Nathan is searching for something or someone. Can he find help to complete his quest?
Nathan was eating an early dinner at his favorite diner when he felt, more than saw, a commotion at the front. Turning his head, he saw a disheveled man standing at the counter talking to the hostess. He was dressed very poorly, wearing torn and tattered jeans, a shirt with multiple stains on it, his hair unkempt and obviously very dirty. People around were pulling back from him; after a moment, Nathan’s nostrils were assaulted by the most awful smell he’d encountered in quite some time. Slowly the voices of the people at the counter rose until Nathan could hear every word.
“Ma’am, all I want is to pay for a cup of coffee. It’s chilly out there, I’m just trying to get warm.”
“I know, but I’m sorry Sir, you have to realize that you are disturbing our other guests.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to, but I’m hungry, all I can afford is a cup of coffee, can you let me have it to go?”
“Let me get the manager sir, they’ll have to help you.”
As she turned away, the hostess made a gagging grimace to emphasize how repulsive she found the man to be. This was enough for the normally placid Nathan, he found himself walking to the front before he knew it. Reaching the hostesses, he said, “I’ll have two cups of coffee to go please, make it quick if you would.” Turning to face the man Nathan winked and motioned in the direction of the door with his head. Dawning realization came to the man’s face as he saw what Nathan intended; he turned and walked to the door, his pleading never answered by the hostess or manager.
“Give me two of your orange-cranberry muffins and a club sandwich, to go with those coffees please.” Nathan said. It took a little longer than Nathan had thought it would, but finally he was handed a bag containing his order. He checked the contents of the bag and quickly left the building. He spied the man leaning against a wall about one hundred feet from the café, and walked over to him.
“Hi, I’m Nathan, I was sorry to hear what was going on in there. Coffee?” Nathan held a steaming cup of coffee to the man, knowing he wouldn’t pass it up.
“Thank you, I’m Stephen, but why are you doing this for me?”
“Let’s just say that I like helping people. No one should be treated the way you were, I thought they were very rude to you. Now I don’t mean to insult you, but how long has it been since you had a decent bath, or put on clean clothes?”
“Too long, I can’t remember the last time I had either of those. I’ve been on the streets for 3 years now, but I still don’t understand why you’re doing this for me.”
“I have my reasons, how about we leave it at that for now. I don’t live very far, care to get that shower and clean clothes?”
“Why should I trust you? I have no idea who you are.”
“You’re absolutely right. But do you really want to spend another night in a park, or at a homeless shelter?”
“I’ve done it for three years, I can do it a bit longer.”
“Okay, your call, but my apartment is only three blocks away.”
Stephen looked at Nathan a moment, then shrugged his shoulders and held a hand out for Nathan to lead the way. As they walked the two men talked about themselves. Nathan explained that he was working on a small project. He had just recently arrived in the city, having moved there from the middle of the country. For his part, Stephen talked about life on the streets, and the difficulties a homeless person faced trying to survive. But he kept silent about his past, no need in ruining easy street before he even had a chance to walk it.
They arrived at Nathan’s spacious apartment a few minutes later. Nathan showed Stephen around, then ushered him to the bathroom. “Throw your clothes out when you hop in the shower, we’re about the same size, I’m sure I have something that will fit you.” Stephen could only grin sheepishly at Nathan’s statement, but did as he was asked. Nathan placed the filthy clothes in a bag and took it to the garbage. He placed clean clothes by the bathroom door, and went to the den to wait for Stephen to get clean, relaxing in his favorite recliner.
A sudden sound woke Nathan; as his eyes came open he saw Stephen standing across the room, a pistol pointed in his direction. Nathan looked up and said, “Put that away, it’s not going to do you any good.” Stretching lazily, he started to get up from the recliner.
“Don’t get up, I don’t want to kill you. You’ve been nothing but nice to me, but you have a lot of things I could use.”
“Oh stop it, and shut up. Like I said, that thing’s not going to do you any good, it’s unloaded.”
“Try me! Pull the trigger if you don’t believe me.” Nathan continued to get up as Stephen’s resolve wavered. He jerked his hand in Nathan’s direction and pulled the trigger. A loud click was heard as the hammer fell on an empty chamber.
