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Zombies, Nerds, and Time Machines

Zombies, Nerds, and Time Machines
“Congratulations to…” Carter held his breath as the lady on stage opened the card given to her by the judges, “Carter Ellsworth!! You are the winner of the 2013 $10,000 scholarship and a visit to the USATT!” He gritted his teeth and groaned inside. He shifted in his chair, taking notice to the sticky afternoon heat.
Just my luck, he thought. “Duuude!! That’s sick! You won bro!” Jonah slapped his back and grinned. This was not what he expected at all: Winning the Utah State Science Fair, at fourteen years old. He shook his head as spectators cheered and shoved him on stage. The lady greeted him with what she thought was a winner’s smile and squeezed him tight. A wave of odor washed over him and he giggled, realizing it was her perfume.
“Great job Carter!”
“Way to go Carter!”
“Carter is so smart!”
His mind whirled as he trudged along next to Governor Herbert. As they walked, a long, shiny black limo came into view. Standing in front was Roslyn, his mother. She was smiling, or at least trying to.
“You ready bud?” She asked while stuffing his suitcase into the backseat. He glared at her and her enthusiasm disappeared.
“I’d appreciate if my own mother would call me by the name she gave me,” Carter spat at her. She drew back as if she’d been slapped. They stood there, as the tension increased between them. Breaking the tension, Roslyn lifted her chin towards the door.
“Get in the car.” She pushed Carter into the limo, and tears formed in her eyes. He sat down and watched the lights blink on and off. Anger welled up inside of him.
“You’re only excited for me because the same thing happened to dad,” he said quietly, and immediately wished he hadn’t. Roslyn’s shoulders drooped and her hair fell, hiding her face. A sob escaped her mouth, and before he could say anything, Carter was driven away, as he watched his mother cover her tear streaked face with her hands.

The smooth motor’s sounds filled Carter’s ears, and the driver peeked back at him through the rear view mirror every few minutes.
“You doing alright back there?” he asked once. Carter nodded, and stared out the window longing to hang with Jonah again in his basement. He laughed to himself, remembering the time they’d spent eating ramen noodles and playing Black Ops the whole night during one of the few school dances. Jonah had had a date, but she’d ditched him for some popular guy. Jonah was a little upset, but the ramen noodles kept him alive. Thunder rumbled in the distance which snapped Carter out of his thoughts and back into present time. The limo pulled into a driveway next to a huge sign that read USATT.
“And here we are,” the driver piped up, “The USATT, the letters standing for the United States Association of Time Travel, was founded by Andrew Hamilton in 1986. We’ve been specializing in time travel, but we also work with teleporting. That idea is still at work,” he waved his hand. Carter rolled his eyes and listened to the driver ramble on as they drove through an empty field of wheat. The stalks swayed slowly in the breeze, but started to shake violently as a drop of rain slid down Carter’s window. He noticed there was no building nearby, just miles and miles of wheat. He rested his cheek on his fist and sighed.
“Um, excuse me sir?” Carter interrupted the driver, who was passionate about the history of the Association, “Where exactly IS the USATT?” The driver chuckled and winked at him. They sat in silence and Carter sipped his cola that the assistant sitting beside him had given him just moments before. Eventually the limo slowed down and stopped in front of a huge mound of very green grass. He excitedly realized that the Association was underground. The driver exited the car, and opened Carter’s door. They walked towards the mound of grass, the driver leading the way, and the assistant following in the back, carrying his suitcase. As they neared the mound, he noticed a small silver door just at the base, and the driver inserted a small key into the slot next to it. It slid open smoothly, and they entered the USATT.

