Good grief, why do I waste my time? Who really cares about this place, you can feel drafts coming through cracks from outside. I looked with disgust at the dirty cracks where floor met wall.
“Trina Moor,” Mr Barnes said. “Trina, do try to be interested in your classes.” I sighed, school was the bane of my life.
“No please? I don’t think so.” I said, attitude dripping like acid. My words brought giggles from the class while Mr Barnes slowly turned a deep shade of purple.
“Trina, I will not have you continually disrupting my class.” His jowls trembled.
“Fine,” I said. I was bored to tears of this place anyways. I stood up, taking my time, and stalked out, slamming the creaky door. I breathed freely in the dank hall and made my way to the big old doors of the exit, broken glass and all. No one stopped me, no one told me to wait a minute, just where did I think I was going? And it wasn’t just because I did this a lot, no, I was quite intimidating for a fourteen year old, considering it was 2052. I made sure of it, putting my money to good use and dressing the part, people stayed out of my way.
I slung my black leather jacket over my shoulder; it was a size too big and had a ratty hole or two, but it was mine. I glanced down at the black boots I’d had Jones hunt down for me, my short curly hair bobbing down in front of my green eyes. I wondered if he had the belt for my knife yet. I fingered my thinning wallet in my jacket, time to do some picking of other people’s pockets.
Life wasn’t easy these days, like everybody else I did what I had to to get by, and I picked pockets. I got myself a pretty good place with the money (a one roomer) and enough food to live on, though I hated freeze dried food. Yuck.
I only needed one room now that mom rarely came around anymore. She had been around more when I was just a little thin, reading to me then, stories about music and life as she had known it. If any of it was true then the world had sunk pretty quick in only a few years. It went from the sun shining and the sky being clear to what it is now, murky. It’s like looking into a dirty puddle; there’s a swirl of mud, some whizz and most likely more than a little puke.
My thoughts came back to the present as some young kid ran into me. I turned and cussed.
“My name’s Brian,” the boy said, offering me his hand and ignoring the cuss. “Sorry about that.” I just looked at him until he dropped his hand.
“Just watch it next time.” What a kid. He was about my age and pale like most everybody else. And he had manners. It made me wary, no one was polite on Rave Avenue unless they were about to steal you blind. I started to walk away when his hand caught my shoulder.
“What’s your name?” I twisted slightly, testing Brian’s grip. It was tight, tighter than I thought. My eyes narrowed. I swung myself free with a speed they’d prided me for in my defence classes and flipped him onto his back with a loud and uncomfortable thump, placing my boot on his chest.
“My name is none of your business. Back off.” I saw the astonishment in his eyes and knew why, my own were cold as ice. I smiled. “And I’ll take that back.” I reached down and plucked my wallet from his coat pocket. I hesitated then smiled a little wider as I snatched up his as well.
“Nice doing business with you.” I turned away, no one bests me.
My scalp prickled and I had a feeling we wouldn’t ever see each other again. It was the cold clarity that made me shiver, that troubled me as I turned off the Rave and checked this place out. I hadn’t ever really been down this way but quickly realized that everything got noticeably cleaner, buildings were newer and less blackened by soot.
A grey building rose up from the rest. A large metal door stood half open, beckoning to me. I slipped inside, tucking the wallets into my pocket.
Not much in this city could have surprised me more. It was bright inside, and white. People in long white coats stood around a shiny but over sized ball, muttering and scribbling on little clipboards. The ball was round with two large windows protruding like eyeballs in the front and a grey seat was set amid innumerable levers, buttons and switches.
I felt my curiosity grow, filling me fit to burst. What was that thing? A spacecraft? And what was it doing here? Who were those people? And why, for crying out loud, wasn’t I leaving them to their yakking to go find Jones?
A bell rang from somewhere within and all the people stepped out , leaving me alone with the strange machine. I crept towards it, peering around to make sure no one else was still in the room.
It was set on a steel platform and I stepped onto it, leaning into the cockpit to look at the insides. Now that I was up close and personal I knew that it wasn’t meant for space -- I had paid attention in my engineering classes -- but I still didn’t know what it was. There was only the name â€˜Wind Walker’ printed below the windshield.
I sat down in the only seat and faced the main control panel. There was this little number gage set at 1852 -- 2oo years in the past! I glanced to the right of it, a blue lever glared at me. My hand was reaching for it when a door opened at the far end of the room.
“Hey! Get out of there! Don’t touch anything!” The figure ran towards me, white coat billowing. I pulled the lever down.
Plexiglas slid down around me and the lights came on. It was so bright that I closed my eyes against the glare, but the light penetrated my eyelids anyways. It all got very loud and I cursed my curiosity. Wind Walker trembled as if it was speeding through something at a great velocity, my stomach reacted similarly.
I spotted another number gage set at 2052, or it had been, for it was now speeding backwards. It hit me then: this was a time machine and I was on my way to 1852.
“Oh s***!” I barely heard myself. I felt dizzy and I think I passed out because the next thing I knew everything had stopped. My stomach gurgled but other than that everything was quiet. Quiet? I have never been in a totally quiet place in my entire life. I peeked out the window, it looked like I had been dropped in one of those old story books in the school’s attic. According to such books and the stupid history films I used to skip, I was in the middle of a prairie. Or maybe it was a desert.
Most surprising was the bright blue above and the yellow sphere that blared at me.
“The sun,” I breathed. This was the first time I had ever seen anything other than the murky puked up sky of 2052. It was gorgeous. This must be so long ago, trees still stood!
