Weekly Flash Contest #7: Be a time traveler in reverse! What would happen if a character from the past arrived in the present? Choose a time period you like and know a little bit about, and write down at least 3 things that make it really different to now. Now imagine that someone your age and your gender has arrived in your house from that time in the past. Use your list of differences to write a story about what happens during the day you spend together.
The week commencing May 11th (Daily Creativity prompt #36) was our seventh week of flash contests, with another record number of entries including one from our youngest-ever Flash Contest entrant! We had fun meeting time travellers from different eras from ancient history (even dinosaurs!) to the present (yes, some time travel was projected into the future–it’s complicated!), and it was even harder than usual to choose our favourites. We commend all of the entrants for their imagination, and for the creative ways they found to bring their characters from the past into life in the present using clothes, language and misunderstandings about contemporary everyday life to make them real.
This week, we are announcing our 5 Winners, whose work is published below, plus 5 Honorable Mentions. Congratulations, everyone!
(work published on this page)
Isabel Bashaw, 10, Enumclaw, WA
Samson Brown, 12, Cary, NC
Ava Shorten, 10, Mallow, Ireland
Michela You, 11, Lexington, MA
Xuyi (Lauren) Zheng, 10, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
“The Time Watch” by Hannah Nami Gajcowski, 10, Bellevue, WA
“Lace, Frills, and Clever Jokes” by Samantha Lee, 10, Thomaston, CT
“Prehistoric Visitors” by Sean Tenzin O’ Connor, 4, Bishop, CA
“Panic From the Seventies” by Lauren Oh, 12, Cary, NC
“A Dose of Time” by Ella Yamamura, 12, Cary, NC
Remember, we are running the Flash Contest every week during the COVID-19-related school closures and shelter-in-place arrangements. It is always based on the first Daily Creativity prompt of the week. The prompt is posted on Monday, entries are due by Friday, and the winners are chosen and announced the following week.
My Weekend With Jane
Isabel Bashaw, 10
My name is Isabel, and this weekend, the craziest thing happened to me. I don’t know where to start, but I’ll begin on Friday night, when everyone was in bed . . .
* * *
“Hoo Hoo Hoo . . .” I was awakened in the middle of the night by an annoying owl outside my bedroom. And since I was up, I decided to have a snack. I crept downstairs, so as not to wake anyone up. I grabbed two peanut butter cookies and a tall glass of milk, then I went back upstairs to eat at my desk. I munched on a cookie, then gulped down some of my creamy white milk. After I had finished, I clambered back in bed, and tried to sleep. But after five minutes, I was startled by a green orb hovering over my pillow. I leapt under my covers in fear. When I looked up, the green orb was shaking violently. I tried to move, but I felt stuck to my bed. Finally, the orb stopped shaking, and a girl fell out of it, and landed on top of me.
“mff gt off of e!” I said, muffled under the weight of the mysterious girl.
“Sorry!” she said, and climbed down from my bed.
“What the heck?!” I yelped, rubbing my eyes. This girl looked like a pioneer. She was wearing a bonnet, a shabby dress, and was super tan. Her barefoot feet smelled terrible!
“What is this house? It’s so pink!” said the girl, walking around.
“It’s not a house, silly! Its my bedroom,” I said, eying her.
“WOW!” She cried, and started jumping all over the place.
I heard footsteps coming up to my room, and quickly told the girl: “get under my covers, and stay there. Be super quiet, too.” She obeyed me, and then I started jumping until the door swung open and my dad walked in.
“What are you doing up here? It’s 4:00 in the morning, Isabel. Stop jumping around! You’ll wake the baby!” He looked around. “Who said wow?” I quickly came up with a fib.
“I was singing a song! WOW! I am a star, la la la la WOW!” I sang, with an offbeat tone. Clearly my dad didn’t buy my act. He went up to my bed, and pulled up the covers, where the girl had fallen asleep.
“What!? Did I say you could invite a friend over to play dress up in the middle of the night?!” he barked, then walked back to me.
“Sorry Dad.” I whispered.
“Just don’t wake anyone else up again, ‘K?” he said, his eyes softening.
“Okay, ‘night dad.” I said. Then he walked out of the room, and the girl leapt out of the bed.
“My name is Jane, by the way, and an hour ago I was in my log cabin, when this lady appeared in front of me and told me that I was allowed to go forward in time to see the future for 24 hours. I said okay, and the next thing I know I am falling onto a stranger’s bed, and that’s the whole story basically.”
I was shocked, and not entirely convinced. “When is your birthday?” I asked, suspiciously.
“May 23rd, 1845” she said in a split second. “I still can’t believe that this is just one room!”
