“Why don’t we age after turning 22”? asks Cathy.
“I am still figuring it out”, replied the stranger.
Are you wondering how they get into this conversation? Let’s rewind a day. Cathy lives in New Jersey. Her daily routine involves a morning stroll to the nearest park and returning with breakfast packed for herself. She doesn’t eat it sometimes though. She doesn’t live alone she lives with her father. She is a fitness freak, she works as a gym instructor.
So it was Tuesday and Cathy just finished her routine and was preparing to go to the gym. She goes to the gym on a bicycle. As she approached the bicycle she observed something strange, a man was standing around the corner, nothing suspicious but he was was there since she got back from the park.
It felt odd, and so she started to just stroll with the bicycle to see if she is being followed. To her surprise, she wasn’t being followed. She goes to a gym named B-FIT. She has daily sessions with gym clients and unlike other trainers, she had fewer clients but she wasn’t bothered by that.
While training with a new client Cathy was inquired about her age, and once she mentioned her age the client was surprised, the Client went “28"? You look like you are barely 22. For Cathy, this was a normal compliment, but interestingly every time a new client responds to her age she gets the same answer ” you look like you are barely 22".
After training with a new client Cathy was on her way home, she gets back around 6:00 PM at home. Cathy was back home, while she was parking her bicycle she saw the same man again on the street at the same place in the same position, she freaked out. She rushed quickly into her house. She was anxious and wondering that was she followed after all, or if that man being at that same place there again is just a coincidence.
Her dad saw her rush into her room, he inquired that is she was okay to which she responded ” yeah sure, just had a tough day”, to which her dad responded, “you freshen up I will cook us some dinner”. Cathy said that will be lovely dad, thanks!
After she went inside the room her dad seemed worried but he wasn’t sure how to ask Cathy about it so he went to the kitchen and started cooking supper.
Cathy was just sitting in her room and wondering that if that stranger is still there or not. After she freshened up she went to have dinner with her dad.
They were having dinner and Cathy’s dad told her- ” You look distracted today, what’s on your mind, Cathy?”
Cathy: ” Nothing dad, had an intense day at work ”
Dad: “But you seem distracted and something doesn’t feel right”
Cathy (sighs): Well, had a new client at the gym today
Dad: “Did the client bother you in any way?”
Cathy: No, geez dad, why do you always do that?
Dad: Do what?
Cathy: Assume the negative.
Dad: (Smiles) Well I haven’t got an answer for that.
Cathy: (laughs) guess I will have to wait for ages.
Dad: I won’t be too sure.
Dad: Because you haven’t aged at all.
Cathy freaks out, she immediately stops eating and get’s more anxious seeing Cathy’s reaction her dad also panics,
Dad:(worryingly) Cathy, what happened?
Cathy: It’s just, every time someone mentions I haven’t aged at all it gets me, like at first, it feels good like a supreme compliment, but then, (stutter...) when I think about it and look myself in the mirror I feel that I haven’t aged since a long time, and receiving same insights from strangers about the age makes it more frightening dad.
Dad: I knew something wasn’t right with you, but, good god I had no idea it was something like this. How can I help you, Cathy?
Cathy: Don’t worry dad I will handle it myself it’s not that big of a deal.
Dad: Are you sure, because if you not feeling good about this we can talk and think of a solution.
Cathy: No dad I will be fine.
Dad: Okay then but you come to me first if you feel anxious again.
“Of Course, dad where else would I go,” said Cathy.
They both finish up their dinner Cathy is cleaning up the dishes and see she is finishing up cleaning the sink she peeks out of the window and looks across the street and the same guy who was standing there in the morning and then in the evening was standing there. Cathy freaked out, she was feeling scared but somehow she managed to gather the strength to counter those feelings and went outside to confront the stranger.
As she went outside the stranger started to walk towards her and that made her hold back and she started to panic again, she decides to go back inside, and as she does that the stranger gestures with his hands and asks her not to shut the door, but she does it anyway. Seeing this the stranger starts to run without noticing the vehicles around and get’s hit by an SUV in the process. Cathy screams and goes back inside. Her dad quickly races out of his room and holds Cathy and asks her to calm down.
