Meeting in front of the house after a breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, the friends piled into Dan’s wagon. Caitlin overheard Nicholas mention to Eugene that he’d stay permanently if they had that every day for breakfast.
Dan and Mark sat in the front, and the kids sat with their backs on the edges of the wagon and their feet touching in the middle. “If it wasn’t under such stressful circumstances, this would be a magical experience.” Andrea’s eyes scanned the scenery in front of them.
Seeing, literally, the same landscape they knew from back in their time, less the houses and occasional oil derrick built in the later years, compelled Caitlin to look harder in hopes of seeing her mother who was probably driving a route similar to theirs one hundred years later.
Dan guided the horses to walk in a slow gait to reduce the intensity of bumps they experienced. They stopped at a stream and the horses drank some water before returning to their route to the Sweet Grass hills. At the base of one of the hills, a shack anyone could have been mistaken for an outhouse stood perched beneath a tree at the base of the mountain.
Dan pointed at the structure that looked like it could topple with the next strong wind. “You’re going to want to see what’s inside there.” He responded to their looks of concern saying, “We’ll be out here waiting for you.” The shack that looked like it barely held one person, let alone eleven, drew second and third quizzical looks.
Selene casting one last quick glance in the direction of the shack asked, “Aren’t you coming with us?”
“This is your meeting. What is in there has been waiting for you. You won’t be disappointed,” Dan promised. He tied the horses to the tree. “You go along, the sooner you get started, the closer you’ll be to getting home. Unless of course, you wanted to stay with us.”
Selene swallowed hard, turned, and joined the group that had already walked in the door of the shack.
Following close behind Selene, Caitlin wondered how all of them were going to fit in a building that small. One by one, they entered and the line never seemed to back up. When she got to the door, Selene commented to Caitlin, “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Sconces lined the wall providing dim light to guide them on their path. The width of the room remained the same. However, the length extended like a hall to a larger room. Caitlin ran outside quickly to see if the shack butted against the mountain. She saw a solitary building that looked like it didn’t belong in the place where it sat.
Allowing a couple seconds for her eyes to get used to the change in lighting, Caitlin moved quickly to catch up to Selene. Their ability to see ahead of them only went as far as the four people in front of them and then they only saw darkness.
They heard a clank behind them and Caitlin rushed towards the door. It resisted her push and remained shut.
The light bright enough for Caitlin to see Selene’s wide, round eyes reflected the worry she felt in her gut. Selene asked the question to which they both already knew the answer. “We’re locked in?”
Caitlin silently nodded.
Both girls worked together to push against the door that refused to budge. After several attempts, through ragged breaths, Caitlin said, “There must be another way out.”
“How do you know that, smart one?” Selene sniped.
Maybe it was the stress, or perhaps Caitlin had grown tired of Selene’s habit of talking to her as if she was stupid. Usually when Brian wasn’t around to defend her, Caitlin sulked quietly at Selene’s cattiness. Something in her snapped. “Do you ever think beyond what’s the next nail polish color you’re going to wear? If there was an end, somebody would have come back to meet up with us. They’re so far ahead they probably didn’t hear us fight with the door.”
Selene stepped back and her face softened. She replied, “I don’t plan my nail polish colors. I just pick one and go with it.”
Expecting harsher response, Caitlin smiled at Selene. Apparently her bark was bigger than her bite. Deciding to let the offense go, Caitlin said, “Let’s catch up with the class.”
The light in the sconce above their heads pulsed and burned out leaving them to stand in darkness. “We better move quickly.”
Caitlin thought they were moving quickly. The burning in her legs and difficulty breathing were almost strong enough to entice her to stop. Every time she considered it, a nearby light burned out motivating her to keep moving.
“We need to go faster,” Selene urged through panted breaths.
Rather than burn her energy talking, Caitlin remained silent and stayed the course. A band of lights dimmed in front of them.
“What is going on?” Selene groaned.
“Maybe our breathing is draining the oxygen from the lights.” Caitlin recalled the science experiment where they used marble coasters to limit the amount of air while a candle burned. To make it interesting the class voted on how long certain candles could burn once its resources were limited. “We need to slow down.”
“You need to slow down,” Selene barked. “Actually you need to get away from me. It’s your fault we’re even here.”
Caitlin did wish for another life, but she didn’t wish for one that included her personal bully. For as long as she had known her, Selene at best tolerated Caitlin. And, only when people were around. When it was just the two of them, Selene made sure to let Caitlin know that her company was unwanted.
if she wanted her point completely understood, Selene pushed Caitlin against the wall and broke into a full run in the direction of the lights. In the time it took Caitlin to recover from the fall and get her bearings the corridor was dark.
She wanted to get up and run, but was unsure of the direction to go. What happened if she went back to the door? Then the possibility of wild animals entered Caitlin’s mind. The only thing she had to protect herself was her jacket.
She told herself, “It’s better to die in battle than to wait for death to come to you.” Feeling silly, yet emboldened Caitlin smiled and moved in a forward direction. It was time for her to confront her fears and she was ready to do it.
