Our June Flash Contest was based on Prompt #207 (provided by contributor Molly Torinus), which asked that participants write a scene (as a story, a poem, or a play) in which the author met their past or future selves. This prompt, a creative reimagining of the classic "write a letter to your future self," resonated deeply with our participants as we received over 40 submissions! The participants' brilliant work ranged from a semi-fictional origin story for the author's pet guinea pigs to a time-bending competition over the homework of the author's past, present, and future selves to a heart wrenching letter asking that the author's future self be kinder to their soon-to-be-dead brother. If I may inject myself into this short summary, in all the time I've been judging the Flash Contest—since September 2020—I have never seen such a crop of brilliant writing. It took me over two days to ultimately decide the winners and honorable mentions, of which there are six each—one more than the usual five—and even then two more pieces were selected for the regular and Covid blogs. I distinctly remember being blown away by the quality of writing and artwork the first time I encountered Stone Soup—better and more robust than that of my college peers—and my admiration and awe for you contributors has only increased since I became an employee. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who submitted and have submitted their work in the past, and please submit again next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.
"Have We Met?" by Alia Ashworth, 11 (Thousand Oaks, CA)
"The Visitor from the Stars" by Hanbei Bao, 11 (Lakewood, CO)
"Homework Thieves" by Wilson Chen, 10 (Portland, OR)
"Last Vacation" by Caroline Gao, 11 (Milpitas, CA)
"The Interview" by Savarna Yang, 13 (Outram, New Zealand)
"Piano Can Transcend Time" by Joycelyn Zhang, 12 (San Diego, CA)
"Future" by Sophie Li, 11 (Palo Alto, CA)
"The Life of a Guinea Pig" by Nova Macknik-Conde, 10 (Brooklyn, NY)
"Time's Reminders" by Audrey Ren, 11 (Linwood, NJ)
"Me Too" by Daniel Shorten, 11 (Mallow, Republic of Ireland)
"Déjà vu" by Eliana Wang, 13 (Potomac, MD)
"A Second Chance" by Hannah Wu, 12 (Washington DC)
For the Stone Soup blog
"White Lilacs, Purple Lilacs" by Cayleigh Sukhai, 12 (Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, Canada)
For the Stone Soup Covid blog
A Strange Dream by Melody You, 11 (Lake Oswego, OR)
Have We Met?
Alia Ashworth, 11
I brace myself, expecting something crazy or wild. Nothing happens except the flashing screen of the watch…
You are now entering 2022.
There is a strange feeling of weightlessness, a sense of wild exhilaration, and then my feet land solidly onto a sidewalk overgrown with thorny weeds. I feel the California sun beat down and I exhale in relief.
It works! The time machine ACTUALLY works! My mind races with the implications of this amazing discovery.
I can smell the gas fumes as a car races by, and I am surprised to see a man actually steering the car. I forgot they still steer cars in 2022! So rustic.
I turn to look at my old house. A rush of emotions threatens to overflow as I stare at where I spent most of my childhood.
Suddenly a girl opens the door. Her blond hair is a little longer than shoulder length and her eyes are focused intently on the light blue paperback in her hand. She is completely absorbed in the book and appears not to notice me. The girl is… me.
I look so young… If only I could be that carefree and innocent again. I did feel like I was on top of the world all those years ago, and all I wanted was to grow up so I could look the part. How wrong I was.
I stroll up to her, trying to appear nonchalant.
“Hi,” I smile warmly.
“Hi? Who are you?” Young Alia asks, surprised.
“I’m Al… Alana. I’m from the future,” I burst out. I realize that if I tell Alia my real name, it might ruin the space-time continuum… or something like that.
Alia stares at me like I am crazy and starts slowly backing away.
“I know you… in the future. Your name is Alia. That book you are reading is…” I pause for a moment as I struggle to remember the title, “So You Want To Be a Wizard, if I recall correctly. It is not your favorite book, and you just want to finish it so you can read something else. Am I right?”
Alia’s jaw drops. “How do you know that?”
