Back on November 9, 2020, I wrote a story called The Era of Miracle Cherries. I had just written it as a one-off story, even though it ended on a cliffhanger of sorts. However, I got requests to write the rest of the story, so here is the second part: Miracle Cherries, Level 2.
I stood on a platform in the middle of the room, one of the most expensive human guinea pigs in the history of the world. I was alone, except for the hundreds of people watching from behind bomb-proof glass, and the tens of millions watching online.
In front of me, on a stainless-steel tray lay one of the first Level 2 miracle cherries, purchased from super domain miracles891$$ for 150 million dollars for a box of ten. It was hard to believe that this dark pink orb had cost my company $15 million. And now I had been chosen to test it.
Originally, no one knew that there were even levels to these things. Miracle cherries, as people had dubbed them, had appeared for sale online about a year ago for $150/box of ten. Once people figured out that they could do most anything, from curing all disease to letting you fly or go invisible, the sales went through the roof. The world was still being made and remade daily by the impact they have had.
Then the woman calling herself Rachel had appeared on all the TVs in the world at once, speaking in the local language. She had been the one selling the miracle cherries and now she had decided to rule the world. She also revealed that there were three levels of miracle cherries. We had all be taking Level 1. Level 2 miracle cherries had gone on sale yesterday and as far as I knew, I would be the first to try one.
Since I was about to eat a $15 million confection, I had to wait for the go-ahead. No one had any idea what they could even do. If Level 1 made you a super hero, would Level 2 make you a god? If so, then why were there ten in a package and what on earth could Level 3 be? Everyone assumed that the result would be good, but they were not taking any chances.
“You are cleared to ingest,” a voice over the speaker said. It was the company president, trying to sound like space command, presumably to impress the online viewers. I reached out and picked up the miracle cherry.
“It feels just like a Level 1,” I said. They wanted everything documented. I smelled it. “No smell.” We knew this already but still they had insisted I do it. Actually the only difference between this and the Level 1 miracle cherries was that this was darker pink.
I put it in my mouth and bit down. It tasted just like a Level 1 and for a moment, I felt a pang of disappointment. Maybe this was all a hoax.
The watchers behind the glass were silent, anxious. All of them had made themselves invulnerable before this, but who knew if that would be effective against Level 2?
“It tastes—” I began.
The room around me disappeared. For a second, the only sensation I had was the taste of the miracle cherry in my mouth. Then I found myself in a small red room with the woman named Rachel sitting in a chair not far away. She had the same short hair and glasses as she did when she appeared on TV.
“So you took a Level 2,” she said, standing up. “You are the first one, I’m impressed.”
“My company bought a box,” I said. “I volunteered to try the first one and was chosen.”
“Oh, I know,” she said, dismissively. “I know exactly what happened. You only have 43 minutes before you go back, so let me give you the tour.”
She tapped two fingers together and a lumpy mirrored sphere appeared in front of us, the size of a basketball. I saw my own distorted reflection in its surface.
“This is your universe,” Rachel said. “A projection of it, at least. We have millions of universes at various stages of development.”
“Why is it shiny?” I asked, not quite able to absorb what she was saying.
“It’s completely separated from this world,” Rachel said. “No energy from this world can penetrate it, so it is all reflected back.”
“I am outside the universe.” I wanted to make sure I understood what she was saying.
“Here, you take the chair,” Rachel said kindly. She led me over to the chair and waited for me to sit. “Yes, you are outside your universe for a minute. Or actually 43 minutes. There is a lot to explain, but basically a company creates these universes and then leases sectors with intelligent life off to someone who uses it for research or extraction.”
“Extraction? You mean like minerals?” I asked.
Rachel made a derisive sound. “Please,” she said. “We don’t need minerals. “That would be like you ordering a new computer just to get the cardboard box it came in. No, they extract things like ideas, music, art, stories. The important things. It hasn’t affected your world at all, don’t worry. Most of the time the results are crude and uninteresting. But every now and then something unique will turn up. It’s like diamond mining.”
“And that’s what you’re doing?”
“No, I’m part of a research team,” Rachel said. “We want to see how a civilization would react to sudden supernatural powers and an ultra-powerful outside invading force. Me, in other words.”
“Now,” she continued. “You only have a few more minutes before you go back. I have some other things that are vital to tell you before then. You will not remember any of this when you return, but if you ever come back here, we can pick up where we left off.”
“It cost 15 million dollars for this time,” I said. “Do you think my company will waste that again on me?”
Rachel shrugged. “They’ve already spent the money. There are nine more of the Level 2 miracle cherries and someone might as well eat them. It might be you.”
“Can you at least tell me what Level 3 is?” I asked. “I don’t see what it matters if I won’t remember it anyway. It’s going to drive me crazy getting this far and not knowing.”
She smiled again and shook her head. “No, it won’t.”
* * *
. . . sweet,” I said. I realized the miracle cherry was no longer in my mouth. Most of the people behind the glass had disappeared, but the ones that were still there jumped up and pointed to me, yelling in surprise.
Apparently, I had disappeared and reappeared 43 minutes later, although to me no time had passed.
They ran every test on me they could think of but they turned up nothing. A few billionaires and other companies bought the Level 2 cherries, but the results they released were always the same. I don’t know what happened to the other nine cherries that my company had bought, but they didn’t give them to me.
Interest in Level 2 dropped off. The ability to skip 43 minutes into the future seemed a pretty poor reward for $15 million, especially when you could breathe underwater or fly for a mere fifteen dollars. Most people regarded it as a hoax.
The strange thing was that I began to have dreams about Rachel. Sure, she had had cameos in my dreams before. Being the titular ruler of the world, she tended to make the news. But no one had ever seen her in real life and these dreams were vivid beyond anything I had ever experienced. It took a few days before I realized that these dreams might have something to do with the Level 2 cherry I had taken. The company would not entertain the idea of my taking another of the cherries. That left only one place left where I could get answers.
I had to go to Rachel’s tower in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
To be concluded next week on December 21, 2020.