A translucent portal shimmered, the blue light from within growing and dimming in a steady rhythm, as if mimicking the beat of a heart. The old man quickly wiped the sweat from his brow as it accumulated in droplets with his handkerchief. The temperature was hot, much hotter than he had expected. The luminescent blues bounced off the rocky white terrace giving him the impression that it was a cool day. As he pulled his handkerchief away, the old man noticed a smear of brown dirt staining his handkerchief, likely from the accumulation of dirt on his face. He sighed; it was one of his favorite handkerchiefs. His mother had given it to him.
That handkerchief was the only possession that he had to remind himself of her. It was one of the only things that had survived the test of time to remain by his side. As an infant, he was named Nas ’Dera while in his crib. He dimly recalled the cries of his mother as he was taken away before she even had a chance to glance upon his face. Nas ’Dera was a title more than a name, but it was the first name from which he had ever been known. It meant last hope in the lost tongue of his people, but no one living remembered that save him. He looked up at the sky and grimaced. There might be no one left living at all.
The man’s face grew sunken and resigned, covered by the hood of his once clean robes. A red sash crossed over the robe, but it had worn to a dull pinkish color, ripped and torn at various points, and seeming to barely hang from his robe. He pushed back his hood, taking a deep breath, his blue eyes seeming to absorb the light of the portal. He closed them, and in a flash he felt a memory of green, of life. There was a time when he remembered what life felt like. He remembered what it was like to feel alive.
It was ironic. Men throughout history had always strived to obtain immortality. Every culture seemed to have their own version of the fountain of youth. However, life’s most defining attribute was death, and a being who could not die struggled to identify with life. An immortal being would watch everyone he ever loved die. He would lose the sense of time, a sense of feeling, a sense of accomplishment. In the end, an immortal had more in common with the dead than with the living.
He took another glance around. In front of him sat a small altar made from obsidian rock. Small shapes and symbols seemed to be written all over the altar, seemingly random in placement. Large spiral columns stood on each of the four corners of the terrace, each one cracked, blistered, and damaged from the ravages of time. On the top of each pillar, a stream of white light shot into the sky, creating a small dome that surrounded the terrace he stood in. The invisible walls shimmered and flexed, giving a strangely drunken appearance to the space beyond. The outside world was dark and indistinguishable. Shapes seemed to move and dance, just out of sight within the shadows, but he ignored them. He could not think of what was beyond the veil, not now.
A sudden burst of light came from the sky and he instinctively looked up. He knew what he would see. The light was already gone by the time his eyes were able to focus. The dark sky above seemed strangely empty, devoid of the light one would expect during a clear night. Another star had vanished in the universe.
“What star was that?” he wondered aloud.
It could have been any really. A star that had been destroyed thousands of years ago, if not a million years gone. Why did it take the universe so long to realize they were disappearing, one at a time? It was too late now to do anything about it. The sky did not contain enough stars, appearing empty and hollow. Regrettably, even the ones he could see were long gone. He was happy that it was dark out, that he could not see the star that this planet orbited, giving off its final death cries to a blackened universe.
A light tremor began to shake the ground around him. He braced himself against the vibrations. It continued on for a minute or two before subsiding. He did not have very much time. The portal flickered uneasily, drawing his attention back. He was too old for this, too weak. He knew the task at hand would kill him, but there was no one else to do it.
He pressed one of the symbols on the altar, resembling a table with a cross sitting atop it. It glowed a small blue shimmering light and images flickered across the portal. The images were of people’s faces, but no image remained for more than a blink as the images jumped from one face to the next. He watched carefully as each face was shown, his eyes darting left to right, looking for the sign.
He began to feel a small ache in the back of his eyes. He realized that he hadn’t blinked in some time, but he could not afford to miss the instance he sought. Sweat began streaming down his face, but he dared not wipe his forehead for fear of missing that one image. He kept focus, for as long as he had to, he could not afford to miss the opportunity, it would only happen once.
Nas ‘Dera had no clue how long he stood there, watching the streaming images of faces… so many faces. His legs ached, his back was sore, and he longed to sit down. He knew, however, that if he rested, that the job would never be finished. This was his last chance. The portal crackled, the steady pulsing fell off rhythm for a second. He grimaced at the momentary loss of concentration. Then he saw it.
Did I? He thought for a split second before pressing a second symbol, which caused the image to stop.
