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The Word Story, Chapter 1
Chapter 1: Ellie
September 21, 2009
“Find the eraser, and return to headquarters,” Dr. Johnson said. “And report to us who he is.”
“Or she,” I said. “The eraser doesn’t have to be a man-”
“Or she, it doesn’t matter! We need to know who this person is that is erasing the past.”
I sighed. “All right. What have your calculations told us?”
“We’ve discovered that the eraser should be at 245 River Lane, Fairview, Montana, at exactly 1:35 PM tomorrow. Be there, and find out who it is. And Ellie?”
“What?” I said.
“Be back in time for school.”
September 22, 2009
I sat at the bakery in the airport in Montana, finishing off a giant muffin and checking the time. 9 AM. I still had four hours.
I opened up my laptop. Google Maps should probably help with figuring out how to get to 245 River Lane. I probably should’ve checked out Google Maps on the flight here, but I fell fast asleep the second I sank into my plane chair and I’d slept until 8:30 when the plane arrived in Montana. I mean, you can’t blame me! My flight was scheduled at 2 AM. Dr. Johnson drove me to the airport from school, and I was barely able to keep my eyes open through security and all that. When I woke up, the continental breakfast had finished and I barely had time to rush off the plane with my stuff before the gates closed.
So that’s how I got to the bakery, because I hadn’t had any breakfast. I have to tell you, this stuff is way better than anything the plane service would’ve served. I had to first get my bags and stuff, but I ran straight to the nearest FOOD I could find after that.
That’s five dollars wasted, I thought, thinking guiltily of the fifty dollars I’d been given to complete this mission. Of course, it was only to be used for important things, not getting myself a muffin and orange juice for breakfast when I could’ve eaten on the plane.
I typed in ‘google.com/maps’ and waited for the site to show up. It came up pretty quickly, and I typed in ‘245 River Lane, Fairview, Montana’ and the address of the airport. Directions, I clicked, Go.
The computer buzzed a little while Google computed the directions, then it showed up. Hmmmm. It would take only half an hour to get there. Maybe I’d go into the town for a bit and relax. Or maybe- and I liked this idea better- I would check out 245 River Lane and do some investigating. I loved investigating. I wouldn’t have got myself enrolled in the finders’ program if I didn’t. (We’re not actually called ‘finders’… we’re the Investigators. Waaaaay more awesome name.)
I sat there remembering how I even got here. Back in fifth grade, when I was already enrolled at Sam Allport Boarding School, I found out that half the people there were only there because they were trying to unravel government scandals, since they were gifted and all that. I was only there because my parents were looking for a cheap boarding school for gifted kids, so a smart kid like me could go somewhere while they were busy traveling the country, trying to sell their stuff. I was one of the few kids there who didn’t know about the government stuff.
Well, I wasn’t going to just live with that! I got involved as soon as I could, and they accepted me quickly, since I was so good at that kind of stuff. It was only a while before they discovered that someone was erasing events from the past. Called ‘the eraser’ by us, he seemed to have not gained too much power yet, and was only erasing small events from the past. We’d been receiving calls from all over the country about it- people that knew about it had heard from others about it. There were some people that were able to resist the erasing power and could remember the events he’d erased, and were confused as to why everything was gone.
This eraser was pretty powerless now, but he’d recently erased a ten-year-old girl, and it was getting to be a serious problem. If he could erase that much, he could likely wipe out the universe soon enough.
I drained my orange juice, proud that I’d been assigned to such an important mission. Sure, I just had to figure out who the guy was- the older students, the seniors and college-age ones, they’d get rid of him- but for an eighth grader, especially one who only joined three years ago, investigating the eraser was a big deal.
Looking at my laptop, I quickly looked over the instructions to get there, wondering if the eraser had taken the route to the airport often to erase all those things all over the country. Down to 245 River Lane, Fairview, MT, ‘Destination’, Smithson Family Daycare Center- wait, the eraser was going to be at a daycare center?
I remembered going to daycare centers when I was little. They were crowded places full of kids who stole all the toys, horrible ‘healthy’ snacks, and rude babysitting people. Was the eraser going to erase the daycare center or something?
This guy obviously wasn’t too serious. Ha ha. It would probably take a little while to figure out who he was, and then it’d be-
Suddenly a white flash of light blinded me. No one else seemed to notice it. Dust rose from the ground. The light bent and turned into a monster- one that ran and ran and ran until suddenly the newsstand in front of my eyes turned into a candy shop. The light disappeared and everything was back to normal. No one else seemed to notice anything had happened- not even the old guy who had just been working in the newsstand, sitting on the side of it in raggedy clothes with a tin mug, shaking it. I heard the sad rattle of a few coins in there.
The eraser was my first thought.
I had to stop him.
“That’ll be six dollars fifty two cents,” the cab driver said lazily, checking out her makeup in the rearview mirror.
“Uh! Six dollars fifty two cents! Right away!” I said, shuffling through my bag to pull out a five and two ones. I was jumpy and suspicious now that I’d seen the newsstand disappear.
The driver took her eyes off her makeup for a second to get the money, then she said, “Hello? Tip?”
“Tip?” I asked, unsure what she meant. Then I realized she needed a tip. “Oh. Sorry.” I calculated the tip in my head in a couple seconds, then pulled the tip out of my bag.
She slammed the door shut the second she had my money and sped off down the street.
I looked at the building in front of me.
“Smithson Family Daycare Center,” I said to no one in particular. “This is it.”
I was three hours early, but it didn’t really matter. I could investigate the place.
I walked inside. It was nothing like the places I’d been to. A warm, welcoming smell of cinnamon-y cookies baking greeted me, as well as bells tinkling above my head and kids’ music playing. Comfortable chairs and tables surrounding the entrance, and some kids were playing with Play-Doh and blocks near me. Wide windows and cool murals dotted the walls. A play area was in the back, as well as several private bathrooms, and a playground was visible through a screen door in the back.
I first went to the check-in desk. Sitting behind it was a young woman with sleek black hair tied back in a bun. She was wearing a perfectly clean Hollister T-shirt and jeans, and she had on sparkling silver glasses. She looked pretty professional and also childish, too.
“Need help?” the woman asked. “What are you here for?”
My mind struggled to come up with a quick lie. “Um, well, my name is,” might as well tell her my real name- I was only the Investigator, anyway, “Ellie Turner, and well, I just moved into Fairview and I like working with kids, and I saw this place, and well, it looked really great. So do you have any volunteer spots that are open, or something?”
“Volunteer spots open? We have a million!” the woman said. She got off her chair and walked over to me. “My name’s Miss Taylor,” she told me, shaking my hand. “No one ever volunteers at this place. We need someone to help out with coordinating programs for the kids, and also with taking care of the REALLY little kids.”
Thank G-d for my Red Cross baby-sitting training.
“Sounds good,” I said. “How do I sign up?”
“Just sign here, and pick some times to come over and help out,” she told me, handing me a paper. I signed it quickly. “Do you have school?”
“Uh- no,” I said. “See, my school’s out of town, and we have vacation now.”
“Oh,” said Miss Taylor. “Well, what hours sound good? How about from one-thirty to three on Tuesdays and Thursdays? We’ve got one other volunteer for that.”
Of course! That volunteer had to be the eraser.
“Sounds perfect,” I said.
“Good,” Miss Taylor said, scrawling my name on a small calendar that was dotted with names, dates, and activities. “I’ll see you at 1:30, then?”
“Okay,” I said. I was itching to do some investigating in this place- check for fingerprints, look for evidence- but I sensed that it was unnecessary. Everything I needed to know, I would find out at 1:35, this afternoon.