Escape to the Past

Synopsis

 

The world is changing at a rapid rate on many levels.  It is continually becoming more complicated, confusing and dangerous.  This naturally induces a lot of anxiety in a lot of people, and along with it, a yearning to return to the 'good ole' days.'  This has always been the case--in every age and civilization, with a certain segment of every generation--but now, it seems, even more so, even if it's not publicized or verbally expressed often among people in their own homes.  In fact, few people are probably consciously aware of how they feel, and harbor these nostalgic feelings deep down in the hidden recesses of their subconscious minds.  Not even touching on what role, if any, ancestral memories play, it can probably be stated with a certain degree of certitude that many people desperately long to escape to the past on a subconscious level.  My novella is best suited for all those folks, as it serves to bridge the gap between their subconscious and conscious minds.

In my novella, two people are returned to the late nineteenth century via a time machine where they attend a Broadway show and meet Theresa Vaughn, a musician/entertainer of that era.  She was a star during her short lifespan, but her legacy faded away with the passing of time, and my novella brings her back to life... figuratively speaking, of course.  Hahaha!!!

Here's how the journey begins.  Upon the culmination of a secret family tradition, Stephanie Hansen--an Instagram model (totally fictional character)--is tricked into stepping into an inventor's time machine because a 'human guinea pig' is needed to test the machine.  Leonard Baxter, the inventor's boisterous, obnoxious cousin who enjoys writing about, and lecturing on, the nineteenth century slips in it with her simply because he wants to be in a tightly enclosed space with a total babe, not because he has an ounce of faith in his cousin's invention.  To their astonishment, within a matter of minutes, they suddenly find themselves in another place, in another time.  Quite understandably, they are shocked and dismayed at what has occurred.  However, within a relatively short amount of time, they manage to pull themselves together.  Discovering that they are in New York City in the year 1893, they begin walking toward a theater and successfully sneak past the ticket collector to make their way to the balcony where they steal a viewing of a Broadway show featuring, among other entertainers, the long forgotten Theresa Vaughn.

Following a harrowing post-show encounter, which quick-thinking Stephanie bails them out of, they get introduced to Theresa Vaughn inside her dressing room.  She doesn't know what to make of them.  Leonard, who initially took Stephanie for a ditz, lets it slip that they are time travellers from the twenty-first century.  This leads to Theresa helping Stephanie in a one-on-one setting, followed by some singing and banjo playing for both Stephanie and Leonard.

Leonard and Stephanie are delighted and decide to stay in the nineteenth century permanently.

In the end, it is revealed that Leonard Baxter, now an old and feeble man suffering from the latter stages of dementia, imagined it all, including the secret family tradition and being twenty-five years younger during the non-existent time traveling saga.  Although there was no time machine, Frank really was his cousin and he was an (amateur) inventor, and Stephanie Hansen was an Instagram model whom Leonard met online.

 

 

 

 

 

Escape to the Past

by Logan Best

 

 

 

All characters depicted in this novel are fictitious.  Any resemblance to

real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter One:  The Impossible Dream                     1

Chapter Two:  The Opportune Visitation                7

Chapter Three:  Through the Deep Tunnel            12

Chapter Four:  Along the Cobblestone Sidewalk    17

Chapter Five:  Surprising Post-Show Encounters   23

Chapter Six:  The Glorious Meeting                       27

Chapter Seven:  Stephanie's Transformation          37

 

 

 

 

1

 

Chapter One

The Impossible Dream

 

 

The widely renowned history writer seemed unlike himself lately --

distant bordering on aloofness.  Three hours ago, he settled

down at his desk, in front of his computer screen to write another book

following a worldwide speaking tour on the heels of his bestseller,

America's Golden Cultural Era.

 

        Now sitting in his armchair, he began pondering, putting more

pieces of the puzzle together.  And these comprised some of those

pieces.  Right after the first airplane lifted off the ground at the turn

of the twentieth century--generally assumed to be impossible--another

"impossible" dream hatched in someone's mind.  Elias Baxter--a

humble, illiterate, thirty-nine-year-old North Carolinian farmer with

mammoth-like height and brawn, huge hands, a handsome but

weathered face, blonde hair, a red neck, and sorrowful blue eyes--

thought of it while peacefully lying on his hammock in his back yard

one summer night, enjoying the pitch blackness and quiet solitude,

gazing up at the midnight stars and pondering that amazing aerial

feat.

        In the ensuing weeks the new idea gained more and more

substance in Elias' mind, seeming to take a stronger hold on his

psyche.  For some reason, big ol' Elias--never prone to flights of fancy,

not to mention obsessive thoughts--ruminated on it nearly constantly. 

Furthermore, he bore no interest in anything of a technical or

supernatural nature, which made it all the stranger.  He felt like

something, or someone, planted the thought in his head like a seed in

the ground.  The thought: Since the Wright Brothers managed to make

a flying object,

 

 

2

perhaps someone, somewhere, at some point in the future will invent

something even more spectacular -- a time machine.

 

        Months went by and the gentle giant kept thinking about it, his

sorrowful eyes appearing to brighten a little along with his newfound

enthusiasm.  Then, something else cropped up in his head.  An unseen

force seemed to be nudging him to create an oral family tradition

about a time machine to survive his inevitable passing, lasting long into

future generations.  This gave Elias a real and definite sense of

purpose in life.

        It took much insistence convincing his fifteen-year-old son, Oliver,

that--as scientific knowledge gradually advanced--a time machine

could, possibly, be built one day, even if it constituted a very faint 

possibility.  So, they kept the dream alive within themselves, and

Oliver pledged--upon the eventuality of growing up and having a family

of his own--to pass the dream down to his children, and instruct them

to pass it on to their children, come time.

***

        Many decades passed, a century rolled over, and the oral tradition

succeeded -- surviving like a baton passed down from generation to

generation.  However, a split-off occurred.  Oliver Baxter sired two

sons, and one of them, George, never discussed the impossible dream

with his children, due to sheer skepticism.  The other son, Carl,

vigorously discussed it with his children, and quite often.  Carl's second

son, Frank--spurred on by the 'impossible dream'--became a scientist. 

Leonard, George's first and only son, now nearing sixty, never even

became aware of the 'impossible dream'... then,

 

 

3

he received a phone call one Fall morning from cousin Frank, the

Laurel to his Hardy, both personality-wise and size-wise.

       

        "Hello, Leonard.  This is Frank.  How have you been doing?"

        "Aah, Frank!  So nice to hear from you!  Fine, and yourself?"

Leonard replied in a loud, boisterous tone, in contrast to Frank's much

quieter, meek one.  Even their respective voices reflected their

contrasting natures!

        After taking a deep breath, Frank wasted no time explaining. 

"Well, I'm very excited about a new invention I've been working on for a

long time, and I would like for you to come by and see it.  I think it's

finished.  It fits into a secret family tradition that our great-

grandfather, Elias, started, and my dad passed the torch on to me, but

your father kept it from you... and now I'm going to let you in on it."

        "Wow!  Okay, what is it?" Leonard curiously inquired.

        "It's the invention.  Can you come by and see it now, Leonard?"

responded Frank, almost teasingly, but Leonard knew that Frank, ever

the serious one, never played games.

        "Okay, I like surprises.  I'll be right over," Leonard lightheartedly

acquiesced.

        With that, Leonard Baxter hopped into his silver Mercedes Benz

and began driving the fifty-three miles it took to reach his cousin's

house from Maine down to New Hampshire.  Frank's mysterious

invention, a secret family tradition... hmm, he mused as he drove.

***

        Leonard rang the doorbell, and a few seconds later the front

door opened for him.

        "Ah, Leonard, so nice to see you," soft and delicate Frank said as

robustly as possible, looking up at his cousin with a big smile.  Then

Leonard stepped through the threshold, into Frank's luxurious suburban

home.  A photo of them standing side-by-side hung on the wall

among all the other family photographs.  Taken nearly four decades

ago, in their college days, it highlighted bespectacled Frank's thick,

corn-yellow head of hair next to Len's almond-brown hair, and Frank's

long, narrow face accentuated Leonard's wide, square face.  What's

more, in the picture, Leonard's tall, bulky body seemed to protectively

guard his short, puny younger cousin, particularly how his muscular

arm was wrapped around Frank's narrow shoulder.

        "Yes, it has been a while," noted Leonard right before the two

engaged in a little hug.