Oberon’s feet barely touched the ground beneath him. The grass behind him stood firmly as though nobody had been there moments prior to tread upon it. Dolph, knowing the appearance of the king of the fairies was a rare occurrence, burned an imprint of the Fay King in his mind. His foreknowledge of fairies altering memories, reminded Dolph to burn the image in several places in his mind. One would surely remain.
Stooping to examine a taller stalk of prairie grass, Dolph witnessed Oberon’s eyes changing from an earthy brown to a dark gold that glowed and dimmed returning to the neutral tone. There was only one other person who was as tightly connected to nature. Dolph asked, “Have you mentioned any of this to Demeter?”
Looking forward, Oberon tapped his finger on his lip as though weighing his words before releasing them. “Maleficent failed in her understanding of the spell she cast on the land.”
“I don’t follow.”
His gaze focused on the landscape ahead of them, Oberon said, “When Aurora slept, the land remained dormant with her. When she woke, the sleeping dust remained. No one thought to purge the kingdom of it. They left it to take on a life of its own.”
“True love’s kiss! Aphrodite must have a solution.”
“She tried. The result was a population explosion followed by a stronger hate between the kingdoms, and the dust grew even more powerful.”
They walked in silence. Images flashed and settled in Dolph’s mind beginning with a white flaky substance drifting from the sky to land on the countryside barren of people, grass, or any forms of life. Wires connected the poles to a sagging fence; separating him from a solitary car passing by on a road made of a hard, cracked black substance. The grey atmosphere around him mirrored the desolation he knew extended for miles beyond his vision. The images of the future created an unlikely alliance between the two world.
Stopping in front of the entrance to the Adam’s farm, they faced the house. Silhouettes of boys rough housing in one window contrasted several girls sitting in what he guessed to be a circle in the other window.
“You need a princess?”
“A descendant of a ruler would suffice.”
“And we won’t be killing her.”
“Quite the contrary.” Oberon’s eyes left an imperceptible, yet definite imprint in Dolph’s mind. It was a present—except the time not right to open it, kept curious fingers at bay. “It doesn’t have to be a she. Just one of them must remain. Respect for your question compels me to answer. We are about life, not death. She’d never age, therefore she’d never die.”
Both of them returned to the tableau in front of them. The present and the future meeting in one place. And, the subjects were only mildly aware of the reason why.
By now, you know the routine. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of the story so far. I am interested to know what you think.
Dan and Ella offered to let the girls sleep in two rooms and have the boys sleep in the bunkhouse. All of a sudden, Selene and Andrea who had the hardest time getting along since kindergarten developed a friendship requiring them to be in close proximity to each other. The two of them insisting upon being close together without provocation from anyone else drew stares of shock that were followed by comments of not seeing that one coming.
Crammed into a room with three twin beds and two trundles, the girls in the absence of the boys found chatting about their situation a pleasant situation.
Leaning against the headboard of a bed with her knees tucked into her chest, Andrea said, “I’m glad Mrs. Authry made me change my shoes.”
“How did she know you weren’t supposed to wear them?” Caitlin wondered aloud.
“I’ve asked myself the same question,” Andrea answered. “They were red and bright, but I’ve worn them to school before. Mrs. Almstead said they looked cute.”
The furtive glances the triplets shared temporarily silenced the conversation. Andrea with one eyebrow raised, and Caitlin developing a keen interest in the quilt patterns waited for one of them to divulge the part of the story they obviously missed.
Angelica, who was usually the quieter of the triplets, spoke. “We were in the office when Mrs. Authry took the call about your shoes.”
The look of relief passing on Selene and Marjorie’s faces told there was more to the story and they were glad Angelica was the one telling it. She spoke so rarely that when she passed on advice or helped someone it was accepted without question or argument.
“And?” Caitlin prodded for the rest of the story.
Despite the pressure from Caitlin and Andrea’s stares, Angelica searched within herself for the right wording. Her eyes darting from right to left as though she were reading an invisible script Angelica seemed oblivious of anyone else being in the room.
“Because someone you don’t know, but knows you well called and said you wouldn’t be able to walk for as long as you needed to in those shoes. I don’t know who it was, but I know it was a relative.”
Unsettled by the information, Andrea’s voice wavered. “How do you know?”
“The same way we knew we weren’t dead when we saw Caitlin’s grandfather.” She moved her face to shift the attention from herself as an individual to the three sisters. “Sometimes we find out about things before they happen. I see them as words on a wall, Marjorie sees them as pictures, and Selene feels them.”
“Which is why I grow impatient with people,” Selene admitted. “I forget that we have an advantage.”
“Did you know we were going to miss the science fair?”
The three sisters looked at each other with blank faces and turned to Caitlin and Andrea. In unison, with their voices candid they said, “No.”
“Honestly, do you think we’d have worked so hard if we knew it was for nothing?” Selene sniped and then grinned at being caught falling into her typical response.
“Do you know why we’re here?”
The three sisters shook their heads affirming their lack of knowledge.
“I wonder—” Caitlin crawled over the field of blankets between herself and the backpack. Unzipping the front pouch, she pulled out a key and continued searching for something. Unable to find it she huffed, “I know I put it in here this morning.”
