At the age of twenty-two, Rebecca had accomplished a lot of things in her life. She was considered a prodigy at her middle school, became the highest graded valedictorian of her high school graduating class and in university, she expanded her knowledge with the theories of Einstein and Stephen Hawking to further explore the idea of elongating the life of human beings. After graduation, she got a job at the renowned and highly competitive Sequoia Laboratories in New York City where she is helping develop a machine that could help humans extend their lives and keep their cells intact for a long period of time.
Being from the small town of Stephenson, Michigan it is still quite a bit of a challenge for her getting used to the fast-paced life of the city. She lives in a small apartment in the borough of Queens as she had read online that this was a safe place to live and had a lot more of a small-town feeling. What she enjoyed the most about Queens were the high concentration of parks as this reminded her of the endless kilometers of green fields and forest that extended in Stephenson.
She also enjoyed the multiculturalism that made New York the city of the world. Here she discovered some of the best tacos, challah bread, and the best Italian food she has ever tasted in her life. She felt complete, alive, and blessed that God had gifted her with the knowledge and abilities to be where she is at this point in her life.
All of this went through her head as she laid in bed when the first rays of the sun shined through the window. It was Saturday which signaled the beginning of the weekend and of her days off from the lab but it was also the day in which she carried most of her errands. She looked to the side of her bed and saw the big pile of dirty clothes lying around the basket. She knew it was time to visit the laundromat.
She stood up and got dressed with a pair of blue jeans, her sandals, and a floral t-shirt. She placed all the clothes that could fit into a two-wheeled cart and gathered her book, placed it inside of her purse, and headed off. As she stepped outside of her apartment complex she could feel the warm summer sun warming her pale and fair skin. The trees had their full green color and the flowers bloomed brightly. Cars and people passing by were also enjoying the weather, an oddity for other days in New York where it becomes humid and horrifically sticky.
Rebecca finally reached the Laundromat and entered. She noticed that it was not as full as other days when she had visited the place earlier. She was able to find a machine and load her clothes in it. Placed the soap and the softener in the compartments at the top, closed the round glass door of the machine, placed her prepaid card to set the cycle, and once the machine began to move it was just a matter of time until it had completed the full wash.
Rebecca found the perfect spot to sit, which was just in front of the machine. It was a full row of empty seats that were lined next to the huge glass window that showed the lively street. She looked at the clock that marked 10:25 AM and knew that the cycle only lasted for thirty minutes of wash and another thirty for the drying. She took out her book to read where she had left off last night as she fell asleep.
The Surprises of Fate
"Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters
who bring things you never asked for and don't always like."
- Lemony Snicket -
She lowered the book and began to drift in the thought of all the things that have happened to her during her childhood which seemed that fate was working in her favor for everything she did was so easy. It was like watching a ballet performance in which every move was perfectly choreographed yet it felt so natural. She closed the book and drifted more in thought with her eyes closed and in her mental picture she could see the joy she enjoyed while growing up in her hometown and the endless greenery. She also pictured all the advancements in science and how all the theories from mathematicians, physicists, and the advancement of medicine have helped humanity to overcome many hardships to become a more fair and just society.
As she continued drifting in thought, she was interrupted by a tap in her shoulder. She opened her eyes slowly as she returned from her mind drift and saw an old man waving his hand up and down. He is dressed in dark indigo jeans, a plaid shirt of white, light blue, and small stripes of orange. His head is covered in full white hair, his eyes have an intense blue color, his face is jolly and his cheeks were rosy as those of Santa Claus and had a sturdy body built up for his age.
She looked puzzled and smiled at him, “Can I help you?”
The man responded, “Sorry to bother you young lady but I want to ask if anyone was sitting here? It appears that more people have arrived this morning and the other seats have been taken and I need a place to rest since my knees are not as strong as they used to be.”
“Oh yes! By all means, you can sit here. It's odd that no one has sat here.” She said as she looked around the laundromat and noticed that it had filled up a lot in the few minutes that she had drifted in thought, The man thanked her and sat next to her, “You come here often?” he asked.
