When I was younger, my house was next to the town forest. My parents were strict, but everyday I would sneak through my window so I could go exploring in the woods. One day, I was in the forest walking across a rotting log when I slipped and fell on to the ground. I wasn't hurt, but when I got up I noticed that there was something underneath where the log used to be. It was a blue plastic envelope with a bunch of weird marks on it, like it was written in code. Being a kid, I obviously opened it up. Inside was a cellphone and a charger
I didn't have a cell phone when I was 8 years old, so when I found it I was very excited. I wasn't sure what kind it was or how much it was worth, but I was still thrilled just to have discovered it. I plugged it into an outlet behind my dresser. I put a few books on either side of it to make sure it was hidden if my mom came to tidy my room. The rest of the day was unmemorable. I don't remember what I ate for dinner or what time I went to bed. The last thing I remember from that day is glancing at the phone underneath my dresser. With bright blue letters the screen read "3 missed calls. 2 unread messages"
After I brushed my teeth and my mom said goodnight, I took the cell phone and got into bed. The missed calls were from a person named Dave. The first message was also from him. It said "30 Maple Drive. Saturday 10PM" The second message was from an unknown number. It was a picture of a woman. She looked familiar, but I couldn't match her face to anyone I knew. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to respond to the messages and figure out what they meant, but I was scared. I was only 8. I had a feeling someone important was on the other side.
The next morning, I woke up and immediately checked the phone to see if there were any new messages. There weren't. I looked at Dave's contact info. Beneath his name, the only thing it said was "do not delete". I got ready for school, and took my bike out of the garage to wait for Fran to arrive. Fran was my best friend in elementary school. We would ride our bikes together on the way there and back. Our rides were usually full of gossiping about the kids in our math class. Today, I told Fran about the phone. We didn't have a chance to talk about Sam L's new haircut.
I met Fran in first grade because she lived right down the block from me. Our parents introduced us. She would never stop talking, and was the funniest person I knew. That Tuesday morning, she told me that I should reply to Dave. She thought it would hilarious to send him a picture of us, so we did. I was still worried about who he might be. He seemed important. I buried the phone in my sock drawer that night and told myself I would check it later to see if there were any new messages. I forgot. I remembered 10 years later.
Clearing out my drawers during my senior year of high school, I found it. It had been sitting underneath my socks for a decade. The battery had been completely drained, but my memories of the phone rushed back rushed back to me immediately. "30 Maple Drive". Dave. The picture of the woman. Fran. I hadn't spoken to Fran in months. She had moved to the other side of town last year. We still chatted every now and then, but our friend groups were pretty separate.
I turned the phone over in my hand remembering how futuristic it felt to me at the time. I had my own cell phone now, making this one seem like just a cheap block of aluminum. I briefly looked around my room for the charger, before remembering that I had thrown it away years ago. I had forgotten what it went to, and carelessly discarded it. A quick eBay search for the phone charger proved unsuccessful. I couldn't even figure out what kind of phone it was. There wasn't any sort of branding, other than a symbol that closely resembled the a WiFi logo.
I didn't know what to do. Desperately wanting to check if there were any new message on the phone, I took a trip to the town electronics store. The clerk there took one look at it and handed it back to me. She asked me where I got the phone. I told her that I found it many years ago in my backyard. I asked her if she knew anything about it. She told me that she'd only ever seen one other phone like it. 10 years ago, she told me, someone had showed her the phone They requested for her to alert them if she came across an identical one.
The store clerk couldn't remember anything else about them. She frantically fished through a stack of papers that she had retrieved from the back. I stood idly by the counter for a few minutes until she pulled our a crinkled piece of paper. She handed it to me. On it, a phone number had been scribbled down that I immediately recognized as Dave's. I thanked the woman and left the electronics store. I stood on the sidewalk outside and stared at the phone number for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. I pulled out my phone and called Fran.
Her voice was warm and asked why I was calling her. I started explaining the phone, but she cut me off. She remembered perfectly. She didn't need any reminder of the picture we had texted them. I told her that I was nervous about calling the number, nervous that they might sue me for stealing their property. She said that she had to hang up, but would come over later that night to talk about it. I waited for her that night, but didn't hear anything. Eventually, she sent me a message saying that she was too busy.