        "Well, you should come by more often," urged Frank, followed by

a pat on his older cousin's back and a complement on his impeccable

attire -- a designer, black short-sleeved shirt and designer, tan khakis

which, together, masked his weight problem fairly well.  Frank, still

pencil-thin after all these years and more casually dressed, wore a

second-hand short-sleeved green shirt with horizontal, navy blue

stripes, and baggy blue jeans held up by a brown, leather belt.

        "I know I should, but it's an hour drive, and so often the traffic is

horrendous," Leonard somewhat abashedly said as he reached up and

took his red, woolen driving cap off his balding fifty-nine-year-old

head, glancing up at the picture and briefly reminiscing.

       

 

4

        "Excuses, excuses, dear man.  You're so much like your father --

so full of excuses, and even worse, skepticism," Frank jokingly

admonished while envying Leonard's remaining thin strands of grey

hair because his own snow-white locks fared even worse.

        "May the old man rest in peace.  I wonder what he would have

thought of the world situation in 2019," Leonard dishearteningly

pondered.

        "Well, it's funny you mention that because I think I have found a

way out of it," Frank said earnestly.

        "What?!" exclaimed Leonard, furrowing his brow, struggling to

understand what he meant by that odd sounding remark.

        "Leonard, that is why I called you and asked you to come over

here on this fine Saturday morning; I was referring to my invention. 

But first, allow me to fill you in on what your father chose to keep

from you.  Please have a seat."  Frank motioned to the guest chair, and

he walked over to the one facing it.

        Leonard began growing more and more interested as he took his

seat.  What is this all about, he wondered, but didn't say, although his

intense facial expression said it very well.

        Frank clearly saw that Leonard hung on his every word, and he

went on.  "Listen, big guy, I know that great-grandpa Elias had a

reputation for being eccentric ... crazy even, I guess.  The fact is, he

wasn't crazy, or even eccentric.  The man was very stable-minded and

conservative but, somehow, he became thoroughly obsessed with the

idea that someday someone would build a time machine."

        "A what?!  Hahaha, Hahaha, Hahaha!!!  A time machine?!?!  What

a load of malarkey!!!  Impossible, I tell you!!!  Simply impossible!!!  No

one could ever build a time machine!  No way!"  Leonard tossed his

head back and resumed his hearty laugh, unobstructed by his own

 

 

5

words after barely being able to speak through them, he was laughing

so hard.

        "My gosh, Leonard, you're so much like Uncle George, it's

unbelievable!  I guess the saying, Like father, like son really is

true."

        Leonard just ignored him and continued on, "Hahaha!!!  Oh my,

I'm laughing so hard I'm afraid I'm going to fall over and have a heart

attack!"

        Mild-mannered Frank just sat there looking straight ahead--his

pale blue eyes peering through thick lenses at Leonard--after

saying jerk in his mind, holding his tongue, patiently waiting for the

laughter to ebb.  That took a full fifteen seconds.  But as soon as

Leonard quit laughing and wiped his watery eyes, he lightheartedly,

though a little more seriously, said, "Oh, you don't actually believe that

a time machine is possible, do you?"

        "I not only believe it, but I think I have built one," Frank said in a

matter of fact, and sort of eerie, way.

        Leonard's countenance turned dour as his mockery turned to

scorn.  "Frank, is this some sort of a sick joke?!?" he said sternly, glaring

at him.

        "Leonard, I want you to take a look at what I have made."

        Frank got up out of his chair, and Leonard got out of his, shaking

his head, hardly believing what he was hearing.  He followed his cousin

through the long hallway, in route to his laboratory.  All the way, he

kept shaking his head, trying to rack his brain for any past signs that

Frank displayed deluded or grandiose thinking patterns out of fear he'd

gone off the deep end, though unable to remember the slightest

indication.  On the contrary, he considered Frank the epitome of

rationality.  Still, he

 

 

6

felt unable to accept even the possibility that his scientist cousin

actually invented a time machine.

        They reached the lab room.  Leonard, upon stepping inside of

it, looked around and quickly caught sight of a seven-foot tall structure

completely covered by a purple sheet.

        Little cousin Frank reached up, took a hold of a piece of the

cloth, and pulled it off with one quick, clean swoop of the arm like a

magician, revealing the thing he claimed to be a time machine.

        Leonard just stood stock-still like a stone statue, staring at it

with a shocked, trance-like expression -- totally flabbergasted, but still

doubting that it represented a functional reality.  Just a big chunk of

metal, he thought.

 

 

 

7

Chapter Two

The Opportune Visitation

 

"Well, are you gonna just stand there looking like you've seen a ghost,

or are you gonna step inside of my marvelous invention," Frank

cheerfully inquired.

        Leonard didn't move.  Then, he slowly took his first steps toward

the big machine, his stunned expression only slightly beginning to

diminish, but his head started to shake again.  This is just too bizarre,

he thought.

        Before Leonard stepped inside of the thing, he took a few

seconds to survey the outside of it, feeling its smooth, silver surface

and touching the various knobs, but not the keypad nor any of the

push-buttons, which Frank warned him against.  Then, he gripped the

door handle, opened the door... and stepped inside.

        Still in a semi-dazed state of mind, once inside the 6x6x7

enclosure he breathed, "This is incredible" -- more to himself than an

attempt to communicate the thought to his younger cousin.  A long,

rectangular screen--shaped like a giant-sized barcode--covered a large

portion of the wall on the right side of the door, several inches below

the ceiling, and it displayed a series of multi-colored flashing lights--

green, blue, red, yellow, green, blue, red, yellow, green, blue, red,

yellow...--running left to right repeatedly.  Smaller screens and an

assortment of other types of features, as well, occupied the front, the

right side and the left side of the interior unit panels.  Only the back

side of the wall was bare.  A miniature light bulb on the upper-left

corner of the ceiling--hooked up to motion detection sensors--came on

every time someone entered the enclosure and went off each time

 

 

8

they exited it.  Following three minutes of wondrous observation,

Leonard had seen enough.

        "Great-grandpa Elias telepathically guided me in the making of it

from the other side, I believe," commented Frank with a little

triumphant smile after Leonard finally came out of it.

        "Now you're really talking crazy, Frank," said Leonard harshly

with anger flaring in his brown eyes again, again casting them on

Frank.  "This whole thing is crazy."  His voice grew louder.  "I'm amazed

that you actually tried to invent a time machine, but I don't believe it

works," he carried on vehemently.  "I won't be convinced until you send

me to another time period.  Why don't you try to prove me wrong?  Go

ahead, give it a try; beam me away, Scottie, or whatever Star Trek

wizard you think you are," he mockingly challenged, his voice reaching

a fevered pitch.

        "I was thinking that we could get someone else--a human guinea

pig, so to speak--just to test it out beforehand, in case something goes

wrong," advised Frank, concerned for his big cousin's safety and

unfazed by his taunts.

        "No, I want to try it out now!" Leonard stubbornly and

emphatically protested, about to go back inside.  "I'm not scared in the

least!" he boastfully declared.  "I know that nothing will happen,

except you feeling embarrassed and stupid and me proving myself right

and you wrong.  I love you, cuz, but I've got to tell you that this is

utterly ridiculous, the most asinine thing you've ever concocted; it's a

total waste of time!"  Right after Leonard finished that sentence, and

before he stepped back in, the doorbell rang.

        "Stay there while I go check the surveillance monitor to see who's

at the door," said Frank, accustomed to Leonard's arrogant,

complaining, commanding and critical ways.  A few seconds later, he

returned to the lab and, looking inside the time machine at Leonard,

he excitedly proclaimed, "It's my neighbor, Stephanie Hansen.  Maybe

 

 

9

she can be my little guinea pig."  With that, Frank--brimming with

enthusiasm--hurried to the front door, while Leonard waited beside the

time machine, annoyed by the interruption, yet open to the idea of

using Stephanie as a time machine guinea pig.

        As Stephanie entered the lab, behind Frank's lead, Leonard

beheld a fresh-faced, sparkling, tall and lean, long-legged, buxom

blonde with a narrow waistline, big, blue eyes, a small nose and

luscious red lips.  And he liked that... all of that! (Not to mention her

tantalizingly skimpy attire consisting of a tight, white midriff tank top

that exposed some cleavage and her flat tummy flesh, and really short

and tight cut-off blue denim shorts--'Daisy Dukes'--which revealed lots

of bare leg.  She also wore white socks and white sneakers.)  "Beauty

and sensuality combined with innocence and purity" is how Frank liked

to describe his eighteen-year-old neighbor.

