I have to stop. I have to stop panicking. I’m going to trigger another panic attack and that is something I cannot do. I slowly look around, feeling the inhumanly soft white sheets. The comforter on my legs is keeping me warm in the slightly cool room. I see four white walls, it smells like… clean. There are no windows, there are no doors, there is only a table at the end of my bed, a white table.
A thought occurs to me and I promptly look down at my clothes. I let out a little sigh of relief, they are the same as when I went to bed, stupid hello kitty pajama pants, and a baggy old t-shirt saying, “SAVE THE WHALES!” that I bought on a whim at an aquarium a year ago. The only color in the room were these stupid pajamas, oh god, if anyone kidnapped me they would have to have seen me in these PJ’s…. Great!
“Good morning Abigail Windsor,” I am so surprised to hear a voice that I let out a girly shriek and fall out of my bed. “please open your box, get dressed, and proceed….” The mysterious voice is drowned out by another shriek as I try to get myself together.
I stand up and feel super dizzy, finding my way back to the bed I sit down heavily, counting my breaths.
“Abigail Windsor, please open your box, get dressed, and proceed to meet the others outside.” I jump again, the cheerful feminine voice seems to be coming from everywhere, from the walls. I am confused, alone, and in a place I’ve never been to before. There is a nice sounding lady telling me what to do. I don’t have a lot of options here.
So I get off of my sore bum and go for the table. There is white box, about the size of a shoebox, and a white outfit beside it. I slowly take the lid off of the box there’s only two things inside. A letter, and my grandmother’s necklace. I immediately pick up the necklace and hold it in my hand, rubbing it. A habit I’ve developed when I’m worried or scared. I examine it, praying that it’s okay. She gave it to me when I turned 16, and she said that it will give me strength from within. Whatever that means, she was always the one in the family to give vague advice. But it always turned out right one way or another, so we all sort of listened to her, and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I slipped the necklace over my head and gave it one last rub before picking up the letter. It was on off-white paper, just like the rest of the room, and half of the page was filled with small black text.
We regret to inform you that tomorrow is the day you are supposed to die.
I stop reading, my head feels light, I feel cold and hot at the same time, my lips go numb. Sure signs of a panic attack. I sit down, and continue to read.
On the date: 03/10/2019 you will be exposed to a terminal 24 hour virus.
March 10th, 2019 is tomorrow, my stomach flips.
You will experience flu like symptoms for approximately 5 hours before fully passing. It is an unpleasant 5 hours to say the least. This virus will be spreading through the nation, and eventually through the world. It will exterminate ¾ of the human population, leaving a ¼ of the population to become extinct by the year 2061. These events were scheduled to occur, until the organizations TimeLine Restoration Organization (TLRO) intervened. Luckily we have, momentarily, taken you out of these circumstances in order to change that timeline, this process is called reweaving. You play an important role in future events, and in order to carry out your role we, TLRO, have taken the liberty of your fate into our own hands. We appreciate your participation and cooperation. TLRO will provide you with the proper training to create a better future for us all. As we always say: The future is in your hands. 😉
I let out a laugh, but it comes out more like a mad-woman than myself, who knows? Maybe I am a mad-woman. Would it really matter? Because apparently tomorrow I’m going to die! Great. “The future is in your hands.” Winky Face?! I read the letter three more times before realizing that this is not, in fact, a dream.
“Abigail Windsor, please open your box, get dressed, and proceed to meet the others outside.”
My curiosity starts to get the better of me once I’ve digested the letter once more. I slip on the clothes, a white shirt, a v-neck which was pretty comfortable. And white jeans that fit me perfectly, and as we all know, that is hard to find. I go over to see a door cut out of the wall, I push it open and blink my eyes multiple times. It was bright out! Mid-morning at least. And with my necklace in between my thumb and forefinger, and the box in my hand, I step out.
Before I can even make it two feet out of my little room I run into somebody else! She bumps my shoulder enough that I drop the box.
“Oh! I’m sorr-” I look up to see a pretty young lady, maybe a little older than me. And before I can say anything, we make eye contact, and her expression changes completely. Her eyes go all wide and her mouth kind of opens in surprise. For about three full seconds we stare at each other. Her honey eyes meeting my dark brown ones. And she starts,
“Sorry I-” Just as I say, “My bad I-” And we fall back into a strange silence. She is scanning my face with an awestruck expression, which I squirm under, because I’ve never been the one on the receiving end. I am about to say something along the lines of: Uh, so what the hell is going on? when she seems to remember something and composes herself. She stiffens, puts her right hand over her heart, and lowers her eyes.
“Ehem, my apologies Mada- Uh, I mean, um- Abigail Windsor, let me help you with that.”
She hastily bends down and starts to pick up my box. I take this opportunity to look around. I’ve walked out of my white room to a pretty outdoor scene. There are willow trees, and the grass is cut low, and there is a slight breeze that you only notice if you try to. I let out a breath, for some reason it’s calming. Despite being in a place I’ve never been, and having woken up somewhere different from where I fell asleep.
Suddenly I hear a whooshing sound, and I notice a row of off-white squares, all lined up with my square. The one next to mine opens, and someone comes wandering out. They’re only wearing boxers. If I wasn’t so confused I would’ve laughed. But instead I say, “Hey! You!”
Their head snaps over to me. For a second they just stare at me, then without saying a word they walk straight back into their white cube.
“Hey! Who are you?!” I jog over to their cube. If there’s someone else as confused as me in this place, I will not hesitate to find out who they are.
“Wait a minute. Who are you?”
I look into their cube, which is identical to mine. Except there is a lump in the middle of the bed, a lump that’s ignoring my questions.
“Excuse me! I’m talking to you!” A messy head pops out of the covers, and a young man looks over and glares at me. They sit up, and the covers slip down to his torso. He has two lines on his chest, under his nipples. Scars that I recognize as results of top surgery. I look back at his face, he’s rubbing his eyes, and looking back at me.