“Well,” I said, “I guess you can hang out with me for 24 hours. So, what’s it like, being a pioneer?”
“Is that what people call us? Well, I sew mittens, hats, and socks, but I mean everyone does that. I also help mama stir the beans, and make cornbread. I churn the butter, and milk our cow Besie, and care for her calf Beanie. I also harvest crops from our garden, and I love to play with our horse, Lady.” She then added, “I also help scrub clothes and hang them up to dry.” I looked at Jane in amazement.
“You mean you do all of that every single day?? What about school?” I asked.
“My mama teaches my lessons” she said promptly, as if everyone did that, which was probably the case. But how was I supposed to know? I never pay attention in history class! I glanced over my shoulder, and saw that a shimmer of golden light had come into our room. That meant that it was dawn.
“I’m gonna ask my dad if you can stay over at my house today, ‘K?” I asked her. Jane wasn’t listening. She was too busy twirling around in my spinning chair. I walked downstairs, to where my dad was getting ready for work. “Dad, can my friend Jane stay over for. . .” I checked my watch. “22 hours?”
My dad raised his eyebrow. “That’s very precise, but if that’s what her mom said, then yes.”
I dashed back upstairs, where Jane was waiting for me. “You can stay!!” I squealed, and Jane clapped her hands in delight.
“You are going to take me on a tour of this house!” she said.
Then we rushed downstairs and I said to my mom, who was making waffles in the kitchen, “Hey Mom. This is Jane, and she is staying over today. Can we eat now?”
My mom grinned, and she opened the waffle iron. Two golden and fluffy waffles were flipped onto two plates, and then scrambled eggs were added.
Jane gasped, then blurted, as my mom handed her her breakfast “Is this for me? All of this? And what is the small iron oven? And what are those pancakes?”
Mom gave Jane a confused look. I took Jane to the table, but she paused when she saw the refrigerator. “What’s that?” Jane asked, touching the fridge.
“It’s the refrigerator. It’s where we keep our food” I said, and Jane was wowed.
“We keep our food in the cellar. Don’t you have a cellar?” she asked.
“Uh, I’m not sure what a cellar is, but we have a basement. Does that count?” I asked, and Jane shrugged. Then, we ate our breakfast. After that, we went upstairs to the bathroom, and I gave Jane a toothbrush, and I put toothpaste on it.
“What is this gooey, blue, sparkly stuff?” asked Jane, looking at the toothpaste.
“You use it to brush your teeth,” I said, and then turned on my toothbrush. The buzzing startled Jane, and she jumped.
“What is that?” she shrieked, staring at the toothbrush.
“It’s an electric toothbrush, and it gets more food out of your teeth,” I said, and she nodded. After that, I gave her a pair of my clothes, a t-shirt that said “I Break For Cupcakes!,” and some jeans. Then we watched My Step-Dad Is An Alien!. Jane screamed during most of the movie, and she kept asking me how and why the TV was what it was. After the movie, my mom asked me to fold the laundry. So, I went into the basement, where the washing machine and dryer were. Jane was awed by the swishing of the washer washing clothes.
“I can’t believe that this machine does the washing for you!” While I had folded the clean laundry, Dad picked up a “treat” dinner from McDonald’s. Jane seemed overwhelmed by this point.
“A hot dinner from a store in a paper bag?” she asked in disbelief.
After dinner Jane seemed more than ready to snuggle into my bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I mumbled, “I’ll miss you, Jane.” When I woke up the next morning, she was gone.
Samson Brown, 12
I pressed my hands on the glass, staring at the shining washing machine. I tapped on Mom’s shoulder and pointed to it. My grimy hands smudged the clean glass. Mom grabbed my hand and shoved me behind her. “Shut up and stay behind me,” she hissed into my ear. I nodded, wide-eyed as my hand wrapped around her finger. A tall man in a dark black suit stepped out of the door. He smiled at me, a dark smile that made me shiver.
“You must be Louis,” he reached out his hand and I pulled back and leaned further into Mom.
“He bad,” I said quietly. She glared at me.
“Shake his hand, Louis! He’s fine!” I squeezed my eyes shut and stuck out my hand. He shook it and turned to walk inside the big room.
“Come, Ms. O’Steen,” He pushed the door open and it let out a shrill squeak. Mummy said to never let the sound get to me, so I tried to stay quiet. It’s very hard to stay quiet when everything else is so loud. The big man’s shoes squeaked against the pure white tile floor. All around me shining and polished machines seemed to close in, humming their song of machinery. My head started to pound as the bright white of the room shined into my eyes. I pressed my palms to my ears and started to scream. I had to be louder than the noise. Mom turned around and slapped me.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Langlsey. The treatments and the diets just haven’t been working for him.” The big man (Mr. Langlsey?) shook his head.
