Novella excerpts: The Time Traveler’s Mission, Chapter One

I never, ever, believed in time travel. Even if I did, I would never want to get involved. Too many paradoxes, too many plot holes, too much headache. But when a time traveler wants your attention, by God, they’ll do just about anything to get it. They’ll even run in front of your car while you’re driving.
This is what happened. I had picked up my little sister, Jess, from soccer practice, as my parents thought it’d be good driving practice. But something weird happened. I saw a girl who was about thirteen, Jess’s age, stumbling around the park. For a moment, I thought she was drunk, but then I realized that since she was thirteen, that was almost impossible. She was wearing a thin dress; it almost looked like a hospital gown. She walked right by me, and then she turned to look at me. “You see now? You get it?” she asked. I couldn’t see her face that well; she was nearly covered by shadows.
I was kind of creeped out, to put it mildly. “Excuse me. Who the hell’re you?” I demanded, but she did nothing more than giggle a little. As she turned around, I noticed something red trickling down her face. Blood. “Hey, stop! What happened to you?” I shouted, but she was off, running a clumsy run. She turned around to wave, and I tried to chase after her, but then she turned a corner and vanished.
What the hell was that? Suddenly, I felt skinny arms wrap around my stomach, and I nearly screamed. Then I realized it was Jess. “Jess! Don’t do that, damn it!”
She laughed. “Aw, Jacob. Did I scare you?”
“Not at all! I was just surprised.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Sure…” she said teasingly.
I rolled my eyes. “Let’s just get in the car,” I snapped. I was too freaked out by that stumbling girl to ask Jess if she knew her. I’d seen the girls on Jess’s soccer team multiple times, but I’d never seen this girl.
The second Jess got in the car, she started talking, talking, talking about who did what, how many goals she scored, and all sorts of drama and crap. I’d gotten used to sort of listening; I basically listened to just enough of this to get by. “Oh, so Anna nearly punched Lucy because Lucy scored on her, yeah? And Anna prides herself on being the best goalie. Anyway, while they were doing death stares and focusing on each other, I was able to kick the ball in the goal, right next to Anna! Isn’t that cool, Jacob?”
I nodded absentmindedly. “Yeah, Jess, that’s cool.” Who was that kid? Why was she bloody and in a hospital gown? How’d she know me?
“I thought so too. So,” she went on and on and on, each sentence sounding more similar as she kept going. At least I had my own thoughts to keep me occupied. Maybe too occupied.
I saw a flash of something in front of the car, and I noticed a kid in the middle of the road. “What the hell!” I hollered. I didn’t have time to see her, see how old she was, if she was hurt. All I did was yell and jerk the wheel sharply to the side, but I wasn’t fast enough. I bumped the kid, and she collapsed onto the road. The car slid off the road and into the wild grass that grew on the side of the road. Jess whimpered in the backseat. “Oh my God, what was that, Jacob?” she whimpered, but I didn’t hear her. I unbuckled my seatbelt, yanked the door open, and sprinted into the road. Not smart, I know, but I was so rattled I couldn’t think straight.
The girl was twelve or thirteen, give or take. She was breathing heavily while lying on the road, and her thin pigtails surrounded her head. I held her head gently. “Hey, I’m calling 911. How bad is it? Oh my God, I am so so sorry.”
She coughed lightly. “I’ll be okay…no internal bleeding. I know that.”
I shook my head. “You’ll only know once you get to a hospital,” I said, and I took out my phone to make the call.
“911, what’s your emergency?” a nasal female voice asked.
“Hey, I hit someone! With my car! Send an ambulance, now!” I shouted.
“You need to tell me where you are.” I gave her the street we were on. “Okay, sir. There’s someone on your way. Now just take deep breaths, and calm down.”
“I’m trying!” I bellowed, and slowly closed my eyes. “Oh God, oh God.”
Suddenly I heard a sharp intake of breath. “Oh my God, Jacob!”
All the calm I’d been trying to collect vanished. “Shut up, Jess! It’s bad enough without you screaming and wailing about it, okay!?” I yelled. “Just call mom and dad, Jess.”
“Y-you didn’t say please.” Even then, Jess was hell bent on being a brat.
Please call mom and dad, and stop being a brat!” I hollered.
I heard a faint chuckle from the ground. “Ha. Just the same as always…” the girl breathed.
“Huh? What’d you mean by that?”
“Nothing,” she whispered.
It took a few minutes longer for the ambulance to come, but they felt like years. I had to keep the girl awake, and I had to calm mom and dad down. “You did what?” my mother shrieked over the phone. “Jacob, you weren’t being careful! You are grounded from driving!” my dad yelled.
I sighed. At the moment, driving restrictions were the last thing on my mind. “Sure, okay, I deserve it,” I said. That shut them up; they probably weren’t used to me being so mature.
“We’ll meet you at the hospital,” my mother said, suddenly much more calm. “Where is it?” I told her the name of the hospital just as the ambulance drove up.
Hours later, after me and Jess had both been treated for what little injuries we had, I decided to go see how the girl was doing. I stopped her doctor. “Sir?” I asked. “How’s she doing?”
The doctor nodded. “She’ll be okay. She has a mild concussion, bruised ribs, and a few cuts.”
I gasped. “That’s all?” I asked.
“Yes, and she says she’s decided not to press charges. She says it was her fault she got hurt. Was it her fault?”