Cathy: ” He was there the whole time and now he has been hit”
Her dad quickly steps out of the door and has a peek around, he sees nothing.
He says, “Cathy there is no one there”
Cathy: Dad, believe me, I just saw him running towards me, and then he got hit by an SUV while he was approaching our house.
Dad: “Okay”, Just go to your room, I will check out the road.
Cathy: Shouldn’t we call 911?
Dad: We will for sure but just let me confirm what you saw.
Cathy: Dad you aren’t a cop.
Dad: I know that but still I have to check it out.
Cathy’s dad goes across the street and analyzes the area where Cathy said she saw the man getting hit by an SUV. To his surprise, he found some tiny blood drops. He immediately rushes towards Cathy and says, “you were right someone got hit”.
Cathy looks worried and stunned at the same time. Her dad on the other hand is not as freaked out as Cathy, his reaction to this situation was nothing but calmness which is why Cathy was stunned and worried because she saw a stranger get hit by a car because of her, at least that’s whats Cathy thinks.
They both go to their rooms after some time, Cathy can’t stop thinking about her day, meanwhile, her dad picks up his phone and calls someone, He only says one phrase and then switches off his phone. He said, ” It’s time”.
The next day, Cathy woke up late than usual. It was almost noon. Her dad was also not at the house.
Cathy was wondering where her father might have been or if something happened to him. She was not in a good state. She calls her dad, but he doesn’t pick up her call. Now she is getting nervy and doesn’t know what to do. Somehow she manages to keep herself calm. She thinks it’s going to be fine, nothing has happened. She goes into the kitchen and gets herself some juice. While she drinks her juice she replays the events of last night and before that when she saw that stranger standing across the street wondering if she was being stalked, and also if he would be okay after that accident.
Just as she was about to go back to her room there is a knock on the door. She sighs and quickly opens up the door and while she opens up the door she speaks Dad, where the hell you have been… she stops and is shocked because it wasn't her dad. It was the same stranger from across the street. She was so in shock that she couldn’t even scream.
Stranger: Cathy, calm down I am not here to cause any trouble.
Cathy: (stutters) you were hit last night, how are you still okay, I mean how? And are you stalking me?
Stranger: Yeah, firstly I am not a stalker, and second I was hit because I was careless and that’s not on you.
Cathy sighs because that’s exactly what she was willing to hear.
Cathy: If you are not stalking me, why were you running towards me last night?
Stranger: That was a bad call from my side.
Cathy: Bad call? What are you a moron, you freaked me out, and hell I still don’t know why I am talking to you I should be calling the police.
Stranger: That won’t be necessary and about the part where you think you don’t know why you are talking with me, is because you are a kind person who had a tough day yesterday and is wondering why she isn’t aging or feels like not aging at all since past 6 years.
Cathy is surprised and clueless.
Stranger: You took it better than I thought.
Cathy: Took what?
Stranger: Mind if come in?
Cathy: I do.
Stranger: Alright... Alright, I get it how about we talk outside at a different place, like near your gym in that Indian café.
Cathy: How do you know I work at the Gym, and why would I want to come to talk to you.
Stranger: Because sooner or later things will change for you and trust me it won’t just freak you out but mess up your mind. I am trying to help you avoid that and I want to prepare you for what’s coming.
Cathy: Yeah I can take care of myself thank you.
Stranger: Sure… Sure, but you do wish to know why you are feeling like you are not aging at all and why you keep getting the same compliment from people about being 22.
Cathy: Alright, that’s it if you don’t leave I will call the police.
Stranger: That’s not a good idea, I mean you witnessed a possible crime yesterday and saw someone get hit and did nothing about it.
Cathy: But you are completely fine, oh I get it blackmail ha?
Stranger: Not just legal perspective.
Cathy: No shit Sherlock.
Stranger: Sherlock wasn’t a policeman.
Cathy: Just leave, please.
Stranger: Fine, but the offer stands you can meet me if you change your mind, at the Indian café around 2:00 PM, here’s something that might help you change your mind.
Cathy takes a small card from the stranger; it’s holographic and has 22 marked inside. She asks “What’s this card”?
Stranger: That birthmark you think you have on your belly isn’t a birthmark.
