The New Millennium
The boy stood on top of the clock tower, looking down at the people marching obediently below. The citizens were all monotonous as they went about their business. All the women wore their hair the same way: shoulder-length and pinned up. The men: shoulder-length and tied back. None had expressions on their face.
He crouched down as a Horace flew by overhead, searching for anything or anyone out of place. He was safe—that time.
Once the Horace was gone, he stood straight again and glared down at his mindless peers.
The year: 3023. The month: April. The day: Tuesday, the 22nd. The place: Hell, where everyone is completely controlled from the way they dress, their actions, and their daily processes. Except for thinking; that was the one thing the devil could not control. Hell, otherwise known as Earth, was—
I groaned and reached over to my alarm clock, eyes still closed. Where is it, where is it…
Finally my hand caught hold of it and I slammed down the snooze button with exhaustion. One of my blue eyes peeked open at the face of the circular clock.
“Uwahhh!” I cried, jumping up with wide eyes, gripping the alarm in both hands. The blankets tangled around my legs, causing me to fall face-down on the hardwood floor.
“I’m late!” I muttered, pushing myself up. The clock clattered to the other side of the room.
I stumbled as fast as my tired legs could carry me through the house; squirting toothpaste in my mouth; pulling my shirt on one-handedly as I brushed my teeth; running a hand through my poofy blonde hair; flying out the door; running back in to slip some shoes on; then back out. My normal routine.
“Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap,” I muttered, hating myself as I sprinted down the sidewalk, dodging and side-stepping the other pedestrians, who were calm and monotonous. I glanced up at the clock-tower in the distance. 8:04. One minute!
The New Millennium was just around the corner, I could make it in time!
Just as I reached the doors, they closed, and I heard the click of the lock on the other side.
“No!” I yelled, banging my fist on the ivory door. I tugged the golden handles. “Open up! It’s me, Myles! Hey!”
There was no answer. Of course.
I groaned loudly and turned to face the empty street behind me. I was the only one here; not even the Horace were out. The ivory and gold doors that marked the entrances to all the buildings were shut tight. The mocking face of the clock-tower read 8:06.
I sighed and leaned against the door, then slid down it to rest on the gritty sidewalk. There was no point in walking back to the apartment. Even those doors would be locked. Besides, the Horace would likely find me anyway, so there was no point in making myself needlessly tired when I could just wait for them to find me and take me away.
I vaguely wondered where stray people like me were taken, but then decided there was no point in wondering, either. I would know soon enough.
Just then, the ivory door ahead me across the street divided in two and split. Someone stepped out. It was definitely not a Horace; instead of the blue uniforms, this person was wearing a red outfit, with a matching hat that covered most of the face. I could still see the brown hair that hung down to the shoulders loosely.
I looked around, checking for Horace. “Hey,” I called to the person across the street. “You should go back inside—and put your hair back. The Horace might catch you!”
The person turned to me. “How old are you?” the figure called back. I couldn’t tell by the voice whether it was a male or female.
I frowned. What did that have to do with anything? If we were caught by the Horace, we’d disappear forever. Instead of asking, I replied, “I’m 16.”
The person grinned, I think. It was a little to far to be sure. He or she held a hand out to me, palm up invitingly. “What are you waiting for? Come!”
I glanced about again. The streets were still empty, and the person still held the hand out encouragingly. I gave myself a mental shrug of the shoulders and stood up.
Without hesitation, I hurried across the street to the person.
Even up close it was hard to tell what gender the person who called out to me was. The features were neither masculine nor feminine; everything about this person was average.
“What’s your name?” I asked, hoping it would give it away. I really didn’t want to offend this person by asking.
He or she merely smiled at me, then put his or her hand back down to rest at his or her side. Then the person gestured with his other hand into the small square room with pastel green walls and a burgundy carpet floor the door revealed. “Please, enter,” he invited, bowing slightly.
“Um,” I frowned, a little confused by his behavior. “Okay…”
I stepped inside, and it followed suit. There was a panel of flashing lights on one side, and I realized that they were buttons. Then the obvious hit me: This was an elevator.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
The person continued to ignore all of my questions and said, “Please feel free to look about during the journey.”
“What?” I frowned.
He pressed the up arrow button rather than a number. Then I realized that none of the buttons had a number; only three were marked: Up, Down, and ES.
