Talk to Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man travels back in time to stop his younger self from killing innocent people.

Submitted: July 27, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 27, 2017



Talk to Me


Red rummaged through the drawers, flashlight in mouth. His gloved hands hurled lumps of clothes across the room. The floor was a tangled swamp of clothes and broken ornaments. The house was dark, quiet, and now it was trashed. He snorted impatiently and kicked the drawers after emptying them all out. He looked in his half empty duffel bag in disgust. It had a few worthless jewels, a couple of phones and what he hoped were designer shoes. He didn’t hold out much hope, and his eye twitched. The flashlight flickered and he smacked it against his hand. It went out instantly, leaving him in the dark.

‘Fuck you,’ he hissed at it. He snatched his duffel bag up and began rummaging through, his clutching hands enraged at finding everything inside except the spare batteries. He considered turning on a lamp, but knew it was a foolish risk, even though there was nobody home. Some cunt neighbour might decide that seeing a lamp turn on in the Smythe house at three in the morning while they were on holiday was something of a curiosity. The ‘NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH’ sticker he saw on the front of the house might be bullshit, but he wasn’t taking any chances.


Red whirled around, peering into the inkiness. ‘Who’s there? Tell me!’

‘It’s you.’

The voice came from behind him, but Red couldn’t see the figure in the dark. They were blocking the way out, however. That was clear.

‘Whoever it is, you better get the fuck outta my way.’ He grabbed the gun from his duffel bag and held it up, but not knowing exactly where to point it. ‘You hear me? I’ve got a gun, old man.’

‘What good’s a gun if it doesn’t have any bullets?’ the old man rumbled.

Red cackled. ‘Think I’d come in here without any bullets? Wanna put it to the test?’

‘Yes. Shoot me. Do it now.’

Red didn’t shoot, and there was a long pause because of it.

The voice said, ‘You think not putting any bullets in the gun means nothing major can go wrong, you can threaten your way out of any situation and that should you get caught, the police won’t give you extra jail time for burglary with a firearm. You think you’re very clever, don’t you?’

Red couldn’t think of a way to respond.

‘The reality is that you make every situation worse when involving a gun, you’re more liable to get shot, and police will crack down on you just as hard if you entered this house with live rounds.’

‘Why are you talking to me like this?’ said Red. ‘Are you the owner trying to help turn my life around or something? I can’t shoot you, so what?’ He walked forwards, but only small steps. ‘I can still smash your face in. You’re a witness now, right? Can’t be leaving any witnesses, can I?’

There was a snap, and then light rushed into the room.

An old man took his hand down from the light switch and looked at Red, who was shielding his eyes. Through slits, Red was able to see who it was. He was hunched, and his face was lined with sad wrinkles and weary veins. His eyes were a shallow, murky green and his beard grew in grizzled patches. And Red knew straight away that it was him. Himself. An older version of himself.

Old Red’s smile turned his sad wrinkles into happy ones, if only for a moment. ‘Look at you,’ he said. ‘You’re young, you’re strong, you’re stupid. And most of all... ’

Old Red shuffled towards Young Red, who backed off slightly and raised his gun above Old Red’s head, ready to bring it down on this paradox of a man. Old Red put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Non-violent,’ he said, and there was an unmistakeable fondness and pride in his words. And slightly patronising.

Young Red forgot his environment. He forgot the chaotic mess of a stranger’s bedroom, the early hour of the morning and the possibility of getting arrested. ‘You aren’t me,’ he said thinly. ‘You can’t be me.’

‘I am you.’

‘I don’t want you to be!’ Young Red yelled. It was cringing just to look at this man – this embodiment of his own decayed mortality.

‘Everyone ages, even us.’

‘I don’t want to look at you,’ said Young Red, and he turned away. ‘You’re like a ghost.’

‘You’re more of a ghost than me,’ said Old Red.

Young Red’s eyes stung with tears, and when his own luminous green eyes looked at those sunken lily pads, his eyebrows furrowed, hating to see himself ravaged by time. Young Red, the invincible twenty year old was the same pile of meat and crap everyone else was. Old Red had been out in the sun too long, and he had never hated himself more than in that moment. ‘What do you want? Why did you come here?’

‘In the future, one is able to go back in time. See...’ And another smile spread across his face as he noticed Young Red’s confused expression. ‘Ah well, you wouldn’t be interested in that part, I know you. You will refuse to understand.’

‘You don’t know me,’ said Young Red. ‘You’re an old man who used to be me. You don’t understand me at all. I don’t care if you’re me, you aren’t me.’

