Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Microstory 837: Family Trip

Our parents died in a plane crash when my two sisters and I were still just children. Well, it wasn’t so much a crash as a hole blew through the cabin, and their row of seats was sucked out. The rest of the plane landed somewhat safely on the highway. The news of it was overshadowed by certain other aircraft tragedies that happened on the same day a week earlier. The third man with them left a family behind too, which served to bring us all together. My older sister wasn’t quite eighteen years old, but she was given emancipation, and started taking care of all four of us. I didn’t appreciate until I got older how much she did for us. The youngest of our foster brothers was a child prodigy, and a scientific genius. We all moved into their house, and found it to be equipped with a full laboratory in the basement that would bring Dexter to tears. He became obsessed with time travel, as you can imagine, hoping that one day, he would see his parents again. He had no plans to change history, seeing that as far too dangerous. All he wanted was to be able to speak with them again, and we supported his delusion. We discovered nearly ten years later that he was not so crazy after all, when he asked us down to his lab to show us something, and dropped us all the way back to 1974 with absolutely no warning. He wasn’t exactly aiming for that year, but he apparently hadn’t worked out all the bugs, so this was where we found ourselves. Only then, standing at the welcome sign, did we realize our parents all grew up in the same small Iowa town. As far as we knew, my mother and father stepped onto that plane without knowing the passenger they were seated next to, or his wife, who had died of cancer two years prior.

But here we were in Watland, a town so small I don’t even think they bother putting it on the map in 2011. We asked our resident physicist to send us back, but he said his recall device was damaged in the trip and he would need time to fix it, so we decided to go ahead with his plan to meet the younger version of our parents, who were now still in grade school. It was a surreal experience, being older than mom and dad, smiling as they tried in vain to build a sand castle with the pebbles under the jungle gym during recess. We knelt down to help them, glad for the fact that the 1970s were a different time, and the staff was too busy smoking around the corner to be bothered about five grown adults at a playground. We talked about what their favorite subjects were in school, and who their friends were. Just then our foster sibling’s new parents came over. They really did know each other this whole time. We wondered whether they recognized each other on the plane, or if it was just this crazy coincidence, and they had been too long estranged. The bell rang to end recess, and we knew it was time to leave. Our brother flipped a switch, and told us he was ready, revealing that the device hadn’t really been broken, and he was just stalling for time. But he was wrong, because if it wasn’t broken before, it certainly was now. We were stuck in the past, and he didn’t have the materials he would need to build a new machine, and get us back home. He worked on it for the better part of the rest of the day, though, and realized there was some kind of temporal interference, which he was able to track by rewiring his device. It led us to the edge of a cliff, where we found an eclectic group of people, strapping themselves into parachutes, and other gear. They smiled as we approached, seeing our futuristic clothes, and knowing we didn’t belong there, just like them. They hinted that they were from further in the future than 2011, but wouldn’t say exactly when. They provided us with our own special parachutes, which would evidently read our unique temporal signatures, and take us back to our own time, while they went off to theirs. Our brother seemed to think this to be sound scientific logic, so we trusted them, and strapped in too, ultimately finding ourselves back in the basement we had left, not minutes ago. It was another twenty years before I looked at my adopted children, nieces, and nephews, and remembered that I had already met them...in 1974.

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