“Learn from me . . . how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”-Victor Frankenstein, FrankensteinDear Miss Eva Faraday,We are pleased to inform you that you are one of the three students we are considering for our world renowned scholarship, The Tesla Award. This coveted prize grants the recipient an all expenses paid experience to study in our esteemed physics program. Your next step to achieving The Tesla Award is a set of separate interviews involving yourself and your physics coordinator. If you have any questions please contact...Eva was too excited to read further. She felt a sense of relief, but also a tinge of unyielding determination. The competition was demanding. Eva was faced with arduous exams, elaborate essays, and uptight interviews that were all apart of the vital process of impressing the highly selective admissions board. She was shocked to see how far she had made it through the many rounds. Out of several thousand submissions, she had calculated and smiled her way into becoming a top 3 finalist. It wasn’t that the admissions directors were completely taken by her wit and charm, she also had the numbers to prove she truly deserved The Tesla Award. Eva was not like her peers. She had a brilliant understanding of mathematics and the world. She could spot a pattern in an instant; she could feel the answers to every solution warp around the curvature of her mind. If only she could make it through this one last round.There were two others. Eva had no idea who they were or where they were from. All Eva knew was that those students stood in her way from the biggest opportunity to spark her academic career. Without this prize, she would have nothing. Eva would get a call any day to set up her appointment that would determine her fate. What else could she do to impress the admissions directors further? What would the other finalists try to do? She already delivered a presentation on her own complex theories and she already aced every test they threw at her. What else could they possibly need to know?I.Eva watched the caravan of admissions directors pull away from her driveway. The first interview had taken place inside her home. At first, Eva was unnerved at the thought of accomplished admissions directors waltzing into her humble country home; turning up their noses at her simple furnishings. Before, her home was a place to escape the highly competitive world she delved into. Her escape was quickly destroyed as soon as the first high-heeled board member entered through the plain passage. Surprisingly, the directors were not pretentious toward Eva. They seemed fascinated by Eva’s knowledge that rivaled top physicists and her modest background that cultivated her erudite desires.An older admissions director was the first to initiate the interview:“We are always eager to experience the different cultures of our finalists. We want to know what kindled our future students’ passion for learning and truly why they need our Award. We want to know what is inside your head.”Everyone let out a polite chuckle. “Eva Faraday,” the older member with elbow patches said,“ What has led you to us?”Eva never understood the reason why she wanted to be a physicist, or why she yearned for knowledge. For as long as she could remember she always had a quick understanding of everything she had encountered in school. Nothing was ever enough. If she was instructed to write a paper, it turned into a full-fledged dissertation with every aspect fully researched and prepared. Sleep was never needed.This was the only question that left Eva baffled. Her hesitation had gone a second too long. How quickly had the other two finalists answered?“Well, living out in the countryside has allowed me to develop independence.” Eva paused, preparing for what she would reveal next, “I have never relied on anyone or anything for my progress. But now I can’t do this on my own. I know there is much more than this.”Eva looked around her small living room. She no longer admired the country charm that had surrounded her for her entire life. A ravenous thirst overwhelmed Eva; unleashing an intense need to run away. Although her mind soared, her home life closed off all academic potential. She must win this. She has to win this.“We appreciate your honest response and realize that it must have been hard to admit that you cannot do this on your own. Many of our finalists have over-inflated egos and assume that we will just hand the Award over to them. It is nice to hear a different side for a change,” said a director with a thick Russian accent. A wave of relief swept over Eva. The admissions directors left, leaving the impression that there was no contest. She was the one. II.The interview with Eva’s physics teacher, Dr. Morgan Brewster, had concluded and Eva awaited an impromptu meeting with the admissions directors. Normally, the directors strictly abided by their intended purpose. Calling upon a finalist again - off the books - was simply unheard of. Eva waited in the lobby of her public library. Eva put down a copy of Frankenstein as she spied a familiar face strutting towards her. This time Eva was approached by a single admissions director - the very fashionable and Russian one. “Hello,” the woman said as she extended a hand to Eva, “I’m sorry this is very last minute, but I promise it is worthwhile. Now could we please talk where it is private?”“Of course,” Eva replied, still bewildered at what could possibly warrant another meeting.The elegant board member crossed the library as if she knew where she was going. Eva diligently followed her into an empty conference room which held an absurdly long table, dwarfing the two women perched at the end. “I know you are wondering why we are both here.” Eva appreciated her direct attitude. She didn’t think she could last through small talk.