by Rick Borger
“I hate your stupid dinosaurs.”
“Phyllis,” said Dad, “the dinosaurs aren’t the point. Our family vacation is an important time together. I want you to shut off your cyber center and start packing right now.”
Dad was in dictatorship mode again. He stood over Phyllis like a wall, refusing to let her finish one more level of Spy Adventure. She was about to sneak into enemy headquarters for the first time.
She stared at her cyber screen. “Why can’t we go someplace else?”
“Because of my ten-year timeshare agreement with Time Trek Incorporated. You’re the one who begged me to sign it, remember? You were jumping up and down at the presentation: ‘Daddy, Daddy, I want to see the dinosaurs.’” He bobbed up and down, mocking her.
“That was when I was nine years old! I thought I’d see allosauruses and stegosauruses and diploducuses. We’ve spent six summers there, and we’ve never anything bigger than a dog.”
She turned in her chair to square off with him. “Face it, Dad, Time Trek cheated us. There’s not one big dinosaur in that whole area.”
Dad’s face grew red. “There are plenty of other things do in the resort.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, there’s a swimming pool the size of a bathtub, two restaurants, and a gift shop with toy dinosaurs and trashy trinkets. That place is no resort. It’s a cheap motel.”
Dad was breathing heavily now. “The pool is not the size of a bathtub.”
Phyllis dropped her shoulders. “I’m so lonely there. I can’t call my friends or connect to the cybernet. I’ve watched the same stupid videos and played the same twelve computer games ten gazillion times.”
“Don’t whine and exaggerate. The whole idea is to get away from everything and be together as a family.”
Right, thought Phyllis, and to get me away from boys, and keep me under control.
“Your mother and I are waiting,” said Dad. “Either you pack right now and come with us or you stay grounded all summer with no cyber privileges and no communications. End of discussion.” He marched out of her bedroom.
Phyllis switched off her cyber center. Some day she would move away and end all of Dad’s discussions for good. Especially his discussions about whom she could date, and about curfews, and parties, and rules.
Meanwhile, she had a secret plan to relieve the next two weeks of boredom.
At the Dawn of Life Resort the following morning — or several ages earlier in prehistory — Phyllis executed her plan. Wearing her camouflage suit, she entered the restricted staff area. As long as no one saw her up close, she could pass as a tour guide.
Rounding a corner, she almost bumped into someone in an orange staff uniform. The woman stared right into her face and smiled.
This lady was too old to be on staff. With white hair and age spots, she resembled Phyllis’s grandmother. She had a scar like a dimple on her right cheek.
The woman gestured for Phyllis to pass. She must have thought Phyllis was a new employee. Phyllis hurried on.
No one was allowed outside the Dawn of Life Resort unless they signed up for a Jungle Tour. Phyllis planned to create her own private tour.
She found a door labeled, “Danger. Do Not Enter Jungle Alone.” Good, it was unlocked. Dinosaurs could not open doors. She slipped out into the brilliant sunlight and steamy air, and headed for the river.
Her plan was to hike downstream five kilometers to the Vault of Ages Resort. Her backpack carried jeans, a tight T-shirt, a bathing suit, sunscreen, and makeup.
Vault of Ages was an exclusive twenty-story hotel with three swimming pools and a water slide. Dawn of Life peasants were forbidden to associate with Vault guests. Once Phyllis had been on a hiking tour when an all-terrain Vault vehicle had passed by. The Dawn guide had said, “Everyone, look straight ahead and don’t speak.” The vehicle had sped up to avoid contact with lower life forms.
However, Phyllis had noticed the driver wearing camouflage. She could pass as a guide from either resort.
If she sneaked into Vault of Ages, she would find better entertainment there. By switching clothes and mingling with the guests, she could meet some boys, even if they were rich snobs. It would be a real life Spy Adventure game.
So what if she got into trouble? Maybe she would be banned from staying at Dawn of Life Resort ever again. What a tragedy.
Phyllis ignored the 140-foot conifers, the lush ferns, and the palm-like trees with leaves like giant feather dusters. She had seen them all ten gazillion times. The only thing she noticed was a few river rapids. It would be great, she thought, if the Dawn Resort held raft trips, but the river grew too dangerous farther on.
A black rectangle reached above the jungle in the distance. Vault Resort was no architectural marvel. It stood on the opposite bank of the river, accessed by a black bridge that was even uglier than itself.
A scraping sound made Phyllis turn. Striding towards her was an allosaurus three times her height.
It had vicious, hooded eyes, three saber-like talons on each hand, and teeth like rows of daggers. Phyllis knew she could not outrun it. She threw off her backpack and plunged into the river.
Allosauruses disliked swift water. Perhaps it would not pursue her.
The current seized Phyllis with an infuriated roar and hurled her downstream. She spat out water. Looking back, she saw the allosaurus trotting along the bank, watching her.
Phyllis swam with all her strength as she came to the massive face of Vault Resort. Its one-way windows were liked blank, black tiles. Was anyone looking out?
She was only halfway across the river, and tiring, as she passed under the shadow of the black bridge. She fought the current, but soon left the resort behind. Downstream were jagged rocks and falls.