“Look, I can see your confused, and so am I, so why don’t we just figure this out together?” I put aside my own personal anxiety and fears about the situation and focus on this random guy who seems to be understanding what’s happening for the first time. He doesn’t say anything, so I say, “I’m Abigail, I woke up here, just like you. What’s your name?” I hold out my hand and offer a smile. Usually I can get people with my charismatic dimples. And, to my surprise, I do. He smiles back, and opens his mouth to say something when we hear a scream coming from outside. We both shoot off of the bed and run out of the room together. The scream seems to have come from a girl a couple of cubes down. She is holding something, but before I can say anything she dramatically drops it and begins to faint. In an instant the young woman that I first ran into swiftly catches her. We both run over and gather around the unconscious girl. She looks kind of pale, and has pretty long auburn-ish hair that curls in the prettiest way. And she’s wearing the same clothes as me, but somehow it looks way better on her. All around, my first thought is that she’s gorgeous.
“Is she okay?” Guy asks from beside me.
“She’ll be fine. Nick Adams, please return to your room and get dressed, we will meet you here when you get back and explain everything.” The young girl looks at Nick expectantly, but patiently, he looks over at me. Almost as if to ask permission, and I nod. He leaves as I kneel down. She begins to wake up.
“Wha? Where am I,” she says. She has a slight british accent to her voice, and her blue eyes start to clear.
“It’s okay Megan Opal. Just breathe and look at me.” Megan starts to sit up and look at us. She breathes four times before saying, “Who are you, and what is going on?”
“Megan, if you would come with me, I think it will all be explained.” The girl stands up and holds out a hand for Megan, who takes it delicately and stands up.
“You too Abigail, let’s go sit down.” For a second I don’t understand, where were we going to sit? But as I look over, in the field is six chairs set in a circle. I could’ve sworn they weren’t there before.
As we’re walking over I hear another whoosh, and when I look back I see someone coming out of another cube. A young boy, maybe ten, wandering out of his room slowly.
“Abigail, will you make sure Megan here is seated alright? We don’t want her to have another….episode do we?
“Uh yeah, I mean, no! We don’t want another episode, but I’ll help her over.” I spit out, half watching the boy look at us. The girl passes me her hand which she rests on my forearm for support. And the girl starts to walk over to the little boy. We start toward the chairs.
Another swoosh and Nick comes out of his room, dressed in white, a box in his hand, and a grim expression. I pat me seat and he comes over. We all sit down, and I immediately notice an extra seat. As if on cue, we all turn our heads as we hear a swoosh, and a dark skinned young lady walks out of the last room. She is holding her box, and is dressed in white. Just like the rest of us in a circle. We watch as she studies us and walks over slowly.
“Now that you are all here I can explain why, how, and who you all are to each other. Do you understand?” The girl looks at us all individually, searching for an indication we are listening and not on the verge of a freak out. It seems all of us are ready for an explanation more than a meltdown.
“Each of you was hand selected to visit this place for a short amount of time in order for me, somewhat of a counselor, to teach you all you need to know in order to reweave this timeline.” It sounds as if she has rehearsed this many times, but to us, this is all very new.
“My name is Nova, and I am from the year 2049, 30 years in the future, and I have been assigned to your group. We are currently in a….” Nova takes a moment to figure out how to explain, as I try to compute her being a time traveler. “Mental playground, if you will. This is all virtual. None of us are physically here, no matter how much it feels like you are. The TLRO has taken your consciousness, including mine, and have stuck them all onto this specific software in order to let us to stay here as long as necessary in order for me to teach you all what I have to. Now, let me introduce you all.”
A virtual reality? TLRO? This a lot to take in, and I can already feel myself slipping into the overwhelmed state that I’m so used to.
Nova turns her head to the boy she called Nick. “Nick Adams, age 20 as of now, born as Nicole Adams in Brentwood Tennessee, two sisters, and is currently majoring journalism.” We all look to Nick who is squinting at Nova, confused as the rest of us. She continues,“future journalist and activist. ‘Leading individual of over 50 movements, and award winning writer who shines light on countless current issues’ Quoting your biography written in 2042.” We all stare at Nick, a boyish 20 year old clutching his white box and staring at Nova with wide eyes. By the paleness of his skin we all know that this is true.
She continues, “the reason we brought you here today is because within the next 24 hours you will be exposed to a virus that will kill you. And without you in history, my current reality wouldn’t exist. The TLRO has intervened, and we will teach you to become the future leader of our world that you are supposed to be.”
“Abigail Windsor,” Nova looks at me, and my stomach flips, my fingers go numb, and I hold my breath for what she’s about to say.
“Our president of the United States of America. Elected in 2055, on your 2nd term, the second female president, and, as many say,” there’s a twinkle in Nova’s eye, “the best one yet.”
I open and close my mouth, trying to understand what I’m hearing. Trying to put the words she said, into coherent sentences. Because they sure as hell don’t make sense.
“Age 18, born in Rockwood Maine, one sister, graduating class of 2019.’” My jaw dropped open.
“The reason that you are here today is that you are set to die within the next 24 hours, and in order for the future to unfold to the reality that I know and love we must intervene and tell you information necessary for you, and your team,” she gestures to everyone in the circle, “in order to stop this horrible event from happening in history-” she pauses. I look up from where my eyes were wandering to to find an intense stare aimed at me.
“You are our future, Abigail, without you none of this would be possible. Frankly, without you, Madam President, there would be no future.” We stare at each other as those last few words echo within our little circle, and I stare back at Nova, somehow understanding what she means. Not in a way that I can explain, not in a conscious way, but in my heart, something clicks. Something that has been burning for the last year as I applied to colleges that I thought I was supposed to like, never really being sure. My future has always been foggy, I never knew what I wanted to do. But now, hearing Nova say. “Madam President,” my throat constricts, and tears blur my vision. My life has a purpose, and now, hearing what it is, a fire is lit in my chest, and I know that I’ll fight like hell for it.
