The Shores of Utopia

An assignment in twenty-first century New York City should’ve gone smoothly for well-trained historian Cathryn Delaney, but her foreknowledge of certain terrorist events arouses the suspicion of a relentless FBI agent, Vivian Wu.

To further complicate matters, she has fallen in love with her recently widowed neighbor – something a time traveler should never do. With an atomic detonation looming, Cathryn races to avoid Agent Wu’s crosshairs to escape on time.

The Shores of Utopia is a romantic thriller set in two worlds: the past, where crime and corruption are commonplace, and the future, where everything appears perfect.

Cathryn soon discovers that her ideal utopia indeed has problems as the cracks widen and society’s slick facade becomes clear.

Excerpt from The Shores of Utopia

 

Cathryn followed a few steps behind Pryce and Anne as they walked over a series of bridges connecting several towers, and toward the the time-traveling device. Cathryn wondered about how intense the security such a device would require back in the twenty-first century; there’d be an entire army surrounding it. Undoubtedly, it would be used for financial gain or maybe to wage war. She imagined some enterprising individual offering tours to the crucifixion or other such events. A person with that kind of foreknowledge could literally rule the world. A timeline change of that magnitude would certainly destroy the current version of humankind. At the very least, the device would be used carelessly and to the point that everything would be chaotic. How many times can you go back to watch Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premiere before Vienna is overcrowded with time travelers? Well, maybe just once to properly record the evening.

She considered that Pryce was doing the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale. Proving, or disproving say, the parting of the Red Sea, could have a detrimental effect on how we understand the universe. Those stories serve as a fundamental lesson to many people. What if everyone knew with absolute certainty that there was no afterlife, or that there was no one to judge them, or no one to answer to? Would humanity digress a few thousand years? Maybe we need that fear in the back of our minds. Maybe we do need God.

Alternatively, what if God’s existence was established beyond a doubt? Would that create a movement toward a government with sacrosanct commandments? Would it doom the world to another few centuries under the thumb of religious gangs? Perhaps it’s better for God to remain mysterious to those that seek him. Maybe God had already considered this and decided that keeping His existence a mystery was best. Cathryn giggled at the prospect of zapping into existence at the Last Supper. Hey, don’t mind me. Pass the wine. Cathryn smiled thinking the disciples might mistake her for God. Would that piss Jesus off? Hmm, that might be a mistake!

These kinds of thoughts amused her, but also gave her pause. In the five-minute walk to Pryce’s lab, she had already casually entertained the thought of impersonating the King of Kings! Aren’t these sorts of musings the start of truly sinister actions? Is she really above such temptation? Is anyone? She had already proven that she was not above violence after that final night in New York. Humanity may have conquered many obstacles, but perhaps time travel should be left alone. She knew the world wasn’t ready for such a device, and she was about to use it again, and for personal reasons.

She was in love with society now. The World Council was an honest and fair government. The global database had every possible fact at its disposal, and everyone had the right to research anything they chose. There were no secrets; nothing was classified or deemed too sensitive for the citizens to know. There was no sickness or poverty. If there was anything one desired, they simply had to ask. The abundance of material and technology had made stealing pointless. She had always considered herself above that kind of egocentric mentality and using the device for her own personal gain embarrassed her. If she were not the Council chief’s niece, she probably would not be going.

Excerpt from The Colony Mission

 

Just before dawn, Denise decided to surprise her husband at the indoor dock at Andros. She walked the hundred-meter dock to its edge, but the bobbing was a little too much for her, and she returned to shore. She wondered which one of the dozens of beautiful divers was Michael’s new girlfriend.

She could hear the rain pounding on the dome high above, but the inclement weather didn’t affect the positive mood else everyone around seemed to be in. For the first time, she considered the possibility that she was depressed, and maybe, the answer was to simply enjoy the endless possibilities of life in the future, like Doctor Ambler had proposed.

She never fully appreciated how beautiful the location was until now. The facility was nestled between two hilltops and took up the entire bay. At a half kilometer wide, it was no less than awe-inspiring. The glimmering bay created constant movement in the massive domed atrium as the sunrise sneaking in under the storm clouds cast an orange glow throughout the inlet. With the water lit artificially from below, she could clearly see the bottom thirty meters down and the multitude of fish between. The water was pristine, unlike the murky waters of the past. She now understood why Michael loved diving so damned much. She briefly recalled the filthy bay of New York City, with plastic bottles and Coney Island Whitefish floating atop the brownish water. Gross. The planet has indeed cleansed herself.