“It’s absolutely fine. And please, call me Fred.” Mom nodded.
“Okay, Fred. Is there anywhere we can put him so that we can discuss this in peace?” The big man nodded and reached out his hand.
“Come, Louis. I have a special room for you to be in. A special room for a special boy.” He kept trying to look into my eyes, but I kept my gaze down at the floor.
“Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four,” I reached out and grabbed his hand. “You’re standing on tile twenty-four. Twenty-four is a good number. It’s even, so you have a friend. You are not alone.” He looked up and tilted his head at Mom. She shook her head gently and he pulled me away. As we walked I continued counting the tiles, “It took us three hundred forty-six tiles to get here,” I said matter-of-factly. He shrugged and sat me down in a wooden chair. The room looked like a smaller version of the room we were just in. The walls were a pale blue, but all you saw was many machines. I sat at a wooden desk and chair in the middle of the room. The floor was covered in white tiles. The big man took out a coloring sheet and some crayons.
“Here you go, Louis. Mummy and I will be right back for you, okay?” I nodded solemnly and grabbed the coloring sheet from his hand. I flipped it over and began writing on the other side. He shrugged and turned around, leaving me alone in the machine room. The back of the sheet started to fill up with math problems. a2 + b2 = c2 so if each tile is a square and a = 1 inch and b = 1 inch, 12 + 12 = c2 so 2 = c2 and the square root of two is. . . “an irrational number. The hypotenuse of the tiles is an irrational number. This is bad,” I say quietly. I get up from my desk and walk around the room, smudging my grimy hands all over the clean and shiny machines. “Dishwasher,” read one. “Washing machine, Radio.” I looked around the room. “One hundred dishwashers, three hundred washing machines, fifty radios.” I looked at the tiles. 100 × 300 × 50 = 1,500,000 and 1,500,000 ÷ 3 = 500,000 and that’s how many tiles are in this room. I smiled. A bright white washing machine glanced some light into my eyes. I looked at the little door in the front. It looked like a fun place to sit. . .
I opened the door and sat in it. I curled up into a little ball and smiled. “Very comfy,” I whispered. I reached out and gently closed the door. Suddenly soapy water started to fill the container and it started to slowly spin. I inhaled deeply and held my breath. I closed my eyes and the world went black.
* * *
I opened my eyes and spit out the little bit of water that got into my mouth. I rolled over and fell out of the washing machine. Rubbing my eyes, I squinted at the walls. The room looked different. I reached up to rub soap out of my hair, but it was. . . dry? I reached out and opened the door.
“Mummy?” I asked, scared. A boy around my age turned the corner and started to scream. I stared at him.
“What are you doing in my house?!” he cried loudly. I looked down. The kid put his hand on my shoulder and I started to scream. He took his hand off my shoulder and took a deep breath. “Okay. So no contact. Got it. My name’s Clay. What’s your name?” I looked at him sideways and then looked back down at the floor.
“Five hundred tiles,” I said quietly. Clay’s expression changed. I started to wish that the diets were working because I had no idea what he meant. He smiled weakly.
“C’mon, let’s go find out how you got here.” Clay pointed to a different room, “but first, snacks.” I looked at his striped shirt and opened my mouth,
“Washing machine.” Clay stared at me. I knew this expression. He thought I was crazy.
“You got here… from… the washing machine?” he asked, pointing at the thing I had fallen out of a few minutes ago. I nodded.
Clay shook his head. “You are really a work of art.” I smiled,
“Art is fun,” I said quietly. “Math more fun.” Clay leaned back.
“Math. Is fun. MAN, you are a piece!” I shrugged. “Makes sense. Everything constant. Easy.” Clay rolled his eyes–what did he mean? Clay reached out his hand slowly. “Is it okay if I hold your hand?” I looked into his eyes. They looked just like Dad’s. I nodded slowly. He slowly grabbed my hand and walked me out to the road. Big, shiny, colorful cars sped past. There were people all around me. I pushed my palms to my ears. It was still so bright. So many noises. Distant screams echoed in my head. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Hey. Hey, you okay?” My eyes were still shut.
“Dad?” I ventured quietly. I heard a strange voice.
“No, kid. This is Clay? Are you okay?” I open my eyes and turn back to where I came from. I ran inside, trying to escape from all the senses. I heard footsteps behind me. I started to count my footsteps, but then I ran into a wall and fell to the floor. Clay came up behind me. “You okay? I feel bad just calling you. . . you, but I never caught your name.” I shrugged his hand off my shoulder.
“Louis.” Clay sits down beside me.
