I couldn’t believe how cold 1950s England was. In May even. As we made our way along the river bank the wind chill against my soggy wet skirt was almost too much to bear. How did people live like this? How could they deal with this kind of cold? I wanted to die already.

But as soon as we reached the streets of the city, I forgot about the cold. This was all I had ever dreamed of since I was little. To be back in time and to be walking the streets of a young city that could never be known in my lifetime otherwise. Every little detail I wanted to stop and gawk. The streetlights. The old cars parked on the street. Beautiful vintage signs over doors and shops. I wanted to experience it all, completely and breathlessly immerse myself in 1958.

“Thorne, look at this!” I said, giggling my way to a phone booth. An actual phone booth, bright red with a carving of the crown on the top. I immediately opened the door and leaned inside. I had to. It was compulsory.

Thorne gave me a stiff glare as I examined the artifact. I picked up the ‘receiver’ of the ‘telephone’. I didn’t know which end did what, so I held it to my mouth like an old microphone. “Hellooooooooo.”

There were two buttons, labeled A and B. I pressed A and nothing happened. When I pressed B a bunch of coins noisily spit out and jingled onto the floor.

Thorne rolled his eyes at me. “Stop touching things before you accidentally alter this timeline.”

I balanced the receiver back on its place. “Really glad you’re my partner, Thorne. You’re a real barrel of fun.”

He stormed ahead all business and serious like. But come on!  I wanted to explore! Meander around. I was in the actual 1950s, I couldn’t just run right by everything.

“How far away is Woolton? We’ve been walking for a while,” I said, trying to make light conversation, but also trying to complain about how sore my feet were.

“We still have two hours to get to the outskirts of Birkenhead and then cross the River Mersey,” he said as my eyes grew wide. “Then we can take a bus from there to Woolton, about another forty minutes after that.”

Another river? Sheesh, we couldn’t have put the portal a little closer to John’s house?” I asked but was met with no reply.

So, we walked and walked and walked. Soon people began to pepper the streets of the town and it made my heart feel all fluttery and jittery. I loved to see the vintage suits and hats! Every single person had a hat. I didn’t know if that was a morning thing or if it were a fifties thing, but anyway I loved it!

The hazy sky faded into a light grey and small shadows appeared at the bases of trees. We still hadn’t made it to the River Mersey.

“Hey, Thorne?” I asked. “The sun is coming up.”

“It’s Dr. Thorne,” he said in short.

“Hey, Sir Dr. Thorne?” I saluted him. “The sun is coming up. Pretty sure we could get on a bus from here.”

“Best to walk to the ferry and stick to the plan.”

Ugh! I slumped so much as I walked that my arms swung and dragged by my shins. But I followed him to the dang ferry and crossed the dang ferry and waited for the dang bus and got on the dang double bus.

I rested my head on the window, pressed my forehead against the glass to get a glimpse of oldtown Liverpool. As the mid-morning sun took its place, the city was a bustle with huge old metal cars and so many skirts. And again, the hats.

The bus left the city and entered the green suburbs. Suddenly, I jumped from my seat and pressed my nose flat against the window. “Thorne! Cows! Look! There’s a whole bunch of cows just walking in the road!”

Thorne tugged roughly at my skirt and hissed at me through clenched teeth, “Get down.” 

I twisted around and half the bus had a side-eye on me while the other half had their heads buried into newspapers. I quietly sat down and smoothed my skirt. 

“What’s the point of traveling, if you can’t be excited and look around at stuff?” I whispered to Thorne.

“Keep your head on straight,” he warned. “None of this is new. You were born in 1939, remember?” 

I huffed and flopped into my seat. 

The bus turned a corner, slowing past a big tree. Two little boys in school uniforms dangled upside down on a stretching branch. Smaller trees lined each side of the narrow street, each one dotted with groups of pink blossoms. 

The bus stopped at Menlove Ave. As the squeaky brakes came to a halt the entire bus jolted forward ejecting me from my seat. How can people ride this contraption? No safety harness or anything, just a scary bumpy ride with a sliding leather seat.

That was the longest journey of my life and I was eager as anything to leap off and be done with it all. But Thorne wouldn’t let me slip from his grasp so easily.