She peered into the clear water, careful to counteract the movement of the dock and maintain her balance, and smiled when a dolphin peeked its head out and made that distinctive sound—like a baby squealing in delight. A second creature peeked its head out and created a series of clicks. They both waved their heads as if nodding yes. She didn’t know if they were smiling or simply looked that way permanently, but they were adorable.

She started back toward the shore. She didn’t want to miss Michael; she wanted to give him a heads-up that Anne would be visiting. She also wanted to share the news that she accepted Pryce’s offer as a guest in a one-off history lecture, and hoped he would join her for support. She could’ve simply told him everything over dinner, but it was a good excuse to surprise him, and possibly catch him with her.

She enjoyed her evening with Anne and the girls, and considered training as a professor. She wanted to hear his opinion. She finally had friends and possibly, a job—no, a position. It was all good news she wanted to share.

Michael finally surfaced, thankfully alone, and looked surprised to see her.

“Hi sweetie. What are you doing here?”

He athletically pulled himself on the dock in one graceful motion. Denise decided his kiss lacked feeling, as if the passionate kisses were now reserved for his girlfriend, the slut, whoever that may be. She quickly scanned the area for any reaction from the young women. I’m his wife, thank you.

“I just thought you might like some company. Isn’t that allowed?” She regretted allowing sarcasm to creep into her words, and softened her tone. “Sorry. I wanted some face time for a change.”

“Well, I’m thrilled you’re here. I was about to shower before breakfast, and the place you passed coming down the hill has seriously good pancakes.”

“Pancakes are your thing, or did you forget?” Maybe you’re getting your girls mixed up, she was tempted to say.

“I know, scrambled eggs with crispy bacon.”

“I could make the eggs at home, and that chewy shit they call bacon isn’t even real.”

Michael picked up his scuba tank and fins and started walking toward the benches on the shore.

“Why are you always pissed off?”

“Because you ignore me, Mike. Whenever you’re home, you bitch and moan about staying in when there’s so much to do outside. Do I bore you? Are you sick of me?”

“All you ever want to do is walk up and down the hillside or stay home and watch holoview. Why do you hate this place so much?”

“I don’t hate it. It’s wonderful, okay? I mean, look at this place; it’s friggin paradise. A couple of dolphins even popped their heads up and said hi. I wish I had fish to give them.”

Michael chuckled. “They like it when we feed them because they know we get pleasure feeding them. They don’t need us to find food for them, there are fish everywhere.”

“That wasn’t my point,” Denise snapped back defensively. She didn’t come here to fight, and she apologized.

Denise knew her husband enjoyed swimming alongside the dolphins. She remembered he tried to explain how they group as a family, how they hunt, how they love and how they view humans—how they’ve always viewed humans. It was like they were waiting for us to evolve before making first contact. It was similar with octopi and whales. Even the sharks played with humans once they were no longer hunted. She agreed how remarkable that real communication with other species was finally possible. Why was it so difficult to communicate with her own husband?

“I get the allure of these beautiful animals. I understand why you dive, but I just hate that you love it so damn much.”

“Well, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Please, don’t belittle me.”

“I don’t know why you’re always so damn angry,” he said, pissing her off. “I don’t know what to tell you. You knew I loved the ocean.”

“Yeah, you loved watching it on the Discovery Channel. You don’t need to spend every damn day down there. You talk to those dolphins more than you talk to me.”

“So, you don’t like diving, fine. Can’t you find something you do like?”

She pointed at him causing heads to turn. “What I like is having my husband home and, I don’t know, maybe doing things together as a family!”

“What the hell are you talking about? I’m home almost every night.”

“But we’re not all together.”

“We are whenever the kids visit. I’ll talk to Chris later and have him come over.”

Denise was frustrated. She wasn’t getting her point across.

“You don’t seem excited to come home. It’s like stopping by to see me interrupts your fun, like it’s seeing your wife is an obligation.”

Michael rolled his eyes, which infuriated Denise even more.

