On his thirteenth birthday, Thursday, June 5th, 1997, his teacher called him out for being a terrible student. “You’ll see,” Mr. Bartlett said, “next year on this day, you’ll still be a bad student unless you change your habits.” So, on that night, Carter wished he could see what his life was like the following year. After blowing out his candles, he thought nothing of it.
That is, until he brushed his teeth that evening. He spit out his toothpaste, and when he brought his head up and looked into the mirror, there were two reflections. There was no one else in the bathroom, but his second reflection was as real as anyone else. He spoke to it, but it would not speak back. However, he did see some nice, new peach-fuzz on his face. Carter noticed his reflection made all sorts of funny gestures, but Carter couldn’t understand what any of it meant.
A few months later, he was in line at a carnival, and behind him were two deaf girls using sign language. He joked with his friends about how they probably scream on carnival rides by gesticulating wildly, and then it hit him: his future self was attempting to communicate with him through sign language. He made it a point to learn sign language, and he spent the remainder of the year doing so. He would practice his sign language in front of his mirror every night.
On his following birthday, he made the same wish, and later in the evening once again saw his reflection in the mirror.
“We can’t communicate,” his reflection signed. “I can only leave messages for you.”
Carter idiotically signed back at him.
“On March 22, Stacey McDermott will no longer be going to the dance with Pete Stackhouse. Ask her to the dance, her friends told me she would have said yes!”
Carter’s reflection was taller and had a weirder haircut. He also had a lot of zits.
On his next birthday, Carter made the same wish, with the same result.
“Don’t take English with Mr. Kelowski, take Ms. Hernandez. Stacey will cheat on you with Trevor Jacobs, dump her first. Don’t ask out Sasha Perez. I think you should try dating Paula Everett, but talk about horses and stuff because she likes horses.”
The conversations after high school were different.
“Invest literally everything you have in Google. Tell dad to invest everything in Google.”
Even sports were a hot topic.
“Italy wins the World Cup, the Miami Heat beat the Mavericks in 6 games after being down 2-0. Bet big.”
Carter used this opportunity to scheme his way past college, earn big bucks, and manipulate women into sex using foresight and knowledge gained from his future self. His life was fast, full of partying, cocaine, and excess. He treated people like shit, using everything his future self knew against them. His ritual the night before his birthday was to stand in front of a mirror and sign everything he wanted his past self to know. Then, the next night, he would find out what his future self wanted him to know.
But on his 30th birthday, everything changed.
Carter waited in front of his bathroom mirror. It was 10:47 PM, the usual time. But he didn’t show up. Carter thought perhaps he got tied up with something and simply showed up a little late to record his message. Carter sat on his toilet and waited. And waited.
Nine hours passed, and he kept himself up by taking bumps of coke periodically. Whenever he felt anxiety or lethargy, he would snort a line. He stayed in that bathroom for six more hours. He began to fear the worst. He knew fifteen hours was too much to wait. He knew something had happened, because he would never miss an appointment like this. This was too important. Much too important. He was coming to grips with reality. The next line of coke put him over the edge.
I die at 30, he thought. He knew it. All the partying, the cheating, the scheming, and the lying finally caught up to him. No human should have such power, he thought. He felt he had two options: he could go out in a blaze of glory, or try to atone for his sins.
He chose the latter.
No more drugs, no more cheating, no more lying, and no more manipulating. He needed to be normal for his last days on Earth. He gave his money to charities, he volunteered his time, and he apologized to all those he wronged. He met a great woman who accepted him for who he was, and when he explained to her his past and his special abilities, she didn’t judge him. He thought she believed him, but in reality she took it as an allegory describing his tainted life. The fact is, he came clean, and was therefore a better person because of it. He lived humbly, and treated his final days the way a cancer patient in remission treats that first day they receive the good news.
Months passed, and when Thursday, June 4th, 2015 rolled around at 10:47 PM, he was too busy on his couch, with his wife, watching a movie, to leave himself a message.