“Carter Ellsworth! What a pleasure to meet you!!! We’ve been so excited for your arrival! Come! I am Headmaster Spasky, and I have much to show you son.” A man with broad shoulders held out his hand for Carter to shake. He tried his best to put on a confident smile and allowed the Headmaster to lead him around the base. Business is a flurry here, Carter thought. And he was right. Men and women were running all around him, most wearing dark suits and occasionally a tie. Headmaster Spasky led him through the workrooms one by one, explaining their importance and what they were used for. One room was filled with wires from corner to corner. Another was computers, even another was occupied by the biggest microscope Carter had ever seen. For the first time since seeing his mother, Carter felt a tiny surge of happiness in seeing the equipment.
“And here,” Spasky pointed to huge steel double doors, “is our most prized possession. Well, a new edition of it at least. Go on, take a look son. I think you might take a liking to it!” He grinned, which sort of reminded Carter of his father. At least of what he remembered of his father. Carter, don’t get sappy. He told himself, and shook his head. Spasky gave him a slight push on the small of his back, and Carter opened the door. Hundreds of men in lab coats were swarmed around a small machine, tapping their chins with their pens, and every five minutes writing a blurb on their neon green clipboards. Spasky clapped his large hands and all movement stopped. Everyone turned to look at him. Jeez I can’t be that famous can I?
“Everyone, I’d like you to meet Carter Ellsworth. He’s our student and fellow companion for three months. Let’s give him a warm Association welcome!” Carter flinched when the crowd’s clapping echoed loudly throughout the large room. He noticed one man, with a scar on his forehead, staring at him. Not smiling, nor glaring, but staring. He shook it off and wanted to enjoy himself, so he smiled and even waved a little. As Spasky explained what was going on, a few people passed by giving Carter respectful nods and smiles.

After making their way through the busy lab, Headmaster Spasky led Carter into a large hallway with doors lining the walls. Each door had a number nailed into it, and a key slot. Spasky placed his hand over Carter’s shoulder, and ushered him to one specific door.
“This is your sleeping headquarters, Carter. You will be living here for three months. There is a private bathroom, a bed, a small kitchen, everything you need. An assistant will be here soon to help you with your things. I am very excited to work with you Carter. I hope you enjoy your time here at the USATT.” And with that, Headmaster strutted down the hallway and around the corner. Carter shuffled his backpack into a more comfortable position, and he realized that Spasky had not given him the key. Carter craned his neck to try and see if he could find Spasky.
“Headmaster!!! Hey Headmaster!” He ran down the hallway and around the corner. Spasky was nowhere to be found. Carter sprinted down the next hallway, and the next, but still no Spasky. He stopped and bent down, breathing hard. He noticed there was a mirror on the wall beside him. His jet black hair was tousled, his tall frame was bent over wheezing, and his dark green eyes were wide with worry. This can’t happen now. Getting lost on the first day is not the way he wanted this to go. Carter looked up and around him, and jogged down the next hallway, until he realized he was back at the machine room. He went inside, expecting to see the crowd again. Surprisingly, the room was empty, and very quiet. The room was dark with very few lights. His curiosity took over him, and Carter started looking around, forgetting about finding Spasky and the key. There were other doors leading out of the lab, most were steel and quite shiny. Beside every door, Carter noticed, was a key slot just like the entrance to the Association and his bedroom. He gazed over all of the tables surrounding the time machine. Wow, the apparatus is amazing, Carter thought, No wonder the Association started in 1986… Then his gaze was pulled to the time machine. It was only big enough to fit at least two full grown apes and just the right size for Carter. He ran his hand over the cool surface, admiring the simplest of things. Suddenly, he heard a door slam shut, and it was not too far away from him. He turned around and put his hand in his pocket to make it look like he wasn’t touching the machine. It was the man with the scar, sneering at him.
The man had dark keen eyes, and his hands were stained with iodine. His hair was jet black, just like Carter’s, and Carter was eye to eye with his shoulder. The scar on his forehead was noticeable, and Carter couldn’t stop looking at it. His skin looked pale white like a vampire’s compared to his black suit and hair. The man pointed an accusing finger at Carter.
“You. You’re the new kid huh?” The man spat at him. “You look really familiar; do I know you from somewhere?” he asked, tapping his chin. Carter shook his head and the man smiled with a bit of sarcasm. Carter stared at the ground, a lump in his throat telling him that he should get out, and fast.
“Ahh. I know who you are now! You’re Gerard’s son! Yes, Gerard Ellsworth! You two look exactly alike! He’s your father, right?” the man exclaimed. Carter gulped the lump down when the man mentioned his father, and nodded slowly. His father, Gerard, had gone missing when Carter was only six. He could only remember bits and pieces now.
“I’m Adam Payne. I worked with your father here at the Association. Good to see you son!” Payne slapped his back and pointed to the big doors. “Now get out. You aren’t supposed to be here.” His once gleeful smile had disappeared into a glare. Carter took a step back from Payne.
“I’m sorry mister. I really am, I just lost my way and I can’t get into my bedroom that’s all!” he stammered. Payne creeped slowly towards him like a panther to a gazelle. His eyes never left Carter’s.
“Your father disappeared on me. He left me here, stuck with Spasky and all of these way too smart people. I don’t want you here. You don’t belong here, Carter Ellsworth.” Carter, still backing away from Payne, bumped into the time machine, and the doors opened with a hiss. Payne’s eyes widened, and he took a step towards the machine. The worry on his face struck Carter with nervousness.
“Don’t touch that! You’ll break it!” he yelled. Carter stumbled on the floor of the machine, and accidentally hit a large orange button. The doors slammed shut, and the last thing he heard was Payne shouting at him to get out. Carter’s head snapped back as the machine bursted with speed and hit the metal wall. Everything went black, and he lay limp on the floor, as he sped through time itself.

