Victor returned to the 21st century with the full knowledge of what had happened during his short visit to the 24th century. The time was 6:30 in the morning and he found himself lying on his couch just the way he was when he had been taken away. He felt a slight dizziness and his vision was blurry. He got up slowly and unsteadily walked to the bathroom to tidy himself. After he washed his face with cold water to clear his mind, he gazed into the mirror. Nothing looked different except for his unkempt mustache and beard. ‘What a strange experience,’ he mumbled to himself as he gazed at his reflection in the mirror.
Feeling more refreshed and awake, he returned to the living room and noticed that his condominium was a mess. He then realized that someone had come looking for Victor while he was away. He surmised that his office must have presumed that he, too, had been abducted, and searched his condominium for any clues to ascertain what had happened to him. When he went to pick up the morning newspaper, he also noticed that his front door had been opened by force. Fortunately, whoever broke into his home had carefully closed and secured the door properly upon leaving. None of his belongings seemed to be missing and Victor felt relieved that no one had come in to steal things while he was away. He opened the door and picked up the newspapers and walked toward the kitchen.
He spent a few minutes tidying up his place before he sat down. Then he perused the newspaper to find out the current date. “September 22, 2004” the newspaper had printed on every page. It was exactly one week since he had been taken to the future.
Suddenly, he felt hungry. So he walked toward the kitchen and opened the fridge to see if there was anything he could eat. The contents of the fridge had been untouched for the entire week. He poured milk into a glass, but it had curdled. There was some leftover fast food in the fridge. But it, too, was no longer edible. Improvising, he took out two slices of bread from the freezer and dropped them into the toaster. He brewed coffee and poured some from the carafe, and sat in front of the television to eat his meagre breakfast.
It was now 7 o’clock in the morning. As he did each morning while eating his breakfast, Victor turned on the television and switched channels to his favorite news program. After a few announcements about what was happening at the White House, a newscaster began to talk about the abduction of children. Victor noticed that there was no urgency nor excitement in the anchor’s voice. The focus of the news was not on the new abductions but on the returning of some abducted children. The anchor was interviewing several children who had recently reappeared. When asked where they were during their absence, all of them claimed that they were never away. None of the children could recall their days while they were missing.
The newscaster began to comment on the disappearance of Victor Peterson. The police were speculating if he would reappear just like the children. When Victor saw a close up of his photo on the television, he chuckled and thought, ‘why did they pick that horrible picture of me?’ Then he turned off the television.
After finishing his breakfast, Victor checked his phone messages. Most of them were from Captain Miller and Victor’s immediate supervisor. It seemed that they had been trying desperately to contact Victor. One of the other phone messages was from his ex-wife Rose – she sounded very concerned about his disappearance. This was heartening to Victor to know that Rose still cared about him.
Victor poured more coffee into his cup and began to dial Brent’s office number. But just before he answered, Victor hung up the phone. As much as he wanted to let everyone know where he had been in the last 7 days, he knew he could not, at least not simply. Telling them the truth would violate his promise to Sabastian. He sat a long while, thinking of what to say about his absence during the last seven days. Finishing his second cup of coffee, Victor finally dialed Brent’s phone number again, this time completing the connection.
“Hello?” Brent answered.
“Hello, Brent. This is Victor.”
“My God, where have you been?!” Brent asked, with a tone of alarm and relief in his voice.
“What do you mean? I just talked to you yesterday.” Victor replied calmly.
“Yesterday? You’ve been gone for a week! Don’t you know that you’ve been missing for an entire week?!” Brent yelled. Captain Miller wanted to scream at him for making everyone worry.
“A week? No way! We had a meeting until 11:00 p.m. in our office last night and I was supposed to report to you about it this morning,” Victor contested.
“Victor, do you know what the date is today? It’s September 22nd!! The phone call I was expecting from you was last week,” the Captain raised his voice in frustration.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. It can’t be the22nd. I just had one night sleep. I was missing for one week? Holy shit! I can’t believe it!” Victor hoped he would be able to bluff his way through the next few days. ‘Don’t get into details,’ he thought to himself. ‘Keep it simple.’
“Report to the office immediately, Victor. So many things have happened since you’ve disappeared,” the captain ordered.
”Disappeared? Like I told you, I was here all night. I didn’t disappear. You’re kidding me, right?” Victor said, trying to sound as incredulous as he could.
“No, I’m not kidding. Just come to my office. Then we’ll talk,” Captain Miller said, trying not to yell.
“What about my plan for today. I’ve got to approach the other detectives and coordinate with them our plans for this afternoon.” Victor said calmly.
“Never mind about your plan. There is no need for it,” Brent replied sternly.