Frustrated with her lack of cooperation, I decided to call them on my own. I dialed the number on my cell phone and press "call". The phone rang just two times before going to voicemail. There was no greeting, and the default "please leave a message at the beep" echoed into my ear. I hung up without leaving a message. I threw my phone onto my bed. It felt useless. It felt like a waste of my time. I picked it up quickly to check what time it was. I had to wake up early for a physics test tomorrow. The phone said "One Unread Message"
The message was short. It said "Where did you get this number" Panicking, I started to respond. I typed, "I have your cell phone" and hit send. I immediately felt terrible. What had I done? He could probably triangulate my phone and track me down. Should I tell my parents? He was probably already on his way. I looked around the room. Should I hide? My phone glowed blue with a notification. "30 Maple Drive" said the message.
The next day at school I found Fran in the cafeteria and told her what I had done. She was surprised that I had already called them. I told her that I was going to drop the phone off after school. The address was on the outskirts of our town, right by the forest. To my delight, she insisted on coming with me. We agreed to ride our bikes immediately 10 minutes before 7th period ended, so that we could get away from all our friends before they asked where we were going.
The rest of my classes went by quickly and before I knew it, I was cruising down Grand Valley Ave with Fran. We hadn't rode our bikes together in years. She asked me what we were going to do when we got to the address. I figured that we would just ring the doorbell and apologize to whoever answered the door. Fran shook her head. She reminded me that the person on the other end of the phone wasn't just an average guy. As she put it, anybody who sends text messages that vague is "up to something". We agreed to drop the phone in the mailbox and ditch.
26... 28... 32... Fran braked suddenly. I came to a skid behind her. We thought that we had missed it, but it only took us a few seconds to realize that 30 Maple Drive wasn't there. The two houses labeled 28 and 32 sat together with only a small alley way separating them. Beyond the alley way, I could see the foot of the town forest. We glanced at each other before laying our bikes on one of the lawns and starting down the path.
I assumed that there might be a small cabin or house tucked behind the other two, but I was wrong. We were quickly surrounded by trees, following only the worn path that had gradually turned to dirt. Fran and I exchanged a hesitant look every few minutes. If I was alone I would have already turned around, but neither one of us wanted to be the first to bail. Abruptly, Fran put a hand on my shoulder and stopped me. She pointed at a tree to her right. The first thing I noticed was a red "30" spray-painted on its trunk. The second thing I noticed was the colossal treehouse the loomed above us.
When you hear "treehouse" you probably imagine a tree with a bunch of planks nailed to it, with a hastily constructed platform sitting in its branches. This was not that. As Fran and glanced skyward, we saw what appeared to be a mounted power grid substation. An enormous metal enclosure with cables running this way and that, electric convertors attached to all sides, with a satellite dish to top it all off. It was shocking that we hadn't heard or seen it until then, considering its height.
Since there was no mailbox to drop the phone in, I suggested that we try throwing it into one of the side openings of the treehouse, and then running back to our bikes. Fran disagreed. She told me we had to climb up. She told me there was no way we could come this far to just turn around. I asked her why. I was already nervous about how deep we were into the forest. We had walked far enough so that we could not see the street we had come from. I asked her why, but she was already climbing up the ladder.
The ladder was built more like a fire escape. Metal steps and metal rails twisted around the trunk led us up to a rusty door. Without stopping, Fran pushed it open and stepped inside. I followed her into a dark room that was lit only by a flashing LEDs and a few beams of sunlight that snuck in through tiny openings along the top of the walls. Towards the back I saw faces. I got closer and realized they were pictures of people, that had been tacked up. Only two of the faces looked familiar. I yelped for Fran. I didn't know that she was right next to me. She asked me what was wrong. I pointed to the picture of us. The picture we had taken 10 years ago.
I told her we needed to leave. I had seen my share of horror movies, and I knew that we had accidentally stumbled our way into a psychopath's home. I grabbed Fran by the wrist but she remained still. I knew she wouldn't leave until she figured the whole thing out. I found the door that we had entered through, but shockingly, there was no knob to swing it open. We were both trapped. Fran's voice called to be from above. I looked up to see her clinging to a branch of the tree, that traveled from the floor into the darkness. I sighed and began to climb after her.