“I’ll be at a nearby hotel,” he said as I stood to leave. “I’ll send you the address tonight. Open it discreetly.”

“Okee dokee.” I gave him a thumbs up and turned toward the open bus door.

“John is scheduled to be at school until four,” Thorne said, stopping me again. “Make sure you’re ready for him when he returns.”

“Don’t worry. I got this,” I said and tried again to exit the bus, but Thorne grabbed my arm and pulled me in close. 

“There’s no going back and burning a new portal, so do not ruin the first impression,” he whispered harshly in my ear.


I slipped away from Thorne and stepped off the bus, the hot exhaust tickling my ankles. A distinct mix of sweet spices wafted from the neighborhood. My stomach growled. Maybe it was the time bending portal, but I felt like I had breakfast an eternity ago.

251… 251…

I had to count the numbers of the houses, which I found so strange. This is how they used to do it? Just counting their way to each other’s addresses. No GPS or device or anything to help them find their way. I would get so lost every day. And that kind of made my heart pound a little harder. Was I lost already?

No. There it was. 251 Menlove Avenue. I recognized it right away. The semi-detached greyish house with the beautiful flowers in stained glass on the box porch. The place they called “Mendips”. I could feel my fingertips shaking as I approached the gate.

I let out a shuddery breath. Okay no need to get nervous yet. At least not in a sex appeal kind of way. He wouldn’t be home until four.

I opened the hitch to the waist-high front gate. The little door flew open and cracked to a stop. I scampered through and shut it behind myself, but that stupid little hitch wouldn’t clasp back down. I finally had to push the gate with one knee before I could secure it into place. Whew. Automatic doors would be sorely missed over the next one hundred days. 

I was about to put into practice every part of my elaborate lie I had cooked up and that was more than a bit scary. John’s aunt, ‘Mimi’ was not only a smart woman, but she was also famously stern. Like a scary librarian, some historians say. I guess I was about to find out.

I wrapped my knuckles lightly on the door, as respectable as I possibly could sound with just a knock. It wasn’t long before the front door creaked and popped open. A small woman stepped into the box porch. Dark hair curled tightly around her sharp cheekbones.

She looked at me with such an eye. Up from the tippy top of my boisterous blonde hair down to my worn vintage loafers. She cracked opened the door of the porch, neither stepping out or inviting me in. “Yes, what is it that you want?”

I gulped so hard I could feel my Adam’s apple wobble. “I was inquiring about a room. I was told you take in lodgers.”

Her eyebrows drew together, and her mouth remained a hard line. “Yes, I do. Who are you inquiring for? Yourself?”

I held my palms out at the bottom of my muddy skirt and gave her sort of a grimaced smile. Her eyes darted back and forth. Some strong hesitation if I’ve ever seen one. I felt stupid for not foreseeing this as a problem.

“Most of my lodgers are students. They’re all moving out now for Holiday,” she said.

Yep. Yup. Exactly what I had said and exactly why I wanted to arrive in January. But did the council listen to me? No, they sure didn’t. Now this is what we get for having only a hundred days of a mission. I repressed my internal scream and took in a deep breath.

“I have an apprenticeship at the College of Art. I’m looking for a room for the summer,” I said as confidently as I could make my shaky voice sound.

Mimi squinted an eye. She opened the door a little wider. “You’re an American, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” After Mimi threw me a stone expression, I changed my answer to a more proper sounding, “Yes.”

“A bit strange to see an American around here,” she said more to herself than to me. She gave me another suspicious eye. “I usually don’t take in…”


Her eyes flashed. I must have auto-filled her sentence wrong.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m closing my door to lodgers for the summer.”

And with that, she was about to close the door right on me.

“I’m a little desperate,” I said before she could get the door closed. “I can pay you 85 for the room. I was told you usually ask for 78.”

She stopped mid-door shut and reopened, giving me another hard once over. “Just the summer, then?”

I nodded.

“I’ll take 90 for the room and not a penny more,” she said with her arms crossed.

Again, I nodded. I wasn’t there to barter with her, because in truth we were prepared to offer her more than a hundred pounds for the room if it meant I would be staying a few feet away from John.

She smiled. A slight upturn of her thin lips. “Very well. Don’t come through here. Come around to the back, through the kitchen.”

