Authors: Nadia Scrieva
“We’ve already visited your distant past. I think it could be enriching to view your distant future.”
Kieran sits on the edge of the fountain and looks up at me with apprehension. “Are you going to try to prove that my existence makes any difference to the future whatsoever?”
“You will make a difference. I won’t have to try very hard to prove the truth,” I tell him.
He raises his eyebrows. “Wow, Kayla. You’re very confident about this. Cocky, almost.”
“I have done this many times,” I explain, opening my palms in a gesture of peace. “I have seen all kinds of people with various sordid histories and bleak futures. Sometimes it’s difficult to give a person hope and find a reason for them to carry on—but with you it’s easy. There is so much purpose and brightness surrounding you that I can’t even choose what I should show you. It’s quite exciting, actually.”
Kieran smiles slightly as he looks at me. “What do you do when you can’t find a good reason?”
“There is always a reason,” I tell him softly. “I just have to search for one happy, peaceful moment.”
“Interesting job. Don’t you worry that telling me your strategy will stop it from working on me?”
I smirk. “No. It’s more than a job, Kieran. It’s who I am; my calling. If I can show someone that they will achieve a certain clarity and acceptance—that they will be loved—it is usually enough to help them heal and make them want to continue living.”
“Sounds easy. I guess you’re pretty assured of your success here,” Kieran says wryly.
I shake my head. “Not at all. I can only help those who want to be helped. I have seen many, many people choose to die, even after I made my case. The strongest case I could make. I have failed more times than I can count, and it is the most horrid feeling in the world. I feel responsible.”
Kieran is quiet for a moment. “I don’t want you to feel that way about me.”
A frown settles into my lips. “I don’t want you to make your decision based on my feelings,” I tell him firmly. “This is your life and you need to determine how much you value it independently of others and their feelings. Besides, I am not even a real human girl—I will disappear after today.”
“Disappear?” he asks. “Where to?”
I look away to avoid the question, a bit angered by his prying. “I will be sent very far away. It doesn’t matter.”
“It sounds like you don’t want to go,” he observes curiously.
“I don’t. I wish I could stay. I wish I could just be a human being and live among you. I wish I could have what you have—I would never take it for granted. Life is magical and it shouldn’t be wasted or tossed away carelessly.”
“I guess the grass really does seem greener,” he remarks with a grin. “You wished for the exact opposite thing that I wanted.”
“That’s because I’m older and wiser than you,” I tell him.
“How old are you exactly?” he asks me.
“I’m not sure,” I tell him. “This body is just my vessel, and she is seventeen. My soul is a lot older.”
He nods. “I want to see the future you want to show me. The big difference I’m going to make.”
“Thanks, Kieran.” I sit on the side of the fountain and throw my legs over the edge. I am still wearing my ball-gown from the party, but now it is soaking wet. “Ready?” I ask him.
He smiles and moves forward, tugging me into the pond with him. The water surrounds us, overwhelming our senses by muffling our vision and hearing. My dress balloons out, blinding us in the water just before the darkness takes us completely.
A little boy is suddenly standing before us, wearing a baseball glove. He tosses a baseball into the air and struggles to catch it in his mitt as it descends.
Kieran stares at him curiously before turning to me. “Why am I seeing this? Who is he? Am I going to have a son someday?”
“All these questions,” I say lightly. “Just watch and have a little faith. We are shown only what you most need to see.”
He grumbles in frustration, but continues to watch the little boy play with his ball. All of a sudden, the boy’s head snaps around and his eyes light up. He runs right past us, shouting,
“Hey! Uncle K, you’re late!”
“Sorry, kiddo. Busy day at work,”
says the man who is evidently an older version of Kieran. There is a little touch of grey at his temples, but other than that he has hardly changed. He seems more at ease with himself, self-assured and impeccably dressed. He quickly tugs a baseball glove onto his hand, which looks silly as it contrasts with his business suit.
“Throw it over here, Connor!”
Thus, a game of catch begins between the two. Kieran’s face softened as he watches the exchange. “He’s my nephew?” he asks me. I nod in confirmation.
“Mom said something really cool today,”
Connor tells his uncle as he lobs the baseball at him.
The older Kieran catches the ball easily and gently tosses it back.
“Really, what’s that?”
“She said you gave her your kidneys!”
The well-dressed businessman begins to chuckle.
“Not both of them, Connor! I still have one—I need one to survive.”
“And she has the other? Why’d you have to give it to her?”
“She was suffering from chronic renal disease. It was a tough time because she was on dialysis for a while, just waiting for a transplant. Every time someone got into a car accident and died, the doctors had to check if that person had given permission for their organs to be used in a transplant. Even if they had approved it, their kidneys had to be checked to see if they could match Chloe’s, and there was a huge waiting list. A couple times your mom was lucky enough to get a kidney from a deceased donor, but her body kept rejecting the organ.”
“That sounds really scary,”
the little boy says as he rotated the baseball in one hand.
“Yeah, it was, kid. The kidneys were getting infected and swelling up to the size of small melons, causing your mom lots of pain.”
says Connor, throwing the ball back to older Kieran.
“I guess you saved my mom’s life.”