        Frank jovially introduced the two of them: "Stephanie, this is

Leonard.  Leonard, this is Stephanie."

        "Hello, Leonard.  It's nice to meet you," she said in a soft, sweet,

foreign accent while shaking his hand and smiling.  Must be from a

Nordic country, he thought, looking into her bright, light blue eyes and

smiling back.  ... Finally, he let go of her hand.

        "Stephanie is in college studying art.  She dropped by to return a

book I let her borrow last week," Frank--staying upbeat--informed

Leonard.

        "Well, Stephanie, I'll have you know that I wrote a book," Leonard

said in a braggadocious tone, obviously trying to impress her.

        "Wow, what's the name of it?" she sprightly inquired with a

twinkle in her eyes.

        "The name of it is America's Golden Cultural Era and it's about..."

Leonard stopped himself in mid-sentence because an idea suddenly

seized his devious mind.

        "Excuse me, Stephanie, may I have a word with my cousin in

 

 

10

private; it won't take long."

        Leonard led Frank into the hallway, far enough away that they

could talk without Stephanie hearing them.

        "Frank, I just had an idea," he said, speaking in a hushed tone to

further prevent her from overhearing their clandestine dialogue.  "How

about trying to send that chick back to the nineteenth century.  I know

that time period like the back of my hand--it's what I write and lecture

about--and I'll know, based on what she describes when she's returned,

if she really went there or not. (I'm still ninety-nine-point-ninety-nine--

if not more--percent sure it won't work.)  Also, maybe you should tell

her that your time machine is a piece of art work so she'll be more

likely to step inside of it.  Like 'abstract art' or whatever they call it.  I

mean, if we level with her, it'll probably either freak her out or she'll

just laugh at it, not wanting to have anything to do with it... or us, for

that matter."

        "Those are both good ideas!  Good thinking, cuz," complimented

Frank.

        The conspiring cousins optimistically strolled back into the lab. 

"What's this thing," Stephanie asked as soon as they rejoined her, while

pointing at it.

        "Ah, I'm glad you asked, Steph," said Frank.  "This is an abstract

piece of art," he shamelessly fibbed.  "I bought it from an art dealer

the other day.  I just had them put it in my lab until I decide where in

the house I want it to go.  So many choices, you know."

        "What's it supposed to be?  It looks sort of Sci-Fi'ish," she curiously

inquired in a high-pitched, excited tone, her bubbly personality

becoming more and more apparent to Leonard, who always harbored

quite a fondness for ditzy, unassuming beauties.

        "Yeah, that's it -- a Sci-Fi piece of art work.  Would you like to

step inside of it, Steph," Frank warmly asked, as he walked over to the

door, and then opened it in an inviting gesture for her to enter therein.

        "Well, I don't know," Stephanie balked.  "It looks kinda scary."

       

 

11

        "Oh, there's nothing to fear.  That's part of the artistry of it --

stepping inside."  Frank, even as he talked, was smiling broadly, trying

to appear as friendly and harmless as possible, hoping the pretty young

thing would take the bait.

        "Well... if you're not going to slam the door shut and lock me

inside," Stephanie said a little nervously, still hesitant and reluctant,

though trying to make up her mind.

        "Hahaha, why would I do that?!  It's just a piece of art work, not a

cage.  Besides, do you see a lock on this thing?!  Even if we were that

sinister, we'd have to stand on the outside, pressing our bodies up

against the door just to keep you inside, and we couldn't do that but

for so long without tiring out.  And besides, what would be the point of

keeping you captive?!"

        "Well, okay," Stephanie agreed with newfound confidence, finally

swayed by her neighbor's soothing words.  She stepped up and walked

right inside.

 

 

 

12

Chapter Three

Through the Deep Tunnel

 

Suddenly, Leonard had another--what he considered to be--'bright

idea.'  Right after Frank closed the door, and before he could start

punching the buttons for the numeric keypad combination to begin the

process of transporting Stephanie to the nineteenth century, he

submitted it in the form of an impassioned plea: "Hey, cuz, I know we

have our little guinea pig, but think about something: if you're actually

able to zap her back to the nineteenth century, wouldn't she be scared

to death being there all alone with no one to guide her or comfort

her?!  If this time travel thing was to actually work, wouldn't it be

better for her to have me accompany her, guide her and protect her

along the way?!"  The truth of the matter was that Leonard just

wanted to step inside to be close to Stephanie, still feeling nearly

one-hundred-percent sure that it wasn't going to work.

        "Okay, Leonard, you win," Frank relented, yet knowing--because

he knew Leonard--that it wasn't a matter of true altruism.  "But

first..." ... he stepped over to a nearby table to pick up something...

"here, take this."  Frank handed him a device that looked like a

combination of a cell phone and a TV remote control.  "You can

communicate with me on this thing.  I call it The Comm.  I have one,

too.  There's no time for detailed instructions on how to use it, but I

think you'll be able to figure it out.  Here is where you type text

messages.  Just remember to press Enter and then Send after you

type a message to me, and then look for my return message on the

screen.  If you want to talk to me, just push this button and then speak

into the audio transmitter here.  You can hear what I say through the

audio receiver here, but keep in mind that you have to have the

 

 

13

speaker set to 'On.'  Those are the basics for the voice activation

system."

        Leonard just chuckled as he held the thing, looking at it, thinking

it was all so silly and absurd.  "Okay, thanks for the walkie-talkie, pal. 

Roger out," he sarcastically replied.

        Frank opened the door and announced, "Uh, Stephanie, my

cousin would like to join you inside."

        "Okay," she said half attentively, still eyeing the interior, followed

a few seconds later by, "Hey, I kinda like it in here, actually.  It seems

like some sort of a time capsule or something," spoken cheerfully while

studying a console.

        "You don't know how right you are, young lady; you don't know

how right you are!" Leonard muttered after he eagerly stepped inside

next to her curvy body, feeling like wrapping his arm around her back

and caressing her bare, tanned shoulder, and running his fingers

through her long, straight, light blonde hair... but he figured he'd just

have to settle for smelling her perfume. (Oh, how he wished, at a time

like this, that he was eighteen again, still in shape, and still a ladies'

man!!  Maybe then...)

        "What?!" she exclaimed confusedly with a furrowed brow, shifting

her focus from the console to Leonard, after Frank hastily shut the

door on them.

        "Never mind," Leonard simply replied, just glad to be in there, all

alone with her, if only for a short amount of time -- expecting it

wouldn't take Frank's time travel attempt beyond four or five minutes

to fail, but hoping that the inevitable failure would last a whole lot

longer.

        "So, where are you from, Stephanie?  Sweden?"

        "Bavaria, actually, but that's a good guess."

        All the while they were chatting, Frank's busy fingers worked the

keypad in the preparatory stages: He pressed one button and a yellow-

golden glow instantly filled the small room; he pressed another one

and a slight humming sound emerged, as well... both signs to Len

and Steph of something going on, possibly

 

 

14

about to happen, but Leonard maintained his skepticism while

Stephanie regarded those manifestations all as part and parcel of the

piece of art -- an unorthodox, Disneyland type of artistic experience,

in her estimation.  She lacked worry and just enjoyed it, as Leonard

initiated more small talk with her, though she barely paid attention to

the words coming out of his mouth.

        Now the yellow-gold light flickered and, a split second afterward,

the humming noise increased double in volume, giving all indications

of something--some change--about to transpire -- reducing Len's

skepticism, but only minimally.  Meanwhile, on the outside, Frank

kept pushing various buttons on the keypad and typing in information

on the keyboard: Date, time, location and 'transport code.'  He

entered some more data and applied a few finishing touches, lastly the

impending push of the Send button...

        At that point, Leonard and Stephanie's bodies felt whooshed away

like carpet dust being sucked into a vacuum cleaner.  And, then, they

experienced the sensation of involuntarily flying, twisting and turning,

through a long, black and white rotating spiral tunnel--a vortex--full of

a seemingly infinity of circles within circles... this lasted for ten

terrifying seconds... and then... Wham!  They found themselves

outside the tunnel.

 

        Amazing!!!  It happened so fast--as sudden as a millisecond--

without warning, like a jolt -- Leonard and Stephanie being thrust out

of the tunnel, no longer standing in the 'time capsule,' as Stephanie

had called it, no longer being hurled around in the whirlwind of the

endless array of swirling circles.  Now they stood on solid, natural

ground outside, on a small mound, under a dimming, grey sky in the

early stage of transitioning to night.  Evidently, they arrived there--

wherever "there" was--during evening hours.

