Return to the After Present
For all my artistic aims, I spend 5 days a week as a data monkey, battling the endless tyranny of spreadsheets and databases. Last Tuesday, amid spreadsheet, a stray thought popped into my head. I realised that there’ll never be a sequel to Back to the Future. Not really. Not properly. So, if they can’t make a sequel, I’m betting Hollywood will try to reboot the series. Which is blasphemy in my book. This made me realise we need a sequel to keep those characters alive. Only, I think we’ve all grown up since those movies came out. We’ve moved on. Which means the potential sequel needs to move on with us. This is why I spent Tuesday working out how I would follow on from the original trilogy with a more grown up sequel.
(Please note – Certain names have been changed because the author isn’t sure how copyright law works and didn’t have the time to check.)
We open on Martin MacFlay. He’s a normal man living a normal life. He has a son and a daughter and was briefly a successful guitar player back in the early 90s, before grunge ruined the heady world of catchy synth pop.
These days, still living in Mountain Trough, Martin sells guitars. He does okay, he makes a living; but he is haunted by his teenage adventures in time. He rode through the Wild West. He drove through lightning. He hovered on a bright pink board. He accidentally seduced his mother. He was briefly a terrible cartoon character. Now, though, those days are behind him and he’s struggling to cope with real life. He attends anger management sessions and spends his evenings trying to figure out if a car can run on recycling. He only feels free in his dreams, where he sees himself back in the 1950s. Life was simpler then. No smartphones or social media. No global warming. No Nirvana. He’d had all the answers. He’d understood milkshakes were an acceptable reason to socialise. Nowadays Martin only drank milkshakes at night, alone, when everyone else is asleep.
He never speaks to his wife, Bennifer, about any of this. They’ve become so distant. He doesn’t realise she’s having almost the exact same problem as him. Benny spent years trying to repress the memories, but the constant sense of near déjà vu broke her. She turned to drink and now she listens to grunge the sly when Martin’s at work. It’s her only pleasure in life.
At night, she finds herself wandering the train tracks. She keeps any piece of metal she finds and dreams of rebuilding the car that could take her away from all of this. Not that she knows where she’ll go. Maybe the 90s, to save Kurt Cobain. She’s already worked out where she needs to be in order to make a difference. She wrote it in her diary.
All of this comes to a head when Bennifer is run over by a train during one of her drunken scavenger hunts. Martin doesn’t cope well with the loss of his wife. He sells his shop. He accuses his children of looking far too similar to him and keeps screaming that he wants his flying car already.
He packs his life in a guitar case, along with a few keepsakes that belonged to Benny, including her diary. Reading it, he discovers her secret love of grunge. The betrayal pushes him over the edge. He realises she never loved him. The only woman who ever wanted him was his mother.
A desperate man, living on milkshake and calling everyone Daddy-O, MacFlay decides that he has to get back to her. He finds Benny’s secret stash of time machine parts and cobbles them together with his recycling car project and his rusty old pick-up truck. After stealing some uranium from Bif’s nuclear power station, he heads to the 1950s.
He arrives there mildly irradiated (because what does a guitar salesman know about handling uranium) but there’s a bigger problem. He’s in the 1960s. His parents are older and married. Still, it doesn’t stop him. He pretends to run into his mother at a bar and claims ‘Calvin’ is back in town for business. They begin an affair of a sort. Nothing physical to begin with. They reminisce. They flirt. They meet in secret. It all seems to be working out until the night he takes her back to his hotel room. He switches off the light and, to both their horror, he starts glowing in the dark.
His mother calls him a monster and runs out in tears. That’s when Martin’s mind finally snaps. He heads to the time machine and uses Benny’s co-ordinates. He’s going to Seattle in the 1990s. He’s going to kill Kurt Cobain. Except, Martin accidentally saves Kurt from getting hit by a car instead. A strange friendship grows between them. Thanks to Martin’s influence, Kurt never turns to heroin. They get a flat together and sell guitars. Kurt even begins to appreciate the sound of the synthesiser.
Things are going well until Dave Grohl finds Martin’s guitar case. Inside are some of Benny’s things, including the first Foo Fighters album. Horrified by the future he has been denied, Dave decides to kill Kurt.
Martin tries to stand in front of the bullet but begins to fade away. History is wiping him out and he’s powerless to stop it. You see, he accidentally irradiated his mother’s womb when he was trying to seduce her.
In their final moment together, Martin and Kurt Cobain share a tender kiss. Dave Grohl will eventually write a song about it, marginally improving the album One by One.
So, yep, that gives you a rough idea how my brain works when I get bored.
What’s the moral of this story, you ask? Well, the next time you’re feeling a bit bored or angry, you can be glad you haven’t got my mind to contend with.
Wish me luck.