“What?” Andrea peered over Caitlin’s shoulders as though the object would magically appear.
“This morning I had an argument with my mother over what to wear. After wishing I didn’t live there I went to the trunk and put Dan’s watch in here.”
“The one he has chained on his belt loop?” Marjorie asked.
Caitlin nodded, and continued rifling through her backpack.
“It isn’t there. An object cannot be in two places at one time.”
“Why do I still have the key?”
Selene rolled her eyes. “It’s a copy.” She put her fingers over her lips before offering a smile of apology. “I need to work on my delivery.”
Accepting the information Caitlin said, “There’s something else I want to check.” She held the key and tiptoed to the door.
“What are you doing?” Selene whispered.
“There was a leather pouch with two cool stones I never saw before. I wonder if it’s still in the trunk.”
Tiptoeing through the hall, the girls gestured with their hand to communicate what they were doing. Whenever they made a noise, they covered their mouths with their hands to either stifle a giggle or, in the case of Selene, a rebuke. Slowly they worked together to move the leather trunk above the one Caitlin sought after. Sitting on top of one trunk, Caitlin opened the midnight blue travel trunk she used for treasures for as long as she could remember. The hinges creaked their complaints.
All the girls cast quick glances towards the door expecting someone to come in the room and catch them in the act. When no one appeared, Caitlin continued with her intention and completely opened the trunk. A loud burst of laughter from the boys’ room startled the girls. Andrea gasped and threw her hand over her mouth.
“It’s safe to say, they won’t be able to hear us if the boys follow their usual behavior pattern,” Angelica whispered.
“I give it ten minutes until a wrestling match breaks out,” Marjorie added.
Moving books she had seen all her life to the side, Caitlin said, “This morning when I was looking for the watch, there was a brown pouch with two stones. I didn’t remember placing it in here. The stones glowed and were warm. I wonder if they were in here.”
A piece of string snagged Caitlin’s pinky finger. When she pulled at it, the leather pouch came out from between two of the books. Pleased with her find, Caitlin held up the bag for everyone to see. She opened the pouch to reveal its contents. Nothing came out. “It’s empty.”
“So someone in this time has the stones, and you haven’t received them yet.”
“Do you think that’s why we’re here?” Caitlin asked.
The triplets shrugged their shoulders. Marjorie answered, “Your guess is as good as ours.”
“But. I thought. I mean what about?” Trying to ask the question without being offensive, Caitlin gave up.
“We aren’t oracles.” Selene hissed. “We’re just able to see things better than other people and put it together faster.”
They heard a loud thud come from down the hall. “And the wrestling match has begun.”
The girls closed the lid of the trunk. Without bothering to lock it, they replaced the other trunk on top of it. Using the noise from the boy’s room to cover their actions, they hustled out of the room and back to their bedroom. When the last girl entered the room, they heard Dan’s voice at the top of the stairwell.
United by their complicit mission they giggled. “This is the first time, I’m actually glad they’re so annoying.” Marjorie laughed. The immediate silence that followed the sound of the door to the boys’ room opening was enough for the girls to laugh louder.
Knowing the distance between the two destinations shortened the trip between the bus and Dan’s house. Going from the bus to the house the walk seemed like it took forever. In a matter of moments of walking, they saw the sunlight shimmer against its windows. Dan’s lack of concern with being stuck in alkali also cut a considerable amount of distance from their journey.
“We have a car to get us from place to place, but it doesn’t have enough seats for all of us.” Dan explained. “And, I figured the walk would give us some time to get to know each other.” Aware of the suspicious looks the boys poorly hid he said, “When a problem is bigger than you, you have two choices. You either face the reality and grow through it. Or, resist what is clearly in front of you—go the long way around the problem, and risk ending up exactly where you started. I’m here to help you get through the problem to a resolution.”
“How do we know you didn’t do something to make this happen?” Damien asked. “Out of all our families, how did we get to you and not one of our own families?”
Dan, taking the question at face value, said, “Most likely because they don’t live here yet. When did your families homestead this region?” In order to address Mark who Demetrius suspected to be one of his relatives, Dan emphasized the word families.
Except for Brian, the lack of an answer rendered them silent. “I know my grandparents were friends with Caitlin’s grandparents.”
“So your family is on the way.” Dan stopped walking and searched through the grass until he found a vivid green blade the length of this thumb. He plucked it, placed it between his two thumbs and when it was in the position he wanted, Dan held his hands in front of his lips and blew through the grass. The prairie grass around them jostled as though responding to a call from a friend.
With their smiles of wonder, the suspicious air around them dissipated. Pointing towards blades of grass that would achieve similar results, Dan guided the boys on how to weave the grass around their thumbs. He encouraged Demetrius who was first to figure out how to hold it correctly. “Go ahead and try it.”
When Demetrius blew through his whistle, a softer, lower tone struck something in Brian. Watching the grass move in response, Brian felt a little guilty. He spent so much time wishing to get away from the farm he almost missed the magic. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw two people on the horizon extending behind the bus, but when he turned to get a better look, nobody was there.