“I told you! I’m from the future!” I roll my eyes. I don’t remember being so dense.
“Okay… So, do robots take over the world? Who do I marry? Do I marry? Do I have kids? If so, what are their names? OH, OH! What stocks should I invest in? What job do I have? Am I rich? Are my siblings rich? Where do I live? Is it a big house? What college do I go to?” Alia pauses for breath.
Oh, Alia. There is so much you do not know. If only I could tell you. But you will find out in good time, and it is not my place to tell you before it is time.
“I… can’t tell you.”
“What? Why not? I want to know! At least the stocks, please!” Alia is obviously confused.
If I told you the stocks, you’d be so rich. But still I can’t…
“Well… if I told you, things might turn out differently. And then I would cease to exist. That would be sad for me. Actually, I’ve never tried ceasing to exist, but I doubt it would be extremely enjoyable. I just wanted to see if the time machine would work. And now I’m going to lie and say it doesn’t.”
“Why?” Alia is completely shocked.
“Well, we couldn’t have anyone messing up the space-time continuum by accident, now could we?”
“Well… no, I don’t suppose we could…”
“Great. Now I’ll just leave, and you can completely forget about this meeting. Farewell!” I stroll back to the sidewalk and set my time travel watch to 2048.
I glance once more at my old house. I wish I could stay forever and meet my old friends all over again. But, then I would have such a hard time explaining why I am there and who I am to them. It wouldn’t really be worth it. I turn back one last time to look at Young Alia. “Enjoy every minute, kid. You have so much to look forward to. I’ll see you soon.” I give her a little wink and then turn to stare at the button that will return me to the time I am supposed to be in.
I muster up the courage to press the GO button and darkness again closes in around me.
You are now entering 2048.
The Visitor from the Stars
Hanbei Bao, 11
The night sky was filled with glittering stars, some white, some yellow, some no more than pinpricks of light, some almost as large as a small black bean. One star winked to another star, who winked to yet another star, till they were all winking at each other and at the family down below.
My family and I lay on a blanket in our yard, gazing at the stars and enjoying the cool air of night. I was thinking about a similar starry sky in Loonia, my imaginary world. I thought about how my stuffed panda, Emerald, who lived in Loonia, would say these stars should be put on bamboo and the bamboo would look so much prettier. A small white comet streaked across the sky, and was followed by another one. That was strange. What was even stranger was that the second comet was behaving unusually. It followed the first comet for a few seconds, then suddenly changed its course and dove down, down, down......straight towards us.
We grabbed the blanket and my mom and dad rushed into the house. I stayed on the porch out of curiosity. As the comet came closer and closer, I realized that it was a rocket. An elegant, unique, and fascinating rocket.
The rocket suddenly flipped and the slightly more triangular end, the top, was facing up. The tip of the rocket was a royal purple, decorated with intricate gold flowers. The rest of the rocket swirled between sky blue, lilac purple, and a silvery-gold color. Along the side of the rocket, in a fancy golden pen, was written “QUEEN OF LOONIA” in large letters.
Shock flooded through me. Only my family knew about Loonia. Furthermore, I was the queen of Loonia. This...whoever in the rocket had to have a good explanation. Unless... unless they were me...
The rocket touched down lightly in the middle of our yard. White gas similar to smoke billowed around the rocket’s base, but none of the grass under it was burned. A circular opening slid open at the tip of the rocket, and a young woman around thirty years old came sliding down a light beam.
She was wearing a tight-fitting, long-sleeved shirt that was seamlessly molded into a similar, tight-fitting pair of leggings. Her outfit, made of an unusual material, was silvery and metallic and decorated with purple and gold flowers. A stuffed panda was attached to the woman by a gold band. The woman had matching white wrist cuffs on both wrists that were made of another unusual material. Her helmet, attached to the neck of her shirt, was nearly invisible and slid back when she pressed something on one of her wrist cuffs.
Her ebony black hair, shining even in the dim star light, flowed from underneath a crown, also made from a strange material. Her hair was pinned loosely into a ponytail, with a pin made from a familiar material, but I could not tell if it was plastic or actual gold.
