Samantha Redstreake Geary’s Picture Choice: 1
"Today we make history!” Dr. Wells broadcasts across the crowded amphitheater.
As chief researcher, Helena Gabaldon Wells was designated to address the media frenzy, a task akin to swimming with sharks. "I will make a brief presentation, but I’m afraid I can’t accept questions at this time, our experiment is on a strict schedule,” she announces with some satisfaction. This will allow her to escape the public eye and slip behind the curtain, where the real magic begins.
“The theories of relativity allow methods for forms of one-way travel into the future via time dilation. It is our goal to send a traveler approximately 200 years into the future, with monitors and specialized cameras to record and transmit data. As you already know, our test subject will be Lyra. She was born at our NA research facility here in Baltimore 18 years ago. Lyra has exhibited superior intellect over the years and was our first choice for the Time Dilation Project. After years of dedicated research by a highly trained team of scientists and world-renowned physicists, what was once thought to be science fiction is now a reality!” Dr. Wells pauses for the deafening applause, anticipation rippling through the crowd, as she motions towards the star of the show.
Lyra pokes her head over the security gate, watching the mass of bodies clapping and shouting. She sucks in a breath of cool night air, relishing the sensation. She looks up at the sky, an endless sea of black with sparkling lights, like the twinkling bulbs that appear along the windows a few days each year.
This is only the third time she’s been outside the facility.
She commits every detail to memory, adding to an archive of possibility for when her world is again locked behind metal and stone, her tiny sky surrounded by glass.
The sight of such excitement fills her with pride. She has worked so hard for this. All her training, the endless battery of tests, the countless hours of exertion, has lead up to this very moment.
Today, she will make history.
Instantly, the reporters swarm around her, hundreds of silhouettes hidden behind flashing lights. The noise is deafening, making it impossible to decipher any real meaning in the chatter. The once refreshingly crisp air now carries an overwhelming array of scents, unpleasant in its complexity. Nonetheless, she smiles for the cameras, relishing the attention, savoring the sweet taste of accomplishment.
In no time at all, Lyra is whisked away, behind steel doors that instantly block out the foreign world and all its secrets. The handlers deliver her to the testing site, where she’s poked and prodded for what seems like hours before finally settling inside the fluid cell.
“Let’s get her prepped and ready!” Dr. Wells announces, charging into the inner sanctuary, a circular three-story room surrounding a monstrous glass chamber filled with saline water. Her entourage of white coats scatters across the lab, reporting to their designated posts.
“Check the water temperature, make sure it’s within spec, otherwise the conduction will be compromised!” she barks at the technicians. “I want the head camera up and running, we don’t want to go in blind.”
Dr. Wells takes in a deep breath of stagnant, humid air. She reviews the protocol one last time.
This is it.
Time to make history by visiting our future.
“Let’s power her up!” she shouts, barely able to contain her mounting excitement.
The warm water surrounding Lyra begins to glow blindingly bright. A humming noise escalates, drowning out all other sounds. A tingling sensation runs across her skin, tickling at first, then sharper.
And just like that, she faded away.
Back at the lab, machines were hissing and footage loading as the signal stabilized. “Did we establish a connection? Do we have live feed?” Dr. Wells asks anxiously.
“According to Lyra’s location, she should be right off the coast of Maryland. But...” the technician falters.
“What? What is it?” she demands.
“The data from Lyra’s scans…it can’t be accurate,” he stutters. “The mass of the earth’s hydrosphere can’t possibly increase that dramatically.”
“How much of an increase are we talking about?”
“There’s no sign of land...anywhere within our detection radius.”
“How far reaching is our radius?”
“Dear God,” she whispers, stunned silence echoing a startling truth. “It’s all underwater....”
Lyra struggles to orient herself. The bitter cold enveloping her pushes and pulls like a living thing. An unforgiving light burns from above, casting the world around her in glittering, fractured reflections.
She can sense the open water. It calls to her. The carefully constructed barriers that held Lyra all her life were nowhere to be seen. Fear gave way to exhilaration.
For the first time in 18 years, she felt free.
Lyra launches into the sun-soaked air, slapping the shimmering surface with her tail.
She cuts a path through the currents, dancing over the waves in playful abandon. She feels something slip in behind her, speeding in her wake. Lyra catches a flash of silver and slows.
Circling ripples give way to a fin. The mirrored depths break over glistening scales that fade into flesh. A face peers over the swaying swells. The face of a handler.
The strange creature’s mouth opens into a shrill whistle.
Lyra was too shocked to respond. It was the first time someone spoke her language. The comforting sounds of a dolphin spilling from the lips of a girl.
History is full of surprises.
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