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Home At Last
I drew inspiration from a wrinkle in time, the rest was all original ideas. This piece is fun and fast-paced and will have you turning pages to see where she goes next.
I spin a pencil in my hand. My writing homework hidden in my textbook. This class bores me out of my mind. I taught myself subjects in my free time. When my dad isn’t home, it is lonely, studying is the only thing that can take my mind off of it. That and soap making. School was insanely easy, which made me hate it that much more.
How would I describe myself? The question loomed on the blank page in front of me. I could say the basics, white, brown hair, hazel eyes, 5ft 4in, though I know that isn’t what Mr. Mathews wants. Sure I could write about my experience with my parents but that would open a wound that didn’t need reopening. I stare at what I have already,
My name is Veronica Clair and I . . .
I shove the paper in my backpack. I can’t think of anything good to write. I put my head in my hands and sigh. Not long till this class is over. Not long...
“Ok, that is it for today, class.” Before Mrs. Wilkins can even finish her sentence kids are shoving things into their backpacks and standing up. “Remember to turn in the Places assignment tonight!” She manages to shout over the scraping metal sounds of chairs being pushed in and kids running out of the room. Great, even more homework. Luckily I have plenty of time due to my depressing and non-existent social life. I sigh and carefully tuck my notebook into my backpack.
I didn’t think this day could get any worse until Mrs. Wilkins said, “Have a good day honey!” Don’t get me wrong, I love helping out in the classroom, the library, grading papers, and so on. However, it just gives Nick another reason to bully me. My spirit lightens when I see Archie waiting for me.
“Want to go get ice cream?” It is like he can sense my mood. I smile at him, thinking about how lucky I got.
“Yeah, I don’t feel like going home anyway.” My dad wouldn’t be there so I would be alone, like always. As we walk we talk about the dread of tonight’s homework and how lame Mrs. Wilkins’ assignment is.
“Places? Could that be any vaguer?” Archie laughs at this. “What even is the point?”
“I bet she is going to have us write an essay on them later,” Archie says with distaste.
“God I hope not-”
“Well, well, well, look who it is.” We turn and see Nick, arms crossed and smiling. “The teacher’s little pet.”
“Leave her alone Nick!” Archie says with anger. This just makes Nick smile even more.
“The prince in shining armor coming to save the damsel in distress.” Nick takes a step forwards, almost as to challenge him. I can feel Archie tense up.
“I got this,” I say lightly to Archie as I place a hand on his shoulder.
“Too bad your mommy isn’t here to protect you?” He says cockily. My mom died last year due to cancer, Nick knows it is a sore spot for me still. Archie steps forwards, fist curled into a ball, but I push him back.
“At least my mom wanted me,” I say, anger pouring into my words. “Your mom just left you, an unwanted pesky accident.” With that, Nick steps forward to punch me but not before Archie knocks him to the ground.
“I would leave before I beat you up.” Archie threatens. Nick looks scared and hurt for a split second before anger returns to his face. Archie, satisfied, turns and we continue walking.
“This isn’t over!” Nick shouts enraged, “Get back here!” Though I know that he is secretly glad it is over. Nick is in shape, but with Archie being football captain he could beat him up in a split second. As we sit down in a booth I rest my head on Archie’s shoulder, feeling safe and at home.
I remove my key and open the door. The house feels empty and I feel unwelcome. I shrug my backpack off letting it fall. The sound of it hitting the floor echoing throughout the house. The loneliness beckoning me, calling to me.
“Dad?” I ask calling, though expecting no response. I grab a glass of water from the cupboard and fill it from the sink. I set the glass down on the counter and notice a slip of paper and a twenty sitting there. I shrug off my jacket and read the note as I hang it up.
I have to work late again and I won’t be home for dinner. Use the money to order a pizza. - Dad
Great, another night all alone. Shove the twenty in my jeans pocket along with the leftover money from the last few nights. I decide to knock out my homework before dinner. I reach into my bag for my laptop and pull it out. I balance it on one arm with my notebook and the glass of water. I am reaching for my phone when I fumble the laptop right out of my hands. I wince as it hits the ground. The thud ricocheting in my ears, through my bones, as a sense of dread and fear overwhelms me. Timidly I go to pick it up, carefully setting it down on the counter. When I muster enough courage to so see the damage I open the laptop just ever so slightly and I am already able to see the cracked screen.
