Flash Forward

Fiction by | October 6, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is an experimental work of interactive fiction, one that requires feedback from you, the reader. Please take the time to read through the story and, in the comments section, tell us which ending you prefer.

This story was supposed to run on October 9, but we are publishing it early so as to get as much feedback. This is for a paper that Jhoanna is writing.

“Perhaps I should take the ferry out with you.”

The moment she hit “Send,” she regretted it. She realized how difficult it would be to coordinate their schedules. He was just going there to shoot some additional footage for a documentary a friend was making. But she convinced herself she could swing it; call in sick and stay sick for a few days. It was unlikely anyhow that she’d meet another malingering call center agent in Siquijor Island in July. But more than logistics, she realized how loaded that suggestion was – even reminding her of Charon and his boat. Reminded her too of her high school teacher who had pronounced it “Sharon” and how she had believed him until Wikipedia enlightened her.

Maybe that was why she had boldly thought of taking that trip. She needed to ferry her spirit across to an island of mysticism, where it is said remedies of many kinds can be found. That seemed to her a noble enough reason. After all, she was still reeling from the end of a marriage on which she had placed all her bets. She wished a wise mananambal would have the proper incantations and potions for the process of healing.

But really now.

What was obvious was she wanted to take that ferry out to a secluded island with someone she was deeply attracted to. That she was so suddenly forward with him now could be explained by the spring coil analogy. She had kept her feelings secret because she was not free to have those feelings (and neither was he, but she conveniently edited that out of her fantasy). She had obeyed the rules as best she could, not even writing him for a spell. But she thought about him all the time. She had so many conversations with him in her mind, she thought she was going crazy. She would write him letters then she’d tear them up so she wouldn’t be caught with those forbidden feelings again. Anyone would see that she had indeed gone mad.

After all, he had not pursued her. He made it clear that he was in a relationship. He did not tell her anything directly, nor asked her for anything. Except that in her lush imagination, every word, every gap between words from him meant the world. He did sign off one email, “love,” which was worlds away from “fondly,” which was even warmer than “sincerely.” She was sure she understood what he was trying to say. She was certain, somehow, that he was, well, in the same boat. What a leap of faith then when she made the suggestion.

There are several ways to continue this tale.

A. If you think the woman is crazy, then the man will say no. And she will knock herself on the head and finally learn her lesson about men and women. A cautionary tale, if there ever was one. She would, of course, have to live with the embarrassment her whole life, while assuring herself there will be other trips, and maybe other men.

B. If, on the other hand, you believe that the woman deserves a chance to cross the Tanon Strait and figure out the mystery, then the man will say yes. And they will sit on the deck and look out to sea, and maybe find the courage to ask the questions they’ve been waiting to ask the whole year. This way, the plot can get complicated.

C. But if you just don’t believe in the best-laid plans of mice and men, you could have the man say yes and then mix up the schedules so that they’d fail to meet. This would, of course, frustrate the woman no end; but she will later realize that what really mattered was he said yes.

The next day, she opened her email and found out.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is the President of the Davao Writers Guild. She teaches literature and creative writing at UP Mindanao. Her book of stories, Women Loving, is available at National Bookstore.

25 thoughts on “Flash Forward”

  1. The man will say “No”, but she will go anyway. She will miss the boat with him aboard, follow an hour later, but will have no clue which part of the island he’s on. She will return, never having even caught a glimpse of him; and he will be none the wiser that she followed. And when he asks how her weekend went, she will pretend to have the best getaway she’s ever had.

  2. I remember this from Iyas!

    I agree with sir Dom! But just to add: her telling him that she had the best getaway she’s ever had is their last correspondence. They never hear a word from each other again.

  3. The next day, she opened her email and… there was nothing on her inbox. Not a message from the boy. She got disappointed, embarrassed, and she might have even gone suicidal. But then she realizes that at least she tried. She moves on, loving her self in the process. A few months after, she saw the boy accidentally. Their eyes meet. The boy was a little ashamed and was about to approach her. She managed a sweet smile, and then she walks away.

  4. “GET VIGRA NW! @!#$%” her inbox said, over and over – 413 times in fact, the screen frozen into a spam-splattered rictus. Later, the technician-friend she consulted desperately for help would shake his head and tell her, ruefully, that her laptop — like a man too advanced in years and insecure to take the strain — had succumbed to the cyber assault and shut down for good. She took this as a sign and went shopping after her next paycheck for a Mac — an indulgence, certainly, but what had the fates portended if not a wild gamble?

    The guy who served her at the store had on a black turtleneck, square glasses, a well-manicured goatee, and the most well bronzed set of ‘ceps she’d ever been tempted to peek at. Her inability to commit to a purchase led to a lingering conversation about postmodern art, and the refusal of choices. Both confessed they loved Chabet. It would turn out later that he hated boats, but really, that’s another story.

  5. Man says yes but doesn’t go (Nang-indian!). Desolate, the woman however is determined to continue her ferry trip anyway.Then comes a chance encounter with another stranger and it’s another beginning.

  6. Nah, I don’t think the woman is crazy, just depressed. When you’re depressed you do a lot of out-of-character things.

    I think I’ll choose letter C. While I don’t like the fortuitous quality of it (suddenly their schedules get conflicted) but I think it’s the best choice.