“Okay, Louis. Would you mind telling me what all that was about?” I squeeze my eyes shut and see Dad beside me. He was the only person to treat me like I was equal. Then I saw the bits of food in front of me, the different doctors I was shipped off to. I tried to remember the word, the thing they always called me.
“A-autistic,” I whispered. I felt Clay put his hand on me.
“So you’re autistic. It doesn’t make you any worse of a person. You still would have a reason to collapse and start screaming. Can you tell me why?” I shook my head,
“Noise, colors, bright. Too much, too much,” I whispered. “The doctors’ diets don’t make it quieter. They don’t fix me. Mummy wants to fix me.” I opened my eyes and the world was blurry. Clay reached out and gently put his hand on my shoulder.
“Want some Cheetos?” he asked. I looked at his shirt.
“Ten stripes. What are Cheetos?” Clay gasped.
“You don’t know what Cheetos are?!” I tapped my finger slowly. Clay was loud.
“Why?” I forced myself to ask. Ask people to elaborate. They like to talk about things, Dad had said. “Elaborate.” “But I don’t like to talk?” I had asked him.
“Cheetos are really good. I’m not sure how you don’t know what they are, they’re in every grocery store,” Clay said simply.
“You’re… special. Most people are too caught up in themselves to listen as you do,” he said, ruffling my hair.
“Grocery stores?” I pushed his hand off of me, choking back a scream. “No more screaming. Good job, Louis.”
“Dude, something’s up with you. It’s a grocery store. They’re everywhere.” I tilted my head, “It means you’re confused,” Dad explained to me. I tried to remember. Tilted head = confused. “It’s just another formula,” he told me. I nodded excitedly.
“Not where I’m from,” I said slowly. Clay laughed.
“Last I checked, you were from the washing machine.” I looked down.
“No, no, no. I went with Mummy, Big man put me in a room, I climb in the washing machine, fall out here.” Clay stares at me. I search my memories. “Staring means… well, little one, staring means they think you’re crazy.” I look at Clay. “Not crazy! I promise!” Clay laughed. Laughing means joy. I made Clay happy. I smiled, “Laughing means happy?” Clay nodded and ruffled my hair,
“Yes, Louis. Laughing means happy.” I looked at him happily.
“I haven’t made anyone happy since Dad!” Clay smiled.
“Then everyone except your dad is crazy. You are a wonderful kid. Now, I’m going to introduce you to Cheetos.” Clay got up and I followed him to a bright orange bag. I picked it up and started to read everything that was on it. Then I noticed the best by date.
“Best by. . . March fifteenth, two thousand twenty?” I asked Clay. He grabbed a handful of puffy orange things from the bag.
“Yeah! They’re still good, haven’t expired yet.” I stared at Clay.
“Of course not! They still have one hundred years!” Clay laughed.
“Kid, They have a month before they expire.” I shook my head.
“No, no, no. It’s in 1920. That’s one hundred years.” Clay laughed.
“So you’re a time-traveler now?” I shook my head.
“I don’t think so, what year is it?” Clay punched me in the shoulder gently,
“Little washing machine monster, it’s 2020.” I shook my head and started to let out a whine. Mom hated my whine, she said the sound was too long and drawn out, that it made me sound crazy. But I had to whine.
“No no no no no no no nonononononononononononono.” Clay grabbed my arm and dragged me into the room with the washing machine.
“What’s your last name?” He asked.
“I’m Louis Crow O’Steen,” I said quietly. Clay looked taken aback.
“I’m an O’Steen. Now that I think about it. . . my great-grandfather is named Louis. . .” he muttered quietly. Then he shook his head and looked at me. “Get in that washing machine, Louis O’Steen.” I nodded slowly and climbed in. Clay closed the door and pressed a button. “Let’s see if this works. If it does, see you eight years ago, Louis O’Steen. Bye, great-gramps!” I stared at him, but the wash cycle started and I had no more time to think.
* * *
I fell out of the washing machine right as Mom walked in with the big man. She stared at me.
“What the–” she muttered quietly, then started to scream. “LOUIS CROW O’STEEN! What were you doing!” I looked around. The room looked exactly the same, except for the washing machine I had sat in was now leaking soapy water. My hair was plastered to my face with the same soapy water.
“Clay-Time-travel-Cheetos-” I stuttered, trying to explain to Mom what had happened with me and Clay. She just shook her head and grabbed me close. I started to whine and she looked at the big man,
“I’m sorry Fred, but we have to go. I don’t know what got into him. I’m sorry, I really am.” Then, she pulled me out of the room.
92 years later–
I looked down at my great-grandson lovingly. “Clay will make a wonderful little boy,” I said with a smile. “He was quite the kind twelve-year-old.” My wife, Natalie, pulled me away. “I’m sorry. His old age must be getting to him.” She turned to me and sighed. “What are you going on about now, Louis? He’s only four!”
