Escape to the Past

 

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.  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; a humble, illiterate

thirty-nine year-old North Carolinian peasant villager named Elias

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

yard one summer night, enjoying the pitch blackness and quiet

solitude, looking up at the midnight stars and pondering that amazing

aerial feat.  In the ensuing weeks the idea gained more and more

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

psyche.  For some reason, ole' 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 specatacular -- a time machine.

 

        Months passed and Elias kept thinking about it.  Then, something

else cropped up in his head.  Something unseen seemed to be nudging

him to create a lasting oral family tradition about a time machine to

survive his inevitable passing, lasting long into future the generations. 

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 it constitued 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 boisterous voice, in contrast to Frank's meek one. 

Even their voices matched their respective 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."

        "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 in his 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 mysterous 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.

        "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.

        "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 woolen driving cap off his balding fifty-nine year-old head.

       

 

4

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

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

admonished.

        "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 the meaning laden within 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, laughing so hard.

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

unbelievable!  I guess that 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 after

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

cousin's 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," he 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 with sharp eyes.

        "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.  Frank, 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 was 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 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 4x4x8

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 interiror unit walls, only the back

side 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 eyes again, again casting them on Frank. 

"This whole thing is crazy.  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.

        "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--went to the front door, while Leonard waited beside the

time machine, annyoed at the interuption, but 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 beautiful, tall, lean, long-legged, buxom, blue-eyed blonde

with a small waistline, big eyes and delicate features, and he liked

that... all of that! (Not to mention her tantalizingly skimpy attire

consisting of really short and tight cut-off blue denim shorts--'Daisy

Dukes'--which revealed lots of leg, and a tight, white midriff tank top

that exposed some cleavage and accentuated her flat tummy.) She also

wore white socks and white sneakers.

        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 foreign

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

country, he thought, smiling back.

        "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.

        "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 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 enable 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, 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," asked Stephanie 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 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, protect her and guide 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--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, "Umm, Stephanie, my

cousin would like to join you inside."

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

by, "Hey, I kinda like it in here, actually.  It seems like some sort of a

time capsule or something," spoken cheerfully.

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

how right you are!" Leonard said 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.

        "What?!" she exclaimed confusedly, shifting her focus to

Leonard, after Frank hastily shut the door on them.

        "Never mind," Leonard simply replied, just happy 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 were signs to Len

and Steph that something was 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 wasn't worried, just enjoying it, as Leonard

initiated more small talk with her, though she was barely paying

attention to what he said.

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

the humming noise increased double in volume, giving all indications

that something--some change--was 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, last of

which was the impending push of the Send button... Now that was

done.  At that point, Leonard and Stephanie felt like they were being

whooshed away like carpet dust being sucked into a vacuum cleaner,

and then they experienced the sensation of traveling through a long,

black and white rotating spiral tunnel 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 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, Geez!!!  My little cousin actually did it," Leonard softly said

to himself, in a state of utter shock and awe, while looking around as if

in a daze.

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

gather her senses.

        "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 in 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 observerd, 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 she

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 frantic 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 there was still enough daylight remaining 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 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

aggregate sound of those hooves trotting on the tar streets marked the

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

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--uniformally

ankle-length--nineteenth century style dresses.  Shops, stores and

buildings abounded.  Turning around and redirectioning their gaze,

they saw another horse and buggy carrying people 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.  People shuffled into

it.  They quickly decided to go inside the theater themselves, and

started walking toward it under the greying 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 a

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

upon a man sitting on a bench who was 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 stop, standing right 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 face, revealing a friendly

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

        The top right read 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

that they were 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.

        "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 midriff tank top, which stretched out and bulged in the

chest area, and those hip-level, thigh-exposing shorts, Stephanie would

be considered practically naked, and he worried that she'd get arrested

for indecent exposure and he would 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 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 appraching

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

heard it, as well.

       

 

19

        "An article in that paper the 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!  This is just so bizarre!" opined Stephanie 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 so great, then why haven't I ever heard of

her," Stephanie casually asked.

        "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 upper balcony,

hoping to steal a viewing without tickets with no one approaching

them and saying they were taking their seats and had to move.

        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 and received a short reply right back.  Then, he tried the

audio, speaking to Frank, and Frank's voice came in loud and clear. 

Other than the shocking transport and landing 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 on The Comm.

        "Let's see... hmm... Oh wow!  It sure is!!!" 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 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 ole 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.

        "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,

spotlight shinning 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 perforemers 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, and the aggregate sound--although no particular words or

sentences could be made out--made for a cheerful and satisfactory

tone, making for 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 were preparing to do... Just then, as they were approaching

the front door, a middle-aged couple rapidly came upon them in an

aggressive manner, blocking their path so they couldn't exit the

theater.

        "You took our seats," the man said, angrily, to Len while his

female companion darted her pair of mean, light 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.

        "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.

        "Because... they way ya'll 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

revealation 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'd 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 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 had 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 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 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, although he found the

latter attribute 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 uttered.

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

the origin of the kind sounding voice.  It was a woman who looked as

nice as she sounded.  The lady had brown hair in a bun, brown eyes,

appeared to be in her fifties, and she was smiling broadly.

        "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 was 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 of her from Len and seen of her on stage, though 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, where 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 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.

        Before Len and Steph's eyes, looking right at them, 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; straight, beyond-shoulder-length,

light brown hair, capped off by a radiant and sweet face which

reflected the abundant amount of love that dwelt in her heart.  Her

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 was validation of that belief. 

Theresa Vaughn--not only in a class of her own, not only in a league of

her own--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 was 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, 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 creept in.  She looked over at

Stephanie attentively, picking up on their clothing.

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

Len; that stunned expression stuck, frozen on his face, she observed. 

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 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,

thinking the last two choice of 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 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 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 word.

        "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 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.  Would you mind telling me what

it is?"  Now she searched for physical evidence of their true identities.

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

at that point, 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 adjured.  "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 rings a bell. 

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 talked 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 expression on her normally angelic face.  Now

he knew they were talking about him, and he turned his head and

grimaced, which satisfied Theresa'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.  "... ... ... 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 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 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, seeing 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

mental, emotional and spiritual survival hinged on transforming from a

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

century young lady, but on the bigger 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 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, reflecting

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.  What a

catharsis!!!  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, horrible, 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 mind, heart

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--occurred 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 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 harbored a new zest on life.  Even the air seemed fresher. 

The cabin, Theresa's gift to Stephanie, signified her kindness, and she

gave Len one, as well.  They both expressed a great amount of

appreciation to her for her generosity, and thanked her profusely.  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.  For example, 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 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 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 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 in his driveway, to a discreet location in order to

avoid prosecution, since they, now, officially constituted 'missing

persons.'

 

        Days turned into weeks which became months, and months

stretched into years.  Eleven years passed in a flash for Leonard and

Stephanie because living in the nineteenth century provided such a

delightful experience.  Now, at the start of the twentieth century, the

Wright Brothers lifted the airplane they built off the ground.  When

news of it hit the press, it came as no

 

 

40

surprise [to them].

        One sunny afternoon in late August of 1904 Leonard struck up a

conversation with a middle-aged 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 a decade-and-one-year 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 in

acknowledgement 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.  An 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 on the Internet.  How many 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 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

only one 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.