(I came across a creative writing challenge on a different blog, and I decided to try and participate. I’m linking to the first challenge here, go and check it out. This challenge is a story about what would happen if you walked in your door, the same door you walk in every day, and the house is still there, but you are in a different time…enjoy!)
Turning onto her street, she idly smoothed the wheel to the left to avoid the pothole, as she always did. A dull, throbbing pain the back of her skull was forcing her to squint, which aggravated the headache, a vicious cycle. Her mind was swirling with a frighteningly long list of items to accomplish. The more she achieved tonight, even in the waning hours of another long workday, the less she’d have to do when the weekend finally hit.
She was pretty sure he’d call her tomorrow and the prospect of seeing him, of having a dinner with him, well it was almost enough to obliterate the shitty day and the annoying-but not yet debilitating-headache. Force of habit propelled her hand toward the roof of the car, every day at the exact moment when the driver’s side mirror passes the front edge of the mailbox, she hits the button. Most days, the garage door chuggishly lurches its way upward, creating that opening for her to slip inside. Other days, bad days, the door catches, it rises only a few inches and then jerks to a full stop. She then has to pull into the driveway and wait, depressing the button again to lower and once again to start that ascent. It frustrates that such a simple thing doesn’t always go smoothly.
Today, of course, is one of those days. The door catches and she sighs in expected frustration. Waiting, she lets her eyes drift to the moonroof and she suddenly notices a light out of place. Craning her neck, exacerbating the pain with the movement, she notices light streaming from the upstairs window. Frowning, she rubs her neck. It is rare she forgets to turn off the light. In fact, she rarely turns it on in the mornings, preferring to use the brighter glow from the bathroom to churn through her ritual. Noticing the door has finally risen, she noses the car inside and hits the button to reverse the process. Purse, cell phone, remnants of an unforgettable lunch, bag of groceries, library book, and extra sweater; juggling, she manages them all at once, without giving a thought as to how she’ll manage the door. A balancing act worthy of a tightrope walker, some creative use of cleavage, a few swear words and, voila!, she is in the door.
Something is wrong.
Everything is wrong.
Shock seems to settle into her very bones, overtaking her muscles and common sense as the items in her arms drift to the floor; she is dimly aware of the sounds, the thud of the book, the crack of her lunch pail, the crinkle of the paper bag, but she is having too much trouble processing the scene to pay much attention to something as mundane as broken eggs.
The walls are the same, but someone painted over her bold navy/yellow combination with…she leaned in closer, her left hand automatically shooting out to find the light switch,…is that drab? Oh god, how can someone have painted her house since this morning? She takes a sniff, certain it will smell of fresh paint, the smell is different. She sniffs again, deeper this time, trying to place it. It seems familiar, but it does not smell like her house, like home.
For a horrifying moment she thinks she walked into someone else house by mistake, then dropped her eggs on their floor. But, if that were true, how did she get in by the garage? Unless there was some freak wiring problem and she accidentally controlled someone else’s door? Maybe that is why it took so long, why it stuttered and hesitated? Pivoting on one heel, she went back into the garage and punched the wall opener, the door started to slide up as she made her way outside. Ducking under the molasses-slow door, she quick glanced to her right and saw…955.
That is her address.
What the hell?
Her shock was starting to melt away leaving anger in its place. Anger, confusion, and not a little bit of fear. Slowly, hesitantly, she turned back toward the door.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I don’t know” she replied, “who could possibly be opening our garage door?”
“The only person with access, other than us, is Gray” came his response, “but he’s out of town.” Exchanging a look with his wife, Mac got up and headed downstairs to see who was at the house. He reached the lower level and stopped short. Whoever it was just went outside again, but left a pile of items in the hallway, including a spilled grocery bag and – broken eggs? It definitely wasn’t Gray, a more fastidious person Mac had never known. His brother would never leave a mess, for that matter, he wasn’t the type to come by without calling, either, even if he did have a key.
Mac turned toward the sound of his wife’s footsteps coming down the stairs. He glanced at her over his left shoulder before saying “something’s going on, maybe you should wait upstairs.” Julia snorted in response and then gasped as she caught sight of the mess in the hallway. Her gaze turned frantic as she whirled toward the playroom door, just off the hallway. It was still shut, she could hear the sounds of the kids playing in the room, but she still scooted around Mac and opened the door, her intent to see them, just to be assured that they were okay.
Watching them, she felt Mac come up behind her, his solid presence, his warmth, a comfort after that spurt of fear. He placed his hand on her arm, just above the elbow and gave a squeeze. She pulled the door shut and then leaned back for a moment, lightly resting against his chest. For just a second, she wanted to rest in a moment where everything is okay. She wanted to forget what is happening to them and just be. Gathering a deep breath, she turned to face him and said, “this is the wrong time for this to be happening. Let’s go see who did this” she slanted a sideways look a the mess around them.
Without another word, Mac turned toward the garage door and turned the handle.
She came to an abrupt stop. A tall man stepped out of the door and was staring at her car. She didn’t recognize him and couldn’t think of any reason why he would be in her house. Her heart started pounding and she was frantically trying to recall where she left her cell phone. Just then, the door opened again and a pretty, petite, brunette stepped out. Her breath eased slightly. Maniacal serial killers don’t usually bring dates. She hiccoughed a laugh, then shook her head at her own absurdity. Whatever was happening here could very well be because she cracked.
“You are an adult you are an adult you are an adult” she whispered to herself. Steeling her gut, squaring her shoulders, she took a step toward her car, ready to confront these strangers in her home.
