Dedicated to my friend Rachelle Mills for believing in me when I didn’t dare to.
“You can’t do it.”
Kira squinted at the bolts and screws that were cluttering her kitchen floor.
“I’ll be fine.”
“This is a man’s job. Just hire someone to fix it for you.”
“Mom, if I found out how to get a PhD, then I think I can figure out how to put nails in a block of wood.”
Most of their arguments were of the same nature. Her mother was always speaking down to her, trying to guide her toward her prophecy of failure. As twisted as it was, Kira was sure that she hoped she ended up in her shoes– divorced, bitter, and stuffed with an equal amount of bullshit and botox.
“Why don’t you call the nice young man I met at church?”
Kira rolled her eyes in beat with her screwdriver. “I’m not interested," she replied with a voice that was as cold as the tile floors she was sitting on.
“You’re almost twenty-seven. You need to start a family.”
“You will, yes, but not by using a sperm donor and giving birth to a stranger’s child. That is ungodly.”
Kira continued to twist the screw in place, refusing to be broken down. “We’re in the year 2203. You really ought to be more open-minded.”
With a huff of defeat, Dana turned and click-clacked her way out of the apartment. Kira didn’t bat an eye over her tantrum. It was her uterus, and she’d do whatever she wanted with it. Artificial insemination was the perfect way to get pregnant without needing a relationship. There wouldn’t be a man in the picture, because Kira needed no man.
A cry for attention made her drop the screwdriver and reach for her cellphone.
“Hi, Einstein. Why don’t you come over to the facility? I have a surprise for you.”
Kira looked down at the pieces of the table that were still awaiting arrangement. Choosing to procrastinate instead of dealing with the mess, she stood up and sought out her purse.
“Sure. I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
“Welcome back, doctor.”
Kira tossed a smile at the receptionist as she placed her palm against the censor. Within a second, the pad read her fingerprints and granted access to NASA’s headquarters.
After engineering a device that could translate every language on Earth as well as learn ones that it didn’t recognize, she was swarmed with awards. Cherry was also an engineer, but she was far more seasoned since she was fifty years old.
She took the elevator to the engineering department and knocked on her friend’s office.
“Einstein has arrived,” she called out.
The silver door slid aside into the wall and revealed Cherry’s face, which was wrinkled with both age and joy.
“You need to clean this place up,” Kira chuckled as she stepped over the multiple boxes that littered the entrance. “I won’t hesitate to sue if I fall.”
Cherry waved her off. The mess of her office certified her genius. The glass walls that surrounded them were decorated with formulas and the tables littered with gadgets.
She guided Kira to the room attached to her office and scanned her hand for access. This room had fewer hazards. Behind a tempered glass wall sat Cherry’s latest project. After ten years of tinkering, the astrophysicist managed to figure out how to teleport an item from one spot to another. The objects only teleported a foot or two apart, but it was a feat nonetheless.
“What are you testing today?”
“You won’t believe this.”
An arc of Kira’s eyebrow urged her on.
“I figured out how to move samples from one room to another.”
“You’re lying,” the younger scientist choked out, overwhelmed with pride for her friend. Although other engineers were working on similar projects, no one had managed to move objects very far.
“I’ll show you!” Cherry pitched. She moved to the control panel and squinted at the potato that was sitting on the table. “It’ll appear in the next room. I haven’t been able to dictate what room the objects move to.”
She typed on the panel's keyboard, coding away instructions. After a melodramatic click of a button, the machine shot out a ray of blue that consumed the potato. The vegetable vanished instantly, taking Kira’s composure with it.
“Cherry, this is... this is fucking crazy,” she stammered as she reached for the glass.
“I know!” Cherry agreed. “I don’t believe it either. I–”
The rest of the sentence disappeared along with Kira’s reality once she touched the glass. Her breath and balance were ripped from her, leaving her rawly wounded with confusion and fear.
She cried out as she fell, expecting her knees to hit the cold marble of Cherry’s office. Instead, they dipped into a green carpet of grass.
The office was gone. The metals, concrete, glass, and civilization were all but memories. Everything had gotten replaced by nature. Huge trees loomed over her, staring down as if studying the newcomer in the forest. A body of water roared nearby, its waves aggressively slamming against the rocks as if trying to reach her.
Cherry was no more, and neither was the NASA headquarters.
Kira reached for her purse and began to sort through its contents. She had her ID, cellphone, cash, translator, and a few credit cards, but her cellphone had no reception to offer.
It must have gotten damaged, she reasoned before giving her attention to her surroundings. Something was off about the scene. There were no sounds of machines, and the sky looked bluer than usual as if it had never kissed pollution.
The body of water was a good sign. Water meant people, and people meant civilization. Her best bet at running into someone was following the shoreline. Choosing to do just that, she kicked off her Louis Vuitton heels, picked them up, and began to walk.
Where in Washington DC am I?
It took her a mile of walking to determine that she wasn’t in the state, but in hell. Her sweat glands were crying with defeat and her feet bloated with complaint.
She ventured into the water in search of cool relief, only to scramble out soon later. She swatted at a leech that had attached to her left foot, and a bead of blood trickled when she finally managed to peel off the vermin.
How could the Department of Safety not place warning signs around this area? She made a mental note to report the hazard once she got home.
With an exhausted sigh, she resumed her walk.
“Come on,” she groaned once her phone remained as void of reception as the sun was of mercy. “Just give me one bar.”
The unmistakable sound of chatter interrupted her pity party. She dashed into the treeline, struggling to run since her stylish pencil skirt was only good for looking pretty.
“Hello?” she called out.
A bird cawed somewhere in the background, its high pitch countering the sound of deep male voices. Kira didn’t recognize the language the men were speaking, but it was far from English.
A mortifying idea floated. Had she been teleported outside of Washington DC?
Seeking answers, she dropped to her knees and crawled into a bush.