I tried to voice my concerns about exploring the treehouse any further, but as we climbed higher I felt all of my worries quickly melt into fascination. The branches spiraled towards the ceiling and lifted us high. They took us far from where we started. Though she wouldn't tell me, Fran seemed to know where she was going. I followed her blindly. A minute later she swung herself around one of the branches, so she was was hanging from it by her hands, and then she let go.
I heard her feet land something like 10 feet beneath me. She told me to do the same thing. I followed her blindly. I swung myself off the branch and landed something like 10 feet down. I stood up. We were now standing in what appeared to be an office. No, not an office- it more closely resembled a control room. There were buttons and panels and monitors and lights. The place felt like the cockpit of an hastily put together spaceship. Dangling off one of the panels, I saw it. I lurched forward and grabbed it. I showed it to Fran. This was the cell phone charger that I had thrown away.
I plugged the charger into my phone. I found a power strip beneath one of the control panels. I connected it. The phone's battery icon glowed as it began to recharge. Then, for the first time, Fran asked me what we should do. I looked around. Did she really expect me to know? I still wasn't sure that we should be here. This was besides the point, since I now had no idea how to leave, even if I wanted to. She asked me again. I coughed violently and fell onto the ground. I closed my eyes.
I opened my eyes, and Fran was standing above me. She was repeating my name and lightly slapping my face. I asked her what happened. She told me that I had fainted. I was out for a few minutes. I asked her if she had figured out anything else in that time. She shook her head. From behind me, the cell phone chimed. It was finally powering up. I hobbled over to it. There was nothing new. I looked through its contents anyway. The missed calls from Dave... The texts from Dave... The picture of the woman who I didn't know... The picture of the woman who I didn't know. I shut the phone. I knew this woman. Fran?
The woman in the picture was wearing a red shirt and her hair was all over the place. She looked solemn. It was Fran. Fran was wearing the same red shirt. Her hair was neatly tied back in a knot and she looked more excited than solemn, but there was no mistaking it. I didn't understand. I showed the picture to Fran and her expression dropped. She'd seen the photo 10 years ago when I first found the cell phone, but neither of us had any idea it was her. She asked me how this was possible. I couldn't help but wonder the same thing. The door of the treehouse slammed shut. We froze.
Someone else was here. We heard their footsteps moving beneath us. Had we trespassed inside this person's home? What would they do when they found us? I was terrified. I looked at Fran. Surprisingly, her face was still completely unworried. I asked her what we should do. Fran grabbed my arm and told me to hurry. She lead me through a door in the back of the room and we darted up a narrow set of stairs. We heard footsteps moving up the same treads, just a few flights down. We were moving as fast as we could. Seconds later, the steps ended and we found ourselves in another strange looking room.
This room didn't have the panels and modules that the other room had. In fact, there was nothing. The room was white. Frantically, Fran and I started banging on the walls trying to find a way out, as if it was one of those escape the room puzzles. The footsteps on the stairs was growing louder and louder. There was no where to hide. Realizing that there was no way out we stopped banging and turned around, waiting to see who was after us. After what seemed like 3 minutes, they came into view. Confused, I quickly turned to look at Fran, who was speechless.
The woman walked toward us, looked at Fran and shook her head. Fran asked her if she was her sister. She continued to shake her head. She said that she knew Fran was going to ask her that. Both of us were baffled. The only differences between her and Fran were her clothes, and height, hair. This woman was wearing all black. She was 2 inches taller. Her hair was tied neatly in a knot. Fran's hair, which had previously lived in a knot, was not strewn all over the place.
"I am you" She spoke softly. We both stared at her. Fran asked her what she meant. She repeated herself. "I am you" I asked her how that was possible. She said it didn't matter. I had no idea how I could trust somebody who told me that, but she said it in such a way that I knew she wasn't lying. Fran pulled the phone out of her pocket and asked if it was hers. I didn't notice that Fran grabbed it from me when we ran. The woman nodded. Fran extended the phone to her, but the woman rejected it. She reached into her pocket and pulled out an identical one.
Was that the other phone that the store clerk had been referring to? I looked up from the phone and saw that the woman was looking at us fondly, as if she knew who we were. Suddenly, I remembered the picture of me and Fran that was tacked to the wall. I asked the woman about it. She tapped a few buttons on her cellphone and showed us the screen. It was the same picture. I smiled hesitantly as I tried to put the pieces together. How had she received that photo? I had texted it to Dave's phone number. Was she Dave? I asked her if she was Dave. She told us again that she was Fran. I asked if she knew Dave. She shook her head.