The crown had three triangular shapes rising out of the top, a smooth crest. The middle one, the tallest, had a glittering blue diamond shape at the top and was lined with small shiny red circles. The two triangles on the side were identical, and they had a shimmering gold diamond at the top, then the same shiny red circles down the edges. Along the base of the crown was a line of simpler, sparkling white gems that were arranged in the shape of a leafy pattern. The pattern disappeared into her hair.
The woman bounded off the light beam and onto our lawn, and immediately began looking around. Behind her, the light beam drew back into the opening on the rocket and the circular door slid closed. Her sharp black eyes darted from one end of our yard to the other and back, finally resting on me. She gave a little start, as if she was expecting me, but had not expected to see me so soon. Then she suddenly ran a few steps closer, stopping just on the edge of our porch.
“Hello Hanbei—wow, you are sooo cute!” she exclaimed. “Oh, yes, I forgot how cute I used to be! Wow, this place is so nice and I’m so glad to be home and it’s wonderful and I should come home more often!”
“Wait, hold on, hold on,” I said, backing up a few steps so I was in the middle of our porch. As I tried to catch up to her stream of words, I glanced at the side of the rocket again. “You are the queen—oh my gosh you are me, aren’t you? Just a grown-up sort of version? You are Hanbei, right?” She nodded, grinning, and then, before I could stop myself, I blurted, “Why didn’t your rocket burn the grass? Isn’t that white stuff smoke? Like fire smoke? Also, how did you travel back in time?”
She laughed and answered, “My rocket fuel is engineered using only special galaxy resources, by me, of course, so that it doesn’t burn anything. I have found that this kind of fuel is much more efficient than Earth rocket fuel, to be honest. So much more so that I can actually travel at the speed of light and sometimes faster now! That’s how I traveled back in time! Isn’t that cool?”
“That’s so awesome!” I cried, almost beside myself. “Can you tell me more? What are your clothes made of? What is your crown thingy made of? Where have you been? What are your clothes made of?” I asked, unable to stop the cannonade of questions I was firing at the woman. “Ooo, what are the sparkly gems on your crown? Are they new resources? And what is your crown made of? Is your hair pin real actual gold? Ohhh and your little panda is Emerald! Isn’t she? Where have you been? Planets you’ve named? Stars?””
“We have to start with what I do everyday, of course,” she said. “Basically, I just fly around the universe to different planets and find new resources. I don’t have to worry about running out of fuel because when I've used about half, I begin trying to find a planet or asteroid where I can land. It’s my experience that any space object that can hold me on its solid surface with its gravity has resources that can always somehow be engineered into rocket fuel,” the woman explained.
“When I move from one planetary system to another, I naturally find different types of planets or asteroids, and I find new resources on these new planets or asteroids. Some of these resources are really great. For example, on a planet I named Irona, there’s this one kind of metal I call ‘sliron,’ which is a combination of ‘strong,’ ‘light,’ and ‘iron.’ That, actually, is what my rocket is made of!” She gestured to her rocket behind her.
“Woah,” I breathed. “That’s amazing.”
“I found another great resource on a planet I named Starshade. It’s basically a sort of bendy silver, but a lot lighter too. I call it ‘siloth.’ You can easily cut it and sew it. That is what my space suit is made of, so it is really smooth and perfect.”
I was absolutely blown away: “That. Is. So. Awesome. Wow.”
“My first planet was named Hanbei, after myself,” she said, wistfully, “And my first star was named Loonia. You know why.”
She paused, and then she giggled and said, “But I didn’t come here to tell you everything about what I do. I came here because I needed a helper and I remembered that I was always into space stuff and I learned quickly. So, big huge question: would you be willing to be my helper? As in come with me on my rocket for a few weeks?”
“Why not?” I answered. “Sure! Totally! Let’s go!”
“Great!” she exclaimed, “But not tonight, sorry. Soon, though, soon.” Then the circular opening opened again, the light beam shot down, and she hopped back onto the light and climbed up into her rocket. “See you soon, little helper!” she called down, waving, and then the light and the opening were gone and her rocket blasted off.