“The others were reluctant to let me talk to you; they thought that we should have let you go without another word. But I think you have a a spectacular future ahead of you. That is why you must listen closely to what I have say, because I am giving you a second chance.”A second chance? Eva believed she did so well throughout this entire process that she didn’t ever need a second chance. Regardless of what she had planned, Eva had to listen or she would have no future. “Dr. Brewster, although she was quite eccentric, she did reveal some unsightly details about your previous academic record that would have tarnished your chances of receiving The Tesla Award. She said that during your freshman year, you stole very expensive and very dangerous equipment from the chemistry lab. The admissions board would usually never tolerate theft on a finalists’ record. I believe you are an exception. Your record has been perfect since that incident and I truly don’t believe that I should be worried about you stealing from the University. Should I be worried?”“N-no, not at all,” Eva stammered, still numbed by all that’s been said. “Good. The board has agreed to have you write a short essay. Any topic, but it must prove to us that you are worth keeping around. In the interest of time, it must be due tomorrow. Same time, same place. I must go now, but I know you can do it.”The dignified admissions director left Eva with more questions than answers. What baffled Eva the most were two significant details: her past physics teacher, Dr. Morgan Brewster, was definitely not a female and nobody ever knew about her stealing from the lab. III.Eva spent all night working on her second chance paper. Usually this kind of challenge was oddly enjoyable to Eva, but this time the pressure was unmatched by any other experience she could ever recall. Thoughts dueled inside her mind as she tried to create coherent sentences. Eva knew she had no choice but to finish the paper, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the strange circumstances surrounding her close elimination. The newly uncovered information about her stealing bewildered Eva. Yes, she did steal her freshman year, but she was never caught. She only kept it to herself. Eva always regretted stealing from the lab. She hated that she compromised her integrity for such a small advancement in her chemistry grade.The assignment she was working on at the time was not worth the risk. She could have received full credit for the project in another, safer, way but at the time Eva could not resist having an edge over the rest of her classmates. Eva could not forget about Dr. Brewster, who was a man, but the admissions directors talked to a woman who claimed to be her physics teacher. Did Eva misunderstand because of the directors’ thick accent? No, it was quite clear that the admissions director did not meet the real Dr. Brewster or Eva wouldn’t be thinking twice about it. Something wasn’t adding up. Who was this woman? Why would she pretend to be Eva’s physics teacher? How did she know Eva’s secret?Eva sat at the library, waiting to meet up with the admissions director. She was nervous, but deeply appreciative of this second chance. She couldn’t wait to thank the kind director for believing in her. While she was waiting, Eva decided to renew her library books. “Are you Eva Faraday?” the librarian asked as she was scanning Eva’s books. “Yes, I am. Is there something wrong with my account? I’ve always paid my overdue fines,” Eva responded anxiously. “No, everything’s fine. A woman from the admissions board in charge of The Tesla Award asked me to make sure you leave your essay here for her. She has a flight to catch and doesn’t have time to chat,” the librarian said with ease. “She just wants me to drop it off here?” Eva asked, puzzled at why she wasn’t notified directly about the change of plans. Something about the librarian made Eva want to trust her though. “Yes,” the librarian said a tad too quickly. “She wanted me to tell you that she apologizes for the abrupt change of plans and that she will keep in touch once the admissions board reads your essay.”Eva reluctantly gave her essay to the librarian and gathered her books. The librarian’s face had a familiar warmth to it. It had a kindness in her eyes that was usually reserved for grandmothers. But Eva never recalled seeing her at the library before now. Was she new? Eva didn’t mind; she liked this new librarian. She felt like the situation was disorienting, but Eva was willing to do whatever it took to get that paper to the admissions directors. Later that evening, Eva was checking her email when she noticed a message from The Tesla Award directors sent around an hour ago. Surprised by how quickly they responded, Eva read:Dear Miss Eva Faraday,We regret to inform you that you were not selected as the recipient of The Tesla Award scholarship. Please click on the link at the end of this email if you wish to read your feedback from our admissions board. Although you have not been presented The Tesla Award, we are not withdrawing your admittance into our physics program. We still recognize you as an excellent student...Eva was devastated. It didn’t matter if she could still study in that prestigious physics program. She could never afford the tuition to attend a semester, let alone for the rest of her undergraduate and eventually her graduate studies. Eva clicked the link, still shaking from the news. A stark white page loaded, with a lone paragraph achingly placed at the top: “Miss Eva Faraday showed incredible promise throughout the entire selection process. It was not until the last round when she received a poor recommendation from her physics teacher, Dr. Morgan Brewster. Based on the