A slight shake of the machine jerked Carter awake. He rubbed his head and moaned, noticing a bump where his head had hit hours before. His head throbbed in pain as he tried to remember the events that had taken place earlier. Nothing came.
“Where am I?” he asked out loud as he looked around. The machine was a tight space, just perfect for him. It had metal walls, streaked with orange. To his right were dials and clocks. He noticed one hand clock spinning very fast, as well as a digital counting faster. Oh no, he thought, I’m time traveling. This can’t be happening. He shifted his body into a more comfortable position, which didn’t really work. The machine shook and shuddered. As he sped through time, Carter’s fear grew. The clocks next to him eventually slowed down until it came to a normal beat. A hiss sizzled, causing him to jump. The air was humid and sticky, and the doors opened. Carter peeked out of the machine. It rocked, as he realized he was balancing on top of a huge pile of junk. This is so cool! He thought, never minding the fact that he was years away from his mom and Headmaster Spasky. Carter took a step onto a wrinkled newspaper, already making his first mistake.
He took a look around the strange world he’d time traveled to. The sun was beating down on a dry field that spread out for at least 7 miles. A few water-less trees dotted it, and for the first time, Carter saw tumbleweed. Oh my golly, he thought. I’ve found a ghost town, but where is the town? The wind blew across his sweaty forehead. He wiped his face and put himself together. Suddenly, he heard a snap of a twig.
Just a few meters ahead, was a human. It looked up at Carter and started to scramble up the pile. Finally, he thought, someone who could tell me where I am and what the heck is going on! He heard a low moan and grunt. As the person neared, Carter realized that it was no human.
It was a zombie.
Carter shrieked. He grabbed his backpack, slung it over his shoulder, and jumped off the pile. A big hill was to the right of the junk pile, with a small door on the side. Oh no, he thought with fear, It’s the Association. Another loud shriek and a moan startled Carter back to his senses. He stumbled over a smashed garbage can as he made a mad dash away from the monster. Its face was wrinkled with cuts and bruises, and its eyes were sunken in with slime oozing out of them. Carter noticed its clothes, which were one of the lab coats from the Association. His heart pounded. This can’t be real. This can’t be real, Carter repeated, trying to reassure himself. The zombie ambled nearer to him, its foot dragging helplessly behind it, as drool dripped down from what was left of its mouth. Carter’s jet black hair was soaked to the skin, and soaking up all of the heat. His neck was already burning from the sun’s angry rays, and his feet were squeaking from the sweat filling his sneakers. As he ran, Carter saw another zombie walking just a half mile away. He stopped short and turned a sharp angle to the right. The other one sped towards him, faster than the first, waving its hands in the air. He ran closer, and he noticed the other zombie was yelling at him.
“Watch out! Watch out, there’s an undead behind you!!!” it screamed. Carter’s heart washed over with relief. This time, the man really was human. He jogged to the man and he immediately was stabbed in the arm with a large epipen. Carter flinched and his eyes filled with angry tears. His arm throbbed where it was stabbed.
“Ow! What was that for, man?” he screamed. The man didn’t speak as he charged towards the zombie. Carter watched in utter horror as the man pulled out a sword and cut its head off. Blood and flakes of rotten skin spilled everywhere, and Carter’s stomach lurched. His head went dizzy and he lost his footing. His sight went black again as the man hoisted him into his arms and carried him away with blood still covering his hands.