He wasn’t sure if it had been what he was looking for, so quick… and he was still a bit distracted. Once he moved the image backward, he wasn’t sure if he could get the device moving forward again. Was it what he sought? Or just a hopeful glimpse. The end of the world, the universe, and all of his plans could be wasted by a maybe.
Nas ’Dera sighed deeply. He was never a gambling man, he liked to have control of his own destiny, and the likes of cards or dice seemed set to take destiny on chance. However, it seemed as if there was no choice. He gripped the outside of the symbol in his hand, turning. The lighted symbol seemed to rotate with his hand. He felt a kind of resistance, a weakness in the stability of the device. He held his breath, slowly and deliberately turning the symbol. The symbol stopped with the cross pointing left, he let out a slow breath. Once again touching the symbol ever so slightly, the images began going back one at a time.
The images flicked back much slower. A woman with red hair, a man with a unibrow, a young boy with a dog. He could make out each of these people, people dead ages ago. People who lived short lives on a small planet a billion years ago. Who would have ever thought that the whole universe may depend on a man from that little planet?
Nas ’Dera did, he could feel the man’s potential across the ages. His fate on his small little planet would have been incredible. He would have been a man of great importance. A man who would have been known for thousands of years on his planet. A man whose potential would have been completely wasted making an imprint on a single planet, when he had the entire universe that needed him. It was a trade, the man could save the planet, or in the right time and right place, the universe.
Nas ’Dera released his finger and the image stopped on the man. He had brownish blonde hair and hazel brown eyes that seemed uneasy. They seemed to know what was happening to them, seemed to feel the old man watching him. A smile caressed his face for the first time since he had entered the crumbling machine. He finally found him, the man whose fate will change the universe. It was time to redirect him to the time and place where he could rise to his true potential.
The man in this image would never thank Nas ’Dera for what he was about to do to him. He hoped the man could find happiness in his new life, after a fashion, but this new life would be a much harder path for the man. The shaking began again, this time not seeming to end. His time was out. The smile faded from Nas’ Dera, this was his only chance. He needed to get started.
Darian woke up to the sound of someone fumbling in the kitchen. Rather than alarmed, a pleased look formed on his face. The events from the night before ran through his mind. He had just graduated from college, and he went out drinking with his friends. It was there that he ran into Stacy. Stacy was someone that Darian had known well. In the university, she was considered one of the top beauties.
Darian had always admired her from afar. Interestingly enough, he had run into her many times by accident throughout his four years of schooling. To a less modest man, this might have told him that she likely shared many of his same interests. However, Darian was entirely too shy to ever talk to this girl. As a result, while he knew and saw her often, their two lives had almost completely passed each other by.
There fortune suddenly changed that night. The girl had tripped while passing by Darian, in an uncharacteristic moment, Darian had caught her. His hand ended up groping her chest, but both of them had enjoyed a few drinks with their respective groups, and she barely noticed as she looked up into his eyes. Darian felt an immediate spark there, and before he could even stop himself, he asked her out. Perhaps even more shocking, she accepted.
A new couple and copious amounts of alcohol, and Darian woke up in bed, naked. He still could remember the feel of her soft skin and the touch of her body. He wasn’t black out drunk, and could remember every detail of that amazing night. It was Darian’s first time with a woman, and he didn’t want to brag, but it went excellently. Of course, they weren’t in his apartments, which he shared with three other boys. No, they ended up at her place.
Her bedroom was a typical girl’s room. Perhaps, it had more pink from when she was a younger age. As a result, the room had a divide between the adult self she was becoming and the younger self she had outgrown. A laptop sat on her desk, complete with nicely stacked papers. Meanwhile, a grouping of stuffed animals was shoved into a corner, but still lined up with enough care to say that she cared about them. Darian smirked at the sight, once again finding it hard to believe that he was in the bedroom of the hottest girl at University.
He got out of bed and threw on his clothing from the previous night. He frowned when he couldn’t find his shirt. He was a fit guy, who enjoyed rock wall climbing and weight lifting, so his body wasn’t half bad. He hit the bathroom before heading down to her. At the very least, he managed to wash his privates and comb his hair. There, he headed out of her room and worked his way to the kitchen.
