I find the package, as big as a microwave oven, on my porch. It is nameless but the return address is Yonkers. I am hoping a smaller box is inside because the things I need—money, medicine, my PhD—are all small. I pull at the loose ends of the cardboard package; inside is a plastic black container.
As I take off the lid, it flies out of my hand and suddenly I’m in darkness. I see stars. I am moving too fast. My body elongates, twists, whips like a leaf sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Then I am spit out, landing in a room filled with chintz cushions, cinnamon, and candles. I am too weak to stand. I see people in a pale room across the hall. They are whispering. I hate whispering.
A lanky, dark-haired teenage boy walks in through the other doorway to the room, sees me and halts. “Whoa. Who are you?”
I try to speak. He asks, “Did you get black-boxed here?”
I can’t think of a better description of what just happened. I nod my head, yes. The people across the hall are dressed like Civil War re-enactors, but this boy wears baggy khaki shorts and a t-shirt, appears to be of East Asian descent. I hold my head; the incongruity makes me dizzy.
He smirks. “Just so you know, there are a couple of glitches.” A couple?
“The family in there thinks I’m dead. Well, ‘the undead,’” he says, using finger quotes. “Just so you know, it’s 1852, Yonkers, New York. Another glitch. Obvs. I asked for Hong Kong.”
I swallow hard, clear my throat. “Thank god it’s not the Civil War. What am I doing here?”
“You didn’t enter the contest? Wow. That’s fucked up. Glitches, see?” He nods knowingly.
I stand up, balance myself against a desk and look out the window. A horse and buggy clomps down the road, kicking up dust.
The boy continues talking. “There’s an agent at the hotel downtown to help me get back. I haven’t met him yet. Kinda checking things out here. Mom’s gonna kill me when I get home. You’re supposed to be at least 18 to enter the contest but I signed up anyway. Didn’t think I’d actually win. How did you get here?”
On a wall is a tapestry—cleaner, brighter, but the same work that is on my bedroom wall, above the dresser I inherited. A red mill by a stream, I have seen this image nearly every day of my 30 years. I know the shadows of each stitch.
“Huh? Oh, a package was on my porch when I came home from work. I opened it up. Big mistake.”
An older woman, swishing in a hoop skirt, appears in the doorway; she sees me and gasps. “Oh, my—who are you? Samuel, did you invite her?”
I know those eyes—the thin creases at the corners, the chocolate pools and sharp irises. I miss my mom. Those eyes are hers.
The boy shakes his head. “Wasn’t me. I’m telling you, I’m—we’re from another time. Look, she’s wearing jeans.”
The woman sighs and coos. “Oh, Samuel. We will lead another home circle tonight. We will find your kin and they will guide you to the other side.”
“Yes, Mrs. Keene.” Samuel looks at me and rolls his eyes.
Mrs. Keene? I tilt my head and see it now. Octavia Morris Keene, born 1801 in Yonkers. I do belong here. I hold my breath and exhale; I offer my hand. “I’m Solinda… Keene. I’m home.”
I read this last night, but can’t remember for the life of me if I left a comment or not about how strange and sweet I found it. The chance of a do-over, even in the 1800’s (ugh, the possibility of outdoor plumbing), is intriguing.
Yeah, 1800s outhouses would suck. Many thanks for your kind comment and reading, Shannon!
Love the family history angle. I like how Octavia seems in on Samuel’s strange ways. The history between them. Octavia’s so hip to know what jeans are in 1851.
Oh, that was an ill-conceived sentence on my part — Octavia was cooing over Samuel, not the jeans. I think I tried to cram too much into a small space. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Nate. And apologies for the way-delayed thank you!
I like the details tying the past to the present: a mother’s eyes, a tapestry on the wall, the family name. We’re with Solinda as she gradually comes to terms with where and when she is.
Thanks so much for your lovely comments, Megan.
Clever title, Meg. I enjoyed the story, especially the way you described her “trip” back in time – and the hints that she did, indeed, belong there.
Splendid! So sorry for the delayed response. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
I’ve missed your fiction, my friend, and this was such a joy to read! You weave a story so expertly that you made time travel and her decision to stay very natural. I love history, especially family history, so I really enjoyed her recognition of family traits and heirlooms. When I reached the end, I realized the full meaning behind the title; I love both significance and the depth in that, too.
How I wish we lived in the same town! So sympatico. Means a lot to me that you enjoyed this. xoxo
Oh, I wish we did too! We could go for walks, talk about all sorts of things – and I could meet those lovely cats of yours. xoxo
Beautiful story. Your writing is flawless, as ever. I like the twist at the end. The title fits perfectly.
Thanks for your kind comments, Renada!
I love the creativity of the premise…
Thanks, Nat! xoxo
I like how you didn’t just have Solinda travel back in time, but included the character of the boy to “explain” what happened. It added a touch of humor and a layer of intrigue. I’m curious about that contest, but also caught up in how the main character got there, too.
Thanks, Cyn! Sorry to take so long to say thank you. This contest thing is chewing into my gratitude time. 😉
As I noted to Nate above, I think I tried to cram too much into this, but I also liked the idea of this contest award. Want to pursue that some more.
Lovely story. Gave me goosebumps.
Goosebumps are good! Thanks, as always, Meredith!
Hi I am so excited I found your webpage,
I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Digg for something else,
Anyways I am here now and would just like to say
many thanks for a fantastic post and a all round
entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all
at the moment but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.