“I don’t know, I just found him running away from an undead, stupid kid, and then I disinfected him. Don’t worry, it was only one. And it’s gone now.” Carter heard the man’s voice faintly. He moaned and drowsily rubbed his eyes as he looked around. He was sprawled out on a cot with a bandage wrapped around his head and his arm where the epipen was stabbed. There were counters on both sides of the cot, with first-aid kits piled on top of them. His backpack was lying on the floor, absolutely covered in dirt and dust. Carter sat up and lay back down immediately when his head pounded and a wave of dizziness and nausea washed over him. The curtain surrounding him was pushed aside, and the man who killed the zombie appeared.
“Goodness, you’re finally awake. I thought you’d be out for good, kid!” he said softly as he started to unwrap Carter’s bandages. “Keep away from the undead, they’ll scarf you down like a coyote to a rabbit. The name’s John, by the way.” He smiled a half smile and continued to unwrap.
“Where am I?” Carter asked. He was thankful that there was a soft glow from a lamp across the room. He felt a migraine coming on and groaned again.
“Seriously kid? What’s wrong with you? You’re in Utah of course!” Carter breathed a sigh of relief. At least he wasn’t in China or something. He smiled a little and collapsed back on the bed. “Tell me about yourself.” John said casually as he started to rub a cool liquid onto Carter’s arm and forehead. It surprisingly calmed his senses and numbed his forehead and arm. John handed him a small piece of white bread and a chunk of cheese. Carter stuffed his face and crumbs fell out of his mouth as he spoke. The food was stale, but it filled his empty growling belly.
“I’m Carter Ellsworth-“John’s eyes widened.
“Wait, Carter… Ellsworth?” He exclaimed. Carter nodded, confused. John called in a few of his friends. A girl with fire red hair peeked in and another man pulled away the curtain. They asked him what was going on with confused looks on their faces. John waved his hand in Carter’s direction and almost slapped him in the face.
“This kid, he’s Gerard’s son!” All of their eyes bulged out just as John’s did. They started to get on Carter’s nerves as they peeked at his backpack and clothes with curiosity.
“Can I just speak please? I have no idea how you know who my father is, I have no way of getting home, and I’m from the past. I traveled here accidentally by a time machine. I need help, and I want you guys to help me.” He spat. Everyone stopped talking and stared at him. John grinned.
“Stubborn and grumpy. Just like Gerard!” he spoke softly. Carter’s anger finally subsided and he started to cry. He sobbed and tears soaked the pillow. John patted his back and apologized.
“Same thing happened to your father. Sadly, he’s gone now, taken by the undead. I’m sorry kid, but we’ll try our best to getcha back.” For the first time, Carter noticed what they all were wearing. John had on a torn green Hollister shirt. The red-head was wearing a ripped dress with a leather belt holding a gun and a dagger. Another man standing next to her didn’t have a shirt on at all. His jeans were ripped at the knees with as many holes in them as if they were full pants. Carter nodded, sniffed, and felt an overwhelming need of rest. His eyes blinked drowsily with hot tears running down his cheeks.
“You better get some rest, kid. Go on, lie back down. You need a little rest before we get you home. I’ll fill you in on the details of the ‘Return Carter Home’ plan okay? Go get yourself some shut eye.” John patted Carter’s shoulder and tiptoed out of the room while Carter’s eyes closed as soon as his head hit the potato sack meant to be his pillow.
“Daddy Daddy!! Look what I found!!!” Carter shouted and ran to his father carrying a small butterfly in his greasy hands. Gerard bent down to examine the fluttering creature in his son’s hands. He nodded, pleased with his son’s find.
“See that you got there? That’s a Painted Lady butterfly. See her wings? She paints them every day just to show off for her new husband. She’s a beauty.” He smiled at his son and rubbed his back. Carter grinned, happy to please his father. They started to take a walk back to the small cabin where Roslyn watched them with a soft smile on her face. Carter turned around, noticing his father was not beside him. Gerard screamed a sound Carter had never thought his strong father would make. An undead was strangling his neck as two others held back his hands and bound them. Roslyn cried, staying put while unable to tear her eyes away from the scene. A zombie neared Carter and looked straight into his eyes. The stench filled Carter’s nostrils, as he looked straight into its eye sockets. He saw death, destruction, and sadness. It was too much to bear.
“Daddy!!! Help me please!” Carter yelled.
“Stay strong Carter! Be strong for your mother”
Carter woke with sweat beads dotting his forehead and neck. A quiet sob escaped his mouth, and he realized how much he missed his parents. The room was dark and he sat up abruptly. The cool cream that John had smeared on his forehead and arm did really work. His migraine was completely gone, but replaced with worry and an urgency to return back to his time. Carter hopped off the cot and slung his pack over his shoulder. I can’t take this madness anymore. Spasky, here I come! As he neared the small door to the front of the small building, he made sure no one was watching, then snuck out and closed the door quietly. As soon as he was free, he ran like the wind. The wind blew his hair out of his face, and his worries subsided. The urge to get home was now more powerful than ever. A shout came from behind him.