The stranger leaves. Cathy locks the door goes inside and wonders all the things the stranger mentioned about and she went nuts because the stranger knew about the birthmark.
Cathy was curious and worried at the same time. Curious about some things the stranger mentioned which made sense considering how she had experienced different things and worried because she had no clue how the stranger knew so many details about her.
She decides to go and meet the stranger after all.
It’s around 1:00 PM and Cathy was just leaving for Gym, as she was about to leave she saw her dad come back home.
Dad: I am sorry Cathy, I know I should have told you but I thought it was best for everyone.
Cathy: Best for everyone? Dad what are you talking about.
Dad: I thought they send someone to look over you...
Cathy: Dad, who sent who and why?
Dad: Its’ not important you are safe we’ll talk about this later once you get back.
Cathy: As you say but you are scaring me first you leave the house without even telling me, don’t pick up your phone, and then that Indian guy…she stops herself
Dad: Indian guy what Indian guy?
Cathy: Oh nothing Indian café, I meant Indian café.
Dad: what about it?
Cathy: Someone from the Indian café came over to deliver snacks but the address was wrong.
Dad: oh, I thought it was the stranger you saw the other morning.
Cathy is stunned; she recalls that she only mentioned the stranger during the events of the night. She never told him that she also saw him in the morning.
She leaves for Gym. She was late already and her boss wasn’t happy about it.
Boss: There is our queen.
Cathy: Sorry, Michelle had a rough start.
Michelle: Oh, why don’t you take the day off darling?
Cathy: Yeah about that I do need a break around 2:00.
Michelle: Bitch it's 1:30 you just got here, and you are asking me to give you a break within the next half an hour.
Cathy: Fuck you, Michelle.
Michelle: You know what you are fired.
Cathy: Bitch! I will sue you.
Michelle: Go ahead you crazy vamp.
Cathy leaves and is angry, she goes outside and wonders what just happened. She sees the clock its 1:40 and looks around sees the Café and decides to go there.
She goes to the café and sits at a table. She looks ups news on the internet, randomly about the incident that took place the previous night. There were a few articles mentioning a mysterious escape from the death. The article mentioned no specific name but did mention that “He is back again”. Cathy wondered what that was about. She checked out any related articles and found one in the list of archives but the time stamp for that article dated 36 years back featured a similar stranger. She wondered how’s that even possible?
The same guy 36 years apart looks the same, it seems like…
“I haven’t aged at all have I” Cathy looked up and there he was, the stranger from the street.
Stranger: Knew you’d come.
Cathy: What are you a mind reader?
Stranger: Not exactly
Cathy: So, who are you? How do you know me and since how long you have been following me?
Stranger: Well you know it’s complicated but to simplify I have been looking out for you since you turned 22.
Cathy: Fuck, I mean seriously you should be arrested for this I mean what the hell man you’ve been following me for 4 years?
Stranger: Yes, but, as I said, and I quote "looking out for you."
Cathy: Well, I guess then you don’t mind answering a few questions.
Stranger: Nope not at all.
Cathy: What’s your age?
Stranger: Wow, didn’t expect this to be the first one, I am 60 years old, at least that’s what I can account for on paper.
Cathy: You’ve got to be kidding me.
Stranger: I can assure you I am not.
Cathy: (shows her phone) so that’s you?
Stranger: Yep that’s me.
Cathy: So, what are you some type of super spy or like a superhero?
Stranger: (laughs) I have been giving a lot of thought about the category but haven’t found a suitable one yet.
Cathy: Your accent might not show but you seem Indian.
Stranger: You are amazing you know that no wonder why you are one of us. Yes, you are right I am from India but was born right here in New Jersey. Name’s Axel.
Cathy: Wait what? You are Indian and your name’s Axel? I am not buying that.
Axel: What can I say my dad loved “Inazuma Eleven”.
Cathy: Doesn’t matter, tell me axel why do you still look like you are in your 20’s.
Axel: Glad you asked because that’s what we are going to talk about today.
Cathy: Hello I have a job?
Axel: You sure?
Cathy: So, you had something to do with me getting fired.