All the muscles in my upper arms released as if I had been wrestling a bear that whole conversation.

Walking around the side of the house proved difficult because there was a dip in the drive where a giant puddle had formed from a previous rain. I tried to jump it, but the back of my shoe splashed right in, soaking into my stockings. Just when I had finally dried from the river.

A thin, green bike leaned next to the back door. I went through and found myself in a teeny orange kitchen. Mimi met me there, huffed at my one wet shoe, and beckoned me to follow her into the house.

I followed her down the hall and up the stairs. A large grey cat sat on the third step from the top, eyeing me just as suspiciously as Mimi and slowly swishing his tail.

 “Strange for you to have asked me for a room today because only since yesterday, I’ve had a vacancy. Quite lucky.”

 Right. ‘Luck’. I stepped over the cat and into the narrow hallway. Mimi stopped me in front of two doors. One was to the little box room that sat above the porch. I knew exactly who slept in that room.

“This is the room,” she said, opening the door that was adjacent to John’s.

I had to stop my jaw from dropping. Seriously? That room was the vacancy? Yeah, I guess that was quite lucky indeed. 

I thanked Mimi and stepped inside.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, I stared at myself in the floor-length mirror. Even after all the preparation and training, it was so unreal. There I was at Mendips, one wall away from John Lennon’s childhood bedroom. Hearing Aunt Mimi’s cats mew softly from downstairs. Being an active part in a history that would never happen in this reality.

Why wait until next week for Emmeline to meet John when the next four chapters post TOMORROW on Patreon?


This was the biggest day of my entire life. And not to mention my future, which would include the past as well so go figure. I was calm. A numb calm. But even though my heart was beating at a normal pace, my arms couldn’t get with the program. They were out of control with shaking and I had to keep them tucked away in the pockets of my jacket, so my mom wouldn’t see them.

She was crying. Of course. And Que was laughing at me. Probably. I’m already an awkward person when it comes to the daily goodbye, now it was a big deal goodbye and I had no idea how to act. Everything I did, I felt like I was doing it wrong and that it wasn’t appropriate for the situation. Should I cry too? No, that’s too serious. Should I joke with Que? No, that’s not serious enough.

I gave them each a hug. And when Que wrapped me in and held me hard, that got to me. And then I teared up not by choice.

 “See you in a hundred days,” I said, wiping away at my bottom eyelashes. “Or I guess I don’t know when.”

 “Eh, it’ll be instantaneous for us,” Que said, shrugging like it was no big deal.

My mother gave me another embrace. “I tried to pack thermal regulated underwear in your bag, but the security found it and confiscated it.”

“Mom, it’s fine,” I mumbled and pulled away.

Dr. Greggs came up and gave me a quick hug. I was even more surprised about this than Que. But I was touched that he cared about me enough to do it.

“I want to let you in on something special,” he said holding me by my shoulders. “All time travelers do this, so it’s only tradition that I pass this along to you. When you go into the incoming portal, make sure you’re looking at the outcoming portal. You will be able to see yourself returning from the past.”

“Is that true?” I asked, wrinkling my nose.

“Do it and find out,” he said happily. That was one of the things I loved best about Dr. Greggs is that he loved the little nuances about time travel and geeked out just as much as I did.

I hugged my mother another time. Honestly, if the professionals hadn’t come to take me away, we would probably still be hugging. The little worrywart of a woman. I laughed to myself about it, until they brought me to the observing room, and I saw the technology for the first time.

There were two giant steel columns where we would go in the portal. And two giant steel columns where we would hopefully come out. Each column was at least three-stories high and had dark burn marks on the sides that faced each other. 

I had seen a lot of videos and run a few practice trials with Dr. Greggs. But seeing the soon-to-be portals in person for the first time was the most intimidating moment of my life. No joke. I mean, I thought presenting to the council was bad. Now, that seemed like a Sunday stroll through the park.

The personnel strapped a parachute to my back. Dr. Thorne was getting his strapped on, his face was looking extra tight and grouchy that fine beautiful morning.

