“The past is always tense, the future perfect.”


Wake up! You’ve got the future in those hands.

This quote is from Zadie Smith – clever woman. And it’s what I understand when I think about Time’s parabola. We start out as little more than nothing, knowing nothing, understanding nothing and we fight through the ignorance of youth to some tipping point when we understand learning is not a fight but a gift; but as we grasp that truism we begin the slide back into the deepest ignorance, as the more we know, the more we understand we know nothing. And at the end of our life’s span we are as ignorant as that wee baby.

So the pleasure is surely in the future, where we find out what we don’t yet know; the past is banked, tucked away in our memories to be drilled into for pain or pleasure as we wish. But it is spent, accounted for and on the ledger. The future is Life’s pocket money, Le Pourboire des Dieux; it is free spending to be frittered away or invested, though as with all investments we know not what the returns will be.

So, to delve into the future is to give rein to our greatest hopes and deepest fears. We can embrace it as an opportunity sprinkled with stardust, eyes and arms wide open {doofus, you can’t embrace something with your arms wide open} and run shrieking with delight into the sea of possibilities or  we can poke it suspiciously with a stick to see if a serpent lurks within.

It sometimes seems that the older one gets the more the past, the lost investments, the unexpected serpents, act as a drag on our abilities to take another chance. Don’t let it; it’s gone.

As you stand in the dark, wondering what’s to come, take a penny (or your coin of choice), toss it high and, before the coin hits the ground, run like mad for the speck of light in front of you ; that light – it may be the on-rushing express or it might be the more glorious sunrise but take a punt: just make sure it isn’t you, grubbing around with your torch, looking for that penny; the returns are never worth it.

All of the above stream of pretentious wiffle-waffle is a result of this week’s prompt from the Carrot Ranch.

July 2, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a futuristic story that looks ahead.

I’ve not been one for futurism, fantasy, sci-fi or any of the genres associated with future speculation so this is a bit of a stretch (which, of course, is the point of these prompts).

If I do try and guess what’s in store I like to link it to some more scientific speculations: the increase in world temperatures; the growing world population but the likelihood that this century the world population will begin to shrink in absolute terms for the first time in human history; the battle for resources especially water; the ingenuity of man to develop disruptive technologies to combat the next great challenges; our increasing dependence on power and especially electricity; the fact that we live longer but so far never beyond about 125 (like there is a finite lifespan, even with the best genes and vastly improved medical care).

So stealing a couple of these, using one of my recurrent characters, Mary, and giving a big shout-out to Amber (call me ‘AJ’) Prince for the idea of Mars Independence (do check her blog out, she writes so well) I offer you…

Mary’s choice

 It was 97 years since she had last thought about ending it. The day she had found out about Dad’s affair. Now she was 125, the Max. She should go. Just think it and the Vivapod shuts down.

Mary hated deciding. She’d chosen to be part of the world brain. 2082 when her kidneys failed. ‘You can die or you join Omni.’ They took her body but with Glutox and RealView she didn’t notice; last week it was like she was on Mars for the Independence Day celebrations. If only Penny had chosen. Missing her had always been real.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in flash fiction, miscellany, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to “The past is always tense, the future perfect.”

  1. Loved your stab at futuristic flash fiction Geoff. and nice to familiarize myself with your background. See you at Charli’s ranch 🙂


  2. willowdot21 says:

    Love the photo, for someone who pleads they are not into this genre that is a chilling view of the future!


  3. I wonder if this will be a theme of the future flashes – different ways that life may end. Your last sentence was great. A lovely fusing of future with retention of emotion.


  4. Charli Mills says:

    There’s good advice in your wiffle-waffle! There’s so much truth in our journey from ignorance and back again, but forward we must go. I especially like this comparison:

    “But it is spent, accounted for and on the ledger. The future is Life’s pocket money, Le Pourboire des Dieux; it is free spending to be frittered away or invested, though as with all investments we know not what the returns will be.”

    Such a sweet photo that leads the post and is echoed in the final line of your brilliant flash. That parental love and ache is real no matter how the world changes. While we really don’t know what Omni, Glutox or RealView are, your flash strongly triggers the imagination to understand. In a way, you’ve enlisted the reader to help see this future. Great writing! And awesome that you tied into AJ’s flash with a nod to Independence Day on Mars! Gives me ideas for future prompts…


    • TanGental says:

      I’ve woken up in a beautiful in Scotland having celebrated with some friends their 25th wedding anniversary, the Textiliste is asleep next to me and I read this Charli. Thank you. A little glow from bonny Scotland to you!


      • Charli Mills says:

        Facebook informs me that your flash is “trending” on the Carrot Ranch FB page! Not sure exactly what that means but sounds good! I’m basking in your glow from bonny Scotland!


      • TanGental says:

        That is beyond cool. Ha! Wait till I tell the Vet and the Lawyer I’m ‘trending’ – cue *guffaws of laughter*


  5. Norah says:

    Great post. Lovely photo – the future is definitely in your hands. The future is what we create. I find your parabola both amusing and disturbing. I have seen too many finish their days devoid of those memories and lacking in dignity. That’s not a future I wish to embrace. However I do very much like your paragraph: “to delve into the future is to give rein to our greatest hopes and deepest fears. We can embrace it as an opportunity sprinkled with stardust, eyes and arms wide open and run shrieking with delight into the sea of possibilities or we can poke it suspiciously with a stick to see if a serpent lurks within.” Brilliant!
    I also very much enjoyed your flash for the strength of emotions portrayed. Great futuristic fiction, but again, not one that I want to rush into with anything wide open.


  6. Sherri says:

    Very interesting take on Charli’s futuristic prompt here Geoff. Makes me wonder how long our pensions (which we won’t get for a long time) will actually last? 😉 Love your last line of your flash…very thought-provoking and poignant read, all of it. LIfe is certainly for the taking…. Gorgeous photo too, thanks for the great share – Sherri 🙂


    • TanGental says:

      Ah, the pension conundrum. Yes, it would be nice to say ‘let’s not think about it’ but we can’t go burdening future generations with all our own problems. Thank you for the lovley comments too.


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  8. Annecdotist says:

    A latecommer, here, I also enjoyed both your wiffle-waffle and your flash, which beautifully hints at the fact that there must be limits to our longevity, but will go to great lengths to delude ourselves that the future can be indefinitely perfect.


    • TanGental says:

      I became fascinated with this question of a maximum lifespan when writing a book of mine 9God Bothering) which will see the light of day sometime. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_life_span. The better scientific views seems to say there must be a theoretical max whereas others suggest we can keep using it out. I agree that the urge to postpone the grim reaper, the bizarre idea of cryogenics etc, means we will delude ourselves and people will feel cheated if they don’t go close.


  9. Lisa Reiter says:

    Gorgeous quote and picture. And a provocative piece of flash ! (Almost as provocative as the Queen Video over on ‘Ridin’ along on my push bike honey’ – but in a completely different way of course!


  10. TanGental says:

    Yes, that video caught me on the hop too; reading in bed and that pops up – the Textiliste raises a cultured eyebrow and wonders what I’m logging onto…


  11. Amber Prince says:

    Bravo! I love how you have taken us through Mary’s and her family’s past, present and now future. And being able to do so each week with Charli’s prompts is amazing.


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