“Yes, every Saturday. Clothes get dirty very easy here in the city” she responded.
“You bet they do! But that is a small price we pay for wanting to live here. Oh! I am sorry for my bad education, my name is Alaric.” he said as he extended his hand to shake hers. “Nice to meet you Alaric and do not be sorry,” she said.
Alaric noticed the book in her lap and read the title out loud, “Fate.” A moment of silence befell as she looked down at the book and then back at him. “Have you read this book?” she asked.
“No, but it does sound interesting by the title of it. Is it good?” he asked.
“I started reading it yesterday and the first chapter as you know is always the introduction of the topic and the layout of their hypothesis.”
He looked intently at her, “That’s true. They always have to lure you at the beginning in order for you to continue reading. Let me ask you, from what you have read so far, what is fate?”
She lowered her gaze and thought for a moment, “Well, in my view, fate is a path determined by our circumstances yet that seems to contradict destiny.”
“And what is destiny?” asked Alaric.
“A predetermined set of actions that are bound to happen regardless of our circumstances and it is more influenced by who we are,” was her response.
He smiled and said, “Well, you have a lot to learn but you are on the right track, my dear. When you reach my age it becomes clear that there are plenty of things that are determined by fate and others by destiny. Just imagine how the things we do everyday change how our future will be because we do them based on the things that fate or previous circumstances have shaped us to behave. For example, war. War is an awful thing for every human being and the world because it changes our future so much that we tend to forget what caused it.”
Rebecca listened intently to him but was a bit apprehensive in sharing more information since the topic had ignited a passion in him that made her feel uncomfortable. Alaric sensed this, “I am sorry if I am being too passionate about this topic my dear but if you knew what I have gone through in my life you would understand.”
She stared at him but did not respond. She could feel a tension rise within him as it manifested clearly in the way that he stared at her and this made her more uncomfortable. “Is everything okay?” she asked.
Alaric looked down to the floor for a few seconds and then returned his sight back into her eyes, “No Rebecca. Nothing is okay. We need your help.”
Rebecca’s eyes opened widely to the sound of her name coming out of his mouth because she did not share it with him when he had presented himself. “How do you know my name?” she asked.
“There are many things that you will not understand if I share them with you Rebecca but one thing is certain, the project that you are currently working on at Sequoia will bear fruit and you will become very influential in the development of further technology that will better the lives of many. But that is not the reason I am here. Thanks to the technology you pioneered we were able to develop machines that can help us travel back in time,” he paused and stared directly at Rebecca whose face was puzzled and surprised.
“I have no words to what you have just told me Alaric,” she said as she tried to recollect her thoughts and then questioned his motives, “This must be a joke. You are making all of this up. You probably are coming from another laboratory or government and want to get as much information.”
“I know that you have all these theories running through your head Rebecca but I do not come from another lab nor do I work for the government. I am here because I want to help my people who are struggling with a war that if we do not overcome will be the final step of the end of humanity,” as he said this he reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a cell phone size piece of white metal. On the edges, it appears that it had been torn from the original source and was made with different materials, especially fiberglass. Alaric turned the piece around and at this Rebecca gasped.
In it, she could see part of the logo of the laboratory and something written next to it: Cell Prolongation Capsule. The piece also showed parts that it had burned, indicating that this was blasted by an exposition.
“I know this is weird to you but this is the only proof I have that I can provide,” Alaric finally said.
Rebecca looked closely at the piece and at the bright blue eyes of Alaric who just happened to have sat next to her in a laundromat in Queens, who also happens to have a burned and destroyed piece of the project she has been working on for years. She closed her eyes and listened intently to the beating of her heart which seemed to be split in two. One side is not to believe anything this man was saying and the other was the curiosity of wanting to know more.
She finally spoke, “How can I be of any help? I mean, if what you say is true, that you are from the future and that you have developed more advanced technology, I do not see where I fit into the equation.”
