This story is by Rebecca and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Once people lived. Once people loved. Once people had a purpose.
People lived in peace, in harmony, in love. People lived without a worry that they were in danger. People didn’t think about the end of everything they’ve ever known or loved and the same people didn’t predict the perilous future that lay before them. People were oblivious and ignorant to the dangers that lay right before them. They were neglecting of the clues and rejoiced in their ignorance, which of course, is bliss. People were happy and people were safe…almost.
You see there are many dangers in the world. You’ve seen it all before. War, natural disasters, poverty, the list goes on. But what people never expected to put them in the most danger, was themselves. And it all came to a stop in 2025, this year. They pushed themselves until they broke. Tested their limits and went further still. People are not invincible. People can fall apart with the simplest of failures. Tears aren’t produced by beings without feelings. A colony doesn’t collapse, a civilisation doesn’t break, a species doesn’t fall if it’s perfect. We decided that we didn’t need anything else, a divine intervention was unnecessary, and the apocalypse? Nah, we’ll survive that. All 8.142 billion of us. But what about when we go too far, when we invent something we shouldn’t have invented. We broke something that shouldn’t have been broken or even tinkered with.
What in heaven and hell were we thinking? Tinker with time. We can take people further and steal people back. “We can prevent the inevitable and rewrite all of history!” We brought it upon ourselves. We should’ve seen it coming. We should’ve realised we’d be doomed to this. This state of chaos and destruction. The survivors have lost hope. They think there’s no solution, no way to come back from this.
We’ve only been on our own for seven months and as soon as you think things can’t worse, they do. 8 billion people in a coma. I can’t believe it. Billions just dropping like flies without any previous signs of illness. But then it gets worse still. There were 142 million of us left after it happened. Death rates have drastically increased. Several minor wars broke out over ‘whose fault it was’, and 3 million people died in battle because of it. Classic human race. Half a million people committed suicide and the other half a million simply passed away of old age. Another 2 million people died because of the natural occurrences that have increased dramatically also. But the most devastating thing to ever occur, the most destructive event in all of history is 100% unfathomable. Nothing like this has even been imagined. 134 million people have died of Anthraptinum. 134 million people! That’s an impossible number! And the worst thing, no one else knows what Anthraptinum is. It began as soon as we started experimenting with time. There are no outward signs of it, and there’s no way of knowing if you’ve got it until it’s too late.
There is no cure.
There are several theories as to what it is, each more exaggerated than the next. Some people think it’s the higher levels of radioactivity from the travelling. Others think the past is coming back to haunt us. Many believe it to be contagious. Once, I even heard that it was delivered to us by a future alien race. But they’re wrong.
As soon as the first person travelled through time, they put themselves in danger. Along with everyone who will ever cross their path or be affected by them in any way. The thing is, if you were to travel back in time, you’d alter history, and even the smallest difference in word, thought or action can begin a never-ending chain of events. The butterfly effect. These changes have the greatest consequences. There have been people who’ve disappeared into thin air, as if they never existed in the first place. Others have woken up and had a disability or mental illness. I knew someone who’s race, name, family, job and home had gone out the window in a very short amount of time.
His aunt had tripped.
That’s what we call it when a person is desperate to travel in time and therefore make decisions without thinking them through. They result in large and drastic alterations in history that have immediate effects on the people close to them back in the present. For example. Say your wife travels back in time. She’s been so excited for this, did brilliantly in the training and the courses, you admire this about her. She’s just a living ray of sunshine and her confidence astounds you. She convinces her parents to move to France, they’ve always wanted to go. They decide they love it in France and don’t move back. ‘Of course they do! It’s beautiful there! Why would they come back when there’s so much more for them in France. When she returned, you realise that you’d be unmarried, childless, as if they disappeared, and you ultimately have nothing left. You miss her. You miss them. But what did you expect, that everything would just return to the way it was before?’ That’s what everyone told me. I bet they told everyone else too. Very few people who travel come back without tripping.
Anthraptinum just comes hand in hand with tripping. It comes with differing levels of intensity. When someone you know trips, you become infected with Anthraptinum. Tripping is the cause, Anthraptinum is the effect. Travelling, therefore tripping, had very quickly grown in popularity and became available to people all over the world. It’s only been possible for five years. It is also very expensive and fortunately, very few people had the money, health and confidence to travel. There is a very long process to have accessibility to travelling. You must perform a practice run on working the machine, must write a six-page essay proving that you know the guidelines to using it, must fill out some very detailed forms that prove you are you, and then must take a three-month training course.