        "What the heck happened???  Where are we???" Stephanie shouted,

 

 

15

shocked beyond words, feeling utterly disoriented, confused and

traumatized.  Leonard felt extremely shocked, but not quite as

much as Stephanie because, although formerly disbelieving, cousin

Frank kind of prepared him for the possibility of time travel in the

sense of simply letting him in on the plan.  As for Stephanie, she didn't

know what in the world just transpired; she had no clue.  At least

(Leonard) knew and, therefore, he quickly began to mentally process

the change of scenery.

        "Oh, jeez!!!  My little cousin actually did it," he softly said to

himself, in a state of utter shock and awe, while shifting his body

every which way and looking all around as if in a daze.

        "Did what," Stephanie questioned loudly and frantically, unable to

gather her senses, so upset she appeared on the verge of bursting into

tears and having a nervous breakdown.

        "This is a time capsule!  We lied to you about what it was in order

to get you inside of it because we wanted to use you as a test subject,"

Leonard unabashedly explained.  "We're in another time.  I'm pretty

sure it's the past, and I think it is, indeed, the nineteenth century, like

we planned.  Judging from that building's architecture," he continued,

pointing, "I would have to come to that conclusion.  Oh, and look there

-- there's a horse and buggy," he further observed, as it traveled along

a side street.

        "This can't be happening to me!  This is unbelievable!  How in the

heck did my neighbor invent a time machine?!"  Stephanie's voice

trembled as she spoke, her heart pounded, her hands shook, and it felt

like her knees might buckle as she stood beside Leonard on the grassy

knoll.

        "I don't know, Stephanie.  I really don't know.  But he did mention

that he has a way of returning us to present time, so I don't think

there's any need to panic."

        "No need to panic?!?!?!" Stephanie shrieked, clearly annoyed by

that remark.  Leonard completely ignored her sarcastically desperate

cry, either due to being so consumed in his observations of his

surroundings or insensitivity to her distress, or a little of both.

        It looked like a big city, possibly New York, he speculated.  Street

 

 

16

lamps lit the air, although enough daylight remained to not need them

quite yet.  A lot of hand-painted signs also came into view.  A bevy of

people walked about, mostly along the cobblestone sidewalks on either

side of the main street while Leonard and Stephanie remained on the

hilly stretch of Earth-floor -- rare in that urban location.

        Many trotting horses pulling buggies transported the people.  The

combined sound of all those hooves trotting on the tar streets marked

the first thing they heard in that big city.  The men were dressed in

classic nineteenth century attire; many wore suits and old-style top

hats too, while the women brandished antiquated hats, themselves, or

old-fashioned hairdos atop their heads and, down below, long--

uniformly ankle-length--nineteenth century style dresses.  Shops,

stores and buildings abounded.  Turning around and redirecting their

gaze, they saw another horse-drawn carriage rolling along the main

street... then another, and then another one trailing behind it as the

count mounted, forming a long horse trotting line -- making for what

amounted to 'heavy traffic' of that era.

        A big building, which looked like an old-fashioned theater, looked

about two-hundred feet off in the distance.  A string of people shuffled

into it.  Leornard and Stephanie quickly decided to go inside the

building themselves, and started walking toward it under the grey

twilight sky, amidst the hustle and bustle of the big city.

 

 

 

17

Chapter Four

Along the Cobblestone Sidewalk

 

As the time traveling duo made their way toward the building along

the cobblestone sidewalk--about one-third of the way there--they

came upon a giant of a man who was sitting on a bench, reading a

newspaper which he held up in front of his face, concealing it.  This

posed the perfect opportunity for Leonard to find out the year they

were in without having to ask a stupid--and probably even suspicious--

sounding question.

        Leonard came to a halt, standing directly in front of him with

Stephanie right by his side.  "Excuse me, sir," he began, making the guy

aware of his presence, "I hate to interrupt your reading, but may I

borrow your paper for just one second," he politely asked.  He lowered

the opened newspaper below his chin, revealing a friendly

countenance and a kind smile, and handed it to the passerby.

        The top right said May 15, 1893.  Leonard also glanced at the

headline, Theresa Vaughn Performing on Broadway at Palmer's

Theater, in addition to noticing that the name of the paper was The

New York Times.

        "Thank you, sir," Leonard said, and quickly handed it back to the

gentleman.  Then, he and Stephanie continued walking, while the

man's eyes locked on those cheeky, skin-tight, extra-short shorts--not

back on the newspaper's print--as she strolled on along the cobblestone

sidewalk toward the opera house, farther and farther from his lustful

view with each passing step.

        "Well, Steph, we have landed in New York City in the year 1893,"

informed Leonard after they distanced themselves from him far enough

to be well out of his hearing range.

       

 

18

        "Oh, wow!  This is so weird or awesome, or whatever you want to

call it," exclaimed Stephanie.  "I'm still trying to take it all in and

mentally process everything," she noted, still reeling and dizzy and

shuddering, though all that was beginning to diminish in intensity.

        "It looks like some people are staring at us, Len.  I guess it's

because our clothes don't match this time frame," speculated

Stephanie.  "I'm pretty casually dressed, and even though you have on

dress pants and a dress shirt, it's not anything like the dress clothes

these men are wearing, so I would suppose that they're noticing how

different our clothes look," she stressed.

        "Yeah, that's probably it," agreed Leonard.  "We can always say

we're part of the play and the clothes are too," he added.  Len knew

that, in that stretched midriff tank top, which bulged in the chest

area, and those hip-level, thigh-exposing shorts, Stephanie looked

practically naked to nineteenth century eyes, and he worried she'd get

arrested for indecent exposure and he'd be suspected of being her

pimp.  But, apparently, Stephanie was unaware of how scantily clad

she was for the time she was in.  "So, just remember to give that line

to anyone that might inquire -- that we're decked out in costume," he

iterated.

        "That's a good idea," said Stephanie as she kept strolling along the

cobblestone sidewalk, sticking real close to Leonard due to feelings of

insecurity and unfamiliarity of her surroundings, continuing to look

around and take in the scenery and people of one-hundred-and-

twenty-six years ago.

        Leonard occasionally flashed a timid smile and a nod as he

glanced up, barely making eye-contact with pedestrians when they

walked past him, dreading each and every approaching passerby out of

fear that one of them might alert the police.  One woman, walking

with her husband, gasped, "Gosh, she's half naked" to him right after

they passed them.  Len heard the remark, but he didn't think

Stephanie heard it because she didn't react to it, but, in fact, she did

heard it.

       

 

19

        "An article in that paper that that guy was reading was about

Theresa Vaughn performing on Broadway.  That may be what's on

schedule in the theater we're headed toward.  I hope it is.  I had a

whole chapter devoted to Theresa Vaughn in my book, America's

Golden Cultural Era.  You remember me mentioning my book to you a

little while ago?"

        "Uh, yeah... a little while ago... when we were in a future

century!" Stephanie sarcastically replied.  "This is just so bizarre!" she

then opined as her long legs moved forward, keeping in stride with

Leonard's gate.

        "Theresa Vaughn was a splendid musician and a cultural icon,"

Leonard stated, trying to give Stephanie a brief history lesson.

        "If Theresa Vaughn was such a superstar and so great, then why

haven't I ever heard of her," Stephanie casually inquired.

        "Because evil forces infiltrated the establishment and pretty

much erased her name and legacy from the annals of history," Leonard

candidly replied.

        "What?!?" spouted Stephanie, not quite comprehending what

Leonard was saying.

        "To put it simply, the bad guys won out.  The bad guys won out,"

he ruefully reiterated.

        Stephanie gave it some thought, then, seeking clarification,

asked, "Does this have anything to do with, like, in college when we're

all taught how the Founding Fathers were nothing but a bunch of thugs

and the Constitution sucks and early America was horrible and all that

sort of stuff?"

        "Now you're starting to understand, Steph.  Now you're starting to

understand," he repeated, as he was prone to do when trying to

emphasize a point.

        They kept walking together and soon came upon the steps leading

to the building's main entrance after they saw its big, bold name--

Palmer's Theater--overhead.  Then, they walked up the steps and

entered the

 

 

20

grand opera house.  They slipped past the ticket collector and then

they ascended the staircase and took their seats on the balcony, hoping

to steal a viewing without tickets with no one approaching them and

accusing them of taking their seats and ordering them to get up.

