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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Aimster du Clarkentine on March 6, 2008
"I wrote this while working for an elderly lady. It struck me that she lived rather an imprisoned life, and that what little she could tell me of her past was slipping away from her as the life she was living didn't seem to bring her any joy. "

Time Traveler

She stepped into the tiny room and fought claustrophobic feelings. A little taller than the height of the booth, she had to stoop a bit to fit. The lights grew dim as the door closed on her. She found herself trapped, unable to hear the world outside the box she'd entered. The year was 1930, and 19 year old Dora was about to embark on a fantastic voyage through time. The smooth-talking, burly man at the fair said her visit to the future would last only a few minutes in reality, but would seem much longer to her. AND she was the very first to try it! He said she could pick any year she wanted to arrive in, as long as she paid him 25 cents and told her friends to try it out, too.

Twenty-five cents! A high price to pay for something that probably wouldn't work anyway. But Jim had seen her gaze stop at the sign, "Authentic Time Machine," and insisted she try it out. Jim was sweet like that--always supplying some adventure for her. Today was their first anniversary, and they splurged by going to the fair. Wishing two people could fit in the thingamajiggy, she twisted the rings on her finger and chewed on her bottom lip. She had selected 2007-- 77 years ahead. It seemed like a good idea—picking something meaningful. Seven was her favorite number.

The lock on the door made a final click, and she held her breath. Blasts of light filled the spaces around her and tremors shook the entirety of her enclosure. Heart beat speeding, Dora felt adrenaline rushing through her veins and tensed up, waiting to hear the door unlock again. She imagined some actors at the fair would likely throw together an ad-lib show for an amusing attempt at a hoax when the door was opened.

Once again, darkness settled in the little closet-like case she was in. Moments that seemed like forever passed before a sliver of light around the door slowly widened, and her eyes struggled to adjust. Squinting, she stepped forward.

Odd. Her feet were like lead. Pushing on the door, she felt herself shake. Hmmm...the door wasn't very should open a lot easier than this. Unsteadily emerging, Dora grabbed for the nearest object to keep from stumbling. The room shaking must have thrown off my balance. Suddenly in a world of grey tones and foggy sounds, her jaw dropped at the scene in front of her.

What was she leaning on? It was a mailbox...with her name on it! She was in the front yard of a house labeled with the same number as the box she steadied herself on. Gasping, Dora yanked the mailbox open and found a magazine entitled Reader's Digest: Aug. 2007. It was true! She was in the future. So, this is my house. Guess I can go in, then. Slowly walking to her front door and steadying herself on the picket fence, the thought crossed her mind. Wait... 2007. I have a house in 2007? That would make me...96! I'm actually going to be alive in 2007! Amazing.

Twisting the unlocked doorknob handle, Dora stepped into a small living room. The furnishings were few--just a couple rockers, lamps, and a sheet-covered sofa. And a black box with a glass front and a glowing red dot on it. Strange. With a glance at the walls, she saw a photograph of herself at age five with her family. The next one she looked at was a picture of her and Jim taken on their honeymoon vacation. She smiled, remembering the moment. Skimming along the yellowed white paint, her focus settled on another photo. It was of her, only she looked 35 or so. Oh my. I've gained weight.

The next frame she glanced at wasn't holding a picture, but the shining surface of a mirror. Turning to view herself, Dora came face to face with an image marked by countless wrinkles. That's me. This is what I look like at 96. Surreal. I’m more wrinkled than an elephant’s knee. She laughed. Picture after picture marked the progress of her life. Well, at least I age well. Hahaa. I bet Jim will make a handsome old man. Hm. Jim. Where is he in these?

Her smile faded as a realization came to her....Jim didn't show up in any more pictures. Just her—alone. No other pictures of them together, or with little ones resembling traces of them both. Something’s wrong here. Her eyebrows knit together.

Retracing the line of photos on the wall, her gaze settled on the mirror again. She saw her lips start trembling. Is it possible for my face to get any more wrinkled? I'm crying. Dora's face crumpled completely and the ravines in her skin divided the flow of salty tears. Where's Jim? What happens to Jim? I need him! Someone else appeared in the room, making Dora jump as she turned. Startled, she stopped crying. What next?