“Would you like me to dive less? I’ll tell you what; I’ll stay home all week and help you around the house. Yeah, that’s it. We’ll move to someplace with a fucking lawn just so I can mow it every goddamned week.”

“Sure Mike, make your point with sarcasm. That always works.”

“What do you want Dee? What do you want from me?”

Denise didn’t know how to answer. She wanted him to love her like he used to. She loved the little neck kisses he gave her for no reason. He worked every day and couldn’t wait to come home to her. Or maybe he couldn’t wait to leave work and she was simply there. Maybe he dove every day because he was thinking about her, the mystery man-stealing whore.

She noticed a man checking his gauges had paid too much attention to their conversation. “Do you mind?”

“Don’t do that; these are my co-workers. And I love coming home every night,” Michael said. “I like to hear about your day.”

His response sounded forced, but she let it go. “Yeah, but you can’t wait until the next dive. It’s all you ever talk about.”

“I have found something I love and I’m able to live my dream. Is that so wrong?”

Denise looked at the clear water that connected with the Aegean Sea. She had to admit how gorgeous it was. She loved it too, but from above the surface. The beach was more her thing. Relaxing in the sun, a drink with a little umbrella, jumping in the surf to cool off—that’s paradise, assuming the love of your life is with you. She didn’t want to do it alone. Watching the other couples together only made it worse.

“Are you saying that you don’t love me?”

“Oh stop. You know that’s not what I meant,” Michael said.

“Your dream used to be living with me.”

“My old life was working my ass off. Do you even have a clue what an ironworker did? You try connecting when it’s so damn hot, your skin blisters whenever it touches the iron.”

“Bullshit. You haven’t connected since you fell, and running your gang isn’t strenuous. You’ve told me many times about how much fun you had with the guys. Your biggest worry was sunburn or catching cooties from the shithouse.”

Michael laughed, but she wasn’t letting him off the hook.

And don’t you dare lecture me as if you’re the only one in the world that ever worked for a living. I’m the one that worried about you every day hoping that you’d come home safe every night.  I dealt with those disgusting women in Penney’s, pissing in the fitting rooms like fucking animals. I raised two children. I drove them to two different schools every morning, picked them up every afternoon, took Lisa to soccer, took Chris to his music lessons, took them to the doctors, helped them with their homework, made sure the house was fucking spotless—all before you got home. Rain or shine, when I was sick—even when I was fighting fucking cancer, I threw a fucking hat on and did that shit every day. You came home to a home-cooked meal every night, not to this revolting computer-generated horseshit they serve here.”

“Are ya done?”

“Yeah,” she said, still enraged but suppressing a giggle.

“I still come home to you every night, and there’s no place I’d rather be.”

“Yeah, but you think about her.” She wanted to know which girl was breaking up her family.

“Here we go.”

Michael walked past her down the dock toward the dressing area. Fortunately, the showers were co-ed, and he couldn’t escape her.

“I knew Cathy would come into this sooner or later.”

Cathy? She was referring to his new girlfriend, not Cathryn Delaney. She shouldn’t have been surprised that Cathryn was the one he was thinking about every night—every time he could be bothered to make love. His distracted mood started to make sense to her. Maybe he wasn’t cheating.

“I know you still love her. You certainly love her world more than back home.”

“That’s for shit sure, but it’s not her world Dee, it’s our world. And yes, you’re right about that. I love this place way more than the corrupt shithole we left behind. Don’t forget that she saved your life too, as well as the kids.”

“How could I forget? You keep reminding me how amazing she is, but you still love her.”

“I don’t do that.”

“Maybe you don’t realize it, but you mention her every chance you get, like she’s on the tip of your tongue. You even told our fucking neighbor how amazing she was when he asked about her. I sat there mortified! You made me feel like a piece of shit.”

“I can’t believe you’re jealous of a woman who’s on the other side of the galaxy, and is probably never coming back.”

Denise could hear the disappointment in his words, and worse, she didn’t hear a denial. She almost burst into tears, but forced her Brooklyn-tough persona forward.

“You miss her, don’t you?”

“I can’t believe this.”

“Admit it. You’re still in love with Cathryn.” Denise finally uttered her name; the woman who saved her entire family, and the woman that fucking married her husband.