‘You’re right, we’re the same person, but we’re two different people. You’re going to change a lot, you know.’

Young Red took in the full image of himself. It was hard to look at, like looking into eternity. He noticed that Old Red found it hard, too. They looked away from one another at the same time.

‘What do you want?’ asked Young Red. ‘Why have you come right here and now? You trying to traumatise yourself? Make sure I turn into you?’

‘I don’t want you to turn into me,’ said Old Red. ‘I want you to avoid turning into me. I came back from the future to make sure this version of yourself…’ he gestured to his own hunched figure, ‘never happens. I came back here to stop you before you start this slippery slope.’

Young Red looked sick. ‘I see I become a pussy just like all the rest of the old fuckers. You really gonna feed me the slippery slope fallacy?’

‘Red, I know it seems like an empty platitude…’

‘Yeah, I get it you old shit, you buy into all that crap the government feeds you. Do as you’re told, obey authority, wife and 2.5 kids.’

‘I know you’re afraid,’ said Old Red, and his eyes were misting over. ‘I know you’re angry. What Dusty did…’

‘Don’t you talk about him.’

‘You can’t shut out the memories, young fella. It’ll make you bitter, like me. What Dusty did…’

‘I said shut up!’ said Young Red, and he pointed his gun at the old creature, although they both knew there were no bullets. ‘You don’t talk about him! Don’t you even say his name!’

Old Red looked at his shoes. ‘You’re more stubborn than I remember. Your future self comes back and tells you he knows what’s good for you and you ignore his advice. If you’re so disgusted by your future self, then listen to me – I don’t want you to be me either. You need to change right here, right now, before you turn into me. This night is where your life of crime truly begins.’

Young Red eyed Old Red. ‘Explain.’

‘You’ll get away with the burglary tonight, Red. Take what you will. All you’ll do is traumatise two very nice old people when they get back from their holiday, so don’t you worry. But you’ll get cocky, you’ll get careless, and soon you’ll push your luck too far.’

‘And then?’

‘The deaths of innocent people.’

‘And what will happen to me?’ asked Young Red.

‘A life on the run. You aren’t half as clever as you think you are.’

Young Red nodded his head. Thoughtful. ‘Fine. Thanks for dropping by, Red. You can go back to your own time period now. You don’t belong here. Don’t worry, I’ll do everything I possibly can to ensure I don’t become you.’

‘‘I can’t go back to the future. It doesn’t work that way. I can only go back in time.’

‘Too bad.’

Old Red’s wrinkles deepened. ‘You have to take what I’ve told you to heart.’

‘I’ll be more careful,’ said Young Red, and he made to move past Old Red, but Old Red held up his hand.

‘I’m you,’ he reminded his younger self. ‘I can see it in your eyes and your mannerisms – you haven’t listened to me.’

‘I’ve heard enough.’ Young Red’s tone was sharp.

Old Red’s smile was little more than a ghost. ‘It’s OK, I knew I wouldn’t be able to change your mind.’

‘Then you’re a senile old man to have come back here.’ said Young Red, and he made to move past the old man again.

‘I have a plan B,’ said Old Red. He withdrew a gun out of his jacket and positioned his finger over the trigger. ‘This time I actually put bullets inside.’

‘You mad freak,’ said Young Red. ‘You’re going to kill your younger self just because you’re depressed with your own life? I’m ashamed. Fucking ashamed. You’re the worst version of me I could have pictured.’

‘I can’t let you kill those people,’ said Old Red, and his hand was shaking.  ‘I know you think you don’t give a shit, but you do. It’ll haunt you. Look what it did to me.’ He gestured to his hunched, feeble form. ‘Your life is going to shit no matter what happens. The least I can do is save those innocent lives. You kill a kid, you know that?’

Young Red raised his eyebrows at that. ‘No. You killed a kid. I’m not going to become you. Put the gun down, you’re embarrassing me.’

‘I’m sorry.’

Young Red’s reflexes were swifter than Old Red’s, and he recognized in his own eyes a flash of grim determination. The old man was going to pull the trigger. He smacked the gun out of Old Red’s hand in one sharp movement and grabbed it off the floor before Old Red’s brain could even process what had happened. Without thinking, Young Red pulled the trigger, blowing a hole in Old Red’s stomach. The old man crumpled to the ground, and both blood and tears streamed from him.

‘I failed them,’ said Old Red. He closed his eyes.

Young Red cursed, but the old man had brought it on himself. Muttering, Young Red picked up his bag of stolen goods, stepped over the body, and walked out into the night.  

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