t was early morning. The milkman had stopped at the next door neighbor when Sivaramakrishnan was tying the laces of his running shoes. He walked out through the picket gate and closed it after him. The December dew dropped from the avenue trees that formed a canopy over that suburban street. He started jogging towards the park and reached it in three minutes.
Sivaramakrishnan turned behind to see the person who greeted him. Dr. Sargunan, his regular jogging companion was a few feet behind him.
“A very good morning to you, doctor…”
“You know that my son and your daughter are seeing each other, right?”
Sivaramakrishnan stopped for a second and took a few deep breaths.
“Yes. My daughter spoke to me about it a month ago. Shall we continue running?”
Dr. Sargunan nodded in approval.
“Very well, my son told me last night. I am really happy that he picked your daughter Amrita.”
“I respect my daughter’s wishes and I have a good opinion about your son. He is a gentleman.”
They both went down the wooded trail. About two minutes later they navigated a curve and that is when they almost stumbled over something in their way.
The two men stopped. The sun had not come out yet and the park lights were too far away and dim. Dr. Sargunan pulled out a flashlight and illuminated the pathway.
There was a man in his early thirties, lying on the ground. Both of them were startled. The doctor immediately checked his pulse.
“He is alive. Call an ambulance!”
* * *
“Amrita, I had the strangest of experiences when I went jogging this morning!”
Sivaramakrishnan narrated the events to his daughter.
“How is he now?”
“He is alive. Luckily Dr. Sargunan was there with me. I don’t know what I would have done without him in that situation. We called an ambulance and got him to the hospital emergency room. The man has regained consciousness but continues to blabber nonsense.”
“Hmm… What is he saying?”
Amrita handed him a cup of coffee and sat with him at the table.
“He says his name is Josephson. The weird part is he claims he is from the future.”
Amrita raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“And that’s not the end of it. He says we are all going to die! All of us, the entire human race… and he has been sent as a messiah from the future to warn us!”
Sivaramakrishnan sipped his coffee.
“Clearly delusional... I think he must have either had too much to drink last night or must have been hallucinating on drugs! By the way, we are both happy that you and Rajiv are seeing each other. The doctor said that his son broke the news to him yesterday.”
* * *
The lab superintendent Manohar was checking the roster when Rajiv walked in.
“Good morning sir!”
Manohar nodded in acknowledgement.
“Rajiv, it is holiday time with Navarathri and all. The missus wants me to accompany her for some last minute shopping. Can you do a double shift and take care of the lab today?”
“Sure sir. This might be the last year that I help you or anyone else…”
Rajiv paused for a second and then continued with a smile.
“Amrita and I will be married by next year and I should probably find someone else to cover me during these times!” He winked.
Manohar shook Rajiv’s hands and headed out.
Rajiv picked up the case files. At the top of the list was Josephson’s blood work and culture tests highlighted in orange with TOP PRIORITY scribbled against it.
* * *
The Leader addressed the gathering of the last remnants of human civilization.
“The First Messiah was sent to give humans key insights that would help in their long term survival. The First Messiah did not just fail, but failed miserably. Josephson, the first time traveler who was sent to warn people about their future, ironically became the carrier of a mutant virus. We did not anticipate the mutations that would affect viral DNA during time travel and he was not free from the common cold virus at the time of travel. The mutant virus spread like wildfire from the lab that had a sample of his blood taken for testing.”
The crowd listened intently.
“It took us 28 years to develop the antidote for the mutant virus that almost wiped out the human race from the face of the earth. Today, we launch our Second Messiah after perfecting the procedure to eliminate all extraneous pathogens from the human body. We all pray with great hope that he should be picked up within hours of his transport to the past by good samaritans or he is certain to die due to trauma from the travel. Good luck and Godspeed, Second Messiah!”
The pod vanished into the portal.
* * *
It was early morning. Sivaramakrishnan was at the grief-stricken Dr. Sargunan’s house along with an inconsolable Amrita. Rajiv had died the previous day mysteriously.
Of course Sivaramakrishnan and Dr. Sargunan were not jogging that day. If they had, they would have noticed the man in the park trail a few hours ago before he died.