Mac caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. His head snapped up, eyes sliding away from the inspection of the car that seemed familiar that was parked in his garage. They flew to a pretty young woman standing at the edge of the garage. She was about his age, early 30s, he would guess. She had thick, long, dark, curly hair and she looked quite determined. The back of his mind considered that to be an odd reaction for a trespasser, but he’d never trespassed anywhere, so what did he know? He glanced quickly to his right, taking his eyes off the woman, to look at Julia. Even now, it was painful to look at her and his heart squeezed tightly in his chest. She, too, was staring at the woman, but Julia’s look was puzzled, curious, even. Mac cocked his head as Julia met his eyes.
They both turned back toward the woman who chose that moment to speak.
“What are you doing in my house? She thought her voice sounded calm.
Mac thought she sounded like she was strangling a cat. “Your house?”
He looked at Julia again. “I’ve lived here every day of my life. This is my house. And who are you?”
“Who are YOU? This is my house, I bought it three years ago. What kind of game are you playing?” she was starting to feel outraged now, the longer this game went on.
The woman seemed to be getting upset, which made no sense, but it was making Mac more calm. His mother always said he had a contrary nature and he seemed to be proving her right, yet again.
“I’m Malcolm and this is my wife Julia. As I told you, this is my house. I was born here, as was my brother. Our mother raised us in this house and after she passed away, the house became mine, I’ve lived here ever since. Perhaps you’re confused? These developments look a lot alike, maybe you just turned onto the wrong street?”
Feeling frustrated that he was being an ass, a condescending ass at that, she stepped forward to make her point. “Look here, Mal-” She stopped because his face went deathly pale and he suddenly looked as though he were going to pass out. She quickly looked at the woman and she didn’t appear any better. Her face was frozen, mouth hanging open, as they both stared at her. Before she could formulate a thought, the man stepped forward and spoke one single word.
“Mom?” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming, instead of standing there conversing with his dead mother. When she stepped forward, she moved out of the twilight shadows and into the light of the garage, and Mac saw her face for the first time. Except, it wasn’t the first time. Every photo, every memory, every instant of his childhood was born in that face, the face of the first woman he ever loved. It was getting harder to breathe. Suddenly, he felt Julia slip her hand into his and he was able to gulp in a deep breath, still staring at the woman who was, unmistakably, his mother. His mother, who had died almost twenty years ago, when he was only sixteen.
“Mom?” she echoed. “Look, buddy, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m not your mother. I don’t have any children, and since you appear to be older than me, I’m quite certain there is no way I could be YOUR mother.”
What was going on here, Mac wondered. Still, whatever it was, he was certain that this was his mother.
“Olivia” he said, “that’s your name.
She jumped. How did he know her name? Mail. Yes, mail, he was in her house, so he must have seen mail with her name on it. She said so.
“Okay then, your favorite color is purple. When I was a kid, the living room wall was painted four different colors of purple, in a stripe pattern that you designed. The kitchen was red. There were dozens of photographs all over the house and the camera sat on the kitchen counter so it was always at the ready if you needed it. You read more than anyone I’ve even known. The basement was our play area, but also your library. We were allowed to READ the books, but never play with them. One of the only times Gray ever got in trouble was when he pulled all the books off the shelves to build us a book fort. He was maybe eight at the time. You are a librarian, which is fitting given your love of books. And the reason your car looked so familiar to me is because it is the car you drove when I was first born. I don’t remember it, not really, because it died before my second birthday, but there are many photos of us in that car.” His voice trailed off. “Gus! The car is called Gus.”
She stared at him, shaken. The brunette hadn’t said a word, just staring, a half smile on her face as she listened to him recite these stories. How could he know so much about her? And why was he speaking in the past tense? And who was Gray? And he better not have painted over her stripe wall!
“Okaaaay” she said, speaking slowly, “clearly I’m not who you think you are. I’m only 34 years old, I can’t possibly be the mother of a grown man with a wife.”
“And kids.” He looked at her strangely, but there was sadness in his voice. “We have two children. A son, six years old, named Oliver. We named him after you. And our daughter is Rosalind, Rosie, she’s four. I was born in this house in 2016, two years after my older brother Gray. Our mother-”
“Wait!” She interrupted, still not sure how she felt about his words. “You cannot have been born in 2016, it is only 2013 right now. Whatever is going on, I will try to find someone to help you, but–”
A look came across his face, she didn’t fully understand it, but it was enough to shut her up. They stood there for a moment, staring at each other. She noticed he was very handsome and the woman was very pretty. Wherever these children were, if they existed at all, she was sure they were beautiful. She didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t know what to say next, she just knew that whatever this was, it felt like a chance. It felt like a moment that only comes once, a moment you have to grasp, to experience fully, so you don’t ever forget.
He stared at her, eyes a little brighter, glistening with the hint of unshed tears. He didn’t know what to say to her. Didn’t know how this could be happening or what was going to happen next. It was a moment he could not forget and one that he was afraid was not going to last. He knew the words he had to speak, but he was afraid that telling her would somehow change everything, destroy this bubble they were in, this chance they had been given. He knew what he had to say, but that didn’t erase his longing to just talk to her. To tell her what life was like without her, to describe his kids, to ask her about his problems with Julia, to just have his mom back, even for a little while.
Another deep breath and he stared at her, memorizing her features, hoping she can feel his love for her, remembering her love for him.
“Mom, it’s 2050.”