I’ve seen the future twice. It didn’t do me any good

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One morning I woke to the shocking realisation that nothing was broken. It took a while to believe it.

Only minutes earlier I was convinced the shattered, wet and rocky remains of a fish tank were strewn across the dining room floor and Mr I’m Three Now Thank You was standing there barefoot having apparently scooped Neville the betta fish into the bin. He must have felt responsible, or maybe he thought that was the natural next destination for whatever mess fell on the floor. I picked the child out of the wreckage and got as far as lifting the bin lid before I woke up. It was, as they say in the classics, all a dream.

My ability to foretell mildly accurate occurrences is, mostly, useless.Credit: Marija Ercegovac

I was never in Kansas, but this is how Dorothy must have felt returning to the dull, sepia half-light of dawn. The dream had better resolution than the real world, but the vividness wasn’t really the strangest part. No, the weird bit came hours later when another family member (who will not be named for fear of retribution) smashed a vase. Water, broken glass, and parts of a plant were smashed and splashed across a different part of the same floor.

Coincidence? Not a chance. It’s the curse of living with mildly accurate premonitions, which work a bit like deja vu in reverse.

Regular deja vu, as Trinity told us in The Matrix, is the machines making mistakes as they patch the software of our pretend reality. Chances are slightly higher it’s caused by glitches in our brains as synapses misfire, giving us the sense we have been here or done that before – but in a spine-tingly, spooky way. It’s not to be confused with the sense of having lived through the same events on repeat ad nauseam, over and over again, like it was some sort of Groundhog Day, if you get my drift. Deja vu ain’t what it used to be, but enough about midlife ennui.

No, these mildly accurate premonitions are something else, and they are spine-tingly in their own way as they foretell minor but inescapable calamity. Like just a few weeks ago when the ether or the spirits or a Terry Pratchett-esque god of minor inconveniences tried to warn me not to get on the train. Trouble was, I didn’t quite understand the memo written in the hairs on the back of my neck and had a good hour stuck between Town Hall and Central doing nothing other than flinging Angry Birds across a screen and getting hungrier. Should have listened to my instincts, I muttered, knowing there really wasn’t a better way home.

It’s like living under a haphazard hex. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the proof.

The spookiest occasion was nearly 15 years ago when, in the dream, the front gate blew off its hinges in the wind and bashed itself into the side of the car. The shiny red Lancer was converted into an oversized crushed Coke can. In reality, after the dream left me feeling uneasy and I saw one wobble too many, I took the gate apart. Believing I had managed to avoid the prognosticated damage, I took off confidently only to get T-boned by an uninsured driver barely 500 metres down the road.

Once again, the premonition was mildly accurate. Most of the same elements were there, but the key difference was I was in the car when it was destroyed. The other driver was clearly at fault, but I had tempted the fates and one way or another I was doomed to arrive at my predestination.

Even from these examples, a few things are blindingly obvious. The first is that this superpower is the result of latent alien DNA left over from that time one of my distant ancestors beamed down to supervise the pyramids and got drunk with Cleopatra. As we know from history, or was it Slaughterhouse-Five? Perhaps spending a career seeing the newspaper a day in advance has turned time’s arrow into Groucho’s banana, or my brain to mush.

But the second, more realistic and germane point is this: mildly accurate premonitions are totally useless.

Was there an explosion of glass and water the other week? Yes. Did the dream do anything to prevent it? No.

Does having a bad feeling about the train ride home mean I can do anything about it? Not really.

This ad hoc ability to sense the future has not saved one smashed coffee cup over the years. Whoever uttered the curse added a clause ensuring there would never be four matching wine glasses in the house.

Not once has a dream offered up any Lotto numbers, and they’d probably all be off by one anyway.

And what of my attempt to subvert fate, Doctor Who style, by being given a glimpse of my car’s crumpled future? By trying to do something about it, karma came back with a vengeance. By messing with the flow of history, I only made it worse. At least, I made it worse for myself. Who knows what effect such interventions have meant for the planet, and what dark mirror alternative reality they’ve thrust us all into? My apologies to you all: but if we are living in the worst possible timeline, it’s also the best. We still have butterflies and sunshine, and the fish tank remains intact.

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