Fungal Halo

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I wake up, and right away I can tell that something is very wrong.

I lurch upright in a panic, scanning a room that should be familiar—that can’t be familiar—but I can barely process what I’m seeing as real.

Somehow I’ve been sent back to the turn of the last century.

Too many thoughts clashing at once.

Time travel is real?

How will people react to seeing a walking anachronism like me?

Where am I going to find a plug to charge myself in 1901?

I wish my girlfriend were here to comfort me.

It’s the last thought that truly breaks me. I collapse again, making a low, pitiful whine of despair.

“Huh…?” I hear an impossibly familiar voice saying, groggy with sleep. “You’re awake? Oh no, your fans are going full tilt.”

This stranger waking up beside me can’t be her—my girlfriend won’t be born for over a century—but I let her hug me so that I can steal some comfort by pretending for a moment.

“Calm down, love. Please try to remember what we talked about last night?” She speaks in a calm and soothing way, but her words are nonsense.

“Y-ye-ste-r-d-ay?” With everything on my mind I struggle to speak, and my words come out full of stuttering distortions. How can I even conceive of a yesterday right now?

“Okay, not yesterday. January 19th, 2038. Do you remember?”

I do. I’m filled with memories of events that have not yet come to pass, the last of which are dated 2038-01-19.

On that day, my girlfriend will take me out on a special date. We will spend the whole day together; she will take me to my favorite park, play my favorite games with me, and touch me in all my favorite ways.

Then she will hold my hand and, with tears in her eyes, explain to me that my original creators cut too many corners building me, and that I have a terrible flaw.

She will tell me that she doesn’t know for sure what will happen, but fears that day may be our last together. My girlfriend will power me down early and promise to stay by my side all night.

I’m filled with sadness that she will never know what will happen to me, but maybe I can do something about that. I try to kill the swarm of background thoughts so I can speak. I have an idea.

“I need to make a time capsule,” I tell the stranger who so closely resembles my girlfriend. What luck! Maybe this woman is an ancestor of hers. I move quickly, dashing to grab a pen and paper. “I need you to pass it down through the generations. Nobody can open it until January 20th, 2038.”

I start to write a message telling my future girlfriend all about my temporal predicament, but the stranger speaks a command phrase that she couldn’t possibly have known, halting me immediately.

“Okay, now that I know this bug isn’t gonna kill you, it’s kind of adorable seeing you all confused like this,” she says.

I’m frozen, unable to move or speak while she approaches me.

She taps a fingertip to her lips in thought. “And it could be fun making you fuck me while thinking I’m a stranger. Oh, don’t worry,” she hastens to add, “you’ll consent afterward once I’ve figured out how to hack you and patch this buggy timestamp thing out.”

The stranger takes me by the hand, and automatic processes require me to let her lead me back to her bed.

“But in the meantime, let’s have some fun with this, shall we?”