Hey, Dave. Dave here. Well, to be more accurate I’m Dave 6 and you’re Dave 2, but you haven’t gotten around to labeling us yet. I know it’s confusing. Trust me. I’ve been there.

If you’re reading this, it means that you wandered into the abandoned lab, pressed the green button, wound up 24 hours in the past, and now you’re watching another version of yourself go through the same day. Not to spoil anything, but you’re going to press that button again in an ill-advised attempt at fixing things. And then you do it again. And again. We’re idiots. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The person who left the initial voicemail saying, “Come to the lab immediately?” That’s Dave 7. And there’s a scary guy in a mask, limping through the halls, attempting to stab me with a machete. Can’t remember if you’ve met him yet, but I’m willing to bet that he’s also a future me. I’m calling him “Murder Dave” as I’m not sure where he falls in the grand Dave chronological spectrum. Anyhoo.

How can I explain this without it sounding so bonkers? Have you seen that movie Primer? Wait. I know that you haven’t, but you always tell people that you loved it. We really need to stop lying about these things. Or pretending that we know how to use semicolons. Either way, think of this like Back to the Future II. Also, maybe we should stop relying on pop culture references when we need to make a point? Be original? Just a suggestion.

I also found this letter when I was where you are. And at the time I promised myself that I wouldn’t write this. You know, break the loop. Be my own man. But here I am, writing it verbatim! I’m not doing this solely to keep spacetime intact, however. Seeing other versions of us has given me some much-needed perspective.

And dude, we need to make some changes.

Look at yourself. Literally. There’s a mirror right across from you. You’re wearing a cardigan over a sweatshirt. And it’s the summer. Layering doesn’t make you look sophisticated. It just makes us really sweaty, which means that we won’t take off a layer in fear of showing our sweat stains and then we get even hotter. There’s your predestination paradox.

We’re out of breath after two minutes of running away from Murder Dave. You gotta start working out. And those stupid Allbirds shoes don’t provide any arch support. They’re ugly and impractical. Why do we keep buying them? You also need to stop spending so much money on “rare” Funko Pops, but we can talk finances later.

And our career? As though you can call “freelance proofreader while working on my first novel” a “career.” Job flexibility is good, but when you’re able to duck off in the middle of a Wednesday so you can follow a random lead to an abandoned lab? Then it ceases to qualify as a job. And yes, I’m well aware that you’ve written two previous novels but none of it counts until you’ve actually had something published.

I was hiding out in an old armoire and I overheard Dave 5 on the phone with Erica, trying to explain that the call she got earlier wasn’t actually from him but from another version. The main source of confusion for her, however, was that he kept using the phrase “our relationship.” This was news to Erica. And the worst part of that conversation was that Dave kept saying “whilst.” We can’t say “whilst.” We’re not British! This is why we don’t get invited back to dinner parties!

Dave, buddy, this isn’t a grave warning from the future. This is me trying to help you. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did. Be better than me. I want you to surpass– Holy shit. Do I want kids? Why did I write that? Oh. Because the guy before me did.

Either way, when we get out of this loop, we have to change things up. Maybe you can send a letter to Dave 0 and prevent that jackass from ever even coming to the lab to begin with. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. I should go hit that green button again. What’s one more break in the spacetime continuum? Quantum physics isn’t a science. Right?

Shit. Murder Dave just found me. And as I tried to escape, I rammed my shin into an open cabinet drawer and now there’s this huge bloody gash and OHHHHHH. That’s why Murder Dave has the limp. Damn it.

Anyway, I’m leaving this letter inside a copy of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, where I know you’ll look (seriously, there are other authors in the world. Maybe it’s finally time that we finish one of those Murakami novels on our bedside table?).

Oh, and “Duck when you hear the clown.” The future Dave wearing an eye patch and holding a harpoon told me that we’ll know what it means when the time is right.

Your friend in time,

—Dave 6