“Alright,” Dr. Greggs said, helping the others strap me in. “Now, it’s no different than how we’ve practiced in the VR. They’ll turn on the boomerang portal and you’ll get a running start right to the input channel. Then as soon as you’re through the other side, you’ll be falling. You’ll have to deploy your parachute. The portal will dump you right over a cliffside in 1958 Liverpool.”

 Dr. Greggs grinned wildly and patted me on the shoulder. I drew in a deep breath. Talk about a dramatic entrance. They could have put the portal any discreet old place. I don’t know why hanging it a hundred feet in the air over the sea was going to help anything. I guess to keep innocent pedestrians from accidentally getting sucked into the future.

As soon as they had my parachute on, I examined the straps. “Wait, this looks authentic.”

“Yeah,” Dr. Thorne said with no emotion.

“Well, is it?” I asked my voice squeaking.

“Yeah,” he repeated

“Are you kidding? I’m not using a 170-year-old parachute!”

He looked at me with no sympathy at all. “You got the body armor, didn’t you?”

As I blinked my eyes got big. Okay, but body armor wasn’t going to keep me from drowning. Or getting tangled in some tree for the next hundred days.

They obviously weren’t going to give me a choice, so I retightened the straps and hoped for the best as I entered the sterile room. My heart was pounding in my throat as if I were about to puke it up, still beating, onto the clean floor. Was I dumb to do this? Was this a mistake? I mean, probably.

Somewhere in the anxiety, I rolled through the five hundred things that were about to go wrong with this mission. Number One: I could never come back. I mean, that one traveler that went to the middle ages didn’t. Maybe the portal malfunctioned, and we didn’t know it. Oh my Galactica, number Two: I get lost in time and space because of a portal malfunction.

 Um, Number Three: Lennon could find me repulsive and I have to shoot him. Number Four: Lennon could be fine with me, even like me a little bit and I still have to shoot him. Number fifteen: I contract some horrible old timey disease. Number forty-seven: Non-metastasized water. Number Eight Hundred and Eleven: Viruses.

Up at the window of the observation room, my mom, still crying watched me step toward the giant metal tongs where the portal would open. I tried to push those hundreds and hundreds of anxieties away, but they were choking me and dragging me back out of the room. I felt like a young child about to ride their first real rollercoaster and find themselves at the front of the line crying and not wanting to get in.

 “Markers at their place. Fifty-three degrees. Twenty minutes. Twelve-point seven seconds North. Three degrees. Eight minutes. Twenty-six point one degrees West. At zero four, zero, zero. Tuesday, May 20th, 1958.” A female robotic voice announced.

I want to get off! Let me off!

“Opening portal in t minus ten minutes.”

Okay but seriously.

“Ten… Nine…”


I took a couple of steps backwards as the countdown continued. You could hear the poles charging on either side. The wall behind them started to distort. The tiles were bending slightly, as if it were a wall of water.

 “Four… Three… Two…”

I held my breath.


The air made a cracking sound. Which really freaked me out worse than before. I don’t know why I had always pictured a loud resonating “bwomp” or a high-pitched whir or something. But that’s not what a portal ripping into reality sounds like. It honest to Galatica sounded like an old metal ship breaking apart. A screetchy clinky kind of sound. Well, that’s the best I can describe it, I guess. Because it was completely otherworldly and jarring. The unpredictability was almost a confirmation that something was about to go horribly wrong.

The portal ripped open the air right in front of me. An immediate heat wave blew through Thorne and I, blowing my hair over my shoulder. A blinding light filled the room. It was like staring into a hole filled with molten lava.

“Opening successful. Portal stabilizing,” the female voice reported. “Prepare to enter. Stabilized in T minus 27 seconds.”

On the other side, in between those poles, a second portal began growing. There was the boomerang. The place that we would return from. The safe haven.

I could actually hear my breathing; it was so fast and heaving. I stared into this searing pit. I had honestly thought I would be able to see Liverpool through the other side. Or something. But no, there was nothing. No comfort of making it through. No promise of another side. Nothing. And I was supposed to run and jump straight into it.

I could see Thorne eyeing the portal. Beads of sweat balled on his nose. Even he was nervous. Oh, Galactica. We were going to die.

 “Portal stabilized in ten… nine…”

I grit my teeth. If something were truly wrong, Thorne would tell them to shut the program down. I was with an experienced time traveler. The first time, I might add, that I was actually grateful that they had done that for me.

