Author: Siddharth Naidu
Photography Partner: Prashita Ramteke
Xin Zhou’s expertise in Science and curiosity in Time Travel led him to traverse unknown territories!
Tampering with time, however, is a dangerous path!
In this treacherous game of multiple lives, Ayane awaits his rescue.
Will Xin be able to succeed? Will he accomplish his mission, without getting lost?
23rd February 2078:
The weather forecast for the day had already gone terribly wrong. There was no sign of summer, not even a glimmer of sunlight to be seen. Xin Zhou pulled up his jacket. He stepped down to the road from the bus shelter, desperately trying to avoid the rain. The rains lashed at him as if the hurricane miles away from the bay area was his fault somehow. He tightened the hood around his face and under the chin. The University bus coughed and rumbled on for a few hundred feet away on the road that in some miles joined the Okegawa by-pass, getting him to Tokyo Metropolitan within an hour.
Xin Zhou leant on the window fidgeting with his mobile phone. He scrolled through the contacts, paused at Ayane for a moment. When would this end at all? The problem was he knew it would end, but could he know if it did. Ayane was taken away with no explanation or reason. Much like the rain that would go once the bus had crossed The Vortex. He looked at his watch, a vintage David Olley steel strap. He waited intently. The second’s hand moved above the minute’s hand and approached a full circle. A man remarkably similar to him sat on the first seat, just behind the driver, with his ear pods in, and shut his eyes close. Of course, Xin Zhou hoped that the man would wake up, if only for once; and only after an hour, after the bus reached its destination. He only hoped that the man would be oblivious to anyone boarding it or getting off. A hope that deep in his mind, he knew, was not possible.
The bus halted at a stop, near the mega Ikea store beyond the Saitama connector bridge. He got down hurriedly, unbuttoned his raincoat and rolled it into a bundle. He placed the bundle within his backpack and took out his Gun and its silencer attachment. His day had just started.
“Log 27, X7, Day 7….I’ve seen X1. Again. I’ve gotten off at Saitama. Hopefully, I’ll intercept Yukai from their origination point Omiya. Vortex time available, 58 minutes and clocking down”
He spoke into a wireless mic, embedded within his collar. A log was necessary to record his past and quantify his future. He sprinted towards the cab service pod, and hailed one, as thunders cracked the blue skies. The cab turned the corner into Heromi Nest roadway. Everything was being recorded. Nothing was left to chance. He got off the cab, and swiftly jumped onto the pavement, and hid in the shadows of the alley between two tall buildings.
42 Minutes clocking down:
Any moment now. A black sedan swirled around the corner and came to a halt, screeching on the other side of the road. First the plump one in a two piece jacket, they called Tommy, would get out, and scan the area. Then, the two passengers in the back seat, Zinko and Raiden would come out. They carried hidden machetes within their jackets, a mark of Yakuza. Now, a man would appear behind them. He always hid in the phone booth, waiting for the opportune moment of attack. The man, X5 would glance at the alleyway for a moment, make a mental note of its hiding capability, and attack Zinko from behind. The Yakuza members were trained professionals. They would disarm him easily and swing their weapons at him. Hence this explained the existence of X6, a few moments later at the turn off bridge the stealthy presence of X7 in the alleyway. New chances of a constant man, were all going waste.
18 Minutes Earlier:
Xin Zhou and Ayane had met each other in Kyoto, during the ‘Perpendicular fest’ a few years ago. What started as a research companionship gradually evolved into a romantic binding. His research on creating a Space-Time vortex had garnered worldwide praise and acclaim. The process which took fifteen years to conceptualise ensued in a just a few months of fruitful execution. Xin Zhou had designed a self-sustaining Gravity centrifuge orbs. However, the vortex experienced tremendous electromagnetic fragility and then consumed all the energy around it. It was Ayane’s idea to prepare a parallel line of mercury and titanium alloys exactly around the orbs to absorb extreme amounts of energy so that the orb held steady. The project thus exhibited a promise beyond anything imaginable. Of course, there was a final test to be done.
Range. The centrifuge orbs were placed a kilometre apart and energised. The result was a creation of Space-Time vortex over an expanse of thirty-three kilometres. This held stable for almost an hour and happened 18 minutes earlier. The clock ticked and the minutes passed. An hour went by in suspended time. Xin Zhou stepped into the range of vortex and immediately felt something beyond comprehension. A stretch of the brain beyond the measurement of time. He did not feel the perceptions of it anymore. His mind felt thinner by the moment, catering to more than a thousand possibilities floating around as images.
Was he actually seeing them or was he just feeling the instances? None of his senses, except his perception to time, worked within the vortex. It was as if he was catapulted into a thousand years beyond his time, and million years before.
Xin Zhou reminded himself to infuse the neomorphine graduators within his bloodstream, the next time he tested. This would heighten his neural bindings, allowing him to grab, stay afloat and effectively, Time Travel.
After a timeless period, the vortex fused in itself, and Xin Zhou stood still on the wooden floor of the house, dewy dust sprinkled all over his coat. He turned to see Ayane wobbling and taking a step towards him; then she crashed onto the floor with a thud. A steel machete in her hand, the button of a black jacket in her grip and blood oozing out of a deep wound on her stomach. He crashed beside her and tears rolled down his eyes. He scanned the room to check if there was anyone lurking around. The place was in the same shape as he’d left it an hour earlier. But everything had changed mere moments ago. Xin Zhou frantically tried waking her up, but Ayane’s cornea faded and her eyes shut out.
The physicist in him found a complicated solution to the misery. He left Ayane as she lay on the floor and walked out of the door. 30 minutes later he activated the centrifuge orbs and extended their range. He returned and carried Ayane into the vortex. The electron field grabbed Ayane, and the last thing he remembered was a self-collapsing portal sucking Ayane into it.
An hour went past and he came out to see Ayane wobbling and taking a step towards him; then she crashed onto the floor with a thud. Xin Zhou had created a loop, where a conflict of time took precedent. He had to find the cause of Ayane’s death to close out the loop or create an overlapping one which could engulf it.
X1 couldn’t do much to help the cause. X2 vaguely pinpointed an origin. And thus, an hour was established. Once it ended, Xin Zhou would reset his position and the time. The trick he knew in traversing time was to avoid crossing paths with any of his previous Xin Zhou’s. If that happened, the loop would spiral out of control and create a suspension of time. Intermittent motions would cause the possibilities to quickly become blank and bottomless pits.
40 Minutes Clocking Down:
A choice of following the black Sedan was an obvious alternative. Xin Zhou had already taken that up and that had resulted in a close out at the Ageo tunnel bridge. He placed a bike at a parking bay and waited until the incident of the phone booth occurred. As the Sedan turned and whisked away into an adjoining street, so did he. Again an attempt to ram the sedan, went horribly wrong. To the Yakuza, the puzzle went deeper. They saw a man they killed moments earlier, emerge out of thin air and attack them again. The complicated equation had become 7 times more complex; an equation they were yet to realise. Xin Zhou followed the black Sedan in a cab this time.
“Log 28, X7, I see the Yakuza confronting X6. They have drawn their machetes out, two old ones and a new steel one for Zinko, as referred to in Log 19 by X3. Repeat the fact that Zinko is the target. The Yakuza are beating X5. No Logs are available as to what they are asking X6. However, this ploy should work out. Hopefully…”
The Yakuza gang men slashed X6 and threw him on the pavement. Raiden the youngest of them, checked X6’s jacket for any sort of ID. After going through the contents of his wallets, they found an address. X7 saw Raiden hand over a card to Zinko and his lips curl into a smile. It was time now.