It’s dinner time, and we’re all sitting around a campfire. For some reason, this virtual reality feels like a summer camp. Bonfires, our own cabins, activities everyday. But the difference is that this summer camp isn’t teaching us songs, or how to tie knots, it’s teaching us how to save the world.
I slowly look around at each of the “campers”. Nick is sitting next to me, as usual, we have sort of clicked already, and it comforts me to have another person here that I feel that I can talk to. He and I spent most of the day talking, he told me about his family, and how they kicked him out when he came out as transgender. They wanted their daughter Nicole more than their son Nick. When he told me that story, he was so sad, and defeated. I was surprised to see that there was no anger or resentment, only dulled regret. We bonded over coming out stories, although mine were much less dramatic, just a usual evening when I came out as bisexual, and my family just sort of accepted it. I didn’t totally understand how big of a deal that was until I saw the sadness that Nick carried with him. He told me about the item that was put in his box, we each got to bring an item to the virtual reality with us, and his was a journal. Ever since that first introduction, he’s been writing in it, taking notes, “remembering” as he says. We also talked about his passion for writing, and I sat and listened to all of his ideas, occasionally adding my opinions, or challenging some of his thinking. I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of his drive and passion. I wish I had his creative talent, and focused perspectives. I have no problem imagining him as an award-winning journalist, he is one of a kind, and I am thankful that I get to talk with him. Well, I guess if Nova’s correct, I’ll get to work with him in 30 years. But right now, looking at the fire, I don’t want to think about the future, or the new crushing weight on my shoulders, I just want to enjoy my dinner.
I look over to Matty, Matthew Narmond, a 9 year old boy from Oregon. He’s the youngest of all of us. A small boy, with wild copper hair and a face-full of freckles. When he sees my gaze lingering on him he catches my eyes and smiles brightly. When we finally came to him in our introductory circle it was revealed that he will be the inventor of the technology allowing all of us to be here. His face lit up like a christmas tree when he heard that, while we all gawked. He was just a kid! But, we were all just a kid at some point, weren’t we? His item is a book, Captain Underpants, he might be the inventor of time travel, he is still a child. He is a sweet kid though, definitely the most excited to be here. And he’s incredibly bright, like insanely smart. We have all grown very fond of him, even though we’ve only known each other for a day.
My eyes travel past Matty to Megan, who is talking very animatedly to Rhonda, the last member of our team. Nova refers to us as a team because she says that when we get together, we change the world. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Megan seems to be the least excited about being here, probably because she has no real reason to be here at all, other than being a living cure to the huge virus that is about to sweep the nation. Megan has a unique enzyme in her body that can fight the virus almost completely. Not that I don’t like Megan or anything, it’s just that she’s… an acquired taste. Since her blood seems to hold the secret to saving the human race, she seems to think she can treat the rest of us like we owe her the world. She is from a rich family in Washington, and hasn’t worked a day in her life, even though she’s 23. Her item was a perfume bottle, which she defended as the most “regal” of all the smells, and she couldn’t possibly live without it. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that sets her apart from the rest of us is that she doesn’t have to work her butt of for the reason she’s going to save the world, it’s literally in her blood. Plus it doesn’t help that she’s drop-dead gorgeous, and her laugh sounds like butterflies and warm summer nights. I swear I’d hate her guts if I hadn’t already developed a big fat crush on her.
The last is Rhonda, the doctor. She was born in the middle east, and her family immigrated here before she was born. She is extremely religious, and it was interesting to see how she reacted when she found out that Nick was trans. At first she was surprised and a little angry for being deceived, but after we let them talk it out Rhonda and Nick were joking and having a merry old time. She is 19 years old, lives in San Jose California with her family of nine. Three of her siblings were adopted, and two of them died young of illnesses. Rhonda explained to us that that is what drove her to pursue medicine, and she told us of her struggles in having a part time job, while helping support the family, and trying to do early college, and study. We all praised her on her drive and her future success. She will be the one to find the cure to the virus that will eventually wipe us all out. She is the real hero of our story, and we all admire her for it. Rhonda will find the cure within Megan’s blood and that will save us all.
I finally close our dinner circle with Nova, our “counselor”. I like Nova, she has some odd mannerisms, but I suppose that is what’s expected in the future. Once in a while I catch her staring and me, and she quickly looks away, pretending to be getting the fire ready, or making dinner. I tried to make conversation with her, but she was very closed off, and seemed really nervous, so I didn’t try to push it. I did find that she is 24, and has worked for TLRO for almost 5 years, it was her dream to be a field agent, and now she is. Despite her being closed off, for the most part she answered our stupid questions and made us feel a little at home, despite the absolutely insane circumstances.
“Alright, I hope that today was relaxing, and you had time to digest this new information. I am honored to meet you all at such a pivotal part in all of your lives. But we are going to get to work as soon as possible. As of tomorrow morning, our training starts.” And with that, we all dispersed to our cubes.
I got undressed, found the shower, which took me a good 10 minutes, took a shower, slipped on beautiful white silk pajamas, and snuggled up in bed. I was so tired, my head slightly pounded, all this new information sat heavily on my eyelids and my body was ready for the sweet release of sleep. But my mind had other plans. It was zooming. Replaying the events of today. Worrying, tumbling through new information, imagining the future that I play such a big role in. What if I failed? What if I can’t do it? What if I die from the virus before I can become the president? I lay in bed, for I don’t know how long, just thinking, until finally I couldn’t anymore, and I drifted off to a dream I’ll never be able to remember.