“Ugh, just my luck,” I mutter to myself under my breath as I shut the laptop and leave it on the counter. I head to my dad’s study even though he doesn’t like me in there. I am sure he will understand that I have literally no other choice, considering my computer is broken. I open his computer to a blank document and title it ‘Places’. A lame name I suppose, so I change it to, Places I want to visit. Much better I think and I start writing down all the places and what times I would like to visit them in. I jotted down ideas in my pocket notebook earlier so all I have to do is copy them down. I write the date at the top, October 13th, 2016:
Ancient Rome during 1st Century BC
New York, 2100
Oregon during the Mesozoic Era
California 4 years in the future, 2020
Suddenly I can’t move. My head is spinning, I feel like I am being stretched. Pain shocks my body, tearing me apart from the inside. I scream though no one can hear me. I try to grasp at something but I find nothing to hold onto. I fall, my body slams into the hard ground even though the pain is nothing compared to what I just felt. I lay there for a few seconds, grasping my bearings and letting the pain subside. I stand weakly fully expecting to be standing in my father’s office. When I open my eyes my jaw falls to the floor. The shock hits me all over again like a wave of nausea. I knew one thing and one thing only, I wasn’t in my father’s office…
Buildings tower in front of me. Large marble and stone buildings towered over me. Beautiful, tall, elegant columns reached to the sky. Each building was adorned with Greek writing, names of gods and emperors. The detail so exquisite my eyes raced from place to place.
Feet hurry past me. The noise suddenly surrounds me. People yelling, talking, bickering. The alley is lined with booths. Golden trinkets, stones, silver goods, and food of all types were displayed for sale. Gold, silver, bronze coins tossed from hand to hand. The poor were haggling, servants buying food for their masters, merchants trying to make a living. It was all so surreal, nothing like the world I grew up in. Where even am I anyways? I walk down the alley, people giving me weird looks. It must be my clothing, everyone here seems to be wearing draped pieces of cloth, tunics if I recall correctly. When I reach the end of the alley I take in my surroundings. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a tall, vaguely familiar building. I am drawn to it somehow. When the buildings part I understand why it looked familiar, it was the Colosseum! Wait a second…
“Colosseum, tunics, marble,” I mutter to myself. I quickly pull out the list I had stashed in my pocket. My hand flies to my mouth as I make the connection. I am in ancient Rome, the first place on my list! I am overwhelmed with shock, fear, wonder, and so much more. How did I get here? It is physically impossible, I live thousands of years in the future.
“Excuse me, sir, what year is it?” I tap a man on the shoulder. I know the year, 1st century B.C. but I still can’t wrap my head around it. The man looks confused and scared. He yells at me in a language I can’t understand. I can only pick out a few words.
“Alien!... Creature!... Death!...” The sentence is broken, Latin. Of course they don’t speak English, have I learned anything?! Hands grab at me as I try to fight back. I zone out, I can only hear yelling and feel people pushing me. I don’t know where I am going, I am only focused on getting their hands off me. The Romans were short. If it was just one of them I could easily take them, but not 10 of them!
I couldn’t do anything, I fought, punched, kicked, screamed but nothing worked. I only came to my senses when I am shoved into a room. All too soon I realize it is a cell, a jail cell. Writings were etched into the stone walls, in both Latin and Greek. What little I could understand, I didn’t want to. Some mentioned death sentences, some mentioned beheadings, others were expressions of pure terror. Whatever I was in this cell for, it wasn’t good, and the ending probably isn’t any better. I sit down. I put my head in between my knees. I was going to die.
A knock on the door woke me as a plate was shoved under the door. Some form of food sat on the plate. There was no form of utensil to use. I sniffed it, ooh it smelled good. My stomach growled. I wiped my hands no my jeans and ate some of it. It had no distinct flavors but it shut my stomach right up. I finished the plate and set it down. I felt nausea, my head felt light. The world around me blurred, then, nothing.
Firm hands grab my shoulders. I am tired now, I can’t fight. Time had passed quickly, hours though it seemed like minutes. I was dragged outside where I could see it was dark. The voices echoing distantly in my head. I wouldn’t see my dad again. No matter the fact that he was never home, none of that matters. I wasn’t able to say goodbye. I was forced into a headlock. Wooden plates locking me in place. I could see the gleaming of the blade out of the corner of my eye. The moon was high, it had to be near midnight, its light reflecting off the blade. The chanting became apparent to me as I realized it all too soon. No one would know where I am, how I died. My dad, would forever be all alone.
“Nooo,” I scream, the crowd looks startled for a second before resuming. I thrash and fight using all of my weak strength that was left. It didn’t work, I was stuck. A man walks up to me, the pleasure on his face was alarming. He raised his arms to the crowd before pulling the rope. The blade fell fast. Pain hit my body, coursed through my bones. I screamed till it felt like my lungs were to give out. My eyes were squeezed shut, thoughts, prayers, goodbyes making my head spin.
