Lin- she had always seemed ordinary. People who used to look at her would not find anything special about her. At first glance, she was your regular woman in her twenties, doing some job or the other and living a seemingly content life.
But that was actually not it. She was a secret agent, working undercover as a book editor. What others did not know was that while she worked on her stories, she simultaneously would be encoding messages. What people didn’t realize was that she was actually gathering and sorting data under the pretext of working on a rookie author’s text.
No, nobody ever knew that she was part of something much, much bigger than herself or the streets or the city or the country… or even the globe.
She was a worker at the Galactic Organization for Realizing Mythology- GORM for short. That was the most wonderful place one could ever fathom about, because all myths and traditions from across planets in the galaxy came true there. She was on the Chinese Department on Dimension Earth, and was pretty happy to be working there- except for one small complaint last Wednesday.
“Dexter!” she yelled yet again into the dark silence surrounded by stars which did not twinkle the way they did on earth. Tao turned around in her seat. “Let me see,” she observed. “He did something again.”
“Of course he had to! You won’t even believe what his brain cooked up this time!” Lin shrieked shrilly. Tao removed her glasses and stared straight at Lin. “Cut him some slack, you iceberg,” she repeated herself. “He’s the only American in this whole department of Chinese people. Imagine the amount of hard work he must have put in to get here! He must have had good reasons for doing whatever he did.”
“But Tao-!” Lin began, but her colleague cut her short. “I’ve heard. He is going for the red threads of fate this year for the annual project, isn’t he?”
Lin nodded, relieved to know her friend was well-informed for at least one time. Tao shrugged. “I don’t see what’s wrong with that. It’s a pretty interesting topic. I can’t help it if you are so averse to love, honey,” she spoke.
Lin looked thunderstruck. “But he wants us to try and follow our own threads to see where they lead! That’s the dumbest idea I ever came across. Your love comes at its own time.” she exploded.
Tao shrugged again. “All I know is that we are working at a place which experiments with mythology as creatures know it, and also the fact that Dexter is a genius. He’s been designing that machine to view red threads since three years, and it’s finally nearing completion! How would you feel if something you’ve been toiling on might finally see daylight?”
Lin turned away, leaving the question unanswered. She heaved around her paperwork and checked the time. It was nearly time to return to earth to play her role as ‘the boring editor’. She started packing her stuff to head to the elevators.
What she could not tell Tao was that she had a deep-seated secret. It was entrenched so much that she could not pluck the courage to lug it out and tell the world.
It was pure and simple- contrary to popular belief at the GORM, she did not despise Dexter. In fact, she admired him like a mad aficionado. She strongly believed that her own red thread was attached to his ankle, and both of them were meant to be together.
But ever since Dexter started developing his tech, doubts had been sown into her mind.
Were both of them really meant to be together?
Were their cords ever connected?
Could her fantasies ever come true?
And that is why she never wanted him to succeed. She was afraid that once Dexter finished his work, someone else might be the one for him and she would be left standing alone, or accompanied by someone she had absolutely despised until then. But who would understand?
She ceased her packing and stood up blindly. For some sudden reason, tears had started prickling at the corners of her eyes. She wiped them away quickly with her sleeve before Tao noticed and hurried away to the elevators leading back to earth. And that’s when she ran into a solid wall.
“Oh, I’m so sorry… Lin! Just the person I wanted to see!”
She looked up in shock. She had just plummeted ungraciously into Dexter. Dexter straightened up, his wavy brown hair bobbing slightly over his perfectly shaped eyebrows and clear hazel eyes.
“Yeah?” she asked in a neutral fashion. That was the mode she ever assumed around him. He smiled. “You know about our project topic this year, right? I needed a bit of help with the instrument I’m working on. I figured you’d be the best person to ask help from,” he said hopefully.
“Okay,” she said nonchalantly and followed him back into the department.
He inhaled deeply as soon as he flicked on the lights which illuminated a small pair of framed glasses. They were grandly placed on a stand surrounded by contraptions of several kinds- he had really been working hard. Pride swelled up in Lin’s chest on watching all his works.
That’s my man, she thought.