“I told you it was unloaded. But this one’s not.” Nathan pulled a small caliber revolver from the waistband at the back of his pants and pointed it at Stephen. Stephen had thought to make a quick exit with a bit of cash and new clothes. Now, things were totally different.
“Are you going to call the police on me now?” asked Stephen as he sat in a nearby chair.
“Hell no, I need your help for a little bit. In exchange, you’ll get fed, and have a place to sleep for a few nights. I’m at a point where I need an extra hand. Being a stranger here, I don’t have anyone I can trust. But there was something in your voice, something in how you spoke that pulled on me.”
“You couldn’t possibly know what my skills are based on hearing my voice or anything.”
“You don’t need any skills, just a willingness to help me. I’m an excellent judge of people. I’ve been known to be a little prescient when it comes to judging people.”
“But honestly Nathan, I am a high school graduate, I have no special skills at all.”
“Like I said, you don’t need special skills, but you do need to trust me, and be willing to help me. I’ve been more than fair to you, considering what you just tried to pull. You either help me, or maybe I will call the police. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll do to you what you planned on doing to me, and be done with the matter. Then I’ll just find someone else to help me. In the end, the project will be completed, with or without your help. It can be you, or maybe someone else. But I don’t want your answer now, not after all this.”
Stephen looked at Nathan intently, and shrugged again, unsure of what to say. This was one moment where he thought the less said, the better. Nathan regarded Stephen closely, seeing the struggle in his mind, and decided he would let things rest.
“Look, I’d like to get some rest though. There’s a full moon out tonight, and I’d hate to miss it, but frankly I’m beat. Think you will be okay here? There’s a room down the hall for you when you want to sleep.”
“You’re going to let me stay here after I just threatened to shoot you? You’d be able to sleep after something like that?” Stephen couldn’t believe what Nathan was offering, but knew sleeping in a warm bed would be better than any night spent on the streets, especially with the nights turning colder.
“Stephen, I’m not worried about you. I know you might come in again, but I have the only loaded gun, and I’m a very light sleeper. But I can guarantee you one thing. If you try something stupid like that again, it will be the last thing you do. Now I’m going to rest. I suggest you get some too. That bed is pretty comfy; I think you’ll find you sleep better tonight than you have in quite a while. We have a few things to do tomorrow. I have a self imposed deadline for this. I want to get it done within 3-5 days.”
“Nathan, can you tell me what this is about though? I really don’t see why you have me here, or need my help.”
“Trust me Stephen, I do need your help. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Stephen sat and watched TV for a while, wondering what Nathan had planned. He wracked his brains trying to figure out what might be in the works, but nothing came to mind. Stephen wasn’t a stupid person, he was very bright. He’d ended up on the streets through a variety of problems, and discovered he liked living incognito, away from prying eyes. He had caused his share of problems, and had several run-ins with the law, but it was always over minor things. Knowing he would never learn what Nathan had planned by sitting around, he decided to explore the apartment. The apartment wasn’t that big, but he found nothing that looked like it would be unusual or used in some off-beat way. Finally, he settled down and fell asleep almost instantly.
A sudden noise woke Stephen from a sound sleep. Rubbing his bleary eyes, he saw Nathan standing at the door, looking in at him. If he thought it was possible, he might think Nathan was gay, and eyeing him as a possible lover. But Nathan didn’t give any hint of that, in fact it was the opposite. Nathan had the carriage and looks of all male. There was no doubt in Stephen’s mind that Nathan was not gay, but still, the way he looked at him made him wonder what was going on. Stephen’s eyes drifted closed again for a few seconds, and when he opened them, Nathan was gone, no words said between them.
The next morning Nathan was up early fixing breakfast for the two of them. Stephen smelled the cooking sausage and coffee. For a brief moment he couldn’t remember where he was, but quickly recalled meeting Nathan, and the events of the previous night. He shook his head as he got out of bed and walked to the kitchen. “Good morning Stephen, sleep well?” Nathan smiled as he spoke to Stephen, putting Stephen at ease. They had chatted the night before for a long time; Stephen felt as if he had known Nathan a long time, it seemed that Nathan felt the same way.
“Okay boss, what’s on the agenda for today?”
“First, please don’t call me boss, it’s a term I hate. I’m not paying you to help me, just providing room and board.”