I wake up to a bright white room, and a tangle of white blankets. For a second I look at the ceiling, waiting for the previous day to form in my mind, and when it does, my breath leaves me. A crushing weight settles on my chest, just like the responsibility of what my role is for the future. Nova had said that I was the person to lift up our country after it had fallen with the viruses remains. I was the leader that remade the world. And at some moments I am immensely excited, and proud to be that person, but under that layer of excitement is hard, cold dread. What if I fail? How am I supposed to make all these decisions? One day my face and name will be known by the country. Am I ready for that? No. I’m not!
All of these thoughts swirl in my fried brain as I walk out of my cube to see the others gathered around a picnic bench. Nick is absentmindedly writing in his notebook as he talks to the others. Rhonda and Matty are talking quietly, while Megan is obviously complaining about whatever we’re eating to Nova. We all look ruffled, tired, and drained. When I sit down everyone looks up for a second and smiles awkwardly. We all are still a little weary of each other, after all, we are just a bunch of strangers being thrown together, you know, to save the the world.
I begin to shovel food into my mouth, not really caring what it is when Nova stands up, startling all of us into attention.
“Okay crew, I’ll give all of you another couple minutes to finish up before we start out training.” With that she turns abruptly and starts to walk over to her cube, the first one in the row. We all watch silently, curious and surprised that training was actually going to start. I had known about it yesterday, but it felt like something far away, miles away from when we first learned about what we were doing here.
Nova stops at her cube, and presses her hand to the white wall, all of a sudden lights, and diagrams, and images are displayed on the screen. She taps a couple of things, and all of a sudden the meadow under our feet starts to shift. Everything starts to blend together, and the ground under my feet melts into something more solid, less natural. I look up in panic and see that my fellow campers have a shocked expression on their faces as well. The world around us is bending, melting, changing. And in an instant it snaps into place. We are in a classroom now. All behind different desks, with our boxes on our desks. And Nova is at the front of the room smiling pleasantly. I look around, a sense of vertigo lingering, making the world, that I thought was a solid thing, shift. I hear a gagging sound through the ringing in my ears and look over to see Nick hunched over, seemingly dry heaving. That’s when I notice Megan screaming, and I look over to see her looking around wildly, eyes wide, still screaming, even though the world seems to have settled to a stop. Rhonda is blinking in the desk next to me, and Matty is giggling, saying, “cool” over and over again. And Nova, still standing at the front of the classroom is frowning, obviously concerned about what’s happening.
“Sorry guys, I guess I should have warned you.” She gives a pathetic laugh, and rubs the back of her neck sheepishly. Megan stops screaming and stands up, before she can shreak anything she starts to sway, but Nick is there steadying her. A pang of jealousy rings in my stomach when I see his hand on her elbow. But before I can do anything, Megan begins: “Warned us?! Warn us that you’d press your stupid button and send us into a whirlpool! I am so done with all this shit! I didn’t ask to have this fucking enzyme! I don’t want to be here with all of you nutcases! This stupid ass country can die for all I care!” With that she kicks her chair and starts to leave, but realizes she doesn’t know where she is and takes a moment to look around, her face turning a shade of pink all the while. Finally she leaves with a huff, slamming the door. In the silence we all look at each other with raised eyebrows, Nova opens her mouth to say something, but before she can, we hear the swoosh of Megan’s door, and Nova winces.
Nova looks close to tears at the front of the classroom, and for the first time I see that she is just as human as the rest of us. Her job is to teach us how to change the future, and right now, she’s not doing that. Before I know what I’m doing, a wave of empathy washes over me. I slowly get up, and walk over to her, my footsteps cutting through the silence and I put a hand on Nova’s shoulder as she tries to compose herself. She looks so young, maybe 25, and in that moment, she seems so fragile. Without thinking, I give her a hug, a simple gesture, but in return Nova hugs me back fiercely. I let out a breath of surprise, but keep a tight grip, whispering in her ear. “You’re doing great. It’s just a lot to handle. Let me go talk to Megan.” I pull away and she nods, I give a little smile and try to make some eye contact, while I rub her arms soothingly. “Hey Nov, it’ll be fine.” For some reason her breath catches and her head snaps up to me, the tears in her eyes shining. There’s a glimpse of something in her eyes that I barely catch before she breaks eye contact. She stands up suddenly and clears her throat.
“Alright, why don’t you go talk to Megan? I’ll start the class.” She looks straight ahead at the rest of the group when she says that, and I take that as a good time to leave. But before I leave I quickly open Megan’s box and snag her perfume bottle.
As I walk out to Megans cube, something doesn’t sit right about Nova, there’s something off about her. And where did the name Nova come from? It just kind of rolled off the tongue. But right now, I’m about to walk into the lion’s den. I take a big breath and knock on her door.
“Go away! I hate all of you! Let me suffer in peace!” Wow, this’ll be fun. I’ve never been one for the over-dramatic, but there’s a first time for everything right?
“Hey, it’s Abby! I just want to talk!”
“God! Why don’t you listen! Go away!” She yells through the wall.
“Megan, please. You forgot your perfume bottle! Let me give it to you.” No response, and for a second I thought that I ruined my chances, but her door opens a sliver. I open it more to see a room that looks identical to mine, but on the bed is a crying Megan. I step in and she looks up fiercely, giving me a watery glare. Her eyes are so blue it hurts my heart.
“Just give me my stupid bottle.” Her voice is sharp, but the sniff afterwards reveals the vulnerable state that she’s in. So I sit on the bed, and hand it over.
“Well?” She snarks impatiently.
“Hey! No need to be bitchy, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. The virtual switch thing seemed to really freak you out.” I hold my breath, ready for another outburst, but instead she lets out a sigh, and sinks into the bed, not looking at me.
“I’m sorry, and believe me, I don’t say that often. I just hate this stupid place.”
