Chapter Forty Five: Future, Part Two
I had asked Pausa why he had not brought more water with him. He told me that there was no need, as the trip was one way. For both of us. I must admit that I nearly wet myself when he said that. It was the most ominous thing I've ever heard anyone said.
Ridge Valley was a city that existed before The Day of the Mist. According to history, it was the epicentre of the event, where the main bulk of the Mist had came from. Now, we knew why. It was the source of the portal.
The old city centre had succumbed to the onslaught of time and wind ages ago. Most buildings had long since collapsed, leaving our surroundings a pile of rubble and sand. Some of the base stood strong, like torn houses left after a hurricane. Wind cut through and twirled around us, the Mist swirling densely. A sandstorm of purplish-blue. A lone, burnt out neon sign jutted out from the earth, the words, 'HOTEL ALEX-" barely readable. But the most striking sight was the portal just an arms reach away from the sign, hovering ominously above the ground.
Pausa voiced out, "That's so sci-fi yo."
The portal looked like a whirlpool in the sky, spewing out Mist like cold air rushing out of a freezer. Spinning and turning, in the middle of it was a man-sized hole with a clear, albeit upside-down image of a tree on a hill. A picture within a frame. A mirror to Wonderland. Despite the crazy atmosphere, the two of us stood with just the clothes on our backs, the Mist seemingly wrapping around us like a bubble does air, but never actually touching us. My arm pulsing a soft glow the entire time, as if a generator providing energy for the bubble shield.
"Sci-fi," I repeated the time traveller.
"I've seen the portal before, but never up close," Pausa noted. He started to walk towards it, a maddened glint of excitement and familiar curiosity in his eyes.
"Hey!" I shouted for him over the roaring winds. He stopped in his tracks. "What are you doing?"
"This is what I came to do! I came to see what's on the other side of the portal."
Confused, I asked, "Why?"
"What do you mean why?" I wondered if it was becoming a common theme in our conversations, me asking questions and him answering. He continued, "It's a dangerous looking, poison spitting, spinning hole of death! If I don't poke it with a stick, who else is going to do it?"
I wanted to say that was not what I meant, but I felt my sense of the danger of the situation would not get through to the man. In fact, I had the inkling that his idea of a dangerous situation was so far off from mine I would be better off taking care of an alien. Instead, I asked, "Before you go, can I ask you one thing?" He nodded and turned to me, the portal backing him like a screen effect. "My descendent, Melissa Smith. If I go through with this, what happens to her? What's her future like?"
Pausa folded his arms in contemplation, and I could tell he was thinking whether he should reveal the information to me. There had to be rules to time travelling that even he could not break. From all the science fictions I've read as a kid, one of the most common one was to never tell people of their future.
"Come on!" I begged. "I'm about to die. You might as well tell me!" Which was true. No matter what he said, I would not live pass the hour to talk about it. I did not intend to, and I doubt if I could. "What happens to Melissa Smith?"
Instead of answering, he returned with a question. "Do you feel like a hero?"
"Do you feel like hero?" he repeated with a steady gaze. For some reason, I felt tested, as if my entire journey had been for this one moment. This seemingly ordinary question. "Do you feel like the Hero of the Mist?"
I recalled my adventure. From the safety of the lab in Roagnark, to the dystopian, war-torn future that my grandchildren lived in. The little girl named Sally that spoke of hope from my story. But that was it, the whole time, I was a story. I was not the protagonist of the tale. I was the lore of the world.
"No," I replied in earnest. "I feel like everyone else is the hero. Joan. Leila. The professor. My grandchildren. All of them have done more for this world than I have." My voice softened towards the end. For some reason, the wind slowed down, the howling quieting, as if in response to my tone. "Even you. Going off to god knows where on the opposite of that portal. All I've been able to do is watch. Watch my grandchildren save me. Watch Leila save me. Watch the doctor, the professor, the agents, my wife, all of them, saving me."
"And for the last century? The last two weeks of your life? What do you think you are."
I thought hard, but not long, the answer knocking into my head with ease. "A bystander." Our stares crossed and we watched each other in silence. For some reason, I thought of the passing of a baton in those old school sprint relays.
Finally, Pausa said, "You are a shadow, Milton. In the coming human history, you are forgotten. Not a single soul will remember you. In the tens of thousands of years of human history, your name will only be chanted during these one hundred and thirty-nine years, and not a day more." He opened his arms wide, gesturing to his surroundings. "This is your legacy. You, and your entire family. A dystopian, barren land. Everything they have ever done for the world, everything you are about to do, will be forgotten here. You will secure the entire future of the human race, yet no one will ever know who you are ever again."