I closed my eyes and tried to prepare myself. My calves twitched and tensed ready for the run.

“Five… Four…”

Run. That’s all. Run and jump. As soon as you get there, you’ll see yourself come through the other side. You’ll know it’s all going to be okay.

“Two… One.” The return portal had stopped growing.

“Go!” Thorne grunted and tore off toward the light.

I didn’t think anymore. I couldn’t. I zipped off right by Thorne’s side. My feet slapped against the floor, I panted and shoved my way through the intense heat. My eyes jumping back and forth from the entrance to the exit portal.

C’mon Emmeline. I begged the return portal. I ran harder and faster. Pushing and pushing myself and gaining speed. C’mon Emmeline. Where are you? Come back for me! Come back home!

I got to the prongs and leapt with all my heart, Thorne right by my side. As I leapt, I kept my eye on that return portal. I kept my eye watching for myself to come back through. To return safely.

As soon as my foot touched the light, I was overcome with the strangest feeling. Everything was moving in slow motion, including me. Time had slowed by 80%, and my body was still in mid jump. Thorne too was slow motion mid jump, but I couldn’t turn my head to look at him. I couldn’t move as fast as my brain was going. My consciousness was still working the same speed as it always had but my body wasn’t.

            My head was still facing the exit portal. And that’s when I saw it. Two headlights with a big thick metal grill in between. I could hear my own slow-motion exhale as a grey vintage truck began to roll out of the return portal, the big front wheels rotating in the same slow motion. The bottom of the windshield had just come into view and suddenly everything blinked to black.

I was falling. Fast. To a sand bank not too far away. I let out a low-pitched yelp and felt around for my rip cord. As soon as I had a hold of that old metal ring, I yanked it as hard as I could. The parachute deployed as rough as I had yanked, pulling me around like a loose-leaf paper

In only a few seconds I had slammed into the sand bank and my chute dragged me skidding right into the river. The water was icy cold on my shins and I couldn’t help my bellowing grunt through clenched teeth. My fists rolled tight into balls and I brought them up by my chest.

The water tinkled and lapped innocently around my legs. A chill wind stung my cheeks. I almost broke my neck looking into the dark sky, trying to find the portal we had just come through. But there was nothing but clouds, and a tall clay cliff with an empty road at the top.

Incredible. A portal to another world hung high in the air, invisible and undiscoverable.

Thorne knelt on the beach, all business, packing his parachute away into his backpack. I tried to make my way over to him, but my parachute, had sunk into the muddy river and was threatening to pull me back down. I had to sashay to get to him. The weight was too much, and I fell onto my knees. The prickling ice river soaking my stupid skirt up to my thighs. I growled and slapped the water, which didn’t make me feel any better. It only splashed more freezing water onto my face.

Thorne acted like he couldn’t care less about whether or not I made it through safely. He was still setting into action, getting things ready for whatever. I marched my way onto the beach and ripped off my parachute.

“Don’t leave that here,” he said like a scolding parent. “That’s a military parachute. Someone could find that and accidentally change history.”

I rolled my eyes and reeled in my soaking wet parachute. Water spilled out of it by the bucketful and washed all over the sand of the beach. I did not pack my parachute into my suitcase with all my dresses, no, thank you. My skirt was already soaked so I held it awkwardly by my side as the air stabbed into my freezing legs.

“Thorne,” I said coming into full process of everything that had just happened. “Something’s wrong.”

Thorne had his parachute packed neatly into his briefcase and snapped it shut. “Buses don’t run at four in the morning, so we’ll have to travel on foot until the sun comes up.”

I stared at Thorne incredulously.

“Didn’t you hear me? Something’s wrong,” I said. “When we went through the portal, I didn’t see us coming back through. I saw… a truck or something.”

Thorne stood but still didn’t respond to the crisis at hand.

“Do you think that could happen?” I asked. “Do you think that a car could accidentally fall through the portal? I know there’s a road right there.”

Thorne gave this itty-bitty glance at the cliffside and picked up his briefcase. “We need to focus on the mission at hand. We shouldn’t worry about the return.”

