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Hat Creek Trouble

By Bryce Blackburn

Romance / Adventure

The One about Time Traveling

The alarm that blared through the room made me groan and roll over. I made three attempts of throwing my arm to turn it off, before I knocked it off my night stand. It kept ringing incessantly until it just stopped suddenly. The silence made me pick my head up. “You’re going to be late for work, hon.”

That was Gerald, my homosexual, African-American roommate. “Thanks for making it stop, Gerry.” I said, burying my head under my pillow.

“Selena Marie. Get your cutie-pa-tootie out of bed this instant!” Gerry said and I heard him stomp his foot. He was getting serious. I groaned and sat up in bed.

“Where are you going so early?” I asked, seeing Gerry in a silk button up and a pair of salmon skinny jeans. He woke me up early, as I had to be at work at 9:30 and he didn’t have work until noon most days. He only wore this on a first date. He told me if a guy couldn’t accept his skinny jeans, he couldn’t accept him.

“I have a coffee date.” He grinned, yanking on my arm and making me stumble out of bed and towards the coffee pot.

“A coffee date? Who has coffee dates?” I mumbled, pouring myself a cup of the brew that Gerry had been kind enough to make for me.

“You’ve been out of the dating scene too long. I’m gonna set you up with one of Omar’s friends.” Gerry said, shaking his head while putting his hands on his hips. Omar was one of Gerry’s straight friends. However, I had heard the stories about the guys Omar set Gerry up with.

Now, Gerry and I are exact opposites. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. I had a couple of past boyfriends. None of them were what I wanted, or needed out of a man. Gerry, on the other hand, went on several dates a week. He just wanted to love and be loved; which never bothered me. I just wasn’t that kind of girl.

“Gerry…” I groaned, taking a gulp of my coffee.

He crossed his arms at me. “Don’t ‘Gerry’ me. You need to get out there. Mr. Right isn’t gonna just fall into your lap.” I gave him a pouty look as I stumbled back into my bedroom. “Oh, and I knew you’d be late, so I already picked out your outfit for today.” He smiled at me.

I looked over at my vanity. There sat my days outfit. A white tee shirt, black vest, well-worn boot cut jeans, with my red high heels. “You’re the best.” I said, kissing him on the cheek.

“I know. I’m off. I’ll bring you lunch.” He grinned, leaving me to change.

I had been at work for almost four hours before Gerry came by to bring my lunch. I never asked him to, but he always did when he could. If he wasn’t gay, he’d be the love of my life. I worked as an un-interesting secretary at an un-interesting law office in an un-interesting office building.

Gerry burst through the elevator doors of the 6th floor I worked on. I gestured to the headset I was wearing so Gerry knew I was on the phone.

“Yes, sir, I understand why you’re getting this legal notice, but sir, there’s nothing I can do about it. If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll transfer you to your lawyer.” And before he could protest, I clicked mute and transferred him to the lawyer he’d yell at next.

I gave a heaving sigh and turned to Gerry, feeling more exhausted than normal. “There’s a secretarial position available at the office.” He called it ‘the office’, but he was a fashion designer. They didn’t have ‘offices’, they had studios. “Pay?” I asked.

“Same as here, but girl, you know you’ll have less stress. Peanut butter and nutella on honey oat with baked potato chips.” Gerry said, explaining my lunch.

I stood up and leaned over the counter. I threw my arms around him, giving him the biggest hug I could manage. I wasn’t bothered at all about the looks I was getting from some of the lawyers and clients. “Tori, I’m off to lunch. Back in 30.” I called, throwing off my headset and running around the counter.

Gerry smiled at me as we linked arms and strolled out of the building and down the street to a local park. We sat on a park bench and dug into our lunch. “So, how’d the coffee date go?”

He gave a long, dramatic sigh and I was all prepared to give the “There are other fish in the sea,” speech. “It was amazing! Oh my goodness! He’s perfect! First, he complimented my jeans.” He all but shrieked. I smiled as he continued. “He’s so muscular and handsome. He has the cutest little sideways smile.”

I giggled as Gerry described him. I always did. It somehow humored me to hear a man described like that, from another man. “I’m glad, Gerry.” I said, taking a bite of my sandwich.

“We’re having dinner tomorrow. You want to come?” He offered.

“Gerry…” I didn’t need to say anymore. He understood this as my “I hate being a third wheel on your gay dates” statement. “I was just offering!” He exclaimed, eating a fork full of Cesar salad. I stared off into the distance. I could have sworn I saw a man duck behind a tree when I turned to look. But I was just hallucinating. I had been doing this for about a month.