“I need you to help me finish this invention,” Dexter said. “You’ll be given due credit for your part, don’t worry about that.”
Lin was shocked beyond words. He was asking for the impossible. How could she ever? However neat and impressive the invention was, all she wanted to do to it was smash it or sabotage it in some way.
Maybe… she actually could do that… and buy herself more time.
She slowly nodded and began to study the glasses. They were in optimum condition. The lenses were the simple and plain, but made from the toughest transparent material in the galaxy. Ouch. That must have cost a lot. She decided to ignore the numbers running in her head and delved further. The frames had the main control panel, so they were the real deal. She suddenly swooped down to examine a button named ‘VIEW’. Was that sparking she saw there?
“What’s this one for?” she asked, pointing at it eagerly. He leant behind a stack of books he was resetting. “Oh, that? It’s for a general view of all red threads in the world. It can be customized to a specific person’s thread’s view too.”
Bingo, she thought. That was one spark she had to encourage. The wiring had grown old due to the amount of time it had spent inside the machine. This must have been the first function Dexter must have installed since the device’s creation. A new set of anti-frictional wiring would finish the machine, but that wasn’t what she was going to do. No. She was going to increase the amount of friction and additionally fry the internal system a little so that the glasses would break down after a couple of minutes of use. The blame would all come down to usage of outdated tools and overlooking of system safety, and the project would be scrapped.
“I need access to the mainframe of this program,” she called out. He nodded. “I’m coming over,” he replied and rushed to her. She could catch a whiff of his cologne which she loved so much. He hit a few keys on his computer and looked at her. “There,” he said. “You can edit the program now.”
The brightness and boyishness in his voice caught Lin off-guard. He was so enthusiastic about this small set of glasses lying in front of her. She stared at them.
She was about to blow up three years of effort into smoke. And he had trusted her to strengthen it instead.
How low could she get?
A wave of epiphany washed over her. How it came about, she could not explain; maybe it must have been a sudden surge of guilt. But all that occupied her conscience at the moment was- she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t betray his trust and faith in her for her selfish desires.
She took a deep breath. “Let’s fix you properly, buddy,” she whispered softly to the glasses and rolled up her sleeves. Within an hour, the work was done, and both of them had bidden goodbye to each other, promising each other good luck for the presentation the next working day.
Eventually, the next working hours for the GORM did arrive, and Lin was nervous. The presentation involved someone finding their soul mate using the glasses. She wanted the invention to work, because she wanted Dexter to be appreciated. How happy he would be if it were to be accepted and put into mass production for the galactic public. And if he was happy, she would be too.
A volunteer was chosen, the glasses were put on and the person immediately cried out, “There’s this… red string around my ankle!”
And he frantically started chasing it. People jumped and skipped out of the way as he made his way through crowds and out into the streets. He finally jerked his head up when he sensed an end coming.
“Well… I married the right girl, then,” he murmured shyly as he saw his wife’s ankle connected at the other end. The following throngs from the GORM burst into applause. Lin shed tears of joy. It had worked.
Later on, the whole department was appreciated and congratulated- the glasses were going into immediate mass production. Lin could never forget the look on Dexter’s face as he heard the news.
Four months later…
“It’s arrived! The package has come!”
Tao frantically pushed her bangs away from her face as she lifted Lin’s package. There it was- sitting in a shiny case, the glasses looked more beautiful than ever before. The design reforms had really changed the influence and sales of the venture. Lin entered running from the left passage.
“Lemme try them on!” she squealed and grabbed the glasses. Her heart was thumping loudly in her chest. Who was going to be her soul mate? Was he even from this galaxy, or would she have to pay the heavy inter-galactic travel expenses?
She jammed them onto her eyes and her fingers flickered to the all-too-familiar ‘VIEW’ function. She pressed a few more buttons to show only her string. An instant measure sprang up at the edge of the lens: 840 meters.
“Why is it so short?” she muttered in frustration. But that could only mean one thing- her soul mate was very near. She broke into a run, completely going against office protocol.
She nearly cried out when her eyes travelled to the ankle of the person at the other end of her red thread.