futures of tiny elephants and limerick-composing umbrellas. But we would have had to alter the past to prevent these grim-shaded dooms. It was too late.
Or was it? Time travel had been glimpsed before. We turned the minds, the machines, long caffeinated nights and scrolling whiteboards to finding ways to repair long gone decisions.
Gate after gate; every traveler vanished. Never seen again.
Are they elsewhere, did they escape?
Our choice now: follow them and disappear through the dreaming gate, or stay here, caught in nightmare, where all the futures but one are gone. Take my hand – or decide not to decide.