The chalk scrapped across the blackboard as Ms. Thompson continued to write the historical dates out. A glance at the clock as she wrote the final date told her she needed to wrap things up.“Alright class, it’s almost time to go. Are there any questions?”
For a moment, the room remained quiet, twenty-four pairs of eyes merely watching her. Right when she was going to turn around, a hand in the back rose tentatively. The hand belonged to her newest student, Lauryn Finn. A new transfer student the girl rarely spoke up in her class, but when she did she asked the oddest questions. Last week when they had been covering the lead up to the Civil war the girl had been curious in the typical times civilians retired to bed. Certainly she kept Ms. Thompson on her toes.
“Did soldiers report seeing people in bizarre clothing? Ya know, like the JFK conspiracy about a man in modern clothing?” The pale brunette asked.
Not the typical question a high schooler had. Ms. Thompson smiled anyway. “Well there were a few reports of bizarre incidents. Although I don’t know of any where they reported out of place clothing. Why do you ask?”
Just wondering. Lauryn always seemed to be just wondering. But it never seemed to be the typical things Ms. Thompson’s other student’s wondered. Obscure things popped up now and then, but this was getting into the weeds. The bell overhead rang, and many of the students stood up. The mass exodus for the day had begun, and Ms. Thompson bid them farewell. She had planned to hold Lauryn back for a few minutes to dig further into these odd questions. But when she looked to the back of the room she noticed Lauryn was gone. Ms. Thompson was left to assume she’d escaped through the back entrance.
“What an odd girl.”
Lauryn walked along the leave strewn sidewalk in silence. Cursing herself the entire way from her school, Lauryn barely heard the other kids around her. It was stupid to ask those random questions in class. She knew that without a doubt. How long had she dealt with the strange looks in her previous schools? The other students would just assume that she was a nerd, looking too deeply into history when she should just be worried about passing. It was the teachers that were the problems. Again and again Lauryn had been pulled aside, told to stay after school, or worst of all, call her parents in. Teachers had grown concerned when they learned about her home life, and some even thought her obsession was due to that. Little did they know that her obsession was fueled by the most basic of concepts. Survival.
While all of the people around her were safe in their own time, Lauryn was cursed. She could never be sure when it would happen, but at any time she may be ripped out of this era and shoved back in time. It wasn’t even the cool kind of time traveling like in the movies, jumping back and forth. No, Lauryn was ripped away, thrust into a random era that she may or may not know anything about. Which was why her survival hinged on knowing the smallest details.
Turning up the walkway to her house, Lauryn was drawn from her thoughts. The two story white house looked nice enough, better than their old house. But no matter how nice it was to look at, it hid some pretty messy secrets. Thankfully, only her father’s car was in the driveway right now. As she opened the front door Lauryn could only hope that her mother worked late again tonight.
Inside, the house was quiet, but a distant muted sound of a TV told Lauryn where her father was. Kicking off her shoes off she continued through the house until she stood at the foot of the stairs next to her father’s office. She debated rushing up the stairs and completely avoiding her father but at the last minute she knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” Came the quiet voice.
“Dad? It’s me.”
The sound of shuffling feet came just before the door was open. There the thin form of her father stood. He attempted to smile, but the massive bruise on his cheek likely made that hard. “Hey there sugar plum.”
“Hey dad.” Lauryn replied, trying her best to keep her gaze off the bruise. That hadn’t been there when she came home yesterday.
“How was school today?”
So he was going to keep up the facade that nothing was wrong. Cool, so could she. “ Good, fine. I like it.”
“Alright sugar plum. I’m glad.” He said, his gaze looking past her. “Why don’t you go up and get some homework done? I’ll call you when dinner is ready.”
“Is mom joining us?”
“…I don’t know.”
Great, maybe she’d come down to just her dad and they could have a nice dinner. Or she’d come down to chaos. Leaning in to give her father a kiss on the cheek, Lauryn then turned and headed upstairs. It wasn’t until she heard the garage door slam that she realized hours had passed. When she looked at the clock she saw it was already past 6 o’clock. Worse, she could hear her mother’s voice from below.
“What the hell are you doing Robert? I don’t want that shit for dinner.”
Lauryn couldn’t hear her father’s quiet reply, but she could imagine it. Like most other nights that her mother was home, he’d try to make her happy. It wouldn’t work, likely at least partially to do with the smell of vodka on her mother’s breath. Soon enough Lauryn would start hearing things break against the wall as her mother threw anything she could find at her father. And finally, tomorrow there would be a new bruise on her father and a very apologetic mom. Rinse and repeat.
Sure enough, only a few minutes later Lauryn heard her mother’s shriek and the sounds of glass breaking. It had begun. Laying her head on her desk Lauryn covered her ears. All she could do was pray this would stop. She didn’t dare interject because even Lauryn wasn’t safe from her mother’s anger. And if Cynthia turned on Lauryn, her father would have to get physical to get Cynthia off of her. So instead she sat at her desk, praying that everything would stop. Tears pricked her closed eyes as the sounds increased, welcoming the darkness she found. If only she could stay in the dark and ignore the world around her.
The shatter of wood just across from her ripped a scream from Lauryn’s already torn throat. But it was drowned out by the sounds of war. She fell to her knees, clutching her ears and trying to block everything out. She’d never accidentally ended up in the middle of a battle before. Damn it!
