"Hello? Is anyone there?"
A sweet voice had been echoing in my mind for a while, but now I could clearly distinguish every word.
"Well, it seems like you're starting to wake up."
I opened my eyes, but no shapes or colors made sense. Where am I? What has happened?
"Relax, it takes some getting used to after hibernation."
It was a feminine voice, reminiscent of an old television commercial. Gradually, the clouds started to dissipate, revealing the appearance of my companion.
"Who... who..." I tried to speak.
"Take it easy," she responded while helping me sit up, pulling my hands gently.
She had sky-blue eyes and hair as yellow as the beach sand. Her face was delicate, resembling an angel. What was she doing here with me?
"Welcome to 'Celeste', Mr. David," she said slowly and calmly. "I'm sorry. Let me introduce myself. I'm Alex, your incorporation guide."
My head was pounding, and I felt dizzy, as if I had just stepped out of a centrifuge. I'm David, a taxi driver... I couldn't remember anything else. Alex must have noticed my bewildered state as she looked at me with a concerned expression. I was in a white room with a window so large that the glass covered an entire wall. Outside, all I could see was the sea at ground level. It felt like I was in some kind of dream. I looked back at my... incorporation guide.
"Alex, why am I here?" I stood up.
"You probably don't remember much, it happens to everyone. Does the name Tomorrow ring a bell?"
"Tomorrow?" I touched my chin, searching for answers to her question. "Isn't it a fertility assistance company?"
"So, you're from before all of this," Alex opened the door. "Follow me, let's go outside while I bring you up to date."
My companion and I stepped outside through the door opposite the window. I was wearing a white pajama-like outfit, while she wore a tight-fitting pastel-colored outfit. I couldn't find any comparisons to describe the strange duo we formed. As soon as we stepped out, we found ourselves in a meadow full of paths. They all led to small enclosures similar to the one I had just left. In the center of the meadow stood a small dome. On the horizon and all around us, there was nothing but sea, matching the color of the sky. It seemed like we were on some kind of island.
My astonishment reached a new level when we crossed paths with another pair—a person looking confused and their companion, similar in appearance to Alex.
"This place is not normal, it doesn't resemble anything I remember," I said, turning my gaze. "Why does that girl look so much like you?"
"Well, David, what I'm about to tell you will be hard to believe, but you have awakened a hundred years in the future, to be exact."
"I suspected... How?!" I stopped abruptly.
"I was waiting to reach the central dome before explaining the rest, but if you want, I can start addressing some of your questions along the way."
I resumed walking, albeit skeptically, as Alex began to recount my presence in this place with its calm tones and name. Distant memories whispered names, sounds, and faces. My wife? My children? Where were they? Had I traveled to the future alone? The answer awaited me in the dome, where, as explained to me, everyone who had just been incorporated gathered to have their first contact with the real world after awakening from our stasis state.
Alex belonged to a new generation educated by Tomorrow, the company that managed this inspiring space. Apparently, the world had continued its course while other people had to undergo to...
"A temporal compensation? What is that?" I asked, perplexed.
"It's when people reach a point of no return in their lives and choose the promised eternity offered by Tomorrow, a significant step towards the future."
"But I knew nothing about this, and I don't remember making any decisions."
"Because you didn't make the decision, your wife did."
That revelation hit me hard. Why my wife and not me? I fell silent, trying even to recall her face, but it was incredibly difficult. A multitude of sensations were building up inside me, as if they were waiting their turn to escape, but one in particular was terrified of discovering the reason why I hadn't acted of my own accord.
"Could it be that I fell into a coma or something similar?" I hesitated. "An accident? An illness? I can't think of anything."
Alex abruptly stopped walking and looked at me. Her calm face conveyed a strange serenity, and I say strange because I was growing more anxious to escape from this situation, a nightmare that was starting to torment me. She seemed thoughtful, as if she wanted to tell me something very specific.
"By company rules, I can't reveal anything else. You'll find out once we reach the dome."
And we continued walking, the only activity that seemed to be popular in this place. Silence enveloped us, and although I had many more questions, I understood that Alex wouldn't be able to answer most of them. After wracking my brain for a while, I remembered my young children. They were very young: nine and seven years old. What had become of them all this time? Why couldn't I remember anything else? My heart started beating fast, as if it was becoming aware of all the time I had been deprived of. And their names? The eldest was Antón, and the youngest was Blanca, like my wife. Damn it! What did they look like? I was convinced they were real, much more real than this futuristic, sterile, and artificial environment.
Finally, we reached our destination. From the inside, the dome seemed larger. The incorporation guides appeared to be giving instructions to the people entering the various rooms around us.
"This is yours," Alex pointed out when we were just a few steps away.
"Your welcome room."
I looked at the door, then at Alex. I was terrified of knowing the truth about myself, my loved ones, and my past.
"Don't distress yourself," she continued. "Everyone at this stage has hundreds of doubts. The answers are on the other side."
After several seconds, I managed to detach my eyes from the uncertain reassurance that Alex's silhouette provided, my only connection in this unknown place. The door opened, revealing a large screen and a chair. She nodded and gestured for me to enter with her hand. Once inside, the door closed. Everything was quite clean and well-lit, as if I were inaugurating that room. Suddenly, the screen turned on, revealing a man in his thirties waiting, uncrossing his arms when he saw me, with an expression of surprise.
"David? Is it you?"
I looked to the sides, searching for any hidden cameras, but found nothing. I returned my gaze to the screen but didn't respond. Instead, I stopped to observe some of the features on his face. He had dark circles, like mine, and long eyelashes, like my son.
The man chuckled, but my question didn't seem to amuse him, as tears escaped his eyes that he tried discreetly and hastily to wipe away before continuing to speak.
"That was my grandfather, I'm Alejandro, your great-grandson."
I was petrified. I hadn't known my son as an adult, not even my grandson. What had become of me?
"A hundred years ago, you had a car accident, great-grandpa," he began to recount. "You were very seriously injured, in fact, Grandma said you died."
My pulse raced, evoking a very different idea from what my supposed great-grandson had just told me.
"That's not possible, I'm alive, I'm talking to you. Can't you see it? Am I in heaven?"
And I answered my own question: "Celeste." It had to be a nightmare.
"Where are my children? Where is Blanca?"
"You have to calm down."
I tried to get up from the chair, but I couldn't. It was as if my backside was anchored, as if I was obliged to listen to the nonsense that this man had to tell me...
* * *
"David: ...Where is Blanca?"
The terminal screen displayed the responses of my great-grandfather, whose words denoted helplessness and anxiety. For being the first beta version of Celeste, the result was magnificent.
"Should we stop here for today?" Alex, the assistant, asked.
"I think so. I'm afraid he's not yet ready to know the rest of the story."
After his death, David's brain was cryogenically preserved in Tomorrow's innovative facilities. Due to the technological difficulty of providing him with a physical body, a hundred years later, he was connected to an artificial neural network so that his consciousness could continue with us, just like the rest of my family.
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