        Settling down in their seats high up and gazing down toward the

stage, Leonard, remembering The Comm that Frank gave him, reached

into his pants pocket to get it.  He wanted to inform him that they

made it to the nineteenth century safely.  So, first he typed a short

message--Can you read this?--and received a short reply right back--

Yes.  Then, he tried the audio, speaking to Frank--"Can you hear me?"--

and Frank's excited voice came through loud and clear--"Yes, I can hear

you!!!"  Leonard felt very excited about it, as well.  Then, they chatted

a little while, mostly about his and Steph's time traveling experiences

leading up to, and including, Palmer's Theater.

        Other than the shocking transport and arrival in the nineteenth

century, everything seemed to be going quite smoothly now: about to

see a cultural icon performing onstage, and Leonard being able to

communicate with his brilliant time machine inventing cousin fine and

dandy, as if they had cell phones.  But Leonard possessed a comm, not

a cell phone -- much more technologically advanced than cell phones

since they carried the capability of spanning not only space, but time

as well.

        After watching Leonard communicate both ways--via fingers and

via mouth--with Frank, Stephanie asked him if a video feature came

equipped with The Comm.

        "Let's see... hmm... Oh, wow!  It sure does!!!" he exclaimed in a

tone of surprise and delight after looking for, and finding, it.

        "You should film the play when it starts," Stephanie proposed.

        "Oh no I shouldn't!" Len firmly disagreed.  "For one thing, don't

you think these nineteenth century people would wonder what in the

world I was holding up; our clothes look suspicious enough, and I don't

want to draw any more attention to ourselves.  And for another thing, I

just

 

 

21

want to enjoy the play and not worry about trying to film it.  I just

wanna take a break from the twenty-first century, not fall back into

the same old habits of what I'm trying to escape," he explained.

        "Well, okay, that makes sense, I guess," Stephanie acquiesced. 

"It's just that I'm used to taking selfies and videos of everything," she

added, no longer light-headed and trembling, feeling somewhat

comfortable now.

        "Oh, look, people are beginning to take the stage!" Leonard

excitedly announced to Stephanie.

        With Leonard and Stephanie all settled down in their seats high

up on the balcony, the play was about to start.  The lights dimmed,

and spotlight shinned down on the stage and its cast.  As if on cue from

the lighting change, the audience's collective murmurs ebbed and then

subsided.  All performers wore very extravagant, old-fashioned

apparel, which seemed to be significant of an even earlier century. 

Len's curiosity was piqued to the point he felt compelled to inquire

about the show.

        Turning his head to his neighbor on his right, he swiftly

whispered, "Excuse me, sir, could you please inform me what the name

of this play is and tell me what it's about?"

        The distinguished gentleman neared his head toward Len to avoid

disturbing anyone and replied in a whisper of his own, "It's called 1492

Up to Present, and it's about Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New

World and everything that has happened from then up until now." 

Then, the gentleman resumed his concentrated gaze upon center

stage, and Leonard turned his head to focus on it too, but not before

issuing a polite "Thank you."

 

        ... ... ... Two-and-a-half hours later: The show had ended.  What

lasted two-and-one-half hours seemed like it only began a second ago

due to people being so lost and enthralled in the play.  It created

indelible memories

 

 

22

in everyone's mind.  People began getting out of their seats.  The place

filled with many indistinguishable voices, all mixed in together with

each other, merging and blending.  And the aggregate sound--although

no particular words or sentences could be made out--made for a

cheerful and satisfactory tone and, thus, an upbeat, joyful atmosphere

of emotion.  Surely, all found much pleasure in the play, saying how

much they enjoyed it, and savoring the remarkable experience it gave

them, Len presumed as he stood up, looked around and took a deep

breath of fresh nineteenth century air.  Aah, it feels so good being

here at this moment in this point in time, he thought.  Stephanie felt

the same way, and she gained a new appreciation for America and its

beginnings.

 

 

 

23

Chapter Five

Surprising Post-Show Encounters

 

        "Theresa was outstanding, wasn't she," Len breathtakingly

exclaimed as they descended the theater's staircase along with others.

        "Yes, she certainly was!" Stephanie wholeheartedly agreed.  "What

was the name of that lovely song she played on the banjo," she

inquired.

        "Little Annie Rooney," he told her.

        Now they walked on the first level, heading for the exit.  People

ahead of them shuffled out of the building, which Leonard and

Stephanie planned to do also... Just then, as they approached the

front door, a thirty-something blonde couple rapidly came upon them

in an aggressive manner, stopping right in front of them and blocking

their path so as to prevent them from exiting the theater.

        "You took our seats," the man said, angrily, to Len with a

menacing stare while his female companion darted her own pair of

piercing, blue eyes from Len to Stephanie, back to Len, then to

Stephanie -- continuously, as if she bore zero trust in them, in

preparation for the worst.  Len and Steph feared violence from them,

as well... and with good reason: they acted very hostile and paranoid

and were, obviously, simply mean by nature.

        "I'm sorry," cried Len, taken aback.  "Why didn't you just tell us? 

We would have simply gotten up and moved," he added, apologetically,

wishing the bully would just take a couple of steps backward and get

out of his face.

        "Because... the way y'all are dressed, especially the lady -- it

caught our attention.  I planned to wait until the show ended so I could

ask you some questions, and get some answers.  I'm a military

policeman, so you'd better not lie to me!  First question: Are both of

you American citizens?"  He spoke loudly, in a harsh tone, just like an

officer.  He looked like one, as well!

        Leonard gulped, and managed to offer up a feeble sounding 'Yes,'

 

 

24

now fearing arrest on suspicion of being foreign spies, unable to prove

their citizenship; American citizens they were, but natural-born

nineteenth century American citizens they were not -- a fact subject

to revelation by continuous probing.  Leonard faced interrogation right

there on the spot.  Unless he managed to come up with an awfully

good excuse for their attire, they appeared doomed!  Saying they were

a part of the play wouldn't work with them, he thought.

        Just then, out of the blue, Steph spoke up: "We know Theresa

Vaughn," she said forcefully.

        Len couldn't believe she just said that!  In his mind, that was

about the worst thing possible to say because, now, all they had to do

was to check with Theresa for verification purposes... and, of course,

she'd contradict Stephanie's outrageous claim.  Len didn't know what

Stephanie was thinking.  They were set to be fried, he thought.

        "If you keep harassing us, we'll tell Theresa and you'll be in a lot

of trouble," Steph threatened, exuding confidence and authority in the

face of danger.

        Now Len knew where she was going with this.  It sounded like an

idea that just might work, he thought, impressed by Stephanie's ability

to think on her feet.  But it was very risky!!

        The boldness on the man's face instantly waned; now he looked

intimidated and unsure of himself, for he knew that Theresa Vaughn

pretty much owned the city and yielded a ton of influence.  He glanced

over at the lady, seeming not to know what to say or do next.  She

looked at him as he looked at her, with newly formed nervousness on

her face, as well.

        "I'm sorry we bothered you two," the man said softly, sheepishly

looking down.  Then, he headed straight for the exit, with his wife

trailing right behind him.

 

 

25

        "Oh my gosh, Stephanie, you're a lifesaver!!!" exclaimed Leonard,

and then he let out a big sigh of relief.  "I thought we were caught!" he

exhaled.

        "Yeah, that was a pretty scary moment, I'll have to admit,"

Stephanie said.  "I definitely think it would be a good idea for us to go

shopping for some appropriate clothes for this century," she reasonably

advised.

        "But we don't have any money," Len whined.

        "I don't care; we're going to get ourselves some nineteenth

century clothes whether we have money or not," Stephanie declared

with unwavering resolve, her strong will becoming increasingly

apparent to Len.  His perception of her as a ditzy blonde was beginning

to change.  He admired both her quick-thinking skills and her ability to

take charge and be dominant when necessity demanded, plus her

bravery; although, he found all those attributes a bit intimidating, as

well.

        They began to exit themselves... but just then they heard a voice

emanating from behind them.  "Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing

you say you need money to buy some clothes," it merrily uttered.

        Len and Steph stopped in their tracks and turned around to view

the origin of the pleasant-sounding voice.  A plump woman in a long,

green dress and a white jacket looked as nice as she sounded.  The

chipper lady wore her brown hair in a bun, had brown eyes, appeared

to be in her fifties, and a broad smile covered much of her round face.

        "My name is Beverly.  I'm Theresa's friend and personal assistant. 

Perhaps she can help the two of you out.  Theresa is a very charitable

person.  She ardently strives to help the poor and she is known far and

wide for her philanthropic work.  Follow me; I'll introduce you two to

her backstage.  I'm sure she can help you folks find some suitable

clothes and get back on your feet."

