Chapter Forty Four: Future, Part One

The dome had long since collapsed. A gaping hole in the ceiling revealed a Mist filled sky. Piles of broken support structures, cracked concrete, layers of dusts, and random rubble covered what used to be Roagnark Park. I sat on perhaps the only bench left intact, wondering if the pond had dried up, been drained, or the water had just magically vanished one day as if it too had just travelled through time. The time traveller, Pausa, walked towards me.

"Here you go." He tossed the bottle of water to me.

I caught the drink with my one arm, the circuit-like lines still glowing gently on my forearm. "Thanks," I said, notching the bottle under my right armpit and twisting the cap open with my left hand.

"Oh, don't thank me yet. That's all the water I have on me."

I looked to the time traveller quizzically. "And that's a bad thing why?"

"Because!" He jumped excitedly and pointed to the direction opposite me. "We'll be walking that way! About half a day."

"Why?" was my immediate reply.

"What do you mean? That's the way to the portal."

I recalled, after so long of having not thought of it, the portal that Professor Leah had once shown me. She had told me that at the end of my139 years of freezing, it would come in contact with the ground.

Regaining my thoughts, I said, "Right, right. Close the portal. Save the world." I had almost forgotten that. "How exactly am I suppose to do that again?"

He pointed to my glowing arm. "That right there is a bio-circuit capable of converting aether into energy, capable of executing a variety of meta-human abilities dependent on your gene sequence. You can use that to manipulate the fabric between the universe horizon and close the portal."

I stared back at him blankly, my mind trying to process his words before I replied, "Okay. That was good. Now speak to me like I'm ten."

"Ah. Um..." I could see him trying to rack his brain into dumbing the scientific information down for my pedestrian brain. "Your arm is magic."

Again, I stared. "Now speak to me like I'm five." Though it was no longer because I could not understand his explanation, but rather the reason themselves just seemed impossible.

Pausa sighed. "Okay, kid. You are what people from my time would call a Caster. A 'evolved human' basically. Someone who is capable of taking the Mist and using you body to convert it into energy. Energy that you could maybe shoot fireballs or teleport with." He then pointed to himself. "Or time travel. Or like your grandfather, predict the future."

"Whoa, wait a second here. You're saying I can control Mist?" He nodded. I gave a derisive snort. "How is that possible? If you recall, I am dying from Mist Poisoning?"

"Are you?" he countered. "Can you feel your arm? Can you feel pain? Can you feel the so called poison crawling through your veins?"

I reached for my chest and ran my nails over it. I could feel the scratch, the fabric of my shirt. The crawl of soft cotton only possible when provided by the sense of touch. I acknowledged that with the gaping hole in the ceiling, I was sitting in a Mist filled room, yet I was not retching. Again I looked to the glowing lines on my forearm, and somewhere in my mind, I knew everything he said was true.

He continued, "You inherited an innate Caster gene from both your grandparents. And you had been cryogenically frozen for one hundred and thirty-nine years. If you think that your body will go through all that time without finding a way to immunize you from Mist Poisoning? You might be dumber than I gave your credit for."

"So I'm cured?" I continued to look at the glow of my arm. I tried to look to Pausa, but the phenomenon continued to draw my attention like a magnet. "I can live my life."

"Yes."

"I can close the portal with this?" I waved my arm at the man.

"Yes."

Happily, I got to my feet and exclaimed. "I can save the world and live the rest of my life!"

Without hesitation, Pausa replied, "No."

I stood, stunned at the time traveller. "What do you mean no?" My mood plummeted faster than a suicidal jumper.

Without his usual callousness, the man told me, "You can close the portal, or live your life. You can't do both."

"Y-you said my grandparents closed the first portal. They both lived."

"Your grandmother closed the first portal. And when she did it, she had the power of gods. You, you just got lucky. Your ability haven't even manifest itself yet," he explained. "It takes years for a Caster to even know how to use the Mist. You just became one. It's your first day."

"Okay," desperate for a solution where I could survive, I suggested, "H-how about I wait a few years? I go explore the world. Do some backpacking or some shit and come back to close the portal when there's a better chance where I won't die?"

"The portal will touch the ground in two months, Milton."

I shouted, "So?" I could feel my face heat up with rage.

"Right now, the human race is living underground. The world above is completely desolate. Nothing survives there. The moment the portal touches the ground, it will spray Mist into the earth itself. It will kill the planet. Everyone will die within a year."