“Oh, yeah, sure, see you soon,” I murmured, definitely too late for her to hear, but waving to the departing rocket. I gazed at the sky and watched her rocket blend into the stars. Then a star winked, and stardust exploded all over the sky, forming the sentence:
“MEET YOU IN THE STARS."
Wilson Chen, 10
Wilson 8:00 AM
Wilson was panting as he ran into Ms. Bailey’s classroom at exactly 8:00. The bell rang immediately after he entered. Almost everyone was there already. He reached in the basket to pull out his homework before he realized he had left it at home. Wilson was the type of student that values education a lot. He always got perfect grades and aced every test. This would ruin his reputation of never forgetting his homework! Somehow Wilson didn’t panic at all. He had a special gift: he could fall through layers of time. He drifted back to his annoying 7:00 AM form and snatched the homework he left on his desk. After his success, he fell back into his 8:00 AM form and turned in the assignment. “Good Job!” his teacher Ms. Bailey said.
Wilson 7:00 AM
Wilson’s 7:00 AM form was enjoying his breakfast when his father reminded him to make sure he turned in his homework. He went to his desk to retrieve it when he realized it was gone. He was wondering where it went when he saw footprints around the desk. They did not come from the door, they just appeared out of nowhere. Then it hit him. His naughty 8:00 AM self was stealing his homework again. This time, he had a plan for revenge. He fell through the soft layers of time and went to his 8:01 AM version of himself. He grabbed the homework out of the homework tub and faded to his original 7:00 AM form. “Success!” he said to himself in a prideful tone.
“It’s the beginning of another great school day!” Ms. Bailey hummed to herself. Her star student Wilson arrived just in time and was ready to answer all her hardest questions. She was looking forward to Wilson’s new piece of homework since Wilson’s writing is always beautiful and creative. When she started emptying the homework basket, she noticed that Wilson’s homework was missing. “Where is it?” Ms. Bailey asked herself. She swore to herself she had seen Wilson put his homework in the basket.
Wilson 3:35 PM
Wilson had a perfectly normal day. He was replaying every question he got right in his head. He also tried to remember the questions he got wrong (none) so he could study them back home. Then one thing popped back into his head. “I forgot to ask what score I got on my homework assignment!” he shouted at himself. He quickly rushed to Ms. Bailey and asked about the score. Ms. Bailey responded, making Wilson remember about all the other versions of him. “I didn’t receive your homework.” she replied.
Dad was baking chocolate chip cookies when Wilson barged through the doorway. The door violently swung open and almost fell to the ground. “MS. BAILEY DIDN'T RECEIVE THE HOMEWORK I TURNED IN TODAY!!!” Wilson howled. Dad froze and then started to frown. “There is a reason why we set such high expectations for you. Do you know what it is?” Dad said in a disappointed tone. Wilson felt like his heart had sunk through the foamy layers of time deep into the Atlantic Ocean. “Yes,” Wilson said miserably without looking up.
No matter what version of Wilson it was, they felt the same emotion: guilt. It was a fact that all versions of Wilson once forgot their homework. It was a fact that they all are Wilson. There was no need for competition since they were the same. No matter how many Wilsons there were, only one assignment would be turned in. If they ever wanted to succeed, they had to work as one. Not multiple, but one Wilson. That meant they couldn't shift through time and tamper with the other versions. They all had to be on their own timeline, forever.
Caroline Gao, 11
I know this is weird, me, I mean you from the future, writing to you. This is very important though. Vacation is very special to you, but I am begging that you spend less time re-reading your novels and watching the waves crash onto the shore endlessly at Cancun. Just forget trying to glimpse a moment where the whole ocean is still. It won’t happen.
You haven’t really spent much time with your family lately, just endless piles of homework and doodling on scraps of paper. All those times they tried to make you talk about your day at dinner, they were helping you open up.
