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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fervor: April Fools (Part I)

Nine months ago, my adoptive fathers were in hot pursuit of a madman who was threatening the safety of everyone in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. They actually seemed to think he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but was trying to help the world, and didn’t think through the consequences of his actions. He has a special temporal power, as do many other people throughout time and space. He can open microscopic tears in the spacetime continuum, which are mostly only large enough to allow tiny particles, and waves, through. With this, he can alter his environment, by sharing it with some other environment, from some other time. He created a summer snow that the city was not prepared for. As far as I know, no one died from this, and even if they had, their deaths would have been erased from history, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. My fathers ended his reign of terror in the city, by somehow going back in time and preventing it from ever happening at all. Ace hasn’t given me the details, saying only that I would understand when I was older. I usually hate when adults say this, but the way he says it, it’s not dismissive. I think he literally means only Future!Me will have all the facts.
Unfortunately, in retaliation for what my dads did to his little global warming experiment, the madman enlisted the help of some friend of his, and created an exact duplicate of the entire metro. There is a second version of nearly everyone within the blast radius, running around some nearly inescapable pocket dimension. Only a few people were spared duplication, but that doesn’t mean they have it easy. My other dad, Serkan remains the one and only, but he is now stuck over on the other side, and I’ve been worried this whole time that we would never get him back. Ace was with him when they finally caught up to their enemy, who in one last desperate attempt to prevent our collective happiness, set off a powerful explosion. There were two magical jackets capable of crossing the dimensional barrier, each of which can only carry two passengers at a time. One of them caused the explosion that sent Ace, a new friend of his, and the friend’s son, I guess, back to our side. The problem is that, not only did Serkan not make it through—and may even be dead—but the other jacket was damaged.
The man with them apparently imbued the jackets with their power, but was not able to fix the surviving one right away. He claims to have been working on the issue since Ace hired him to get Serkan back, but it has been so long, and still nothing. I know I should be patient and compassionate. After all, he’s raising two versions of the same baby, pretty much on his own. Yet I can’t help but think that, with each passing day, week, month, my father gets one step closer to being lost forever. Time is not kind to people in our world. It jerks us around, moving us through the stream in the wrong direction, and forcing us to places we don’t want to be. The longer he stays there, the less time we can spend together, and that’s not fair. I wish I could do something to help, but I’m just a dumb teenage anachronism. I was born in 1959, but Serkan and Ace accidentally brought me with them when they tried to get home a couple of years ago. Like I said, time moves differently for people like us. But my coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I will always be in those men’s debt for taking me out of a horrible life in the 1970s. I have to have both of them. I don’t know what I would do if we never find Serkan. I just don’t know.
Ace is knocking on my door, even though he knows he’s not supposed to. We had to start going to family therapy right away. Here I was in the future, surrounded by technology, cultural norms, and topic references that I didn’t get. The only people who could take care of me were willing to do that, but it was a complex situation. They had only just met each other—as sort of a love at first sight, brought together by time travel, kind of thing—so I was just another complication. Anyway, of course we couldn’t tell the therapist absolutely everything, and I think she picked up on that, but she gave us some good advice. She said that I need to adjust to living in a new country, which was what we claimed had happened. In order to feel comfortable here, I need to be able to spend time alone, and not bombarded by constant attention. Together, we decided on a rule. For one hour after school, I am to remain alone in my room. I’m meant to sit quietly and reflect, or even meditate, but I usually just put on my headphones, and catch up on a half century of movies and television. We’ve come a long way since Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Five-O, and Ironside. Now we have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hawaii Five-0, and Ironside.
Ace is still knocking. It’s not loud, but it’s persistent, and annoying. It’s his way of being cute. “What!” I finally yell through the door. “This is Paige’s Hour!”
“I have a surprise for you,” he says, fairly quietly.
“Let me’re gay.”
“Ha-ha. I’m pan, you know that. No, it’s an actual surprise. I think you’ll be happy.”
“I’m never happy.”
“You once were.”
“For, like, a second, when Serkan was here,” I argue.
“That’s the surprise,” he barely says before I’m one more arm day from tearing the door of its hinges.
“Really?” I look over his shoulder. “He’s back?”
“I...guess I should have worded it more carefully. He’s not back, but I am going to get him. The jacket is fixed. Jupiter sent it via courier, and it will be here soon.”
What the hell? “He’s having a one-of-a-kind interdimensional portal opening piece of highly volatile equipment sent via courier?”
