Friendship Science Fiction Fiction

“What’s that?” asked Aubrey as he looked across the garage of his one-story home in Detroit. His childhood friend, Chris, reached out to what seemed like a pixelated wave, slowly growing in concentric circles. Naomi walked around to see if there was something projecting it, deflecting light, causing some sort of manipulation of their eyes; there wasn’t. As the circle grew bigger, a gloved hand came out of it. Their fourth friend, Shawn, was walking up the driveway and saw what was going on. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the hand appear. 

               In a few seconds, the anomaly grew to about the size of a door. That’s when a boot stepped out along with the remainder of the attached body. The man that appeared from the door looked around in awe of the garage. It was laden with boxes, poster boards, and papers with the words “Project Hope” in the header. On the make-shift tables and desks were a couple of computers, a recording setup, and some mobile phones. The visitor had an innocent smile and wore a white and green suit, like a crewmember in modern sci-fi film.

               As the portal closed, the visitor spoke, “This is a great day… Hello. I am Vhan. I would like to discuss with you, your work.” 

He continued, “I am from the future. The year 2253, from THIS thread of time.” He studied the faces of his audience again and saw their attention clung to his every word. He told them about his time; how society functioned worldwide as one cohesive assembly. Very few suffered, starved or were subject to crime. The arts were a part of everyone’s daily life, knowledge and happiness were known to all. As he spoke, the group was amazed at how his time compared to their time.

I would like to take you there if you permit me.” Said Vhan, as he calmly paced around the garage with his arms behind him. 

“No! Why? This is crazy,” said Shawn. “How do we know this is going to be okay?!”

Vhan turned to him and said, “Shawn, your son will be fine while you are away. It will only be a few minutes for this place-in-time.” Shawn was dumbfounded that Vhan knew his name and that he had a son.

Aubrey asked, “How did you know Shawn’s name?”

“In my time, you are the fore bearers of our way of civilization. You all are a part of our studies and heritage.” Vhan chuckled as he looked at their stunned faces again, raising his arms up to display the garage and its inherent mess. “This project is the first step in the coming stages that will lead to my time. This is the moment in history where you are about to dissolve this organization, therefore dissolving the success of your time on earth and our way of life. That is why I am here.” 

Vhan stuck his arm out and waved, causing another pixelated portal to begin forming. As it grew, he turned to the group, stuck out his hand and said, “Please, come with me. I will show you.”

Chris stepped up and grabbed his hand, saying, “I was sold with the portal.” The remaining three shrugged their shoulders, grabbed hands, and joined the chain, disappearing into the rippling waves. 

In a blink they were in a high-rise building. The four of them looked around the giant room still in construction. There was a giant round table in the corner, blueprints across a few work areas, sheets of plywood, rolls of insulation, and a variety of other materials in the middle of the floor. The room was surrounded by glass windows, giving them a 360-degree view of the city around them. 

Naomi looked at an open folder on the table and asked, “What’s ‘The Resolve Corporation’?”

Vhan answered, “Your legacy.  We are in the year 2088 of our timeline. This is a major progression of your organization.”

“WHERE are we?” Chris asserted.

“The corner of Warren and Livernois Avenue, Detroit, Michigan.” Vhan said with a smile, as he caught Chris’s shocked expression. 

“No chance!” Exclaimed Shawn. “This is one of the worst neighborhoods in town!  Hell, the country!”

Vhan told them that because their volunteer organization, Project Hope, had impacted so many lives during their lifetime that their families had continued their work and created a profitable business with the power to positively impact even more people. Their kids had the ability to learn from them and make the progression to these next steps. 

Naomi looked outside the windows at the neighboring buildings as she skeptically said, “Yeah but these buildings around us are probably gentrified, having ran out local residents that had to move to worse parts of the city.”

“Not at all,” Vhan explained. “The work you all did, inspired so many others to use their gifts, abilities, and status to pass along fortune and opportunities. You inspired many levels of cohesion and neighboring communities, cities, and countries eventually took note and mirrored this behavior. Greed is unfortunately still around, but nowhere near the level of your time. It has been a slow process, as your children are now older than you are.”