Walking side by side to the bus, the boys alternated turns blowing through their newfound instruments. One time Brian thought he heard a soft giggle behind him. Knowing in his head nothing was behind him he continued walking and said nothing.
Damien pulled him aside when they reached the bus. “A little while ago, did you see two people too?”
Brian looked around to make sure the others were out of hearing distance. “Do you think it’s Mrs. Almstead and Alex?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t get a good enough look. But, I doubt it. When she got off the bus, she was wearing her long red coat. It didn’t look like either of them was wearing red.”
“Something about this is bugging me.
“Is it Dan?”
“No, he tells it like it is. If he wanted to trick us, he’d tell us what we wanted to hear and fix the lie as he went.”
Eugene’s loud laughter interrupted their conversation. Rounding the corner of the bus to find out what was so funny, a red face Nicholas called out to him, “You’ll pay me back.”
Amused by the scene, Damien asked, “What is so funny?”
Through a sly grin, Demetrius began the explanation. “Nicholas gave his breakfast to Eugene and Andrea this morning. What Dan said, like 30 minutes ago just hit him.”
Eugene having finished one lap around the bus passed in front of them.
Peter joined the conversation. “And they were talking about breakfast. Dan thought a tater tot was a baby potato. Gamer boy put two and two together and he realized he may not get sausage tater tot casserole for a long time.”
They stepped back to make room for Nicholas to pass by.
“And that’s when the line between friend and finisher of the delicious breakfast was drawn.”
Seeing Eugene heading in their direction to begin his third lap around the bus, Damien laughed. “Maybe staying here for awhile won’t be so bad after all.”
Up until this point in the tour, Ella listened quietly occasionally offering a nod or smile of agreement to something Dan said. Caitlin noticed when Ella’s almond colored eyes came alive when she spoke. “I know you boys have something more masculine that watching us preen like peacocks.”
“You mean you don’t have any clothes in there to make the boys feel at home too?”
Familiar with Dan’s jesting she said, “Well, if you want to wear one of Aunt Peggy’s hats I suppose we could find one in your size.”
The boys slowly backed away from the conversation as though the demure woman standing in front of them had powers of persuasion they didn’t want to taste. Dan threw back his head and released a hearty laugh. “Just to get you wondering, I may take you up on the offer.”
Ella’s mouth fell open in surprise. Dan turned to the boys. “Let’s get out of here before a situation we’d all regret happens.” His voice trailed off with their descent down the hall. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the farm, but I’ll show you around.”
When she heard their footsteps reach the stairs, Ella removed a necklace with a key she was wearing. Using it to open the lock securing a black leather travel trunk she began chatting with the girls like they’d been together for a lifetime. “About a year ago a woman and her husband came through with these trunks full of dresses. A surprise snowstorm blew through and they stayed with us for a couple days. To repay our kindness she left five of these trunks behind. I tried telling her it was too much, but she insisted saying we might have visitors who could make use of them.” She paused and smiled at something she didn’t speak aloud. “Turns out she was right about that and a couple other things too.”
Caitlin immediately recognized the midnight blue trunk below the one Ella was opening. The key to it was in the front pocket of her backpack. Remembering what Dan said about withholding information about the future she held her tongue, which increased her eagerness to see what it held.
The brass hinges creaked, adding effect to Ella’s words. “These used to be my dresses when I was your age.” Her necklace held the key for the trunk. Kneeling beside the trunk she said, “I was lucky. Most people have to reuse the fabric to make another dress or pass the dress on to a younger sibling. My parents owned a general store, so we were able to have newer things.”
With the case fully open, the air around them changed from frustration at having to change to awe. The scent of roses reached Caitlin’s nose and she smiled in delight. “I thought for sure we were going to walk around and smell like moth balls. I’m glad I was wrong.”
The dresses folded carefully to prevent wrinkles drew the girls closer to the trunk. Marjorie reached to touch one of the dresses. Thinking better of it, she withdrew her hand.
“Oh go ahead and touch it,” Ella held the dress up for Marjorie. “It’s doing me nor it any good sitting in a trunk, waiting to be worn.”
“Really?” Marjorie accepted the dress and slowly opened it. With each unfold, the dress lengthened to show a tea length dress. Marjorie frowned at her red Converse All Stars. “These don’t match the dress.”
“Oh that’s no worry.” Ella pulled out another dress with a white and red flower calico pattern. “You’ll look like the past and the present met to have a party.”
Marjorie’s shoulders relaxed. Her breathy voice told them she was already somewhere else in her mind imagining herself in the dress. “Thank you.”
One by one, Ella pulled out dresses and compared the dress in size and color to the girls. Andrea was so pleased with the green calico dress she marveled, “How did you know green was my favorite color?” Ella looked questionably at Andrea’s leggings. “Most girls don’t wear green underwear.”
A simultaneous burst of laughter rang out throughout the room. Andrea caught up in the mirth of the moment found it easy to laugh at Ella and Dan’s interpretation of her attire.
“We don’t have much time, but I think we should have a little fashion show.” Ella said. “Each of you put on a dress.” She pulled out a box of beads and ribbons. “And you can use these to fancy them up.”
