ESCAPING A DYSTOPIAN FUTURE by Ellie Nodder

She knew that they were running out of time, laughably. How is it that a time traveller could ever run out of time? She inwardly winced at the term, still in profound disbelief at the reality of the words, at the past twenty four hours, really. She needed to convince him, and she needed to do it fast.
‘Look, lady, I don’t know who you are or what practical joke my flatmates may have set me up on, but you expect me to believe that you- are not only from the future- but that you need my help to stop a catastrophic sequence of events that affects the future of the entire world?’ the boy asked.
She didn’t flinch, ‘Yes, that is exactly what I am telling you.’
The boy looked a confused mix between amused and alarmed, and she couldn’t work out which one was better at this point. She had to remember that she was talking to 18 year old Terry, not her 24 year old best friend Terry who smuggled her into the time machine only yesterday. She felt that they should really come up with a new term for it, one that hadn’t been overdone in every sci-fi film or television series for the past fifty years. Did they have television fifty years ago? Her mind was so fried she barely knew what year it was now.
She sighed, exasperation drenching every limb as she cursed the world, and herself, but mostly Terry, for putting her in this situation in the first place. ‘Terry, you love sci-fi films and conspiracy theory documentaries and basically anything that has any element of fantasy, am I right?’
Terry blinked, rapidly, ‘Yes, how did you know that?’
She rolled her eyes, ‘I really don’t have time for the whole we’re-best-friends-in-the-future, how-else-would-I-know-all-this-stuff, who-wins-the-football-game-next-Saturday spiel, okay? So I’m just going to cut the crap on the non-important stuff and tell you exactly what you, or rather future you told me to tell you.’ 
She looked around at the room they were in- Terry’s old university room- and felt her heart constrict at the thought of what was to come. She still didn’t know how it was possible for everything to fall down so fast. For everything to burn.
The first time the stars exploded, the world turned silent. She remembered smiling, seeing the first as it trailed through the sky; she’d never seen a falling star before, the way it burned so brightly before ascending into darkness. But then another came. And another. And suddenly everything was on fire. Then she remembered the burning, taking everything she loved. She could still taste the ash as it billowed around her house, her home, hearing the silence as it absorbed everything else. She knew that that was why she was here.
‘Terry, you told me to remind you of all those sci-fi and fantasy shows you love to watch, and to think about all the characters who didn’t believe the protagonists when something crazy was happening. No matter how much they cried, or begged, nobody would listen, because they didn’t believe them. He told me to remind you how much it makes you yell at the TV, how much you question how they could possibly refuse to believe the truth. Now you’re the character who needs convincing that it’s real, that of course it’s real, and nothing has ever been more important than for you to believe that it is real.’
Terry’s face shrank into itself, unwilling to comprehend what she was telling him, eyes flitting quickly over one shoulder as if waiting for someone to come out and shout ‘surprise!’ at any given moment. He waited. The surprise never came. She wished there was a surprise of her own; for someone to tap her on the shoulder and explain that it was all just one elaborate ruse. And yet the scars twisting around her body, carved into her breath, would never let her pretend that it was, if even for a second.
The conversation suddenly became too much, too small yet too great at the same time. How could the whole world rest on this, on this practically comical conversation? How could she make him understand, something so basic yet so monumental?
‘I’m telling you this, Terry, because you don’t want to know why it is that you should believe me. You don’t want to hear about the world that I left behind, if you can even call it that.’ Her desperation sank into every syllable, her eyes fluttering closed as she tried to repel the images that pulled at her mind. But she would never stop seeing it; the destruction. ‘You don’t want to believe that the entire world burns, how it feels like the sky is falling. You don’t want to know about how our world leaders, the people who are supposed to protect us, to lead us, instead ignored us and sought their own refuge. And you definitely don’t want to hear about the untold death count, how they simply stopped counting because nobody could bear to hear about any more.’
The enormity of her words sank into them both, neither wanting to dispel the silence that had settled around them. She felt her hands shaking, hearing the words that had taunted her, pulled at her until she could barely stand. But she could no longer live in her or anyone else’s insecurities, or deny the people she had left behind their last chance at asylum, at life.
She allowed herself to take in Terry’s face then, for the first time since she had entered this timeline. Her eyes clasped onto the unscarred cheeks, the burn-free arms. She felt her inwards collapse slightly, wishing she could take this version of Terry back with her. Maybe then she could forget his screams as his flesh singed under the flames, while she clamped her own mouth shut as she tried to peel the infected skin away. 
She shook her head. She couldn’t think about that now. She felt the enormity of the situation settle itself around her shoulders, feeling lifted by the memories of everyone she loved and everything that they had sacrificed in order for her to be here, in this moment. And to hell if she didn’t damn well fight for them.
‘Terry, I am your best friend. And we fight to save the world together, okay?’
She saw the fear in his eyes, and knew that it was reflected back in her own. But she also saw his shoulders visibly relax and the slight twitch of his hands in anticipation.
He nodded. ‘Okay.’

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