"Dora! You're out of your rocker! Where's your walker? You can't just go walking about like that when I'm not here. You might fall!" the lady squawked as she led Dora to one of the rockers. She was yelling, but Dora barely heard the stranger and watched her unpleasant mouth move seemingly in slow motion. "Time for your pills. Take these." The woman dumped a handful of capsules onto a tray, handed Dora a glass of water, and glared at her like a hawk about to make a kill, watching as Dora forced down the medicine. I can't believe this is happening. I was just supposed to time-travel, not actually age! How do I go back? I don't like this at all. I want to leave. I want to go!

Hours passed there, turned into days, and then into weeks. The ugly woman was still there and continued to boss her around, treating her like a child. Occasionally a visitor would come like the cleaning lady. The two other women wouldn’t talk loud enough for Dora to hear them, but she knew they were talking about her. She knew this because they kept glancing at her as they spoke and raising their eyebrows once in a while. She suspected her unkind caregiver was telling the cleaning woman about how she had to change the bed sheets this morning again after just washing them.

Dora turned to stare out the window. She hated this. It wasn't her fault. She didn't mean to have accidents. She didn't want someone else to see her in her most undignified moments. She couldn't even bathe herself. She wasn't given a choice in food. Not that it mattered; she couldn't remember what she had eaten the day before anyway. She was a prisoner in her own home because walking by herself was nearly impossible. Her feet were heavy, swollen, and painful. Every movement caused her tired bones to ache.

Time passed in chunks she slept away. Her only entertainment was watching cars and people pass by outside her window or looking at the paper. Ah. The paper. She didn't know why she read it anymore, it only had stories in it about a big war young men were giving their lives for. Oh yes. And the obituaries. Benjamin Douglass--60. Survived by two children and six grandchildren. Jane Daniel--58. Survived by husband, three kids and a dog. The list went on. She no longer thought of those ages as old like she did in 1930. In fact, she considered anything under 80 as rather youthful.

Her immediate family was long gone. She couldn't really remember what they looked like, unless their faces were frozen in frames on her wall. Jim apparently was the first to go, dying tragically young. She never remarried, never had children. Oh, she had a nephew in his late 60s who paid her bills. Nice boy. He visited once in a while. Not nearly enough. Brings me something if he thinks of it. He rarely thought of it. No. She was mostly forgotten. And lonely. Unspeakably lonely. When? When will I go? But she didn't mean going back into the time machine anymore. She didn't even remember that.

A horrid pain shot through her arm. Breathing was difficult. Dora gripped the chair, gasping. Is this the end? Losing what color she had left in her wrinkled features, she looked about the room for her "helper." Watching TV. As always. Bet she wouldn't even care if I die. No, she would. No more job for her. Dora blacked out.

Stirring from unconsciousness, Dora opened her eyes to see a young face smiling at her. "Are you alright, Dora?" She strained her eyes, attempting to focus. Hm. I guess so. I feel fine now. "Who are you?" she managed to ask. "I'm Emily, your new helper, Dora. I've been working here for a few weeks. You look like you could use some fresh air. Let's step outside."

As the door opened, a heat wave hit Dora, and a burst of wind sucked her through the doorway. The girl disappeared, her home disappeared, and finally, Dora disappeared. She reappeared at the colorful, noisy fair, Jim embracing her. His smile faded instantly. "Dora? Dora, you look like you've seen a ghost. Are you ok? Sweetheart, don't cry. I'm here."

Yes. You're here. But you weren't. "How long do I have left with you?"

"What? I'm not going anywhere. I wouldn't leave you. You feeling alright? Want to go home?" He asked with concern. After being met only with more tears as her response, Jim put his jacket around Dora and led her to their car. A hot cup of tea later, she was calm again and life went on. Dora treasured every moment of every day with Jim after that time at the fair, and took time to spend with her family more often, too. She and her sisters got together regularly and bragged about their cooking while their husbands and her brother slapped knees as they told jokes. She never told anyone about her time-traveling experience, though Jim begged non-stop for a week afterwards to hear what was so traumatic. No. They don't need to know. And I want to forget. I don't want to remember being alone and forgotten.

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