“I’ll always have a place in my heart for Cathy, especially after all that she has done for all of us,” Michael admitted.

“No, Mike. A place in my heart is very different from outright love. You fucking love her.”

Michael didn’t wait long before responding.

“Yeah, Dee. I still love her, and I miss her. I really fucking miss her. I miss Annabelle too. I’m not a robot; I can’t just turn it off—sorry.”

Denise stood speechless for a moment. She had no idea what to say. She was hurt, but she wasn’t angry. She understood.

He forcefully threw his wet suit into the large basket in the corner.

“And I love this place she has taken us to. Why can’t you?”

“I’ve tried. It’s too, I don’t know, antiseptic,” Denise said. She couldn’t quite find the reason why she hated it here. Twenty-eighth century Earth was indeed a beautiful place.

“Really? It’s too clean? You miss the pollution, the garbage on the sidewalks, the dogshit… Are you kidding me?”

“No, that’s not what I mean. It just seems fake.”

Michael spun her around and held her arms. “It’s not fake Dee! This is real! This is your home now. You can live anywhere in the world you want, and do anything you wish—anything! Do you wanna live in Hawaii? Japan? Italy? Great! We can move tomorrow—and I’m not being sarcastic; I’ll go anywhere with you. But if you want to go back to Staten Fucking Island with those asshole NIMBY neighbors, then go by yourself. You’ll be disappointed; there are no more doot-dadoos blasting shitty music up and down Hylan Boulevard anymore.”

Denise said nothing. She refused to cry. She already knew Michael still loved Cathryn. Hearing him confirm it was surprisingly tolerable. She never rehearsed what would follow his admission.

“In two years, I’ve seen every wonder your world has to offer.”

“It’s your world too Dee.”

“Stop saying that! I know,” she snapped.

She fought to keep her composure. She didn’t come here to fight.

“You know, I even went to Antarctica for the day to feed fucking penguins, just to say I’ve visited all the continents!”

 Michael turned and opened his locker. “I didn’t know that. When?”

“Monday, and I froze my tits off.”

They both chuckled.

“But that’s not the point.”

“I know your point. You’re pissed-off because I am taking advantage of what this planet offers, and you want no part of it, or at least it seems that way. You want me to stay around the house all day. That was fine for the first year, but enough is enough. Do you want to live on Mars? Seriously, we can live there if you want; we’ve got connections.”

“I’m warning you, don’t fucking mock me again.”

Michael exhaled through his nose as if he was losing patience. “I’m sorry Dee, you’re right, but I have tried to include you, and you always say no.”

“So, I don’t like to dive, sue me.”

“There are no lawsuits anymore. And in case you haven’t noticed, there are no lawyers either.”

“There’s nothing real here either.”

Michael slammed his locker closed. His frustration was beginning to surface. “What’s real to you? Tell me.”

“I just hate this place.”

“Well, I love it. Sorry if that upsets you, but I absolutely love waking up every morning. I can’t wait to get out of bed. For the first time in my life, I don’t dread driving to work with morons cutting me off on the expressway every damned minute. I’m living in a perpetual dream-world. It’s clean and beautiful, and everyone is nice—and it’s real, Denise. It’s real!”

“I don’t know if I want to be married anymore.”

Denise dropped the bomb. She was honestly shocked when the words came out of her mouth. She didn’t really want a divorce.

Michael sat on the bench and looked up at her. He looked surprisingly good for a naked forty-two-year-old. He always did it for her. “I love you and I don’t want a divorce, but I’m not surprised either.”

She said nothing. She was glad he didn’t want a divorce, but she didn’t know how to respond. She wanted to take the words back.

“Y’know Dee, another beautiful thing about the future is that a divorce only takes ten minutes.”

She slapped him across his face. She didn’t think it was all that hard, but she wanted it to sting enough so he knew how angry he made her—and his face was right there!

“You’re an asshole. Fuck you,” she screamed.

