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.”