By Myka Ellenwood

I sit at the air café. The only place in town for teens to hang out without the need for respirators. I watch the others talk and laugh through their sim screens. I flick through the different skins I could have. Maybe the right one will make people notice me more. I settle on my normal skin for my sim, a green shirt, and black pants. I try to join other conversations, but no one accepts my requests. I wish people would just talk face to face like Mom and Dad said they used to and how we do at home. Sometimes I want to talk to the people I come in contact with, but hardly anyone talks face to face now.

***

I open my eyes. I’m in the cold, sterile room I practice in. I shiver when the cool air hits me. It’s not at all like the warm sun and light breeze that was blowing when I was in the park. It was so sunny and warm, plus I was able to be outside. Ever since the big car companies kept pushing for the fuel tax to be reduced, the smog has gotten so thick we can’t breathe the air without a respirator. I haven’t lived in a time where we don’t need respirators. Mom and Dad say it was gorgeous outside.

“Hey, earth to Ty. Tyler, are you all here?” Talia asks me.

“Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking about the outside.”

“You got to be outside?”

“Yeah. That’s where I transported too. I ended up in a park in 2018.”

“You went 1000 years in the past? That is the farthest away you’ve gone yet!”

It was pretty impressive. I’ve only been practicing for 3 months now, since the trait exposed itself on my 17th birthday. My sister and I had been learning about time travel for years. Our family is one of the last families that carry the gene. “It was cool. It looked just like the textbooks say it does. Small patches of grass in the midst of big buildings, where people gather to exercise or to mingle. It was really quite fascinating.” My phone buzzes in my pocket. It’s a text message from an unknown number. I start walking away from the platform.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“To my room, where I can have some peace and quiet. I need to finish my studies for the day.” When I get to my room I lay on my bed and pull out my phone. Turns out the text was from Katie. A girl from 2018. We met this morning. I send her a text back. It’s super interesting that I can talk with her from 1000 years in the future. We spend the rest of the night texting, talking about our likes and dislikes. It turns out we have a lot in common. She feels trapped in her schoolwork, which is forced upon her by her parents. We both like ice cream and dogs, and we both dislike cats.

I wake up tired but happy. I am hoping to go see Katie again today. I jog down the stairs to grab some breakfast. “Hey, Mom,” I say as I grab a bagel with some cream cheese.

“Uh, uh, not so fast, young man. You need to tell us about your trip yesterday.”

“I made it to 2018 and looked around for a while. I was in a park that was in some city, smiled at some people, watched some ducks, and then went into a portable toilet before I disappeared to here.”

“Did you have any conversations or contact with people?”

“No, Mom, I’m not an idiot. I know enough to not talk to people.” I feel a tinge of guilt lying to my mom, but her and Dad forced me into this life. If I can find some joy in this life that was chosen for me, I’ll take it.

“Alright then, go on and do your studies.”

I walk down the carpeted hall and turn into the room where Talia and I study. She studies how to keep me safe through space and time, and I study how to blend in with the time I am in. It is boring stuff. When I get there Talia isn’t there, which is odd. She’s always here before me. While waiting for her, I start reading my books on blending in. I get a text. It’s from Katie asking when I can meet her. I smile, thinking of later today when I practice my hopping.

“Hey, Ty, when did you get here?”

“Hey, Talia, like five minutes ago. When can we practice hopping again?”

“You suddenly want to go?”

“Yes, I want to go back to 2018. I want to see if I can go that far again and to the same spot. I think there’s a lot to learn from then. After all, that is when the changes to our world started to happen.”

“Whenever Mom says we can is when we will practice. Dad is on a mission, so we have to ask her.”

I groan and go back to reading. If we have to ask Mom, we may not get to go today. She always gets more nervous when Dad is on a mission. I nod off after about two chapters. Talia is shaking me to wake me up.

“Ty, Mom said we can practice. Let’s go.”

I rub the sleep from my eyes and pat down my hair while I follow Talia down to the practice room. I shoot Katie a text telling her I’ll be at the park in 10 minutes. When we get to the room, I go to the closet and put on clothes that would fit the style in 2018. I hop on the platform, waiting for the okay from Talia. Once I have mastered hopping, I won’t need to be in this room. Talia gives me a thumbs up and I think of 2018, the park, and Katie.

When I open my eyes, I am back in that park. I walk around looking for Katie, something about this hop felt weird. Almost as if all of me isn’t there, or like I am not fully engaged in this realm. Just then I see Katie, she waves at me and walks towards me.

“Hey there, Tyler.”

“Hey, Katie from the park.”

“I missed you.”

“We saw each other yesterday, and we talked all night.”

“I know, but I still missed you.”

I blush. “So, what do you want to do?”

“There is an amazing ice cream cart just past the pond. You need to try it.”

I nod and we start walking towards the cart. Katie slips her hand into mine. I smile. I like the way her hand feels in mine. We get our ice cream, which is different than the ice cream in 3018, but it is delicious. Ours is freeze dried, so it doesn’t melt. I take a big bite and my brain feels frozen and it hurts for a little bit. Katie starts laughing at my reaction. I quickly regain my composure and take smaller bites from the spoon.

We spend the rest of our time walking around the park and talking about everything. Our dreams, our favorite foods, and colors, what we want to be when we are older, and where we want to live. It’s only been four hours, but that is the longest I have ever been out of my time. My body still doesn’t feel right though. I will have to ask Talia when I get back.

“I should really get home. I have homework to do and my dad would kill me if I didn’t finish it,” Katie says.

“Oh yeah, me too.”

“I enjoyed today, Tyler.”

“Me too. It’s the best day I’ve had in a while.”

Katie looks at me and kisses me.

I love the way it feels. Her lips on mine but then I start feeling like I’m about to disappear.

I open my eyes and I am back in the cold, sterile practice room. I look at my phone and try to text Katie, but I get an error message. I get a new message saying I can no longer reach this number. Why can’t I talk to her now?

“Tyler,” Talia says, “we need to talk. Something happened on your last trip with the regulator. I don’t know what exactly, but all I know is that you aren’t going to be able to hop anymore, at least for a while.”