“But that’s a form of payment really, but I’ll not quibble over a few things like that.”
Nathan was impressed with the way Stephen spoke, it was obvious that the man was intelligent and decently well educated. He looked to be in his mid-thirties now that he was cleaned up, and Nathan knew he’d found the right man for his project. They had to finish here, and Nathan knew they would, it was just a matter of time.
“I take it that you’re on board with the project then, since you’ve asked what’s up today.”
“Well, it’s better than being on the streets right now, it’s getting colder, and with the holidays not far away, the shelters will be overflowing. Thanks Nathan, I will help you with whatever it is you’re doing.”
Nathan looked at Stephen, and for the first time he smiled broadly. He moved to the stove, a soft whistle heard as he finished cooking the sausages, eggs, and pancakes. The men ate in silence, just the occasional word passing back and forth between them. Stephen was very curious about what they were going to do, but for the moment, hunger overtook him, and he devoured his breakfast.
Nathan did not mention the project again, and though he was really curious about it, Stephen refrained from asking questions. Early in the afternoon, Nathan grabbed his keys and said, “Time to run out on errands Stephen, let’s go.”
“Where’re we going now?”
“I just have a couple of things to get at the store, and we’re going to look around a bit is all. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find the rest of the stuff I need to really get working on things.”
“Why don’t we just go out and buy it?”
Nathan sighed and said, “It’s not like that. It’s not a matter of money, or something we can buy or build. We have to locate it, and while I know the general area where I’ll find it, I’m not sure exactly where it’s at.”
“Man, you sure are being mysterious about this. Guess I don’t blame you; I’m still a stranger after all. But you know curiosity is starting to build in me.”
“Yes I know, and I do appreciate you being patient with me. Believe me; you’ll know everything you need to know when the time comes. Now, can we go?”
Both men donned light coats as they left the apartment. “Nathan, I saw on the weather news that a winter storm is coming. It’s gonna get colder in a few days. I don’t expect you to provide for me all the time; after all, I’m used to being outside and making do, but do you have a warmer coat for you?”
“I won’t need one, all this will be done before that hits, and I’ll be out of here and back home.”
“You’re not from here? Where are you from then?”
“Well, it’s pretty far away, and I’d rather not say right now. Put it down to another one of those mysteries that surround my project. Again, when the time comes, you’ll know everything you need to know about me, I promise.”
Stephen thought they would work on Nathan’s project that day, but all they seemed to do was walk around the city, often stopping to look in store windows, or walk around shopping malls. He thought this was strange, but didn’t say anything. He figured Nathan knew what he was doing, what he needed for the project, and decided to just be ‘along for the ride’.
After being out for about five hours, Nathan took Stephen to the same diner they had met at the previous night. The hostess from the night before was there, and as Nathan expected, she didn’t recognize Stephen. They were seated at a small table near a window, and talked about things they’d done that day. Outside, a man walked back and forth waving a sign. He shouted to any who would listen about the upcoming prophecy. "The end is coming! Prepare yourselves, the end is coming!."
Nathan looked at the man and asked Stephen, "Do you believe in that stuff?"
Naw, it's just a few loony types who believe. Scientists have reassured us that it can't happen. At least not for a few thousand years."
Unable to contain his curiosity any longer, Stephen then asked, “I thought we’d be working on your project today, but all we did was walk around looking at stores, it seems we wasted a lot of time. What’s up?”
“I never said what working on the project would entail. Believe me, we’ve been working on it all day long.”
“I don’t understand. How has walking around, apparently window shopping in stores accomplished anything?”
“Like I said, it’s not a case of just going to a store and purchasing it. I have to find a hidden gem, to coin a phrase. It’s here, I know it is. We’ll find it.”
“Can you give me an idea of what you’re looking for? Two sets of eyes are better than one, especially if both know what they are looking for.”
Nathan looked at Stephen and decided he would have to trust him a little bit. “Well, my project needs one more person. It’s really hard to explain, but I’m looking for that person. Like you, they don’t need special qualifications. I’ll know the right person when I see them, call it a gift I have. I figured the best way to find the right person, would be to mingle among crowds, looking for them.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! Is that what happened last night? You saw me up at the front here, and knew I was one of the ‘pieces’ needed for this project?”