interview, the admissions board decided she was unfit for The Tesla Award. One director was convinced that Miss Faraday deserved another chance. Miss Faraday was permitted to write an essay as a second chance. The essay submitted was deemed unacceptable by it’s blatant plagiarism. We also considered Miss Faraday’s lack of responsibility when she failed to present the essay in person. While we understand the urgency a student may feel during these last steps of the competition, Miss Faraday’s actions present her as an unsuitable candidate for The Tesla Award.”Eva reread the paragraph over and over, hoping what she read wasn’t true. Everything that Eva hoped for was gone. She still could not comprehend her reality. Plagiarism? She never copied anyone else’s work since the first time she ever heard the word. At this point in the competition, Eva would never risk plagiarizing her paper. It was too late. The admissions directors had reasons to prove she had plagiarized and she was eliminated because of it. A portion of the paragraph caught Eva’s eye; the sentence where “she failed to present the essay in person.” Eva felt like she was the punchline of an awful joke. She had only listened to what the librarian said-The Librarian!Why did she ever listen to her? An alarm went off in Eva’s mind when she gave her essay to the Librarian, but she felt like she could trust her at the time. Eva hated herself for not following her instincts. One crucial mistake and her future was in ruins. Eva grabbed her books and ran for the door. It was not until she was outside in her yard when she realized it was too late. The library has been closed for hours. Eva fell to her knees, spilling her library books. She felt like she had failed herself. For someone who had always soared high, she had never felt so low. Eva haphazardly gathered her books from the sopping ground. As she checked to make sure there were no mud or grass caked in the pages, Eva came across her library receipt. There were four words penned on the back. In a familiar scrawl, it read:“You can’t go back.”Eva laughed to herself. “Of course I can’t go back,” she whispered, “I can never go back and win The Tesla Award ever again.”Sadness quickly turned to anger as she marched back into her home. This Librarian sure was clever. She must have developed a weird grudge against Eva. By leaving notes in her books and destroying her chances of ever being taken seriously as a physicist, the Librarian had to have a reason to hate her. Did Eva give her a strange look across the rows of books? Did she accidentally wrinkle a page? Whatever the reason, Eva was going to visit the library in the morning and she hoped that a particular Librarian would be there to explain herself. IV.Eva stepped into the quiet lobby of the library. She scanned the front desk for any sign of the mysterious Librarian. Eva couldn’t spot her in the lobby, so she perused the aisles to see if she was shelving any books. She returned to the front desk, still coming up short of finding any signs of her Librarian. “She must have been off work for today,” Eva thought, “Lucky for her.”As Eva was about to leave, something on a nearby bulletin board caught her eye. Amidst all the ads and notifications, she noticed a legal sized envelope with her name written across it. Without any hesitation, Eva unpinned it off the board and searched its contents. She found the front page of a worn newspaper. It was nothing like she had ever read before. Eva read the faded headline:“Physicist Embarks on Maiden Voyage to the Past!”Eva was immediately captivated by the article. It seemed like something of a vision, but more of a rebirth of an old memory; something that Eva knew was real but couldn’t grasp. It was a nostalgia she never should have felt. As Eva delved into the front page story more closely, Eva noticed some bizarre details that just couldn’t be true. Besides the outrageous title, Eva noted that the date on the newspaper was approximately 10 years into the future. The newspaper was wrinkled, but she could still interpret the photo exploded on the front page. She saw someone that looked strangely like herself, but a little older. Eva read the small caption under the photo:“Physicist Eva Faraday shows off her finished time machine.”This couldn’t be real. Eva slumped to the floor, trying to put all the pieces together. She noticed faint lettering written along the border of the newspaper. Upon close examination, the words said:“The first and the last voyage. If only I could’ve stopped myself from getting stuck in the past...”Eva had seen this writing before. She spread the envelope, library receipt, and newspaper across the hall of the library. Each item was written in the same familiar handwriting. Eva’s heart was beating faster; her lungs breathing deeper. She slowly placed one last item next to the rest. It was a quick shopping list she wrote earlier that morning. The handwriting matched the familiar scrawl that was written on all the other items.Four words resounded in Eva’s mind. Four words developed an entirely new meaning. “You can’t go back.”This wasn’t just about The Tesla Award. This was about stopping the series of events that would eventually lead Eva to the height of her career. A time machine that would fail her. The first and the last voyage. Eva was right; the Librarian did sabotage her chances at receiving The Tesla Award. She knew why the Librarian ruined everything. She knew why Dr. Brewster knew her secret. She knew why she was holding a newspaper that should be impossible to ever have. They were all her.Eva had met herself. She had stopped herself from winning The Tesla Award. She had warned herself that she could never go back. Eva was stuck in time.
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