There are, of course, limitations. We are unable to travel into the future. It’s only possible to go to the past, and for two weeks at a time. If you were to travel to the same place more than once, you wouldn’t be remembered from a previous time. You cannot make any physical changes to the past, but can inspire others to do it for you. You can go anywhere.
You can see anyone.
You can do anything.
And we did. We did anything. And look at the consequences! It’s just chaos and destruction! How do we come back from this?! There is literally no cure! We can’t even figure out what we want. We went back and changed everything. We broke the future. We’ve brought our nightmares upon ourselves. How did I let it get so bad?! At least, the animatherapy is working. It seems to be a part of Anthraptinum that protects the ‘coma souls’. Animatherapy is the natural treatment that prevents harm on the 8 billion people in a coma; the ‘coma souls’. Turns out that what’s putting them in a coma, is also protecting them in this theoretical bubble. They can’t be harmed while they’re in it unless from themselves. It’s quite funny really, that what’s killing them is also what’s keeping them alive.
They’ll be okay. But will we? There’s only so many of us left, how do we keep the earth running? Will the coma souls wake up? Will we return to our past ways? Or find another way to move on. Or just slowly drift into extinction. Will we die? Will it happen in reverse? Slowly at first and then suddenly, like the coma. It only began with a few people every now and then, but then grew in consistency. There were hundreds every week, then thousands, and then millions. Is that how we’ll go?
I hope not. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever witnessed. And I was there. I survived. I lived, I loved and it was my fault. I pushed too far. But I lost too. I lost my dignity, my self-respect, my family. I’m not saying no one else did, no everyone that’s left has lost too. I robbed them of it all, I did it.
I did it. I underestimated the power I had. All I ever loved, all I’ve ever known, gone, just like that. I brought it upon us. I brought the chaos and destruction. I am the present. I am chaos. I’ll take the blame. It’s all on me. But I think I know how to make it better. I need to change something. But I can’t go back. Someone else needs to do it for me.
A long time ago, I met someone. This person was alone and helpless with no hope left. I told him there’s always hope. There’s always a way to fix it. I still believe this just not the same way. This is a different hope. Not a hope that things will always get better, but that things will always go on. I need to act on this, and find him. He’s been through worse than this, believe it or not. He knows how to handle this, he can help me. He is the past and has the wisdom we need. I know where to find him too. The cathedral man. Some people don’t even believe he’s there, but I know he is. I’ve kept a silent eye and a blind ear listening and watching and waiting for him. The cathedral man will guide us, almost like a mentor.
He’s recently had a visitor. A dark man wearing a dark coat and a dark hat, walking down a dark street under a bright moon. I’ve also met him before, on a day contrary to this night. He was with his bright family on a bright day with a bright expression and a dark future. He is the future and holds the hope for us. That was the day he lost everything. And I guess that’s what we all have in common, we’ve all lost everything. This man is honest and humble. Naturally, he thinks it’s his fault. Isn’t that the first defining feature of a hero? But he doesn’t know the whole story. He doesn’t know that there’s more to what he needs to discover. He doesn’t know that he’s the hero of this story.
But this will be the first time that the past, the present and the future meet in one place at one time bound by one peace. Both these men were greatly affected by my actions unknowingly and both men are victim to my wrong-doing. They both are hopeful but feel hopeless. Both need my help. And I need theirs. They don’t know I’m coming, they don’t know they need me. They don’t know about Anthraptinum or the coma souls or the 134 million casualties. It’s my responsibility now. It’s my responsibility to make sure that I don’t break them again. I guess that makes me the villain.
Another thing that these men have in common is that neither of them know they’ve met me before. Neither of them knew who I was or that they’d see me again. Neither one of them knew that between the three of us existed hope for humanity. The three of us, each representing the past, the present and the future. Wisdom and safety, chaos and destruction, love and hope. You’ve been introduced to hope and wisdom, and now I’m introducing you to chaos. Chaos can’t be stopped, can’t be reasoned with and chaos will always reap the consequences. It will break people and steal from them all they need to keep going; hope. Things will go on. So please, trust when I say this, that I’m really, really sorry.