“Yeah well, it’s not like the rest of us are having the greatest time. Finding out that you are the next president isn’t exactly relieving. I mean, the U.S kind of depends on me.” It’s quiet for a second and I look over to see Megan looking at me hard.
“Abby, you’re going to be a great president. I don’t know what you’re worried about.” She crosses her legs and says this so dismissively that I have to replay her words again in my head to understand what she just said. I gawk, this gorgeous girl just complimented me, I can’t compute.
“….What?” My voice sounds three octaves higher than usual. She swivels her head to me and raises her eyebrows in disbelief.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! We all see how you handled this, you’re a born leader Abby. You’re the one who made sure that Rhonda and Nick didn’t bite each other’s heads off. You always put others first, and you’re too freaking humble about it to realize that you’re a perfect presidential candidate. Hell, you came in here to check on me when I bet nobody even thought to see if I were okay.” I stare at her for a second, and she rolls her eyes.
“….oh.” I say stupidly. I find myself staring at my hands and trying to understand what Megan had said, and when I look up she’s smiling at me, looking so pretty. I grab her hand, and stare into her pretty eyes. Suddenly, she goes all stiff, and pulls away, her smile disappearing.
“Wow, I can also see you have a huge crush on me, and I’m flattered, but I don’t swing that way.” My heart breaks a little bit inside, but more than anything I feel embarrassed and stupid.
“Oh! Uh…yeah. I don’t know why I did that! I’m sorry…I-I-I-”
“No, it’s okay. You didn’t do anything wrong.” She interrupts, and smiles as my face burns. “Look, I can tell that you are embarrassed, but don’t be. This kind of stuff happens all the time. And trust me, your crush will fade after a while. I just have that effect on people.” She gives an encouraging smile, which only seems to melt my heart a little.
“I’m sure you do, being gorgeous and everything.”
“Right, pretty. That’s what I am.” Her tone of voice makes my head snap up.
“Hey, I just meant that I’m sure that you always get a lot of attention because you’re so beautiful.”
“Yeah, I get it. A pretty blonde walks in the room and that’s what she’s labeled as, the pretty blonde. God, I wish someone could just give a shit about something other than my money and boobs!” She slams her hand down in frustration.
“Hey, I give a shit.” We lock eyes, and I see something that I haven’t seen before, insecurity.
“Thanks Abby, it’s just, i’m stuck in this hellhole with all of you geniuses and I’m just….me. My stupid blood, or whatever, is the only reason that I’m useful.” Her voice turns into a whisper by the end of her sentence. And I can see how sad she is.
“So what? Yeah, your blood is the reason you’re here, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do more. We’re on a tight schedule with these lessons and everything, and heaven knows that not even I can keep us on track. Maybe poke your head around, be nosy. We all know that you’re good at that.” I pause, and she huffs a laugh. “Be a translator, Nick, and Rhonda could be speaking different languages when it comes to medicine and writing, help them understand each other. I don’t know Megan, it seems like you’re the one who’s got their shit together the most-” Megan opens her mouth to object but I beat her to it. “Keep in mind, I’m a bumbling president with anxiety, Nick is a 20 year old writer who drinks too much coffee, Rhonda spends more time mumbling to herself than talking to us, and the remaining two are either 9 years old, or from the future.”
She gives a hearty laugh, and says “Alright, I’ll give you that. But this whole, work thing, eh, I don’t know. As previously stated, I’m just a blondy with boobs.” She gives a little smirk, and her eyes are sparkling. We give one last hug and return to the others. They are talking about some sort of future mathematical thingy when we walk in, they all pause for a moment and stare.
“Well, idiots, get back to work! We don’t have time to sit around and gawk all day. We have a world to save.” She sits down with a huff, stares at her nails, and elegantly ignores our glances. I give a small thumbs up to Nova, she returns it and goes on to finish her lecture.
I don’t know how many days have passed, but in this short time, I’ve learned a whole lot. After about two lessons of scientific mumbo jumbo I realized that it was not for me, and tapped out. Leaving and eager Matty and Rhonda to their happy place. Nick seems to hang around wherever, taking lazy notes. Megan, however, is always buzzing around. After our little talk the second day she’s really taken initiative. Maybe even a little overboard. She talked Nova into teaching her how to use the environment manipulator, so she is now in control of switching from science labs, to classrooms, to bonfire, to libraries, and more. After that first freakout, I think we are all grateful she’s the one in control of that. She also has been keeping a careful log of our improvements, achievements, and lessons. We’ve created a tradition where at every dinner Megan and Nick whip out their notes and report back what we achieved today. Most days it’s super encouraging, but other days it can weigh us down, seeing how far we still need to go.
Rhonda is slowly becoming more open, and it turns out she’s really funny. She’ll be sarcastic in the weirdest times, so we’ll all stop for a second and look at her, confused, and she’ll burst out laughing. Sometimes, in the middle of a hard work day, that’s exactly what we need. She is so incredibly smart. By day five she already cracked the virus on her own. It’s the best way to implement it that has been taking the longest, but we all know she can do it.
Nick is…. Nick. Quirky, fun, always writing, smelling like coffee. We all know he is the one who works the most. Spending nights writing, recording, collecting things. Learning little tidbits from everyone to make sense of the story we’re weaving. We all notice his blood-shot eyes, and bags some mornings, and we know he’s pulled an all-nighter. Despite his tired state, he’s always smiling, cracking jokes, playing with Matty. I would say he’s my best friend.
Matty, oh how we love Matty. He’s the sweetest kid. One moment he’ll be talking like a professor in the classroom, slowly learning the ways of time travel and brain augmentation, and the next he’ll be whining about how he misses his legos. He really is a wiz kid, but that’s the thing, he’s only just a kid. Sometimes we forget that, with working him late night, to brushing aside his efforts to bring us together, he gets burned out faster than we do, and sometimes we can see it. But we’ve learned, and so we all kind of take on a role with him. Nick being the mischievous big brother, always playing stupid pranks that we pretend to be surprised by for Matty’s sake. Rhonda is a total mom, serious and stern, making sure he’s okay. Megan is aunt, taking care of him if she has to, but loving all the same. Nova is the teacher, of course, as she is to all of us. And then there’s me, I guess I’d say I’m the babysitter. Playing games, teaching him silly rhymes and songs, just trying to make him feel loved, I guess.