As I tried thinking of another question for Older Fran, she asked the two of us if we were hungry. We hadn't eaten anything since lunch, which was a measly meatloaf that day at school. Older Fran lead us back down the stairs and into a room we had hurried past during our escape attempt. The room contained a kitchenette and a small table with 3 chairs. To our surprise, there was already a meal laid out. A large plate of sushi. I thought about that last time I'd eaten sushi. My parents had taken me and Fran to the Sushi Palace for my 14th birthday. That was one of the last times we had hung out before we had lost touch.
While we ate, Fran continued to ask her older self why she was here. Older Fran wouldn't say anything. The only information we could get from her was that she was 8 years older. Getting frustrated, Fran pounded her fist on the table."Why are we here!" she demanded. Older Fran was quiet. Fran pointed to the cellphone that was sitting on the table next to her plate. "I know you lured us here with this phone. I know that door only opens from the outside. I know we're trapped. If you're going to kill us you might as well just get it over with now." Older Fran looked up from her sushi "I need your help"
"I'm dying" said Older Fran. "And my life...our life..." she looked at Fran "Depends on you." Older Fran explained to us that she had an incurable disease. It was a disease that she was currently the only known case of. She explained to us that she had located a cure, but was unable to seek it herself. "Then how do you expect us to find it?" said Fran, tying her hair back into a knot. Older Fran stood up. She put her plate in the sink and started rinsing it off. "You just have to trust me"
Older Fran led us back down to the control room. She told us that the room was for a device that could send us into the future. I didn't believe her when she said this. Neither did Fran. I don't think any sane person would find it easy to trust a person who already told them they were from 10 years in the future. Nevertheless, we listened to Fran's future-self tell us that we needed to use the device to travel forward and help her find the cure. When I asked how far into the future we'd be traveling, Older Fran tapped a few buttons, and the monitor displayed the number 52. We would be traveling 52 years into the future.
"How long will we be there?" Fran demanded "because I don't think I can leave for more than a week maximum. We have midterms next month" Older Fran turned around. "Don't you understand this? If I die, you die. That's how this works" Older Fran barked. I looked at Fran. I looked at 28 year old Fran. I looked at the panels, trying to make sense of the machine. It was all very complicated, but nothing I couldn't imagine Fran operating, given a few years of practice. "Where are we going?" I asked. "Hyperion" replied Older Fran.
Hyperion is one of the 62 moons of Saturn. It's the eighth largest and the 3rd farthest away from the planet. Most unusual though, is it's shape. Hyperion is shaped like a soda can. Older Fran explained all of this to us as she unlocked an enormous chest and pulled out 2 spacesuits. She handed the suits to us. Without hesitating, we started putting them on. Weirdly enough, it felt natural. It felt like something we had already done several times before. Once we had the suits on, we started climbing up the stairwell.
Fran and I stood in the white room, facing each other. There were no words to say, so we didn’t speak. I looked into her eyes. The white walls slowly began to brighten until Fran's eyes disappeared. Moments later, the light faded and I found myself standing on a smooth gray surface. Where was Fran? In front of me I could only see miles of stars across a pitch black sky. I turned around. Fran was behind me. I waved to her and she did the same. I felt a sudden throbbing in my lungs. I fell backwards and closed my eyes.
I regained consciousness in what felt like five minutes. I blinked. I was lying on my back, on the surface of Hyperion. There was no sign of Fran. Where had she gone? I stood up and began to walk. An empty plane stretched out in front of me. There were no landmarks. Everything looked untarnished. It was almost as if the planet had just been unwrapped from its packaging and sent into orbit only moments ago. The emptiness made it impossible to tell how far I was walking. I felt strangely comfortable. I felt like my own nobodyness was in equilibrium with that of Hyperion.
I kept walking. Eventually, I noticed a small, bright red object on the horizon. Was it a mirage? Was it Fran? It looked too bright to be real. I increased my pace and It began to grow. Minutes later I was close enough to put my hand on the object. It was taller than me. It jutted sharply out of the ground and was smooth all around. I traced its perimeter. It was about the size of a vending machine. Hopeful that this was some sort of clue to finding Fran, I inspected every inch of it. I prodded and poked, hoping to unlock whatever it contained.