“You From the Future,” by Anna Koltes

Dec 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with Jason.”

You gape at the twin of yourself who purposely rode into you with her electric Divvy bike. Except it’s not a twin at all. You don’t even have a twin, not that you know of. This not-twin who looks exactly like you is wearing your ripped jeans, your yellow sweater with the broken zipper, and your scruffy checkered Vans you bought back when you thought you were a skater.

But it isn’t even the clothes that’s disturbing. It’s the face, the red hair, the posture…the you-ness of it all, but this You is speaking to you like someone having a normal conversation with another somebody.

You glance up and down North Clark street. A girl swipes nonchalantly through her phone from inside her idling car. A guy in noise-canceling headphones picks up his dog’s shit. No one is paying any attention either of Yous. No one even gets it.

“Hello, did you hear me? Can you pay attention for once?” the second-you says. Is this how you sound in real life, pushy and not that nice?

Maybe this second-you is just a bitch.

You’re probably hallucinating. Yes, that must be it. You ingested one too many gummies last night at Sherry and Elvis’ because they’re pushers. You pull out your phone to take a photo of You. If this isn’t real, the camera will definitely back you up. But then you think about all the ghost stories you’ve ever heard of and sometimes the ghosts do appear on camera, and film, too.

Now you don’t know what to think. You’re more confused than ever and you blame the cocktails, too. Sherry was blending a lot of veg and fruit stuff with spiked kombucha and making you drink it.

The mean version of You slaps the phone out of your hand. It clatters across the sidewalk with an elaborate chorus of cracks.

“What the hell?” you crouch down to retrieve the phone and see that the screen is indeed cracked beyond all recognition. You didn’t buy a screen protector because you never have your shit together.

“It’s just a phone,” the mean-you snaps. “Trust me, a phone is the least of your worries if you end up with Jason.”

“I don’t even know a Jason,” you counter.

“You will,” the phone-destroying-mean-you says brusquely. “And you’ll thank me later. Or you won’t. I’m not even sure you’ll ever see me again. But yeah, your life won’t fall apart in total burning ruins if you steer clear from Jason.”

“Are you going to get me a new phone?” you demand.

The second-you rolls her eyes and speeds off on her Divvy. “Why am I such an idiot?”

You’d chase her down if you weren’t so hungover.


“This is awkward, but your rent is three days late,” your roommate Madison says as you tear into cheap Chinese takeout. Seeing Yourself in the flesh has made you ravenously hungry for junk food.

You pick up your splintered chopsticks. “Madison, what would you do if another You showed up to warn you about your future?”

Madison chews insipidly. “What are you talking about?”

“Maybe it’s future You, or alternate reality You, or another version of You, or I don’t know…a vision of You…”

Madison snorts into her egg rolls. You try not to be offended, but she’s already shaking her head. “This reminds me of the time you found that disgusting stray cat and were convinced it was your grandfather reincarnated.”

“What if it was?”

Madison starts cleaning up before you’ve even had a chance to finish your lo mein.

“You need to lay off the weed gummies. And you also owe me fifteen bucks for dinner.”

“Madison, this is mega,” you plead with her. You’re not even sure why you need her validation. “What would you even tell your current You if you could tell them anything? What would you tell me?” you press.

Madison marches off into the kitchen. “I would tell you to pay your fucking rent.”


You go out with a guy to a dive bar with sticky tables, but his name isn’t Jason like your couple friend Sherry and Elvis who set you up led you to believe. It’s Oliver.

“Are you sure?” you ask. You’re disappointed. He’s kind of cute, in a preppy way.

You tell him about meeting Yourself on the street. You don’t know why, maybe you just want confirmation you’re not insane. But Not-Jason-Oliver looks at you like you’re high or drunk or on a list of meds with names no one can pronounce.

Apparently Sherry didn’t warn him about you.

He shakes his head in disbelief. “Why would you even want to meet this Jason? Sounds like you should steer clear of the guy.”

He doesn’t get it.

“Yeah, but now I want to find him more than anything, just to find out what kind of person can do that to you,” you insist. “It’s gotta be good enough for your Future Self to track you down through the maze of time and warn you, right? I want to know what it’s like to be that into someone. I want to feel something intense, something undeniable. I want to be sleepless over someone. I want to cry over them until my face hurts. I want to feel love so strongly I throw up. I want to know what it’s like to feel earth-crumbling, building-collapsing, star-exploding love. I want to be ruined.”

