This is the third and final part of this story. You can read the other stories in the links below, but here is the synopsis for those who did not read them.
Synopsis: A year before, a mysterious product that is nicknamed miracle cherries begins to be sold online for $150 for ten. People quickly find that they cure any disease and give a person superpowers. Then a woman calling herself Rachel comes on all TVs in the world to say she is the one selling them and that these are the first of three levels. She also creates a huge tower in the middle of the Atlantic and declares herself the ruler of the world. Level 2 miracle cherries go on sale for $150 million for ten.
The narrator is chosen by his company to take the first Level 2 miracle cherry while the world watches. He finds himself in another world where Rachel tells him that his whole universe was created by her civilization in order to do research and harvest cultural properties. He goes back and does not remember anything about it, although he starts having vivid dreams about Rachel. He decides to go to her tower in the Atlantic to try to find answers.
Rachel’s Tower was located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, about 300 miles southwest of the Azores. She had not built it for ease of access, but in the era of miracle cherries, that was not a problem. I took a miracle cherry and teleported to within sight of the five-mile-high tower and then took another one to fly the rest of the way there.
In the two weeks since Rachel had appeared on TV to show herself to the world and simultaneously build her tower, a floating village of ships had formed around the base of the tower, which rose straight out of the water with no door or platform of any kind at its base. People had flown all around it and had tried everything in their power to get inside, but the tower did not seem to be affected by any power that a Level 1 miracle cherry could imbue. Despite declaring on TV that she had decided to rule the world, there had not been much more said about that. Either she was still preparing or she would be a very laissez-faire world ruler.
I went there with little hope of getting in, but after several nights of ultra-vivid dreams about Rachel, including some with her asking me to get in touch with her, I had to at least try. That happening right after I had taken a Level 2 miracle cherry gave me some hope that I could find answers.
As I approached, I saw a group of people clustered around one spot on the tower about twenty feet above the water. All of them were hovering in mid-air. I knew from the news that this was the Triangle, a raised 3-sided panel on the tower’s side about two feet wide. It was the only part of the tower’s exterior that was different, so everyone naturally concluded that this must be an access panel of some sort.
A woman with a bag of multi-colored rods was directly in front of the panel, tapping it in various places and in different combinations, occasionally switching out one rod for another. No one said anything to me.
As I watched, an enormous sense of déjà vu came over me. I had never been here before, but suddenly I knew what to do, as if peering momentarily through a window into a past life. I moved forward, pushing past the woman and ignoring her shout of protest. Grasping the two lower corners of the triangles with my hands, I touched my forehead to the top corner.
With speed greater than what I had come to think of as “normal” teleportation, I was inside the tower. To my amazement, from the inside, the entire thing was transparent and hollow. It rose above me like an unending column of glass. I saw the woman outside desperately holding the bottom of the triangle as I had done and banging her head against the top. It did not work for her.
I turned and in the middle of the tower was a small table with a box. I went over and opened it to find a single miracle cherry inside. Its dark pink color told me it was a Level 2. Without hesitation, I picked it up and put it in my mouth.
I was back in the small red room. Rachel was there, sitting in the only chair. She smiled when she saw me.
“Well, you made it back, I see,” she said.
“Yes, I can’t believe I actually remembered what to do,” I said. Now that I was back here, I remembered her instructions on how to come back, how I was supposed to go to the tower and touch the Triangle on all sides.
“Was that all just a test then?” I asked.
She nodded. “About 40% of humans have the capability to retain the memories of this place subconsciously. That is important for what might come next. Of course, it was also a test to see if you would actually go to the tower and follow through.”
“Did anyone else take the Level 2 miracle cherries?
“A few,” she said. “They came here just like you did and I talked to them and told them the same thing. But you’re the first to come back, so I guess you win.”
“Win what?” I asked.
Rachel stood up quickly. “Two things,” she said. “You win the answers to your questions last time and you win a choice.”
“What do Level 3 miracle cherries do?” I asked immediately.
“The miracle cherry. There is only one.” She held out her hand. A purple miracle cherry encased in a transparent sphere lay in her palm. “You have to take it out here, in this world. If you wish.”
“What does it do?” I asked.
“It will let you live out here, like me,” she said. “You will take over for me and can move back and forth from your universe to here whenever you want. I’ll basically give you your part of the universe. You can rule the world or just let it keep going on its own. You can continue to sell the Level 1 miracle cherries or stop. That would all be up to you.”
“And if I decide not to?”
“Then we would put your universe back in time to before the miracle cherries went on sale. Life would continue as it had before. We cannot jump back and forth in time, but it possible with machines to force your universe backwards a certain period of time.”
She handed me the purple orb encased in its sparkling case. I had no idea what I was going to do, I realized.
“Why?” I asked. “Why give me the choice at all?”
She motioned me to the chair. “I really should have put two chairs in here,” she said with a small laugh. She waited until I sat down. “Your civilization has already considered the possibility of a super-reality outside of yours: where your whole world is nothing but a simulation, or a game board, or a research project. Any sufficiently developed civilization will eventually consider that idea. However, for us, who have our own universes that we plant and tend, the idea is much more pressing because we know it is possible.”
“You are worried that this is all inside a greater reality,” I said. “That you yourselves are pawns inside someone else’s game.”
“We have some reason to think that we are,” Rachel said. “But we want to find out. If you choose to, we could use your insights as a member of another universe. You have experiences and perspectives that no one here could possibly have.”
I thought about my family and friends. I could still go see them, although possibly becoming ruler of the world might change our relationship somewhat.
“When do I need to decide?”
She looked up at the wall. “You have 21 minutes. Then you’ll be back in the tower with no memory of all this and no way to get back here. It’s your choice.”
I pushed on the transparent case in my hands and under the pressure of my fingers, it disappeared, leaving the purple Level 3 miracle cherry in my hands.
“Am I the first one?” I asked. “How many other people have stood here with this same choice and how many times have you pushed time back?”
“A few,” she said.
“What did they do?”
“The fact you are standing here should tell you what they did,” Rachel said. “All of them decided to go back and rewind the world. It’s the safe choice, to be sure.”
I weighed the small orb in my hand for a second, then put it in my mouth. Rachel’s face broke into a grin as I swallowed. “Welcome!” she said, reaching out and pulling me up out of my chair. The walls of the room disappeared and I saw we were on a floating platform surrounded on all sides by thousands, if not millions of other people in the largest stadium imaginable.
“Meet the rest of the research team,” Rachel said as a roar went up from the assembled crowd, as if I’d just scored the winning goal in the largest World Cup game ever.
“What will you do about the world you left?” Rachel asked above the noise. “Should we leave it as it is now or would you like to rule for a while? Anytime you do will help with our research. Or we could rewind time anyway and none of them will know anything about this.”
“I don’t know,” I said. I gazed around at the uncountable crowd around me, unable to comprehend what had just happened. “Maybe I’ll go back and ask them.”