King Henry VIII
Ava Shorten, 10, Mallow, Ireland
“OK, so remind me how you got here”.
King Henry VIII straightened his cap and began to speak in posh voice. “I already told you, young lady. I was lounging on my sofa, looking forward to my wife’s beheading when a great machine appeared with a bright light flashing. The next thing I knew, I was spat out here like an apple seed … in this awful peasant dwelling.
I nodded, still uncertain of what had just happened. Here I was, sitting on a deck chair on my front lawn, chatting with Henry VIII. The time machine had announced that I was to spend one day with him. Well, since he was here I might as well show him around – it would pass the time. I was looking forward to being rid of him.
“ Come on” I said. “I’ll show you the sights.” I went to help him to his feet but he slapped my hand away. “Don’t touch me, you filthy peasant”. With a great amount of huffing and puffing he got to his feet.
As we walked out the gate, my heart was in my mouth. Thankfully there wouldn’t be too many people about – it was just 7 am. When we reached the town square (and got a couple of strange looks), I noticed the King’s expression change to one of horror “Where … where can an honest man get a beheading done around here?” The ladies who had been watching us squirmed nervously.
The whole way home, King Henry muttered under his breath about “ .. nothing like a good sturdy beheading to slap sense into people”.
Eventually, my watch read 7 pm. I glanced at the King – he seemed as relieved as I was that it was time for him to leave. “Well, in you get” I said, gesturing towards the machine. He got in surprisingly quickly for such a fat man.
“Goodbye”, I said.
“Humph” he snorted, and was gone.
Michela You, 11
I was playing in my backyard with my dog when I heard a ruffling sound from our beautiful flower bush. When I walked over to inspect it, I was stunned to see a girl suddenly popping out of it! She blinked at me, twice, and looked at my crop top and jeans. Rising slowly out of the bush, I noticed that she had an egg on her left hand. She reached over gently and touched my jeans. “Um,” I said, feeling a bit unsure. “Who are you?”
That question must have shocked the girl because she stared at me with dark, hazel eyes.
“I’m…..Harriet” she replied, a little nervously. “Who are you?”
“I’m Flynn.” Hesitating a little, I asked, “Where did you come from?”
“From nowhere,” she said. “I mean, I am in my farm but why does it look like this? What happened? I was retrieving chicken eggs from behind the bush, and when I came out, I was here. Can someone explain?”
“What!?? This is MY backyard!” I said into her frowning face. Suddenly, my dog charged at Harriet and started to pull at her leather pants. I suddenly noticed that she wasn’t wearing jeans and that she was the opposite of normal. I figured that was probably why she wanted to touch my cheap 10 dollar jeans at first. I looked at her dirty wrists and saw a messy grass braided bracelet that looked like it would rip apart at any moment. I saw her eyes glued to my $100 Gucci wristwatch. I moved my hand behind my back, and asked awkwardly, “Umm.. wanna go to my house?”
The first thing we did was go to my room. I tried very hard to make Harriet understand that jewelry and clothes weren’t for dressing up dolls: they were for making girls shine. After 30 minutes of explaining, Harriet finally gave up on her opinion and agreed that she should dress up in “regular clothes.” 10 minutes later, instead of a farm girl standing in my room, I had a model. She put on some sunglasses and after dressing up, she said to me, “Do you have any shaved ice?” That confused me a lot because I did not have time to think about what “shaved ice” was. I just ASSUMED that it was shaving cream, because of the “shaved” part in the words. I gave her my dad’s shaving cream, and she took it willingly. She asked me if I wanted to share it with her.
“Er, no. You can use it yourself.” I said, not knowing what she was going to do.
“May I have a spoon?” she asked. “Or could you not afford one?”
“Yes, we have spoons. You know, to afford Gucci, we could buy 100000 spoons! By the way, why do you need spoons??”
“To eat shaved ice,” she replied as if it was obvious.
“Um.. okay. I just didn’t know that people actually ate shaving cream.” I walked downstairs and got a Carrs™ plastic spoon for her. She accepted with a big thank you and began to squeeze it out onto the spoon.
“Fluffy!” she muttered. “I haven’t had this in a LONG time!” I began to feel more concerned than ever as she wolfed down the first bite. I snatched my dad’s container from her, and in the very first line in the warning section, it said:
Do not apply shaving cream to mouth.
I gasped and looked at my new friend wolfing down the toxic cream. I quickly found the section on the tag that said, What to do if eaten:
Give the person water and milk immediately. Once drunk, vomiting may be expected.