 He trekked off across the beach and I had to run to catch up. How could he not care? How could he not worry about being potentially stuck in 1958 forever? How could he not be worried about this mysterious truck that was blasting through the return portal? I was sick out of my mind. Practically beside myself.

I ran alongside Thorne. “How would we get back? If we jumped through the portal are we going to get run over? What would even happen jumping through with a truck in there already?”

“You don’t know what you saw,” he said. “A lot of travelers claim to see things through the return portal. You’re watching time bend it could be anything. Seeing yourself is a myth.”

My heart was still on the verge of popping. But he was experienced and unphased. And seeing a truck in the portal was so weird that it must be true what he was saying. Time must have bent funny.

I followed Thorne off the beach shaking of my unsettled feeling.


I had the surgery. It was extensive, they made little cuts all over my body and put a flexible unbreakable material under my skin. There was this old 2D movie I saw once. What was it called? The Terminator? Okay, yeah, like that more or less. And I guess that’s what they wanted all along.

The recovery wasn’t great. I mean, it was nothing abnormal or horrific or anything. Mostly it consisted of me not wanting to move a single pinky finger because every inch of me ached so much. And the doctors told me not to move an inch because the armor plates had to “settle”. Whatever that meant.

My mom brought meals in and out of my room. Each time was the same exact routine. She would pick up the plates, shake her head, and sigh heavily. “I can’t believe my daughter has a job that would require this kind of modification. I never would have allowed you to go if I knew.”

“It’s okay,” I would say. “It’s an extra precaution for all time travelers.”

Which was obviously a big lie. But I could only imagine the intense fretting my mom would have knowing that her daughter’s future fiancée was an anger issue poster child.

The first week after the operation, I regretted not opting for a virtual resort during recovery. I didn’t even know how boring life could possibly be. A mind-numbing melt into a giant goopy puddle kind of boring.

During the second week, I delved into The Beatles. I listened to each and every song John had ever produced, twice. And that was hundreds and hundreds of songs. How can someone die at forty and still have accomplished so much? And so much brilliant stuff? To be honest, as a songwriter, I felt pretty intimated trying to get inside this prolific brain of his.

Week four I had seen every documentary, read every book, and loved every song. Admittedly, I really loved the music. I did. I remember one day feeling like I was never going to be the same Emmeline ever again. A steel-plated robot who couldn’t even move. What if they had botched the surgery? What if the opposite effect took place and I was super fragile now? What if John sneezed on me and broke my arm or something? That was the day that I stumbled onto ‘Across the Universe’. And I cried. Frankly, I wept. I had no idea why.

Week five I was almost back to normal and anxious as ever to finish training and just move on with it. And by week six, I basically ignored the fact that I was still recovering and skipped into the time-altering department.

After seeing me all recovered and prancing around, the council probably realized that they had nothing else to hold me back. Finally, I got the message that I would be leaving on schedule. May 3rd. The very next day. I was both giddy and horrified. I read the notification, sank to my knees, and squealed so loudly that I think I heard my neighbor’s dog bark in reply.

I had to get ready. And not just ready in an about-to-change-history kind of way, but in an about-to-catch-a-man way. I called my hair girl, Marty, to get me an emergency appointment ASAP. I asked her to install a golden floofy hairdo onto my scalp port mod. One that would turn me into Bridgit Bardot, the European sex goddess of the late 50s.

When I sent the pictures of the messy blonde bun with long shaggy bangs, her reply was kind of hesitant. She said words like “unattractive” and “ratted” and “outdated”. Well, duh, Marty, I don’t want anything modern, that would probably scare them half to death. I wanted her to model me into John’s perfect girl.

It was going to be a while at the salon since she had to remove each piece of my artificial hair and install the new blonde ones. Ugh. Can you imagine getting this look at a fifties salon? Only having your natural birth-given hair to destroy as you did it. That sounded like a nightmare to me and I’m glad we didn’t have that inconvenience anymore.

I sat in a pleather low-back seat, overpowered by the perfume fragrances of the artificial hair. Hundreds of beautiful current-age hairstyles blinked on and off the walls. My chest tightened. I would not be walking out of there with any of those.

As Marty worked on my hair, she asked me about my mission, with her usual Southern drawl.