        Len couldn't believe his luck!!!  He was about to actually meet

the famed Theresa Vaughn!!!  Stephanie felt excited too, but not

nearly as much as Len because--by never having been exposed to the

 

 

26

cultural icon that is Theresa in school--it was hard for her to

appreciate Theresa fully, merely based only on the things she recently

heard about her from Len and saw of her on stage, however amazing it

was.  Len, on the other hand, very well knew how much the

incomparable Theresa Vaughn deserved admiration!  There was none

other like Theresa in any century, in any age, as far as he was

concerned.  Theresa Vaughn, in Len's opinion, was simply the best!

 

 

 

27

Chapter Six

The Glorious Meeting

 

The nice lady gladly led Leonard and Stephanie to the door of Theresa

Vaughn's dressing room, then she stopped in front of it, gave it three

raps and called out, "Miss Vaughn, I met a couple of people who need

to talk to you.  Do you have a moment?"  Len's heart pounded.

        "Yes, send them right in, Beverly," she called back out.  Len's

heart began pounding even faster.  It felt like, not sparks, but

fireworks started going off in his head in anticipation of the meeting

like the build-up to a New Year's Eve celebration in which the clock is

about to strike midnight.

        With that, Beverly opened the door with a bright smile and

motioned for them to enter therein.  Immediately after crossing the

threshold, they stopped dead in their tracks, stunned.

        Before Len and Steph's eyes--looking right at them from across

the room--stood Theresa Vaughn.  Leonard could hardly believe it! 

She looked even better--more beautiful, more lovely and more

glorious--than she did in the old black and white pictures he saw of her

when he lived in the twenty-first century.  Out of her stage clothes,

she now wore a long, white dress with pink and blue trim and a pink

jacket.  Straight, beyond-shoulder-length, light brown hair framed a

radiant and sweet face which reflected the abundant amount of love

that dwelt in her heart.  Theresa's big, soft, blue eyes looked

interested in her visitors as she gazed at them near the farthest wall

from the door as they walked forward, coming inside, and her closed-

mouth grin was one of curiosity mixed with warmth, not as wide as

Beverly's opened-mouth grin, but every bit as meaningful nonetheless

-- the same priceless smile that Leonard had observed in some of the

old, grainy pictures.  And those eyes... Oh,

 

 

28

those eyes!!!  Looking at those old pictures alone, Len perceived a

pure soul, and seeing her in person validated that belief.  Theresa

Vaughn was not only in a class of her own, not only in a league of

her own; she was in a universe of her own!

        Beverly walked out and closed the door, leaving Leonard and

Stephanie all alone with Theresa Vaughn in her dressing room.  All

alone with Theresa Vaughn in her dressing room!  Leonard now felt like

a million fireworks were going off in his head and it was as if he

floated on air with his feet three feet off the floor.  It amounted to a

mystical, transcendental experience, even before he spoke the first

word to Theresa, and before she addressed him.

        Theresa just stood staring at the man with the dropped jaw and

mesmerized-looking eyes that were locked on her.  She was trying to

figure him out, realizing he was, obviously, awestruck.  Her eyes--

normally innocent looking and tender--narrowed and became intense

and concentrated as her mind got perplexed.  Who are these people,

and what do they want with me, she thought as suspicion crept in. 

She looked over at Stephanie attentively, picking up on their clothing.

        ... ... ... No one had said anything, still.  Stephanie glanced over

at Len; that stunned expression was stuck, frozen on his face, she

observed, as he continued to stare at Theresa in a trance-like state. 

That, coupled with the mounting seconds of silence in the process of

elapsing, prompted her to speak the first words.

        "Miss Vaughn, we--speaking on behalf of my companion--are

delighted and honored to make your acquaintance.  And... as I'm sure

you can tell... Leonard is perhaps a little too delighted and honored." 

Stephanie let out a little chuckle at her own joke while looking back

over at Leonard.  The apparent spell that Theresa's presence cast on

him--as evidenced on his face--remained, not in the least diminished. 

But Stephanie hoped Leonard snapped out of it... eventually.

        Theresa laughed a little--it was a cute, sweet little laugh--and

replied, "Yes, I see.  Well, it's nice to know that I have such an admiring

 

 

29

fan, but I must admit, his behavior is making me a bit

uncomfortable."  She laughed again.  Leonard started falling in love

with her laughter, as well.

        At last, Leonard managed to vocalize his first words: "Theresa, oh

Theresa, it is such an immense honor and a pleasure to meet you!  You

are so great and wonderful to me and to so many in this time period."

        "Thank you so much, dear sir.  Are you holding this time period up

in comparison to another time period, perhaps," Theresa inquired,

considering the last two words in his sentence a bit odd.

        "Yes, Miss Vaughn, 2019 -- that is where we are from," he blurted

out, so mesmerized by Theresa -- unable to even think straight,

incapable of keeping a big secret like that.

        Stephanie squeezed her eyes shut, immediately becoming aware

of the severity of his huge verbal blunder.  Meanwhile, Theresa looked

at Leonard with a shocked expression of her own.  But then, it clicked

in her mind: their clothing coupled with Leonard's claim lent a certain

level of credence to the idea; could they actually hail from another

century?!?  What he said was, perhaps, not beyond the realm of

possibility, she thought.  Her eyes narrowed again.  They looked over

at Stephanie, then back to Len, and then they shifted back over to

Stephanie again, as if she expected her to explain Len's bizarre

remark.

        "What Len means is... umm... umm... we feel like we are from

the year 2019; yeah, that's what he means," said Stephanie nervously,

then she forced a smile, looking every bit as nervous as she sounded.

        "Yeah, that's what I meant," echoed Len, trying desperately to

cover for himself upon becoming painfully aware of his blunder, feeling

like he'd just made a complete fool of himself and let the cat slip out

of the bag.  How could I have actually said that?! he thought to himself

-- only now, at this point, coming out of his awestruck daze...

 

 

30

But it may be too late, he thought.  The damage may already be

done.  Now Theresa will probably kick us out of her dressing room on

the grounds that we're lunatics, he inwardly speculated.

        But Theresa--too savvy and far too nice to just kick them out

right there on the spot--set out, like the officer before her, to conduct

her own interrogation proceedings.  Could they fast-talk their way out

of this one??  But first, she keenly observed both of them so she'd know

exactly what to ask.

        Turning to Stephanie, she began: "Tell me, young lady, are those

clothes you're wearing part of a stage act, like a burlesque show?"

        "No, not really.  It's just my casual attire."

        "Are you a performer?"

        "No, I'm a model."

        "What type of model?  A fashion model?"

        "No, I'm an Instagram model."  Immediately after saying that,

Stephanie knew that, now, she had goofed.

        "An 'Instant'-what??" Theresa said, scrunching up her face -- quite

familiar with the nineteenth century world of modeling, but totally

unfamiliar with that twenty-first century term.

        "Not 'instant,' 'Instagram.'  It's a type of social media platform in

which..."

        "Social media?" Theresa cut in.

        "Wait, back up.  An Instagram model models on the Internet." 

Stephanie rolled her eyes at what she'd just said: 'Internet.'  Another

slip-up!

        Theresa's next question came as no surprise: "What's an Internet?"

        "The Internet is like a super highway or network on the computer

that connects..."

        "What's a computer?" interrupted Theresa.

       

 

31

        "A computer is..."  Stephanie stopped herself, dropped her head

and said, "Oh my gosh" under her breath, feeling totally verbally

defeated, like giving up on account of being in such deep water

following question after question.

        Theresa, obviously seeing her state of distress, didn't want to

badger her any further, so she laid off of her and picked the other

source of interrogation available in the room -- Len.  Directing her

attention to the infatuated man, she began, "Sir, it looks like you

have something in your pants pocket"--now searching for physical

evidence of their true identities--followed by, "Would you mind telling

me what it is?"

        "Oh, that's just a device," Leonard said nervously, hoping it ended

there, but fearing Theresa's persistence.

        "What type of device?" came her follow-up question.

        "Oh, just a communication device.  Something my cousin gave

me.  It's not really important," he said uneasily--struggling with his

words--trying to downplay it.

        "May I see it," she pressed, still looking down at the bulge and the

black top part of it which stuck out of his pocket.  Her eyes seemed to

be locked on it, staring in anticipation of the pending revelation.

        "Oh, like I said, it's not important, nothing worth seeing," he

resisted, but weakly.

