Please note this is a fictional story.
I grew up reveling in the mysteries of my father’s magic.
All I had ever known was life on the road, traveling the highway in the sky with a carnival of eccentricities.
My father was the leading magician of the entire menagerie. He could make doves appear after the snap of his fingers and escape even the most spectacularly built flying suit.
Still, as much as I admired my father’s talents, I acknowledged that his magic, mysterious as it was, featured nothing but compiled illusions that tiptoed around my mind.
The mysteries swallowed me whole, and I found myself searching for answers to every one of my father’s masterful tricks.
The illusions I could not answer were the ones that stayed with me and kept the journey real.
My mother left us in 3344 when I was only four. My father has never told me why, and I have never asked. For the time being, I prefer not knowing. I have learned that some answers remain better left unsaid.
You see, I am the individual who was supposedly chosen to hold the most sought out answer in all of history.
Yes, the ticket to our existence was merely presented to me, on a gray afternoon, by a frantic-looking man running past my electric tent — only a year ago.
He was dressed in a long white lab coat, his face swollen with bruises. I remember lying in bed reading an antique e-book on Houdini when he sprinted in.
“Hannah!” the strange man exclaimed as he jolted to a halt and rested his hands on his knees. He was breathing hard and appeared frightened. I jolted up, surprised and terrified. “Hannah,” he repeated.
“Who are you?” was all I could stammer.
“There is no time for that,” he whispered. “I have discovered the answer. I have calculated it in the lab. We have been working on the equations for so long, and finally, I figured out the algorithm. They want it…”
“What are you talking about?” I interjected. I was confused and feared for what this strange man might do.
“Just listen!” he was no longer whispering and no longer seemed to care about his volume. “I found the answer, the answer to life. The meaning to all of this,” he paused then said, “I found it, and there are others who want it. Others who will do horrible things if they find it. I can’t let them. I won’t let them. I spent years working on this.”
It was challenging to understand all of his words through his deep breaths. “I thought it was what I wanted, but I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. I needed to find someone to give it to because I knew I was losing time. They would find out. So, I created another algorithm, another program. I needed the name of someone who could keep it for me. A person who was capable, who would do the right thing. My algorithm,” he paused and reached out his hand, “my algorithm led me to you.”
I sat there quietly, still not sure what to say or do. The man reached out and handed me a small paper scroll, “Take it,” he said. “Take it!” he repeated louder when I didn’t move.
I had never seen real paper and only knew what it was from pictures in my beloved antique e-books, which I had gathered on my travels.
I reached out my hand and grabbed the scroll, “What do I do with it? Why me?” I stuttered these questions while confusion lingered.
It was then when I heard the loudspeaker: “We are seeking a young scientist who has committed a terrible crime. If you see him or have any information, please take the sky elevator to the sheriff’s tower immediately.”
What followed was a description of the man standing in front of me: black curly hair, around 6 feet tall, thin.
“I have to go,” the man said. “The program chose you. You now hold the answer, and you hold the burden, good luck.” Then he turned around and ran.
I looked down at the scroll. My neurons fired at rapid speed, and I didn’t know what to do. I sat there for two hours contemplating my next move.
Part of me thought the whole thing was a farce, an illusion like one of my father’s mindful tricks. Another part of me wondered if I was dreaming.
At one point, I went to a mirror and looked at myself. I pinched my face then stroked my long golden curls. I stared into my hazel eyes for a long, long while, waiting to wake up. During this time, I heard the announcement on the loudspeaker, “Thank you to all. Our suspect has been found and persecuted.”
My heart stopped. The word persecuted drove around my mind at high speed. Persecuted, persecuted, persecuted. I turned on my theater tablet.
A holographic image of the man I had just seen lit up in front of me, with the words, “Archer Jones, the scientist who burned down Avarice Technology Labs, confirmed dead,” rotating around his ghostly head.
I held the scroll tightly, “Perhaps it was all true,” I thought, “perhaps this is the answer, and I am the chosen one, but why?’ I began to unravel the piece of paper slowly.
I jumped, startled as my father ran into the room. “I have a new trick to show you, my dear! I am so excited!”
I quickly tucked the scroll into my back pocket. My father was pacing back and forth with his marshmallow hands on his protruding belly. “Houdini made an elephant disappear,” he said as he twirled his mustache, “but I am going to make a building disappear!” He was now moving his arms wildly up and down in excitement.
“You see, Hannah, something Houdini did not have that I do, of course, is unlimited technology. Technology has made illusions abundant and easy to trick the eye. Also, unlike Houdini, may he rest in peace, I will make it disappear and then reappear.”
He was referring to the fact that Houdini’s elephant vanished and didn’t reemerge. However, I had read that the elephant was just hidden behind a black curtain, which resembled a giant empty cabinet.
I quickly thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get away from this place. It had already occurred to me that Avarice Lab may be able to somehow trace the answer to me despite the fire.
I didn’t want to take any chances. “Dad,” I said, “I am so excited about this. Have you thought about which building you will make disappear yet?”
He nodded his head no — realizing he bypassed this essential detail due to his excitement.
“How about the Taj Mahal?” I asked, “How radiant would that be?” All I knew was we needed to get out of there. Why not India? It was one of the few places I had never been.
Again, my father rested his thick hands on his stomach and began to twiddle his thumbs. He then smiled with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “Let’s do it! We will leave tomorrow! I want to get working on this straight away.”
I was so relieved that I just ran to my father and hugged him. To this day, he is the most spontaneous man I’ve ever known.
“You are my world,” my father said, “Thanks for the fabulous idea.” And with that, my father stormed out of the room while saying, “We must tell the others and pack. I will schedule the sky elevators for tomorrow.”
I sat down in my electric rocking chair and took out the scroll. I wondered about algorithms, codes, and programs. It all sounded so complicated and trite.
I wished the answer had been found in a more poetic way: a meadow or in the middle of a forest, not within the cyber portals of a machine. It all seemed so questionable; after all, were we not the creators of devices?
When I went to sleep that night, I still had not opened the scroll.