DAVID ALAN JONES
If the multifaceted social dynamics of a middle school lunchroom could be compared to something so mundane as a mere spiral galaxy, then Alyson Reynolds’s table would be its center. Bright stars of the gel-haired, denim-wearing, pubescent variety gravitated into her orbit, basking in rays of popularity while outside that circle, moving away towards colder, darker regions, evidence of the heat death of the universe could be observed, as Krelboynes moved like lesser planetoids bobbing and floating in eddies of unknown, unseen, and unremarked dark matter.
Now and again one of those bodies might streak from that void, pulled by peculiar magnetism, drawn forth on a collision course for the bright center. Most of these were stillborn charges, nothing more than mundane ore made bright by their rarified trajectories, barreling suddenly forward only to be incinerated by a look or a laugh.
Alyson was first to spot the oncoming geek. She knew he was her age because they shared a class – English maybe, she couldn’t recall – but he was short and thin and looked like a sixth grader. He wore brown corduroy pants, a green T-shirt with a picture of a sword-waving elf and the word “Link” written across the top, and a pair of checkered Vans.
“Oh. My. God,” said Stacey. “Is that boy coming over here?”
Jennifer frowned. “Looks that way.”
“Let’s throw fries at him,” said Alyson, and all the girls laughed.
“Who is he?” asked Judy.
“Donnie Piker,” said Jennifer. They all gave her the look and she said, “What? He’s been in our grade since kindergarten.”
“Yeah, but none of us knows his freaking name,” said Stacey and they laughed again only to quiet as Donnie stopped next to the table.
A hush fell. Everyone was watching. Mostly they were waiting for the laughter to begin.
“Hi, Alyson,” said Donnie. He was shaking noticeably and this made Stacey snort which got all the girls going again until they shushed one another to silence.
Donnie blushed so red his pimples all but disappeared.
“What do you want?” said Alyson.
He looked down at his much-abused shoes. Finally, he said, “I was – ahh, wondering if you had a date for the winter ball?”
Jennifer guffawed and slapped the table.
“Holy shit, he’s asking her out,” said Stacey.
“Wait,” said Alyson, raising a hand, “let me save you some –“
Alyson’s eyes widened as something large and uncomfortably familiar eased into the space just behind her eyes.
Her hand dropped slowly to the table. She didn’t lower her hand, it just happened. And she smiled. Oh, God. Why was she smiling at Donnie Piker?
“Let me save you some time, Donnie,” she heard herself say. “I would love to go to the winter ball with you. Would it be all right if my mom drives us?”
Donnie’s mouth dropped open and his eyes bulged.
“Yeah,” he said, and then with more enthusiasm. “Yeah, that would be awesome.”
“Wear your black suit,” said Alyson. “You always looked best in black.”
“Ah, okay,” said Donnie. He shuffled back a few steps, hesitated like a little animal caught in a spotlight, and then ran from the lunchroom, hitting the swinging doors at speed.
Some part of Alyson, who was not Alyson, knew Donnie was going to hurl. He would tell her later, after the dance, and they would laugh.
“Have you lost your mind?” asked Stacey, her voice eager for scandal.
“I’ve got to go powder my nose,” said Alyson, heading for the swinging doors Donnie had just exited.
“Powder your nose? What is this, England?”
Inside her head fourteen-year-old Alyson screamed and struggled for control, but nothing happened. She entered the nearest girls’ room, checked that it was empty, and then leaned over one of the porcelain sinks to stare in a mirror.
Her mouth said, “Hello, Alyson.”
Fear filled her insides like cold clay. Her heart beat hard and her hands shook even as sweat broke out on her forehead. Something inside her head loosened and Alyson felt her body fall back under her control.
“Who are you? What are you? Am I possessed?”
Her head shook, and her mouth said, “No, you’re not possessed – well not by a demon or something that doesn’t belong. So far as I know it’s impossible for a consciousness other than the original to take control of your body.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, my dear, that I am you, though I must admit I’m a very different you, thank God and the Baby Jesus for that.”
Alyson gapped at herself.
“I’m you about twenty years from now. My name is Alyson Reynolds Piker and I am married to one of the richest, most famous, smartest men on Earth.”
“I marry that –“
“Watch your mouth. You have no idea what a man that little boy grows up to be. In fact, I wouldn’t be here, correcting your stupidity, if it wasn’t for one of the toys his brilliant mind cooks up about ten years from now. Self-stream time travel. You can enter your own consciousness at any point along your lifeline. He decided never to release it to the public – too dangerous he says, and I agree, but we use it now and again when necessary. Don calls it Hindsight.”