“Would we be able to see our children now?” asked Aubrey. 

“I am afraid not.” Said Vhan. “This journey is solely for the benefit of seeing the fruits of your labor.”

The group was in awe at the landscape around them. What was once run-down, boarded up housing and vacant lots were generously built community buildings with exquisite features.  Residents moved about, animated. Children ran around and played. All colors and races were seen. Acceptance was strangely common.

Vhan went on, “Right now you are in a struggle. You were going to meet about eliminating the organization and continuing with your individual careers and lives. I am here to implore you to continue. At times you will fall to difficult situations and it will certainly take its toll on you all but if you choose not to go on, this will not occur in this timeline.”

Aubrey became frustrated. “You mean the four of us are responsible for all THIS?!” He flailed his arms and gestured to each person, respectively, “As much as I want to believe it, how can a cop (Chris), a nurse (Naomi), a city worker (Shawn) and an unemployed loser (himself) make all these changes?!”

Vhan went on, “It is not who you are. It is what you do. You will create the path for the work you are doing and will continue to do, respectively. This area of Detroit was exponentially changed because of Chris’s fair policing procedures and community aide influence. Project Hope had a large part of affecting the change in this area. Eventually, through Project Hope, the legal system will change from local law enforcement to government because of the effect of minor changes done here.”

Chris turned away from the group to clear his mind. He saw the giant round wooden table in the corner and asked, “What’s that table about?”

Vhan excitedly answered, “That is the table where the heads of the company, your children, will sit to progress their work. The round table signifies that no one person is above the others. The purpose is what runs each organization.” The group looked at each other and said nothing. “Come, we have more places to visit.”

Vhan, again, stuck his arm out and waved, causing another pixelated portal to begin forming. He said, “The future is still so much brighter,” stepped in and disappeared.

The portal opened into a lush, tropical area with dense foliage and a visible clearing to a hillside farm a few meters away with crops and profound agriculture with a small village at the base of the valley. Vhan answered their questions before they were able to ask, “We are in the town of Baidoa, in Somalia; the year is 2165, still in our timeline.”

“I didn’t know it was this green!” Exclaimed Chris. 

“We are in a bio-sphere, one of many that has contributed to the conditions that eventually changed life here in Africa.” Vhan continued, “This allowed for species to thrive while giving the opportunity to farm and produce food to help sustain life here.”

They walked towards the fields which ran down towards the valley giving them a view of the hundreds of people working on the fields, carrying goods. They saw children, healthy and playing. No one had been to any part of Africa, but images they’ve seen of sick and dying natives came to mind. 

Naomi asked, “What happened to disease in this part of the world?”

Vhan spoke as they walked, “All but eradicated. As I have said before, there are outliers. Nothing is perfect. But because of your influence, healthcare and modern medicine combined with nature, benefitting the lives of everyone. It has taken over one hundred years but what you ignited caused much research to break through, causing a greater understanding of the human body and its systems.” Naomi’s eyes welled with tears as she looked at the people and heard the children’s laughter. 

Vhan turned around and looked toward Shawn, “Your strategies for hunting and agriculture caused societies to change how food was eaten, gathered and distributed. This biosphere is an example of how that inspiration was used to advance life.” 

Shawn looked around and realized that the temperature, humidity, soil type and crop organization were ideal to what he believed to be optimal. They saw hunters going into the village with a fresh kill and villagers preparing a meal. The food looked delicious, with deep rich colors. 

Aubrey interjected, “This is very simple though… like a regression. Other than the biosphere, they are not using a lot of technology for this being the future. How can this be that much better?”

Vhan obliged, “Everyone has a choice. They are continuing the traditions of their ancestry from centuries ago, only with a greater variety and aide from technology of this era. A mutualistic symbiosis was created as people understood the earth, and the earth would provide as we evolved. Things that made humanity sick and detached were discarded.”

“What do I contribute” asked Aubrey. 

“You will see, on our last stop.” Said Vhan, as he stuck his arm out and waved, causing another pixelated portal to begin forming. As the door grew bigger, the group looked around and quickly absorbed the scene, inhaled the air, and felt the joy that they were leaving behind. 

