Atlantis. I still couldn’t believe I was in Atlantis for the last three days. The technology, the culture, it was unbelievable. It felt like another world, far away from the world I knew. The city was, for lack of better words, amazing. The architecture felt so alien, so sleek and futuristic compared to my home in Fayetteville, North Carolina. One cruise ship to Puerto Rico with my wife changed my life. One drunken man that pushed me overboard on our return trip. That instance led to my whole view of the world turning upside down.
When I woke up, I was discombobulated and badly injured. My left leg was shattered, I had a shark bite on my side, where one tried to make me dinner until it realized how horrible humans tasted. I looked around and everything my eyes fell on seemed strange. Almost alien. When people walked in I freaked out. They were human, but not human. Every single one of them were beautiful, but their skin seemed too shiny, like they were covered in a clear gel or it secreted from the pores of their skin. They had slits on their necks like fish and their eyes were all black.
They eventually calmed me down, (they gave me a shot) then explained where I was. It was hard to call them liars, looking at their appearance and my surroundings. They healed me in a day. Completely. I didn’t even have a scar where the bite was. Then I explored the city.
Atlanteans keep their secrets close to them. I was given the option of going back to what they called it, “The Lost World”, my home, or I could stay as long as I abided by their laws, which surprisingly, were far less than ours. Maybe, it was their intense corporeal punishment system that kept everyone in line. If I chose to go home, I would keep the knowledge of how to return for one full day. After that, I would never be able to return.
I chose to go home to my wife, who was carrying our first child. The old, adventurous me, wouldn’t have hesitated to stay, but I loved my wife and I was excited about the birth of my child and our future together.
Three Atlanteans brought me to a portal at the end of a long hallway and gave me a plain golden ring. They told me an incantation to say and the ring would bring me back if I decided to return. They stepped back looking at me expectantly so I stepped through the portal and found myself standing in front of the door to my house.
I smiled as I slipped my key into the door knob, realizing how worried my wife probably was at my disappearance. I tried to turn it, but the lock did not disengage. I tried again. Nothing. Bewildered, I looked around at my surroundings. Something was different. The car in the driveway was not my car. I actually never saw a car like that in my life. The door mat under my feet was different and the furniture on the porch were wrong. Where was my rocking chair? A few days missing and my wife changed everything.
I rang the door bell and waited until a woman answered the door. She was maybe in her early thirties.
“What’s up? You selling something?”
“Um, who are you? Where is Jess?” I asked.
“Jess?” The woman asked. “Jess doesn’t live here.”
I got irritated quickly. I missed my family. I was sure they were worried about me and I just wanted to see them.
“Why are you in my house? Where is Jess?” I snapped.
“Look, I told you, there is no Jess here. This is my house. Now, I have stuff to do.”
“Wait… your house?” I looked around again. Things were definitely different but I knew my house.
“My house! It’s been in my family for the last 25 years!” She replied, angrily.
Apparently she got irritated fast too, but I was tired of the games. I whipped out my wallet and pulled out my waterlogged drivers license.
“See the address? See my name? It is the same name on the mailbox!” I said, turning and pointing toward where the mailbox should be.
Did she move the mailbox too? There was nothing in the space I walked out to everyday to check the mail. I looked back at the woman, dumbfounded. She was concentrating on my drivers lisence. Then, when she looked at me, she had a weird look on her face. When she spoke, her voice trembled.
“Is this a joke?” She whispered. “You don’t joke about things like this.”
“Call me Val, my name is Valerie”
“Listen, Val, I just want to see my family. Can I go into my house?”
“This, isn’t a prank?”
“No!” I yelled, my anger getting the best of me.
“Turn around, let me see the back of your neck,” she demanded.
“If you do this one thing for me, then I will explain everything to you.”
I let out a frustrated breath, stared at her incredulously for a moment, and then I turned around.
I heard a gasp and whipped back around. Val looked petrified. She reached a hand out to me and poked me in the chest.
“You’re real. You’re really here.”
“What is going on?” I asked, worry and panic beginning to take over. “My family, they are okay, right?”