Suddenly, the walls and floor fell away, and in a bout of panic, I clutched at the bar on the wall. The elevator was going up, up, faster and faster. My stomach sank to my feet, and I felt queasy. The person, who I guess now was the guide, was perfectly composed and calm. He turned to me slowly and smiled knowingly.
“Why are we going up?” I panted at it. “Why doesn’t it stop? Where did everything go?”
For the first time, he somewhat acknowledged one of my questions. “This elevator, like your life, can only go up.”
“What about down? There’s a down button right there!” I pointed desperately. It was too much, too fast. I needed to get out of here!
The guide merely smiled.
I turned slowly, eyes wide.
Out of the glass wall, I could see something like an old film playing, slightly staticy and jerky. There was a boy who looked startingly like me, though younger. He was dirty, barefoot, and wore rags for clothes. On his blonde head was a battered old hard hat, dimmed from green to brown over years of being passed down. He held a rifle nearly as big as he was.
“What, what is this?” I asked uncertainly.
The boy in the film looked up to the pink sky in the sunset as a drone of airplanes were heard. He squinted and raised the rifle, but was gunned down by one of the airplanes.
His life just ended.
As if it were nothing.
I turned away from the boy, blood seeping out in growing circles in his clothes.
“What is this?” I repeated, more loudly. I glared up at the person, still gripping the bar as though my own life depended on it. “Tell me!”
“The elevator can only go up.”
I stared at him. I never should have gotten on in the first place. A sudden thought struck me hard: “Are you a Horace?” I asked weakly.
The guide merely smiled. “Look.”
Almost unwillingly, my head slowly turned back to the strange, film-like view outside the elevator.
A busy city, crawling with people. The one that stood out the most was a young man carrying a briefcase—the only one who was not absorbed with a handheld electronic device. He appeared to be completely bored as he nonchalantly pulled his silver-rimmed glasses off of the bridge of his nose and tuck them away into his suit pocket. It was then that I realized that, like the young boy in the previous reel, this young man looked strangely similar to myself.
“Why are you showing me this?” I frowned, staring down at the hundreds of people.
Everyone seemed to pause as a loud, eerie whistling filled the air. They all looked up to the sky, and could only seem to gaze dreamily at the three nuclear missiles that hurtled towards them. As though they didn’t believe it were really happening.
I cried out and threw myself away from the panel of glass that separated me from the explosion, half-expecting to be blown to bits. My body trembled involuntarily from the shock of what I had just witnessed.
“What,” I said in a quaking voice, disbelievingly glancing around to find that the elevator was still in one peace.
The guide was a calm as ever, though the grin was gone. Instead, he wore a Stoic expression.
“Can you endure it?”
“Can you endure all of what I have to show you, Myles?” the guide asked me.
I simply blinked at him.
“This elevator, like your life,” he continued, “can only go up.”
“What does that even mean?” I yelled, shoving myself up to my feet. “All your showing me is death! And what’s with the people that look like me?”
“Your life can only go up from here,” he replied lightly.
I clenched my teeth. I was confused and scared, scared of everything that was happening. “Listen,” I said lowly, glaring at the guide, “I don’t know who you are, and I could care less at this point. All I want is for you to stop this elevator, and let me off.”
He smiled once more. “Look.”
“No, I will not look!” I shouted, stamping my foot. “I’m tired of this game. Let me off now.”
His smile widened.
I heard a distorted voice behind me. I frowned, but didn’t turn around. It sounded like…crying. No, it was more like a heart-wrenching wail of agony or sorrow.
Somehow, I couldn’t find it in myself to not turn around. I was right.
The landscape was barren and gray, all but for a filthy, writhing lump in the middle of it. It was just a toddler, no more than a baby, surrounded by what I now realized was ash. The baby was much too thin, and no tears slipped from its eyes—a sign of severe dehydration. It continued to cry and cough a dry, hacking sound.
No one came for the child. It was completely alone.
Then time seemed to play in fast motion, muting the sound of the baby’s sniveling until it became too weak to crawl around any longer. It played in normal speed, allowing the sound to be heard again. A metaphorical fist clamped tightly over my heart as I heard the wheezing that emanted from the child’s throat as it struggled to breath. Then all was silent.
The child simply gave up.