And then me. I have my own set of lessons. All how to be president. And gosh is it exhausting. I’m learning about the history of our country, about how to be diplomatic, how to give speeches, how to make hard decisions. And so so so much more. Everyday I learn more, and everyday I grow more confident. I’ve started to understand more deeply how our democracy works. I know the ins and outs of making a law. I can name all the presidents, their spouses, kids, and parents in 30 seconds flat (I timed it). I know that if I keep trying I can do well, better than some presidents we’ve had. And yet, I always hesitate, second guess myself. Nova says I need more confidence. But sometimes it feels like the world is on my shoulders, and I can’t breath. I’ve had three minor panic attacks since I’ve been here. I’ve been able to calm myself down pretty well, but today is the day I’m presenting my speech. It’s a practice one of course, just something the practice my public speaking. But the thing is, I’m terrified of public speaking. Yeah, I know, I’m the freaking president. And that is the precise reason why I haven’t told anyone yet.
I’m waiting for Megan to hit the button to start the simulation, the simulation for the audience I’ll be presenting to. The whole crew is here for support, watching from the stands somewhere, supportive and friendly. I just hope they don’t see me crash and burn. I plaster on a smile and give Megan the thumbs up. She presses the button and the world spins. I suddenly in front of hundreds of people. The simulation makes it feel so real. I look up, and my stomach immediately drops. A light pain starts to form in my chest, and I try to take in a breath, but I feel a little like I’m choking. It’s starting. I look down at my typed paper and try to begin.
“Hello, my name is Abigail Wi-” I can’t read the words anymore, oh god, what’s my name? I can’t feel my fingers, and my lips have gone numb. Nothing feels real anymore, and I can’t breathe. “Windsor, and I’m here to-to-t-” I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.
“Abigail, is everything alright?” Nick’s voice is close by, but I can’t answer, the world is spinning and I find myself sitting down heavily. Shit shit shit.
“Abs!” Matty’s high pitched voice is blurred by the rushing in my ears.
“She’s having a panic attack.” Rhonda says loudly. She’s right, I need to keep this under control, I need to breath. But when I look up at the audience again I can’t. I’m hyperventilating. Rhonda’s voice is blurry in the background, giving orders and whatnot. Then Nova’s voice, firmly saying, “No.” I’m struggling to keep consciousness at this point, and I’d rather just pass out than have to keep reading when I feel a hand on my back. Rubbing circles.
“Hey M- Abigail, just listen to my voice. Yeah, and feel my hand. Can you feel it?” I focus my attention on her hand rubbing circles in my back, I follow it with my mind. And nod my head yes.
“Good, now take a few breaths with me.” We take three breaths together. “Now, can you tell me which direction my hand is going?” Clockwise. “Clockwise,” I say, my voice rough.
“Awesome, now can you open your eyes?” I hadn’t realized they were closed. I open them to see her pretty brown eyes, we stare at each other for a moment and she smiles.
“Now count my freckles.” I lower my eyes to her nose and cheeks, she only has a handful of small dark brown freckles across her nose. I count 12, and look back, “12.” Suddenly I realize that I’m breathing fine, I’m not as dizzy, and my hands aren’t shaking.
“Good, are you feeling better?”
“Yeah, actually I do. How did you know how to do that?”
“Oh! I have a lot of practice.” She looks away, and rubs here neck nervously.
“You get panic attacks too?”
“No, my….mom. She gets them sometimes. I’ve learned what works best.” She can’t seem to meet my eyes.
“Yeah, the rubbing helps, actually, my grandma used to do it when I had panic attacks all the time, always worked.”
“Yeah, grandma Beth always kne-” My head snaps up, and I stare at Nova.
“How did you know that?” I had never mentioned grandmas name. Not once. Nova turns a bright pink, and she starts rubbing her neck harder.
“Oh, uh, I just….I have files on all of you.” Her hand moves from her neck to a chain which she follows to a small pendants which she starts rubbing. I look down at my own hand, rubbing a small pendant. I grab for her hand and pry the pendant out. My eyes open wide with shock, it’s my pendant. The one Grandma Beth gave me, an exact replica of the one around my neck, little dents and everything.
“What the hell is this?!” I stand up and yell at her. She gets up abruptly and tries to shove the necklace back in her shirt.
“Don’t try to hide it! I saw that necklace, how do you have it?!” My voice comes out angry, but I’m really just confused and shocked, I need to know what this means.
“I-the necklace it’s-”
“It’s exactly like mine!”
“That’s because it is yours!” She yells this at me and I step back in shock. My mouth open, I try to figure out what’s going on, I’m so confused. I stare at Nova for a long time, trying to put together the puzzle, and then she looks down at me with her brows furrowed, and my stomach drops. She has a little dent in her forehead in between the eyebrows, it only shows up when she’s worried. I’ve noticed it before, many time, but all of those times have been in the mirror. I step back again, everything falling into place in my mind. Why she looked so familiar, all the times she has gone “M- I mean Abigail.”, how she knew grandma Beth, and why she has this stupid dent. She’s my daughter.
“Nova-” My eyes fill up with tears, happy, confused, overwhelmed tears. Even though I already know, I still have to ask, “Nova, are you my-am I your….Nova, am I your mom?” I look up at her, her eyes are filling with tears as well now, and she gives a little nod. We stare at each other for a second, and then in a moment we are hugging fiercely. Our hug lasts a long time, and over Novas shoulder I see the rest of the crew gaping at us. Rhonda is wearing a knowing smile, Matty is jumping up and down, Nick starts scribbling furiously in his journal, and Megan eloquently sums up all of our thoughts with, “Holy shit.”