His mouth popped open by what he saw. Standing in front of the oven was the most beautiful girl, Stacy, humming to herself as she cooked something. Her hair was tied up, and the only thing she was wearing was my shirt and a pair of skimpy panties. The sight was explosive, and he thanked his lucky starts he wore such a short shirt, so that Darian could be blessed with the sight of her rotund ass only partially covered on the top, the shirt failing to cover most of her butt.
Darian took a few steps towards her like a zombie, completely overwhelmed by the sight of this beautiful woman before him. It might not have been the brightest idea, but he couldn’t help wrapping his arms around her. Lost her kitchen work, the girl shouted out in surprise. Darian was satisfied with simply that much. He grabbed her chest, immediately kissing her neck as well. Stacy smelled wonderful, and Darian took in everything about her hungrily.
“You’re so aggressive in the morning!” She giggled, her hands moving up and grabbing the back of the hands currently cupping her boobs.
Stacy leaned back, a little smile on her face as she moved her head away, providing Darian more room to suck on her neck. He only forced her to gasp a few more times before finally releasing her, kissing her one, two, three times up the side of her face. The last time was aimed at her cheek, but Stacy turned her head and instead their lips met.
As Darian pulled away, Stacy smiled back at him. “Last night was wonderful.”
Darian couldn’t help but blush. “I enjoyed myself as well.”
The pair stood in that embrass for some time before Stacy shook out of her daze and then patted Darian on the hip with the spook in her hand. “Get off, the food will be overcooked!”
Darian let go of her, giving a little chuckle as Stacy continued her work. He sat down at the table, while he watched Stacy worked. He especially liked it when she had to reach for something, his shirt rising up and exposing her buttocks. More than once, he considered reaching out and grabbing her, but Darian refrained.
There was already a coffee for me, so Darian drank casually and, picked up a school newspaper from yesterday. Shortly after, she put the food down in front of him and Darian took a bite. His eyes widened.
“You like?” Stacy asked, wringing her hands uncomfortably.
“This is incredible. You’d be an amazing cook.”
Stacy blushed. “I took some classes, but I never wanted to do it professionally. I just wanted to do it for those I…”
Darian looked up from shoveling another bite in his mouth to see Stacy acting even shyer, unwilling to say what she thought. He understood what she meant though. He had been thinking the same thing sense he sat down. This… wasn’t a bad way to wake up every morning. Stacy was beautiful, smart, and a good cook. Of course, Darian was a decent cook myself. he planned to cook her a meal too next time. That implied there would be a net time. When their eyes met, he just knew there would be.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
“Ah!” Darian glanced down at his phone. “It’s… I have to go…”
“O-oh…” Stacy looked away, her smile faltering for a second.
Darian moved up and embraced her. “It’s my interview. I’m coming back, as soon as I’m done.”
“Oh?” Stacy’s face showed relief, and he couldn’t help but kiss her.
“After my interview, let’s spend the whole day together, okay?”
“Yes!” She broke into a smile.
“There is just one more thing…” Darian sighed, looking down at Stacy’s clothing. “I’m going to need my shirt back.”
Thirty minutes later, Darian was in a big rush. As fun as stripping Stacy down had been, he was now running late. He barely had time to put on his suit after stopping at his place before racing out the door. It wouldn’t do good to be late to the interview.
Just as he was crossing the street, he noticed the bus driving towards him wasn’t really slowing. He took a few quick steps to avoid the distracted bus driver.
Nas ’Dera paused the image. A tremor steadily grew in a long drawn out roar, making it harder and harder for Nas ’Dera to keep his balance. He flicked another symbol on the altar and the image seemed to solidify. It was as if the image was faded before, but now it somehow seemed more tangible. Nas ’Dera quickly stumbled up to the image. In a swift motion his hand dived into it, grabbing the back of Darian’s shirt. He pulled roughly. The image did not move, but then again, it did not have to for the effect to be apparent. Running back to the altar, he tripped and skinned his knee. With a hiss, he crawled up to the pedestal. He flicked the symbol again, the image continued.
Darian suddenly felt a large pull on the back of his shirt just as his left foot reached the curb, strong enough to unbalance him. He stumbled back a few steps as he turned, landing on his knees hard. He quickly glanced up, looking for the cause of this strange yank. Seeing nothing, he slowly stood up, patting his shirt off as an unconscious gesture. He heard the scream just as he remembered the bus driver. Before he could even look up, the world turned to white.