First, it started with a dream. I was standing on top of a tall building wearing an old style dress, like the ones the Pioneers wore. Everything was in a shade of gray, so I couldn’t tell the color of anything. The dress was pretty, but it was pouring rain and blowing wind.

It was odd because I was wearing my neon converse. A man stood behind me, calling my name. I was crying and looking down at the ground. I kept yelling at him, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” But I could never see all of his face.

Just his eyes; brown as melted chocolate.

“…Lena?” Gerry called, breaking my trance. I shook my head, looking over at him. He looked concerned. He only called me Lena when he was worried about me.

“I’m fine.” I told him, eating more of my sandwich.

“Dreams again?” He asked. He was the only one I had told about them. And the only reason I had told him was because he woke me from it and I was crying.

“Nah.” I said, going back to my sandwich. He knew I was lying, but he didn’t push it.

I slammed shut the door to our apartment. “I freaking hate work! Lawyers just think they’re the hottest pieces of ass on earth!” I yelled in whatever direction Gerry was. We had a habit of doing this on days we were stressed. Today was my day. I leaned on the counter and took off my heels, tossing them in the direction of my room. “And I swear to God, if that jerk from accounting gives me one more speech on sexual harassment while he’s staring at my boobs-“ I paused as I came around the corner into the living area.

I almost fell over sideways. Gerry smiled up at me. He was cuddled on the couch with a big, hunky black man. The man looked a little uncomfortable. “Selena, this is James. My new lawyer boyfriend.”

“Oh. Oh my god, Gerry. I’m so, so sorry. I-I d-didn’t mean t-that-” I paused myself. I stuttered when I was nervous. I slapped myself on the hand to calm myself down. “Hi, I’m Selene. I didn’t mean the whole lawyer thing.”

This seemed to put him a little as ease. “I understand how some people can be. It’s nice to meet you. James.” He smiled, standing up to shake my hand.

“Hi. Again.” I said awkwardly as he sat down. “Ok, well, since I’m interrupting, I’m goin’ to go see if Figgy McGee’s is open.” I said as I walked into my room to pull on my neon converse. “You two have a great evening.”

I didn’t usually drink when I went to Figgy McGee’s, the Irish inspired pub down the block. But the head bartender was a big, grizzly looking teddy bear of a man that took pity on me for having a gay roommate, so he let me eat at half price and watch TV. And if I sat at the bar, he protected me from drunken idiots.

“The usual?” Danny, the head bartender asked.

“Yes, please.” I said, putting my purse on the bar. On his way to the kitchen, Danny took my purse and set it behind the bar for me. I smiled my thanks and turned to watch the football game that was on the big screen. I usually ended up here on Fridays anyway. I liked watching the football games, despite the fact I had no idea how to play.

Tonight’s game was the Packers vs. the Bears. I watched the game off and on until my food arrived. “Thanks Danny.” I said, as he set a plate of fish and chips in front of me, with a glass of sweet tea. He went back to bartending and not long after that, a hand touched my shoulder. I yelped and jumped.

Gerry held up his hands. “Why are you so jumpy?” He asked, sitting on the bar stool next to me. “Just zoning out.” I said, taking a drink of my tea. “James went home. Come back to the apartment and regale me of the tales of the heartless lawyer-beasts.” He smiled.

I asked Danny for my purse and pulled out a twenty. I kneeled up onto the barstool, gave him a peck on the cheek and headed for the door. Danny smiled at me as we left, clearing away my dishes.

Gerry and I sat on the couch in our PJs. There was a bucket of ice cream in front of me and a tub of homemade popcorn in front of Gerry. “…And then,” I was continuing my story from earlier. “He kept staring at my boobs. Who gives somebody a lecture on sexually harassing someone, while sexually harassing someone?”

“Men that want your body.” Gerry giggled. I rolled my eyes. Gerry frequently like to act like a middle school girl. I opened my mouth to argue with him, but the computer in his room blinked red and beeped loudly. Gerry set down his popcorn and I followed him into his room. He sat at his desk and put on his glasses. I smiled at him as he clicked away on his computer.

Gerry adored fashion. He had a passion for it. But what he loved to do in his spare time was physics. “There’s a huge storm system coming into the area.” He told me. Gerry’s dream was time travel. He wanted to be the first to figure it out, completely. I was actually his guinea pig a few times. He didn’t even have to talk me into it.

“Come here.” Gerry said, taking hold of my hand and tugging me onto his lap. Most of the time I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but he still wanted me to know what was going on. “You see this?” Gerry asked, pointing to a cloud formation on the screen.

“Yeah?” It was more of a question then anything. It was just a cloud to me.