Nova and I spend the rest of our afternoon talking alone. I can’t stop looking at her, and the more I look the more familiar she seems. We look so much alike, how did I not see it before? We have to same straight nose, that’s rounded at the end, and our eyes are the same almond shape, although hers are a nice honey brown were mine are more chocolate brown. We have the same wavy black hair, but hers is always styled in a low ponytail, while mine is shorter a loose mess around my head. She’s much taller than me, at least three inches. Granted, I’m omy 5’ 3”, but still. She’s skinnier, too, almost model like. She really is beautiful. And we talk similarly, fragmented sentences, slurring the L’s and rolling the R’s slightly. And she’s super bright, a smart kid. My kid. I feel so much love for her, and I don’t even know where it comes from. We talk about little things at first, like what she does with her life, and then I finally convince her to tell me a little about my future. Even though it’s against her protocol, I’m very persuasive, hey, I’m the president! She tells me that I have son as well, his name is Otis, and he’s an engineer. Oh my god, I want to meet him. I want to see him, and get to know him. From what Nova says he’s very smart, and super annoying, but, you know, that’s siblings for you. She says that I become president after my second try, and win by a landslide. And, I’m a good president. In fact, I’m a great one. I had been holding my breath for this information the whole time, and hearing that news made me want to cry. Apparently, I am a leader in the end of sexism, and I create a great healthcare system, I end a cold war, and I lead our country to new heights with technology. I’m sure Nova’s embellishing a little for her dear old mom, but hearing all this gives me drive to keep moving forward. She says the reason she went into mental augmentation and time travel was because of me, and how I showed her these new discoveries. Now she works for the TLRO as a field agent and she loves it. I am so immensely proud of her, I can’t even express it. And lastly, before we go to bed, she says, “Alright, I know you’ve been waiting for this the whole time, but yes, dad is a hottie, at least, that’s what you say.” My cheeks flush immediately, but I hide it, refusing to let her know that yes, that is what I’ve been waiting for.
“He’s a pediatrician, and the love of your life.” She gives a warm smile that I have to return. I marry a pediatrician? My heart melts a little.
“What’s he like?” I feel stupid asking, but I’m too curious not to ask.
“Well, he’s pretty awkward, tells terrible dad jokes, even before he was a dad according to you. He’s tall, like me, good with kids, he’s a dog person, “ Score! “He eats too much pasta, a great first gentleman, super supportive of all of us. He has a dumb tattoo of a rubber duck on his bicep as a dare when he was 17, and he’s really bad at cooking.” He sounds perfect. “Oh yeah, and let me give you a tip. Just pretend the cat is yours alright?”
“Pretend that the cat is yours, trust me, I mean, I’m your own flesh and blood!” I laugh, but sit there, confused for a while longer, before we call it a night. We hug each other goodnight, well I hug my daughter goodnight. And before she leaves I give her a kiss on the head, which I have to get on my tiptoes for. And I watch her walk away, tears start to leak out of my eyes, and I thank whatever God there is out there for the bright future I have ahead of me.
The next day is back to work. I am driven, focused, ready. Since I found out about Nova everything has changed. I have something to fight for, something I can see, something I can love. I’m learning things twice as fast, I’ve done two speeches in the simulator without fainting, and I can name all the presidents and families in 28 seconds. A couple nights later around the campfire Megan reads out our checklist as usual.
“Alright, you guys, today was really good! It looks like we are right on schedule, it looks like we ha-” Megan stops, rereads her checklist, and rereads it again.
“It looks like we only have two days left.” We all sit there silently, all processing this information. Over the last couple months, or what feels like a couple months, we’ve all grown so close, like a small family. We joke all the time, laughing and crying together. This whole adventure ending in a couple days is too hard to think about. Not to mention everything we have to do when we leave this place.
Rhonda, Nick, and I have come up with a plan to….save our country basically. When we get back I will be the one to locate everyone in the real world. We will all fly to Megans house in California where we’ll set up shop. Rhonda will take the samples from Megan and synthesize the cure, which will be placed in various water sources, so that, hopefully, everyone who has been affected by the virus will have access to the cure. This seemed like the fastest way to get a widespread result. Simultaneously Nick with be getting the word out to new stations, headlines, and everything he can so that people know what’s going on. And lastly, Matty will be building a device to contact TLRO’s HQ to let them know that our plan succeeded. In order to pull this off we all need to pitch in. And, unfortunately, I am the one to start us off. Great, if I mess up, we’ll all die. Great.
Two days before we have to set this into action. Two days before I’m going to have to wait to see Nova again. But I guess I’ll get to see her grow, and I’ll get to be her and Otis’s mom. I’m going to change to world. We’re going to change the world. A smile blooms across my face and suddenly, I know exactly what to say.
“Hey guys, this is what we’ve been training for! We know what we have to do. Don’t you guys get it? This isn’t the end of us, it’s the beginning. When we leave this place, that’s when it really starts, we’re going to save the world! The reason we’re all here is because we were chosen, we are the most qualified people to do this. I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to meet you guys in person and start our amazing lives.”
“Damn, Ms. President is right.” Megan says, breaking the silence. As I look around I see smiles, true, pure smiles spread across their faces. My team, my crew, my family.
The next day we all wake up early, have our final lessons, we cram as much stuff in our heads a possible, and try not to cry too much, which doesn’t go so well. And finally, the day of our departure arrives.
“You guys, when I signed up to take this mission, well, actually, I begged for this mission. I mean, who wouldn’t want to meet their mom when she’s your age? That’s some Back to the Future stuff right there.” My heart swells when I hear her make such a good movie reference and I go over and give her a hug.