Nas ’Dera stopped the image, flipping a symbol, and then searching once again. At this point, the vibrations were sufficient that he had to use both hands to steady himself. His work had moved to a crawl. He had to get this finished. This time, followed Darian’s time stream. The guy survived, but only just. Stacy waited at home, but he would never return. She’d grow bitter and angry, only learning what happened to him years later, long after she had turned into a different, more bitter woman as a result.
That was only one of the many many lives that had been changed in an instant. The job he had been applying to went to the runner up. That guy, as a result, ended up making a lot more money than he would have. He got into drugs, and on a particularly bad month, ended up okaying an unsafe product that lead to the death and disability of nearly five thousand individuals. That company who take a massive hit, leading to a stock market crash.
Darian was a unique figure. All threads of time tied to him, and as soon as Nas ’Dera tugged it, all those threads fell apart. However, this was neither evil nor good. There are people who never would have been born in the old-time line who now sprang to life. There lives, and their children’s lives, and the progeny would continue to affect human history in small and minute ways. Their presence, or absence from time meant very little in the grand scheme of the universe. Only people like Darian created bigger waves, but while the waves he would have created on his home planet might have been immense, it was neither the right time nor the right place to truly make a difference in the universe.
Darian ended up in a hospital. He was brain dead. If Nas ‘Dera did nothing else, his lifeline would end like this, having little effect on the world. Naturally, this couldn’t stand. He needed to make one last change. He changed the perspective of the screen, focusing instead on an area immediately outside Darian’s door. There were two doctors there. One was a suave looking man with a mustache, the other was a bald, short man who was aggressively waving his hands. Nas ‘Dera hit play.
“This is the chance! If my calculations are correct, not only can we save this boy’s life, but we’ll have taken a step into the future for all medicine!” The short man cried out.
“Your ideas are dated and dangerous.” The other man said. “Dr. Dhillon, he’s my patient, and this is my call. We do not use humans as rats at this hospital. Am I understood?”
“Y-yes…” The short man sighed. “I understand.”
The other doctor walked away, but the short man looked back and forth, and after a moment he seemed to make a decision. Nas ’Dera fast forwarded again. He came to that night, when that very doctor snuck back into the hospital. Darian was slated to be unplugged in the morning. The doctor quickly packed up all of his breathing machinery, transferring it all to a generator. Like that, he pulled Darian out of the hospital. This little stunt would cost him his job, but it was something he was willing to bet his career on.
Dr. Dhillon loaded Darian carefully into the back of a truck behind the hospital, and then drove to an abandoned factory he had rented under a fake name. Very carefully, he escorted Darian down to an underground lab he had created.
“Darian… is it?” The man thoughtfully looked at the chart. “Be happy, today, you will make history with me. We will undergo a simple procedure… and we will remake history. It’s really very simple. I believe that your brain-dead condition is only temporary. Given enough time, you will heal. However, that time can only be achieved by putting you into a point of stasis. I must slow down your bodily functions. Turn off your broken brain. Give your body the time it needs to repair itself.”
“It won’t require machinery to keep your heart pumping or your lungs breathing. Once my serum enters your blood, you will simply fall into a deep sleep. In a year or two, you will come out of it completely healed. At least… that is the theory? I don’t suppose you object?” The doctor’s eyes twinkled before he started working again.
Dr. Dhillon finished his check up on Darian before putting in the IV line. He felt it was always easier to have the subject unconscious when the work was conducted. In a way, brain dead subjects were just perfect for him. It was more comfortable for both parties involved. He attached the IV bag and waited as the substance began to enter Darian’s System.
Dr. Dhillon waited for some time, making sure that the serum had taken. He was certain he had the dose right. What he had purchase here wasn’t technically through legal means and he feared the potency might be compromised. Dr. Dhillon sighed. The next time he will be relieved is when Darian awoke a year later. When his heartbeat flatlined, Dr. Dhillon sighed, removing the equipment that had sustained his life up until this point. Was that really so hard? If Dr. Dhillon did turn out to be wrong, Darian would be no less dead now than he would have been in the morning.
It wasn’t easy finding a patient to use for this experiment. He needed someone strong and youthful, but also recently brain dead. The fresher, the better, and this Darian came in fresh this morning. Possessing those features seemed to be harder than Dr. Dhillon had originally thought. Thankfully, Darian had come along.
