Fictional people, not unlike real people, occupy here-and-now worlds striated with spatiotemporal counteractuals.
The future. It isn’t here yet; it’s not actual. The future you want, or the one you fear, might never materialize. What you do now, or what you fail to do, might alter the future. Or it might not. Is the not-yet-now a predetermined certainty, as real as are the present and the past, or are its contours susceptible to intentional intervention? If you see the future coming on, can you be somewhere else when it arrives? Can you prepare yourself now for an inescapable future, so that when it finally does arrive it’s as if you’ve already lived through it?
Some illustrations of future counteractuals from Flânerie 1:
You will work on a single manuscript in near silence for years, during the course of which you will realize your best work, brilliant and exhilarating. 1
Second person future tense, the whole story: is this an aspiration or a prophecy, a promise or a warning?
Hypnotically summoning Muslims to come, congregate and beseech in a physical and emotional orchestration of prayer. 2
Is it an invitation or a command, this summons, triggering not the conscious assent of the congregants but their hypnotic pull into a future that cannot be resisted?
When [the sculptor] stopped for a break she would tell him about Catalino’s warning. But, for a little while, being there was all and everything she wanted. It was still too soon to see what he would make of the stone. It was still a block of potential. She understood there was a possibility he would fail in conception, or in execution; maybe both. 3
Will she warn him about the warning, expecting him to take appropriate action to counteract an undesired future, or will she merely report it? The future is unformed potential, its fulfillment uncertain, dependent on one’s making it happen or making it not happen, succeeding in both conception and execution.
Arsen would tell her, wiping the blood from his mouth, disoriented and exhilarated: It is like something swelling in me, and I think I am close to discovering something, something very, very important, and at the precise moment when I think I have it, I have my hands finally around it, I fall into a darkness and then I open my eyes to see you. 4
On the temporal threshold of an enlightenment that escapes you: has it failed to happen, receding into past or future, or do you now fail to grasp it, your open eyes perceiving only darkness?
If Mama went to the store for a minute but you are pretty sure she’s never coming back, please mash all of the keys but mostly 1. 5
Help! This present minute will extend, with a high degree of certainty, into an eternal future.
You’re my friend, Eric! My friend. If I am gay, do you think I’m going to sneak into your bed at night when you’re asleep? Do you think that’s what I want to do? 6
A furtive nocturnal future: whose fear, whose desire?
Do you want to be cool, but accessible? Or do you want to be greedy, right under the surface, mixed with an insouciance that’s irresistible?” 7
What do you want to be? If in the future you become what you want, will you still want what you’ve become?