“ As I was saying, when I signed up for this mission I knew that I was going to have the privilege of training the people who will later shape the future I grew up in, but what I didn’t know was that I’d be meeting such amazing people that I will always remember as my heros.” We all gather around for a hug. And when we release we notice that Nova is crying, hard.
“Hey Hey Hey, it’s going to be okay, we’ll see eachother soon!” We all give encouraging pats, but it doesn’t seem to help much.
“I know, it’s just, I haven’t told you guys something yet,” we all step back, giving her space. A long moment passes and Megan says, “Well what is it? Spit it out!”
“It’s just, all of this, you’re not going to remember it.” A shocked silence.
“I was going to tell you after moms lecture but….well, you know what happened. And then we all became so close that I couldn’t bare to tell you.”
“What do you mean we won’t remember all of this?” Nick says as he waves his notebook around wildly.
“I mean, the TLRO policy is that all information that you gathered from your time here is to be erased.” She looks down at her hands and rubs her neck slowly. “The thing is, if you were to go back and remember all of these memories at once, it would basically fry your brain.”
“Yeah, shoving three months into one second in your brain would be a serious overload,” said Matty solemnly.
“TLRO creates a set of….coordinates if you will, certain places and times where this information will come in handy. You only remember what we program you to remember, everything else will be lost.”
“Wait, I don’t get it, your brainwashing us?!” Megan says incredulously. Rhonda lets out a long sigh, which indicates to all of us that she’s about to explain something she finds simple.
“No Megan, they’re not brainwashing us. They are simply taking all the things that we’ve learned manually in the last three months, saving those skills, and scrapping the rest. At certain points in our upcoming life these skills will be needed. Such as the formulas I have memorized in my head to make the cure. I will remember them when I need them. It really is a good system, well done future Matty.” Rhonda explains calmy.
“Thanks, wait! So, I’m not going to remember all those awesome prank Nick and I did? Or what Rhonda’s Mac n’ Cheese tastes like? Or Abby’s bedtime stories? But I’ll remember how to recreate the diversions of linear time and spacial construction with our current technology?” Matty’s eyes begin to water and he hugs my leg tightly.
“Yeah, what he said!” I say weakly.
“Basically, that’s the policy, I’m sorry you guys, I didn’t know how far this would go. So, say your goodbyes I guess.” A small tear falls down Novas cheek. We all look at each other silently. Everything has changed so fast, our whole plan has been shifted. According to Nova, it still should work, but now, all we’ve build will just….disappear. A small tear escapes my eye as well. And I clear my voice and say.
“Crew, I thank you for being my team that will carry our future country into a better world. Although we won’t remember these last few months, we will find eachother soon, and no matter what happens, I know, from the bottom of my heart that we will never forget the love we share with each other.” My words aren’t shaky, or hesitant, they are strong and they ring true.
“Spoken like a true president.” Megan says with a smile. We all give one last hug and stand in our respective door-way. Nova walks over to her cube, her hand is ready to hit the button, and she looks over to me, and she mouths, “I love you.” But before I can do anything back she hits the button. Everything is gone.
I wake up to an annoying bird outside, and a crick in my neck. I must of slept funny. Huh. I swear, I had a dream last night. It’s at the edge of my memory, but I can’t seem to reach it. Ugh, I hate when that happens. I sit up, and immediately begin to cough, I must be getting a cold or something, I hope it’s not serious, I’ve got a history quiz on Monday, and heaven knows I suck at American history.
I go down to get some breakfast, and I’m halfway through my mini wheats when I hear the doorbell ring. Who the hell could it be at seven in the morning? I pad over to the door in my cow slippers and open the door grumpily. Nobody wants to get in between me and my breakfast. Standing on the other side of the door is some guy holding a kitten. I’m about to say, “yo, take your adorable kitten and leave” when I look up at him. He’s pretty damn cute. He’s got floppy brown hair, sandy blond. He’s very tall, maybe 6’ 2”? He has a splatter of small dark freckles across his face, and got honey brown eyes. Plus he’s holding a kitten, damn. I’m suddenly acutely aware of my own appearance, messy hair, hello kitty short shorts, and a baggy SAVE THE WHALES shirt. Great, just great.
“Hi, uhm, sorry, this is kind of weird, but is this your cat?” He rubs the back of his neck nervously and I can see a yellow rubber duck tattoo on his bicep, how random is that? I look from the duck to the cat and a thought occurs to me. I kinda want a cat, what the heck, I can pretend. Plus talking to a cute guy for a couple extra minutes wouldn’t kill me.
“Yeah, he’s always getting into trouble.” His eyebrows furrow for a second and he lifts up the cat looking under.
“He? This cat is definitely a girl.” I immediately flush, “Oh! I meant she, sorry, I was….um….you know, it’s pretty early in the morning and all.” I awkward laugh, and fortunately so does he.
“Anyway, that’s totally my cat,” I reach out for the cat and he reaches to give it to me, but seems to remember something.
“Oh yeah, the reason I came here was to say that your cat should really get a nametag.”
“Oh, right, of course, I should get on that.”
“Well, I work at the vet as an intern, I can help you out if you want.” I look up at him, and notice that he’s slightly leaning into the doorway, looking right into my eyes, with a dopey smile. I think he likes me. Hah.
“….sure. Yes, definitely. Just let me go change out of my….” I look down and cringe at myself.
“Your hello kitty pajamas?” He says with a grin.
“Yeah, my hello kitty pajamas,” I say with a groan.
“It’s okay, I think they’re hiss-sterical….you know, like a cat? Hiss?” I let out a surprised laugh.
“Oh gosh, I know, that was bad. Even my dad says I have worse dad jokes than him.” He rubs his neck, and begins to turn away, when he looks back and says, “Oh! What’s your cat’s name?” I blurt out the first name that comes to mind, “Nova. Her name is Nova.”