I have been waiting, for a long time as cars and lorries zip past at high speeds. I need to cross this busy road to go to the cafe.
Adi, my bestie and I meet here every Sunday morning.
We had run into each other at a science expo and hit it off well. Our friends call us ‘nerds’ behind our backs and we are secretly proud of it.
Finally, I enter and see that Adi is waiting for me at our usual table.
The cafe is empty except for another customer, an old gentleman, sitting alone at a table. He looks vaguely familiar.
Adi and I discuss our pet project, a time machine, we had been planning to build, as we sipped on our coffees.
Adi finishes his, puts the cup down, and goes into the loo.
That’s when I see the old gentleman get up and approach me.
He seems perturbed and looks furtively all around, addresses me by name and whispers, “Listen to me carefully. You may find this difficult to believe, but I am Adi’s future self.”
I realise with shock that he has all Adi’s features. The dark lively eyes, and the sharp nose- but looks about seventy. Now I understand why he looked familiar!
His voice deepens as he continues, ” I have come to warn you. Today is the day you will die. What will happen is this: Adi will come out of the bathroom, wipe his hands on a tissue and drop it in that trash can. He will then tell you a joke. Both of you will laugh and then decide to leave. You will step out first, get hit by a lorry, and die. Adi or rather, I, will mourn you for a year and then go on to build our time machine by myself.”
He looks back at the closed door of the loo and continues. “Today I have used it, to come back and warn you. If you don’t step out for at least another 10 minutes, you will not only survive, but we will invent this time machine together. Remember this. When Adi suggests going back, please delay by another ten minutes. It is a matter of life and death! Yours!”
He turns back to go to his seat but pauses and tells me, “ According to the laws of time travel, I cannot face Adi or talk to him. So, you can’t tell Adi about any of this.”
He is back in his dark corner, watching me.
I am shocked, thrilled, terrified, and panicky! All at once.
But I have no time to dwell on feelings. Adi comes out of the bathroom, wiping his hands on a tissue. He drops it into the exact trash can and quips “Have you heard the one about a proton and the bartender…. “.
I have stopped listening to him. My heart is racing and I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead.
He tells me “Come let’s walk together to the bus stop. I want to tell you this new brainwave I had in the loo. The space-time-continuum …”.
I interrupt him in a falsely cheerful voice. “Can we leave after a while? I feel like another cup of coffee.”
He looks at me in annoyance. “You know I have a busy day. Come with me. Believe me, my new theory is very unconventional.”
He is practically pulling me up from my seat. And dragging me towards the door.
I yank his hands out of their grip, push him away from me and sob hysterically. “Adi. Don’t force me. If I get out now I will be killed. A lorry will hit me and I will die.”
With tear-stained eyes and incoherent words, I sob uncontrollably.
But wait. Something is wrong. No worried questions from Adi. No reassuring hands on my shoulders.
I look up to see an odd sight. Adi is suppressing laughter and is on his mobile, filming me and the old man is standing next to him with an apologetic smile.
As I look up in confusion Adi says “Caught ya.”
“By the way, meet my dad. He is a fantastic practical joker.”