“There hasn’t been a cloud formation like this anywhere in the United States since 2001.” He said, looking at me, hoping I could fill in the blanks.

“That’s when Stuart Besser wrote about that girl in New York going back in time. Kate…. McKay?” I asked. He nodded, waiting for me to continue. “Stuart claimed he had brought back some guy, Leopold, from a hundred years ago. Kate ended up falling in love with Leopold and when he went back to 18th century New York, she followed him through the wormhole or whatever.”

“I knew I loved you for a reason.” He grinned, hugging me tightly. I hugged him back and he went at typing around me. “Go get dressed.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Go get dressed. Please?”

Oh. Right. I was the guinea pig again.

I came out of my room in my jeans, my neon converse, a t-shirt and my hoodie. Gerry would try to talk me into something nicer, but it was raining outside. I wanted to be comfortable if I landed two hundred years in the past.

Gerry looked me over and decided not to argue with my fashion choice. “Ok, we have exactly seven minutes and 32 seconds.” He said, setting the timer of his watch. “We’ll only have a two minute opening before it passes by us. And, if by chance, this is the wormhole to the past, we have...” More keyboard clinking. “Twelve days to get you back.”

I nodded. I was always a little nervous when he went into scientist mode. He was much more fun in fashion-friendly-gay mode. He looked up at me and smiled. “It’ll be fine. It’s probably nothing.” He said. And what he meant was, ‘the chances of you time traveling are one billion to one.’

He led me out to the living room. “Ok, so I’m gonna need you to stand on the fire escape. We have a small window, but I’m going to talk you through everything.” He said, his hands on my shoulders. He was trying to comfort me, but this wasn’t how I pictured spending my Friday night.

He moved to the window that led to the fire escape and pulled it open. I took a breath and climbed out onto the cold metal. The rain was coming. No wind thankfully. I had a flashback to the dream I had been having for a month. I turned back to Gerry and I knew he could see the concern on my face. “I’m scared.” I said. I had to say it loud, for the rain quickly picked up.

“I know. But guess what?” He said, smiling at me. “What?” I asked nervously. “I love you, Selena Marie.” He said, pulling me in for a hug. I hugged him back and he led me over to the edge of the railing. I looked down at the dumpster that was two stories below the fire escape. Normally we did this at other places. I had never dived off our fire escape before.

“What if it doesn’t work?” I asked, as he helped me over the railing so I stood against it. Gerry held onto my waist.

“Then I guess I’ll fish you out of the garbage.” He laughed. His watch beeped, signaling I was clear for launch. “Alright, are you ready?” He asked.

I was shaking with fear. “Do I have a choice?” Gerry laughed. He knew I wanted to do this; I was just being a chicken. “You better fish me out ASAP.” I said, taking a deep breath and pushing away from the railing.

My head hit something hard and I figured I’d hit the side of the dumpster. It was still raining and the cold water pounded on my face. The wind was blowing, which was weird. But as I sat up, I found I wasn’t lying in our dumpster, two stories below our fire escape.

I was lying in a field of thick grass, in a little outcrop of trees. Uselessly, I pulled the hood of my hoodie over my head, hoping to shield my eyes from some of the downcast water. I stood and looked around, hoping to see something I could head for, even if it was a cave.

There, about two hundred yards away, I could see a light through the rain. I put my hand up, in an attempt to cover my eyes. I started walking, concentrating on the light. When I came to a wooden fence, I squeezed through the logs. I stumbled a few times from the wind. By the time I reached the front porch of the cabin, I was covered in mud and soaked to the bone.

I banged on the door as my teeth started chattering together. An older man opened the door, looking confused.

“I’m lost. Can I come in to wait out the storm?” I barely managed and he nodded, moving aside to let me in. The cabin housed five men, besides the one that let me into the house. I couldn’t stop my teeth chattering and my hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t hold them still. I didn’t realize how cold I was until one of the other men handed me a blanket to wrap around my shoulders. “I appreciate the hospitality.” I said, pulling off my wet jacket before I wrapped the blanket around me.

“You’re a long way from town, Miss.” The older man said and I took in his appearance. White hair, thinning on top. His beard and mustache were the same color.  He wore clothes that made me think of pioneers, of real cowboys. So did all the other men in the room. And here I was in neon converse. Great.

I nodded, realizing I hadn’t answered him yet. “Yeah, kind of figured.” I said.

“What’s your name ma’am?” He asked me.

“Selene McCrae.” I told him, holding out my hand.

“Captain Woodrow F. Call.” He said, giving my hand a brief shake after an odd look in my direction. “This here’s Pea Eye Parker, Jasper Fant, Dish Boggett Needle Nelson, and Newt Dobbs.”