The reel disappeared and I gasped, clutching my stomach. I felt terribly sick all of a sudden and put a shaking hand over my mouth, hot tears spilling down my cheeks.
“Your life can only go up from here.”
My breath caught in my throat and the tears stopped. An overwhelming sense of anger took hold up me and I wheeled around. My hands shot out and grabbed the guide by the collar, who only appeared to be mildly surprised.
Then I broke down and sank to my knees. “Just let me out of here,” I sobbed. “I’ll never complain about anything else in my entire life. I’ll do everything I’m told, immediately and without question. Just stop. Please.”
“This elevator only goes up,” the guide said cheerily.
I looked up hesitantly, cheeks wet from my tears. The guide was smiling down at me, and for the time, it was a geniune smile that reached the eyes.
“Are you deaf?” I scoffed.
I sighed heavily and turned around. “An old man,” I stated.
It was an old man in bed, snoring away peacefully. He appeared to be ancient, and had more wrinkles than he did skin. His breathing was evident from the slow rise and fall of his chest.
Soon enough, his breathing became slower and shallower until it stopped altogether, signalling the death of the old man. I had predicted that he would die peacefully.
I turned back to the guide. “I guess the only one you haven’t shown me yet is the middle-aged me?”
I returned my attention to the view outside of the tiny elevator.
Just as I had thought, a man with combed-back blonde hair appeared, holding a small girl with red hair in pigtails in his thick arms. They both smiled happily.
A woman with long brown hair in a ponytail entered the picture and clearly reprimanded them, though there was no sound. She hoisted a bag and stuffed it into the car that emerged from the background. Then they all got into the red vehicle and drove away.
They came to a bend in the road and slowed to turn. Unbeknownst to them, a large truck was coming from the other direction, and was distracted by a fine bottle of whiskey.
It was not a pretty sight.
From the wreckage, the only one who did not survive impact was the middle-aged man.
“Now, then,” I said, blocking the horrifying image by turning back to the guide. “Is that all you have to show me?”
“Your life only goes up from here,” he replied with a smile. He calmly reached over to the button panel and pressed ES.
The elevator doors slid open, and a wind rushed in, tousling our hair and ripping at our clothes.
“Aren’t you going to stop the elevator?” I shouted to be heard over the roar of the wind.
“This elevator only goes up.”
I understood finally, and slowly crept to the edge. Here the wind was even more violent. I gripped the edge of the door and looked down. Everything was a blank white, and the ground was nowhere in sight. I glanced up. It was the same.
My body tensed as I readied myself for the jump, then I remembered something and rotated to face the guide. “By the way,” I said sheepishly. “What is your name?”
“My name,” the guide said, still smiling, “is Alex.”
I hung my head with a short chuckle. “Well,” I said, a little embarrassed, “the thing is, I kind of don’t know whether you’re a boy or a girl…”
Alex merely smirked at me.
I returned the smile and leapt out of the elevator into the waiting nothingness below me. The speed of my descent ripped at my hair and clothes, forcing me to shut my eyes and grit my teeth at the pressure.
Then, all was still.
I slowly opened my eyes to find myself hanging in emptiness. But surrounding me was a galaxy of bright stars, all swirling in harmony with the planets that orbited amongst them, and around the biggest of them all: the Sun.
And there was Earth. The poor, war-ravaged, famined, greed-filled planet that I called home. I took the now beach-ball sized Earth into my hands gently, careful not to disturb its tiny inhabitants, and curled myself around it like a child hugged a toy in their sleep.
I understood everything now. I had the chance to correct everything, to help everyone. I had the power within me, and, thanks to Alex, the knowledge to do so.
I was God.
The missiles overhead burst into extraordinary colors, as though they had never been anything more than fireworks. Everyone around me gasped and let out exclamations, in awe of the beauty.
I frowned, looking around myself. I had been certain we would all be dead by now.
I jumped, startled, when I caught sight of the boy standing beside me. He stared up at the fireworks display almost vacantly, the vibrant colors reflecting in his blue eyes. But what startled me more was that he looked exactly like I did five years ago.
He glanced around, then saw me staring at him.
The boy grinned meekly, then stepped into the crowd.
“Hey, wait,” I said, hesitantly holding out my hand.
But he had all but disappeared.
I shook my head to clear it, then turned back to the fireworks. I was really beginning to imagine things nowadays.