Marjorie rolled her eyes behind Ella’s back. To her surprise Caitlin and Andrea glared at her with such disgust, she reconsidered her position on the matter and mustered some enthusiasm. Showing best fake smile she said, “It could be fun.”
Selene sided up to Ella “Uhm, can we talk in private. There’s something I want to ask you but not in front of all the girls.”
“Sure honey.” Ella and Selene went to the next room giving the girls time to sort through the jewelry.
Caitlin tried on a pair of clip on rhinestone earring with a matching lace cut rhinestone necklace. “This is my mother’s favorite piece of jewelry. She never lets me wear it.” She went to the mirror to admire the jewelry.
“Do you want to explain what that was about, back there?” Marjorie snapped.
Caitlin didn’t hide her impatience. “Remember what Dan said about not telling him too much about the future.”
“And?” Marjorie drew out the word.
Before Caitlin had a chance to respond, Ella returned to the room. “Oh you will love what she has in mind.” She sat on the edge of the bed. Go to the other room with what you want to try and I’ll wait here for you to show me.”
“Do you mind if I sit and watch with you.” Marjorie sat before Ella had time to agree or disagree. She put on her best smile. “I already like what you’ve chosen for me.”
“If that’s what you want to do, alright.” Ella agreed.
One by one, the girls appeared in the room wearing different dresses and pieces of jewelry. Some of the dresses meant for parties were made of sheer fabric and lace. Each dress came with a pair of matching gloves. Other dresses designed for day-to-day wear had sturdier fabrics and fancy stitching became the embellishments thus eliminating the need for jewelry. Every time Angelica entered the room, she curtsied and commented that she wanted to draw a picture of Marjorie in the dress so she could recreate it when they returned home.
Marjorie warmed to the dresses when she saw they weren’t as boring as she imagined in her mind. She asked Ella, “When is Selene coming with her dress?”
Ella pat her hand. “Any minute now. She got something a little more specialized.”
“Are you ready to have your mind blown?” Selene called through the door.
All the girls sat on the edge of the bed awaiting her entrance. Andrea, Caitlin, and Angelica beat their hands on the floor creating a dramatic drum roll and stopped when Selene entered the room.
Marjorie took in the image of her sister and could only exclaim, “Wow!”
“That is so you.” Angelica oohed.
Marjorie alternated glances between Selene and Ella. To Selene she projected awe. To Ella her eyes said something to the effect of you didn’t tell us we had more options than what was in the drunk.
Selene wore a corset style dress with a long leather vest. A wide leather belt buckled at her waist keeping her features slim, and tied the different pieces of the outfit together. The front of the dress ended at her knees revealing her jeans tucked into her boots. “This is like something from the old west!” Selene twirled around in the clothes Ella provided her. “All’s I need is a gun, and nobody will mess with me.”
Ella let out a hoot of laughter. “That one’s spunky isn’t she.”
Selene’s smile softened at being called out for her true nature.
“You could say something like that.” Marjorie answered.
After seeing their reactions to Selene’s outfit, Ella guessed the girls preferred less dainty clothing. “Don’t get me wrong,” Marjorie said, “It’s not like we don’t like the dresses. It’s just that they seem more suited for a party, than for wandering around the countryside.”
Ella pulled out another trunk of clothing. For the next hour, the girls mixed and matched pieces to create outfits in a similar style of what Selene modeled. “Thank you for doing this Ella,” Caitlin hugged her. “We don’t get to do much without the boys. This is nice.” The other girls nodded their agreement.
“Oh you won’t have those kinds of problems here,” Ella said. “We tend to keep the boys and girls separated around here.”
The girls stunned silent simply responded by saying, “Oh,” and went back to the business of creating the perfect outfit.
Dividing them into two groups, male and female, Dan addressed the next major issue—living accommodations. For the sake of propriety, he housed the boys on one side of the house and the girls on the opposite corner. “We don’t want you starting on your next generation until after you’re back home under your parent’s watch.”
Wide eyed with embarrassment the boys stepped away from the conversation. Marjorie’s mouth opened to protest. In the absence of a retort, she closed it and via eye contact engaged in a private conversation with her sisters. It was the first of many times Caitlin witnessed the form of communication they shared and wished she had a sister or a brother.
He guided them to the upstairs portion of the house. Caitlin recognized some of the rooms but was unfamiliar with most of the house. She counted eight doorways. When she lived in it with her mother, there were five doorways. One each for Caitlin and her mother’s bedroom, one for the bathroom they shared and two guest rooms. The lower portion of the house had a craft room and a mini library. Using her fingers to keep tally of the rooms, Caitlin said, “We didn’t have as many rooms.”
Dan took her to a room that was half the size of her old bedroom. Two twin beds, covered in hand sewn quilts, parked against the walls where Caitlin’s desk and dresser would have been. Caitlin wrestled with the odd sensation of being comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Even though she had just walked in the room, it felt like she had always been there.
Taking on the role of tour guide, she went to the hall and pointed to the opposing corner. “Mom’s room is on the other side of the hall.” Her voice weakened with the memory of their last moments together. “One of the last things I told her was I couldn’t wait to leave her.”
