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

Luckily, Josephine and Marcus were asleep in one of the hospital’s guest rooms. The children were so exhausted that even Maggie’s repetitive heavy steps couldn’t stop them from sleeping peacefully.

Maggie was pacing from one end of the corridor to the other. She had 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, now she felt conflicted about all those feelings she had for Patrick. She was still angry with him but in the light of current events, her anger seemed irrelevant.

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

In that moment of honesty, Maggie realised how 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 confused and unable to make up her mind regarding her travel into the past. In a desperate attempt to calm down her galloping thoughts and distracting memories, she opened her backpack, searching for headphones. 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, 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 quickly lost track of time, reading about the 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, when it came to looking after nature. Their selfish, vicious ego-driven characters 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 come out of the operating theatre.

Underneath his protective goggles, his eyes looked very 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 the present-day reality. She instinctively closed the book and tried to smile but couldn’t instruct her cheeks to lift ever so 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.” — he 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 at him, put her hand over his and closed her eyes just the way she used to do when they were still together.

Maggie’s watch was counting down the minutes before the opening of the tunnel. Hurryingly, she put the book she read 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 safely 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 potential consequences of her decisions. However, to save the future, she needed to make all those sacrifices.

With ten seconds to spare, she swiftly encoded the capsule door before taking her place behind the protective glass. The computers in the research facility were all going crazy from overheating, not something Maggie witnessed before. She felt frightened, nervous and restless. To calm herself down, she took a deep breath and instantly felt the air filling her lungs with the hopeful breeze of the new beginning. 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 night. 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 started nervously biting her nails, keeping the undisturbed 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. The Londoners were getting ready to welcome the new Millennium, while the Ecotopians were trying to design a space ship that could sustain life over a long distance and many years. 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 Maggie wasn’t 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 said:

– “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 the future for us. Love, Maggie.”

A few weeks later

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

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

Read Chapter 30 “The After Life”