Nathan gazed intently at Stephen, and softly replied, “Yes. I’d been looking all day and had not found what I needed. When I saw you, I knew I’d found one. But I couldn’t tell you that right then, you’d have laughed at me and walked away, no matter what I offered. So I befriended you, and slowly gained your trust as I worked you into my project. Does that upset you?”
Stephen thought for a moment before replying. “I’m not sure. I’d like to think you could have told me immediately, but a lot has happened since we met. Things seem to be moving fast, and gaining speed all the time. But you don’t seem worried one bit, almost as if you know what’s going to happen. But how were you sure I’m the man you need for this?”
“When I heard your voice, I was sure. Last night while you slept, I looked in on you, and saw that scar you have on your right bicep. That was all the assurance I needed to know that you were the one.”
“I thought I saw you at my door last night! I thought I was dreaming, but guess I was wrong on that one. You know things about me just by hearing my voice and seeing a scar, can you predict the future too?
“No, I can’t predict the future, nor do I know what’s going to happen. But, I know we’ve made progress, so I’m upbeat about that. There’s always tomorr….” Nathan stopped speaking in the middle of the sentence, his eyes glued to a spot behind Stephen. Stephen turned to see what he was looking at, and saw a young woman standing outside the diner, shoulders hunched to the cold. Without say a word, Nathan dropped enough money on the table to cover their meal and walked to the door. Stephen gulped the last of his coffee and followed close behind. When he rounded the corner of the diner, he found Nathan deep in conversation with the woman. He stood back at little, but picked up the conversation in the middle of a sentence.
“…I just don’t know what to do. He’s kicked me out and I have nowhere to go. I can’t stay here, I have to go home!” A slight sob escaped her mouth as she uttered the last words.
At this point, Nathan responded, “I will help you get home, but I can’t do it tonight. I have a warm, safe place for you to stay though. I know I’m a stranger to you, but I can guarantee your safety. You can call a friend and give them my name if you like, here’s my card and ID so you know I’m not lying. Give them my address and phone number, that’s where we’ll be tonight. They can call as often as you want them to, and tomorrow we’ll get you home.”
“You’d do that for me? You don’t know me, why would you do something like this?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt, but he does it because he likes helping people. Last night he helped me out, and now I’m trying to help him. I’m Stephen, you are….” Stephen looked at the woman intently as he left the question hanging in the air.
“I’m Jennifer. My boyfriend kicked me to the curb today, and now I have no place to stay. Nathan here has offered to let me spend the night, but I don’t know if I can trust him. Jesus! Why am I telling you all this?”
“It’s okay Jennifer, I know how you feel, I was the same way last night.” The two of them seemed to ignore Nathan as they talked. Suddenly they realized what Nathan was still there, and looked at him sheepishly.
“Nathan, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to butt in like that…” Stephen started to explain more, but was stopped with a small wave of Nathan’s hand. Nathan smiled at them and motioned for Stephen and Jennifer to follow him. He walked off at a leisurely pace, leaving them standing there. They stood there a moment looking at each other, and in almost one motion, started following Nathan.
Nathan’s pace was slow enough that they quickly caught him. “Okay Nathan, give. What’s up with this? We’ve walked all day, we were at dinner, and suddenly you see Jennifer here, and drop everything. What the hell is going on?”
Nathan continued walking at a steady pace as he glanced at them. “Nothing’s wrong, and nothing is up. I saw her, and knew she needed help. I couldn’t stop myself if I’d tried. I had to get up and help her, I was lucky I knew enough to pay for dinner.” Saying that last, Nathan smiled at them both again. “So, since she needed a place to stay, I figured it only right to offer her a night at my place. Tomorrow we’ll send her home, and finish everything else as soon as we can. I’m pretty sure we can get it done, and be through with all this.”
Jennifer looked back and forth between the two men, confusion obvious on her face. “Now wait just a minute! Will someone please tell me what’s going on here?” Having said that, she stopped walking and stood with her hands on her hips waiting for an answer, looking defiantly at the two men.
“Jennifer, I’ve got something I’m working on. I recruited Stephen here to help me, that’s all. We’re going to spend a night at my apartment tonight; tomorrow we’ll get everything finished up, and get you sent home.”