Ella placed a comforting arm around her shoulder. “Mothers know daughters don’t mean half the things they say. I believe it’s those mean things that give us patience when we grow to be parents.”
Dan’s eyes darkened into a more serious expression. “On that note, it seems like now is as good a time as any to remind you to resist the temptation of telling us too much about the future. It isn’t that we don’t want to know. I know from those folks from the 3000’s it’ll make things harder on us when you leave because we’ll start second-guessing our decisions. With you being closer to our decisions, I imagine it’d be even worse.”
As quickly as his expression became serious, it returned to the lighter more thoughtful expression he wore in the first moments he met them. “Next on the agenda is getting you girls some clothes.”
Looking above Andrea’s head, Dan said, “I know the wind must have been harsh to leave a child walking around in her underwear.” Caitlin grinned slightly as Dan’s interpretation of Andrea clothing sank in. Back in the day, or in the time they were in, Andrea’s leggings were the equivalent of the wool stockings they read about.
Until he said something, no one considered Andrea’s outfit. Ever since kindergarten, her choice in clothes differed slightly from her friends. Up until second grade she insisted upon wearing tutu skirts-even if it meant wearing them over her jeans in the winter.
Andrea’s face pinked slightly as she took in her outfit. Caitlin held her hand over her mouth to keep in the laugh bubbling in her chest. Selene, who could have used the moment to say something mean, said, “It took going back in time for me to finally understand the dress code. I bet Mrs. Authry is older than even what we thought.
“You never know,” Ella crooked her elbow through Andrea’s, “I’ve heard rumors about teachers using fairy magic to extract energy from their students to keep young.”
A thin line of concern formed in the middle of Andrea’s eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Nah,” Ella’s face broke into a wide smile and she winked. “But I did manage to change the subject. Now let’s go do what we girls do best. Talk about clothes, food and boys and other girls who aren’t in the room.”
She opened the door to a room in the middle of the corridor and waved her hand like a salesperson showcasing a featured item. One by one the girls crossed the thresh hold into a room that held several trunks. Caitlin overheard Angelica’s soft whisper to Marjorie, “I’m beginning to think I’m going to like it here.”
Walking in scattered clusters, the groups held several mini private conversations while they followed Dan and Mark back to Adam’s house. Dan, who looked to be the older of the two men, seemed at ease with the situation, talking with the kids like they were extended family coming in for a visit. He began with an explanation of how they prepared for the group’s arrival. “My wife Ella knows how to preserve just about anything. When she heard about the food problems the soldiers were having in Europe she figured it’d be a matter of time and we’d be rationing. It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s been speculation. If it does, we’re ready for it. He walked them by a door that seemed to be an entrance to an underground tunnel. Excepting the frame holding the door in place, the structure constructed entirely of dirt and grass blended with the landscape. “We easily have six months worth of vegetables, potatoes and beans. I wondered how we were going to eat it all before it went bad. Now we know.”
Brian’s mind raced as he tried to use the information Dan told them to figure out where they were. Yes, the country was fighting the War on Terror when they left, but nobody he knew of rationed. Most people tried to get as much as they could of everything.
Eli, from the farm down the road, showed Brian a room in his house dedicated to the accumulation of ammunition. The walls of the room, from ceiling to floor, held an assortment of bullets. Some of them he purchased. Most of them he made on his own. Meticulously organized, the bullets were shelved in size order beginning in one corner and moving to the left as they increased in caliber.
In like manner, Eli’s wife Alyssa had a room used specifically for food storage. At the time, Brian joked that he knew where to go in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Their current situation made him realize his neighbors probably knew more about the potential for a crisis than him.
They reached the peak of one of the rolling hills to see an immense housing compound. Caitlin’s indifference caused Brian to wonder if they had been on the property all along and he failed to realize it. As if to answer his question, she said, “It looks different without the trees. I mean, I know we had a lot of buildings. It just doesn’t look like it until you see them together.”
Beaming at her comment, Dan nodded his head and said, “So we finally do get this place to look alive.” He quickly added, “Don’t tell me too much, I don’t want anything you say to influence my decisions.”
The two-story house with a deck wrapped around the front seemed odd in the middle of the prairie. Across from the house, a simpler building that Caitlin used to call the dormitory was half painted. “We were in the middle of a project when the storm blew through,” Dan explained.
Several grain bins and the farm equipment Brian and Caitlin played around for their childhood, lacking the wear from years of exposure to the elements, shined like one of the brand new quarters they used to brag about when they were kids.
Caitlin’s eyes scanned the flat land searching for something familiar. “What happened to the farm?”
“I’m glad you noticed. I think we’ve done quite well for the short amount of time we’ve been out here. Most families don’t have as much after five years.” Dan stood taller and took in the scene in front of them.
Damien pushed to the front of the group. “Five years? What do you mean five years? Caitlin, really how do you know this man?”
Dan held out his hands. The gleam in his eyes darkened and his jaw became more angular. “Take it easy there son. The way you’re talking to my granddaughter, I mean great granddaughter is disrespectful and needs to stop right now. Otherwise there will be consequences neither of us wants to see.”