By the time the portal closed at the last site, they all knew where they were. “This is the L.A. River!” said Aubrey. The famous landmark with once desolate concrete walls sparingly marked by raw graffiti were covered, every inch, by art. Beautiful hues that they rarely saw in their own time, they saw splattered in one giant mural dedicated to life. Vhan abetted Aubrey’s statement, “You’re correct Aubrey. This is 2098 but on an alternate strand of time. One where you separate and dissolve Project Hope.” As they walked, they heard banging and muffled music. About 100 meters away they saw a crowd of people as Vhan lead them toward the noise. The time of day was early evening and the sun was about to set. The scene was like a music festival during a post-apocalyptic period. They moved into the crowd and were swallowed by it. 

A few of the locals grabbed Aubrey and Naomi’s hands and entranced them in a dance. The two friends were overtaken by the music and went along. Vhan, Shawn and Chris were given a couple of beers by one of the artists; his face, clothes, and hands spackled with paint. They said, “Thanks,” and kept moving.

They walked up the bank of the river and made their way up to the La Kretz Bridge. They sat on the edge of the guard rail and looked at the crowd below and at the cityscape around them. Shawn spoke. “This isn’t that bad. People seem to be having a good time. The city looks like I remember it when I last visited.” 

They saw Aubrey and Naomi make their way to the top of the bridge. Aubrey had paint smeared on his now shirtless torso and Naomi had a gorgeous seashell necklace interwoven with a few pearls and a diamond at the center. 

Vhan replied, “It is. Remember, this is 2098. Ten years after our visit to Detroit.” They realized the difference as there were no green fields of crops, clean high rises, and almost no visible sign of poverty. He continued, “Individually, you all will succeed on a minor scale. Your impact on civilization is exponentially decreased and your influence slowly dissipates. Aubrey, this is where your influence lies with music, dance, art, and the influence of psychedelic drugs. The growing trend of overdose deaths and dangerous practices of combining substances like fentanyl caused immense action to be taken. The world of mental health synergistically changed with the changes of narcotics.”

Aubrey smiled as he felt the music in his heart from the people below. But it was a bitter realization that this dream state is temporary as they haven’t reached this point in their time. He looked at his friends and saw their expressions, knowing they felt same way. 

Vhan put his hand on his shoulder and told him, “This IS a dream. Right NOW.” You have the choice to make this a reality. 

Chris asked, “I thought we weren’t supposed to know our futures. In the movies it’s bad if they know what happens. Right? Aren’t you messing with the ‘space-time continuum’? Isn’t that what you’re doing.”

Vhan answered, “That is not the way time works. You will either continue your work and stay on your timeline or not and change to another. That is the power of choice you hold. As you can see, either way is already written.”

“Not to put this on a deeper level, but then what does it matter?” Naomi asked. “I mean, if it’s not going to happen in this time and will happen on another, wouldn’t it just be the same?”

Vhan smiled as he turned to her, “Do you enjoy helping people, Naomi?”

She was taken back by the question, “Y-yes, of course I do, that’s why I’m a nurse! And why we have Project H-… I see what you did there… Touché.”

“So, if you had the power to positively impact someone, to create a healing connection of power, would you not?” questioned Vhan. He saw the answer in her face. “Because you have the chance or opportunity to help someone, even if for a fleeting second, I believe you should.” He looked back at Chris and said, “Yes, changing multiple timelines for the sake of changing them leads to variances in the timeline. However, making decisions on your own, in your own time, regardless of the knowledge of outcome is what finalizes ‘time.’”

The four friends looked at each other. Shawn and Naomi had tears in their eyes, Chris grabbed his friends and hugged them. “It’s going to cause us to pay a price,” he said. “The sacrifice and work it’s going to take might become too much.” 

Aubrey looked at the beauty below him. His heart felt full. “I don’t care what it costs me. It’s not for us. It’s for them.”

Vhan turned around, stuck his arm out and waved, causing the last pixelated portal to begin forming. They followed him in, one-by-one.

September 18, 2021 00:10

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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