I got out, stumbling over the uneven but soft ground. I was so caught up in the colours and the textures -- the smells -- that I did not hear the wagon and riders approaching. When I did I spun around into a crouch, facing the new comers. Two boys road horses while a man and woman sat atop a wagon. They peered at me strangely and I straightened as they pulled up.
“Howdy,” the older boy said, “Mighty strange place to be all alone. Ain’t nothin’ round here fer miles.”
“So?” I paused. “Name’s Trina, who’re you?” The boy turned to the older man in the wagon.
“We’re the Coles; I’m Amos, this’s my wife Kathrine, my boys Miles and Matthew.” Each one nodded in turn. Jasmine was beautiful -- long dark hair accented with bright turquoise eyes -- and Miles, the older one, had similar features. Matthew was younger, taking after his brown haired father. Upon seeing Kathrine’s cotton dress I realized just how funny I must look to them.
“She’s a strange one,” Matthew whispered to Miles, blushing as he realized I’d heard.
“I’m afraid you’re right,” I said, “my clothes are not suited for this place. In defence, I do come from quite a ways away.” And a long time, I added to myself.
“I see.” Amos thought a moment. “Would ye like a ride? Seems like ye might need a lift.” I accepted without hesitation and Miles stepped down to give me a hand up, but I refused, still preferring to do most things myself. As I settled into the back of the wagon there came a pop and a fizzing of gas off where Wind Walker had been hidden by a stand of trees.
The first bit of the ride was in silence, Kathrine offering polite talk to which I found it hard to respond, but then Matthew plucked up his dusty courage and started talking to me as he trailed behind the wagon on his horse, a roan he called it. It was then that I noticed, though he was little older than I, that Matthew as no boy, he was proud and just as trail worthy as I was street worthy.
Matt, as he told me to call him, yakked about this and that, how they were travelling to Laredo to start over, and how, by the way, women never wore pants. Kathrine said she had a spare dress for me if I wanted it, I accepted but was surprised at how free they all were with their mouths, I guarded everything about me like a bulldog with scraps from Benny’s.
“Alright ever’body,” Amos said, peering into the dipping sun. “Light an’ set, we’ll stop here.” The boys dismounted first and once the wagon stopped Kathrine put me to work, I didn’t stop till I got to eat. I lay down that night to the boys’ snoring. I waited until I was sure everybody else was asleep and then crept silently away from them, snatched up my old jeans and black shirt, and crept off to a stand of nearby trees.
They stood silently like thin watchers, ever vigilant, and I took right to climbing them after I’d changed. Up in the branches, which were rough and smooth at the same time, I was closer to the white lights in the sky.
Something rustled below me and when I looked down, I saw Kathrine.
“Sorry, I just-“
“It’s fine,” she said, smiling, “I used to climb a lot of trees before I got married too. Big old oaks were my favourite, no one ever climbed as high as I did.”
“Kathrine,” I hesitated, brushing aside my curls, “what are those lights in the sky?” There was a short silence.
“Those are stars Trina.” There was another pause. “Here look. You see that star right there? Yes, the bright one. It never moves.”
“And that?” I pointed.
“That’s the moon.” I felt stupid, not knowing things that people knew 200 years ago, but somehow Katherine helped put those feelings to rest. I knew a lot of things; I knew about spaceship engineering and what came from mines on mars, how to pick pockets and how to get what I wanted, even if that didn’t help me now.
“Katherine, why are you guys really going to Laredo?”
“Because we want to start over, don’t you ever want that?” Yes, I did want that. We went to sleep and in the morning Katherine worked things so that I could wear my pants -- but Amos was adamant about wearing one of the boy’s shirts. I accepted as best as I could, trying to swallow a little pride.
We got started again early in the morning and Matt kept up his questions, strangely I found myself starting to soften the further we went. And when we came near this one river, clear as crystal and deep enough for Matt to wade in up to his thighs, I slid off the back of the wagon. I knew we were stopping so I didn’t get yelled at like when I ran off to see the deer up close the day before.
Matthew trailed after me, leading his horse to the river when it shied. I heard a faint rattle, like sand falling on steel, then the roan’s rump swung round and knocked me to the ground. I spit out dirt and lifted my head -- just in time to see the long slippery creature sitting not far from me and shaking its tail. I didn’t dare move.
“Matt.” He stepped closer and when he saw it he jumped, rolling me out of the way just as the creature struck. As we walked away, his arm around my shoulders, I asked: “What was that?”
“That? That was a rattler. A snake.” From that moment on we were inseparable, in trouble and adventure.
We reached Senora about three days after the snake incident, just a small dusty town. Amos made sure I changed into a dress before we went into town, let alone Burt’s supply store. I found that place was crammed with so much merchandise that I just stared for a little bit. I picked out a jack-knife and a comb; Matthew bought a small, used hand gun and some bullets. Afterwards I gave him the knife, I already had one. He smiled.
“Thanks Trina, it’s great.” He passed me the old handgun and the small packet of bullets.
“What am I supposed to do with these?” I was stumped, what the heck was I going to do with this?
“I’d teach you how to shoot, it’s mighty handy thing to know. “ His nervousness broke and he grinned. “Besides, girls ain’t s’posed to be doing the shootin’, that’s a man’s job.” Matt puffed up and I laughed.
“Man,” I scoffed but we both knew that that was my kind of challenge, my kind of trouble.
Laredo was their goal and it became mine too, I worked just as hard as Matt, trying for the first time in my life to prove myself. Amos began to let me do some of the boys’ work, though only just so I’d know how he said. Now and then I even got a smile. I felt like a regular part of the family and I found I liked the feeling. I settled into their routines without a thought of Rave Avenue, Jones, or Wind Walker.