I yelled at Harriet to stop eating and ran like lightning downstairs to get her some water. By the time I came back, she was screaming her head off. I told her to drink the water, and everything would be fine. After she finished, I asked why she screamed.
“I screamed because you left,” she said with a burp. “I didn’t know the way around the house.”
I was mad as a volcano. “I thought you choked or fainted!” I gasped.
“Ha! Definitely not!––––” she reared back, her face green, and I moved out of the way just before she vomited out white liquid. Once the vomiting was finished, she asked me what she just ate.
“Um, shaving cream.” I was expecting an “Ewww!” answer back, but she nodded and said it was a cool looking thing.
She then asked me if she could use the restroom. I led her to my perfectly clean bathroom, and she asked me what the “white seat-like thing” was. “A toilet,” I said. “You do your business there,” she asked me if I could go away for a minute and close the bathroom door. I did, and a moment later, she told me she was done and said that I could unlock the doors. So I did, and when I looked in the bathroom the toilet wasn’t flushed. When I flushed it, Harriet suddenly burst out of the bathroom like there was a ghost at her heels. “Why did ya do that?” I snorted.
“I thought your bathroom exploded with you in it.”
“Well, it clearly didn’t. By the way, did you wash your hands?”
“No, I’ll do it right now.” I watched her go into the bathroom and shut the door. A moment later, she came out and her hands smelled like pee!
“Where did you wash your hands?”
“In the toilet. It looked nice and clean after you exploded it.” I slapped my hand against my forehead and banged my head a few times against the wall. I brought her to the bathroom, and taught her how to use the sink. Once we were done, she complained that she was hungry. I asked her what year it was, just to see if she was starving to death. “1776,” she replied, as if it was obvious.
“What! Are you starving to death?” I cried.
“No! It is 1776!”
“Did you time travel?”
“Um, I don’t know. I mean, I was back home and when I went behind the bush to get an egg, I came out to find that I was in a completely different place. I guess I REALLY time traveled!”
“Well, I guess that’s the case!” I replied cheerfully, not wanting to sound terrified.
“Now, can I please have some food Flynn?”
Oh, how I felt like a maid, being ordered around by someone who isn’t even from the present. Unwillingly, I brought her downstairs and led her to the freezer.
“Want some ice cream?”
“What’s that?” she asked. I suddenly felt like I could never communicate with this strange girl.
“Edible food that you’d probably enjoy,” I answered. I expected a hurt look, but she shrugged and grabbed an ice cream bar from the freezer. I watched with curiosity, and anxiety when she took her first bite, and she looked up and nodded. She wolfed down 5 more ice cream bars and by that time, her skinny tummy was tight and round. Then, when I looked at my watch, I saw that it was 7 o’clock. I told her that we should go to bed.
We showered, and I took out a blanket and offered that she could sleep on the bed and I would take the couch. She agreed, and when I turned off the lights, she said to me: “Thanks for today’s shelter, friendship, and care! You are the best! Good night Flynn!”
“You too,” I replied sleepily. “Have a good night!”
The next morning, I woke up to find that no one was on the bed. I looked all over the place for Harriet, but she was nowhere in sight. I knew after I looked everywhere, that I had one chance of finding her: The rose bush where I had first met her. I ran there and looked over the bush. She wasn’t there. I had to horribly admit that I enjoyed her company yesterday. When I looked around, I was amazed that there was a letter right in front of me. I tore it open, and read:
Thank you for your hospitality. I wanted to see if going behind the bush could bring me back home, and if you find this letter, it means it did.
I’m sorry I had to leave without a goodbye. I really enjoyed my day with you, and the ice cream was delicious. I am going back to my onion fields now, plowing the land with my cow, Daisy. I hope you are well, and I will always remember you!
The next day, there was another rustle in my rose bush. I peeked over, expecting Harriet, but instead, there was a dirty boy with brown leather boots.
“Hey young lady, what year tis it?” he asked.
I grinned. “Whatever it is, it’s not yours!”
Xuyi (Lauren) Zheng, 10
Ming Dynasty, Ji Cun, Zhejiang, China
Ten-year-old Wan Zheng unhappily walked along the footpath. She did not know where she was going, but she did not care.
Wan had, for the millionth time, asked her father if she could study like her brothers. “Please, Father,” she had begged, “Why can my brothers be educated, but not me?”
Her father had said, “Women are not made to study. They need to take care of the housework and embroidering. Why do you not do what you are supposed to do?”
“Because it is not fair and it is not right!” Wan had shouted, “Why are men so superior to women?” She had ran out of her house in a rage. “Wan-Wan!” her father called after her.