Axel: You are way too clever. And about why I am in my 20s well there are few people like us and we all stop aging after 22, especially physically it’s like the final version of ourselves and will remain the same till the day we die.
Cathy: That’s it; I mean that’s all you have to explain this shitty stuff happening around me for the past couple of days.
Axel: I already apologized for that.
Cathy: Yeah, so, what’s the angle behind this 22, you gave me the card as well it has 22 inscribed on it.
Axel: That’s the card you don’t want them to have.
Axel: Yeah, as I said we two are not the only ones with this specific genetic distinctiveness. There are many out there and in my whole life o have encountered 32 of them.
Cathy: How many are there?
Axel: As far as I know at least 154.
Cathy: That’s a specific number.
Axel: I have been to two continents to explore the possibilities and find the ones like us and there are 22 here in States, 7 of them I found in my visit to India and 5 in Europe.
Axel: How so?
Cathy: if there are 22 in states and considering the significance of the number 22 here it makes sense because there are 7 continents and 22 in each would make sense.
Axel: Holy shit, you are right 154 is the number.
Cathy: So, why 22? What does this card do?
Axel: We age against the time, so while others are getting older…
Cathy interrupts: We get … Younger?
Axel: No, we just don’t age, like ever; we won’t have the experience of getting old both physically and mentally. Our mind, body, and genetic sequence will remain of a 22-year-old. The mutation in our body leads to a stage where it won’t allow any further growth.
Cathy: Very Confusing, but that explains why I have been receiving the compliment of never getting older, I always ignored it and appreciated my gym ethics for that but knowing something like this makes me question whether I have been keeping my body in shape on my own or it’s just this genetic shit you just mentioned. And if it’s all this genetic stuff of whatever it still doesn’t answer the question, Why do we stop aging at 22?
Axel: ” I am still figuring that out ”
Cathy: Okay, it’s a lot to process, but, I want to ask again what this card does and how did you know I have a birthmark on my belly?
Axel: Well it looks like an ordinary holographic card but it’s powerful. I don’t know who build them but so far as my research goes it activates with the mark you have on your body it’s similar to QR Code shit. But, once activated it will be a new experience, and it is on to an individual how they perceive it. This card holds the key to the different quantum levels.
Cathy: Dude, that’s insane.
Axel: Do you even know anything about quantum level?
Cathy: From movies mostly.
Axel: Fair enough.
Cathy: So, let me get this straight, you AA… I mean we, don’t age at all and possess a card that has access to some high-level Quantum shit.
Axel: Yeah, but the difference is unlike movies it’s not all lucrative.
Cathy: No shit. Did you use this card? Like what does it open or whatever.
Axel: I have 4 times and it doesn’t open up anything it simply shows us what already exists on a quantum level.
Cathy: That’s it, what a waste.
Axel: Yeah, you will think differently once you see what it does.
Cathy: Then show me.
Axel: Not a good idea.
Axel: Because Harold is here and he is about to find out that you were fired from your job, look.
Cathy turns back and looks at the Gym her dad was talking to Michelle she immediately hides down and asks Axel, how do you know my dad’s name? Leave that aside how do you even know he is talking about that.
Axel: You will be surprised what we can do once our card is activated.
He flips out his card and puts it near his wrist and there is a sudden spark that causes an entanglement within that confined space and asks Cathy to hold the card, once she holds it she could see her dad and Michelle talk right in front of her on the table.
Axel: Quantum shit ha?
Cathy is in a shock, she is not sad or worried it’s just a new experience for her. She says to Axel “I have got to know more”
Axel: You will but we need to leave, now.
Axel: Because as I said I don’t know who build these cards and whenever I use the card some people come chasing me.
Cathy: You sure it’s your card and not your phone they are tracking?
Axel: You think I need a phone?
Cathy: Yeah right.
Axel: Let’s go.
Cathy: Where? I mean what about my dad?
Axel: Oh he holds a card too.
Cathy: Wait what? and who are these people?
Axel: They are the people I work for.
Cathy: You are one sick son of a bitch you know that?
Axel: (Smiles) We gotta run, like now.
They both rush out of the cafe and Cathy asks " Don't you have a car or something"?
Axel: "Never learned to drive."