“But things are moving so fast it seems! One minute I’m on the street crying my eyes out, the next I’m walking with two men I don’t know to an apartment to spend the night. Things like this just don’t happen every day! I want an explanation; I’m not someone who can just do things like this!”
Nathan looked at Jennifer and replied, “Okay, you’ll have your explanation tonight once we get to my apartment. I want to get there because it’s warmer inside than it is here, and we can talk as long as you want.”
Nathan turned and walked away, intent on getting home and out of the cold. Stephen looked at Nathan strolling away and said, “C’mon Jennifer, let’s go with him. Neither of us have much other than this, and his apartment is much better than being out here. I’m pretty sure he’ll answer every question you have, and he’ll keep his word about getting you home tomorrow.”
Silently the two of them joined Nathan in the walk to his apartment. Once at the apartment, they relaxed in the small den as Nathan prepared hot coffee. He moved purposefully around the apartment, checking to make sure everything was set right, then plopped down on the sofa, feet curled under him. “Okay Jennifer, what are your questions?”
“Well, first and foremost, who are you?”
“And where are you from?” Chimed in Stephen, his curiosity now getting the best of him.
“My name is of no consequence to you, nor where I’m from. But I think it’s time you know what’s going on and why I helped you both. First, let’s pour ourselves some coffee and get comfortable, this may take a while.”
Nathan left the room, only to return quickly, his arms laden with robes and pajamas. Stephen looked at him skeptically as he handed each of them a set of clothing. “Go ahead, get comfortable. We’ll be talking quite a while tonight. We might as well be as comfortable as we can.”
Stephen and Jennifer took turns getting dressed in the bedroom, and returned to the den when done. Nathan was already dressed when they returned, having used the bathroom to change in. He walked in to the den carrying a tray with coffee cups, a ceramic pot, and a small plate of pastries. “Okay guys, get comfortable. Depending on how many questions you ask, we could be here a while.” Saying that, Nathan placed the tray on the small table and settled into the recliner off to one side. He let Stephen and Jennifer get what they wanted, and settled in to a chair before speaking again. “Okay, so you want to know who I am and where I’m from.” Both nodded their heads in agreement. Nathan took a breath and continued speaking.
“Well, my name is really ‘New Age Technology Humanoid Avatar Nuclear’, or Nathan.” At that point, Stephen interrupted him saying, “Your name is an acronym?”
“Yes Stephen, it is. Now, the rest of my message for you will be quite shocking, but please bear with me, I have limited time to tell you this.”
“Message for us? What the hell do you mean by that?”
“I mean I have a message to deliver to you both. That’s why I was looking for you, that’s the reason I’m here.” Seeing the shocked look on their faces, Nathan nodded his head in a yes motion, and continued. “I’m sure both of you know of the Prophecy, and how close we are to the date in it.”
“Yes, of course.” Replied both of them, almost in unison. They looked at each other and giggled slightly after saying that.
"Alright, now tell me what you know of 'The Prophecy.'”
Stephen spoke up first saying, "According to 'The Prophecy', the Earth will start to undergo changes, floods, earthquakes, solar storms, and massive upheaval all over the planet. This will supposedly be caused by a rogue planet we can't see coming too close to us."
“Okay, good, and how close are we to The Prophesied date?”
Stephen responded, “The Prophecy is supposed to come true in three days.”
“Exactly, which is why I had to find you both before the next couple of days passed. Let me start over though, and explain what’s going on. First, there is no project. Well, there is, but the project was to find the two of you.”
Seeing the looks on their faces, Nathan continued. “The Prophecy is true, events will occur as predicted in it. But there is no rogue planet, that part came from people interpreting ancient scrolls incorrectly. However, mankind will be wiped out by global catastrophes that will occur over a three year period. Three days from now, the Earth’s poles will start to shift. North will move south, and vice versa. This will result in the Earth’s magnetic field going completely haywire. Ice caps will melt, magnitude 9 Earthquakes will become almost common place, and for a few thousand years, Earth will be uninhabitable. Everything does settle back down though, and life will return to the planet. But mankind will not exist at that time. Not unless I came here and found the two of you.”
At this point, Jennifer interrupted him and asked, “Why us?”