I get it, your brother was—is—very annoying, but please stop calling him that name. And try to spend some more time with him. At least take him to a corner store for churros, which he will be crazy for a few days later. Or maybe to the putt putt place. He always wanted to go try even though you hated it. It’s not real golf. He’s into video games, right? What about the arcade room in the hotel? I guess that’s as close as it gets.
Two days before you received this letter, he brought home a trophy from a swimming competition. But you being you, you just had to knock it off the shelf, breaking it into eleven giant shards of glass. Because he was constantly bragging. That’s what you told yourself. Yes, he is extremely angry right now, but making up with him is very important.
And if you don’t even try? Just wait a little less than a month and you’ll feel like you're floating in another dimension, waves of agony crashing into you that you can’t relieve. I still feel the same way, standing in my bedroom, face pressed against the window, as I stare at the waves.
Destiny cannot be changed. This is the last vacation you’ll spend with him, so laugh your head off at his lame jokes and watch SpongeBob SquarePants on the giant black television with him until you realize you never want to see a sponge again in your life.
Savarna Yang, 13
Nervously, I adjust my wig as I walk through the imposing front doors of Diamante Hotel. This is where S. Yang, bestselling author, writer of over 50 highly successful novels, winner of multiple awards and prizes, is currently staying. She also happens to be my possible future self. I’m here on the pretext of interviewing her for a youth journal.
In reality, I’m part of a recent science experiment where a child is sent into the future to meet their adult self. The child is asked to choose from two options what they think their dream future self would be. Then the scientists create a sort of illusion that the test subject steps into, and voila! they are able to experience a rendezvous with their future self. I’m not exactly sure how it all works, but I went along with it for fun.
My two choices were: ‘wealthy, well-known author’, or ‘unknown writer working three other jobs, because writing doesn’t pay’. It seemed pretty obvious which one to choose. So, here I am, ready to ‘interview’ S. Yang, a.k.a. adult me. Of course, I have to wear a disguise (hence the wig) so that there is no chance I might recognise myself. That sounds really weird. Anyway. Here goes.
I boldly stride over to the front desk. A tall, moustachioed man glares down at me. ‘Yes?’ He doesn’t sound exactly welcoming.
‘Umm, I’m here to interview Ms. Yang.’
He raises an eyebrow. ‘And you are…?’
‘S – Sally Yates!’ I quickly try to cover up my near mistake. ‘From – from The Youth Writers’ Journal.' Hopefully he just thinks I have a stutter.
He frowns disapprovingly. ‘I will tell Ms. Yang you have arrived. Take the lift to the seventh story. She is in room 336.’
I head towards the elevators as fast as I can, eager to get out of the man’s sight. I poke the lift’s ‘up’ button impatiently but the lift seems to take ages to arrive. When the doors finally open, a lady draped in a fur coat minces her way out, not before scowling at me as I try to dash past her into the lift. Seems like the Diamante Hotel is not for children.
I reach the seventh floor and find room 336. I take a deep breath, then tap on the door. It’s opened almost immediately by a freckly, fair-haired girl wearing a plain blue dress. She looks about sixteen. This can’t be me!
I open my mouth, about to apologise – I must have got the wrong room – but before I can speak she gestures for me to come in. ‘Ms. Yang is ready to see you.’
I realise this must be a personal assistant. Wait, I have a personal assistant?! Whoa, okay. I keep my face (hopefully) serene as I tiptoe into the room. I’m about to meet her! I mean, me. Why am I so worried?
The PA shows me into an expansive lounge room, with white leather couches and an enormous TV on the wall. A lady in a smart black suit and scarlet stilettos is reclining there. Her back is turned to me, but as I enter, she stands, then slowly turns around. I smile hesitantly. Maybe she’s S. Yang’s friend.
She gives me a once over. ‘You’re the interviewer.’ It’s a statement, not a question.
‘Yes.’ This lady is intimidating. I look around for S. Yang. I want to get out of this very awkward situation ASAP.
‘Umm, where…?’ I stop as the lady interrupts.
‘So, let’s get this over with, shall we?’ She gives me a tight smile.
I stare at her. ‘What?’