“Yes, but you are suppose to be dead.”
“I fell overboard our cruise ship last week. I am sure they presumed me dead, but here I am.”
“No, you fell overboard thirty years ago. It happened thirty years ago.”
“Val, be serious. My family is probably…”
She turned and ran into the house leaving the door wide open. I looked around and walked in. What I saw was my house, decorated completely different than what it was that last time I saw it. There were all kind of weird things in it. Things that reminded me a little of Atlantis. The television set was no longer a flat screen, it was a thin sheet of curved glass. You can see through it, but you could also see the image on the screen. It was weird to say the least. I looked at the furniture that was floating a foot off the ground. Actually, calling it furniture was a stretch, but I figured you sat in it. I peeked into the kitchen. The refrigerator and stove I knew of were gone. New futuristic appliances sat in it’s place.
My heartbeat sped up as Val’s words hit me again. You fell overboard thirty years ago. It became harder for me to breath. I grabbed my chest as footsteps came up behind me. I turned and there was Val, a tear in her eye and a small slab of glass in her hands. The glass ws the size of the tablets I used to use to browse the internet. On the glass was an image of a news article. An image of me and a headline that said “Local Man Lost At Sea”.
“What is today’s date,” I whispered.
“April 18th, 2050,” she whispered back.
“This isn’t a joke?”
“My wife. My daughter.”
“I knew them both. My mom worked with your wife and they were close. Mrs. Davis remarried ten years after you… um… she is still alive. Your daughter was my best friend. Mrs. Davis sold the house to my mom when she moved away. I still talk to Brianna whenever we both have time.”
“Your daughter. She is a wonderful person. She writes some of the best things I have ever read in my life. Here, I have all of her books.”
She rummaged on a bookshelf to her left and handed me five books. I turned one of them over and saw my daughters picture on the back. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I broke down and cried, clutching the books close to me. I missed thirty years and I was only in Atlantis for three days. Stranded at sea for maybe two. I missed my whole life because a drunken man pushed me overboard.
“Do you want me to call her?” Val asked.
“No, please don’t. Never tell them about this. Never tell them I came back. They have their lives. I have to find my own now. It wouldn’t be fair to interrupt the happiness they have found.”
“I won’t, but please, tell me what happened.”
She guided me to the table in the kitchen, the only thing that seemed normal in this new world, and poured me a green concoction with a name I never heard of. After I caught my bearings, I told her everything that happened to me. Everything that I had been through. Needless to say, after seeing my drivers license and my reaction of the news, she believed me.
“Are you going back,” she asked.
“I think it would be for the best.”
“She looks so much like you,” Val said.
“Yeah… Look, can you do me a favor? Next time you see her, can you squeeze her extra tight for me?”
Val nodded at me. We stood and she walked me back outside. I stopped as I reached the steps leading to the porch. There was a question that had been nagging me the whole time I was in the house.
“Why did you want to look at my neck?”
“Oh, fifteen years ago, the world started branding us in accordance to the country we stay in. It is a barcode that holds all our information. School and medical records. Bank information. Everything,” She said.
“That seems terrible.”
“It is. I have put off getting one for as long as possible, because Brianna told me not to do it. But it is mandatory all over the globe and our last day to register is tomorrow. I’m one of the last ones in this area. ”
“Well, if my daughter told you not to do it, then I am sure she had a good reason.”
“She could be here tomorrow if I called and told her I needed her. She’d love to meet you.”
“No, my time is limited. Just remember to hug her tight for me.”
I smiled at her and turned toward the street. The incantation flew freely from my lips and a portal opened up. I stepped through and the same guards were on the other side.
“That was fast,” one of them said.
“Thirty years? Three days here are thirty years there? You couldn’t tell me that?”
“Was it thirty years this time? The last person that left and came back was here for a day and only a year had passed in the Lost World. Time is funny and unpredictable sometimes.”
I sighed and walked back to the hospital to get processed for living quarters. I looked down at my new stack of books. My daughter’s stories. Her words. It would be the only way I would ever be able to feel close to her.