By Isaac Marion


I am driving south on the Interstate in my new Hyundai Elantra when I glance in my rear-view mirror and notice the same car driving behind me. Nice car, I whisper, and smile. I am heading home to Seattle through one of the wooded nowhere-towns between Seattle and the Canadian border. My eyes droop constantly from yet another 4 hour night.

That Hyundai is still behind me. Tail-gaiting a little.

As time and miles pass and the Elantra stays behind me, I can't stop looking at it in my mirror. It's too dark and wet out to see the driver's face, I see only a silhouette, backlit by street lamps.

I am suddenly struck by the thought that the driver is me.

The car behind me is actually my car, and when passing headlights illuminate his face, I will see my own face grinning slyly back at me. I will probably scream.

Knowing this is totally irrational but unable to shake the feeling, I take the nearest exit. This exit leads to an obscure side-road that disappears into the dark woods. The other Elantra also exits, and stays behind me when I turn left on the dark road.

To my horror, he flashes his headlights at me. He revs up and lightly bumps my rear bumper, like a warning. My eyes are locked on the driver's silhouette. It can't be, right? How, why would it be? It's ridiculous.

I pull over onto the side of the dark forest road. I sit there and wait while rain pounds down on the windshield, like waiting behind the red and blue flashers of a traffic cop, the dread and suspense unbearable. I notice that the driver's side of this other car is destroyed. The doors are crushed and hang slightly askew. The windows are foggy from leaks and probably a moist, moldy interior. The door opens with a loud creak. The driver gets out. My mouth opens to scream.

It is.

It is.

Slowly, myself steps out of the car. I am looking at myself. He looks different. Not much older, but more weathered. His face is harder, his scruffy beard rougher. His eyes are sharp and narrow, Clint Eastwood-like, and red-rimmed, blood-shot. He looks stronger. He steps away from the car in worn jeans, a black jacket with upturned collar, zipped to the chin. His hands clench into fists and relax, back and forth.

This is me. He looks like a total bad-ass.

I get out of my car and face him. "What?" I ask weakly.

He doesn't say anything, he just strides towards me and throws his fist in my face. God damn, his fist is like a rock. I drop to the ground, bleeding.

"What do you think?" he says. "I'm you from the future."

He kicks me in the stomach. I've never been kicked in the stomach before, and it hurts far more than I would have imagined.

He doesn't say anything for a minute. I lie on the ground and look up at him. I notice he doesn't look very healthy. Red sores run up the side of his neck. His fingernails are long, cracked and filthy. I also notice one of these fingers sports a gold wedding band. It has been scribbled on with a black permanent marker. He kicks me again.

"What?" I gasp. "What the fuck?"

"Don't do anything," he hisses at me, leaning down. "Don't make any of the choices you're about to make. From now on any action you're about to take, don't do it. Any decision, make the opposite. You fucking. Idiot. Look at me."

He kicks a foot-full of mud in my face and walks back to his car. He slams the door, and drives away.

When I finally recover my breath, I wipe the blood off my mouth and get back in my car. I look in the vanity mirror, I wipe some mud off my face. My teeth are red with blood. I lick them clean, and start the car.

The next several days are hard for me. I try to take my own advice. I try to reverse all my decisions, but it leads inevitably to second-guessing and paradoxes. What is going to happen to my future self, and exactly what decisions am I suppose to not make? It leaves me paralyzed.

I make a mental note that when I finally discover how to time-travel and go back to warn myself, I will be a little more specific.