The alarm blares in my ear. It is times like this when I question my sanity in picking that alarm above all others. Especially when I could be woken up to a favorite song, or the peaceful sound of birds singing. Why did I choose this one again? I reach for my phone to snooze it and that is the first time I realize that something is amiss. I cannot find my phone. I have not opened my eyes yet, but I’m not feeling anything even slightly resembling my phone when I reach in the direction of the noise. Ugh. Looks like I’ll need to wake all the way up. I open my eyes. The room is unfamiliar. Did I get really drunk last night? I don’t even remember drinking at all. Perhaps someone slipped me something. I begin to panic. The room appears to belong to a girl. Not that that makes much of a difference. I look for my phone, but I realize that it is not here. The noise is coming from an old-fashioned alarm clock. The time is digital so I’m putting its design at around the mid-90’s. Okay, so whatever creep kidnapped me has a thing for the past. This is confirmed as I look around the room to find posters of 90’s TV shows. This room has been decorated to look like a teen girl’s room from the time my mom was a teenager.
“Clara!” A voice calls from outside the room. It seems far away. Downstairs maybe? Then again. “Clara!” more insistently and closer. The voice seems to belong to a woman. Whoever she is calling has not responded. Before long, there is a knock on the door of the room I am in. “Clara! You need to wake up. You’ll be late for school.”
So, this is a game. I am meant to be Clara? I shake my head. Is this woman delusional or just sick? Whatever the case. I’m not playing into it. I look around for my escape. Luckily, there is a tree outside my window which seems fairly climbable. I dress in the only clothes available to me that I find even remotely likeable, some grunge jeans and a Van Halen T. Then I climb out the window and shimmy down the tree. A man is mowing the front lawn and sees me. “Just where do you think you’re going Clara? Trying to play hooky from school again?” Oh crap. The woman wasn’t working alone. I haven’t seen the woman, but the man is unfamiliar to me. He is dressed in jeans and a workout tank and seems to be about middle-aged. The neighborhood looks pretty upscale. Hopefully there are people nearby who will be willing to call to police once I tell them what has happened. Then I think again. Upscale neighborhood. Would they really believe me? Look at these people. They are the vision of middle-class elites. But their neighbors should realize that I haven’t been here before. Maybe they’ll still believe me. I have to try.
A kid on a bike rides by as I run away from the man. He’s throwing papers. Seriously? Since when are there paper boys anymore? It was like something on an old TV sitcom. The man does not give chase. Perhaps he knows his efforts are fruitless. He and his partner are probably packing it up right now in anticipation of getting caught. I stop at the first house where I see signs of life and rush to the door. A middle-aged woman answers. “Dear-dear Clara. What’s got you all flustered?” Clara? Is everyone in this neighborhood in on it? Just how many people can be privy to something like this? Why would they go to all this trouble for one girl, not even a wealthy one? Does this have anything to do with that expose I wrote? Is this punishment?
I run from the woman even as she calls out, “Your dad is really worried about you. Please, hurry home.” I ignore her. She obviously doesn’t know that my father is dead. He has been for the last ten years. Nothing makes sense here. The place is too quiet. It doesn’t look right. I find my way out of the neighborhood looking for something, anything to help me find my way back home. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears as I approach a freeway. I can’t risk trying to hitchhike, I walk in the grass that hugs it on this side. I am hoping following it will lead me to a town, or a city. Something. Finally, after a long while, I find a gas station. It looks different from the ones I’ve seen before. Am I dreaming or does it say the gas is just under a dollar a gallon? That can’t be right. Last I checked there wasn’t a gas station anywhere selling it for under four, and that was if you were lucky. This is the first time I think to look at a paper. I know it’s impossible to travel through time, but… The gas station has a paper dispensary. I look at the model displayed on its door. The date reads 1995. I swallow hard. That’s before I was born. Even my mother would have still been a child. What was going on?
Still shaky, I find my way to the station’s bathroom. It is dingy, but I use the facilities anyway. This is my first time looking in the mirror since I woke up in that strange bed and the face that’s looking back is not my own. It belongs to a girl in her mid-teens with straight, blonde hair. Perhaps that is Clara. I have no money, no ID, and I’m in the body of a teenager. I will not get far if I keep running. It is best to go back. Maybe I can figure out what happened then.
I make my way back along the highway in the direction I came and go back to the house. The man lectures me and tells me he’s worried. He says he’s called the school and the police, and he’ll have to call them back to let them know I’m okay. Correction, that Clara is okay. It is clear that this man truly thinks I am his teenage daughter. The woman hugs me. She tells me not to worry her like that. I just need to figure out what happened and how I can get back to my own time, my own body. I cannot tell anyone. They will try to evaluate Clara’s mental state. They may even lock her up. If this body is locked away, I cannot figure out what has happened.
I decide to look for my mother. If she is here, maybe I can use a story from her past that she’s told me to convince her. She might be able to get me back to my time. I don’t even consider finding my father. I’ve locked my memories of him away. Easier to get past the pain that way. I find Clara’s diary and rip out a few pages from the back. I hope she won’t miss them. I start writing down everything I remember that my mom has told me about her childhood. Her maiden name, her hobbies, her best friend Tammy…
One memory sticks out: “Did I ever tell you about my best friend's high school sweetheart? What was her name? I think it started with a C – Carla? No. Carrie? No. Anyway. Her personality was… I’d swear you were her reincarnated. You know Tammy, she believes in that stuff and she thinks you are. But it's uncanny. Oh, and the really scary thing? She died the day you were born.”