Read Chapter 28 “On the Other Side of the Tunnel”

The children were so exhausted that even Maggie’s repetitive heavy steps couldn’t stop them from sleeping in one of the hospital’s guest rooms.

Maggie was pacing restlessly from one end of the corridor to the other. She had way too many coffees, which, mixed with crushing tiredness, made closing her eyes even for a short power nap impossible. How could she even think of sleeping, if the past 48 hours turned her life utterly upside down?

For years she kept convincing herself that loving someone like Patrick was morally wrong. She always believed that Patrick chose the wrong side of the revolution, and for her, his choice was an unforgivable act of betrayal. Over the years Maggie tried to understand his motivation but could never find sufficient justification for his decision to follow the old world order. However, in the light of current events, she felt conflicted about her affection towards Patrick.

Patrick’s act of bravery made Maggie question her harsh judgment of his past actions and made her wonder if possibly she wasted all those years, trying to reassure herself that Patrick didn’t matter when in reality he was always the one.

There was so much she wanted to tell Patrick but couldn’t. He was fighting for his life, and the possibility of never talking to him again was very real.

Her nervousness, worry and agitation left her uncleared and unable to make up her mind regarding the time travel. In a desperate attempt to calm down her galloping thoughts and distracting memories, she opened her backpack to search for her headphones. Meditation music always had a calming influence over her erratic thoughts. But instead of the headphones, she found the book Jenny gifted her with.

The cover of the book was wooden with beautifully curved Earth motifs on the front and Ecotopian symbol at the back. The pages inside were yellowish and severely damaged, visibly exposed to too much sun and sand. Some pages were missing, and many others only had half of the writing legible.

Instantly, Maggie was lost in the tale of the future she helped to shape. But the future depicted in the book wasn’t rosy at all and the more she read, the less she liked it. She lost track of time, immersed in the story of cruelty and devastation that followed once the Ecotopians took off.

The book depicted the Old World’s collapse and the looting of the Old World and the Above once the influential and wealthiest citizens of the Above left, finding short-lived refuge in Ecotopia. However, years of abusing the natural resources left them clueless and unwilling to look after the remains of nature in Ecotopia. Their selfish, vicious ego-driven traits quickly took over, leaving yet another trail of destruction behind.

Maggie was like a sponge, absorbing every single word she could encode (some of the writing wasn’t very clear and it was often spelt phonetically). She was invested in the book so deeply that didn’t even see when a doctor came out of the operating theatre.

Underneath his protective goggles, his eyes looked tired but kind. He took his mask off and walked up to Maggie.

– “We did everything we could, Maggie. It’s up to Patrick to fight now,” — his words immediately brought her back to reality. She instinctively closed the book and tried to smile but couldn’t lift her cheeks even slightly.

– “Thank you,” -she finally replayed with gratitude. — ”Can I leave the kids with you for an hour?”

– “Of course. They are as much mine as they are yours,” —  the doctor put his hand on Maggie’s cheek .

– “What are you going to do?”  His gentle voice reminded Maggie why she loved him for so long. This time she smiled put her hand over his and closed her eyes just the way she used to do when they were still together. But time was merciless and her watch kept on counting down the minutes before the time tunnel would open, most likely one last time for a long time. She couldn’t linger for much longer.

The Time Travel

Hurryingly, Maggie put the book she was reading in the hospital inside the time travel capsule. On the floor of the capsule, she fitted as much of the Ecotopian high tech equipment, computers and drones as space and weight restrictions allowed. She knew that overloading the capsule may redirect its trajectory to another timeline, and she couldn’t risk that to happen. In her heart, she was fully aware of the consequences of her decisions. However, to save the future, she was willing to sacrifices a lot if not everything.

With ten seconds to spare, she swiftly encoded the capsule’s door before rushing behind the protective glass. All the computers in the research facility were all going crazy from overheating, not something Maggie witnessed before. She was frightened, nervous and restless. Unpromptedly tears began running down her cheeks. Through her tears, she caught the last glimpse of the capsule before it disappeared into the unknown.

Jessica had an uneasy feeling that tonight she needed to be in the Oxley Woods much early than any other time. Over the years she learnt to listen to her intuition and so far, it has never misled her.

Once she settled in her usual spot, she tryed to focus on the spot where the tunnel usually opened. She didn’t want to miss the opening just in case nothing came from the other side.

The evening was just like any other, Londoners rushed around while getting ready to welcome the new Millennium, the Ecotopians were trying to design the future of space travel. Jessica didn’t share her doubts with anyone regarding their mission. True to herself, she waited for Maggie to show up, before discussing anything with anyone.

The tunnel opened suddenly and much earlier than any other time, and just like that the final journey from Ecotopia was completed. When after a few seconds the capsule’s door didn’t fly open, Jessica knew that neither Maggie nor her kids were inside. Usually, anyone arriving through the tunnel felt so sick and out of breath that breathing fresh crispy air was the first thing they all wanted to experience.

In a flash, Jessica was by the capsule touching the reader with her fingertips. The door flung open. Her eyes scanned the inside and quickly noticed the book. She opened the book on the front page and found Maggie’s note that read:

– “You will know what to do with all this, Jess. Our future is in your hands now. I’m sorry it’s all being put on you now, but I know that you are the only one, who can fix what my generation has messed up so badly. Love, Maggie.”

A Few Weeks Later

Maggie was looking at Patrick through the visitor’s window, while the hospital staff was getting him ready for surgery. Already unconscious Josephine was wheeled into the operation theatre through the side door. When the nurse put shutters over the visitor’s window, Maggie slowly walked to the waiting area and collapsed on the chair next to Marcus. She put her arm around his shoulder; instantly, he placed his head on her lap and started sobbing quietly.

– “Everything will work out, I promise,” — said Maggie, while stroking his hair. “You have to trust me. You do, don’t you?”

Read Chapter 30 “The After Life”