Across The Universe

Across The Universe

The first time Daniel traveled to another time and universe, he was 19 years old.

He didn’t do it on purpose, he didn’t even know that he could do something like that. Time-travelling was something that he thought could only happen in books and movies, not in real life. If only he knew that his life would consist of traveling times and universes, he would have read more of those books and movies.

Unfortunately, he barely knew anything about it when he went to his usual bed one night and woke up in someone else’s bed the next day.

Fortunately, he accidentally traveled to the right place. When he woke up, when he was barely awake, the first thing he saw was a girl sitting on a chair on the bed, looking calm and was sitting in a way that told Daniel she had been sitting there for some time, perhaps waiting for Daniel to wake up.

Upon seeing Daniel waking up, the girl approached him and looked in the eyes, and said, “Don’t freak out, you’re safe here.”

Of course, the first thing Daniel did when he realized that he wasn’t in his own room was freaking out.

 

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Deirdre traveled, too.

“The world is playing with us,” was what she told Daniel, after Daniel finished freaking out after waking up at Deirdre’s room, “Apparently, we can’t go back to our universe on our own, we could only travel when the world decides that it’s time for us to go.”

Deirdre also traveled to this room when she was 18 years old. She had been staying here since then because no one owned the house, so it was given to her. She had been unable to go back to her universe. Apparently, there was a loophole in dimensions, causing people to accidentally get transferred to another timeline or another universe, and in this universe, it was well known already while in Daniel’s (ex)-universe, no one really knew about it. It was an unexplainable and unsolved problem, and Daniel had fallen victim to this loophole. Deirdre had adapted to this universe, making this her home. She had met a lot of other victims, too. This room was apparently a portal where those unwilling travelers woke up after getting accidentally transferred.

Those travelers disappeared soon after arriving here, fate deciding that they should go visit another timeframe or another universe.

Daniel felt depressed for days after that, realizing that he might end up not being able to meet his family and friends again. Considering that there was a formal registration for accidental travelers in this universe, he realized that it was common. Deirdre had to urge him to register, but Daniel didn’t even want to do that because he was in denial.

“How am I going to live here?” He asked Deirdre. He had no one he knew, no place to go. Deirdre looked at him, something in her eyes that Daniel thought as pity. It angered him, seeing that look. But she had been calm throughout the time she had to deal with Daniel’s sadness, so Daniel tried hard to not be rude to her.

“Don’t worry, I will help you,” Deirdre assured him, squeezing his shoulder, “I have been here for almost five years, so I can help you.”

So, Daniel let Deirdre took care of him. He had no choice.

 

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Daniel stayed for a longer time than most travelers who ended up in Deirdre’s room.

After two months staying at Deirdre’s house, Daniel thought that he might stay here permanently like Deirdre, though perhaps it might be too soon to think like that. He had slowly gotten used to this universe, even got a temporary work that could make his life not so useless here. Deirdre had already gotten a permanent job after deciding to finish school here, helped by the country. This was already Deirdre’s permanent universe unless he suddenly got transferred again.

This universe was a much more advanced version of the universe Daniel used to live in. Everything was powered by technology and there were fewer people living in the universe. When Daniel finally went out, he remembered being so amazed by flying cars. Daniel was so sure though that in perhaps in decades from now on, Korea could be like this, too.

“Don’t you miss your old home, though?” Daniel asked one day, curious about Deirdre’s life because he rarely revealed anything about his past life, “Your family, too.”

“I miss them,” Deirdre admitted, Daniel could see the sorrow in her eyes as they glistened, “I miss them a lot. But it’s not like I can do anything about it.”

It seemed so hopeless; their predicament. Daniel hated it. He wondered how this all could be possible. He browsed the internet (which was very fast, here) and read a lot of books that were available about time and universe continuum, but he barely understood anything. It was all too complicated for him.

“I have read a lot,” Daniel told Deirdre, “But I still can’t find any solutions for this.”

“Well, even scientists haven’t managed to solve this problem,” Deirdre chuckled as if finding Daniel amusing. She ruffled Daniel’s hair, making Daniel felt like a kid.

“I miss my family,” Daniel confessed. For days, he kept dreaming about his parents and his brother. Sometimes, it was a happy memory he dreamt about, sometimes, he dreamt that they were crying so much from losing him.

“I know,” Deirdre said, “I hope you will be able to go back to your place.”

 

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A year passed by, and it seemed that Daniel wouldn’t be going back anytime soon. He had gotten used to living here, feeling as if he belonged here, with Deirdre. Sometimes, another time traveler showed up and spend the time together, but just like how Deirdre told him, they disappeared shortly after. The longest someone stayed with them was two months, sometimes someone even disappeared again only after one day staying there. Seeing them, Daniel felt like that he was a little luckier then. He couldn’t imagine visiting several universes at a short time span.

Daniel put a cup of tea on the table, in front of the newest traveler that arrived here. He was young, a little younger than Daniel, maybe. His name was Sean, and he seemed even more upset than Daniel when he realized that he was transported to another universe.

“Why does it have to be me?” Sean asked, his eyes were still red from tears. Daniel felt bad for him—he always felt bad for all the traveler that ended up here.

“Well, we don’t know about that,” Deirdre answered, calmly as always. She was so used to deal with a new traveler, being a guide to the new traveler was basically her job. The traveler who ended up here were lucky because of that. Deirdre was a good guide.

“Is God having a revenge on me because I didn’t attend Church last week?” Sean wondered. Daniel almost chuckled at that, because that questioned seemed so naïve and innocent.

“Well, God doesn’t have feelings, I’m sure he is not into revenge,” Deirdre said, actually rolling her eyes. She used to be religious, Deirdre told Daniel once. But after what happened, she started to question everything.

“Then why?” Sean asked again, desperate for an answer, “What does the universe has against me?”

Funny how even when he went through a depression era, Daniel never questioned why it was him who got transferred to another universe. Hearing Sean’s questions, though, he started to wonder if he really did something wrong to get this punishment. Or maybe, even though God didn’t do revenge, he liked playing games with his creations instead.

 

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“Do you think I will stay here forever?” Daniel asked Deirdre, wrapping his arm around Deirdre’s while staring at the sky, admiring the stars that were rarely seen. The city had a blackout on purpose once in a while, in order to preserve energy and to let the people knew how beautiful the stars could be. It had been almost three years, and it seemed he was not going anywhere soon.

“Well, it has been almost three years, I guess you will be here forever?” Deirdre wondered, as Daniel leaned his head on her shoulder. They had gotten much closer, had really gotten used to each other’s presence. They had no one else but each other, so they had to rely on each other.

“I guess, so,” Daniel said, even if he was the one who asked the question in the first place.

Deirdre was a nice person, a little prickly sometimes, but a nice person. Daniel felt grateful for her, because she made it easier for him to adapt here. If Deirdre wasn’t there, he would be so lost.

“Is it bad that I feel happy about this?” Deirdre asked him, making Daniel looked up at her.

“You feel happy about this?”

“I have been here alone for 5 years before you come, and no one accompanies me long enough,” Deirdre explained, leaning her head on Daniel’s head as they both stared at the sky, “I was always alone. It feels nice to have someone by my side.”

Daniel nodded needlessly, understanding. It must be lonely for Deirdre, she had no one here. But she had Daniel, now.

“Sometimes I want to leave, sometimes I don’t,” Daniel admitted. Two years ago, he would definitely say he wanted to leave this place and go back to his family. But after growing fond of Deirdre, he couldn’t say that his feeling was definite.

“Would you take it, if you have an opportunity to go back to your universe?”

“I don’t know,” Daniel shrugged, “I want to see my family again…but I don’t want to leave you. Can’t we go back together? You said that we might come from the same universe.”

“That will be nice, perhaps, but doesn’t that seem like a too generous choice?”

Deirdre was right. Getting an actual opportunity to come back was already impossible, it felt like fate wouldn’t let the both of them came back. Daniel could only wish that whoever controlled the world would be kind to him after fucking up his world by at least letting him stay in this universe.

Several months later, Daniel disappeared from this universe.

 

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In his next universe, Daniel woke up to several soldiers in uniform staring at him. He felt so confused and then it took a while for him to realize that he was transferred to another universe yet again. His heart broke right away, he couldn’t even say anything when people were questioning him, their questions unheard by him. Deirdre must be devastated when he saw that Daniel disappeared from his room. It hadn’t been one day, but Daniel already missed Deirdre and his family.

A gruff voice interrupted the questions, and he could hear someone reported, “We have another time traveler, Sergeant.”

“Good,” The gruff voice said, “He could help us fight for the country.”

It was funny how after throwing him in a shitty situation, fate still wanted him to serve military time.

▴▾▴▾▴

Daniel stayed in the military for 2 years, it felt even longer than the time he spent with Deirdre.

His next universe was nothing but a desert with no one around. The place actually made the military seemed like heaven. During his time there, he walked and walked without actually finding anything. He didn’t find anyone and it was very hot at night, but very cold at night. He slept on the ground, with only his last cloth covering him. He didn’t know how long he had been there, but one day he finally collapsed and he thought he would die there, alone.

He didn’t die.

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After collapsing in the desert, Daniel woke up in the hospital. He slowly fluttered his eyes open, and this time a man was beside of his bed. His face looked familiar, like Daniel had seen him before. After he gained more consciousness, he realized that the man reminded him of himself, but much older. It took a while before he realized even more that instead of him, the man reminded him more of Dean, his younger brother.

“Daniel!” The man yelled when Daniel was finally fully awake and managed to keep his eyes open. He then confirming Daniel’s thought, “It’s me, Dean.”

“You’re really Dean,” Daniel managed to say, but his voice was so hoarse and it hurt when he talked.

“I missed you so much,” Dean said, there were tears in his eyes, “It had been so long since you disappeared.”

Was he finally back in his original universe? Suddenly he felt a little happy, but it was so weird because Dean looked so old now, much older than Daniel. Dean was supposed to be around 23 years old now, but he looked like he was in his forties instead.

“How long has it been?” Daniel couldn’t help but ask.

“It has been twenty years,” Dean answered, “You suddenly showed up in your old room, but you looked like you were dying so I brought you to the hospital.”

Had it been twenty years? Daniel couldn’t wrap his head around it. At the longest, it should only be 6 years since he disappeared. But time had gone by that fast, and if Daniel aged like Dean, then he should be in his forties, too. And yet now, Daniel was only in his mid-twenties.

“Where are Mom and Dad?” Daniel decided to ask, deciding to not think now because his head hurt.

“They have moved to the countryside. I called them, they are on their way here.”

After years, he finally met his family again. They cried a lot when they finally met again, but Daniel felt like a stranger though thankfully as time slowly went by, he could adapt again.

Too bad he only got three years with his family, before he disappeared to another universe again.

 

▴▾▴▾▴

 

Daniel woke up in a familiar place, a pair of hands were holding onto his hand. It took a while for him to wake up, but then he heard Deirdre’s voice and he knew that he was back at the room he arrived when he first traveled.

“You’re back,” Deirdre said, welcoming him. She was crying and Daniel had never seen her cry before. Deirdre repeated, again and again, “You’re back.”

“Deirdre.” Daniel finally called her out, couldn’t help but smile because he missed Deirdre a lot. He felt sad that he had to leave his family again, but he felt glad that he came back to Deirdre. Unlike Dean, Deirdre didn’t seem much older than she originally was. He and Daniel still looked like they were around the same age.

“You jerk, how could you leave me like that,” Deirdre asked through her tears. Daniel couldn’t help but laugh. He hoped that he would live here for a long time.

▴▾▴▾▴

“You know, we can get married, here,” Deirdre randomly told him, one year after Daniel came back.

Daniel smiled at the implication, staring at Deirdre who was sitting in front of him, playing with the edge of her teacup using her finger while Daniel wondered, “You want to get married?”

There was no reason for Deirdre to suddenly tell him that unless she wanted to get married to him. And he specifically said we. Honestly event without being officially married, he already felt like she was married to Deirdre. They spend their days always together, helping each other, being loving together.

“If you want to,” Deirdre shrugged, seemingly hesitant to just say that she was proposing to Daniel. It had always been a little awkward for Deirdre to actually say what she wanted. She never changed.

“Well, if you love me just say so,” Daniel prompted, “I don’t mind.”

“I love you,” Deirdre confessed, but then quickly added, “I think.”

Daniel laughed, “You’re really a tsundere.”

Deirdre frowned, “What’s that?”

 

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Deirdre and Daniel really ended up getting married. There was no party, they just registered that they were married to each other. Daniel was actually hesitant to do this, because he might end up getting transferred to another universe again. But Deirdre insisted, so they finally got married for real.

They managed to go on a honeymoon and spend 4 years as a married couple before Daniel disappeared again.

▴▾▴▾▴

Daniel wasn’t sure if he transferred to the same universe where he spent military in, when he woke up, he woke up on a street and the place that used to be a military camp had turned into a green village. The people there provided him with shelter, the same shelter they provided for the other travelers that ended up here. They talked a foreign language and Daniel couldn’t understand them at all, but they treated him well. Soon after he found out that it had been more than fifty years since the last time he was in this universe.

He stayed there for another two years, before getting transferred to a desert again. On the days he spent there, he realized that he might be hopping through the universe to another universe on loop.

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Daniel was right. He was living a universe loop. After the desert, he woke up in a room, which turned out to be his old room. He met Dean again, who still lived in the house along with his wife and children. This time, Dean looked older again, like he was in his sixties, while Daniel was in his thirties. Dean looked tired and worn out, but he was healthy enough.

Daniel thought he knew the answer, but he still couldn’t help but asking Dean, “Where are Mom and Dad?”

“They died, Dan.”

Of course, they did. It had been more than twenty years since the last time Daniel visited them, if they were still alive, it would be a miracle. Daniel silently cried for the whole night after that, missing the parents that he couldn’t meet often.

He stayed for only one year in that universe and went back to Deirdre.

 

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“Why do you choose to get married to me?” Daniel asked Deirdre one day, after he finally got transferred there again, “You can get married to anyone else in this place.”

Deirdre had lived in this universe much longer than in her original universe. She never traveled to another universe again, making this the place she grew up. Daniel had come to realize that he was aging based on the time here, so Deirdre never got much older than he was. He now knew if he got transferred again, he would always come back to this place, back to Deirdre’s arm.

“I don’t know,” Deirdre answered, they were gazing at the stars again, something they did often because sometimes they miss seeing those stars, who disappeared when all the light lighted up, “I don’t want anyone else but you.”

Daniel’s heart still thumping hard whenever Deirdre said that. They were still married. Deirdre never married anyone else during the time Daniel was away, being faithful to Daniel. Daniel felt bad, though, for not being able to be there all the time. It felt like they lived on a borrowed time, because Daniel didn’t know when he had to go again.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel apologized, feeling genuinely sorry about everything. He wished he could find a way to control his traveling. But no matter how many books he read, no matter how many things he tried to learn about quantum, he never found a way.

“It’s okay,” Deirdre assured him, “There isn’t anything we can do about it.”

Daniel hated hearing that, it made him feel so helpless. He hated not being in not control, and considering that he couldn’t control his life at all, it was a wonder that he hadn’t gotten crazy.

“I hate living like this,” Daniel said, “I want it to stop.”

“I know,” Deirdre said, smiling at him. She stayed silent for a while, before finally asking, “Do you want to have a kid with me while you were here?”

▴▾▴▾▴

“Dad,” Mary asked, as Daniel dressed her for school in a neat uniform, “You won’t disappear, right?”

Daniel froze upon hearing the question, not expecting his daughter to ask that kind of question. It had been three years since Deirdre gave birth to her, having a hard time before that because of the uncertainty of Daniel’s travels. She didn’t know that Daniel could disappear anytime, being only 7 years old, Daniel thought that she wouldn’t be able to understand about things like that.

“I won’t,” Daniel lied through his teeth, “Why are you asking that?”

“My teacher disappeared. My friends said that she’s a time traveler, so sometimes she disappeared,” Mary told him, “You’re not a time traveler, right?”

Daniel could only smile, and started telling his daughter lies to assure her. His daughter believed him easily, because she thought that he would never lie to him.

Whoever controlled his life was being kind for once. At least he got another 5 years to spend with Deirdre and their daughter this time before disappearing another universe.

▴▾▴▾▴

 

Daniel kept traveling between 4 universes and the only constant people he knew for those were universes were Deirdre and their daughter. They were always there when he arrived at their universe, and Daniel finally started to notice that unlike his previous assumptions, they were actually getting older faster than he was. In another universe, the people he knew always died before he arrived in that universe again.

Sometimes Daniel wondered that maybe the two universes after Deirdre’s universe was not universes, but another place or another timeline in Deirdre’s universe or in his original universe. But he couldn’t confirm that, because all these universes have the same basis, and some universe had the same people living a different life. It was complicated.

This time, Daniel arrived at the same room again, the room Deirdre still stayed in. The difference with the previous times he arrived there, though, the machines that were there—hooked on to Deirdre’s body to keep her alive. Their daughter was not there and Daniel suspected that she was in another room.

“You came again,” Deirdre said, smiling weakly, still awake. There was a nasal cannula on her nose, breathing for her.

“Of course,” Daniel said. He felt upset seeing Deirdre like this, barely hanging on to life. He spent too much time in another universe, apparently. The last time he saw Deirdre, she was still healthy.

“You still looked quite young, I am jealous,” Deirdre joked, managing to laugh despite her condition. Daniel never thought that there would be a day that he had to see Deirdre being weak like this.

Daniel could only tease, “You have become a grandma.”

“Well, unfortunately, time travelers were not vampires. We aged.”

This time, Daniel stayed long enough to watch Deirdre slowly died before he got drifted off once again.

▴▾▴▾▴

 

Daniel can’t remember how many times he has traveled during his lifetime. But he could remember well how tired he always feel when he wakes up in yet another time, another universe.

Weirdly he can remember almost all people that he met in those universes and times. He remembered their faces when he first met them and their faces when he last met them. It was weird how he could know how some people looked when they were young, but also know how some people looked when they were old of age, barely hanging onto life.

This one time, he wakes up on top of the building instead of the last bed he slept on. He doesn’t know which universe is it, but he also doesn’t care. When he can see the sky, he stands up right away with a long sigh. He quickly realizes that he is on top of a building, a place that he never wakes up in before, meaning that he might be in a new universe he has never visited before.

He just decided to go on the edge of the roof, looking down to see that it was completely empty down there.

And then he free falls.

 

 

End

 

Sudah pernah di-post sebelumnya, di suatu tempat, dengan judul berbeda. Saya post di sini sebagai apresiasi karena sebagai alumni, senang melihat akhirnya ada sesuatu seperti ini. Written when I was half asleep, jadi harap maklum kalau berantakan 😀

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