“It’s someone from the tracer gang,” Ace says in a reassuring voice. “It’ll get here.”
“If that’s true, then I don’t doubt it, but why isn’t Jupiter going to take the jacket himself? He’s the one who built it. He’s the one who destroyed it, and he’s the one who fixed it. This is his mess. He owes us.”
“He has to stay for his son.”
“You have to stay for your daughter.”
“I promise, I’ll be back. And I will be with Serkan.”
“Why don’t you promise that Jupiter will be back instead?” I suggest. “If you’re that confident.” I think I have him now.
He sighs at my rebellious attitude. “I’m confident in my ability to complete this mission, not his.” sound logic, and I can’t argue against it. I switch to my mature face. “You get him back. You find him, you come back, and you bring him with you.” He doesn’t say anything as I’m trying to muster my courage. “But if you can’t find him, or if there’s nothing to find, you still better come back.”
The doorbell rings.
“I promise.”
We head down the stairs together, and open the door to find none other than the infamous Slipstream herself. She was not just any member of the tracer gang, but its founder. She was instrumental in the creation of the New Gangs of Kansas City by protecting the original Gunbenders, and starting a movement of anti-gun violence by promoting a form of martial arts that emphasizes the well-being of everyone, including one’s enemies or attackers. She did more for aikido than The Walking Dead ever could have hoped for. She’s pretty much my hero, and she’s standing at my door.
“Hi,” Slipstream says.
Oh my God, she just spoke.
“I’m Bozhena, and I’ve been sent to deliver this.” She hands Ace a package, wrapped in that ol’ timey brown paper, tied up with twine.
“You introduced yourself with your real name?” I ask.
Slipstream smiles. “That ain’t my real name; not anymore. I’m just trying it out. A friend got me wondering whether I should hate it as much as I always have.”
I’m speechless.
“That was what you were looking for, right?” Slipstream-slash-Bozhena asks.
Ace opens it up, and reveals the special jacket. “This is it,” he confirms. “Thank you so much.”
“Do you wanna stay for tea?” I offer as she’s trying to leave. I’m such an idiot. Why would I ask that? Dear God, send me back through that Stonehenge portal. I’ll take my abusive birthparents over this humiliation.
“Uhh...sure,” my idol says. She actually said yes. I wanna go live and announce that she said yes to all my friends online, of which I have none since my birth certificate is fake news, and they don’t allow that sort of thing anymore. “If it’s all right with your dad, that is.”
“Fine with me, I trust you. I do have to go. He starts whispering to Slipstream, but isn’t really trying to keep me from hearing. “You can leave anytime, though. She can spend a little time alone, and the babysitter will be coming soon.”
“Da-a-ad,” I groan. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“But you love Mireille.”
I try to play it cool with Slipstream. “She’s not my babysitter, we’re friends. She’s only, like, three years older than me.”
Slipstream doesn’t make me feel like a child. She smiles genuinely. What a cool chick.
“All right, play nice,” Ace says, determined to embarass me. “I’m going to grab a few provisions, then be gone. I’ll be back by end-of-day tomorrow.” He kisses me on the forehead. “I love you.”
“Love you!” I call up to him as he’s walking upstairs. “Leave a note in the usual spot if you get trapped in the past!”
“Will do,” he says. We actually have that. It’s an old tree stump that we check regularly for messages from ourselves, or each other. We’ve not seen any yet, but all three of us know the protocol, and only us three.
I realize that a stranger just heard me casually mention time travel to my father, but instead of covering, I act like it’s totally normal. I don’t mind being a mystery to her.
She stays longer than I ever thought she would, and when Mireille shows up that evening, we decide to throw an old-school slumber party. We watch movies and eat popcorn. That’s really it. We don’t braid each other’s hair, or talk about cute boys, which is good, because I’m not interested in boys. I keep expecting they’ll offer to give me a makeover, but actually make me look ugly, then take pictures and shout, April Fools, but it never happens. We just laugh about how I’ve never seen the Captain Marvel trilogy, then we fall asleep on the couches. We wake up the next morning to an explosion from the other room. Mireille cowers in fear, while Slipstream tries to protect me from whatever that was. But I know it’s my fathers, back from the other dimension. I slip under her arm, and race around the corner, but I don’t see Serkan, or Ace. Instead, it’s two random women. This feels like the beginning of something that’s not perfectly great.

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