"George," the old man said. "George!"
George turned his head sharply and looked at him. "Sorry," he said. "I seem to have drifted off there for a minute."
"You have to keep your concentration, George," the old man said. "If you don't stay focussed, who knows what you might conjure up? You have a vivid imagination, you know."
George shook his head. "Wow. That was weird. For a minute there, all these strange images were running through my head." He paused. "And for some reason, I thought that I had big ears and a forgettable face. And I was some kind of god. The keeper of the word, or something strange like that."
The old man chuckled. "Well, insofar as you use words to create things, then that's as good a description as any. But don't let it go to your head. And that whole "forgettable face" thing, that was just your low self-esteem cropping up. I wouldn't worry about it. Just stay focussed."
George nodded. "So, you were going to explain some things to me."
"Well," the man said, "I'm going to ask you some questions. Your answers will be more revealing than any explanation I could give you."
George sighed. He hadn't realized this was going to be so trying.
"All right," he said. "If that's the way you have to do it."
The old man shifted his position and got comfortable.
"All right, then. To start with, who am I?"
"Who are you?" George frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Exactly that. Who am I?"
"Well, you're the old man I conjured up for that story that I never wrote."
The old man smiled. "Go on."
George struggled to recall the details. "Uh... you were supposed to be some kind of traveler, I think. Someone from... um... an alternate future. Yeah. That was it."
"Good. But who am I?"
George squinted. "I don't know what you mean. I don't think I had a name for you yet, just this whole alternate thing that I wanted to do. I had an idea what you looked like. I modeled you after--"
George stopped dead in his throught-tracks.
The old man smiled. "Now you're getting somewhere."
George let out a long breath. "I based you on me."
The old man nodded.
"You're an alternate-future version of myself."
George leaned forward and squinted at the old man. Beneath the wrinkles, the resemblance was uncanny. He hadn't noticed it before.
He put his hand to his head.