September 22, 2040

Dear Dr. Faraday,

Greetings! My name is Greg Ford, and I am a writer for National Geographic Magazine; however, you may be more interested to know that I am the son of James and Juliet Ford of Miami, Florida.

In the course of my time with National Geographic, I've had the great pleasure of reporting from many remote places across the globe. Imagine my surprise when the most life-altering assignment of my career came not in an island in the South Pacific or a remote outpost of the Sahara. Instead, the most fascinating research I've ever done took place in a London office building and a dusty basement in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

About a year ago, I was assigned a story on Charles Widmore. Mr. Widmore, as I am sure you are aware, was a wealthy British industrialist who died in 2010. Apparently, in the later years of his life, he embarked on a seemingly quixotic pursuit to find an uncharted, unknown, unheard-of island. The scuttlebutt in many a London boardroom was that Mr. Widmore had lost his marbles. My assignment was to write about Mr. Widmore's final years. Was he really a kook? Or was there more to his story? If there's an unmapped island out there, we at National Geographic are keen to know!

I spent close to two weeks in London, interviewing Mr. Widmore's colleagues, social friends, and underlings. I learned much about his quest to find this island – the money he sank into the endeavor, the time he spent researching, the people he alienated. However, after 10 days in London, it was becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Widmore was, indeed, no more than an eccentric, misguided, wealthy man. I began to write my story with said angle.

Two days before I was to leave London, however, I had the great good fortune of touching base with Mr. Widmore's grandson, Charlie Hume. Charlie and I hit it off immediately, and Charlie allowed me access to many of Mr. Widmore's personal files regarding his quest. At first, these papers did nothing but reinforce the picture of Mr. Widmore as a misguided, sad, and obsessed old man.

Then I saw something that chilled me to the core. It was an induction photograph for something called the "Dharma Initiative," and was dated 1977. I had seen mention of the "Dharma Initiative" in a handful of Mr. Widmore's other papers, so this did not initially surprise me. The shocking thing about this photo was a man in the dead-center front of the photo. He looked remarkably like the man my brother, sister, and I grew up calling "Uncle Hurley." If you know my Uncle Hurley, and I believe you do (or did), you know that he is a very distinctive looking fellow. I asked Charlie what he knew of the photo, but unfortunately, aside from being the keeper of many of Mr. Widmore's personal effects, he knows little of the man himself, as his parents were estranged from Mr. Widmore.

Honestly, my first reaction was that this was an elaborate prank pulled by my twin sister. She denied it. At first I didn't believe her, but when I realized she had nothing substantive to gain from such a prank (and trust me, my sister doesn't run any schemes she won't benefit from!), I began to grow more curious about the photo. Both she and my brother thought I was being ridiculous.

I meant to ask Uncle Hurley about it, but before I did, I asked my mom and dad. I'd always been curious about their relationship with him. He was a customer at a coffee shop where my dad worked. Then he gave my dad all sorts of money to help buy a book store – across the country! This never made any sense to me. I remember asking about it several times over the course of my childhood, but my parents always said something like "Uncle Hurley is just a very generous guy." Sorry, folks, but that just never added up.

Anyway, their reactions to the photo were all I needed to know that something more than an elaborate hoax was at work. I set the photo down on their kitchen table, and my mother must have paled three shades. If you know my mother, and I believe you do (or did), you must know that she is not one to display unguarded emotions. She's happy when she's happy, sad when she's sad, but I've never in my life see her lose control of her face or show an emotion she doesn't mean to show – until I put that photo in front of her.

Of course, before I had a chance to process what I was seeing, my dad slapped his hand down on the table and started laughing. "I'll tell you who's behind this," he said. "It's gotta be Miles. Little motherfucker." And then Mom said "James. . ." as she's done my whole life whenever Dad says something inappropriate. By the time I turned and looked at her again, whatever look it was that had crossed her face was gone. She, too, was laughing about what a lark Uncle Miles had pulled.

While I'm on the subject, I must say that Uncle Miles is yet another family curiosity. How is it that my folks are such good friends with this guy who lives on the West Coast and is some kind of medium or seer or maybe even just a quick-talking scam artist? Quite frankly, Mom and Dad have never explained that one to my satisfaction.

Anyway, not long after this conversation with my folks, I called both Uncle Hurley and Uncle Miles, and sure enough (oh ho ho ho! The hilarity!), they spun the same story about Uncle Miles pulling this great prank. How I always asked too many questions, and didn't I regret it now, and how they'd loved to have seen the expression on my face when I saw that photo. Nice, guys, but since their explanations were almost word-for-word similar, my suspicions were not quite assuaged.

I was at a dead end, though. Seriously, what was next? I'd read all of Charles Widmore's papers. And what was I looking for anyway? Proof that Uncle Hurley was in the Dharma Initiative (as an adult) in 1977? And that my parents were somehow aware of this insane fact? Crazy talk.

So I dropped it until I received an email from Charlie Hume. The Department of Anatomy at the University of Michigan contacted him about a basement of papers they needed cleared out. They couldn't determine to whom the papers belonged, but a note in the files indicated that Mr. Widmore had at one point in time offered a princely sum for them. The department contacted Charlie as Mr. Widmore's sole known heir. Charlie had no interest in the papers, but he put them in contact with me.

Two days later I was sitting in a basement in Ann Arbor, poring over boxes and boxes of what was, to me, indecipherable scientific notes, equations, graphs, charts, etc. I was an English major, Dr. Faraday (in my family, the women handle the science!). The name "Daniel Faraday" appeared over and over again, and I made a note of it.