Not-Jason-Oliver’s stares at you. Then he chugs the last of his beer. “Yeah, whatever. Are we going to hook up or not?”

You watch him traipse out of the bar alone. He leaves a 10% tip.

What a dick.


You are forced to take extreme measures.

You swipe right on all the guys named Jason on a dating app you vowed to never sign up for. You’re feeling pretty psyched with this strategy, even if just to piss off Future/Alternate Mean You.

But the only Jason who agrees to go out with you is twice your age, balding, and worst of all, an accountant. As you drift off into your pasta pomodoro he lists theories about why he’s so proficient at his job, punctuating every sentence with “Isn’t that wild?”

You wish it was.

You realize fast this can’t be Jason-the-life-ruiner-Jason. You’re not in any danger of falling in love with this Jason and why didn’t you think to ask Your Future Self for a surname?

Because you were hungover, that’s why.


You figure you need to start thinking outside the box.

You stalk guys at the library, the gym, at your local supermarket like a crazy person, accosting them in the baked goods aisle as they shield themselves with baguettes.

“Are you Jason?”

No one ever is, and if they were, they wouldn’t tell you.

The manager is onto you. “You can’t keep coming in here and harassing customers, lady.”

You have no choice but to expand your horizons, repeating these failsafe tactics in public places where you’re less likely to be subject to close scrutiny or get arrested. Lincoln Park, the Lakefront trail, Daley Plaza. Even the line of tourists just trying to get into Willis Tower.

“I’m Jason,” a man yells while you wait dejectedly in a coffee shop for your name to be called.

You watch with bated breath as coffee-shop-leather-jacket-Jason strides to the counter to pick up his latte. Could this really be Jason/the-Life-Ruiner? You’ve never been into tattoos but you could be open to trying new things.

“Want some, babe?” coffee-shop Jason says as he offers his boyfriend a sip.

You realize this has all been a huge waste of time.

Also side note, you have a job and you’re running out of sick days.


You go to Sherry and Elvis’ wedding at the Adler Planetarium.

You stare at the sailboats floating cheerfully on the lake as the band plays and people do the chicken dance. You don’t feel like dancing, like you don’t feel like doing a lot of things these days. You’ve given up the hunt for Jason after your friends did an intervention for you.

“It’s time to give up on Jason,” they said.

It feels like a breakup, like loss, even though you never even met Jason. Maybe Future You got it all wrong, or maybe You got the wrong you. Maybe you met Jason in another version or in a bunch of other versions but this is the version where you didn’t.

Or maybe you just missed him because you weren’t paying enough attention, because you were too high at a festival or too wasted at a bar or too engrossed watching reels on your phone to look up and see him right there, standing in front of you. You only had one task.

Who knew it was so hard to ruin your own life?

“Having fun?” Elvis beams at you. You don’t exactly approve of Sherry marrying Elvis, but he’s a decent guy even if he used to be Sherry’s weed dealer.

“Yeah, sure, congratulations,” you say.

“You’ve said that to me five times already,” Elvis of Sherry shakes his head. “I have someone I want you to meet.”

You try to tell him you’ve already met all the people, the eligible bachelors and the frat guys and the gropey uncles, but Elvis is already waving the someone over.

The lights dim. Thunder crashes in the sky. The floor quakes. Your heart stops because you know this is it. This is probably the end of the world.

He walks toward you. Eyes the color of steel knives and nightmares. A devastating smile that slices open your veins. A voice that dunks you in acid rain.

It’s already happening and you haven’t even introduced yourself.

You can almost hear Future You screaming from behind the wall of time. If only you cared.

He tells you what you already know, what you’ve been waiting a lifetime to hear.

“Hey, I’m Jason.”


Anna Koltes‘ stories have been shortlisted in the Reedsy Prompt Contest and published in magazines like Dark Onus, The Caterpillar, The Colored Lens, Wyldblood Press, Arena Fantasy, and Daikaijuzine. She is based in Chicago where she talks about writing with her writing group and sometimes gets some writing done.

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