Saturday, August 11, 2018

Fervor: Escape from 1972 (Part VI)

“My God, young lady, you look like a whore!” my mother shouts for all the world to hear.
“I beg your pardon,” the woman who was trying to help interrupts, but she’s still being ignored.
“What are you wearing? Why do you look so old? Where did you go?”
I’m fourteen years old, which is only about a year older than my parents expect me to be, but I guess their memory is of me as a twelve-year-old, which is a fairly big difference in a young lady’s development. I’ve had to grow up pretty fast because of the terrible conditions I started in, and when Serkan and Ace took me out of that life, it wasn’t like I started regressing, or anything. I’m still rather mature for my age, and my time in the 21st century has only made me more independent. These two people here may have conceived and raised me—though, there’s no way of knowing whether we’re related to each other, because I’ve yet to see proof of it—but they don’t control me anymore. I scoff at her, and try to walk away.
There’s got to be a way out of here. Okay, let me think. I seem to have the ability to travel through time and space using photographs. That would be fine if I had a picture of 2025, or 1491, but I lost my phone with tons of options from the former, and camera technology didn’t exist as far back as the latter. Hell, I would take it if something could take me back to sometime in the 2020s, as long as it was before the day that I left. No, I’ll even take a week or to after that. Thinking about it even more, I realize that all I really need is a way to get out of what I see now from a shred of newspaper blowing on the ground that it’s no sooner than October of 1972. I would need to find something more current to get an exact date, but that matches up with what I remember about when the famous Blue Marble photo, which I’ve been using as my phone background, was taken.
“Don’t you walk away from me,” my mother spits. By now the other woman has slipped away, not wanting to interfere too much in other people’s lives. I think in the future, people will be less forgiving, because they’ll never know when they’re being watched by video cameras, designed to record social behavior. For the most part, however, a 1972 mother is free to discipline her child however she sees fit.
“Do you have any pictures?”
“Like in your purse,” I press. “Or dad, in your wallet? Do you have any picture of me as a baby? Or of anything?”
She’s noticeably thrown off by this, and interprets it as an attack on her character, which it partly is. I’m just looking for a way out. “Well, no, but...”
“Did you look for me? Did you send out a photo of your missing daughter? Or did you just go back home?”
“We haven’t been back home since you disappeared,” my father finally says. He never hit me, but he stayed quiet when my mother did, and maybe that’s just as bad.
“Oh my God, are you still on your ancestry tour? Christ, I had my blood tested. We’re not part African. That was just what your own father told you to excuse himself for being a racist piece of shit. We are British or Irish, though, so you got lucky with that one.”
“Now, you listen here,” my mother begins.
I scoff again, but much louder, as I’m rolling my eyes, and turning away. She grabs my arm. “Let me go.”
“I am your mother, and you will—”
I don’t let her finish. I just narrow my eyes and take a quarter step towards her, my arm fully within her grasp. “If you don’t let me go right now, you’re gonna find out how good 1970s South African medicine is.”
She’s never been scared of me before, and she’s never been scared of anything more than me right now. She releases me, and lets out a whimper so faint, I can’t be sure I didn’t imagine it.
I take a moment to calm down, and try to be as cold as possible. “I left you in Stonehenge because I was done being treated like two chalkboard erasers. I have gone on to see wonders, to meet wonderful people, and to learn new things.” I realize I can’t say anything about being a time traveler, but as I’m speaking, I’m also realizing no time traveler I’ve met has actually said anything about some Time Patrol. Maybe I can tell them the truth, and no one will care. I don’t think I have to, though. “I left because it was best for me, and for you. You never wanted kids, and only did so because you were indoctrinated into a society that expected it of you. I’m pleased to announce that you have fulfilled your obligation. I may have escaped a few years sooner than you expected me to, but I think we all knew it would come to this. I’m not calling the cops, or seeking a journalist to tell my story about your abuse, but I’m also not going home with you. This is my life now, and that is yours. I need to find a newsstand, or maybe a library, so I can make my way out of this country. If you pursue me, in any capacity, I’ll make Lizzie Borden look like Cindy-Lou Who. Are we on the same page?”
They don’t say anything, and I just walk away, not sure who’s more scared of me; my father, my mother, or myself. I do find a newsstand, and discover that it’s the seventh day of December. The latest paper from the states is from the first of the month in New York. I feel like my best option is to at least get back to the states. I don’t know of any time travelers that lived in this time period, except for Detective Bran, who is still a child at this point, but the U.S. still seems like the safest place to go. I pay for the paper, and choose the first headline I see with a picture: Storm Caused Traffic Mishaps.
Maybe that wasn’t really the best one I could use, because I’m suddenly standing in freezing cold weather in late Fall. Several cars are stopped on the wrong side of the road—that is, as long as I’m not still in South Africa. I hear honking and screaming, and the sirens from a trooper. He gets out of his car, and starts rounding up help from other drivers, to get the cars back where they belong. Even though it’s cold as hell, I still have no idea what I’m going to do, so I might as well help too. I get behind one of the cars, and prepare to push. The big strong men also getting ready to push look at me funny. “Call me Rosie the Riveter,” I say to them. One of the men trying to push another car takes off his heavy coat, and gives it to me, which I don’t see as an affront to my feminism. Together, we all get them up the hill, and out of the way. I try to return the coat to the man as he’s getting ready to leave the scene, but he just winks and says I should keep it. He’s older than me, but I don’t get any creepy vibes.
As strange as it must look for a teenage girl to be wandering the highway alone in the middle of the day in November, nobody else gives me any trouble, or offers to help. There’s no telling how long these people were stuck in traffic, but surely they’re all just in a hurry to get home. It was probably mentioned in the article from the paper, but I didn’t bother reading it that closely, and I couldn’t take it with me, because it was run a day in the future. I start walking down highway 20, headed towards civilization, thinking about what I could have done better, confident that I made all the best choices with the cards I was dealt. Goddamn it’s cold, though. If I’m going to be a time traveler, I need to start thinking about not going anywhere without a bag of essentials. I need to keep things like water and cash with me at all times, but the first order of business would be a coat. I stick my hands in the pockets, and find what feels like a piece of paper. I take it out, hoping whatever it is isn’t important to the guy who gave me the coat. It’s a photograph.
At first everything seems normal to me, but then I realize that photos these days aren’t printed on paper like this. You would need a personal computer to do it, which is impossible. Even if you didn’t, the picture itself doesn’t look like anything that exists today. I don’t even know what it is, but it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. I flip the paper over, where it reads, Giant Magellan Telescope, April 4, 2025. “Holy shit!” I can’t help but exclaim out loud. That’s a few days, off but I'll take it. I look behind me, half-expecting the coat’s owner to have followed me there, but the afternoon rush is over, and I’m alone. Worried a time pigeon might come and snatch the picture from my hand, I concentrate on it until my eyes start burning, and I make the jump to the future. Man, that’s a lot easier that I would have thought. In movies, it takes superheroes days to master their powers, if not longer.
I stand and marvel at the telescope for a good long time before someone realizes I don’t belong there, and escorts me off the premises. I discover that I’m in Chile, so I make my way to the nearest internet café. I tell the woman working the counter that I just need a minute to look up directions, and she gladly activates a computer for me to use, free of charge. I try to run a search of J.U. Mithra Labs, but none exists on the internet, which is strange, because I feel like I’ve seen one before. Maybe it’s a weird timey-wimey thing. No matter. I just need a picture of Independence, Missouri, and I’ll figure the rest out later. The most recent I find is a photo that a Local Guide took of some temple with a crazy spire on top, from the fourth of April. Perfect.

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