It started out as one of those perfectly normal, perfectly boring Mondays- cursing the alarm clock, having a shower where the water alternated between too hot and too cold, eating a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal, walking to college from the apartment building which was just about a kilometre away from the college campus, and coming back home in the late afternoon.
Laurie was just about to fix himself something to eat when the bell rang. The sound of the doorbell confused him momentarily.
“I have a doorbell?” he murmured to himself, trying to recall the last time he had heard it being rung.
He shook himself out of his reverie as the doorbell rang a second time and he made his way to the door, running his hair through his hands in an attempt to make it look more presentable. As he passed the hallway mirror, he involuntarily looked at his reflection and, after staring at it for a few seconds, decided to take the mirror down.
Laurie did not know who to expect standing at the door since he never had any visitors. He supposed it might be one of his neighbours coming to borrow something or complain about something, or it could be a salesperson, or a mailman. Did people send actual mail anymore though?
He opened the door and found himself facing a young man who looked about his age. He was wearing a brown Trilby hat, and a buttoned up white shirt with faded blue stripes tucked into a pair of brown trousers. Laurie thought the stranger looked a bit ridiculous.
The stranger smiled and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Jason” he said with an outstretched hand.
Laurie shook Jason’s hand and replied “Nice to meet you, Jason. I’m Laurie” he said.
After that, there was an awkward pause that lasted about a minute or so, with Jason standing where he was with his polite smile intact, and Laurie looking at Jason as though expecting him to hand him a letter or sell him some magazines.
“May I come in?” asked Jason finally, and Laurie, though surprised by this question and the general irregularity of the situation, said yes.
Jason settled himself into a chair and Laurie followed suit.
“I’ll cut to the chase here, Laurie. I’m a time-traveller” he said serenely.
Laurie didn’t know how to reply to that statement so he simply said “Ok?”
“Do you believe me?” asked Jason.
“Er.. sure. Why not?” said Laurie, eager to have the stranger leave as soon as possible so that he could make himself some Ramen noodles and play videogames.
Jason sighed and pulled out from his pocket and placed on the table what Laurie thought was his mobile phone. On closer inspection, however, he saw that it was a egg-shaped device with two buttons, one pink and one blue, and a tiny rectangular display screen.
“The pink button is to go back in time, blue is for the future” said Jason. “I was sent specifically to you, Laurie.”
Now Laurie wasn’t a particularly bright young man, neither was he any manner of a sceptic in anything. The sight of the strange device had been enough to convince him that Jason was telling the truth.
“I’m listening” he said, sitting up straight.
“Your life is about to change, Laurie. But I’ve come to warn you that one small misstep on your part can prevent that change from taking place.”
Jason wasn’t smiling anymore and Laurie was wide-eyed, listening to him with rapt interest.
“What change? How?” he asked.
“I can’t tell you that. I’ve only come to give you some guidance. Guidance regarding the company you keep.”
“Th..the company I k..keep?” he asked, looking around nervously.
“Your friends” said Jason.
“Oh” said Laurie, relieved. “Well, you don’t need to worry about that, I don’t have any friends.”
“That’s exactly what I mean. You need to make new acquaintances. The Change that I’m talking about will only be brought about when you do.”
Laurie seemed to consider this. “How does one go about making new acquaintances?” he asked.
The device on the table started beeping suddenly and Jason picked it up to look at it.
“There are other things I need to see to, Laurie, so I’ll be quick. There are 3 things you must do. The first is to find a girl in your class who is as quiet as you, approach her when she’s alone, look at what book she’s reading and start talking about that book..”
“What if I don’t know anything about it? I probably won’t, knowing my luck. It’s funny, my throat’s getting dry just thinking about talking to a girl..”
“You will know. The second thing is this- you have an aunt who talks to you on the phone every week, correct? She’s an integral part of the Change, so pay close attention to whatever she tells you, even if it seems trivial.”
“You knew about Aunt Betty? That is astounding.”
“And lastly” said Jason, looking at Laurie with his most serious expression yet, “you will meet a young man about the same age as you. He will be your best friend and this friendship will be the key to bringing about the Change. You understand?”
Laurie was now sitting on the edge of his seat, and he only realized just then that he had placed his hand over his mouth much like he used to do when he was a teenager, when he would watch horror movies with his hostel-mates and get teased for being an ‘old girl’.
Presently, he placed both his hands inside his jeans pockets, and then, immediately deciding against it, took them out and crossed his arms and undid them again at once.
“Sorry” said Laurie “I don’t know what to do with my hands sometimes.”
Jason smiled and rose. “That’s only when you’re aware of them, my friend.”
Laurie got up and said “You’re leaving? Where are you going?”
Jason’s eyes twinkled as he replied “I have some work to do in 1963. I’ll see you again soon, Laurie.”
The next day, Laurie woke up in the morning right before his alarm rang and he was feeling quite optimistic about life in general.
He yawned and stretched on his bed and just as he was about to get up, his phone rang. It was Aunt Betty.
Recalling the words of the time-traveller, he sat up on his bed and pressed the ‘accept’ button.
“Hello, Aunt Betty” he said.
“Laurie dear, sorry if I woke you up. I just wanted to talk to you before you went for your classes. Did you put up a ‘Roommate wanted’ ad in the local newspaper last week?”
Laurie had almost forgotten that he had done so. It had actually been two weeks and nobody had called. In any case, he was happy enough without a roommate.
“Oh yes, I did. It was only because the landlady increased the rent, I wasn’t actually looking for anyone to stay with as such” he replied.
“Well, It might have been more practical to have provided your own number dear, and not mine..”
“I did that?” Laurie asked incredulously. Aunt Betty’s number was the only phone number he had memorized, so he had probably given her number instead of his. No wonder he hadn’t got any calls.
“Yes, and I had forgotten to tell you all about it. A young man called, he said that he found a job in this city so that he could be closer to his little sister, who studies in the same college as you by the way, and that he was looking for a place to stay. He sounded like a nice, proper young man so I gave him your full address, and he said he’d come by to see you. We spoke about you a lot, I hope you don’t mind. He seemed to be so interested to know everything about you, the kind of person you are, what your favourite books and movies are, what you’re studying, your hobbies..”
Laurie was usually quite slow on the uptake, but for once, something seemed to register in his mind.
“What was his name?” he asked his aunt cautiously.
“Jason, I think he said it was, yes I’m sure it was Jason. He was very charming and oh, I really hope he comes to see you, dear. It would do you good to have someone to chat with on a daily basis, and I have a feeling you two might turn out to be the best of friends!”