“So, you’re going all the way back to 1958 to date this guy?” she asked, chewing bubble gum loudly and snapping it as she talked.

“Yes and no?” Really no, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings for asking me something so dumb. “I’m just trying to alter history.”

“So, this beetle guy,” she continued. “What’s he like?”

“John Lennon? He’s um…” Wow, that was a loaded question. “He’s just this British guy. I don’t know. I haven’t met him yet.”

“Well, sure. But you must have picked up something reading all that stuff about him.” Marty flashed me a toothy grin in the reflection as she threaded another piece of blonde hair into my scalp.

“Well, he’s a genius for one. There’s no denying that,” I said. “And he’s, well he’s known for being… I don’t know how to say this. Like… feisty?” 

“Feisty?” Marty laughed, her drawl really hitting that word.

“Rebellious, I guess?” I asked, squinting. “Anti-establishment. Stay in bed and grow your hair out.” I laughed.

Grow your hair?” Marty asked as she threaded another lock in my scalp.

“Never mind.”

Marty blew a giant bubble with her gum. Pop! “Is he cute though?”

“Um.” I scrunched my eyebrows together and doubled back. Kinda weird thinking of a historical figure like that, but I guess everything about the mission was kinda weird. “In the beginning he… I guess, sure. It’s not like here, where everyone modifies their bodies to look perfect.”

“Well, do you have anything in common with him?”

“Uh…” Gee, Marty. Thanks for instilling such great confidence in me the night before I meet him. I now, feel totally prepared to bait my feminine trap with every allure of my bland personality.

“We both like music and songwriting,” I said. “But that’s not really going to help me with convincing him to give it up.”

“Hey, well, you gave it up!” she said adding the last piece of hair. “So, there ya go!”

“Right. Yeah.” I sank a few inches in the chair. Grateful to have that last bit of hair installed because I was ready to stop talking to Marty.

I transferred the money into her IND and left. The dim red sun dipped past the horizon. Six o’clock. In just twelve hours, I would be standing in front of a burning open portal.

As soon as I walked in the door of my house and Que saw me, all hell broke loose.

“What is that?” Que rested his arm on the banister of the stairs. “Wow. Did you get your money back at least?”

“Shut up! You little micro virus!” I said through clenched teeth.

“That’s alright, Emmie,” Que said, looking at his nailbed. “It’s not like your whole mission revolves around you attracting a guy or something.”

Do you want a set of missing teeth? Because it sounds like you want a whole mouthful of knocked-out teeth.” I pushed past him on the stairs to go worry in private. But Que followed me to my bedroom where I slumped on my protein mesh bed.

“Am I stupid for doing this?” I asked him, although I knew the answer. “I mean, how am I really going to get this guy to propose to me?”

He shrugged and leaned against the doorframe. “You could always fake a pregnancy.”

“I’m not doing that.”

“It’s the 1950’s they don’t have a good way to double-check that.”

“Yeah, when nine months goes by and no baby comes out,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“So, alright, don’t fake it. Go through with the pregnancy then.”

“Come ON,” I said flopping forward on the bed. “Isn’t there some kind of male insight you can give me or what?”

Que gave me a curt nod. “Okay. Alright. Look. If you’re unsure whether he’s into you, just wait for the ‘twist and lean’.”

“The what?” I asked with squinted eyes.

“Twist and leeeeean,” Que sang to the tune of The Beatles’ Twist and Shout. Which probably would have been a great joke if it weren’t wasted on my blank stare.

“When a guy’s all smoked for you and he twists toward you and leans in,” he explained with hand gestures. My eyes shifted awkwardly and he took an incredulous step into the room. “You don’t know what a ‘twist and lean’ is?”

“I know this isn’t going to shock you or anything, but uh,” I swept my hands out and gestured at my body. “I don’t have a lot of guys twisting and leaning at me.” 

Que stepped up to me and put his hands on his hips.

“So, let’s say this Beatles guy is sitting next to you like this…” He sat next to me on the bed all stiffly and awkward with his hands tucked between his knees. “And you start talking to him and he does this…”

Suddenly Que pulled his shoulder back until his torso was squarely facing me, then he leaned in a little too close.

“Okay, ew. Get away,” I said pushing his face out of my bubble and scooting as far over on the bed as possible.