But wait, how am I still thinking? How can I still feel the ground in front of me? The chains have disappeared from my hands, my head was still on its neck. No more pain.
I open my eyes and sit up. I am in a bed, soft silk sheets covering me. My heartbeat slows, it was all a dream. I toss the blankets off and stand, pleased to find my legs still work. I run my hand over my neck as I walk to the balcony door. As I throw them open I freeze. This was not my house, nor was this a dream.
New York, 2100
I stand frozen, unable to move. What I see before me is straight out of a nightmare, or possibly a dream. My body unfreezes just in time to dodge a drone coming straight at me. It is carrying something, a package. It hovers and lowers the package on the balcony before zipping away. I stare at the spot where the drone disappeared, then at the box it left. I cautiously bend down and open the box. Gingerly I lift a flap and revealing the contents inside. I read the label on one of the bottles, daily iron supplement. I remove the bottle, unearthing more bottles of what I presume are vitamins. Chewables, daily doses, fluorides, and more. Every type of supplement you could imagine. Then I find something strange. At the bottom of the box are little vials with needles attached. It is titled COVID-19 booster, whatever that means. I take out my notebook and jot it down. I will ask dad when, no, if I ever get home. I flip one of the vails over and read the expiration date, July 21, 2102. Wait, that is more than… 86 years in the future! I pull out my notebook again and look at the places I had written for the school assignment. There on the second line, I had written New York, 2100. I am astonished. If my theory was right I had traveled more than 2000 years into the past and now more than 84 years into the future! But, how? A noise startles me as I look up. As the clouds move aside I see cars, flying above my head. Just another impossible thing to add to the list.
My hand traces the banister, the stairs elegantly sweeping into a modern living space. When I reach the bottom, the stairs move, swinging together, collapsing, and tucking themselves into the wall. I contemplate how that works for a minute before giving up. I turn and study the room. The kitchen, dining, and living room are very spacious. Hues of teal, white, pink, and gray make the room feel soft and inviting.
“Lunch has been delivered.” A robotic voice sounds through the house. My head turns to the kitchen to see food dishes being dropped on the counter, sliding off a conveyor belt.
“Umm, thank you?” I feel silly because no one can hear me. I reach out for one of the plates. It is almost overflowing with steak, yams, and asparagus. A glass of apple juice travels down the conveyor belt just as I am about to turn around. I grab the glass and look for a nice place to eat my lunch. The room opens to a pool and courtyard with 3 other houses backing it. The shared space gives me very English cottage vibes with vines draping down the sides of the buildings. The patio is adorned with sweeping arches and luxurious patio furniture. I set my plate on the small patio table with my apple juice. I sit down in one of the softest chairs I have ever sat in. Suddenly the table moves, rising and moving over my lap. I almost laugh. I think I will love the future but I have so many things to get used to!
After finishing the most delicious meal, I decide to walk around town. The streets are crowded with people, not a car in sight. I suppose that is because they are all flying above our heads. The streets are lined with shops, cafes, boutiques, etc. It reminded me a lot of Italy, I went once before my mom died. The path was lined with old cobblestones, though the ground was effortlessly smooth. On second thought, there was a clear layer over the stones. Weird, I push the thought aside and continue on.
My eye catches on one of the window displays. Clothing was hung on mannequins that looked like, well, out of the future! I step inside the shop and my eyes bug. Robots are moving around the room stocking items and helping customers. Three round cylinders sit at the back of the room. One swings open and out steps a beautiful young lady. Her clothes matched the ones on the manikin display. I walk over and place my hand on the machine.
“Can I help you with anything?” The employee scares me. Mainly because I hadn’t seen anyone other than robots that worked here. “These machines will dress you in any clothing combinations you desire!” The 6-year-old girl inside me squeals.
“I may just have to try it then!” I look happily at the employee and then slip inside. One of the walls has a large screen displaying the store collection. I quickly pick out a cute outfit and press the button. In a matter of seconds I am dressed in new clothing, freshly ironed, and cleaned. The screen shifts into a mirror and I marvel at the outfit. It wasn’t something I would buy but the experience was enough to make me love it. I quickly went to try on another outfit. Then another. And another. I strut through the store giving a little runway show for each outfit. Trying on outlandish things. The employee who helped me earlier laughed and at one point started playing music for me.
“We may just have to hire you as a model,” she giggles as do I. I smile and do my best twirl before heading back to try on yet another outfit.