“This is a joke, right?” Damien, the least bit phased by what Dan said, turned and walked ten feet away from where they were standing and shielded his eyes from the sun for a better perspective of the horizon. “You can come out of hiding. We know you’re out there.”
“Son, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. That kind of talk will draw some attention you may not want to receive,” Dan’s eyes lightened showing the shift from protective parent to concerned adult.
“You’re an idiot!” Marjorie yelled.
Looking around him while he returned to the group, Damien said, “I know there is a camera hidden somewhere. I’ve seen things like this on YouTube. You know where they prank a bunch of people and film it.”
“I have a camera, if you’d like, I can go get it for you,” Dan offered.
Pushing his way to the center of the group, with an urgency in his voice, Damien spoke. “This is the plan. We act normal. Don’t react strongly one way or another and they’ll get bored and tell us it was a hoax. But I hope they do it soon, because if we don’t leave shortly, we’re going to miss the science fair.”
Angelica spoke softly, “Damien, I think things would go smoother if you let these men explain things to us.”
Considering the suggestion, Damien’s face softened. “Just don’t get mad at me, if we become the first class to miss the science fair.”
Her expression remained flat. “Our situation is a little more dire than that.”
Dan broke through to regain control of the situation. He said, “Let’s go sit on the porch and we’ll fill you kids in on what’s happening.”
They piled their backpacks by the door and took different seats around a picnic table. The wood smooth and unbuckled invited them to rest. Brian couldn’t decide if the pristine appearance was a result of it being new, or Dan’s long reputed diligence of caring for his belongings. Out of the corner of his eye, Brian saw Andrea nod in response to Selene’s whispered question, “Is this really Caitlin’s house?”
“Yes, but this looks a little smaller.” He smiled at the smirk Andrea gave when Selene looked back at the house in awe. From where they stood, they could see the windows to three bedrooms upstairs and they were only looking at one side of the house.
After everyone made themselves comfortable on the deck of Dan’s house, he asked Mark for his input. “Where do we begin?”
Mark rubbed his chin while considering the answer. “I think you should start with the beginning of the war. That’s when we started noticing changes around here.”
“Actually, I think I’ll start with a question.” Dan spoke to the group, “Has anyone recently wished or thought they wanted to be someplace else?” He searched the kid’s faces to discern the answer he was seeking. When he tried to make eye contact with Marjorie, she cast her eyes downward and started biting her pinky nail. “I may have wished that we could live someplace where we could do something more interesting than science.”
Damien gasped, “I thought you loved science. You’re the best in the class.”
“That’s because there’s nothing better to do.”
“I got into a big fight with my brother and told him I wished I had another family to live with.” Peter’s lips formed a thin line. “I didn’t mean it, I was just mad at the time.”
“I’m tired of having my mistakes follow me wherever I go. Sometimes I want to be someplace where things work out in the world, like they do in my head.” Demetrius’s eyes darkened.
“And I know I don’t have to ask you,” Dan addressed Caitlin and Brian. “Just yesterday Ella and I were wondering if our children’s children would love the land the way we do.”
All of a sudden the ground beneath Brian’s feet grew interesting. He did not want to tell them that being in the middle of an expanse of land was the last thing he wanted.
“Well let me tell you the brunt of what’s happening. Every once in a while a storm blows in. These storms started shortly after the war. From what we can tell, the storm opens something like a door that lets you walk through time. Over the past year, we’ve had three visitors. One was from the 1700’s; the other two came from the late 3000’s.
“I didn’t like them too much,” Mark broke in, “they treated us like we were cavemen and didn’t know how to add two and two together.”
“It was bad,” Dan agreed, “they kept trying to change our system. And don’t get me wrong, I’m open to change, but things like channeling energy from the air so we could have light around the clock was not anything I’m particularly interested in.”
“If that storm hadn’t come when it did, I’d of helped em find their way back to where they belong another way.” Mark snorted and laughed at the sound he made.
Dan’s eyes warmed and he chuckled at Mark’s appreciation of his own humor. “Anyway, when you have enough people wanting to be someplace else, it creates enough energy to open the door. And this is one of the reasons why I wasn’t amenable to using energy to create 24 hours of daylight.”
“If it’s a door, why aren’t the bus driver and Mrs. Almstead with us?” Eugene asked.
“She’s the last warning before you pass through. Did she give you instructions to not leave your wagon?”
“Our wagon?” Eugene raised one eyebrow in Damien’s direction.
“That thing you walked away from to get here. Your wagon. Anyway, did you get any instructions?”
“She told us to wait for her on the bus.” Recognition lit Eugene’s face, “So you mean to tell me that if we’d have stayed on the bus,” his face tightened in accusation, “we’d still be in the year 2015.”
“That sums it up fairly well,” Mark said. “We’ve heard about Mrs. Almstead from the last two people. Apparently she was a teacher of a class that.” He stopped to consider his words. “Anyway, they said they never have got the chance to meet her in person and that she was highly influential in making progress in the country.”
