A Quarter Life Crisis and a Time Traveling Phone – A Short Story

Author’s Note: This is a short story including an unreliable narrator, botched Sci-Fi references, time traveling phones, an existential crisis, and a little self exploration.

I’ve never been a big Sci-Fi fan. I don’t think I’ve ever even sat through an entire Star Trek Wars movie. Yet, here I am with a time traveling phone. The phone itself isn’t, like, the iPhone 46XY or something. It’s my boring Galaxy S6. Well, at least the physical hardware is an S6.

This morning when I unlocked my phone, the interface was completely different… like something out of Back to the Future. That’s a Sci-Fi movie, right? Anyway, there are these crazy high-tech apps like Grocery Teleportation or Money Materialization, but what strikes me the most is the photo gallery.

In all of the pictures, I seem older. At least ten years older, I’d say. And lo and behold, when I peer at the images’ dates, the year is 2031, fourteen years from now. I look good, though. Not in an attractive way, in a happy way. I’m obviously older, but I look lighter. There aren’t bags residing under my eyes or stress lines sinking into my forehead. It could just be makeup, but that’s saying something because right now? I can’t even put on eyeliner without nearly puncturing my corneas.

Do I finally have my shit together in 2031? Because I sure don’t now. If only there was a way to talk to my future self and see how I can go down the right path. Kind of like that movie… what was it called… Fifteen Going on Fifty, that’s it! See, I at least know my romcoms. Jennifer Garner is a great actress. Anyway, instead of me being older, my current self and future self would exist at the same time, and somehow have a therapy session. I know that’s not possible, though. Then again, I have a time traveling phone in my hands so…

I start fiddling with the supposedly sixteen-year-old phone. And what would you know? It has a time travel app! Even though I know nothing about Sci-Fi, I do know that time travel is supposed to be extremely dangerous. But what do I have to lose when I’m jobless, hopeless, and self-esteem…less?

So, I open the app, enter the date in one of the photos, and press a button. It’s all very easy. I’m not sure what to expect at first, but it definitely wasn’t elevator music coming from my phone’s speakers and a giant loading screen hovering over my head. “Please wait while we initiate your time travel sequence.”

3… 2… 1…

There’s a flash, and suddenly I’m not on my mom’s couch anymore; I’m in a foreign bedroom. A messy bedroom. Well, actually, I’m in a closet (an equally messy closet) with the door slightly ajar, but I can see into the adjoining room.

I’m not sure what to do or how to react, so I just kind of curl up in a ball, among the random junk littered everywhere in the confined space. And I wait. I’m too scared to leave the closet because I’m afraid I’ll screw up the space-time condominium or whatever. I hear a noise and see someone stir on a bed nearby. It was me, older me. I (future me) pick up an insanely big phone and yell, “I’M LATE FOR WORK AGAIN!” I (future panicked me) burst off the bed, grab a random outfit from a nearby pile of clothes, and then run out the door, closing it behind (future) me.

Well, at least I have a job, I (current disappointed me) think to myself. There’s no longer any danger of messing up spice-time – I look at a digital clock on the nightstand and see that future me is really late – so I leave the closet and look around. Despite the disarray, it’s a pretty nice place. It doesn’t look that future-y, but the clock I mentioned is doing this floaty thing, bobbing up and down in the air over the nightstand. It’s pretty cool.

I walk over to a desk in the corner, frown at the mountains of paper, and see an envelope addressed to me. It says, “Please read, Past Self.” I open it, wondering if envelopes are still common in 2031. The letter looks like it was written by someone in a hurry, and there’s a coffee stain on one side, making the sloppy penmanship even harder to read. Of course, I think but begin reading it easily. It is my handwriting after all.

“Dear Past Self,

I remember. This is the day I came to visit from the past, but I ended up with more questions than answers. So, I decided to leave you this letter. Firstly, no, I don’t know how that weird software got on the phone or why it showed pictures of me from this era. Time traveling and teleporting groceries are not yet a thing in 2031. Sorry.

But anyway, to answer your most burning question… The truth is, in spite of my unkempt bedroom, I am more put together now than in the past, during your time. (I know the room’s a mess, okay?) But I also want to let you know that I still don’t have things completely figured out at the ripe age of 39. And that’s okay. I am, and always will be, a little uncertain, but I’ve learned that this is simply part of being human. I can’t give you all the answers now because it may mess up the space-time continuum, but I promise things will get better for you soon. There will be a lot of shit to deal with, but you know that saying: ‘There’s no rainbow without the rain.’

Your Future Disheveled (But Happy) Self”

Oh, so it’s called the space time continuum? I think, impressed. My handwriting is still crap, but I do seem more put together. I’m tempted to look around the apartment – or maybe it was a house? – but decide to leave it as a surprise. As if on cue, my phone buzzes, and a notification appears, alerting me that my time travel session is almost over.

3… 2… 1…

There’s a flash, and I’m back in 2017. When I look at my phone, I expect the futuristic interface to be gone. But here’s the thing. It looks even more futuristic. Before I realize what my fingers are doing, I’m already in the phone’s photo gallery. There I am, looking old. Like, old old. I have white hair, wrinkled skin, and a worn yet genuinely happy-looking smile. I go to view the photo’s date but hesitate.

I navigate back to the phone’s app menu. The time travel app is still there; it’s just gotten a facelift. It’s so, so tempting to travel further into the future and see what my life will be like. Do I have a family and kids? Am I satisfied with how my life turned out? Is my bedroom still a mess?

I think about it and start making excuses about the space-time condo- I mean, continuum. Then, I realize that I don’t really need to make excuses. I’m happy with how my abrupt time travel journey turned out. I didn’t learn much, but I did learn that the future does get better, even if I’m only slightly less of a monumental disaster.

And I’m satisfied with that. So, I fight with the phone’s overly complicated settings menu and eventually find the factory reset option. I hesitate for a moment. I am kind of curious to see the other apps – no, I’m trying to worm my way out of making the right decision. As usual.

I sigh, shoulders slumping, and then press the reset button. The phone makes a funny noise and begins resetting. When it’s finally finished, it boots up normally. My S6 is back to being a boring S6. I stare at it a moment and think, Oh god, what is the price of smart phones gonna be in 2031?

I giggle to myself and hear a ruffling sound as paper rubs against my thigh. I’m still holding the letter in my hand. I skim over it again and notice a part I hadn’t read earlier. “P.S. You should try watching or reading some Sci-Fi stuff when you get a chance. Star Trek Wars is actually pretty good.”

I first got the idea for this story a few years ago when I was having my own quarter life crisis. I didn’t know what to do with my life, and I was in a very bad place. I wished that I could somehow skip to the future, to when I finally had everything figured out. I wanted to write a story about it, but I wasn’t sure about the execution of it until recently. I write support content for Samsung, and I saw a strange comment from a customer saying they had a time traveling phone. I had no idea what this meant, but that concept somehow morphed with my original quarter life crisis idea.

As for the comedy aspects of this story, I was planning to submit this to a writing contest. The contest required the story to incorporate at least two different genres. The story ended up surpassing the word count, so I couldn’t enter it, but I still had a lot of fun writing it. I hope you enjoyed it!

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