A Future without Tomatoes
"Eeesh. What is that?" A girl muttered under her breath. She stood close to her friend, right before a large exhibition. An exhibition in the museum I was in. Honestly, I had no idea where I was. It seemed normal, like any other historical museum, and the only thing I could see standing out was the large red fruit in front of the girl.
"Ugh. Look at those things in the middle. Look like little eyes in little sections," she continued whispering near her friend's ear. I looked around. There was a tree, in the middle of the hall we were standing in.
'A LIVING TREE!' The title of that exhibition. Was this a spoof? I probably got drunk and ended up in a museum taunting our ignorance towards the environment. Or I ended up succeeding in my scientific mission, which will change the world as we know it. Knew it.
"This, children, is called a tomato," The museum guide said.
"Ugh. To-mah-toe. What a name." The same girl riled. She annoyed me. Had she never seen a tomato before? But still, there was no way that to-mah-toe would catch on.
"A few centuries ago, this was one of the last vegetables that survived." The museum guide continued. Okay, this just got real.
"A few centuries ago?!" I, accidentally, yelled. The same girl who riled about tomatoes looked at me and rolled her eyes. I am sure everyone in the enormous hall was staring at me, thinking that I had just escaped from the psych ward. Not really. I am a scientist, and yes, I was trying to travel in time. But, no, I didn't really expect to actually travel in time.
"Yes, ma'am. A few centuries ago," a buff man dressed like security personnel came up in front of me. Seeing that I was standing dangerously close to a fake tree exhibition, and I seemed delirious to start with, he roughly grabbed my arm and 'escorted' me out of the museum.
I desperately needed to get back to my time.
But which time was I in? At least a few centuries later, because I come from a time where tomatoes are easily everywhere.
I wandered on the streets, looking around me. No flying cars. But no black skies either. Everything seemed just like it was where I was from. Trees abound on the roadsides, the sky was blue (seemed blue-er than my time), and I could occasionally hear a monotonous coo of the bird. Honestly, it seemed a bit...too perfect.
"It's 3013, Paakhi," a voice told me as I was walking.
"What?" I whispered and turned around. Ah. My research partner.
"How did we end up here?" I asked him, and he laughed it off.
"We, umm, time traveled," he said. "And yes, there is no flora, or fauna here. Water, oxygen, food: everything is made chemically. These trees are made of polymers, with machines inside them, chemically converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Our planet is enveloped in an artificial ozone layer, the blue color because of it. We are running the planet on machines, Paakhi. The Earth is surviving on space mining and science. Nothing's natural. If someone pulls the plug, life will end within seconds."
"Oh my god. And all that's going to happen barely a millennium from where we are from? We need to get back," I said. My heart was beating faster, as I could feel my body getting hotter. I was panicking. I couldn't believe that the Earth was surviving without nature. I grasped a fist with my clammy hands, blaming myself. Blaming every human from my time. We could have saved the Earth. It wasn't too late for us... but in 3013, it was definitely too late.
I wrecked my brain, searching for a solution. Now that I knew the future, there was no way I could let this happen. I had to change our fate. "The future is not immutable," I said, smiling. We still had a chance.
"What?" My research partner said, visibly confused.
"If we continue on the path that we were in back in 2020, this is where we would end up. An Earth without nature. But if suddenly, we changed our paths, the past events would change and the future would change too!" I said, trying my best to make sense. He nodded.
"We need to get back. We need to change the present, so we don't end up here," I continued.
"And you need to wake up," My research partner said. Suddenly, his voice distorted into my mother's, "Wake up, Paakhi!"
Out of the blue, I found myself opening my eyes and waking up.
"Great," my mother said, "It is eight o'clock. Do you think that you would get to wake up late just because we're in a pandemic?"
"Huh?" I remarked, very confused, "I'm sorry?"
"Hmm. What do you want to eat for breakfast?" My mother asked me.
"I would like some tomatoes."