The Stranger

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The capsule shook violently under the strain. Gary, the pilot, turned slightly to Alan, his first officer, and could see his wobbling face under the visor, as the QG-force bore down on his entire body. Quantum Gravity was a totally different beast from your regular G. This was speed of light going back in time. And this was the first time that any human was subjected to such immense pressure.

“Are you okay?” Gary’s voice trembled as well, but he tried to speak as unbothered as he could. He just hoped that the capsule’s exotic matter would hold up. “I’m good,” said Alan, trying to smile. “Nobody said this was going to be easy.”

“Indeed,” said Gary. “We’re almost there.” He turned to the controls in front of him. “Be ready for the jump,” he said, full-throated. Gary double checked the monitor, making sure that the capsule sight targeted the right timeline. The scientists did all the calculations, honing in on this particular pathway. “That’s where the probability functions led us,” they said. “Our best educated guess,” Math equations to save mankind, thought Gary. Thought experiments can only go so far. It’s up to us guinea pigs to prove them right.

“Target locked,” said Gary.

“Target locked,” confirmed Alan.

Gary held his breath, and with his gloved forefinger, pressed Engage.

 

***

Gary stood in front of the university’s Physics building. The school looked the same, but it had a different sheen. The old buildings stood exactly where they were supposed to, but with slightly modern architecture. Was this natural to the timeline? Or was the interference getting worse? For a moment, he thought the building swayed. Could just be the aftereffects of pulling QGs. The students’ clothes looked old-fashioned, but just as he remembered them. Not sure how people would look in this world, the military fitted him and Alan with the most neutral-looking suits they could find. He did not arouse any suspicion from the guard when he signed at the gate.

Gary looked at his quantum watch. The mission subject should be in his room on the third floor. He felt both nauseous and nervous, but steadied himself, and walked towards the building.

 

***

 

Dr. Renato Dionisio was not expecting someone when he heard a knock on the door. But it was par for the course – a student wanting to consult about his research paper, etc. “Come in.” The door slowly opened, and a man much older than he was – around twenty years, he guessed – came into view. He looked familiar. But strange.

“Dr. Dionisio,” said the man, as if he was the one surprised. He looked nervous.

“Yes?” 

“Can I come in?” Dr. Dionisio was not sure. There was something eerie about the man. Was it his clothes? But he was curious. “Okay,” he said. Something told Dr. Dionisio that this was not going to be like any other afternoon.

 

***

 

The man, sitting on the visitor’s chair, wrapped up his story. Dr. Dionisio sat across his table, stunned. The man just explained to him the theory of parallel worlds and time travel that he, Dr. Dionisio, had been developing in secret. But it was more complete. He wanted to tell the strange man that it was all a scam, but deep down, he knew he was telling the truth.

“But how did you do it?”  

“It’s the reason why I’m here. The worlds have been interacting. Or, more precisely, colliding.”

“Is that even possible?”

“You always said that the worlds actually interfere, even infinitesimally.” Dr. Dionisio nodded. “But something’s made the interactions go out of whack. People are disappearing. Many are going blind. Places getting freezing cold. It’s a Dali painting in some corners of the planet. We need your help.”

“But how? It seems you know more than I do.”

“We have no idea, really. But the collisions made it easier to jump timelines. This is how I found you.”

“This is too much to take in now,” said Dr. Dionisio.

“Think about it. I’ll go to your apartment tonight.” The man stood up, and walked to the door.

“You know where I live?” Dr. Dionisio knew it was a silly question.

The man opened the door.

“Wait,” Dr. Dionisio got up. “Who exactly are you?”

“I am Gary. Your son.” 

Before Dr. Dionisio could say anything, Gary closed the door behind him. 

 

***

 

As Gary walked away from the Physics building, he could feel the emotions welling up. Then the tears fell. 

He had wanted to embrace him, but felt awkward. This was his father when his parents had yet to meet. The father from the old photos, not the old man he knew. This was not yet the man he did not talk to for more than a decade – the man Gary decided to see, at the last minute, on his deathbed, when he already had a hard time speaking, breathing his shallow breaths, until finally, his heart gave out, and Gary could not turn back time. Until now.

 

***

 

When Gary went to Dr. Dionisio’s apartment that night, the latter already figured out what went wrong. The timelines had been entangled. 

“What’s causing it?”

“That’s for you to find out,” said Dr. Dionisio. 

Silence.

“I know this is awkward for you,” Gary finally said. Dr. Dionisio nodded.

“Whatever you do,” said Gary, looking into the younger man’s eyes, “love your children as much as you love your work.” Gary could see the father that he knew, but without yet the bitterness. 

Gary stood up. “I have to go. My co-pilot is waiting. We have to go back to our own timeline. Otherwise, we would be stuck here forever."

“I understand.” Dr. Dionisio reached out to shake his hand. 

Gary looked at his father’s hand, then rushed forward to hug him. Tight. One last time. Dr. Dioniso slowly lifted his arms, then wrapped them around Gary. He started to say something. But Gary said, “I know..I know.”

 
About the Author: 
I am a writer and a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and Human Rights advocate from the Philippines. I blog at FilipinoCreative.com, and write articles, poems and short stories using my pen name Dino Manrique. I have also written an unproduced historical screenplay about two of our national heroes.
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