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Back Tae the Future

Author: Thomas Clark
Year: Future

Pew! Pew! The beam o the laser glitters ower ma shouder as ah fling masel tae the grund, imaginin somehow that – this time! – ah’m faster than licht. Ah scurry ahint a barrel o toxic waste and crouch there, the insistent leam o a sniper’s tracer pokin for me in the dark, ma Star Wars t-shirt wringin wi sweat.

'Ross?' ah shout. 'Is that you?' Ah ken it must be. He’s a wee bit younger than the rest o ma pals, him and his brither, but he’s naebody’s black-sheep. Ah’m no gettin oot o this withoot a fecht. Tae either side, the corridor stretches aff intae a guddle o sichtless possibilities.

Ah lift up ma gun. Its cyclin lichts tell me that ah’m still alive, for noo. But inside is whaur the real battle lies – they say that in 'Dune', ah think, or somethin like it. Ma stomach is heavy wi jelly and ice cream. Ma hert stoonds in ma kist.

The theme frae 'Flash Gordon' plays in an endless loop, and for wance it’s no jist in ma heid.

'Keysies!' ah shout as ah brek for it, clearin the ramp in three big lowps as c-beams strobe the air. Ah roond the corner, rifle raised, blast anither Space Marine straicht in the back. The lichts gang up jist in time for me tae see her look o disappointment.

'Till deith dae us pairt, eh,' she says, bitterly. She’s haudin the gun wrang, and her – oor – weddin ring is caught on the trigger.

'Sorry,' ah say. Ah rin ma haun through whit’s left o ma hair. It’s ma birthday, and ah’m 39 years auld.

We gang oot the airlock, hing up oor guns for noo. Ootside, aneath the green-screen displays and tinfoil-coated pipes and the lifesize model o a Xenomorph (Life-size?! Ye ken they’ve no real, aye?) a wee boy is sittin wi his parents, greetin. He’d burst intae tears at the first sign o this place, this mirkie recreation o the future we’d wance expectit, and has been inconsolable ever since. For the third time that day, we gang up the stairs and leave.

We’re ayeweys meanin tae heid somewhaur else, but oor steps keep on leadin us back.

And shuir enough, efter hauf an oor o starin in the windaes o travel agents we’re here again, suitin up in the stagin areas o oor suspended animation, buildin dens in stoory air-vents o this museum o oor dreams.

By noo, we’ve got the hale place tae oorsels. Frae the open airlock we scaitter tae the winds, like bairns frae the soond o a broken greenhoose windae. Ross rins for the craw’s nest, the best spot on the map - ah belt it doon the open corridor. Ah ken ah cannae oot-run a laser, but that willnae stop me tryin.

But as ah finally approach the escape velocity o ma wan-time youth, and the muckle 4-0 lours upon the horizon like a speed sign beggin me tae slow doon (or hurry up?), the messy distinctions o space and time brek doon aroond me, aw barriers torn tae targets. It’s like the endin o thon film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, when aw the five dimensions conflate tae the heid o a pin, and everythin that ever wis or will be happens tae ye aw at wance, the complete and utter five-pairt trilogy o yersel. Yer saga has come full circle, or near enough tae it that ye can tell – spoiler alert! – how it’s aboot tae end. This is whaur we aw came in.

And yet somethin is still missin frae the story, and it’s this. Aw the things ye thocht would happen that never did.

Ah’m no talkin flyin skateboards, here: weel, ah am, but no jist that. Tae be born in Scotland is tae bide wi a sense o yersel as an unwantit interloper in hístory, the fan-rejected reboot o a franchise that wis fine as it awready wis. Everythin guid has awready happened, and aw that ye’re left wi are the references and caw-backs, the selective fetishization o the past as it wis (Han shot first!) and even the present at the instant o becomin the past that Scots has nae better wird yet for than nostalgia.

The sentimentalizin o whit wance wis; nostalgia. Like a villain frae a fairy-tale, we disarm it in the namin o it. But we hinnae a wird yet for the idealization o the future – or, raither, the future that never happened and, noo, never will. And sae, insteid o safely packin it awa, we’re forced tae live it oot, season ticket hauders tae the Never-Never Lands o oor imagination; some hairmless, some… no sae much.

Ah stop. Suddenly, for nae reason at aw that ah can fathom, the lichts on ma kist flash aff, and ma gun lets oot a pitiful whine. Ah’m deid, and ah dinnae even ken why.

It’s nae skin aff ma neb, ye ken. Ah’ll be back. Jist when awbody has forgotten aw aboot me, ma gun’ll switch on and ah’ll lowp frae roond a corner, a discordant stab o music, ma ain avengin angel. Hasta la vista, bawheid.

But for noo, ah’m gubbed. Aw ah can dae is wait, and howp that things gang better next time aroond. Ah reach the same junction again, hing a left; there’s a noise ahint me, but ah cannae tell whit it means. Whit jist happened.

Birlin, ah hoist ma useless gun, walk backwards intae whitever it is that’s there. Jist a cat, ah dout. Or ma ain shaddae, flittin wance mair frae oot ma reach. Twa meenits left tae gang. Ah look doon at the deid display in ma haun and ah pray for the lichts tae cycle, or the music tae fade, or for ony ither reminder that aw this, like everythin else, has awready came tae pass, a lang, lang time ago, in a galaxy faur, faur awa.