“Carter!!! What are you doing you idiot?! Come back you’ll get eaten!!” John screamed and chased after him. Leave me alone!!! Tears formed in Carter’s eyes when he reached the time machine.
It was smashed.
Carter fell to his knees as John neared him. The time machine was broken.*He lifted up the remains of the machine. Wires were strewn everywhere, some ripped in half and even chewed by the rotted teeth of the undead. The steel doors were still whole, although the bottom right hand corner was dented and a little cracked. Carter ran his hand over the smashed left panel and picked up the clocks that were still ticking weakly. Flakes of undead skin covered the whole machine, and the once orange-silver paint was scratched off.*
There was no going back. He couldn’t be with his mother, Headmaster Spasky would be furious; he’d live in a world where his life was at risk every day because of flesh eating zombies. He completely lost it, and collapsed on the ground in a fit of sobs, gasps, and moaning. John leaned over him and sat him upright.
“Carter, I told you we’d help you get home. The time machine may be broken, but my promise isn’t. I loved your father like a brother, and I shall do the same for you. C’mon. Let’s figure this out, okay?” John looked deep into his eyes, and Carter felt like he did when he found a butterfly for his father so many years ago. His tears stopped flowing and he contained himself. John knelt down next to the time machine and examined it closely as Carter watched.
“Looks like some of the undead have explored it. A few wires need to be fixed here and there. I bet we can use some of the tools back at the village and even some of this junk,” he said reassuringly, “We’ll get this fixed in no time kid.” Carter nodded.
Five hours later, Carter had gone back to get food for himself and John. He walked back to the junk pile with a skip in his step. I’m going home. At last, he thought. When he finally made it, John wasn’t there. The time machine was whole and ready except for a few wires flapping in the wind. Carter looked around, expecting John to be somewhere looking for more tools. He was nowhere to be found. The wind blew in his hair and lifted up a large piece of newspaper. What was under it scared Carter so much he was almost in shock.
It was John’s sword.
Carter backed away from the pile and the time machine. This was not happening. John probably just forgot his sword when he went out. Yeah, Carter thought, He’s just out searching for more tools, that’s all. Don’t worry Carter. He’s not gone for good. Suddenly Carter backed up right into someone, and he heard a loud grunt and a sigh. Carter turned around slowly and screamed. Now he knew where John was. Well, the John that used to be. Its Hollister shirt was ripped to shreds by the claws of the others; its dark beady eyes sunken in. This time, Carter was glad John had left his sword. It was the only weapon he had. He stumbled over the same smashed trash can and scrambled for the sword. He swung it hard, feeling the heaviness of it, and using all of the momentum in his body to even pick it up. The zombie’s jaw was hanging to one side, and its leg was twisted in such an unnatural position that it hopped everywhere it went. It neared closer to Carter, and he swung the sword as hard as he could, but missed. There was no point in using it. It was too heavy. Carter dropped it, and ambled towards the machine. There were only a few meters between Carter and the zombie.
The machine, I have to fix it, Carter thought. He gritted his teeth as his fingers fumbled around the wires. A loud screech pierced the air and his ear drums. This wasn’t going to work. Carter swore under his breath. Suddenly there was silence as he watched the mob near him. All he could hear was the fast beating of his heart.
“Stay strong, Carter. Be strong for your mother...” His father’s words echoed in his brain. Carter heard a loud, high pitched screaming, realizing that it was his own. He has to focus. He wanted to go home, take care of his mother, and be the man that she needed. Don’t worry mom, I’m coming home! The zombie was now almost face to face with Carter. He screamed louder, causing the undead to back away from him with a confused look on its disfigured face. Carter felt a surge of confidence and scrambled again inside of the machine. The zombie screamed back, the horrible stench of its breath filling Carter’s nostrils.
The ground shook as more zombies charged towards Carter and the machine. The clocks were starting to tick very slowly and it started to rise. It shook like an old person trying to pin the tail on the donkey. The undead surrounded him, scratching at his legs and the walls of the machine.
“COME ON!! WORK!!” Carter screamed. He was crying, and screaming, and sobbing, and yelling. A loud blow startled Carter and the undead mob.
The time machine disappeared, and brought Carter with it. He breathed a sigh of relief and cleared his mind. For a fourteen year old boy, he’s seen way too much. He wanted a normal life as a normal teenager. No more time traveling, no more screaming horrid things to his mother.
Oh, his mother.
Carter moaned and scolded himself. The way he treated his mother was absolutely horrible. *He wouldn’t listen to her when she talked, and he completely ditched her on mother’s day. Carter shuddered when he remembered that one year on mother’s day when he went to Jonah’s to hang out.