Alaric smiled, “My dear Rebecca, you have a huge role to play in this scenario than what you think but we need to get out of here before I can explain any further.” He stood up and grabbed her by the arm with such a force that it hurt her. She pulled out her arm from his grasp and cried out loud, “Let go of me, it hurts!” At this she also stood up a few feet apart from him, she could see the tension had built up and it manifested in the sternness of his face. He no longer had that jovial look he first presented to Rebecca and noticing this, Rebecca no longer trusted him.
“I am not going with you anywhere. I clearly do not understand your intentions and being naive let me trust you. Whoever you are or wherever you come from I do not want a part in any of it,” Rebecca said and noticed that the rest of the customers of the laundromat stared directly at both of them. No one said anything and all the sound that was being created was by the machines tumbling the clothes within their chambers.
At this same moment two men approached Rebecca, “Is he bothering you?” one of them asked.
The other, taller and more muscular built, “Leave her alone old man or we’ll bust your ass here.”
Alaric stared directly at Rebecca and grinned, “Alright gentlemen, no need to use the force. I was just leaving. As for you my dear Rebecca, I knew you were going to be of no help, but no worries. We shall meet again.” He turned his back and began walking toward the exit door.
Rebecca released a huge sigh and felt the tension leaving her body. She thanked the two men that had helped her and everyone began to whisper as to what had occurred while they returned to their business. Rebecca sat again and picked up the book and next to it was the piece of the capsule that Alaric had shown to her. She also picked up the piece and a cold stream ran through her spine when she looked at it. She placed the piece in her purse and saw the title of her book: Fate. She smiled and kept staring at it when then the sound of a bell broke her concentration, it was the end of her washing cycle.
She usually grabs a cart from the laundromat to take her clothes to the dryer but due to the circumstances of today, she will skip the dryer and hang them at her apartment to dry. All she wanted was to get out of there and return to her safe space to collect her thoughts and reach out to her colleagues to inform them of what has just happened. She grabbed her two-wheeled cart, opened the washing machine door, and placed it between her and the machine. She extended her arm into the tumbler to grab her clothes and could only feel the warm metal. She was puzzled by the feeling and she looked inside, her clothes were no longer there.
She shook her head as to return to her senses that this must be a joke but it was not. She decided to stick her head into the tumbler as perhaps there was a hole in the tumbler. As she was halfway into the machine she felt a huge force of air sucking her into the chamber. Rebecca tried to pull her head out but as she did, it became stronger to the point she felt her body levitating and later being fully introduced into the machine.
All of this happened so quickly that she did not notice what had just occurred as she felt her body falling into a white chamber. Everything was covered in white and this partially blinded her eyes since the light coming from the roof reflected from the walls. Her eyes normalized and were in a state of shock for she did not know if it was a room or if she was in an expanse of terrain covered in white. “What is this place? What just happened?” she whispered as she looked around the room.
Rebecca automatically thought that Alaric had set up a trap for her and that he would stop at nothing. She began to believe every word he had said to her. “Alaric! I know this is of your making and that you have kidnapped me by force. Might as well show yourself and tell me what it is that you need from me,” she screamed and could hear her echo bounce from all the walls in all directions. A slight squeaky sound of a speaker coming into line began to fill the room.
“Welcome Rebecca,” the calm voice of Alaric sounded from the device and continued, “I want to apologize for having abducted you but there was no other way. Plus, I did not want my nose to be broken by those formidable men that approached to help you. I do not lower myself to such standards.”
“Where am I?!” she demanded.
At this, a slight soft noise resounded in the chamber and a few feet above her the wall parted in half as two shutters were sliding parallel to each side. It created a rectangle that was covered by a glass window and behind it, she could make out the tall and formidable figure and the face of Alaric, He was dressed differently, he had a dark gray uniform and in his left chest she could make out the glistening of many metals that were hanging. He is a high ranking officer or general of some type of army. This made Rebecca relieved as she was correct with her deductions of the guy back in the laundromat but knowing this, in no way it would help her get out of that white chamber. She looked up once again toward him and noticed his eyesight was locked toward her without any compassion and with a slight grin. “No need to worry about where you are Rebecca, your time here would be very brief.”