Dr. Dhillon had been shocked when all of his work and funding had been cut due to the lack of “viable product” over his ideas of cryogenic rehabilitation. Of course, “cryogenic” was a completely false word here, since temperature had no play on the stasis Dr. Dhillon created. However, people seemed to more easily understand what putting someone into stasis meant if you simply add the false line cryogenic.
Proper stasis required a little bit more than internal control. Darian still faced an external environment; his body wouldn’t last. He would continue to age. He would be exposed to pathogens and illnesses. He might age slower than a normal human being, but his body would face the wear and tear of daily abuses of the environment. In order to prevent that from happening, Darian had to be sealed.
Dr. Dhillon unlocked the wheels on the gurney, pushing his patient to the back. One of the reasons Dhillon had chosen this building was because of a bomb shelter that had been built underground. He had cleaned it up himself. He liked doing things himself. It actually made a splendid airtight clean room.
When he hit the blast doors, he cleaned himself up using an adjacent sink, scrubbing with antibacterial sanitizer. He pushed his patient up and opened the bomb shelter door. The door was about twelve inches thick. The room wasn’t a clean room in the since of being bacteria free, but it was cleaner than anything else he had to worked with.
A coffin like metal box sat in the middle of the room. This was the last step. With some difficulty, he managed to transfer Darian into the box, before closing it on him. Using a welder, he sealed the edges of the box.
He then attached tubing to a nearby pressure gauge. He turned the vacuum on and watched as a vacuum began to form in the box. Once the vacuum finished, he disconnected and closed the valve. He turned to a nearby computer, entering in the commands he had practiced hundreds of times in his head. A nearby generator kicked on and began humming loudly. The aseptic field should be up and running now.
“Sleep tight, young Darian, sleep tight,” the doctor spoke to the silent box.
Sighing, he watched for a minute before nodding. The Doctor knew that he would have to go into hiding after this. Just one year though. In just one year, his life would be different. He would have the grant money, and his research would revolutionize the world. On the way out, he sealed the bomb shelter. There was no reason for it. No one even knew it was down here, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
Nas ’Dera watched as Dr. Dhillon walked out of the laboratory. The shaking had seemed to settle for a brief moment, giving Nas ’Dera a desire to finish quickly. Several more of the stars above had disappeared, seeming to push the darkness heavier on his shoulders.
Dr. Dhillon wasn’t an evil man. Unethical perhaps, certainly a law breaker, but he wasn’t evil. The doctor was walking towards his car, his keys in his hand. Nas ‘Dera watched as a man came out from the dark, pulling a gun on Dr. Dhillon. The doctor’s hands went straight up as he saw the man, his keys falling to the ground in the process. Nas ‘Dera couldn’t hear anything, but the man’s gestures strongly suggested he wanted money.
Nas ‘Dera paused the scene. He adjusted the angles so that he looked almost as if he was looking through the mugger’s eyes. He could see into Dr. Dhillon’s terrified eyes. He had never killed a man before, never. He was old. So very old. He had lived an eternity. He had loved women, and men. He had had and lost children. He had hurt people, abused people, hated people. He had never killed anyone though. Never directly. He reached into the image, grabbing the gun and pulling the trigger. It had to be this way.
The terrified and confused mugger watched as Dr. Dhillon dropped to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The man ran without collecting the money he had intended to steal. It probably felt like something akin to a ghost passing through the body, what Nas ‘Dera had done.
He weeped silently for several minutes. He did not relish what he had done. Even though it was a single life, among trillions, it still hurt him to be the cause of that death. He wiped the tears from his eyes, he was not done yet. He moved the fragile artifact cautiously, refocusing his view on Darian, asleep in a box. He began to carefully select several keys, constructing a field over the entire room.
The doctor’s research was amateur. It would have worked, to an extent, and may very well have made the man rich, but it’s capacity to recover something like brain damage was limited. Rather than the scale of a year, it might have taken thousands for the body to recover from brain death. Far more time than the doctor ever would have had. However, Nas ‘Dera had the time to wait. There was a future to look forward to now. The darkness came, and the champion needed to be there to meet it, whatever the cost. In the right time and the right place, this boy could accomplish wonders.
Nas ‘Dera looked up, the darkness continued to roil in the sky above as another star winked out.