We all wonder about the possibilities of the future. Will it be filled with fantastical gadgetry or will we become slaves to our technology? Will we be liberated or dominated by an Orwellian state? Will there be peace or war? Moreover, what kind of people will we be? What choices will we made – and if we could see our future selves, would we want to go back and choose differently?
Harvey Belfort had always despised living in the present, desperately yearning to skip ahead to better days in the hope of answering such questions. On Tuesday 23 December, 2014, Harvey got his wish. Having invented a time machine, Harvey boldly abandoned the present, leaping into the future of Wednesday 24 December, 2014. What he found however was a dystopian nightmare: his mother had aged; there was war in the Middle East; his daily bus pass had expired. What cruel twists of fate had convoluted the future so? How and when did things get so off track as to create such a miserable outcome?
There was only one way to find out.. Harvey had frantically decided to go once again into his time machine. In visiting the past, he might understand the paths humanity had walked, the decisions it had made, the choices which led to a bleak future of despair – he might even be able to prevent it. And so he back he went, as he got in his machine and headed to the past: Monday 22 December, 2014.
The Past – 22 December 2014, Monday
The machine made a clunk and again Harvey found himself sputtering and waving away the blue smoke. He opened the hatch, emerging into the lab.
“I’m telling you, dude: carry the beakers with both hands,” Phil was saying.
“Relax, I got this,” Gary replied.
Phil rolled his eyes.
They noticed Harvey and stopped their bickering. Confused expressions inhabited their faces and refused to vacate.
“Doc?” Phil asked, “I thought you were getting a sandwich?”
“What day is it?” Harvey demanded.
“It’s Monday,” replied Gary, “Are you okay, Boss?”
“The date, what is the date?”
“It’s the 22nd today,” Gary chimed in.
“Shut up and hold the beaker,” Phil snapped.
Gary shot him a glare.
Harvey was still in an utter daze from the time travel. Things started to come into focus as he became properly aware of his surroundings. He took a good look at Phil.
“My god, Phil…” Harvey started, his jaw wide open in astonishment.
“What is it, Doc?” Asked Phil, looking puzzled.
“Phil, your hair – it’s grown back!”
Phil did indeed have long unkempt locks.
“What are you talking about, Doc?” Phil hadn’t had a haircut in over a year.
Harvey crept over cautiously, reaching out to touch Phil’s hair like a cat guardedly approaching a stranger. It was real. It began to dawn on Harvey that perhaps the past would be as unfamiliar and alien as the future. He turned and briskly made his way out of the lab, almost knocking the beaker out of Gary’s hand as he went. Gary juggled in mid-air to catch it and Phil shot him another glare.
Harvey started to head out of the building. In the hallway he ran into his supervisor, Dave, who stood with a stained coffee cup, leaning on the reception desk and sleazily flirting with the secretary, Janette. He stopped and looked up at Harvey as he walked past.
“Clocking out already,” Dave jabbed, “Will you ever make anything of yourself, Harvey Belfort?
Harvey started to ponder a response but thought the better of it; besides, he couldn’t think of one. He elected instead to continue running out of the building.
It was colder than hell out on the street. A stranger was casually strolling down the road, labouriously carting along a strange and archaic device.
“Excuse me, sir,” Harvey interrupted the man, “But what is that?”
“Oh, this?” The stranger replied, “It’s my iPhone 6.”
“iPhone… 6?” Harvey recoiled, aghast, “It’s so… big!”
It was indeed around one-tenth of one percent thicker than the one Harvey had previously seen in the future.
“I know,” the stranger replied with a melancholic sigh, “I’m holding out for the 6S to come out. I’m heading to the Apple store tomorrow to afternoon to camp out.”
The stranger went on his way. Harvey shook his head and gave himself a light slap on the cheek to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
He headed over to the news stand.
“I need the paper,” Harvey demanded, “today’s paper.”
“Really?” Replied the surly vendor, who was wearing a greasy red shirt “And here I was, about to give you tomorrow’s paper.”
He flung a copy of the paper at Harvey with a roll of his eyes.
Harvey anxiously spread out the front page. It was indeed Monday 22nd of December. “Cease-Fire Collapses in Middle East” read the headline. On page 2: “Is America Becoming more Politically Divided?”, and “The Dangerous New Teen Trend Sweeping the Nation!”
“I don’t understand,” Harvey said, “It’s all the same?”