He continued, “My dear Rebecca, remember that I mentioned that you were going to play a huge role in our future, well you are.”
“Enough of the ambiguities! Tell me exactly what you want from me,” Rebecca yelled out.
Alaric smiled and gave out a huge sigh, “Alright Rebecca. Since we are not savages you at least need to know the truth. You are in our main headquarters in the world that has been created by our society thanks to the technology that you and some of your colleagues developed in the laboratory. In other words, we are in the future. The year we live in is 2278 and believe it or not, we are still at war with each other but this time it was caused by an unfortunate being.”
He paused and the grin in his face changed into a serious and lethal person. While Rebecca was trying to place all the pieces together in her mind from what he had just said, she also wanted to understand everything that they have worked in that lab and know what technology could have been developed by these people.
“I know you are calculating everything that I have just mentioned to you and let me save you time and energy Rebecca. We know everything about you and your group at the lab but most importantly, you. As I informed you, the capsule to elongate life became a success and only a few people could use it as ordered by the U.S. army. A few years later they called for volunteers to be encapsulated and to wake up until 2270. You were among those volunteers at the ripe age of forty-seven. Two hundred and twenty years later all of the volunteers are woken up and are amazed by the advancements in technology and what we have done to this planet in its preservation. We learned everything about your life since we were taught about it in school and the date you were going to wake up was going to be a game-changer and it was! As the days passed you explored this world and tried to return to your hometown of Stephenson, Michigan which no longer exists due to the great floods, so those green fields and trees were long gone. On that trip, you begin to discover that not everything is rosy and progressive as you thought. Poverty, hunger, and inequality are more rampant and only a few have control over those precious resources. The war in which we find ourselves at this time is caused by an uprising that you help develop to help those in need but do not offer anything to our society. So eight years have passed since you have woken up and in that time we have suffered a lot. I was commissioned with a mission by the great leader to go back in time, capture you, and destroy you. We are just half of this mission and to bring peace to our world,” Alaric concluded.
This did not make any sense to Rebecca and thought that it was another mind game created to control her. Either way, she went into deep thought and played with the information that he gave to her. Anxiety kicked in as she knew that this man had the intention of killing her and was not going to stop. There was no way for her to escape and negotiation was not even presented as an option for her release. She continued in thought for a few seconds until she finally spoke, “May I ask you if we have met personally after having woken up?”
Alaric’s stern face changed to a more relaxed state and smiled, “Yes. I previously had captured you in the middle of the Old Amazon. You were tied up but calm.”
“Did I say anything to you?” she asked.
Alaric was puzzled by this question and went into thought for a few seconds, “Yes you did. You said, ´Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring things you never asked for and don't always like.´ Afterward, you were saved by your platoon who had set up an ambush for us. You had it all planned.”
Rebecca smiled and gave out a loud laugh as it was the quote she had read in the book in the laundromat. It had now made sense for her, her fate, the changes in the world, the war. She had understood that her death would end all of these things and none of this would ever happen. It’s just an imagination. Everything is clear to her now.
Watching her be so jovial at the immediate thought of death bothered Alaric. He felt that she was mocking him and stared directly at Rebecca. She caught the sense of his eyesight and said, “What are you waiting for?! Finish your mission. Do not worry about what will happen in the future, none of this would have existed.”
He smiled and nodded his head but his avarice of wanting to take revenge over her did not allow his brain to think clearly. He looked to his side and with the nod of his head he gave the order.
From the roof of the chamber a yellow gas began to descend, Rebecca stared at him with a huge smile and after a few seconds, she disappeared being covered with gas. Alaric did not move from his position and waited for the gas to do its work. Once it began to dissipate he was aghast at the sight that Rebecca’s body was no longer in the chamber. His brain went into hyperdrive trying to connect all the dots and understand what had just happened when suddenly it hit him, “She has won the war.”
Thank you for reading!