Chapter 1: Why Even Try?

Easing back on the controls, the chief pilot, under the direction of Captain Caleb, brought the nose of the huge ship around.

“The perfect angle,” Caleb thought. “Now’s the time to begin maximum propulsion.” After several concise commands, the massive helium-3 drives were fully engaged and the journey into the depths of the black hole began. In several days, they would emerge on the far fringe of the galaxy. It was the type of journey that he had taken many times but the thrill of seeing new worlds never grew old.

As he looked out at the blur of starlight streaking by, he had a little time to reflect on his adventure packed life. It seemed that everything he had hoped for in life… for himself, for others, and for the planet Earth… had come to be!

Caleb thought back to his time in middle school and the day that would change his life forever…

“42 percent?! What a waste of time!” Caleb muttered to himself as he stared dejectedly at the disaster of an assignment that sat in front of him on his desk. He looked around the classroom and could tell from the smiles and chatter of his classmates that no one else had done as poorly as he had. He’d worked so hard on the assignment, and when he had handed it in, he felt certain he was going to pass. Now, looking through his teacher’s notes, it was obvious that he’d misunderstood everything about the assignment.

“I can’t even pass an assignment, how am I ever going to be successful?” he thought to himself, letting despair creep into his mind.

Caleb was a twelve-year-old, grade 7 student at Joseph Stammon Middle School, just outside of Vancouver. He was average height for his age, but a little heavier than he would have preferred. Sometimes he felt lonely. He had two close companions who he had known through his elementary years, but since moving to middle school he had struggled to make more friends.

He spent a lot of his time daydreaming about the future and all the spectacular places he’d like to some day visit. He also wanted to make a difference in the world, help others and make his father proud. With every failing grade though, it seemed those dreams were slipping away. He couldn’t help but feel down on himself.

“Why can’t I be successful? What do these other students have that I don’t? I work so hard but all I do is fall far short of success! Why even try?” Caleb moaned, giving his reddish brown, slightly overgrown mop of hair a toss to get the stray tufts from his eyes.

Caleb had always been fascinated by exotic places. He loved science fiction. He thought often of space and what it might be like on other planets. One day he even hoped to visit some of them as an astronaut, doing something meaningful that would benefit others. That would be his idea of a successful life. Well, that and being able to play basketball with some consistency. For once, he wanted to be picked early for teams, instead of near the end. That was not the case presently and he didn’t see any way to get there. Caleb looked out the window, continuing to wish that he could somehow make changes that would give him the future that he dreamed of. The window had posters, letters and some leftover decorations taped up, but he was able to see through one uncovered section. It was a sunny day. The light was making interesting refractions through the glass of the window. It almost seemed to be warping the view of the world outside. As he continued to stare through the window, he saw an older student on the sidewalk.

“Lucky guy, free to enjoy the sunshine outside, rather than being stuck in a classroom doomed for failure,” he pouted to himself. There was something familiar about the stranger outside, but Caleb didn’t recall seeing him before. The stranger stopped, looked up at the school and waved towards the window Caleb was staring out of. Caleb glanced around to see who the wave could have been directed toward. There was no one else looking out the window though; maybe the stranger was waving at another window? When Caleb glanced back, the stranger was gone.

“Did I imagine that?” Caleb wondered to himself as he went back to studying the strange distortions in the glass as they warped and played games with his vision. He spent the rest of the session daydreaming and half-heartedly listening to the teacher as the class reviewed the assignment he had done so poorly on.

Later that day, he stopped at the local park on his way home from school. Usually, he walked home with his friends Grace and Asher, but today they’d had after-school basketball games scheduled. Caleb loved playing basketball with them when they were alone together but had refused to join the school team because he was too embarrassed when he missed almost every shot he took.

Somewhat lonely, he sat on the trunk of a tree that had been uprooted during a windstorm several weeks before. Spring had always been one of his favourite times of the year. Today the newly budding trees all around him were beginning to help him a little with his sour mood. The whole idea of regrowth appealed to him. Colours sprouting out of drab, dry, seemingly dead sticks of wood! His favourites were the Japanese cherry trees. Scattered throughout the park, he could see their reddish buds beginning to take over the uppermost branches of the trees close to him. He knew what lay within those fresh buds. Blossoms would soon follow, and the next few weeks would bring a stunning transformation of colour to the whole hillside.

