The elevator was thrown into an uneasy rhythm of movement as its gears churned in the hollow space beyond its doors. The Observer gripped the handles to steady himself as he rose higher and higher. His only solace was the distant voice of a woman. In any other elevator, she was perhaps a gentle melody to ease the ride.
Fog pooled around his feet, and spilled forth as the doors opened. A hallway, purple and blue. Past the doors he ambled, occasionally dragging a finger over the stationary brass knobs. His arrival was obscured by thick carpet, and his gait only faltered once he reached the black doorway at the end of the hallway.
Inside was an abyss, and the echoes of his footfalls fell as if affected by gravity. The lightless room was like his own mind: empty, vast, enigmatic. It was hard to recall anything anymore, except for the fragment of a single memory.
The Observer exhaled. His breath carried with it color, life, happiness. It adhered to some distant wall, playing out images of an old man in a hospital bed. He could recognize the face of his aging father anywhere, and the shape of his young daughter standing nearby. She placed a hand on the old man’s cheek, her soft skin against the prickly beard of the Observer’s father. It was a tender moment he had blocked out years ago; the pain had been too much.
Unable to move, he collapsed, caught in the euphoric pain of nostalgia.
The Observer sat back in the seat of his car. It hovered a few meters above the sand, just between the divide of beach and ocean. He flipped a few fries into his mouth, ignoring the half-eaten burger on the console beside him.
The water used to bring him peace, but all he could focus on now were the bright lights of Floor 122 and the mental image of the gilded letters that spelled out Memory Corp. Though heralded as Shenzhen’s premier memory facility, used in unlocking the past and projecting the future, it had done little more than upset him. He sighed—there was more to that night than the journey through his mind had shown him. It had been years ago, after all, perhaps the technology couldn’t recall things that far back. His daughter had long since moved away with her own family, and he was now taking on the appearance of his father, with a wrinkled face and prickly 5 o’clock shadow.
A buzzing vibrated his vision as he opened the glove box and retrieved the picture of his daughter. He touched his temple as quickly as his old arm would allow..
“Hey, Dad!” The voice poured through his mind like his own thoughts. “We’re still coming, we’re just late. Little rascal always has to pack extra toys, you know? Anyway, we’ll be there soon! Thanks. Okay, Telebot: end transmission.”
The voice ceased, allowing the Observer control of his mind once more. A few moments passed before his thoughts connected—he was to meet his daughter and her family tonight. With renewed life in his veins, he took control of his car and headed back towards the city center, overriding the car’s automated driving system.
He reached for his phone…but gravity was reversed. Everything was upside down, yet seemed to move in slow motion. He sucked in a breath; it was thick. The phone slowly swirled in front of him, like it was underwater. The cars overhead must’ve stopped, because he heard their brakes…but that didn’t feel right. Cars didn’t have brakes anymore, just propulsion engines. He reached for the phone, wanting to call his daughter.
It was a delicate thing, the edge of death. The last moments of life seeping from his veins, the world around him growing darker, darker. But, it was comfortable, like sinking into your bed after a long journey back home.
A soft hand brushed his cheek. He cracked his sleepy eyes open and peered at the little blonde girl who was staring back at him. Though he’d never been a fan of children, this little girl was the purest thing he’d ever seen. He tried to extend his arm to stroke her hair, but was too weak.
Time began to spin, the ceiling began moving like he was on the best anesthetics money could buy. He breathed out, looking at his daughter’s brunette hair, the man standing beside her.
As the first touch of death radiated across his skin, he sank into the abyss, happy to have seen his family one more time.
The Observer was thrusted out onto the street, slamming his shoulder hard into the concrete and tripping up a woman walking past. She flung a few expletives his way before continuing on her journey. He got to his feet, spotting a pamphlet next to him.
Floor 122, the place where the future was revealed and fates changed. He looked at the pamphlet, then the warm glow pouring from the balcony window far overhead.
So, that was the end. Did he really want to change anything?