I began to stammer. “Uh, um, I dunno, I mean, she just ran in front of my car…” I mumbled.
The doctor narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure about this?” he demanded.
He shuffled his feet. “The reason I was asking, is because this may have been a suicide attempt. I cannot think of any other explanation.”
Chills inched their way down my skin. “I…she doesn’t seem like that… She didn’t seem like she was mentally ill. But why else would she run in front of my car like that?”
The doctor nodded. “That is what I meant. Why would any stable person run into a street like that, knowing that they would be hit?”
I bit my lip nervously. “What’s her name?” I asked,
He shrugged. “She refuses to say, and she doesn’t have any identification on her. For now, she’s a Jane Doe.”
I nodded. “Thank you, sir. May I see her?”
He sighed. “That’s an odd question, especially since I was on my way to see you.”
“Miss Doe has already asked to see you, as a matter of fact.”
The doctor led me to Jane’s room. As I walked in, I saw her. She looked surprisingly okay; she had a bandage on one side of her face, and I saw that some of her hair had been shaved off for stitches. She looked familiar for some reason. “Hey,” she said amiably.
“Uh, hey, I guess,” I muttered. What do you say to someone you hit with your car?
“You’re wondering why I ran in front of your car like that, aren’t you?” She smiled a little as she said this, as if she was asking me if I wanted ice cream.
“Uh, yeah. Who wouldn’t? I mean, I don’t think you’re suicidal.”
She nodded. “Yep, I’m quite the contrary, believe it or not.”
I sat down. “So. Why did you run in front of my car?”
She lifted her head. “Please believe me, okay?” There was a nervous shine in her eyes as she said that.
I shrugged. “I’ll try, I guess.”
“I’m a time traveler.” Way to be upfront about it, huh?
I stared at her. “Okay, maybe you are mentally ill. I’m calling the doctor,” I said as I got up.
She gasped and waved her hands. “No, please, don’t!” she begged.
I turned around. “Show me proof, or I’m leaving. I’m too tired to deal with this crap,” I said.
Her face became closed off. “Fine. But don’t blink; I’ll be back in the blink of an eye,” she warned. She suddenly tore off the bandage on the side of her head and lurched towards the small table near the hospital bed. “Wait, what?” I shouted, but then she slapped something on her wrist. The air shimmered, and I saw her fade for a split second. Then she was back, except the cut on her head was oozing, and I noticed dirt on her hospital gown.
I couldn’t breathe for a moment. “That was you!” I croaked. “The bloody, deranged looking girl,” I clarified.
She nodded. “Yep, that was me.”
I sat down on the chair. “Uh, um, what d’you want with me?” I asked. I was too stunned to say anything else.
She smirked again. “I thought you’d never ask.” She took something out of her pillowcase.
I raised my hand. “Hey, wait, why’d you even have your time machine on you? Wouldn’t the hospital have taken it away from you?” I waved towards the square in her hand. “Wouldn’t they have taken that away if it was on you?”
She smiled wider. “This hospital bed was specifically prepared for me.”
“By whom?” I asked,
She put a finger to her lips. “I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.” Goddamn time travelers. She handed me the square, which turned out to be a photo of a girl with long auburn hair. My eyes widened. I knew this girl; she went to my school.
“She goes to my school. But what does she have to do with anything?”
The girl shrugged nonchalantly, but I knew she was hiding something. “Oh, it could be anything. But the thing is, she needs protection.”
I glance back at the photo. “But Kathleen Briggs seems to be a good student. I don’t think she would do anything dangerous,” I said.
The girl laughed. “Oh, Jacob. Appearances can be so deceiving,” she said.
My eyes narrowed. “How d’you know my name? And why can’t you protect her?” I asked.
The girl paused. “Uh, your sister called your name on the street. Oh, and I can’t protect her because for some reason, your lives are connected by the time stream. You are connected in a way, so if anyone else tries to protect her, they’ll fail. You’re the only one who can do this. But don’t worry, I may not be protecting her, but I’ll be able to advise you, okay?”
I paled. “Have you looked at me? I’m skinny, I’m weak, I have no muscle. How can I protect her?”
The girl shrugged. “I s’pose you’ll have to find out,” she said mysteriously. “Oh, and please protect her by any means necessary.”
“What d’you mean by that?”
“Do anything. Here, I’ll give you a free hint; start by following her.”
I shouted, “W-what? Follow her? I think you mean stalk her! No thanks, kid. I am not going to stalk her. I’m leaving now.” As I got up, the girl shouted, “If you don’t do this, she’s gonna die! You can save her! If you don’t do this… Could you handle the guilt of Kathleen’s ghost following you?”
I turned to glare at her. “Fine. I’ll stalk her. But if I get in trouble, I’m going to sue you to death.”
She winked at me. “Good luck!” As I turned to actually go, a sudden thought came to me. “What’s your name?” I asked.
Silence clung to the air. “Just call me T.T, short for Time Traveler,” she finally said. I rolled my eyes. “Fine. See you later, T.T.”
As I walked out of the room, I bumped into one of the nurses; a young guy with a mop of reddish brown hair. “Oh, excuse me,” he said, but as I walked past him, I noticed that he looked similar to T.T, and that he was looking at me. My blood went cold. What ? I thought, but the nurse had already gone into her room.
Two days later, when I decided to go check on her, I was informed by the hospital that T.T was gone. She hadn’t checked out. It was as if she had vanished into thin air.

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