I have stumbled beyond the end of time. Just last week when I arrived in San Diego, California. The year was 3179. I am twenty-two, but was born on May 25, 1997. Though the year is 3179, I am no older than I was in 2019, 1160 years ago.
My name is Dominique Vandelai. When I lived in San Diego. I was a botanist and specialized in tropical plants and flowers. I was on an exploratory expedition in Central America, just north of the Panama Canal. I had recently graduated from UCLA and was accompanied by one of my former professors and two undergraduate students, one of which was my very close and longtime friend, Kate.
Jared was not your stereotypical college professor. He was of no doubt extremely intelligent, but at twenty-eight, he looked as though he had just stepped out of a GQ magazine. His thick dark brown hair really complemented his beautiful big blue eyes. He was also athletic and thoroughly handsome. I guess you could say I had a crush on him when I was his student, and if I hadn't been his student, we probably would have already been dating. I could not help but believe that he asked me on this trip to further our relationship (or so I hoped).
We had been going deeper into the jungle for three days now. We just left our 4 Runner the day before and were now on foot. Suddenly, with a startling scream, Kate vanished out of sight. Jared and Michael raced to where she had been photographing some unusual, but beautiful tropical flowers just a short distance ahead of us. Michael was Kate's boyfriend and was also on the UCLA track team, so he ran faster than Jared, and I was trailing directly behind them. Michael was the first to arrive at what soon proved to be the beginning of the end of time.
We looked all around us. It was absolutely beautiful. As a botanist, I was familiar with almost every kind of plant. The flowers and vines at our feet were the more beautiful and delicately more exquisite than anything any of us had ever seen before.
Approximately 10 feet further along the trail the earth dropped some 50 feet. Kate was at the bottom of the drop where she had fallen. Jared found a vine strong enough to lower us down. What we found at the bottom would change our lives forever.
We found ourselves at the entrance of a cavern clothed with vegetation even more spectacular than at the top. As we entered the cavern, it looked to be nothing more than a tunnel. We were drawn inside.
It seemed to take forever to get to the end, but as we checked our watches, time seemed to be moving slower and slower. We were getting tired, and finally we decided to sleep. We slept deeply and well, but when we awoke refreshed, our watches had only moved two or three minutes. We were running low on food, but we had a quick breakfast and continued on. By now we were able to see a glorious light at the end of the tunnel. We were filled with anticipation and picked up our pace. None of us were prepared for what lies ahead of us.
I was the first of us to see this magical place. There are no words even to describe what we had discovered. My heart was pounding, my mind was racing, my breath was taken away. For a moment I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I wasn't too far off, we were standing in the garden of Eden.
The light was intense but soft. The air was fresh and washed with a light cooling mist. The beautiful blue sky was vivid without a sign of a cloud. It seemed you could see forever. There were rivers and lakes and gentle green hills. Every living thing appeared with rich and vibrant colors like you have never seen before.
More remarkable than the splendor is what we discovered next. All of our watches completely stopped. We were soon to learn that not only had our watches stopped, but time itself.
You've heard it said that time flies when you're having fun, well, not here. We did have fun, everything was fun, and we were never bored. I've tried to describe the garden's physical beauty, but there was something else, a spirituality. It was a place of peace (if it wasn't for the fact that intensity contradicts peace), I would even say it was a place of intense peace. In the garden, all self consciousness was lost, the troubles and hang ups of the outside world simply vanished. A confidence of delight and contentment flooded our emotions.
In such a place I forgot completely about myself and meeting my own needs. I was drawn to those around me. I was particularly attracted to Jared and him to me. I had fallen in love. I had always dreamed of love. What happened to us and what we experienced together was far different and far more glorious than even my most hoped for dream. True love in paradise! Remember, time stood still. There was still day and night of course, time simply didn't pass. We didn't age. We never got tired. Our love never faded.
One day, while Kate and Michael were picnicking, Jared and I found ourselves in front of the entrance to the garden. We had nearly forgotten the stress and limitations we had experienced in the outside world. The garden floor began a slight trembling. I heard low, quickening rumbles coming through the tunnel. It stopped, but not before Jared and I were overcome with a curiosity and desire to go back.
We started back out through the tunnel. The beauty of the planet life we had marveled at on the way in seemed dull to us on the way out. Our memories were good and we were able to retrace our steps completely out of the tunnel and into the jungle again. The 4 runners had long since disintegrated but with a great deal of effort we made it to the closest town.
Things had changed! We learned that a researcher named Garrott had invented a method of travel that transported both people and any other matter over the air waves similar to the cellular phone transmissions of the late 20th century. We found a Garrott travel station and beamed ourselves to Los Angeles.
Technology wasn't the only thing that had changed. Things had gotten ugly. The people of my childhood had been loving, compassionate people. They haven't matched the purity of the garden but they had looked out for each other. The people we found now were completely self absorbed and were so intent on personal gain that everything of any value had ironically been destroyed. No one seemed to even care about one another anymore.
Nature itself seemed to rebel. The rumbling we had heard in the garden was the first of the series of earthquakes. Each quake was more destructive and of greater length. It didn't look like anyone or anything was going to make it.
It was another Noah's ark. Except we were Noah, and the garden was our ark. This time though, there would be nothing left after the disaster.
Jared and I were frightened. It was clear that there would never be another year on this awful World. We had seen a lot in a little time. We knew what we had to do. We tried to tell those we met of the garden and of possibility to escape the destruction. No one listened, no one cared.
At the last minute we transported ourselves back to the tunnel and raced to security and peace. We reached the halfway mark of the tunnel and heard a thunderous crack. The tunnel had broken in half. The half leading to the outside world and all destinations beyond simply exploded into space, completely vanished. Completely destroyed.
We had survived the end of the World and were back in Paradise but from that time forward the joy of the garden has been lessened with the knowledge of loss.