Then Phyllis felt the river bottom. She lost her footing and was hurled along. She found the bottom again and struggled toward the bank. Trudging onto land, she dropped from exhaustion.
She heard splashes. The allosaurus was wading across after her.
Vault Resort was half a city block away.
The girl staggered to her feet and pushed herself toward the blank wall. “HELP ME, SOMEBODY!” She heard reptilian grunts close behind her. In a few seconds jagged teeth would clamp onto her. Hooked talons would shred her.
A wide overhead door opened in the black wall ahead. Out raced an electric jeep, sounding a siren.
The allosaurus challenged the jeep with a roar. Phyllis fell hard against the ground as the jeep zoomed past her, charging the predator. The allosaurus veered aside.
The jeep made a tight u-turn and charged again with its headlights on. To the reptile it must have seemed like a strange new rival with a high-pitched cry, competing for the food supply. Would the allosaurus attack or retreat?
The dinosaur howled with rage and retreated into the jungle.
The driver killed the siren and pulled up to where Phyllis lay. He swung open a door. “Get in.”
Phyllis could barely stand. “Hurry up,” he said. He was about sixteen, Phyllis’s age, and was dressed all in white.
As she slumped into the seat, he asked, “What’s the date back home?”
Gasping for breath, Phyllis answered, “July Fifth... 2095.”
“Just as I thought.” The jeep lurched forward. “You’re from the Dawn of Life Resort, aren’t you? I’m taking you back there, but don’t talk to me; I don’t even want to know what you’re doing here.”
The driver stared ahead. His determined chin looked familiar.
As they crossed the bridge he said, “You realize why we can’t talk?”
“No.” Phyllis did not want to call him a snob after he had saved her life.
“You don’t know it’s already Christmas for me?”
For a second Phyllis forgot to pant. “No.”
His voice softened. “Well, our resort represents a different time than yours. We’re five months ahead. I thought everyone knew.”
Now Phyllis understood. If this driver revealed to her some coming event between July and December, it could damage the timeline.
She had learned in school about the disastrous paradoxes damaging the timeline could cause. It could also earn you a prison sentence, if you were insane enough to do it on purpose.
The driver had risked more than his life to rescue her. He had risked criminal charges, and even now he was endangering the future. Many people would have let her die. If she had been in his place, she would not have intervened.
Uh-oh. There was her backpack, by the river. Some guide would find it and learn about her unauthorized outing. Would it hurt to retrieve it?
“That’s my backpack.”
“I suppose we’d better get it.”
He pulled up and threw it into the back of the jeep. He was saving her again today.
Then Phyllis recognized the guy from cyber news reports. Would knowing him increase the danger even more?
“You’re that guy... Your dad owns Time Trek.”
“That’s right, I’m William Sawyer. But don’t tell anyone you met me. We’ll both keep it a secret.” He smiled.
Phyllis sat back, not daring to speak.
They approached Dawn of Life. “Stop and drop me off here,” she said, “so no one sees us.”
“Can you get in?”
“The staff door at the back is unlocked.”
“Hmm, I’ll tell my father to have them improve their security. All right, I’ll watch till you’re safe inside. You’d better see a nurse.”
Phyllis left the jeep and hurried to the back door. The staff area was empty.
Though exhausted, she rushed toward her room, hoping no one would meet her in the halls. How would she explain being soaking wet? Oh no. She had left her backpack in the jeep. William would have to destroy it.
She reached her room and inserted her card to open the door.
The white-haired woman with the scar like a dimple sat on her bed, smiling:
“Who are you?”
“Someone who went to a lot of trouble to get here. I have connections with Time Trek, but no one knows I’m here. Just as no one knows about your adventure with Bill just now.”
Phyllis froze in the doorway. She looked around at the deserted hallway.
The woman said, “I could have stopped you from going outside, but some good will come of it. They need to improve their security here. Of course, I’m taking advantage of that fact myself. I’m a much bigger rule breaker than you are.”
The woman stopped smiling and stood up. “I came here to warn you, Phyllis. Don’t think you owe Bill anything after what happened today. He’ll hold it over you forever if you let him.”
“How do you—”
The woman stepped toward Phyllis. “He’s going to contact you in January to return your backpack. Don’t go out with him. He’s not the white knight he seems to be. He’s ten gazillion times more controlling than your father.
“If you marry him, he’ll never leave you alone. He’ll chase you down like that allosaurus did. You don’t want to know how he’ll treat you, or your children.”
The woman had backed Phyllis halfway down the hallway.
“That’s it, I have to go.” She turned and headed off.
“Wait! Who are you?”
“You know me, Phyllis.”
Phyllis dared not pursue the crazy lady. This was some hateful criminal from the future, exposing horrible information. What was Phyllis to do with such information? Ignore it and pay the price? Act on it and demolish the timeline?
She staggered into her room and locked the door.
How did that hag know about Phyllis’s life? Was she some insane relative? She claimed Phyllis knew her.
The girl studied her own face in the mirror. Her lower right cheek was bleeding. She had been too exhausted to notice. William had told her to see the nurse.
Then Phyllis realized she was looking at the old woman’s scar.
Copyright © 2010 by Rick Borger