“Maybe. It was possible that they could have found another match in time, but we thought it would be better to try a living donor. Luckily her body didn’t reject my kidney and she’s been healthy and strong for the last ten years.”
“Wow, that’s awesome Uncle K. You’re like my hero or something.”
“Anyone would do the same for his sister, kid.”
“But I wouldn’t even be here if you didn’t save my mom,”
Connor says in awe.
“We wouldn’t be playing ball right now.”
“Of course we would be. Chloe is really tough and she would have found a way,”
Kieran assures the boy.
“I just made things go a little faster.”
“You didn’t just make things faster,” I tell the younger version of the same man who is standing by my side. “She wouldn’t have been able to find a kidney that her body wouldn’t reject. None of the transplants she received other than yours would have allowed her to recover to full health long enough for her to have children.”
“How do you know all this?” Kieran asks me.
“I’m not sure,” I tell him. “I can just see it all before me and behind me, all the ways it could have happened. I know everything about you instinctively because you inhaled the stardust.”
“Okay, so that’s pretty huge. I helped my sister get better,” Kieran says, taking a deep breath. “I guess you do make a good point about me ending up being useful. Still, I didn’t really do anything other than be an organ farm.”
“You did much more than that,” I tell him. “Your concern about being negative to your family in the future has been disproven. You said that your father blames you for your mother’s death and treats you badly because of that. Well, it’s not fair, but this changes his mind. Your dad realizes when you and your sister are both in surgery that he can’t bear to lose either of you.”
“It takes something that drastic to make my dad love me?” Kieran asks me, his face stricken.
I reach out to touch his shoulder. “I’m sorry. But Connor is right—you will be a hero. Not just to your sister, her husband, your dad, and your nephew—but to everyone touched by Chloe’s life. Your sister ends up becoming a schoolteacher, and she does great things for the youth in her community. The repercussions of your act of kindness will stretch for decades and centuries, but if you don’t live long enough to give that kidney, then your sister won’t be able to find an organ donor in time. She might live, but even if she does, she won’t be healthy enough to help her community and improve the lives of others.”
“So it’s like a domino effect,” Kieran says quietly. “If I die now, all the good things I could do just disappear—and all the good things they
“Yes,” I answer. “There is a place for you in this world—a need for you. You might not see it now, but it will become clear as you grow older. If only you allow yourself the chance to grow older.”
“I don’t know, Kayla. Maybe I will help out Chloe in her time of need, but you’re really exaggerating my importance. The world will carry on just fine without me.”
I feel a bit upset at his underestimation of his self-worth. “Maybe you won’t make a huge difference in the world. But you
make a difference, a
difference, to the people you love and people you have never even met—people you never will meet. How can anyone aspire to more than that?”
Kieran shrugs slightly. “What if I made sure that my kidneys were left on ice? What if I made sure they’d be available for my sister if she ever needed them?”
“I’m not sure it works that way,” I tell him, “and even if it does, it certainly wouldn’t work that way if you jump off a bridge and destroy your body.”
He is quiet for several moments as he watches his older self play ball with his nephew. I can tell that he is being moved by the scene, and that his conviction in this decision is wavering. I just need to push a little harder until he is excited about life again.
“All of this… it’s an inspiring future,” he tells me. “It’s a really bright, happy moment, just like the ones you said you show to miserable people. But maybe it’s just an excerpt of my life, taken out of context. Maybe all the other moments surrounding this one are really hard and painful.” He gestures at the scene while glaring at me. “This looks great, Kayla, but I don’t think getting there will be easy. I don’t think this is something I can do alone.”
“Maybe you won’t have to do it alone,” I tell him.
“Look at that guy,” Kieran says, indicating his older self. “I don’t know anything about him. Maybe playing catch with his nephew is the highlight of his week, his month, his year. Maybe he hates his job, and maybe he has no family of his own to go home to. Maybe he’s just as foolish and lost as I am, but people tolerate him because he’s useful—they have to be nice to the kidney donor.”
“It’s not like that!” I say in anger.
“Do you even know if this will happen for sure? Maybe you are only showing me one possible outcome of many. That means my future could turn out a whole lot worse than this.”
“Kieran, I didn’t show you the future where you win the lottery tomorrow and can suddenly pay for school. That’s possible too, but highly unlikely—and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. This is a future you can count on. Something you can look forward to.”
“If I died in a car accident today, my kidneys would go to people who needed them within a few hours,” Kieran argues. “I could save the life of someone who needs it right now, and they could do all the good things that my sister would—maybe even more. If that’s all I’m good for, I don’t need to be alive for it. Heck, I can help even more people with even more of my organs.”
“That isn’t all that you’re good for,” I say with frustration. “Why would you think that?”
He shakes his head as if he doesn’t intend to answer. Then he glances at me. “Because of Madison. Because of the things she said when she left me. She was right. She was the person I cared about most, and I treated her badly. I lost her.”
“It isn’t your fault that she left you.”
“Yes, it is. I’m a failure as a son, as a brother, and as a boyfriend. The only nice thing I will ever do for anyone is give them a chunk of my body. My body is fine—it’s my mind that’s damaged. Who I am—my spirit is broken.”