Jon gets a letter from Val, but all is not as it seems...
|They rode the elevator up in silence. Jon tugged at his shirt, which felt too small and repeatedly touched the wallet in his back pocket to make sure it was still there. It was disconcerting knowing that whatever he had on him right now was everything he owned.
“Will I get to see Val soon? ALTO promised us we’d be woken up together. Are you taking me to her now?”
“All in due time, Mr. Towne.”
Her tone was gentle, but it was hard to read her. Jon was sure she was just doing her job, but wished she would tell him more.
The elevator dinged softly on the 31st floor, and the nurse led the way out and to the right. It was hard to tell, but it seemed the whole building was shaped like an “S” with the elevator in the middle. They followed the building around its curve and stopped nearly at the end by a door labeled #3190.
“This is you,” the nurse said and produced a thin white card from her pocket. In an instant, the door buzzed open on its own and Jon leaned forward attempting to get a first look to see if Val was inside.
“She’s not here, but you’ll see her in due time. You’ll have plenty of reading material in the meantime. History books covering the Fall, and the Plague, and the construction of our City Juniperia. The TV should be easy enough to navigate as well for local news, but should you need any help, there are guides on the bookshelf. More clothing is in the closet. Please rest here for the night, Mr. Towne, while you get your bearings and acquaint yourself with your new world. Buzz for me if needed – my station is right down the hall. Is there anything else you need, Mr. Towne?”
“No ma’am. Thank you, Miss …?”
“Mar-048. Good to meet you, Mr. Towne. Please relax. I will see you tomorrow.”
She turned and left the way they had come. Mar-048? Huh … This future was too foreign for Jon to think too deeply about just yet, but he supposed that anything could have changed in the past three hundred odd years. And Mar had mentioned a Fall, and a Plague? Gee ... I guess I have a lot of reading to do. He entered the room slowly and the lights flicked on.
It appeared to be a normal hotel room with one bed and one desk and a small bathroom immediately to his left as he entered. Again, just like the world outside the window, the room felt familiar, but he felt ever so slightly out of place in it. On the TV stand across from the bed, there wasn’t the normal flat screen he was accustomed to. Rather, there was a thin, silver rod approximately a foot long and an inch and a half thick. He approached carefully and found a pamphlet resting on the pillow that read, “Guide to Reintegration.” He picked it up and sat on the edge of the bed.
Welcome to 2353! The world is not as you remember it, so this guide is designed to give you all the information about your new world that you’ll need to start living in it! First, simply say, ‘TV on’ to begin the introduction.
Skeptical, Jon did as he was told and commanded to no one and nothing in particular, “TV on!” Immediately, a white light flashed from the surface of the silver rod and the light flicked to life, shining onto the wall behind it. The projection didn’t fade in slowly as Jon was expecting, but rather flashed to full illumination immediately. Full color drone images flew across the wall and a woman’s voice was narrating, but it was difficult to focus on what she was saying. The video zoomed over the purple roads and under the lush green trees, between the green and blue skyscrapers and past children riding tricycles.
“… and this is your new home – the Great City of Juniperia!”
As the music swelled, the drone pulled back and it seemed the whole city was in view – a perfect circle surrounded ominously by sooty brown nothing. A wisp of light shot across the brown surrounding the city, and the drone camera dove to follow. It was a bullet train. Sleek and white with silver lines running its length on either side. The drone leveled with it and kept pace, focusing its view on windows where men, women, and children waved frantically. The drone pulled up again as the train – Jon realized it actually had no wheels – rocketed through a gap just large enough for it in the wall surrounding the city. Again the woman was speaking. “…all the amenities you could ever need. Our buildings are powered entirely by solar and we are 100% free of Plagued inhabitants as of 2340! Congratulations to our city’s finest scientists who were on the front lines of ---“
There was a knock on the door. “TV off!” Jon almost yelled, he was so startled, but thankfully the set clicked dark. He stood hastily and went to the door but it opened before he could reach it. Outside, Mar-048 was standing with a piece of paper in her hands.
“Mr. Towne, I’m very sorry. We forgot to give this to you along with the rest of your belongings. It’s from your wife.” She held out the envelope.
Taking it, Jon found his name scrawled on the front. The handwriting was shaky, but certainly his wife’s.
“Thank you, Mar-048.”
“Oh, I’m 034. I apologize for the confusion. You’re most welcome, Mr. Towne.” And she walked away.
Were they …? No, don’t think about that right now. There are more important things to worry about. Val had written me, which meant she must be out in the world right now! He ripped into the letter and began to read.
Oh, honey! We did it! I’m so proud of us! I can’t wait for you to see this place – everything is so well-organized. The buildings are all powered by green energy and there are no cars here at all! Everything is transported by bike or the train and everything is close enough together that you don’t get lost. The city is vertical – our apartment is on the 63rd floor! We have a garden on the roof of our building and a sky bridge to the neighboring complex where the market and clothing store is. I’m so happy we did this, Jon! I know you’ll love it here, even though I think you won’t like the clothing very much. Haha! Oh! And I’m younger too! I think the body they gave me is 23 or so? Hard to tell, but I can’t wait to see what they gave you. Anyway, I gotta dash! They said they’d give you my number to call when you’re awake, so I’ll be waiting, my love! Hope to see you soon!
Jon read the letter again and again, but continued to get stuck on one piece. 2313. What was the year again? On a whim, he tried asking the TV.
“Um, TV? What is the date?”
A voice, the same one narrating the city drone tour, replied, “The date is Wednesday September 24th, 2353.”
2353. 2353! Val had written this letter FORTY YEARS AGO?!
In a panic, Jon leapt from his spot on the bed and charged at the door. He grabbed at the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.
He was locked in.
All chapters can be found here: