Episode 1: Wake Up

“Wake up, Sunshine,” Levi was awakened by a familiar voice out of a still blurry unrecognizable face. “Marcel, is that you?” Levi asked.

“Yes, it’s me, my friend. How are you feeling?”

“A little bit lightheaded. Are we in the hospital?” He rubbed his eyes while still trying to see through the blur.

“Not exactly. Can you sit up?”

“What do you mean, ‘not exactly’? How long have I been out?”

The blur was slowly going away. The room was not like any other hospital room Levi had seen before. It felt more like a single bed studio apartment from the future. The objects and furniture could easily have come out of a Star Trek movie set. Indirect lighting coming from inside the walls enhanced the room’s modern and futuristic ambiance. Everything was white. The walls, the little sofa by the bed, the small table with four chairs across the room, the flower vase, the water bottle on the table – all white. Marcel approached, holding a cup of water and sat on the edge of the bed.

“For quite a long, long time, my friend. Here, drink some water,” Marcel said.   

Levi sat up and his vision cleared completely. Feeling lost, he still tried to figure out where he was. He looked at himself, which made him even more confused. He was dressed in some kind of hospital clothing for patients. He might have been in a coma for a long time, but he certainly didn’t feel like he was waking up from a vegetative state. His eyes focused on Marcel now. He looked different.

“What did you do to your face? Did you get some Botox or something?” Levi asked.

“Come on! Put this on and let’s go eat something. You must be hungry.” Marcel said, handing Levi a pair of sneakers, jeans, and a NASA t-shirt.

“Seriously?” Levi said, holding the t-shirt.

“What?” Marcel shrugged.

Levi went to the bathroom, to change his clothes. “Holy Rockets!” Levi shouted in shock at what he saw reflected in the mirror above the sink.

“What is the matter?” Marcel asked with a smile having a pretty good idea about what the matter was.

“What happened to me? Look at my face!” said Levi, not believing what his eyes were seeing. The wrinkles on his face were gone just as all the other imperfections that used to be there. “I look at least twenty years younger.” The image revealed a physique worthy of an Olympic gymnast, which could never belong to a middle-aged sedentary astrophysicist. “And I have muscles now? Plastic surgery could explain my face, but this?! How on Earth has this happened?”

“Let’s go, Levi. A lot more has changed while you were asleep,” Marcel said while leaving the room.

“What? Wait? What? How long have I been asleep exactly?” Levi asked leaving the bathroom and running after Marcel into the corridors. “Please, don’t tell me that we were subjects in some kind of cryogenic project…oh wow!” The view from the hall was astonishing. “Look at this place. Seriously, man! Where are we?”

“Come on. I want you to see for yourself,” Marcel said while getting into the glass elevator. The trip going up revealed a breathtaking huge underground structure. The elevator then emerged from the ground and opened its glass doors.

“Here we are, my friend. Welcome to the future.”

They got out of the elevator into a vast two-story lobby with glitzy chandeliers, polished marble floors, and an impressive glass facade, which seemed to be the reception area of this place still unknown to Levi. Coming out of the elevator, looking through the glass facade, he could see the city outside. He walked past the receptionists behind this long, uniquely shaped tree trunk reception desk, where people lined up, on what seemed to be a particularly busy day. Levi was dazzled by what his eyes saw on the other side of the glass wall. The image was familiar to him, but not quite like he remembered it. “Is that the Brooklyn Bridge? Are we in New York?” Levi asked.

“New York indeed,” Marcel replied. “Welcome home, my friend. Come on. We don’t want to be late for dinner. There are some special people expecting us. They can’t wait any longer to see you again.”

They stepped outside the building. Levi stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, looked in all directions his mouth wide open in awe. Everything was very green. There were trees and all sorts of plants everywhere you looked. Trees were climbing up, coming out of, standing inside, or crossing through buildings. The scene made you feel like New York had been moved inside a forest with futuristic high-tech pathways. You could even spot what used to be wild animals walking or flying around, jumping between trees, as if that environment was home to them just as much as it was to us.

In contrast, there were no more cars, motorcycles, trams, buses, or any other 21st century ways of transportation. The usual urban noise, with the sounds of car horns, people always in a hurry, the subway train rolling underneath one’s feet, was gone. No more airplanes were flying over, no more idling diesel trucks, city buses along with clanking jackhammers, and ambulance sirens. All that had given away to sounds of birds singing, water babbling down a stream, leaves rustling in the wind, and occasionally you would hear some roars, quacks, trumpets, and other sounds from friendly creatures living close by. Smiling people walked by, moving along at a pace that indicated no hurry at all.

Few buildings were sky-high. Just like the underground building where Levi woke up, most office buildings seemed to have grown deep down instead of up high. That made the vision of the Brooklyn Bridge emerging from a green ocean of trees, with no tall buildings competing for attention, even more awe-inspiring. But the famous historic bridge was no longer a highway for fossil-fueled vehicles. The asphalt was replaced by what looked like tubes. And, instead of cars, glass pods flew by through them.

“Levi! Wake up! Right here,” Marcel yelled from a nearby transport station a couple of meters away from where Levi was standing still, barely breathing from amazement.

“This can’t be New York, man! What happened?” Levi said.

“New York is a very different place now. Most buildings were partially or completely destroyed in the Final War. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the few monuments around that survived. Here comes the next pod. Let’s get this one”, Marcel said.

Final War?” Levi asked.

“Sorry. Long story,” Marcel said getting into the pod after it’s white translucent doors slid open in front of them. “No worries. I am going to tell you all about it later.”

“Later? What about now?” Levi said before he stopped and exclaimed. “Holy Rockets!” he stepped inside the pod impressed by its high-tech look and sophisticated finishing. “Is this one of those Hyperloop projects?”

“Yup,” Marcel replied.

“A system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction. It is powered by electrically driven magnetic propulsion, using principles of aerodynamics and electromagnetics. The whole system functions as a generator, producing and storing environmentally-sustainable electric energy,” Levi described the Hyperloop project not believing he was actually about to travel in one of them.

“That’s the one. You can travel the whole world on it. Mostly underground, but when traveling on the surface, the view can be breathtaking,” Marcel said.

The pod floated through the city. Levi sat down, looking through the window with his mouth still open. The colossal top and side windows allowed him to scan the outside. Pointing and enquiring about anything his eyes got hold of. Levi was overwhelmed by everything and behaved like a little child in a toy store while they moved through a somewhat different highway of the future. He was born in that city. He used to know it like the back of his hand. But now so much had changed. He got excited in the rare moments when he could recognize a place, an old building, or a street that brought him straight back to his childhood. Marcel tried to answer each one of Levi’s questions with as many technical details as possible to please the curious scientific mind of his best friend.

“I missed you, man!” Marcel said sharing Levi’s excitement for a moment.

“Really? I thought you would enjoy not having me around for a while. Freedom, at last, right?” Levi replied, clearly joking.

“You couldn’t be more wrong. I have waited a long time for this day.”

“When did you become so sentimental?”

“I just missed my buddy. Do you have a problem with that?”

“Oh well, that depends. Are you gonna kiss me now? I am not much of a kisser or a hugger for that matter, and you know it.”

“Ha, ha. Funny. You’re right. I should have enjoyed your absence while I could,” Marcel said slapping Levi affectionately on the head.

Both were laughing loudly, picking at each other just like the old days, making others in the pod look and smile at them. The lady on the other side of the pod showed some interest.

“You guys seem to be having fun,” the lady said with a smile.

“My friend here was just resurrected today!” Marcel proclaimed.

“Oh, wow! Welcome back. Congratulations,” said the people in the pod, standing up and coming to greet Levi. Surrounded by them, he felt like a celebrity, having all that attention and love from those total strangers.

“Thank you, everyone. You are all very kind. Thank you,” Levi said while receiving congratulatory hugs and pats on the back. “Thank you. Happy to be here. Excuse us for a moment, please.” He walked away from the people, pushing Marcel to the side. He looked at him and asked, whispering, “What is happening? Do you know these people?”

“Not personally. No. Why?”       

“Wasn’t that a little bit odd?”

“They understand what it means to be resurrected. They are happy for you.”

“What do you mean I was ‘resurrected’? Do you mean, like from a coma or something?”

“Not exactly.”

“So, how exactly?”

“Well, you’ d better sit down,” Marcel said.

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