“Uh, bro what’cha doin here?” Jonah had asked. Carter was extremely confused.

“What are you talking about? Don’t you wanna hang out?” he replied. Jonah’s jaw dropped.

“Bro, its mother’s day. You should probably be ‘hangin out’ with your mom. Just text me later, okay?” Jonah shut the door as Carter hopped on his bike and rode home swelled with anger. When he stomped into his house Roslyn was up and watching TV in her blue satin bathrobe. She looked up and smiled weakly. Carter glared and her smile disappeared into a nervous frown.

“You should’ve told me it was mother’s day!! Now I can’t hang out with Jonah because of you! Thanks a lot, MOM.” Carter screamed. He stomped up the stairs and slammed the door. Roslyn burst into tears and began her usual chores, forgetting about mother’s day. Carter fumed up in his bedroom and heard the occasional whimper of his mom.
Carter sobbed and swore at himself.* After experiencing the world where his father died, he realized how much he missed him. Carter vowed to protect his mother and be the man that she lost. Carter’s tears streaked his dirty sweaty face, as he fell asleep; dreaming of meeting his mother again.
Another loud crash jerked Carter awake. He looked hopefully at the clocks and realized that they’d stopped spinning crazily. They were ticking at a normal beat.
The doors opened with the last loud hiss Carter would hear. He was back in the Association. Scientists, news reporters, and all of his friends were surrounding the machine. All was quiet; you could hear a pin drop.
“Carter…” He heard a soft voice, recognizing it was his mother’s. He smiled weakly at her and ran into her arms.
“Don’t you ever do that again. Never ever. I love you, Carter. Please, just understand me,” she cried into his broad shoulder. Carter nodded and stroked her hair while his tears soaked her shirt. He shushed her soothingly and apologized softly in her ear. Everyone surrounding them was smiling, some even crying. After a few minutes, Roslyn pulled away and stared at her tall son, smiling. Headmaster Spasky was beside her, his face hard, his arms crossed. Carter gulped.
“Well well well. Look who finally showed up,” he said. Carter’s cheeks turned red and he stared at the ground. Spasky cupped Carter’s chin and lifted his head up so they would be eye to eye.
“I’m glad you’re back, son.” Spasky pulled him into a rib crushing hug. His mother joined in. Everyone clapped and cheered. Carter grinned and breathed a loud sigh of relief.
“I’m glad to be back,” he said with a smile.




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