“If he does that,” he said. “He’s a poor smitten bastard.”

“It’s 1958, Que! He’s not some hyper boner from the Virtual-gasm.”

“The twist and lean is timeless! That is a universal man beg for ‘please have sex with me’.”

“Well, I need the man beg for ‘please marry me’.”

Que gave me a deep grimace. “Fake pregnancy,” he whispered.

I threw my pillow at him. “You are no help at all!”

I ran my fingers over my new locks of hair. Each strand seemed like a blade of grass it was so thick. I didn’t feel like myself. And I didn’t look like myself anymore. How could I ever fit into the 1950s? How could I pull off this whole ridiculous mission? 

“Que,” I said quietly. “I’m scared. What happens if this guy doesn’t like me?”

Que shrugged. “Well, what’s not to like?”

I tucked my hair behind my ear and smiled. “Thanks,” I said.

“Hey, wait, I got you something,” he said. “Something to take with you on your trip. Or mission thingy. Whatever.”

 “Really? You got me something.” I eyed him suspiciously. “Alright. Let’s see it.”

He grinned and flopped onto my bed, getting his dirty shoes all over my covers, thank you so much. He activated his IND. “I know they gave you a new IND and you might not have access to everything. So, I compiled some footage of our favorite memories. That way you have at least something to remember 2109 by.”

Que began the movie, which was of the two of us on hover jets over Big Bear lake. We were trying to tag each other with lasers. A stupid game we invented as kids.

I melted. “Que. That’s so sweet.” I grabbed him and gave him the tightest hug. He was a crazy brother who said rude things, but that was somehow part of his love-ableness. And I was going to miss him something terrible.

He downloaded the videos into my IND, and I had him with me. At least in video form.

Lying in bed that night, I felt sick. A slow-burning nausea that stayed with me and grew each hour that ticked by. Finally, sometime before sunrise, I sat in bed and opened my IND, determined to get my jitters out.

I opened a blank page and made two columns. PRO and CON.

“Okay,” I sighed to myself. “Here we go.”

PRO. I get to time travel.

I mean, obviously, this was the biggest carrot they were dangling in front of my face. How can anyone pass up an opportunity like this?

CON. I might have to murder someone.

I groaned. Yeah. I mean, pretty much. There it was in black and white. Was the adventure of time travel worth taking someone else’s life? I underlined the word “might” and moved on.

PRO. Whether or not I shoot someone I’ll get to keep my job.

I really did not want to spend every day slogging to Plate Tech, counting down the hours and the days of the weeks until I go home and sleep. I re-read this pro, grimaced, and added “Probably” at the end.

CON. If I fail to get the proposal, the council will keep killing people like it’s the right thing to do.

And let’s face it, there was no way I was actually getting a proposal.

PRO. If I do get the proposal though, the council will be forced to change their policies. I would be saving hundreds of lives.

 I would be changing this world and all the alternate worlds for the better. A real, honest-to-goodness change. It would be cowardly not to go forward with it, right?

CON. If I do get the proposal, I’ll have to figure out a way to break up with him that would somehow prevent him from returning to music. And CON, if I can’t, then I’ll actually have to follow through with the marriage.

I rubbed my hands down my face. “What in the actual hell am I doing?” I groaned.

CON. He could be ugly and smelly and rude, and a cynical ass and I’ll have to pretend to like him. I’m not that good of a liar.

I drew in a slow deep breath and hesitantly added another one.

CON. His anger issue thing is a thing. 

Okay, so far, a lot of cons.

But PRO. I get to witness real actual historical things! Musical ones!

Also CON. One time in a VR hunting simulation, I shot myself in the leg to get out of shooting a mother bear.

Not really related so I deleted it.

PRO. The council has already spent millions of dollars to calculate the exact coordinate to burn the portal and you kind of can’t chicken out at this point.

Was that even a pro?

CON. That other traveler didn’t come back that one time.

My spit tasted sour. Probably from the already forming ulcer burning through my stomach. My screen shut off and I climbed under my covers, staring at the soft swirling galaxies projected on my ceiling until the edge of sunlight displayed on the artificial windows. I got up, put on my tweed skirt, and got ready to face the portal.