My Fellow Traveller,
Thick mist permeated the city, shadowy spires rising up into white obscurity. Tall, gangly figures loped through the bare streets, shooting curious glances in my direction. It was a difficult journey this time. I was the only one who made it. My mouth tasted of blood.
But this had to be it. We'd finally pinned it down. As far forward as you could go and still find human - more or less - civilisation. But what kind of civilisation? And what did they do wrong?
A voice spoke from behind me. It took me a second to realise they were speaking English. I turned to face a grey-haired woman, definitely from a similar period to mine, wearing a trouser suit cut in an unfamiliar fashion.
“I've been expecting you,” she repeated. Then, after a moment of silence, she added, “You don't recognise me. Not quite yet. I remember that much.”
“You're me,” I said, slowly, disbelieving.
She smiled. “It's always been a possibility, of course. Just not one you ever expected, given how imprecise the machine was, in your era.”
I still felt ill from the journey - wondered if I might faint. “But...” I stammered. “How? And why?”
She laughed, dryly, her eyes watching me with a strange affection. “Good question. I wonder if the only reason I'm here is because I can remember meeting myself when I was you. That's part of it, I suppose, and it's kind of paradoxical, like a self fulfilling prophecy. But I also have a very definite reason to be here. One of the more useful aspects of time travel is that if you need more than one person, you can go back in time and help yourself.”
I looked around at the city. It was deathly silent, aside from the occasional burst of harsh chattering from its inhabitants, the gentle whooping of strange aircraft. “Help me to do what?” I asked.
My companion sighed. “You'll find out soon enough.”
“You remember it, of course.”
“Yes. I don't think I can change what happens. It won't be pleasant. You'll have to face some startling truths and revelations. You'll never look at human civilisation - at your own life, even – the same way again. But we have to do this. We may not make things any better, but if we hadn't – if we don't rather – things could only be worse.”
My head was whirling. “I'm not sure I understand.”
“Me neither. But we have to get moving. And, I know you won't listen, but I'll say it anyway, when I tell you to do something, you have to trust that I can remember a lot of what's about to happen. Trust me, okay?”
I studied her aged face. Like looking into an unsettling magic mirror.
“Sure,” I said.
She didn't reply, nodded with a pointed detachment, and gestured toward a part of the city where ethereal bridges criss-crossed the spires, fading in and out of the mist. “Let's go,” she said, stepping away from me.
I followed my future self into the city, into the white murk, towards the end of civilisation.