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The Time Machine in the Locker Room
The Time Machine in the Locker Room
It was almost time for me to go home. I sat on the edge of my freshly made bed, my hands clenched in my lap, my leg bouncing up and down nervously. Every five seconds I glanced at the clock. He should be here any minute. What was taking him so long? What if he’d been caught? I didn’t want to think about the possibility.
I remember the day I arrived in the 24th century so clearly. I was in the girl’s locker room after school one day to grab something I’d forgotten. I was in a hurry because I had a bus to catch. Of course, everything goes wrong when you’re in a hurry. As I was fumbling for my backpack, all the lights went out. Just like that. No warning, no one asking if anyone was still inside. Just complete darkness without any heads-up.
I was wondering if there had been a power outage and had begun my quest for the door when I noticed a small crack of light in the ceiling above me. Except it wasn’t white, or even yellow, like the sun. In fact, it was flashing from one end of the rainbow to the other, getting faster and faster. I felt dizzy, like I had just spun in several circles. I was just going into freak out mode when suddenly it stopped, and everything was still.
After standing still for a minute or so, trying to figure out what the heck had just happened, I started feeling for the door again. Eventually I found the doorknob when I smacked my fingers on it and mumbled “ow” over and over again. However, when I opened the door expecting to see the plain white hallways of the school, what I saw instead was a bright sun shining down on large silver buildings, the greenest grass I’d ever seen, and a flawless blue sky.
It was shortly after that that I met Tyrell, who was attending the Galaxy Explorer Academy in the 24th century.
Yeah. So not in Kansas anymore.
He was very smart, and very quick to figure out what had happened to me and what had to be done to get me back without messing up time or anything.
Since the time machine I’d accidentally activated was constantly being watched, Tyrell figured that we’d have to try and get me back to the 21st century at night, when everyone was asleep. That meant avoiding hall monitors and keeping suspicions down. Until we could find a good night to get me back, I’d had to pose as an exchange student who was staying for a couple of weeks to get a feel for the academy.
Now, of course, I was just waiting for Tyrell to show up. He told me that tonight would probably be the only chance we got for a while, since the academy’s teachers were all having a meeting so there would be fewer hall monitors to deal with.
Over the past couple of weeks I’d been here I had really started to enjoy Tyrell’s company. It was kind of weird, of course, to think that I was falling for someone who was living 300 years ahead of me in time. But I couldn’t really help it. A friend is a friend, I suppose.
Just then, Tyrell poked his head in the doorway. “Ready?” he asked. I sprang from my seat on the edge of the bed and practically jogged to him.
“Yeah,” I replied. He grabbed my hand and started leading me swiftly but silently down the dark hallways. All the students of the academy were supposed to be in their rooms right now, and if we were caught it would mean a lot of trouble for us. But I knew Tyrell knew what he was doing. I wasn’t afraid. “Where were you?” I asked him as we made our way through the hall.
“I had to hide. The hall monitors almost caught me,” he replied as we turned a corner into another hallway. He spoke to me over his shoulder. “Now, the machine is still in the same place as it was years ago when Dr. Star created it. Instead of moving it around and risking something like this to happen—” I knew he was talking about my getting stuck in the 24th century. “…they thought it would be easier to just build the academy around it.”
I nodded. Dr. Star was my science teacher back in the 21st century. Apparently, in my timeline, he’s already invented the machine. It’s just that no one knows about it yet except for me.
But then something else crossed my mind.
“I don’t know how I got here the first time,” I told Tyrell. I remember how I had been fumbling around in my haste to catch the bus. I had no idea I’d pressed or triggered anything. All I knew was that the lights went out without warning. “How will I know what to do?”
“Don’t worry. After the machine was discovered, they turned the cloaking device off. None of the buttons are invisible now. It should be fairly easy to operate,” Tyrell told me. I noticed he was slowing down. The door in front of us looked like a polished version of the door to the girls’ locker room back in the 21st century. He turned to me.
“OK. This is it. Remember what you’re doing?” he asked.
“Set the time for the exact day and minute I left, then pull back on the lever to go,” I recited the plan for what felt like the hundredth time.
“Come with me,” I said suddenly, before I had time to realize what I was saying. “I don’t want to mess up and ruin everything.”
Tyrell sighed. “Fine.” He looked down the connecting hallways and nodded once. “Let’s go.”
We silently slipped into the darkness of the old locker room, now just a place for the time machine to rest peacefully. He pulled a flashlight from his belt and shone it on the floor so we’d know when to step inside the machine. Once we’d entered, he helped me set the date and time.
“There,” he said quietly, so as not to be overheard. “You’re all set.”
“Come with me,” I said again. I don’t know why, but I was desperate. I didn’t want to leave him, never to meet again. Tyrell shook his head and sighed again.
“Katie, if we do that, we’ll just have the same mess to deal with all over again,” he told me.
“But you don’t have to go back. You can stay in the 21st century with me,” I replied. He stared at me with those serious brown eyes.
“That would totally mess up time. Who knows what kind of problems that could create for this time?”
“But I don’t want to leave you here,” I protested, keeping my voice low. “I really like you, Tyrell.”
“Katie, I’ve majored in both space and time travel,” Tyrell said, shaking his head at me. “I know how these things work. You belong in your time and I belong in mine. Nothing can change that. Besides, I don’t think either of our schools would like the idea of two different times converging.”
I sighed. I knew he was right. “I guess it would be pointless to ask if I’ll ever see you again. the answer will obviously be no.”
He shrugged. “Sorry.”
Suddenly, we heard footsteps approaching us from the hallway. Tyrell immediately sprang into action and turned off his flashlight.
“You need to go,” he whispered urgently. I don’t know how he saw it in the sudden blackness, but he pressed the button to countdown for my departure and leapt out of the machine.
“Wait!” I whispered back, but the door closed and sealed before I could get to him. As my eyes began to adjust, I saw Tyrell stand up straight and salute as the colors I’d seen in the locker room began to flash before my eyes once more.
And then I was back.
As I gathered my things and left the locker room, I thought about how badly I would miss Tyrell, but also about how right he was. Two completely different timelines converging could really mess up both our timelines. Not like I knew how it worked. Tyrell was the one who had majored in time travel, not me.
Then a thought crossed my mind. I smiled as I wondered what would happen if I even dared to try it. But my mischievous side got the better of me, and I stopped right there in the hallway to pull out a pen and small slip of paper. I scribbled a few words down, then practically ran to Dr. Star’s room. After all, I still had a bus to catch.
When I entered his room, I didn’t see anyone in there, so I left the note on his computer desk. I saw the papers we’d handed in earlier that day sitting there, and I smiled to myself as I set the paper down and hurried back outside.
Dr. James Star had just returned from the teacher’s lounge with a fresh cup of coffee in his hand. He had to stay up late grading papers, so he had figured he might as well grab a cup to keep him awake.
Then he noticed a small slip of paper on top the papers he was about to grade for his fourth period class. He reached for it and turned it over, his eyes widening as he read the words.
Be careful where you put that time machine, Dr. Star.