I don't have the slightest clue as to how I got there. Stepping out from the darkened alleyway, the sun's intense light blinded me momentarily as I caught my breath. It was pretty difficult to describe what was before my eyes; behemoths of steel and iron, radiantly laminated signs, and most unbelievable of all—people. Hundreds—maybe even thousands—of people walking around. In my confused daze, I briefly asked a woman where I was and what the current date was. She looked at me for a second as if I was insane—which, by that point, I had felt as if I was. Without further delay, she answered me promptly.
"March of 2012. You're in New York. Times Square, to be exact."
I couldn't respond in any way, shape, or form. The shock of the realization that was brought upon by her words made all of my basic thought process crash to a grinding halt. With another strange look towards me, the woman briskly walked away, leaving me alone to deal with the fact that I had somehow ended up 488 years in the past. With no memories of the previous day and a distinct lack of understanding as to how I leapt through the space-time continuum, I was now in a day and age nearly five centuries before my own.
With more thoughts racing in my head than I could count, I decided to recollect myself with a walk through the area. The city was immense and more structured than I could have ever imagined. The textbooks back in my time had spoken of this massive city, detailing it as a "city within a city." After seeing it for myself, I would have to agree.
Walking through these streets instilled with me a trembling sense of fear—it was scary to think that the roads I was walking down with all of these people by me would become an empty, annihilated wasteland by 2391 due to nuclear fallout. In about four hundred years, this grand city will be no more; the three billion citizens within its walls—a milestone in its population reached only years before in 2368—will be completely erased. Only hundreds of miles of ruined buildings and desert-like expanses will remain. Not just New York, either—the entire New England area of the United States is completely destroyed by 2453.
What surprised me even more was the amount of people that ventured on these very streets. To see so many people walking without a care in the world was actually a bit terrifying considering the fact that the population of the entire planet in 2500 stands at a total of only 6,400. Such a number in this time and age would be a small town or established. Yet, five hundred years from now, it's going to be the entire planet. Just thinking about that made my head hurt a bit.
Stopping by at a luscious garden with well-kept trees, I realized I was in Central Park—one of the world's most beautifully kept landscapes. To see it in person before its destruction by rebels in the Civil War of 2035 was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for someone like me. No matter where I went in this city, I couldn't escape feelings of uneasiness. Knowing the future made walking through the past all the more surreal. The Empire State building—destroyed by riot bombings in 2181. The Brooklyn Bridge—catastrophic downfall in 2236. The Statue of Liberty—set aflame and collapsed in 2090. All of these inevitable and unimaginable tragedies which would slowly change the course of mankind and the planet itself—I was the only one that knew about them. This wasn't just about New York, either. The entire world would slowly start to shift.
The irony of it all? The textbooks said it all started in 2012—this year. The United States Presidential Election of 2012 would become known as the "single worst mistake of all human history." I wanted to warn someone, but I knew that that wasn't an option. Who knows what would happen if I started tinkering with the past? All I know for sure is that the winner of the election made a critical decision in 2013 that changed the future and the fate of everything forever—the decision to raise research and budgets in nuclear energy by a margin of over 700%. This was the NSP, otherwise known as the Nuclear Safeguard Protocol. The NSP was the beginning of the end.
The textbooks also mentioned that the people of this time period held a silly belief; an idea that the "end of the world" was going to happen on December 21, 2012. People honestly thought that the entire planet would fall into havoc and cease to exist in nine months. Aliens, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions—this is what they thought. In a depressing kind of way, it's just a little bit funny because they were right. 2012 actually did mark the end of the world. It wasn't by aliens or volcanoes, though. It was the Presidential Election. To think that all of these people here have the right idea but the wrong reasoning. The world does end in 2012—just not in a day. It's a domino effect. It starts in 2012 and slithers down the chain to the realm of suffering that I live in—2500.
I knew I had no place in this timeline, though. If I told people about the things that I knew, not only would I be laughed at publically and labeled a lunatic, but the government might detain me as a conspirator against them. I could do nothing but search for a way back and let the people of this day and age deal with the fact that the entire planet was going to make a 180 degree reversal in only nine months. There was nothing I could do about it. I did feel rather guilty. What if my appearance in this earlier timeline was a sign from the heavens—what if it was my destiny to fix the world? Sadly, that's all that it's going to remain as—"what if."
The fate of human society is set in stone—it cannot be changed. There's nothing I nor anyone else can do about it. The people of this time will continue to live life as if nothing is going to happen. I suppose that that's the way things should be. Ignorance may be bliss, but I guess life in itself is bliss as well. These young adults and businessmen who walk the streets of their world with music players and cell phones in hand—this is all they know. This is all they'll ever know. They will never accept the truth in front of their eyes—the truth that the gears of the machine which will end everything are slowly starting to turn. They keep walking, texting their friends and calling their families as if nothing's wrong. The reality is, behind the scenes, everything is wrong.
The things that the Presidential Election of 2012 leads to are things that these people cannot even begin to fathom. Radiation beyond their wildest nightmares, entire cities leveled to the ground as if they were blocks of clay, wild beasts roaming the lands—it's Hell on earth. The fall of technology in 2481—the year I was born—only made things worse. After that, things became primal. We live in tribes and hunt to survive. If the people walking by me were to see me and my family in my natural habitat five hundred years from now, they would see us as cavemen. To be fair, though, the same applies from us to them. These ignorant fools know absolutely nothing and take every little thing in their lives for granted. The painful truth of it all is that they're the cavemen, not us. We may fit the physical description of cavemen, but my people are well-founded in schools of thought. These people near me fit the mental description of cavemen flawlessly—philosophically handicapped, unaware of life's trials, and unwilling to accept change.
Indeed, even if I could share my knowledge of the future without completely destroying the natural timeline of the universe, I wouldn't. There's no point. They won't act. Even when given the truth, these people believe the lies they're fed. At this point, hope simply doesn't exist. In nine months, the first domino falls.