        "Still, I'd like to see it if you don't mind," she firmly insisted, still

visually fixated on it and showing absolutely no signs of giving up and

letting the subject rest.

        With that, upon feeling little hope of winning the battle of wills,

or wits, with her, he finally relented.  After he pulled it out, she took

it from his outstretched hand and visually scanned the futuristic device

intently.

       

 

32

        "Gosh, this looks pretty complex," she observed.  "Will you please

tell me what it is and show me how it works," she asked, her voice

teeming with interest.

        At that point, Len decided to give up his charade.  "Miss Vaughn, I

feel I must confess.  We are, indeed, from the future.  We came here

by way of a time machine.  And this is called 'The Comm.'  My cousin

invented it in 2019 -- the year we were in less than four hours ago."

        Theresa raised her hand to her cheek and gasped, "Oh my gosh,"

her eyes looking like a pair of saucers, feeling flabbergasted beyond

words.  It took a few seconds for her to mentally digest his words. 

Then, she exclaimed, "You know what, I actually think I believe you."

        "Would you like to chat with cousin, Frank," he asked in an

inviting tone.

        "Oh, wow, yes!  Without a doubt!  Converse with someone from

the future?!?!  You betcha!!!"

        Len was very pleased that Theresa believed him and also that she

eagerly accepted his invitation to use The Comm.

        "Please get me connected with him," she shrieked, brimming with

excitement as she reached her arm out to hand it back to him.

        "Okay, Miss Vaughn, just let me punch in some numbers."

        "Would you please call me Theresa," she sweetly requested.  "And

that goes for you, too, young lady," she added.  "Excuse me, I don't

believe I caught your name."

        "Stephanie.  Stephanie Hansen.  And my companion's name is

Leonard Baxter.  He usually just goes by Len," she informed Theresa

while he was looking down at The Comm, pressing digits.

        "It's an honor and a privilege to be allowed to address you

formally, Theresa," said Leonard amid his concentration, still pushing

digits ... then he lifted his head up and handed her The Comm.

       

 

33

        "Hello, is this Len?" asked Frank fervently after picking up.

        "No, this is Theresa Vaughn," she replied in a most pleasant tone,

speaking into the mouthpiece -- quickly finding it on her own, without

Len's guidance.  "Is this Len's cousin, the inventor?" she then inquired,

just as pleasantly.

        "Yes, it is, Miss Vaughn.  Oh, 'Theresa Vaughn'... that name rings a

bell.  ... Now I remember!  I read all about you in Len's book, America's

Golden Cultural Era."

        "You did?!"

        "Yes, and not only did Len write about you, he talked about you...

talked about you all the time, as a matter of fact."

        "Oh, really?!" Theresa said in a surprised-sounding tone while

raising an eyebrow and glancing over at Len, shooting him a quick look

of disapproval; she was, even back in her day, a stalker-wary celebrity. 

He accurately read her expression and worried that they were talking

about him.  Right, he was.

        "Is your cousin as good of a writer as you are an inventor," she

asked, more teasingly than curiously, while looking back over at Len

with a devilish smile and overall expression on her normally angelic

face.  Now he knew they were talking about him, and he turned his

head away from Theresa and grimaced, which satisfied Miss Vaughn's

sudden desire to torment him a little bit.  It was about as mean as she

could possibly be.

        "I wouldn't go that far," Frank humorously replied.  Theresa

laughed delicately and sweetly, like music to Len's ears.

        "Your time machine and The Comm are spectacular creations.  I

am tremendously impressed!"

        "Thank you, Miss Vaughn.  It took many years, didn't happen

overnight!"

        "That doesn't detract from the magnitude of what you have

accomplished!"

        "Thanks again, Miss Vaughn.  Your admiration means a lot to me!"

       

 

34

        "Well, Frank, I must say, you are a fabulous inventor!  Even better

than Edison and Tesla... combined."

        "Thank you for that kind compliment, Miss Vaughn.  And from

what I understand, you are a great entertainer."

        "Thank you, sir.  I just can't seem to grasp this -- what's going on

right now!  I mean, this conversation--me talking to someone from the

future--you--and you talking to someone from the past--me--is really

surreal!"

        "I agree!  It's 'far-out' and 'mind-blowing,' as they say in the

twenty-first century."

        "Well, for now I think I need to be getting back with my guests,

but may I contact you again sometime on The Comm in order to check

in on future events?" Theresa asked.

        "Oh, by all means!  It would be my pleasure!  Please feel free to

call me anytime, Miss Vaughn!"

        "Okay, goodbye, Frank."

        "Goodbye, Miss Vaughn."

        "Wow, what a thrill that was -- getting to speak with a person

from the future," proclaimed Theresa while reaching forward to hand

The Comm back to Len.  "Aside from this marvelous comm and the

time machine, what other technological wonders has the twentieth

and twenty-first centuries produced?" she curiously inquired.

        Len started filling her in: "Televisions, computers, cell phones,

airplanes... all sorts of things, which I'll describe to you as best I can. 

The airplane--a steel object that lifts off the ground and flies through

the air like a bird--will be invented ten years from now, in December of

1903, by Orville and Wilbur Wright in Kittyhawk, North Carolina," he

detailed, and continued to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk.  "... ... ...

Perhaps the best invention of all is Pepsi Cola," Len joked, noting that

"it, too, was concocted in North Carolina--Newbern, to be specific--and

it was, in fact, invented this very year--1893--under

 

 

35

the moniker 'Brad's Drink,' so, technically, it's actually a nineteenth

century invention," he set straight, "which is fitting," he added.  "So,

North Carolina, not New York, brought us both flight and the very best

soft drink on the planet," Len concluded, followed by a chuckle.  Then,

he wisely pointed out, "Discounting the great drink--unless you count

sugar and caffeine--these, and more, so-called 'marvels' have just

added up to make a more complicated, confusing and stressful world,

all combining to increase the depth of the swamp, so, on the larger

scale, they have served a negative end-result and agenda.  It's a whole

lot better here in the nineteenth century where things are far less

materialistic and much more innocent, simple, peaceful and free.  In

the twentieth and twenty-first centuries people are much colder,

harder and distant, partially as a result of all the machinery and

technology, and also on account of other factors, like social

engineering, for one.  Natural affection is much more intact and

prevalent among people here in the nineteenth century.  On top of the

culture, the simple lifestyle, tranquility, liberty and warmer hearts are

why I'm so glad I'm here," he said cheerfully.

        Theresa smiled and commented, "Well, I guess I am, too!"

        "Oh, and automobiles have really taken off with all sorts of makes

and models and they're being mass produced: there are all types and

shapes and sizes and they're everywhere you turn," he added.

        "Interesting," sighed Theresa.  "Tell me something," she went on,

measuring her words, "Speaking of the twenty-first century," she began

carefully, "am I posthumously famous in it," she asked shyly, feeling the

question carried the attachment of making her seem vain.

        "Unfortunately, not," Len said bluntly.  "As I was telling Stephanie

a little while ago after we arrived in this century, powers of darkness

have infiltrated virtually everything that was established in culture and

government and erased a lot of good, decent and wholesome

 

 

36

influences and trends, replacing them with negative and unhealthy

ones, including virtually blotting out your name from the annals of

history.  Sadly, hardly anyone in 2019 even knows who you are... or

'were,' I guess I should say, since I'm referring to a time far ahead of

this one."

        "Oh, no!  I'm not concerned about my own legacy, but it's really

tragic how those 'powers of darkness,' as you say, have done so much

damage and destruction to your future society!"

        "Yes, it is, isn't it?!" Leonard concurred, shaking his head and

looking down at the floor, grimly.

        Theresa, on an optimistic note, said, "Well, at least you can enjoy

living in this time period for a little while since you've made it here via

your cousin's time machine."

        "Yes, yes!  I surely can," exclaimed Len, lifting his head up and

nodding it, his voice now sounding hopeful and his face brightening.

        "Planning to stay long?" she asked.

        "I wish that being here with you in this moment could be frozen in

time" was his heartfelt reply, romanticism oozing through in every word

he spoke.

        Theresa smiled, rolled her eyes down, and started to blush.