Of all the times she let her emotions get the better of her, this was the worst. Close by she heard the pained screams of dying men. But if Lauryn hoped to get home she was going to have to open her eyes again. Bad enough she could still hear the sounds of war and death even with her ears covered, she was going to have to see it now too. Counting down from ten Lauren attempted to bolster her nerves. At one she finally opened her blue eyes, looking around her at the horror.
Not three feet from her a downed horse lay motionless, his rider having been thrown several feet away. The man lay still, honestly Lauryn thought he was dead until he gave a grown and moved. His dark blue uniform was stained even darker around a small hole just below his shoulders. The deafening sound of gunfire intermixed with the sounds of death left Lauryn feeling dazed. It was hard to tell if the fog that surrounded her was all in her head or from the smoke of a distant fire. Only when her knees began to go numb did Lauryn realize she needed to get up, the scratching grass reminding her that she was still alive. If she wanted to stay that way she needed to get up, and get back to her own time.
As she stood, the smell finally hit her, making her gag. She’d never smelled death this close before but today it lay like the fog surrounding her. Stumbling through the blood stained grass Lauryn did her best to not trip over the bodies or, god help her, the body parts. She wanted to go home and in order to do that she needed to focus. If she could concentrate enough maybe she could control this curse for once and jump back to her own time. Continuing through the battlefield she attempted to concentrate. She thought about her hard mattress, the freezing room, and the warmth of her old, beat up comforter. Which was the last thought she had before she tripped.
“Ow shit.” She cursed, pushing herself up. Lauryn froze suddenly as she realized that whatever she was on top of was not grass.
Looking down at the ground Lauryn’s throat closed, making her gasp for breath. Her hand lay atop a torso clothed in grey. The gray was stained to black and torn apart where obviously a large cannon had hit. But worst of all, the torso was missing part of it’s head and arm. Screaming in horror Lauryn scrambled away from the destroyed body. She thrust to her feet and took off in a sprint, barely looking around her as she raced to the treeline. Finally, after what felt like miles, Lauren reached the first tree and collapsed against it.
Tears streamed down her face as she sucked in big gulps of air. When she saw the blood staining her hands she wiped her hands against the grass. Again, and again, and again she wiped them feeling as her hands began to be cut by her desperation. After a time she stopped trying to erase the evidence from her hands. She tucked herself up against the tree, her arms wrapped around her bare knees. The tears still feel as she gasps began to slow, her breathing returning to normal. Beyond the trees the battle continued, but it began to sound further and further away. Left in its wake was the louder sound of silence.
Yet the silence was worse. Lauryn couldn’t shift through her mind enough to concentrate in this madness. Even her eyesight began to fog up, making her surroundings impossible to make out. Was she losing consciousness? No, no she couldn’t do that. She was as good as dead if she let herself remain here. Surely someone would notice a girl with pajama shorts and a tank top in the middle of a battlefield. They might let her live, or they could kill her on sight.
The tears began to turn from fear into sadness. Lauryn knew she was losing control but she couldn’t stop. Home wasn’t great, but it was better than here. What if she couldn’t get herself home? What if she was stuck here? She’d never get to see her mom and dad again. Her little sister Sophie would grow up and not remember her. She hated this.
Damn whatever curse had given her this ability. Why was she the only one cursed with the traveling ability. Yeah, ok, she loved history, but not this much. She didn’t want to live in another time. She wanted her own time, her own home. Lauryn ducked her head, resting her forehead on her knees.
A crunch to her left startled Lauryn. She hiccuped as she attempted to get her sobbing under control as another crunching sound reached her. Someone was coming this way. Lauryn didn’t have the strength to get up and make a run for it. The best she could do was shuffle to the side of the tree as a figure appeared from the treeline. She held her breath as the white clad figure continued to walk toward where she was hidden. Lauryn kept her gaze on the figure as it became clear it was a woman, a woman who looked strangely like…
“Ms. Thompson?” Lauryn asked, her voice hoarse.
The figure turned to her, coming closer until it was undoubtedly Ms. Thompson. She came to kneel beside Lauryn, a sad smile on her face. “Hello Lauryn.”
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Because I’m like you Lauryn.” Ms. Thompson said, looking over Lauryn for injuries. “Are you hurt?”
“No, no I’m fine.” Lauryn said, taking Ms. Thompson’s outstretched hand. “But how did you know I’d be here.”
“ Lucky guess. We’ve been studying the Civil war, and that seemed like a likely place for you to end up.”
It couldn’t be that simple, could it? As Ms. Thompson helped Lauryn stand Lauryn wasn’t so sure she believed her teacher. There were literally hundreds of times and places she could’ve gone during this time. How did Ms. Thompson know this was the place she’d been. Hell, how did the blonde teacher know that she would even have travelled tonight? Unable to keep from asking, Lauryn tilted her head.
“How’d you know I would or even could travel?” Ms. Thompson glanced at her, but began to walk Lauryn deeper into the woods, keeping her arm wrapped around Lauryn’s mid section. The support was the only reason Lauryn could make this trek.
“You ask a lot of questions I did when I was young.” Ms. Thompson replied.
“That doesn’t answer my other question.”
“Maybe now isn’t the time for questions. We need to get away so we can get back.”
To that, at least, Lauryn could agree. “ When we get back, I want to know everything. How you found me, who you are, everything.”
Ms. Thompson didn’t respond immediately. At first she just looked at Lauryn, continuing down the path. Finally she nodded her head and Lauryn felt the first burst of relief since getting here. She could worry about everything else later. For now, Ms. Thompson was just going to get her home. With a deep sigh the two women continued into the forest, for the first time allied. It would not be the last time.