After my fun in the clothing store, it is nearing dusk. My stomach growls and it brings me to realize just how long I spent in there! I stroll the streets looking for food stumbling on a unique booth. They called it eco food, made from carbon dioxide and compost. It sounded absolutely disgusting so I quickly walked away before the seller noticed me.
I wound up sitting on the roof of a pizza place. The sign boasted that they serve “old-time” pizza which really just meant from the early 2000s, aka my time. I have eaten New York pizza before so I wanted to see their take on it. The pizza was served on a wooden plate and smelled divine. I dug in and immediately fell in love. Though it was similar, this pizza tasted even better than anything I have had before!
I was so hungry due to skipping lunch I nearly finished the whole pizza myself! I soon realized that I didn’t have a ton of money on me. At least not considering I ordered a second pizza and a cheesecake! It didn’t seem to matter though, because they never asked me to pay. I walk home with the leftovers, feeling like I had just stolen them even though I hadn’t.
On the way home I stop at a movie theater. It still wasn’t dark out and if this pattern continued this would be my only day in New York. I walk in expecting to have to sign in, or worse, pay for a ticket but I didn’t. I walked randomly into a room, wanting the movie to be a surprise. It is 84 years in the future, heck, I don’t want to be picking a basic rom-com. I want the 2100s to show me what it has got!
Not 20 mins into the movie are gory pictures of hospital rooms and graveyards. All I can hear is the word COVID-19 repeating in my head. I run out of the room not wanting to see another ill person. What does this all mean? The box this morning contained what seems like booster shots for COVID and this movie, real or not, shocked me to the bones.
“Excuse me?” I tap someone on the shoulder as I am about to leave, “What is COVID-19?” The person looks at me with terror in their eyes before hurrying off without saying a word. If my predictions are correct, COVID-19, whatever it may be, brought pain and horror to those who experienced it.
All my troublesome thoughts disappeared as my head hit the pillow. The silky sheets wrapping me in comfort. I turn my head to look out the window, saying a silent goodbye to New York. I knew in the morning I would wake up in a place as unfamiliar as the first.
Oregon, Mezasoic Era
I wake up, an itch tickling at the back of my head. I sit up as a twinge of pain shocks through my back. I look around and understand why. I guess the foliage isn’t as comfortable as a mattress and bamboo sheets. I stand and brush the grass of my legs looking around, taking in my surroundings. I don’t see any signs of life, confused as to where I could be this time. I take out my notebook and check. I am back in Oregon, not too far from home hopefully. I can’t read the year, however.
I decide to explore, hoping to miraculously stumble upon civilization. As I walk I think to myself, letting my mind wander. Why didn’t dad ever let me in his study? And how the heck did I wind up here? Could I somehow be... Teleported? And was it because of his computer?
A roar in the distance grabs my attention as I jerk my head towards the noise. There before me is a large creature, covered in smooth scales. It had to be more than 15 feet tall! It is chasing a smaller animal. Each step it takes feels like an Earthquake. It catches the small animal and eats it in no more than 3 bites. As soon as it has finished it turns towards me, roaring again and coming my way. I shake in terror as I run to the nearby cliff. A small cave fits me perfectly as I scramble inside. The creature sticks its head in the cave, not getting past the small opening. I scream because I know what the creature is now. It was a dinosaur. Not any dinosaur, however, it was a T. Rex! After a minute or two of it shoving its nose against the rock and scratching with its huge claws, it leaves. The shaking subsidies not long after but my trembling continues. I sit there in the cave crying to myself. Think about what I would trade to be home right now. Vowing to myself if I made it out of here alive I would never step foot in my dad’s office ever again.
As night fell I couldn’t ignore my stomach any longer. I stumbled out of the cave hoping that any predators had retired for the night. A babbling brook nearby provides a great water source and soothes some of my hunger. Across the stream lies a beautiful tree with fruit I have never seen before. I know I shouldn’t eat it for I have no idea what could be in it. Suddenly a small bird-looking creature swoops down and grabs one of the fruits before flying away. It must be safe if that creature could eat it, I thought. Against my better judgment, I grab one and eat it, juice running down my arms.
The growling in my stomach subsides after I eat a few. I bend over the stream rinsing my arms and face to get the juice off of me. I walk back to the cave hoping it would bring me safety through the night. As soon as I arrive the loneliness washes over me in waves. I sit there with my head in my hands, crying myself to sleep.
I woke up in another bed. Not nearly as comfortable as New York’s, however. I look out the window to see the beach and crystal clear waves crashing against the sand. Then I notice something strange. Everyone is wearing what looks like masks. I am puzzled as to why.
When I walk downstairs I am half expecting the stairs to move and conveyor belts to be delivering food but never the less this house is just as ordinary as mine. Upon checking my notebook I realize I am in California, or Cali as my classmates would say. Only 4 years in the future!