 

 

 

37

Chapter Seven

Stephanie's Transformation

 

... ... ... By now, over five hours passed since the time traveling duo

entered Theresa Ott Vaughn's dressing room.  Stephanie was still in it

with Theresa, but not Leonard; Theresa had sent him out to hang out

with Beverly.  This was hardly due to any underlying trepidation she

harbored of him being a potential stalker; it was because, sensing that

Stephanie needed personal assistance, she wanted to help her one-on-

one in a private setting.  She point-blank told her that she thought her

emotional and cultural survival hinged on transforming from a twenty-

first century 'trendy' gal into a refined, classy nineteenth century

young lady, but on the larger scale, for the purpose of restoring her

very soul.  And, so, to accomplish this end, she began guiding her in

some mental-healing and psycho/spiritual rejuvenation techniques.  If

someone barged in on them and witnessed it--though impossible

because Theresa assigned her bodyguard to stand guard outside at her

dressing room door on orders not to let anyone inside, unless in case of

an emergency--it would have been a most strange and startling sight:

guided, closed-eyed meditation, mantras repeated over and over

again, the laying on of hands, swaying back and forth, occasional

gyrations, and things of that nature -- all solely rooted in alternative

American health and wellness tradition, Theresa being an expert in the

practice.

        ... ... ... The spiritual revival ritual finally concluded.  Theresa

removed her hand from atop Stephanie's head and told her she could

open her eyes.  They were very wide, bright and gleaming, showing

how great she felt.  A huge smile swept across her face.

        "Oh my, I feel like a completely new person inside," she exclaimed

 

 

38

in a state of frenzied excitement, very light-headed and elated.  She

was beyond overjoyed.  It was pure ecstasy!  "I feel totally cleansed

and I didn't even realize how impure and blemished I was.  A huge

burden has been lifted from me.  What a catharsis!!!  I am renewed!  I

am reborn!  I can't believe I listened to that type of music.  I can't

believe I looked up to those types of people.  I can't believe I followed

those folks and believed all the lies they fed me.  I can't believe how

immersed I was in that awful, rotten, degenerate, swampy culture!  I

feel as though now I am the person I was from the very beginning, the

person I was meant to be.  It's so clear how they robbed that inborn

essence from me ... and now, you, Theresa, have given it back to me. 

You gave me back to myself.  I cannot thank you enough.  I have

returned to my own, original nature.  It's like my heart, mind and soul

belonged to them ... and now they belong to me!  This is truly a

miracle."  As Stephanie spoke, Theresa looked at her with loving eyes

and smiled that warm, sweet smile.

        Theresa excused herself to go out of the room and fetch Beverly

and Leonard so they, too, may witness Stephanie's amazing

transformation.  Much rejoicing by all--including Theresa's bodyguard

who had been stationed outside at the door--ensued after they

returned.  Tears of joy streamed down Stephanie's cheeks as she

hugged each one of them.  Beverly, especially animated, kept hopping

up and down like a bunny and squealing like a pig.

        Following the lengthy celebration, Theresa picked up her banjo,

which she always had on hand, and played Little Annie Rooney for her

four-member audience, singing beautifully as she strummed.  Then,

she played many more songs for them, thus making it a little private

concert right there in her dressing room.  All of it felt very magical.

 

        Stephanie awoke on a bed in a log cabin and stepped outside to a

thick forest of pine trees and a golden dawn that reminded her of the

light

 

 

39

that came on in the time machine right before they got transported. 

Now she felt free and harbored a new zest for life.  Even the air

seemed fresher.  The cabin, Theresa's gift to Stephanie, symbolized her

kindness, and she gave Len one, as well.  They both expressed a great

amount of appreciation to Theresa for her generosity, and thanked her

profusely, considering her a heroine for the ages.  Len and Steph not

only began adjusting to the nineteenth century lifestyle, they also

made great strides in becoming nineteenth century people in heart,

mind and soul.  They loved riding in horse-drawn carriages and didn't

even miss their cell phones, not even Steph who had been really

addicted to her iPhone.  Stephanie, after acquiring a new musical

taste, learned to play banjo on a Buckbee model that Theresa gave her

as a gift, and she loved listening to Appalachian folk music. 

Furthermore, they planned to frequent Palmer's Theater and see more

Broadway shows.  That's something they really looked forward to!  A

fun and exciting time it was for them.  They felt very pleased and

content living in America in that era, enthusiastically, quickly and

easily assimilating to the rich culture inherent in it.

        Len and Steph had regarded staying in the nineteenth century a

'no-brainer.'  Only four days into it, Len told Frank his intentions over

The Comm and Frank wished them the best, adding that he moved

their cars, which were parked in his driveway, to a discreet location

and removed the license plates in order to avoid prosecution since

they, now, officially constituted 'missing persons.'

 

        Days turned into weeks which became months, and months

stretched into years.  Ten years passed in a flash for Leonard and

Stephanie because living in the nineteenth century made for such a

delightful experience.  Now, at the start of the twentieth century, the

Wright Brothers lifted the airplane they'd built off the ground.  When

news of it hit the press--unlike everyone else--it came as no

 

 

40

surprise to them.

        One sunny afternoon in late August of 1904, at an outdoor banjo

concert, Leonard struck up a conversation with a middle-aged,

gargantuan man about the Wright Brothers' successful flight.  Leonard

immediately thought the fellow looked familiar and soon recognized

him as none other than the first person he met upon arriving in the

nineteenth century, while walking along the cobblestone sidewalk

toward Palmer's Theater--the newspaper reader--the same man, only

eleven years older.  And during the course of their conversation--the

first time he didn't speak; he just handed Leonard the paper and

smiled warmly--the intriguing gentleman casually alluded to a

prospective time machine.

        "What's your name," Leonard curiously inquired.

        "Elias Baxter" came his reply.

***

May 15, 2019

        Stephanie Hansen walked over to eighty-four-year-old Leonard

Baxter, who was sitting in his armchair in the living room of his cousin's

house, and rubbed his shoulder.  But Leonard failed to turn his head to

look at her, and seemed completely unaware of her presence.

 

 

41

Nowadays, Leonard rarely moved a muscle.  He lived in his own little

world, twenty-five years younger, continuously staring blankly into

space.

        Frank Baxter, engineer and amateur inventor, returned to the

room and handed Stephanie a glass of Pepsi Cola.  A chubby,

effervescent, fifty-six-year-old in-home health care aide called out to

Frank from the hallway, saying she wanted to take her thirty-minute

break early, if he didn't mind.

        "No problem, Beverly," he called back out.  Then, turning to

Stephanie, he said, "Thanks so much for being here with my cousin

before he dies," in a much lower and softer tone.

        "I know how hard it has been on you and your family since he got

dementia," Steph said, walking over to the couch to take a seat on it,

while Frank prepared to settle down in his own armchair, facing both

Stephanie, to his right, and his cousin, who was to the left of him.

        "Yes, it has been, and I appreciate your support so much -- flying

in from Bavaria just to be with him after developing a friendship with

him over the Internet.  How many teen Instagram models would do

something like that?!" he asked rhetorically.  Reinforcing his deep sense

of gratitude, he said, "You kept him going when he was well.  You're so

amazing, Stephanie," he gushed.

        "Well, I read his book, America's Golden Cultural Era, five times. 

And before he lost his mind, I got really immersed in his nineteenth

century Renaissance project.  Funny how he was always telling me I

needed to change my ways -- 'transform' in his words.  I actually think

that some of it got through to me because now I really enjoy listening

to nineteenth century music, and I even dress more conservatively." 

She giggled a little.  "Anyway, the project was so fun and interesting,"

Stephanie pointed out.  "Like an escape to the past for me, as well as

for him," she explained, then sipped some

 

 

42

Pepsi.

        "He had begun writing another book, but he declined too quickly

to be able to complete it," Frank informed Stephanie.

        "That's too bad," she said.

        "Cousin still talks at times... or rather mumbles, I should say. 

Beverly jotted down some things he said the other day which she was

able to make out."  Frank walked over to the drawer, opened it, and

pulled out a sheet of paper.  "Here's what it was."  He read:

        I just met great-granddad Elias.  Putting the final pieces of the

puzzle together: Civil War soldier died.  Became a ghost.  Ghost was

with Theresa from birth to death.  Jumped into Elias then.  Inspired

the time machine.  Frank interjected, "In the early stage of his

illness when he was still talking a lot, he was always urging me to try

to invent a time machine so he could travel back in time and meet the

one and only true love of his life, Theresa Vaughn."  He chuckled and,

then, concluded reading.  I can imagine Elias lying on a hammock at

night, looking up at the stars, thinking about it.

        "Sounds like--in his head--he managed to totally escape to the

past," Stephanie said.

        Frank nodded and smiled.  "I wish we all could," he added.

 

 

 

Was reading this book an escape to the past for you?