  7. I’d go for A..
    i am not that cynic about love but then again, there are just some things that should not happen lest it hurt other people. i think that their tale is just one of those whom you meet a person, realize that you love him but it is not supposed to be that way. hurting other people just for you to say that you love a person is selfishness…

  8. A.
    i think it’ll be fun to explore a plot that others might even consider a ‘dead end’..

  9. I would go for B. But since I haven’t seen this possibility in the comments yet, allow me put it here:

    The man will say ‘yes’. Of course, the woman is delighted, and things turn for the better when she does successfully meet the man on the ferry. Yes! Her Charon is there, ready to ferry her to a trip of utter ecstasy!

    But after a few hours of casual conversation, she realizes that the man didn’t just invite her to simply let her tag along. He is in trouble. He is madly in love with the woman that his relationship spoke of. He never stops talking about her! Then, the man heaves a sigh. His relationship has not been founded on solid rock, and he fears that he will lose the woman that he has loved so dearly these years. It could be real, it could be just paranoia, but the man wouldn’t let it die down.

    He then seeks the woman for advice. That’s what friends do after all – become the second conscience when their friend’s is too clouded to discern rightly.

    The woman then thinks for a while. This reminds her of her marriage, of how her relationship with the man she had loved so madly fell apart. But then again, this new man’s destitute state is the perfect opportunity for her to strike. Should she pursue her dreams and rescue the man from his crumbling relationship, potentially destroying all chances of the man to be with his lover again? Or will she put away her dreams for another time and be the man’s friend by consoling him, maybe even help repair his damaged home?

    I do like the other answers though. Good ones, I must say!

  10. “The next day, she opened her email and found out.”

    There’s something about this line that makes me want to shuffle the options.

    I don’t want to reveal the man’s answer in the beginning. Because that’s certainly what holds the whole story, his answer.

    “Perhaps I should take the ferry out with you.”

    That statement doesn’t say she wont go if the man said no. She will take the ferry by herself and the story will be a pilgrim story. I’d like it to be subtle, allegorical and (because you introduced us Jeanette Winterson in class before) in fairy tale diction.

    Her character will change as she arrives from the trip or along the way back home. And I want to end the story with these same lines and a few additions.

    “The next day, she opened her email and found out he said yes.”

    Back to my first observation. If that line didn’t serve as the ending of this experimental work, I would have agreed with Dom or take Option A and make her fall in love with a ferryboat man. Hehe

  11. I quite like the first part of Dom’s ending up until she has no idea which part of the island he is on.

    No, she is not crazy. Guy is confused too. He absentmindedly disembarks ferry leaving one of his hard case camera bags with lenses.

    She in turn boards the same ferry on the main jetty on its return trip. For some strange reason, she sits on the same area as he was earlier. She notices the unattended hard case bag which seems to have his initials marked. She discreetly flicks the bag open and sees folded sheets of paper which has his call sheet, location details and itinerary for the shoot. Will she call? Will she follow him on location? Will she hand over the hard case? Or just simply walk away and leave it…

  12. I’ll go for ‘A’.

    With that, the man could save her from false hopes. But on her condition, she’ll stubbornly follow him though; to the point of stalking him throughout the island. He later notices it, confront her, and gets the worse moment of her existence. On the brink of snapping, she chased him but suddenly slipped and fell. She dropped dead but a shaman found and revived her fearing she would be an earth-bound spirit that would take vengeance on every married man. She woke up as if nothing happened and continued her vacation, completely unaware that all memories of pain and grief were washed away by the shaman; which is later revealed as the man himself.

  13. while b and c seem to be obvious choices, I’d go for A. Really, the woman is just fantasizing, and it sounds like the man doesn’t like her back. Also it said that “he made it clear that he was in a relationship”, so I don’t see why he would say “yes.” It’s also more intriguing to find out what other things this woman would do to have her man (and probably still get disappointed in the end.)

  14. I like C. and then they will eventually meet on a different circumstance not far from the date of the trip in a less dramatic mode. She will realize that some things just happen when you don’t over think about it. 🙂

  15. If you believe in the Everett Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of Quantum Physics, then the answer is that all three possible outcomes happened simultaneously in different universes! 😀

    The MWI gives me the comfort of knowing that, whatever decisions we make, there are always versions of ourselves Out There who are faring better and worse than us… So, in the end, it all works out 🙂

  16. Thank you very much to everyone who participated in this experiment! Hugs for everyone! I am finalizing my analysis tonight, but this isn’t the end of this comment thread! Readers are still welcome to add their own endings as the inspiration strikes :)I am very tempted to give her a “happy” ending myself, but that would be missing my own point 🙂

  17. My own ending!

    girl sees guy again after many years, being very intimate in public with the beautiful Jhoanna Cruz!

    (and the author makes a cameo! haha!)

  18. Aww, Karlo! I like this metafictive ending much better than the finality of “They never hear from each other again.” KSP ang author, haha!

  19. My paper was well-received at the symposium at the University of Western Australia in Perth! They loved us! Thank you again to everyone who exerted non-trivial effort (ergodic)to participate in this study. I hope my paper will be published in Westerly Journal eventually.

  20. The man agrees to meet her. She is thrilled, relieved, beside herself. She decides to calm down by watching a movie loaned to her by a friend. A double-feature, actually: Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset. In the first movie, after a night of passion and soul-baring, a wildly in love young couple from different parts of the world agree to meet at a particular spot in six months. In the second movie, the viewer finds out what happened. She wonders if she’s entered a movie, too. She’s been in a couple of movies, student films. She hated the experience.

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