Lost in her angry thoughts, Wan did not realize that a small girl had fallen into the river, but the girl’s shouts of “Help, Help!” aroused Wan. Wan looked wildly around, but no one seemed to be nearby. So, she did the only thing she could think of–jumping into the river to save the girl.
Wan was vaguely aware that something was pulling her down towards the bottom of the river. Suddenly, there was a flash and Wan disappeared. . .
Year 2020, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Ten-year-old Xuyi Zheng was looking at a very old book–her family tree. It recorded the names of all her male ancestors since the Ming Dynasty in China. Her memory went back to the conversion she had the last evening: “Why aren’t girls included in the family tree?” She had asked her dad. “The Chinese in the olden days didn’t think girls important enough to be recorded.” Her dad had answered.
Now that she was alone at home, Xuyi thought this very stupid and wrong. Sighing, she turned around to get a drink of water–and to her great astonishment, saw a person behind her!
“Burglar!” Xuyi cried. Then, she realized that it was a girl about her age. The girl wore a red coat with a blue and green skirt. All her clothes had very beautiful embroidery on them. Her hair was up in two buns with red hair ties. Xuyi recognized this as traditional Chinese clothing.
Both girls stared at each other for some time.
“How-how did you get into my house?” Xuyi finally asked. The other girl looked blank. Then, thinking about her clothing, Xuyi repeated her question in Chinese.
“I-I do not know,” stuttered the other girl with a Southern Chinese accent. “I was sinking in a river before I came here.”
The girl’s accent was familiar to Xuyi, because it was very similar to her grandparents’. Xuyi was also very confused. “You aren’t wet, and there aren’t any rivers nearby. Anyway, why are you dressed like that?”
“I honestly don’t know,” the girl said, close to tears.
“Where do you live?” asked Xuyi kindly.
“In Ji Cun,” was the reply.
“Ji Cun!” Xuyi knew the place, as her grandparents live there. “But we’re in another country—Canada—here! And Ji Cun is in China, thousands of miles away!”
“What?!” was all the astonished girl could say.
“Well, my grandpa also lives in Ji Cun. His name is Yanqian Zheng. Do you know him?” inquired Xuyi.
“No, but my family name is also Zheng–I am Wan Zheng. . .” Wan trailed off.
“Well, Wan,” said Xuyi slowly, trying to find the right words. “Who DO you know in Ji Cun?”
“Um, my-my father is Yongming Zheng,” Wan stammered.
Xuyi thought the name was familiar. “Maybe I’ve met him when I visited Ji Cun before,” murmured Xuyi to herself. “But no,” she suddenly cried, remembering something important.
She whipped open the family tree that was sitting beside her. “That’s funny–I have an ancestor by the name of Yongming Zheng!”
Suddenly, a crazy thought flashed through her mind. “Do you have any brothers, and what are their names?”
Wan recited the names of her brothers and Xuyi checked them off in her family tree.
“Oh my!” She exclaimed, “I don’t expect that you live in the Ming Dynasty?”
“Yes, I do. Is there a problem?” asked Wan.
“Oh Wan, you’ve not only travelled thousands of miles from China to Canada, but also hundreds of years into the future.” Xuyi whispered in amazement.
“I don’t believe you!” Wan shouted.
“Your father is my ancestor and you live in the Ming Dynasty.” Xuyi said, partly to herself. “It is hundreds of years after the Ming Dynasty now.”
“Which means,” Wan mumbled, “I am also your ancestor?”
“Yes. . . yes!” cried Xuyi. She was very excited. “And, hello, Ancestor, my name is Xuyi!” she added playfully.
Wan, though, on the other hand, felt rather miserable. “What shall I do now?” she sighed. “How can I go back home? Mother and Father will be worried sick when they can’t find me. And where will I live if I can’t go back?”
“Don’t worry,” soothed Xuyi, feeling sorry for Wan now. “I am sure my parents will take you in if you can’t go back.”
Slightly comforted, Wan sat down on a chair and forced a small smile. “Thanks!”
“Maybe you could tell me about your life,” Xuyi suggested, hoping to distract Wan and stop her from being sad.
“Well, all my family–I mean, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, father, mother, brothers, and sisters—live together in a big courtyard. There are many houses in the yard, and each small family lives in a separate house. Every morning, when a person rings the big bell for four times, we get up and go to ‘Ci Tang’ to listen to the family rule.”
“What’s a ‘Ci Tang’?” Xuyi interrupted.
“It is a giant house where important family meetings are held, and also where we commemorate our ancestors.” Wan explained patiently. “Anyway, after breakfast, boys over the age of eight will go to the family school to study, while the girls help the mothers and aunts to weave clothes and do the housework,” she finished.
“Why don’t girls study? Don’t you want to study?” questioned Xuyi.
