“Never have I ever...broken a bone.”
A chorus of groans and complaints filled the air of Caroline’s bedroom as I giggled. Holding my hand upright, I still had four out of five fingers raised. All the rest of the girls were down to their final few. Penny glared at me from across the circle as she put down her last finger, the cast over her left arm glowing white in the dim light.
“Lauren, you always win this game!”
I grinned. “What can I say? I’m just so much more careful than all you crazy people.”
Caroline rolled her eyes, “It’s because you never do anything but read.”
“It’s totally true!”
Overlapping agreement from the other girls bounced on the walls even as I continued to shake my head.
“Bye Caroline! Happy Birthday again!”
“Bye Lauren, see you at school!”
I walked out of the house, my backpack pulling on my shoulders. Rolling storm clouds tinted the sky a darker grey and with each gust of wind, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around me. Slow drops of rain hit the sidewalk around me, smudging leftover chalk drawings across the cement. I entered the town square, just a few more blocks and I would be home. The square was deserted today, only a couple of swirling leaves accompanying me. The whispering wind and the slap of my tennis shoes against the ground were the only noises, until I heard yelling.
I jerked my head upwards to see a stooped, old man standing in the doorway of the vacant shop between the bookstore and the candy store. His arm was raised above his head, swinging back and forth in a wave towards me. My eyes widened and I dropped my gaze to the ground, picking up the pace of my steps a little. When I glanced through the corner of my eye, my heart dropped. He was hobbling across the street towards me. My legs tensed as part of my brain yelled at me to run. But the other part of my brain reminded me what my parents would think if I ran away from a little old man trying to talk to me. I turned to face him, my fingers running the zipper of my jacket up and down.
The old man reached the sidewalk beside me, a wide smile across his face even as he gasped for breath. Now that he was closer I could see him a lot better, and on the whole he looked perpetually shocked. On top of his head he had a burst of stark white hair and transparent blue eyes that stared fully into my face. His smile was a light shade of yellow and wrinkles crinkled on his face around it.
“Are you Lauren Fulbright?”
My breath caught in my throat. I was barely able to dip my head in a nod.
A twinkle sparked in his eye and his strong voice dropped a volume level.
“What if I told you, you’re a celebrity in the future?”
A scoff was on the tip of my tongue.
“I don’t think I believe you.”
Even as I said the words, my mind drifted. What if?
“Ha!” I jumped at his exclamation. “I thought you might say that. But I can show you! Follow me!”
The old man started back towards the empty shop and I tugged harder on my zipper.
“I have to get home.”
He looked back, “It will take absolutely no time. Come on!”
“I don’t think-” Then Caroline’s accusation filled my head and I shut my mouth. I could have real adventures too.
I followed after the old man, pausing in the doorway of the shop.
“Sir? What’s your name?”
Already inside, his laugh echoed through the room. A wholesome laugh, soft and full of depth. My shoulders relaxed a little as he answered.
“How silly of me! You can call me Mr. Turner.”
I walked inside the building, coughing as dust rose from the floor. In the middle of the room was a table, piled with an assortment of junk and beside it, a chair.
“Sit down, sit down!” Mr. Turner gestured wildly towards the chair.
I dropped my backpack to the floor and slowly sat. Mr. Turner buzzed around the table, fiddling with various pieces before he slapped a baseball cap onto my head backwards. I clenched my eyes, quivering slightly as the cap vibrated against my skull. When I opened my eyes-
I was still in the abandoned building, looking into Mr. Turner’s pale eyes.
He grinned a wide, yellowing smile. “Of course not! You have to flip it around!”
I reached up for the brim of the cap, freezing as he waved his hands in my direction.
“Calm down, I have to give you the instructions. When you flip the cap around, it will take you 250 years into the future. You may walk around and even talk to people but do not tell them who you are. You have two hours to explore before the machine sends you back, if you need to get home quickly, flip the hat backwards again.”
I nodded, wide eyed as I reached for the hat again.
“And one more thing, don’t take off the hat.”
With that, I spun the cap around, gasping as my eyes filled with swirling colors. My brain rattled inside my head as the cap increased it’s vibrations and the wooden chair shook from the effort. A blinding flash of light filled the air and I shut my eyes.
The shaking subsided and a warmth flooded over me. The chair beneath me felt different and I opened my eyes to see a park bench instead, and a bright sun overhead. The sky shone a bright blue and the surrounding trees were...purple? I got up from the bench and approached the closest one, sure my eyes were playing tricks. But no, each leaf was an iridescent purple instead of green. A plague at the base of the trunk caught my eye-
‘Amaranthine Trees: The first ever artificially photosynthesized trees, produced by Dr. Martin Brooks for the Forest Expansion Project.’