“Because the two of you travel forward in time ten thousand years, and return to Earth when it is once again habitable by man. We never knew how or why you traveled in time until a few years ago, when we discovered the secrets of time travel ourselves.”
“We? Who is this ‘we’ you speak of?”
“Well, it’s mankind obviously, from the future. We discovered how to travel in time, but there was one problem. Humans cannot travel back in time. We’re still not sure why, but when you do, you perish, no matter what precautions are taken. There are several scientific theories out there that attempt to explain it, but not one of them is completely accurate. Mankind can travel forward in time if certain precautions are taken.”
“Wait a minute, you just said that man can’t travel back in time! How did you do it?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Look at my true name. I’m not human, I’m an Avatar sent here by my makers to locate the two of you, and bring you forward in time.”
“Bring us forward in time? But why us? Why not bring someone else who is more famous or intelligent forward in time?”
“That’s what troubled us, we didn’t know how the two of you traveled through time at a period when time travel didn’t exist. Then we found a loop in the time fabric, and saw what should have been obvious all along. Somehow, someone went back in time and brought you forward. Since a human couldn’t go back in time, scientists created me, so I could do what they couldn’t. My time machine was built to look like an apartment on the lower east side of the city. When I traveled back in time to this period, it became an apartment that looked like it had been here for years. After that, I started my search. I was programmed with your DNA in my memory banks. Once I saw you, all I had to do was hear you talk, and I’d know for certain it was you. Then I had to somehow get you here to the time machine so we could travel to the correct date in the future, and start mankind’s journey once again.”
“Nathan, you’re full of it.” Jennifer spoke up this time. How could hearing our voices, even knowing our DNA convince you we are the right people?”
“Well, your voice wasn’t the only way I would know. There’s a backup method to confirm your identity too. Stephen has a scar on his right bicep. Jennifer, you have a tattoo of the sun on your right shoulder blade.
Jennifer’s eyes widened in shock as Nathan said this, and unconsciously rubbed her right shoulder.
Stephen spoke up now. “Okay, assuming all you say is true, when do we start on this journey in time?”
“We already have. We have traveled through time to the future; I just had to tell you all this before leaving you here.”
“Okay, now you’re scaring me!” This was Jennifer now, fright obvious in her face. “You’re leaving us here? Where is here? And where are you going? What will happen to us?”
“Here is Earth, ten thousand years in the future from your time.” Nathan looked at them both with sadness in his eyes. “And yes, I am leaving you here. You will start a new race. I know that, because that race is the one who created me. I’m going back to my time to receive another assignment. Now, it’s time for you to start your life together. Outside you’ll find a garden world, one that is not too harsh, but you will have to work to survive. You’ll have to create things, procreate, raise children, and learn to live off the land. Eventually, you’ll advance enough that I can be created.”
“Suppose we don’t choose to believe you, or refuse to leave the apartment?”
“Well, that isn’t possible. I would rather not move you forcibly, but I can if I have to. Now please, both of you go to your future.”
Stephen looked at Jennifer and said, “You know, I really don't believe everything he's saying, but we might as well humor him. Let’s go outside and see the city we love, then we can come back in and laugh at all this. And if it's all true, then we have a lot to do. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure we can make it now, whether in our time or this future he's been telling us about. I don’t know how I know this, but I do; c’mon, let’s go.”
Stephen grabbed Jennifer’s hand and led her out the door. Both of them gasped when they saw the rolling plain in front of them. There was no sign of the city, no sign that mankind had ever set foot in that area of the world. As one they turned to re-enter the apartment; nothing but grassy meadows met their eyes.
Stephen sighed, his shoulders slumping as he said, “I guess everything he just said is true. We better find a place we can be safe, and see what we can do.”
Jennifer looked at him and said, “You know, the two of us remind me of the two people, Harry and Sally, in chapter one of The Great Book. They were created by the Supreme Being and placed here on Earth.”
“Jennifer, I have to confess, I’ve never read The Great Book. You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.”
“I will, but I’ve never been called by my given name, just my middle name. Can you please use that name?”
“Of course I can, but that’s funny, I’ve always used my middle name too.”
“Really? What’s your middle name then Stephen?”
“Adam. What’s yours?”