Saturday, October 15, 2016

Frenzy: Page Turner (Part XIV)

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

“Uh, hi,” Ace says awkwardly, trying to sound upbeat. “Are you lost?”
“I was at Stonehenge,” the girl replies. “Are we in London now?”
“I was afraid of that,” I say.
“Well,” Ace begins. “No, we’re not in England.”
I go behind her and wave my arms around, trying to find the portal again. My assumption is that it’s gone, but it could also just be invisible. That sometimes happens, right?
“What are you trying to do?” Ace asks me.
“I’m trying to find a way to send her back.”
He sighs. “We can take a plane back to Stonehenge. It’ll be weird, and we’ll have to be clever to prevent her parents from freaking out on us, but we’ll get her back.
What? I think to myself. “Look at her camera,” I say to him. “And her clothes.” She doesn’t belong here.”
“Oh,” is all he says. Now he gets it. “Little...what’s your name?”
“Paige.” She starts tearing up, but it doesn’t look like she’s going to cry. She probably thinks we’ve kidnapped her. “Turner.”
Ace does his best to sound comforting and distant at the same time. “Paige, what’s the date?”
“October 8.”
“October 8...?”
“1971,” Paige completes her answer.
I pull him aside and speak softly so that she can’t hear, but I keep my eye on her. I’m worried that she’ll get the idea to be brave and try to run away from her captors. “What are we gonna do?”
“We have to go back and talk with your lawyer friend,” Ace suggests.
“What do you think he’s going to do about it?”
“Send her back home.”
“He can’t personally do that sort of thing, and I get the feeling that the Jenga trick isn’t going to work twice. That delegator guy was none too happy to see us too. Besides, you call Rutherford my friend, but I obviously didn’t know him. We can’t trust him.”
“So, what? We just keep her? Like a pet.”
“No, not—I mean...I don’t know. Maybe we can take her to child services, or whatever it’s called.”
“And tell them what? She’ll be going on about President Nixon, and Vietnam War hippie, and...pet rocks! They’ll put her in special needs classes, and try to fix her for believing it’s the 70s. She’ll never be safe, and she’ll never be happy.”
“Then apparently we’re the only ones who can handle this.”
“You mean raise her?”
“Do we have a choice?”
“Yeah, we went over other choices, and they have their problems, but this seems...wrong. She’s supposed to be decades older than us.”
“We went through the wrong gateway. We did this to her, so we have to help.”
Paige is looking between us with this face like she’s holding her breath. The tears have dried up, and suddenly, she snaps a photo of us.
“I don’t know that there’s any way to develop those here.”
“Because we’re in the future?” she asks, about half sure that she’s right.
“She figured it out,” Ace whispers, impressed.
“Maybe there’s hope for us yet.” I bend down and get to her level. “This is...” I start to tell her the year, but realize that I don’t know what that is. It’s not the 22nd century, and it’s not the 18th, but that doesn’t mean I know exactly when we are. We do know we went through the wrong gateway, so we have to figure out exactly what made it wrong, besides the fact that we brought with us another stowaway. “Ace, what year is this?”
“Why, it’s...” he stops himself as well, clearly realizing what I already have. He moves away from us and asks a random stranger the dumbest question they’ve probably ever heard. I see him close his eyes, trying to accept what’s happened. He returns to us. “October 15.”
“Yeah...?” I know it hasn’t just been a couple weeks.
“2023.”
One year. Not that bad, all things considered. It’s easier for me to accept than him because I’ve been through this before. In fact, I’m one step closer to getting back home, so it’s better for me. But it’s not better for Paige. “It’s October 15, 2023. You just traveled through time.”
“Like the Connecticut Yankee.”
I smile at the reference. “Yes, like that, except that you went forwards.”
“Is there any way to go back?” Paige asks. She doesn’t quite look like that’s what she would want.
“We could try, but we only know one other traveler, and he probably wouldn’t help us.”
“If it’s been fifty years, then my parents are probably dead.”
“It’s possible. It depends on how young they were. We could look for them.”
“No,” she says quickly. “If they don’t know I’m here, then I’m safe. I’m finally free of them.”
I stand up and look to Ace. We don’t know what to say. Theoretically, we would try to get more information out of a child who says something like this, but she’s right. She’s free of them, and however they were hurting her before, they can’t do it anymore. If she ends up wanting to tell us, she can do so at any time. Maybe it wasn’t the wrong gateway afterall. Maybe we were always supposed to bring her along with us. “You know, there’s an easy way to decide what we should do about our situation.”
“What might that be?” Ace asks, unconvinced.
“You tell us. You’ve already been through this day, right? I know you don’t remember, but what do you think? Subconsciously?”
“Well, it’s not that easy...” He trails off and stares into space.
“What? What do you see?”
“Nothing. This doesn’t feel familiar at all. I don’t know that I’ve ever been on this particular street, and I don’t recognize Paige.”
“What does that mean? That this is the first time around? That you’ll go back and do it over?”
“No, that doesn’t feel right either. Now that I think about it, yesterday wasn’t familiar either. I had no way of predicting the future.”
“Really? Has that ever happened before?”
Paige looks at us like we’re crazy. Even though she knows that she jumped to the future, she still doesn’t understand who we are, or what we’re talking about.
“No, never in my life. It all started the day you...”
I can guess what he’s about to say, “the day I arrived. You lost your ability when I showed up.” I start pacing a little bit, trying to work it out in my head, but ultimately thinking out loud. “Three years from now, Rutherford shows up and tells me I’m different. He says that he can’t use his own ability around me. Then I go back in time and meet you, only for you to experience the same thing.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m like him. I’m one of you. I just...I’m just different.”
“You take away people’s power?”
“Exactly, or so it would seem. It hasn’t always seemed to work, though. I met a speedster in the future, and he didn’t seem at all affected by me.”
“Maybe you have to concentrate on doing it. Or maybe you have to concentrate on not doing it.”
“Maybe.”
We stand in silence for a long time before Paige breaks the ice. “I’m hungry.”
“We can get something to eat,” Ace replies. “I have some cash on me, which we’ll need, because I’ve been missing for a year and retrieving my identity might prove to be complicated.”
“So, what are we going to do?” I ask. “After finding food, that is.”
“I have no idea. I’ve never been so lost in my life. Ya know, I guess I do have that secret offshore bank account. They probably won’t ask questions about any missing persons case, but it will take some time to get my money back stateside.”
“That could come in handy.”
We start walking forwards with no real plan for where we might want to go. Paige snaps photos of the scenery, Ace actually looks like he might be a bit relieved to have shed his old life, and me? I think I’m gonna be okay. Jinx.

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