There’s me, two years in the future.
And that’s me, ten years later.
Down the hall, next to my bedroom, is me, fifty years in the future.
I see them every day.
Plus the twelve other pictures that my parents ordered from Destiny’s Door.
My name is Everly Fortel, and I will grow up to be an accountant. At least, that’s what the nametag on my starched suit says in the picture hanging above my bed. Fifteen pictures for fifteen years. My parents order them from Destiny’s Door and wrap them up for my siblings and me every Christmas morning, expecting us to leap at another chance to see what we’ll look like and where we’ll live when we’re older.
I dread those mornings, the thought of them leaving a foul taste in my mouth. Why? Because, as far as I’ve seen, I’m going to be the most boring person to walk the Earth. No paint stains on my chin from my latest commission, no knots in my hair from a struggle with the wind on a chilly morning. Instead, my dark hair is tied back so tightly in the pictures that I’m surprised my eyeballs don’t pop out. And I’m always dressed in that grey suit. Always. Do I only own one suit in the future? Or do I just have many, many identical grey suits? It takes a minute to swallow the bile that rises in my throat.
My little sister, Lyn, is ecstatic. She’s seven and an aspiring fencing coach. I don’t think she even knows what fencing is. All she’s seen are pictures of herself suited up in fencing gear, surrounded by smaller versions of herself. But when I ask her why she spends hours delighting in taking apart my dad’s old machinery instead of learning how to fence, she looks up at me with her brow furrowed, her jaw working silently. The poor kid’s so messed up by Destiny’s Door and doesn’t even know it.
I guess the only person in my household who truly enjoys the yearly pictures from Destiny’s Door is Levi, the ten-year-old bane of my existence. He seems to think that he’s going to be the President of the United States. And he’s entirely right. In his pictures, he’s a polar opposite of himself now. His mischievous grin is replaced by a stoic face, and his shock of bright green hair is erased from existence. But a closer look at his eyes reveals that special glint in them that I can't and won't describe. My parents couldn’t be more proud.
If there was any way, any way at all, to prevent myself from becoming who Destiny’s Door tells me I’ll become, I’d do it. But I’ve never heard of anyone not becoming exactly what their pictures show. Back when the company was being created, its founders said that giving people glimpses into their future restores hope and motivation. When asked about the people who see horrible futures, the founders’ only reply was that it’s up to the customer whether or they want to see their futures or not. They added that the company has no responsibility for the outcome of a person’s destiny.
What if continuing to create art isn’t enough to change my destiny? What if continuing art is actually what leads me to become an accountant? I could wake up one day and decide that I’ll never get as good as I’d like to, so I might as well do something else. I could realize that the reason I can’t feed myself is that my art doesn’t sell. I could lose the chance to make my imaginary art studio real, complete with its hazardous mess and laughter spilling out the doorway. I could lose my love of open fields and high winds. I could lose my wanderlust and sense of freedom.
I could lose myself.
I tell myself that I won’t, but the truth this, I’m scared. I’m terrified of what could happen if I do something about it, but I’m frightened of what could happen if I don’t. And now that I think about it, I don’t think my art’s good anyway. I think… I think. No, I can’t think. I don’t want to think. But I think I should think.
Words, colors, sounds. My head hurts. Numbers. Now, those are different.