She rolls her eyes. ‘I don’t have all the time in the world, you know.’
That’s when it hits me. This lady is S. Yang, or more precisely, me! My long brown plait has now been shaped into a sleek black bob and it looks like I’ve had a nose job as well, but this strange person is me! Me! Oh gosh. This is all wrong. I can hardly recognise myself! I start hyperventilating. The scientists must have made some sort of mistake. This is just not possible. I don’t wear stilettos and I wouldn’t cut my hair or have a nose job!
S. Yang frowns. ‘If we could please get started…?’
‘Ah…’ I think about making a run for it but then decide against it. I have to do this interview or the scientists may not let me go back! I pull out the list of questions I prepared before the experiment. ‘Whowasyourfavouriteauthorwhenyouwereyoung?’ I gabble.
S. Yang looks at me like I’m a slimy toad who’s just tracked mud all over her pristine carpet. ‘I’m sorry. Could you please repeat that?’
I take a deep breath. ‘Who was your favourite author when you were young?’
She sniffs. ‘Is that relevant?’
I don’t want to argue. I snatch a look at my list again. ‘Umm, what about this one then: why did you choose to start writing?’
She looks like she’s about to say something but pauses, changing her mind. She seems to think for a while, before saying, ‘For the money.’
I can’t help giving her a look. ‘You couldn’t know you were going to be a bestselling author when you started out.’ I hope I don’t sound too accusatory.
She gives a fake yawn. ‘I wrote my first novel in high school. I sent it out to a publisher just for fun. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. But then I got offered a book deal with a very high royalty rate.’
I keep at her. ‘But what inspires you to write your novels?’
She laughs disbelievingly. ‘I write what will sell, not what inspires me.’
‘As a child, what was your dream job?'
She stares down her nose at me. ‘I can’t remember what foolish delusions I had as a child.’
I grind my teeth. ‘What do you think the success of your novels is due to?’
‘As I said before, the secret is to write what will sell, not what I actually think or believe. My readers want something action-packed, petrifying – nothing soft and monotonous.’
‘What do you think the advantages of beginning writing young are?’
S. Yang senior examines her perfectly varnished finger nails. ‘I don’t really think there are any.’
‘Looking back, what do you think of your first writing? The writing you began in school?’
‘Ha. It was utter trash.’
I feel myself swelling with indignation. How dare she?! I know she has no idea who I am but she is just a rude, spiteful…cat! She can’t be me. She just can’t. I barely manage to get out my next question without throwing something at her. ‘If you could, what advice would you give your younger self about writing?’
‘Give up and wait until you’ve matured enough to form a story that is actually interesting.’
I can’t hold out any longer. ‘Do you ever say anything nice?! You think you’re so clever and amazing but really you’re too stupid to even recognise yourself! Do you even care about anyone but yourself?!’
S. Yang jumps to her feet, her face cold and furious. But before she can say a word, my vision blurs and a high-pitched whistling fills my ears. Suddenly I hear voices and I realise I’m back in the test lab with the scientists. I dart frantically over to the lead scientist and grab hold of her coat.
‘What happened?! That person wasn’t me! You did something wrong – she was horrible, she didn’t even get her facts right, it was like she’d had a personality transplant! Did you send me into someone else’s future?’
The lead scientist is annoyingly slow to answer, first turning around to her assistant and mouthing, ‘get her some water'. She obviously thinks I’m over-reacting. I stamp my foot. ‘Come on!’
The lead scientist sighs. ‘Did you forget that what we sent you into was only an illusion? The scene you experienced was not necessarily what is actually going to happen in your future.’
‘An – an illusion? So it wasn’t true?’
‘No. We haven’t figured out how to time-travel! This experiment was just a way to kill two birds with one stone.’
‘Two birds?’ I’m becoming an echo.
‘Firstly, we were able to trial our optical illusion generator, and secondly we could test our theory that a large majority of children would rather be famous – even without knowing a thing about the actual life or person – than any other option.’ I feel criticised. I understand what the scientist is getting at, but I still feel like saying, ‘well, duh’. I don’t, though. She might send me back to Diamante Hotel.