Eugene still trying to grasp the enormity of the situation asked, “So if I didn’t listen to Damien and his great idea we’d be back home.”
Holding his palms in the air, as though they would have a calming effect, Damien said, “How was I to know we’d walk through a door 100 years in the past.”
Demetrius held up his cell phone. “At least that explains why we don’t have a cell phone signal”
“Hey things were like that way before we ever traveled here,” Damien growled. “For mercy’s sake, we live in the middle of nowhere Montana!”
“Let’s focus on the result we want,” Andrea’s voice resembled a fairy godmother instead of a teenage girl. The effect was a natural change in demeanor of those around her. Mostly, she used it to rile people into antagonizing Selene. Her using it to the benefit of the class did not go unnoticed by Brian. He raised an eyebrow in wonder of what else she was able to do.
“Yeah, not that we don’t like it here, or anything like that,” Demetrius interrupted, “We’d like to get home before supper. How did the last group get back home?”
“There was the fire for the fellow from the 1700’s. After the smoke settled, we searched high and low, but never found him. After a while we figured that he went back to where he came from.” Mark said.
“And the thunderstorm. I hope that doesn’t happen again. It took us days to find all our cattle.” Dan added.
“The tornado was worse. Are you kids sure you don’t want to stick around? Every time you leave it does a number on us.”
“So we need to sit around and wait for a natural disaster to get us home?” Brian asked.
“You are home,” Dan offered. “We have something that might make staying here seem like a pleasant situation.”
Brian had no idea of what he had in mind, but it would have to be something cosmically awesome to get him to stay in Montana circa 1915.
Author note: What would you do if you had the chance to go back in time and keep the knowledge of the future? Let me know in the comments, or via twitter or my facebook page.
Within minutes, they reached a gap in the fence they all could fit through and crawled through the fence separating the prairie land from the road. After one person went through another was there to pass them their backpack from over the fence.
“I didn’t think you knew how to do anything physical,” Peter said to Brian as he handed off his backpack.
Brian growled, “Some of us actually help our parents around the house.” He snatched his backpack from Peter and marched away without looking back. Walking ahead of Caitlin towards her house, he felt a storm brewing in his mind. Caitlin rushed to catch up to him.
Peter’s yell to Brian, “Hey, wait up!” expressed both of their sentiment.
Through breath thin from rushing, Caitlin said, “You can’t let him get to you. It makes him think it’s working and he keeps it up.”
“I’m good at revenge if you want me to take care of him for you,” Andrea offered.
“Nah, it’s alright.” Brian slowed his pace so the girls could keep up with him. Nicholas and Eugene joined him on his right side.
Caitlin stopped walking and stared at a man approaching them. He seemed oddly familiar.
“I didn’t know your dad was back,” Eugene’s statement was more of an accusation than an exclamation of relief.
Caitlin slowed her pace to scrutinize the person approaching them. “That’s not my dad.”
The man in jeans and a plaid button down denim shirt walked confidently towards the group as though he was expecting them. As he got closer, he waved. Not knowing the correct response, Caitlin waved awkwardly. When he was six feet away, Caitlin understood why Eugene mistook the stranger to be her father. His dark wavy hair looked uncombed with the bangs curling around a cowlick above his left eyebrow. Like her father, he also had a crooked grin that people naturally returned.
Angelica’s quiet voice came from behind them. “If that’s not your dad then who is it?”
“I’m only going by pictures I’ve seen around the house.” Caitlin’s voice strained as she strained her eyes to understand what she was seeing in front of her. “It looks like my great grandfather Dan Adams.”
Andrea voice softened to sound like a bell moved by a summer breeze. “Are you sure? He looks too young to be a grandfather.”
“I’m not sure, but even down to the outfit he’s wearing he looks like the man in the picture on the family tree wall.”
The man close enough to see they were more curious than afraid quickened his pace. He walked directly towards Caitlin. “We thought you’d never get here. It’s good to see you Miss Love.”
Caitlin’s face paled at the use of her nickname. She turned to see her friend’s varying reaction to the new information. It went from Eugene’s curiously wide eyes to Selene’s mocking smirk.
“There’s no need to be worried,” he tried assuring them. “We haven’t had cattle rustlers in these parts for quite some time now. My guess is they’re off in Europe fighting the war.”
Nicholas pinched himself. “Are we dead? I’ve read that when people died they saw family members they hadn’t met.” He squeezed Brian’s arm. “Do you feel that?”
“If we’re dead, how can the rest of us see Caitlin’s family members and none of ours?” Selene rolled her eyes.
“Because I walked the fastest,” Dan answered.
As if on cue, a man that looked like an older version of Demetrius appeared over the horizon. “C’mon over here Mark,” waved the man over. “There’s some people I’d like you to meet.”
Marjorie’s cool voice addressed Nicholas’s question. “We’re not dead.”
“How can you be sure?” Peter’s voice shook.
“I can’t tell you how I know, but I know we’re not dead.”
“That’s good.” Dan joked, “Because I’m not ready to die quite yet.”
Author note: If you were able to have one person from your past guide you through a trial who would you choose? I am curious to know. Leave a note in the comments, or twitter or on facebook.