“I do! I begged my father but he said that girls should not study.” Wan answered sadly. “But–do you go to school?”
“Of course, we all go to schools–I mean, boys and girls.”
“It sounds like paradise,” Wan said with envy.
“I can teach you some things I know.” Xuyi suggested, “And we can go to school together.”
“It sounds wonderful,” Wan agreed. She felt genuinely happy for the first time since she got here.
“I will take you on a tour of my house now. And I will tell you about my life,” offered Xuyi warmly.
“Yes, please!” said Wan excitedly.
Xuyi showed Wan the living room, kitchen, and bathrooms. Wan was especially surprised in the kitchen, as Xuyi showed her the fridge. When Xuyi turned on the tap in the kitchen, Wan was astonished to see running water coming out.
“We have to get water from the well and carry the bucket to our house. This tap is . . . so convenient!” she blurted out.
Wan was equally amazed when she saw the ceramic bathtub. “Our bathtub is just a big wooden bucket!”
Finally, Xuyi led Wan into her bedroom. She revealed her stationary to Wan.
“These are so pretty!” Wan cried, looking at the colourful pens, markers and pencils.
“What do you use to write?” asked Xuyi.
“I have seen my brothers dropping some water on an inkstone, and using an inkstick to grind on the inkstone to get the ink. Then they use a brush to dip into the ink to write. It looked so interesting. I wish I can use them and learn how to write.”
“I can teach you,” offered Xuyi kindly. She taught Wan how to write their names in English.
Then, Xuyi dressed Wan in some of her clothes, and the two had a fun time in the garden.
After that, Xuyi wanted to try on Wan’s clothes. Wan did Xuyi’s hair into two buns, while Xuyi did Wan’s hair into a ponytail. They suddenly realized that they looked a lot like each other and burst into giggles.
“The embroidery on your clothes is so pretty!” Xuyi said admiringly.
“Thank you, I did them myself.” Wan smiled.
“Wow, could you please embroider something for me?” Xuyi pleaded.
“Do you have thread and needle?” questioned Wan.
“Er, no. . .” admitted Xuyi regretfully.
“I am afraid I cannot do it now. But I promise I will one day,” assured Wan.
Suddenly, something pink and pretty caught Wan’s eye. “Wait, what is that?” she asked, pointing towards Xuyi’s bookshelf.
“It’s a camera–an instant camera.” Xuyi answered.
“A what?” Wan asked.
“I’ll show you,” Xuyi replied. “Say ‘cheese’!”
“Why should I say cheese—?” Click! And a small picture came out of the top of the camera.
“Ta-da!” cried Xuyi.
Wan carefully held the tiny picture, turning it over and examining it.
“It is us!” she shouted in amazement. “How did it do that??”
Xuyi shrugged. “I don’t really know. It’s just technology. But you can take a picture with it, and the picture will print out instantaneously.”
“Amazing! Can I keep the picture?” exclaimed Wan.
“If I ever get back to my time, I will hide the picture in the family tree book, so, even if we are girls, we will be recorded.” giggled Wan mischievously.
“What a GREAT idea!” Xuyi laughed.
“And if I cannot go back,” Wan continued. “We will study, play, and do things together!” Xuyi finished for her quickly.
Just then, Xuyi heard the garage door opening. “Oh, here’s my parents,” she said, “I’d better introduce you to them.” She ran towards the garage.
“Wan, come on!” she turned back halfway but Wan was nowhere to be seen.
“Wan!” she exclaimed. Running along the hallway, she called, “Wan! Wan! WAN! WHERE ARE YOU?!” No reply. Could Wan have gone back?
“Hello, honey!” called her mom at that moment, “Did you have a nice day?”
“Yes, Mom, yes!” cried Xuyi, “Something truly amazing had happened.”
And Xuyi told her mom the whole thing.
When she was done, her mom laughed. “That’s a great story, darling!”
“But, but it’s not a story. . .” Xuyi trailed off.
Adults would never believe her or Wan. Then, Xuyi was struck with worry. Wan had told her that she had jumped into a river before she came here. What if Wan had drowned?
Suddenly, remembering something Wan had said, Xuyi had an idea. She grabbed the family tree and carefully flipped over the pages. When she got to the page with the name of Yongming Zheng, she realized that the page was thicker than the other pages. Could Wan have stuck the two pages together? Xuyi tried to unstick it . . . It worked!
A small picture fell out–the picture they had taken together. It looked quite old after hundreds of years, but Xuyi could still see the smiling faces of Wan and herself. And there was also a thin piece of cloth inside, embroidered with the letters “X” and “W”. It looked like Wan had remembered how to write their names.
“Oh, Wan, thank you,” whispered Xuyi. “You have kept your promise.”