"Why don't you close it then?" I was ready to punch the man. He had rebutted every single one of my hopes and happiness in a matter of minutes. Sent me crashing harder than I had over the past century. "You're a Caster too, aren't you? How old are you?"

"Nine hundred and six."

"That's plenty of fucking experience! You close it!" I threw the empty bottle of water at him. He did not flinch, the container bouncing off his chest uneventfully.

"I can't. There's something else I have to do. Just like you, it's something only I can do. So I won't be there when the portal closes."

I wanted to slap my head, but my right arm, broken and unmoving, only whirred slightly, having been neglected of repair for decades. I was glad, for if I did hit my head with it, I would likely have broken my skull. Though at that moment, suicide was starting to seem like a less infuriating option.

"Son of a bitch," I cursed. "Son of a FUCKING BITCH!"

Pausa stood in silent respect. Even though up till then, I had only seem him making light of everything around him, it seemed the man knew the personal severity the choice was to me. My life. Or the world. A better man would have selflessly sacrificed himself for everyone else. But I was not a better man. Up till that point, I had assumed I would be dead, and that saving the world was just a pre-death bonus.

Angry, frustrated, confused, I started a rambling scream. "Why should I save the world? Huh? My family, my entire family, gave their lives to protect these stupid humans! But every time we turn around, someone, somewhere, makes shit worst!" I waved my arms, gesturing madly. I stepped away from Pausa, and looked gravely to my surrounding. My home. Roagnark. In ruins despite everything we've done in an attempt to protect it. "My wife protected everyone from the Mist. But The Forum had to have more power. They had start a war. My daughter tried to stop it and failed. Parker. Leah. Even my grandchildren managed to put a stop to Jason's madness. But every. Fucking. Time. We turn around, some new threat is knocking at the door! Does the world even deserve saving at this rate?"

To Pausa, I asked, "Nine hundred and six. Nine hundred and fucking six years! In all that time, how many wars have you seen? How many loved ones have you lost? Tell me, even if I close the portal, does the world ever find peace?"

Pausa looked to his feet, and finally, took a seat on the bench. From above, the man looked shrunken, and I could see the weight that he had carried with him in his long life.

He began, "I lost my brother to war. I lost my best friend. Your grandfather lost his father and both his best friends. I have travelled through nine thousand years of time. Been a part of what? Seven wars now? I've seen billions of people die. I've lost count of it before I even turned thirty."

"Then what is the point?" I asked him. "Why keep fighting."

"For every battle, I see those few souls, desperately trying to make the world a better place. I see the looks on their faces, the determination in their eyes," as he said that, I could picture the people I've met in my life. Joan. Leah. Leila. John. Milly. Lindsey. The Parkers. "How can I stand aside and watch as their efforts go to waste? They knew it would be next to impossible to bring peace. But they all gave it their best shot. They all gave the world a chance to try." He looked up to me, conviction in his eyes. "What about you, Milton Jones? Right now, you are the judge of humanity. The fate of the world lies solely in your hand. Do you think people deserves another chance?"

I looked away, not daring to meet his eyes. It held a fire that I had not seen before. Fierce, sagely, yet empathic and open. "Maybe it would be better if the world ended. Give the world a chance to start anew. Without all the damage people had caused."

He asked, "What about your great-great-great-granddaughter? Does she deserve a chance?" I immediately turned to him. "Melissa Smith. John Smiths' great granddaughter. Living in one of the many underground cities, desperately trying to find a way to convert Mist into energy," he then snorted derisively. "Of course, such a technology is about seven thousand years before her time. She'll never make it."

"Melissa?" I asked.

"Yeah. She's what? Twenty-eight? I don't know. I didn't check. She's not tied to the mistakes or duty of the past. Free to choose to make the world better on her own accord." He looked up to me, straight in the eyes. He asked, "That's what family's about, isn't it? Giving the next generation a clean slate and a hopefully better world. A chance to fix our wrongs. What's the kind of world do you want to leave her?"

I looked around the dystopian park. Up to the Mist filled sky where even sunlight could not pierce. Then down at the dead grass beneath my feet.

"Fuck," I cursed under my breath.

I might not be a good person, but never let it be said that I didn't care for family.

Author's Note: Hi everyone! Thank you for reading 139 Years to the End of the World. This story is a re-upload of the original serial on JukePop Serials that ran in 2015. If you like what you've read, you can help me continue writing simply by liking, reviewing, and sharing this story and others that you enjoy. If you want to do more, you can support me on Patreon or check out my website where there are links to buy the self-published versions of my stories which includes additional materials and edits not found here.

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