Piano Can Transcend Time
Joycelyn Zhang, 12
It was early summer when the incident happened.
The sun began its trek up the sky, breaking its light over the queer potted plants and circle-cut trees. As usual. The brass numbers 4616 lit up like orange fire as the sunlight poured over the rooftops. As usual. The breeze ruffled the tarp that covered the extra car. As usual. But as the sun began illuminating the dry, unkempt grass in the backyard, a strange woman appeared in the pale concrete driveway of number 4616. She had sweeping long black hair, but at the moment no one could have known, as she was wearing a heavy traveling cloak. She had not taken any sort of vehicle to get where she was; it was as if she appeared out of thin air. She looked around, checking her old journal; yes, this must be her childhood home. No one could have realized that she was a time traveler. Not the neighbors, nor the very family that lived in the house. Her very own family. And she was here to teach her younger self to play piano.
The girl, oblivious to the stranger on her family’s driveway, having just woken up to her younger brother’s loud vehicle impersonations, muttered dispassionately to herself as she stumbled out of bed. She began her usual routine, brushing her teeth, walking downstairs, past the forlorn-looking piano. She glanced at it as she passed. It sat there, looking quite sad indeed. The truth was, she thought as she helped herself to some bacon, that her family had never managed to find a suitable piano teacher for the two of them. She sat there, vaguely tasting the saltiness in her mouth, as her dad flipped the pan over, and as her mom complained about her brother leaving his toys where they shouldn’t be. They had no idea that the very piano teacher that her family needed was about to ring the doorbell.
The ringing silence that followed the two notes of the doorbell caused her younger brother to drop the toys he was cleaning up, and scuttle, frightened, into the kitchen, which, incidentally, was the farthest room from the front door. Her father went to check if it wasn’t another one of those “pranksters." Her mother told them to concentrate on eating, but the girl had no idea what she was eating, as she was listening hard to who was at the front door. So, apparently, was her brother, as he was adding salt to his ketchup sauce, but then again, that would be something he would do. Her father came back moments later, followed by a woman that looked vaguely familiar, but whom she had never met before. The girl couldn’t stop thinking that she had met the woman before. But no, that was impossible.
She shrugged it off.
Her dad began to explain. The woman wanted to teach the girl. Not her brother, specifically the girl. The girl wasn’t sure what she thought of that, but she was happy to oblige if it meant that she would have permanent lessons from now on. She took the woman by the hand to lead her to the piano, and as she did so, she felt a familiar spark. The woman’s hand wasn’t icy cold like other people’s were, it was warm, like her own.
She sat down at the piano and smoothed her skirt. Her parents offered to bring the woman another, more comfortable chair, but she refused politely, saying that she preferred the higher, smaller chair that most other people generally thought was awkward and weird to sit on.
Strange. That chair happened to also be the one the girl preferred.
The woman began teaching the girl strange, familiar music. It was as if she had heard it before, somewhere. She enjoyed the new music. It was sometimes sad and sweet, other times loud and explosive. She loved it. The woman was just like her. Sometimes the girl got the strangest notion that the woman was her - but that couldn’t be. After that day, the woman never came back. The girl, who hadn’t known her for long enough to grow attached, was simply confused as to why this teacher didn’t keep to her word, but she always remembered the song that the woman taught her.
And as the years went by, the girl became a teenager, and the teenager became a young adult. Finally, one crisp morning in June - which happened to be the 15 year anniversary of the day when the strange woman appeared in her driveway - the girl, who by then was a woman, stumbled upon the old song that the stranger had taught her. The girl was now an accomplished pianist, and as she set the notes down with trembling fingers and began to play, she was engulfed in a strange sensation. She suddenly understood what she had to do. She pulled on a heavy traveling cloak that covered her long black hair, an old journal that had written on it the address of her old house, sat down on the piano, and began to play. As she played, she was transported back to her family’s old home. She hadn’t any idea how she had gotten there via piano, but she knew why she was there.
She was going to teach her younger self to play piano.