I looked to him, he scanned my eyes, as if trying to find a defect through the windows to my soul, despite the windows being mechanical. When he did not continue, I pushed on. "What happens to Melissa Smith?" It did not matter if I did not leave a personal legacy. I just wanted to know what happens to my family.
I could see it. Even from within the thick Mist, I could see his smile widening, a look of pride etched on his face. "She goes on to live a happy life and finds work as a teacher. One of her students will invent a vaccine for Mist Poisoning until humans evolves into Casters." He grinned widely, teeth shining and all. "That, is what you leave behind. Your descendent, and the whole of the human race." He placed a hand over his heart. "We will forget you. But none of us will be here without you. Remember that."
I nodded at his answer. I did not really know why that was the question I asked, but it made me happy nonetheless. For some reason, the answer made me feel at peace with what I was about to do. What I was about to sacrifice.
He turned back to face the portal. After taking a deep breath, he started walking towards it again. This time, I did not attempt to stop him. Just before he stepped through the portal into the image of the inverted tree, he half-turned to me. "I wonder what's on the other side?" He grinned. And without a second look back, stepped into the horizon, vanishing before my eyes, leaving me alone with the twirling, world-ending portal.
I looked to my robotic arm, then to Borris's watch still strapped to my wrist. I had never expected much from the end. After all, I always knew I would die. But I had always thought that I would be surrounded by people. Friends or family. A part of me even thought I might have fans. At the very least, that there would be more drama or an exciting climax. But as I stood there, preparing to save the world, I realized how alone I was. It suited me well, I guess. I was never really a part of the action. My family was. I was just sort of there. It made sense that I took some responsibility and meet the end alone. No one else was going to get hurt.
I looked to Borris's watch again. "No one else," I said out loud.
Because we're fucking family you retarded fuck shit!
My arm glowed brighter than it ever did before. I could feel the energy flowing through it, as if whatever powered it had was enhanced by the sheer thickness of the Mist around me. A burning sensation ran up my arm, and I squinted and seethed slightly in pain. I knew instinctively then, that when I activated whatever ability that would allow me to close the portal, my life would come to an end from that very same pain.
All families share a face. One day, I'll probably share your face too.
Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I could remember a picnic on a hill with my grandparents and parents. We sat under a tree, visiting my great-grandparents grave. Joshua and Miranda Kleve, I think their names were. I wondered if that hill was the same as the one pictured inside the portal.
No widest sky, nor furthest seas, will part neither you nor me.
I raised my glowing hand to the portal, feeling the pins and needles that was running through my veins. I could feel hot liquid running from my eyes and down my cheeks, but could not tell if they were blood or tears. The circuitry in my eyes had fried. I was once again blinded.
No death day due, or life lived lieu, will change my eternal love for you.
Reinforcing myself and to prevent me from screaming from the pain, I chanted, "My name is Milton Jones. Grandfather of Amelia and John Smith. Father of Leila Jones. Ancestor to Melissa Smith. Husband to Joan Jones." The pain was almost unbearable, but I held fast. The wind around me whirled louder and louder and I could hear an almost mechanical hum coming from the direction of the portal. Soft particles of dust landed on my skin, cold as snow.
I thought of Hillbury.
Favourite-test place. Ever.
There was no loud explosion. No burst of wind or scorching heat. Suddenly, the world just entered a state of immense quiet, like someone had muted the universe with the press of a remote. Even without my eyesight, I knew the portal had closed. My body ached. Everything screamed silently and I fell to my knees. I did not even have the strength to collapse properly as I knelt in the desolate wasteland.
I was sure I could smell flowers and feel the fresh breeze on my skin. My arm no longer burned, but only because it was no longer working. Both arms, robotic and skin, hung limply at my sides. My legs whirred to stand, but the circuity too, had fried. I thought of Melissa, and wondered if I were to knock on her door at that moment, would she invite me in for a meal.
"Well," my voice croaked out, the water having dried from my body. I could feel the last seconds of my life nearing. I wanted to say something cool. Some action hero phrase. A witty one-liner that would be remembered for the rest of eternity. I remembered how when I first met Agent Matthews, I noted that I should not face the apocalypse without one-liners. My lips cracked a smile as I lazily finished, "Maybe next time."
Author's Note: Hi everyone! Thank you for reading 139 Years to the End of the World. This story is a re-upload of the original serial on JukePop Serials that ran in 2015. If you like what you've read, you can help me continue writing simply by liking, reviewing, and sharing this story and others that you enjoy. If you want to do more, you can support me on Patreon or check out my website where there are links to buy the self-published versions of my stories which includes additional materials and edits not found here.
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