“What am I, a plagiarism expert? I just sell the papers, buddy.”
Frustrated, Harvey threw the paper down. Nothing had changed. It was as if the past and the future were linked in one big repetitive cycle of never-ending bullshit. How could the future ever be brighter – how could he get any answers – if the world went on, as it did, the past and future identical and inextricably linked?
Harvey’s thoughts again turned to his mother. He was instantly filled with concern and curiousity, wondering what kind of life she lived in the past. He made his was to the bus stop but then paused, remembering the traumatic experience with his bus pass in the future and decided to walk once more to his apartment.
He arrived at the building and grabbed the doorman.
“My mother; is she here?” Harvey asked frantically.
“The elderly woman I live with, is she here?” Harvey repeated.
“Oh, of course. Where else would she be?” Replied the doorman, “You gonna get her something good for Christmas Mr. B?”
Harvey grunted, “I’ll think of something,” as he brushed past and made his way through the foyer.
He bounded up the steps and entered his home. Harvey made his way into his mother’s room where she lay paralysed in her bed, dressed in her favourite modest nightgown.
“Harvey?” She croaked in a daze, “Is that you?”
“My god,” Harvey froze, “Mother – you look… younger!”
Indeed, the lines on her face were slightly less pronounced then they were two days in the future. Her hair had one-one-hundredth more hue than the steely grey it was on Wednesday the 24th. Harvey instantly began to feel himself blush. His stomach started churning and he got that light-headed feeling one does in such situations; he gasped in horror as he realised what was happening – he was becoming turned on by his younger mother.
His mother saw the look of fear on his face and achingly turned over slightly to ask him what was wrong. As she turned, the nightgown lifted up one-quarter of an inch, revealing a portion of her sun-deprived ankle.
“Oh my fucking god!” Screamed Harvey. He felt an uncontrollable erection thrusting outwards and quickly tucked it under his belt.
“I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here…” Harvey chanted to himself.
With that, he ran out of the building and onto the street. An early-2014 model BMW drove past. People wore scarves and heavy coats. This world was so backwards he couldn’t possibly hope to feel at home, let alone find any answers or comfort.
He legged it back to the lab, as fast as the wind.
Entering the building, Dave was still hitting on the receptionist. He looked up casually.
“Harvey? How was your sandwich?”
Harvey didn’t bother responding as be sped past.
“Silly Harvey; I doubt he’ll ever make anything of himself,” Dave said softly to Janette with a wink.
Harvey stormed through the doors into the lab.
“The point is, you aren’t my boss.” Gary was saying defensively.
“Maybe not, but if you fuck up, then who has to cover for you? If you don’t treat the equipment with respect, someday you’ll break something, and then whose salary will pay for it?” Phil replied.
“You two, shut up.” Harvey boomed.
They both stood to attention.
“I don’t know how you can live in this place. This world is nothing but backwards chaos. How do you survive with all this antiquated technology and the world crumbling around you?” Harvey pouted and screamed in a tirade. “You are all responsible for the future! You and uour regressive bullshit ways in this god-forsaken past! You maniacs, you did it all!”
“Hey, I don’t know what you’re on about, Doc,” Phil replied, putting his hands up, “but if something went wrong, it’s Gary’s fault.”
“Fuck you, Phil,” Gary swiped.
“I want to go back. Take me back,” Harvey said desperately.
“Take you back where, Boss?” Gary asked.
“I want to go back – to the present.”
“What are you talking about?” Phil asked.
“Set the damned time machine for the present and send me back.” Harvey demanded.
“But, Doc – time travel is impossible,” replied Phil.
Harvey headed to the back of the machine and pulled the tab on the can of energy drink, which was duct taped in place, releasing a refreshing hiss.
“Now it isn’t.”
“Wait, are you telling me this you is from the future?” Gary asked.
“No, god dammit, I’m from the present. And I want to go back there.”
“Hang on, if that tab needed to be pulled for the machine to work then how did you get here in the machine when the tab wasn’t pulled?”
“Shut up, Gary,” Harvey responded. He climbed into the machine. “Send me to the present.” He ordered.
“But when is the present? What date shall I set?” Asked Gary.
Harvey lowered his voice and spoke in an ominous tone: “Tuesday, December 23, 2014”.
The lab assistants gasped.
“Do it,” Harvey commanded as he slammed the hatch shut, “And Phil – get a damn haircut.”