She sighs and sits on the stool, looking out of the window as the sun dips lower in the sky. Beams burst through the glass and bathe her in glowing patches. For a moment it seems as if she has forgotten but then her tired voice rings out.
“So you’ve come for a story too have you?” Her head shakes, her grey hair falls down beside her face. “I’ve already told so many today.”
“I only have a question.” Your voice sounds more confident than you would have thought possible. The woman’s head jerks round on hearing you.
“A question? About the future? Everyone has questions.” The woman twists on the seat to face you properly and the alarm bells go off in your head again but you just can’t put your finger on it. “So, what do you want to know? Who wins the cup in ten years? What are the next lottery numbers?”
“Nothing like that.” Your face screws up in revulsion, nothing so petty had crossed your mind. This woman was from the future, she had travelled back in time. To here and now.
“You want to know why,” she smiles. You pause, surprised. “And now you want to know how I knew that.” Laughing, she stands and moves closer to you. The guards by the library doors waiver, no-one is supposed to get too close to her. She is too precious.
“Yes.” The word falls out of your mouth like a whisper.
“You know how I know.” She is now less than a metre away. You look deep into her eyes and you understand. The alarm bells cease as the weight of this new knowledge settles. The guards step closer but she halts them with a furious glare. She from the future still holds some power, even if the government hold her strings. “As for why. Each time we get closer, each time we get the next step of the puzzle. So that hopefully, when you get to my age, you won’t have to come back and tell stories.”
Her hand grasps yours. You feel the slip of paper between your palms. And as the guards intervene you secrete the note into your pocket. Quickly, you leave the complex not wanting to draw the establishment’s eye. A small ball of hope starts to form in your stomach. The machine will work, one day; and after a thousand life times, you will get it right and set the world free. A sensation washes over you and you glance up towards the library window. There she is, you will be. Your future self smiles, perhaps she will be the last one to travel back.
This was written in response to Putting My Feet in the Dirt’s June 2021 writing prompts numebr 20. https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2021/06/01/june-2021-writing-prompts/