Michael got up and chased her. She moved quickly to her left to run away, but she didn’t remember where the exit was, and wound up in the showers. Michael grabbed her by her shoulders and pushed her against the wall, practically lifting her off her feet. She was afraid for a moment, not knowing what he was going to do. He’d never been violent toward her before, and refused to believe he would start now. Her heart was beating out of her chest. Surprisingly, he kissed her, but this time, the passion was unmistakable. She felt him growing against her stomach as he kissed. She wrapped her legs around his waist and returned the passion, however, her pants were preventing any insertion. She had never wanted him inside her more, but two other divers showering not too far away prevented her from getting into it. She reached behind her and turned the water on, soaking them both. It dawned on her that he was about to shower anyway, and she was fully dressed. They looked at each other for a moment, then laughed.

 

Except from Chloe

 

I know you’re a bit confused, so before we go any further, let me fill you in on who I am. I cannot remember ever being born, only that I have lived for eons. My physical form varies from host to host, and there have been hundreds.  I remember a lot of major events throughout human history, although I sometimes forget which human I was when I witnessed them. I normally choose children towards the end of their lives, especially orphans, and slip on in as they pass away. It’s easier and raises fewer questions, and I get to enjoy youth again. If you’ve ever read of a miraculous recovery that the doctors cannot explain, it could’ve been me. Many call me God, and we’ll discuss more about that later, but that title has always embarrassed me. Frankly, I find the idea a bit pretentious. I’m not an all-knowing deity, in fact, I learn about new stuff every day—from you guys.

I’ll admit that I am an omnipotent being who could manifest just about anything into or out of existence, but I’m just me. I did not create you. I’m simply a different species of life, and as far as I know, I’m the only one. I learned a long time ago that it’s best to keep my true nature hidden, and simply live my life as a human. This time around, I’ve chosen this little girl named Chloe Hunter that didn’t have a chance to experience much of a life. I like this name, and I’ll enjoy using it. If I were to guess, I’d say I’m around ten-years-old.

I do have a message for everyone, and I’ve tried to spread it many times, but folks sure do like to embellish it with their own interpretations. A lot of times, people have their own agenda and alter my words as they see fit. Some of it is pretty bizarre and a lot of it is funny. You guys can be quite creative. Sometimes you do savage things in my name, and I don’t understand why. It breaks my heart to see you guys fighting over stuff. I suppose I could appear looming in the sky like some angry psycho and set the record straight, but I’d just scare the ever-living bejesus out of you, and then you’d bow down and grovel in some massive display of subservience. Ugh. Honestly, what would that solve?

So, I choose to live my lives quietly, I try to avoid attention whenever possible by cutting down on miracles, and show kindness to folks that need a break. There are billions of you; I can’t get to everyone, obviously, so don’t blame me if you’re stupid enough to lose this month’s mortgage payment on a horse race. I didn’t make your horse lose, and I didn’t help your quarterback throw a touchdown. If some idiot caused an accident a mile ahead of you and made you late for work, it had nothing to do with me. Don’t pray to me if you need a tumor removed, see an oncologist that has trained their whole life for just that situation, and listen to his advice. I didn’t create cancer, I didn’t flood your cities, and I certainly didn’t drop any atomic bombs on innocent families, you did. You did all of that, not me. What’s worse, you chose to do those things.

I don’t smite sinners and release swarms of locusts; I don’t create viruses and disease. Pandemics and plagues are either man-made or naturally occurring; deal with them as they come. You have the means to protect yourselves; use them. Stop blaming me for stuff that goes wrong. It’s starting to get annoying.

Also, don’t give me credit when you accomplish something on your own. It still amazes me that you guys have walked on the moon. I’ve never been to the moon, and I was fascinated while I watched—on television like everyone else! Let me tell you, I was impressed. All the credit goes to the visionaries with determination and a lot of smart folks good at science and math. You did it without my help. If you’re an expert in your chosen field, you accomplished that goal on your own, by learning. If you’re able to flawlessly perform a piano concerto, it’s because you have worked hard to perfect your craft. If you’ve won a Grammy, an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Tony, it’s probably because you’re well-liked and sort-of talented. The point is: it was you, every time.

Some people learn their lessons quicker than others, while some never seem to learn at all and keep making the same mistakes. You are responsible for your own happiness. Don’t rely on anyone. Aside from random criminal acts that unfortunately do happen, no one else is to blame, so stop whining. And if life comes down on you hard, it’s nothing personal, just do the best you can. Identify and solve your own problems. None of us are perfect, including me, but all of us can show kindness, and all of us are capable of love. That’s why you’re here; to love and live fully.