In the distant future, humans have developed a technology that enables them to look 30 years into their future to make changes to avoid the things that they do not want and get the things that they want.
I was inside a dark grey concrete compound that was known to us as The Kiln. Inside it were people strapped to black leather reclining chairs, their faces covered by a porcelain coloured mask. Each mask was connected to tubes that hung from the ceiling and dripped a black shimmering material. Gliding down each tube like a glittering diamond and onto the back of the porcelain mask where it stayed there for a second. Enough for a person to experience a possible year of their future. Space-time singularities, they called it. Everyone does it. Everyone looks into the future.
I had been on the waiting list since I was a child. My parents had put me on the list far earlier than everyone else, so that on the day that I turned 21, I’d come to The Kiln and have a head-start over everyone else.
My fiancée Theresa gripped my hand.
“It’ll be okay, I promise.” She said to me.
I looked at her grimly. What if I don’t see her in any of my future? We had known each other for our entire lives.
“I promise that as soon as I am done today, I will marry you.” I said to her.
Slowly the number of people in front of us dwindled, and we were at the edge of the line.
“Mark Higgins!” The technician called.
“Yep, that’s me!” I said.
“Good bye honey!” I said to Theresa.
“We’ll see each other soon.” She said.
“Follow me.” The technician motioned at me.
“So viewing 30 years into the future?” The technician checked his clipboard.
We walked past rows and rows of people lying in those beds. Some screamed in anguish, while others laughed with joy. Some were peaceful and some looked bored. In my mind, I returned back to the day we met.
I was lying in the backyard when the neighbours had moved in. I could hear my neighbours’ voices speaking to my parents.
“Our daughter is going to start grade 5 at Kepler Primary next week.” They said.
“Really? Our son is also in grade 5 too.”
I huffed and stared at the lazy purple clouds quietly floating by. There was a ding in the gate door and that was when I first saw her. It had felt like time stood still.
“Your parents trying to set us up as playdates?” She had said.
Over time we had grown closer to each other. I’d meet her after school. Or she’d message me during class. I’d always felt a warm sensation in my chest whenever my phone buzzed.
We’d spent more and more time together until one day we were inseparable. Until one day, I decided to get down on one knee and formally make the commitment to spend our lives together.
That would be until I found out what my life would be like from The Kiln.
“Do you have a preference?” The technician asked me.
“Show me a future with Theresa Riley.”
He strapped the mask onto my face and the first black piece of space-time goo dropped onto the lens.
We got married in the Spring. The sky was clear and bright. I could see the cherry blossoms blow in the wind. The rings of our planet were bright in the day.
We honeymooned in the island planet of Une. I watched her giddy with happiness as we splashed on the beach until night fell and we lay in the sand listening to the crackle of the bonfire.
We bought a house outside the grid. A tiny place with a red tin roof with our own backyard. A year later we had our first child. We called her Susan. That was when the real trouble began. We would fight over the smallest of things. We were both incredibly stressed from our jobs. Slowly we drifted apart. I began staying later and later at work. She started having an affair with her fitness instructor at the nutty church that she was part of. We weren’t happy, everyday was agony and just so tiring. Arguing about the same things over and over again.
“You’d never listen do you!” She would scream at me.
“I ALWAYS LISTEN! BUT YOU NEVER LISTEN TO WHAT I SAY TO YOU!” I would shout back.
At night I would hear her crying into her pillow. One night I realised that I felt no sympathy or love for her anymore. I despised her and I hated myself for that.
Just after our fiftieth birthday we split up.
I woke up with a start. My body ached liked I had lived a lifetime of pain. I must have nodded off.
“So describe to me what you saw in The Kiln?” The scientist asked.
I told him.
“And what did you do instead?”
I told him that I broke up with Theresa that day. She was confused and hurt but I told her that she would understand once she’d gone through The Kiln herself.
We didn’t stay in contact over the years and I hadn’t even thought about her for a long time.
The scientist tut-tutted. “The Kiln program was shut down years ago because of the highly unethical nature at which it showed people’s futures without providing any solutions. They never showed you what happened a few years after if you had reached out to a marriage counsellor and worked through your problems did they?”
“I never asked.” I told him.
He shook his head. “Thank you for participating in our follow up session today. I am sorry that The Kiln has ruined your generation.”
That evening I drove home. The rain howled against the windscreen. The house was dark and a small puddle had built up in the living room where the red tin roof had leaked through. I crawled into the cold empty bed and wondered what life could have been like now. Past the future that I knew for certain. The phone start to ring.