“A nice spot for a bench,” he noted, as he looked out over the grass and down into the ravine that had a small creek running under and through a series of berry bushes. Upstream stood several extremely large trees, remnants of the old growth forest that had once covered the whole area. Around him there was a chorus of birds chirping and tweeting. The migrating birds had returned in abundance over the last week or two. As well, the musty smells of winter were fading, chased out by the fresh fragrance of the budding trees. Thoughts of the anticipated aromas from the coming blossoms made a final attempt to lighten his mood. His senses stimulated, he could feel himself relaxing. Nature had always brought him a sense of peace and tranquility.

Despite his attempts to be immersed only in the nature around him, his thoughts returned to his classroom daydreaming. He wanted to be successful, he just didn’t know how to go about it.

“Probably too much work anyways,” he sighed. “I suppose that is just the way things are going to be… it doesn’t seem like I can do anything to change my life.”

Sitting and continuing to feel sorry for himself, his attention was suddenly drawn to a person down in the ravine. The figure was standing, balanced on a moss-covered rock in the middle of the stream, and looking up towards him. Startled, Caleb realized it was the same person who he had seen standing on the street outside his classroom earlier in the day. With a wave, the individual turned, jumped to the far side, and started up the bank from the creek. Same wave. Who was he waving to? Caleb looked all around him but there was no one else in the whole park. Curious now, Caleb continued to watch as the stranger clambered up out of the ravine on the other side. The individual now stood across from him, at about the same height. Something seemed very familiar about the person.

“Do I know you?” Caleb shouted out. Silently the person turned and walked toward the far side of the park, but not before he made a gesture. Holding his hand out with the palm down, he tilted it from side to side.

“What was that supposed to mean?” Caleb puzzled, “Was it an answer?” Caleb didn’t know what to think, but decided he had to know who this boy was. He jogged down the slope into the ravine, and into the bushes. Taking care to push the thorn covered branches to one side, he thought for a moment about the Saskatoon berries that would come later. Despite his current preoccupation with other matters, he smiled. The smile quickly faded as one of the branches flipped back, almost hitting him in the chin and causing him to instinctively put his hands up to protect his face. Several deep scratches later, he found himself beginning to negotiate the moss-covered boulders, being careful not to slip into the frigid water. There were days that he enjoyed wading in the water, but not today. A bitter wind was causing the branches all around him to tremble and Caleb didn’t think he would enjoy shivering in wet clothes. By the time Caleb got to the top of the far side of the ravine, the boy he was following was just leaving the park, coincidentally going up the very street that Caleb lived on. Caleb followed.

A couple of blocks up, just before his house, he saw that the boy had stopped walking and was leaning against a tree beside the street. Caleb slowed. This felt kind of creepy. Now that he was closer, he could see that the “boy” was actually a young man, probably in his late teens or early 20’s. He was medium height, with a slight build, and topped with reddish brown hair similar to Caleb’s. He was dressed in an athletic sweater of some kind and blue jeans. Caleb briefly thought about circling around by another street and avoiding contact.

“Probably doesn’t want to talk to a young kid like me, anyways,” he thought, deciding to just march on past him and head home. Avoiding eye contact, Caleb forged on.

“So, you’re just going to ignore me now?” the young man asked, “I know you’ve been following me.”

“Huh, no, I’m headed home. I live just up there,” Caleb blurted out.

“I know, I used to live nearby here too,” the young man stated calmly.

“Oh really, I thought I recognized you,” Caleb nodded, feeling that the situation was now a little less strange, since the person had apparently been a neighbour at one point.

“Well, that wouldn’t be surprising, if you knew who I was,” the young man laughed.

“Who are you?” Caleb asked.

“I’m not sure you’re ready to know that… in due time we will meet again, and I’ll tell you then. In the meantime, you must be hungry. Better head home to have a snack. Enjoy those Rice Krispie squares that your dad has made. And don’t forget to feed your turtle!” With that the young man turned and walked down the nearby lane.

Optional Resources:

Audio and video files, along with additional text resources for each chapter in FutureLoop Fulfilling Potential: Life in Fast Forward are available and can be accessed via the URL link or QR code provided at the end of each chapter (URL provided here).