Finally, I found a paper I could make sense of. Typed at the top was "Submarine Manifest. July 16, 1977." Underneath was a typed list of names. Unremarkable, except that two names were crossed out. Then, handwritten to the sides of the crossed-out names, two new names were written. It took me a second to decipher them. [Oh, I was so naïve! The actual thought I had was "This person's handwriting is as bad as Mom's!" Something that should have been my first clue.] The names? Hugo Reyes, Jack Shephard. Dr. Shephard's is another name I recognize from my childhood. I had my copy of the 1977 induction photo with me, but as I've never met Dr. Shephard in person, I was unable to tell if he was in the photo. I couldn't believe it. Could I be on to something? No way Uncle Miles was pulling an elaborate hoax involving the University of Michigan Department of Anatomy.

Recharged, I plowed through several more boxes until I found a box of photos. There, clear as day, was a photo of my dad and Uncle Miles, dressed in ridiculous tan jumpsuits, rifles slung on their shoulders. The label on the back read "Dharma Security Team members, 1976. Head of Security, Jim LaFleur (left)." This is not my father's name, but the man on left in the picture is undoubtedly my father – at a time when he should have been eight years old. As far as I know, Uncle Miles wasn't even born in 1976! Pardon my French, Dr. Faraday, but what the hell was going on?

Later, I found another pictured labeled "New Years 1976." The picture is, quite clearly, my parents. Not seven and five years old, as they should have been on New Year's Eve 1975/'76, but full-grown adults. Mom is facing the camera with a huge grin, eyes shut. Dad is kissing her cheek and seen only in profile, but it is, without a doubt my parents.

None of this made a lick of sense to me. I tried to focus more on the scientific papers, particularly the ones with your name on them . . . it was just a hunch I had. You see, my full name is "Daniel Gregory Ford." I am called "Greg," after my maternal grandfather who died before my first birthday. My parents have always claimed I was named "Daniel" after someone they knew "from a long time before you kids came along." Fair enough, but, Dr. Faraday, my parents met 9 months to the day before my older brother was born. Do the math on that one, and you will agree that, for my parents, there was NO "long time before you kids came along." It's entirely possible I am completely off-base, sir, but I just felt in my bones that the key to this mystery was in the papers with your – my – name on them.

From what I can gather on your papers (and I'll admit, it's not much), it seems the bulk of your research was on time travel, affecting the past, the future, and the present. And, quite frankly (God, I cannot believe I am typing these words), time travel is the only way any of this makes sense. Dr. Faraday, I have Googled you, and I have researched your career. According to everything I can find, you are not some sort of misguided, crazy kook. Your academic postings, your published research, your distinguished career in physics all lead me to believe that I am on to something very real.

Aside from my reporter's instincts, and general desire to get to the truth, I have a much deeper concern here. I feel as if my parents' relationship has all been a lie. I feel somewhat as if I've long misunderstood my entire existence. On the other hand, all the things in life that have never quite added up - Uncle Hurley, Uncle Miles, our good friends, the super-rich Korean family, my name – suddenly seem like part of a larger pattern.

Dr. Faraday, please contact me either by phone, email, or letter. My information is all listed on the letterhead. I will be in Miami for most of the fall and winter. I was offered an assignment in Tunisia, but my wife is due to give birth to our second child in mid-November. I did seriously consider taking the 2-month Tunisian assignment, but Dad told me "Only an asshole would miss the birth of his child." He speaks from experience, and he convinced me. So, I will be in Miami for the next little while, but available at the drop of a hat for a day trip to Boston. Please let me know.

Oh! Of course, you may be interested to know what my folks are up to these days. Mom retired five years ago. She went to work immediately as a clerk in Dad's book store. That lasted about six weeks. I swear, they were an eyelash away from killing each other. My brother, sister, and I found it quite comical. Anyway, Dad sold the store about a year ago, but he still does a few shifts a week at the coffee shop. Otherwise, they travel to see my brother and sister, babysit the grandkids, and entertain each other with a weekly game of Battleship (of all things!). My brother's in the Navy, and he finds this particular detail of their life highly amusing.

Dr. Faraday, thank you for your time. Thank you for reading the rambling musings of a too-curious reporter, and please, contact me in whatever way you think best.

Sincerely yours,

Greg Ford


Dear Mr. Ford,

I am so sorry to tell you that your letter arrived in the mail three days after Daniel passed away. He has been ill for the past year. I only wish your letter had arrived sooner, as Daniel would have been quite interested in its content.

That said, I, too, am very familiar with the scenario you have laid out, and think that I can answer most (if not all) of your questions, and would be happy to meet with you at any time.

I think, though, that it is best if you first allow your parents to read both your letter to Dan and my response to you. This is their story to tell, and they should be given the first opportunity to tell it.

Let me assure you of one thing, though: Your parents' relationship is not based on a lie. I knew them in my young adulthood, in my childhood, and Daniel and I have both kept up with them over the years. It is somewhat difficult to explain the physics of the various ways I have known your mum and dad, but suffice it to say, I do know them. They have very clearly (and I believe wisely) not told you the full truth. I do know they have only wanted what's best for you, your brother, and sister. Please give them a chance to tell you their story.

After which, please contact me again. You may find the whole thing a bit much to swallow, and I may be able to provide you with assurance that neither you, your dad, nor your mum are going crazy.

My best wishes to you,

Charlotte L. Faraday

THE END

YES! It is finally over! Can you even believe it? No more epilogues, no more nothing - except, yes, my other story, don't remind me :-)! I have a secret personal goal of getting 300 reviews and I'm ALLLLLLMOSSST there. So, this is it, and these will be the last reviews, so go for it! Maybe there will be a prize for the 300th review or something.

And thanks to you all for all your kind words over the entire course of this entirely too long story that only took what? Six months to write. If I'd known that, I never would have started in the first place!