“Well, Mr. Call. I really appreciate you and your men taking me in. I’m not sure how, but I got turned around in the storm.” I said, trying to calm my shaking.

“If you don’t mind me sayin’, ma’am, it’s awful silly to be traveling in this kind of weather.” He told me.

“Well, my traveling companion said the weather wouldn’t be so bad.” I said, feeling my chest tighten a little bit from the cold.

“Ma’am, I think it best if you sat in front of the fire and warm up some.” The man to my right said.

I wasn’t in a mood to argue with him, so I nodded, sitting on the wood planks in front of the rock fireplace. I held my hands out, embracing the warmth the fire gave off.

“Is your companion still out there?” Woodrow asked.

“I’m not quite sure. I’d figure he found some form of shelter. We got separated.” I told him, trying to come up with an explanation of my jeans.

“Ma’am, what’s wrong with your shoes?” Newt asked, pointing to the rainbow colored garments on my feet.

I tried to tuck them under my legs, but everyone else had seen them too. I had no good explanation as to why my shoes were six different colors. “I, uh, think it best that I go now.” I said, handing the blanket back to Newt and grabbing my jacket.

Woodrow stepped in front of the door as I pulled on my wet jacket. “Now, ma’am. I can’t rightly let a woman go out in the rain like this.”

“Captain Call, I appreciate your concern in the same light I appreciate your letting me warm up. But I think it’d be best if I go on my way now.” I said, trying to step around him, but he didn’t move.

“Ma’am. I’d appreciate it if you’d sit down and warm yourself more.” Woodrow said, nodding towards the fire.

“Captain Call, I can’t explain my clothes to you in a way that doesn’t sound crazy. And I figure you won’t believe what I do tell you either. So if you just let me leave, I think it’d be best for both of us.” I told him.

Still, he didn’t move an inch. “Ma’am.” He said, in a tone I associated with talking to children. “Sit and warm yourself.”

Accepting the fact he wasn’t going to let me leave, I sat back down at the fire.

“You’d warm faster if you got that wet coat off ya.” Newt said, his eyes slightly downcast.

I thought about it for a moment before pulling my jacket off again. He held out the blanket to me and I thanked him, wrapping it around my shoulders again. I scooted as close to the fire as I could get without burning myself.

The cabin was so quiet, I almost forgot there was six sets of eyes watching me. “I’m not gonna just vanish, ya know.” I called over my shoulder and there was a couple rustling sounds made.

“Ma’am, if ya don’t mind me asking; how’d you get up here? We’re an awful long ways from the city.” Newt said.

I squinted into the fire, like it held the answers to my questions. “Honestly, I don’t know. One minute, I was talking with my friend and the next I was laying in a field and it was raining.”

“Well, that couldn’t have been, ma’am. It’s been raining clear since yesterday.” Newt said.

I looked over at him for a minute, then his eyes were downcast again. “Then, I guess I don’t remember.” I said quietly, feeling the cold in my bones now.

“Jasper, go out to the barn and get Clara’s spare clothes. We should get the miss out of her wet things.” Woodrow said and I heard one of the guys say ‘yes sir’ as they pulled on boots and left the cabin.

When he came back, Woodrow told me they’d move their bed things out to the barn so I could have the cabin. I told them they didn’t need to, but Woodrow insisted. So when they all left the cabin, I quickly shed my wet t-shirt and pants, keeping on my underwear and bra and pulled on the dress and over shirt I’d been given.

I was about to sit back in front of the fire when there was a knock at the door. “You decent?” Woodrow asked.

“Yes, sir.” I called back and the door opened to reveal him and Newt.

“We just came to check on you, ma’am.” Newt said, seeming to trip over his words.

“I’m fine, thank you. You didn’t have to kick your men out of your own cabin. I could have slept in the barn just fine.” I told Woodrow, feeling guilty for the intrusion.

“Nonsense.” He said, sternly. “A woman wandering around in the dark, by herself while it’s raining. Couldn’t rightly let you sleep with the horses. My boys are used to it.”

“You’re being very generous to me, Captain Call.” I said, looking up at him.

He nodded, obviously not sure what to say. “If it’s all the same to you, ma’am, I’ll be sleeping on the porch. For your safety and for that of my boys’.” He told me.

I nodded. “Of course.”

He nodded once more, then opened the door again and him and Newt took their leave. I was left in the cabin by myself. It was incredibly odd. The cabin wasn’t built to any standards, I thought. When the wind blew, it made a whistling sound through the cabin and the roof leaked in a few places.

I huddled by the fireplace, figuring I wouldn’t be getting much sleep.

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