What is it with me waking up in empty houses? Where is everyone? I walk to the kitchen and grab a bagel with cream cheese. After devouring that, I snoop around the pantry. I grab some granola bars and shove them in my pocket, trying to prevent myself from starving again. On my way out I see a painted sign on the wall with masks hanging off it. It says, “don’t forget your mask!” I don’t know why I would need a mask but I shove one in my back pocket anyway.
I don’t see many people out on the streets, and those who do are wearing masks and giving me snide looks as I pass. I cautiously take out the mask I have taken and put it on. I am still unsure why. I don’t know where I am going. My feet are walking and I am just taking in the sights. The place I arrive is unexpected. The beach. I hadn’t been in the ocean since my mom passed. I stop by the surf shop to ask a quick question.
“Excuse me?” I say, trying to get the guy’s attention as he is looking down at his phone.
“Yes?” He asks, sounding slightly annoyed.
“Why is everyone wearing masks?” He looks shocked before snidely answering my question.
“Geez kid, have you been living under a rock?” I ignore the insult and stare at him expectantly until I get the answer I want. “Because of the freaking pandemic! COVID? Any of that ringing a bell?”
“No, not really,” I say mockingly with a touch of confusion. He sighs.
“The virus that started in China almost a year ago? That is airborne and doesn’t have a vaccine yet. The reason everyone is wearing masks?” He sounds almost like he is questioning me but I can sense the anger in his voice. I nod pretending to understand. I turn and head towards the beach. I quickly jot that down in my notebook before pushing my worries aside, I wasn’t going to let “COVID” ruin this perfect day at the beach. I giggle with joy as I run, sand squishing between my toes. The cool water splashes over my feet as I wade into the water. Waves crashing on my legs sending saltwater into my eyes. I laugh, finally feeling like a kid, finally feeling free.
After returning to the house and taking a shower, I do a little snooping. It doesn’t take me long to find what I am looking for, a computer. I wasn’t going to leave California without visiting Hollywood! I look it up and find out I am no farther than 10 mins out. I look around the garage, grabbing one of the bikes and helmets stacked against the wall. I hope the owners don’t mind.
Just as my legs are starting to get sore, I arrive. The stunning houses take my breath, and the pain, away. I marvel at all the houses, each a different style. Some look very modern and blocky while others are adorned with sweeping arches. I bike around for almost an hour. I take the time to picture what the insides look like and imagine myself living there.
I am staring at an art-deco-style house when I spot my idol, Noelle Nokes. She has been my idol since the day I could walk. She started her own business at the age of 13 and has turned it into a successful global company. She was soon named the richest teenager in the world. I have always dreamed to follow in her footsteps.
“Noelle! Noelle!” I call biking over. “Can I please get your signature?” She smiles and waves me over.
“Of course, where would you like it?” Her voice is sweet like honey and she bends down a little to be at my height. I always wear this necklace around my neck with a picture of my mom on one side and a blank piece of paper on the other. I never knew what to put there until now. I take it off and hand it to her.
“In here please!” She carefully takes it, cradling it in her hands, she must know it is special to me. She signs it and hands it back to me. “Thank you so much! You’re a huge inspiration!” I almost jump with joy but I wanted to look mature in front of her. She touches her hand to her chest and her smile widens. After taking a picture of us together she waves and turns to head into her house. As I bike home, the only thing I can think of is that almost being beheaded, and chased by dinosaurs, was definitely worth it for this moment.
Home At Last
I wake up and groan. Wherever I was now, my legs weren’t happy about it. All that biking yesterday took a toll on me. I rub my eyes and walk towards the door, the motion feeling strangely familiar. Once the door was open, I knew why, I was home! There at the kitchen counter was my dad, with rings around his eyes, looking worried.
“Dad!” I exclaim running to hug him. When he sees me his eyes go wide and he rushes to hug me also. I hold him tight thinking about how worried he must have been. When I finally let go the relief turns into concern and disappointment.
“Where were you?” He asks raising one eyebrow, “You had me worried sick!”
“It’s a long story,” I say. I smile as I begin to inform him of my adventures over the last few days.
“Wow, that’s crazy! And also why I tell you not to go into my study!” He punches me lightly in the shoulder. I knew he would believe me since he is studying time travel and quantum physics. Apparently, he rigged his computer up to study the rearranging of atoms. Since I typed in places I wanted to go, the computer took it as a command and basically propelled me into both the past and the future! “Gosh, I am just glad you are home!” He hugs me again, and that’s when I know everything is going to be alright.