'I know what you're thinking,' New Ross said. 'I remember it. When I saw myself telling me to get up I thought I was hallucinating. Lack of oxygen, you know. Or maybe I was already dead and on my way to the next world. But this is real. Try to accept it and don't panic.'
Ross looked at this other version of himself. It seemed unreal. He rubbed a bruise that was forming on his forehead.
'Don't try to speak,' New Ross told him. 'Your throat is going to be sore for about a week, but then it should clear up. After that, I'm arranging for you to see a psychiatrist as I know you're feeling depressed. I'm really sorry you feel horrible right now.' He paused. 'It's hard to feel like you have no control over your life. I had to come back to save you, to save myself, because... well, you're going to have a real purpose. Your life will be so full and meaningful.'
Load of crap, Ross thought.
'It's not crap,' his future self insisted. He checked his watch. 'I don't have a lot of time. Staying too long in the past leaves a trail, and I don't want anyone to pick up on it. I want to stay longer to make sure you don't make another attempt.' Then, as f reading Ross's thoughts again, 'It doesn't seem very sympathetic, does it.'
I want an explanation.
'And you're going to get one. Look, once you've sorted yourself out a bit, physically and mentally, things are going to go well. You'll be visited by more yous from the future who can guide you and give you information. As much as they can, anyway. We're limited in what we can do. I don't want to be cryptic or a pain in the arse or anything, it's just... well, like I said, it leaves a trail.'
This was entirely too much for Ross to take in. First of all, he found it hard to believe that he'd been foiled in his attempt at his own life by some future him with a far-out hippy philosophy to life. Furthermore, he found it impossible to think that, at any point in the future, he would be speaking to himself like this. The whole situation was completely insane, and if he'd been able he would have communicated it very loudly and in no uncertain terms.
Still, New Ross seemed to have the knack of readin his mind. He let the words come into his head.
Give me one reason why I should do what you say.
New Ross sighed, probably remembered how this part of the conversation went. He said, 'Listen. I know you think you don't have a life. But soon you'll become part of a chain of events that will save the whole of humanity. I've been told about it. There's a war coming, and you're the one person who can preserve any hope for saving thw world.' Another watch check. 'And... you'll make a promise to someone which you're going to find it impossible to break. This probably sounds stupid, but it's the truth. Just give it a week.'
Ross slumped in the chair, defeated. This guy wouldn't take no for an answer.
'Before I go, I need to remove anything harmful from the house,' New Ross said, 'and then I'm locking you in. I brought some supplies for you, including sleeping tablets; they're upstairs on the landing. In seven days go to the living room and look behind the sofa. There'll be a note explaining how to get out and what to do next. I'll need to trust you to follow those instructions. Just for God's sake look after yourself.'
Ross glared. New Ross nodded and got up from the dining room table, heading for the kitchen. He started to empty the utensils drawer.
New Ross almost completely emptied the house. At first it looked like he'd be working alone, which would have taken days, but then six or so men and women came through the front door with cardboard boxes.
Finding this too depressing even to witness, Ross chose to take a sleeping tablet given to him by New Ross. When he finally woke up, no more refreshed than before he'd taken it, everything was gone. They'd taken all the electronic equipment, the knives, forks and spoons, the plates, bowls and glasses, the glass vases, everything from the shed, all the curtains and curtain rods, the guitar in the spare bedroom, all the heavy ornaments in the living room, and even the pencil sharpener under the bed. The taps no longer worked (although he had been left with plenty of bottled water), the doors had been taken off their hinges and removed, the medicine drawer had been emptied, the light bulbs had been taken and the wooden beam above the stairs had been broken.
Ross checked the bathroom. No shower curtain, no shampoo, conditioner or bleach. Even the toilet roll was torn into squares, so there was no way he could braid a rope out of it.
To make things worse, a few minutes later, someone let themselves in at the front door. This time it was Ross at the age of forty - still dark haired, though thinning slightly. He too was covered in some sort of white dust, including his moustache.
'Don't try to speak,' his future self reminded him. Again the voice sounded odd.
Apparently, this Ross had come from quite far off in the future. He'd already lived through quite a lot of confusing and even very frightening events, but like the New Ross before him, would not talk about any of it in clear terms. His only job, he said, was to come back in time to ensure Ross didn't find another way of killing himself.
'I know it seems awkward,' he admitted as he fed Ross from a bowl of jelly, 'and you're probably thinking, Well why not just send me to a hospital? We decided not to make that choice because first of all, we know you hate hospitals, but more importantly, we couldn't risk you escaping and running amok. It's important for your future selves that we know where you are.'
Ross started to spit out the jelly at first. Then, after some cajoling from his future self, he relented. He took the bowl and ate it himself. There was no point trying to starve himself. If he was really unlucky, the future him would force the stuff down his neck.
This was too much. He turned away as his eyes began to sting. Tactfully, the future ross didn't say anything.
The rest of that day, Ross spent meandering around the house, attempting to bang his head on the walls, but each time he was stopped by the other Ross.