“You mean the mystery was solved overnight and you caught the abductor?” Victor said trying to sound surprised.
“No, no… You are all wrong Victor!! You don’t understand. Have you watched the news? Find out what the date is today. You will know it has been a week since you had the last meeting. You must have experienced the same thing as all those kids who came back!” shouted the captain. He was starting to lose his patience.
“The kids are back now?! Really?” Victor said hoping he wasn’t pushing the charade too far.
”Yes! While you were away, one by one the missing children began to reappear. They returned as if nothing had happened. They are all healthy and there is no indication of them being threatened or hurt by anyone. The strangest thing is they don’t even realize they were abducted. They all said the same thing you’ve just said. They don’t have any recollection of what happened to them at all,” the captain stated impatiently.
“You mean, I was abducted, too?” Victor tried to sound confused.
“It sure seems that way,” Brent answered
Pausing for a moment, as if to be putting together a great mystery in his head, Victor replied, “Now everything makes sense.”
“What makes sense?” Brent asked Victor.
“Well, when I woke up, I noticed that my place had been turned upside down, as if someone came to search for something. Not only that, I tried to drink milk from my fridge this morning and it had turned sour. There is no way it could go bad that fast. After all, I just bought it a couple of days ago,” Victor said with excitement in his voice.
“Of course Victor. Two days after your disappearance, we thought you were abducted, too. So we sent a couple of policemen to search your home,” Brent answered.
“You said the children were back home safely? Does this mean that all the abduction cases have been solved?” Victor asked.
“No, actually more children have gone missing each day, but no one is as concerned about them showing up dead anymore. They seem to disappear for a week to 10 days and they magically come back without a scratch. The parents of those kids even claimed that their children were behaving much better when they returned. It’s the strangest thing,” Brent said with a combination of relief and confusion.
“Well, I don’t have the faintest idea what is going on, but I will be at your office immediately. So, we’re no longer investigating missing kids, right?” Victor asked hopefully.
“That’s right. After all, there’s no need for it anymore,” Captain Miller replied.
“How about the media?” Victor asked.
“They are confused as hell. But at least they are not pressuring us to do something about it. The threat of the abductions is now, weirdly, a thing of the past.” Brent said with a sigh of relief.
“I still can’t believe I was missing for a whole week,” Victor said.
“Never mind, Victor. Just come to my office. Are you sure you don’t remember anything about the last 7 days, Victor?” Captain Miller asked with some suspicion.
“What’s to remember? I just went to bed late last night. I slept in this morning but I thought I should call you. See you soon, Brent,” Victor said knowing he should end the conversation.
After he hung up his phone, Victor quickly took a shower, dressed and left his condominium.
When Victor arrived at his precinct office, there were no protestors outside of the building. It seemed unusually quiet. Victor told himself, ‘this is the beginning of our new history.’
The Captain Brent Miller had been waiting patiently in his office for Victor. As soon as Brent spotted Victor, he began all over again questioning him about his whereabouts and where he had been for the past 7 days. But Victor insisted that he had not gone anywhere. Brent finally gave up asking Victor. ‘Not a word about 24th century’ was the promise Victor made to Sabastian. His silence about the 24th century was the only chance Victor had in order to have his wish come true.
After Victor’s return from the future, the media continued to cover the story of the missing children. However, no one was alarmed by the phenomena any more. Even parents began to stop panicking when their children suddenly disappeared for a few days.
As the months and years went by, Sabastian and his people stopped taking children from the 21st century to their world. As expected, those children who had visited the future began to educate others about the horror of using illegal drugs, though they didn’t know how they had gained the knowledge. They somehow just knew instinctively. In the following years, Victor could see the difference in the world around him. Drug related crimes started to fall sharply, even in crime centers like Los Angeles. The crime rate in the major cities in the U.S. rapidly decreased each year. Victor was thankful to Sabastian and his people.
After a while, everyone began to forget the incident of the Los Angeles abducted children. Though the world experienced many natural disasters including the spread of deadly viruses and many wars, at least the problem related to drugs, including sex trafficking, almost disappeared over time.
As the years passed, it became easier for Victor to keep his promise with Sabastian. At 65, Victor retired from the LAPD and continued to live a long life. At the age of 92, he knew his life was nearing the end. He had waited so long for this day. It was now Sabastian’s turn to keep his word and grant Victor’s wish to take him to one specific time in Victor’s past. In his wheelchair, while watching the sunset, Victor took his last breath. The beam of light suddenly appeared from the sky and Victor disappeared from the earth.
(Writer's note: Chapter 11 will be uploaded on Tuesday, July 28th.)