The rest of the plague was scientific terms, dates and names, but as I continued to look around, I realized where I was. It was a dedicated park, full of accomplishments through the years. I walked deeper into the park, glancing in all directions for even one mention of my name. Maybe I become a doctor in the future, I had not considered it before but obviously something happened. Or perhaps I had discovered a new species! At the path’s crossroad, a large sign pictured a map and I scanned the points. Surely it would be on here.
“The Fulbright Statue,” I whispered underneath my breath, reading the words over and over.
I memorized the path, just a few right turns and then a left, and took off down the path. I turned the corner and nearly ran into a little boy with his mother. I mumbled my apologies and started to continue when I noticed the cast on the little boy’s leg, a cast with my face on it. Or at least, an older version of my face.
“Excuse me,” I smiled, chewing on the words. “I like your cast!”
The boy hid slightly behind his mom, a small smile revealing a pair of missing teeth.
“Lauren Fulbright is my hero,” his voice was a whisper but the words filled my head.
His mother stared intently into my face, and I pulled away from her eye contact.
“Who are you?”
I licked my lips. “A stranger, from out of town.”
She opened her mouth to say more but I was already walking away. Only as I got out of their view did I realize, they looked normal. No flying scooters or dramatic hairstyles. Their clothes were a little bit differently styled, but all in all, they looked like the people of my time.
I shoved the thought out of my head and picked up speed. Right turn. Right turn. Right turn. My heart was hammering against my chest as I made the left turn and burst into a clearing. And there I was. Small groups of people were milling around, reading plaques and talking to each other, circling a single object. A bronze statue, slightly tarnished from time except for one gleaming golden colored spot on my right foot. The statue was just of me standing, arms at my side, one leg slightly behind the other and my face uplifted towards the sun. One of the larger groups was led to the base of the statue by a spindly young man, standing about a head taller than the rest of the people. On his shirt was another picture of my face and the caption, ‘Fulbright Tour Guide’. I wandered closer, trying to overhear as he gestured to the statue behind him. A couple people started rubbing the statue’s foot, or more specifically I noticed, the foot’s smallest toe. I frowned, trying to come up with a single explanation.
“Lauren Fulbright!” My heart stopped and then I realized it was only the man starting his speech.
“Known as ‘The Girl with the Glass Foot’, Fulbright was famous for her world record injury- the most repeated breakage of a single bone.”
“What!” I clamped a hand over my mouth as soon as the word escaped my lips.
The man shot me a dark glance and I pretended to be looking at the ground, even as my face burned red.
“Throughout her life, she managed to break her smallest toe a total of 342 times. Because of this medical phenomenon, many scientists and doctors performed studies that led to the discovery of many of the cures and tools we have today. Thanks to her inspiration, we as a society have been able to…”
His voice started to blur out and the sound of my breathing filled my ears. I was gasping for air and my head was spinning. Surely, this couldn’t be my future. No more than an accident that needed fixing. But everywhere I looked, the proof multiplied. T-shirts and casts on every person walking by, plastered with my face. Snippets of conversations, praising my part in history.
I had to get away.
I spun the hat and again was blinded by light. When my eyes cleared, I was back in the old building. My heart was thundering and I couldn’t gather my thoughts. Mr. Turner was standing in front of my, his child-like eyes expectant.
But I wasn’t going to accept it. I tore the hat off my head and threw it at him. He fumbled with it slightly, shock rippling through him.
“You’re a liar! It won’t happen!”
If he tried to respond, I didn’t hear him. I grabbed my backpack from the floor and ran out of the room. The darkness from the water soaked clouds was a stark contrast from the warm sun and a chill stroked my arms. I kept sprinting down the sidewalk to my house and that’s when the sky opened. Rain dumped down onto my head and I fruitlessly held my bag tight to my stomach, shielding it as much as possible. The glowing windows of my house came into sight through the rain and I wrenched open the front door, throwing myself inside.
My parents looked up from the living room couch, eyebrows pinched as they took in my shivering, panting figure.
“Honey, are you okay?”
I looked around the house, my nice, safe house, and smiled.
“Just ran to try and beat the rain, as you can see I sort of failed.”
Their worried faces relaxed and I climbed the stairs to my room, eager to get out of my wet clothes. Closing the door to my room, I peeled off my wet jeans and grabbed a pair of leggings. My wet skin stuck to the fabric and I yanked hard to pull them on. With one final pull, my foot made it through the leggings and slammed into the corner of my dresser.
I gritted my teeth, pulling off my sock slowly and groaning at the swelling and purple shades. A knock on my door sounded and I carefully pulled my leggings on all the way.
My dad stuck his head through the door and saw me sitting on the ground. He came closer and I showed him my toe, after a moment he spoke.
“Aw honey, it looks like you broke your toe, I’ll go get a pack of ice.”
He left the room and the gravity of his words sunk in. A nauseous feeling settled in the pit of my stomach.