“You must accept the fact that what you know is not all there is.”
That’s what she said to me, the first time I met her. Selene, I mean, trying to explain how she got here. I’ve never known anyone like her, and I guess that mostly
has to do with the fact that she’s not exactly from here. From now. I didn’t understand at the time what that meant. There, in the run-down library, in the dark; not when she stepped out of the shadows and not now, not truly.
As I study the same page I’ve been on for the last five minutes, I begin to wonder how many people have looked at this book sharing my thoughts. The heavy volume in my lap is worn with age, no longer the vibrant red it once was. But, somehow, it still manages to have that book smell. The pages are free of mildew, thankfully. How many have stared at these scattered words, hoping for answers? How many actually got any?
“You know, if you keep looking like that, your face is going to stay that way,” Reggie says, grinning, pulling me from my thoughts. I hadn’t noticed her come in.
I say nothing, pretending to be consumed by the knowledge that refuses to give itself up.
“Why don’t you take a break, Ellis?”
This time, I look up. I try to give her a smile, but I know it’s lopsided and doesn’t quite reach my eyes. From her place in the doorway, she is still smiling but I can see the concern creeping in.
“In a bit, promise.” I say, bringing my attention back to the book.
She silently strides across the room and perches on the arm of the cushioned chair I’ve taken up residence in. “Do you know what time it is?” she asks, her voice soft.
I shrug, but suspect it’s late if the burning behind my eyelids is anything to go by.
“I really think you should take a break. You’ve been reading for hours. It couldn’t hurt,” she stands upright and folds her arms, “and besides, Selene said you have until the equinox. That’s months away.”
Suppressing an oncoming yawn, I concede, “You’re right. I’m just so wired. I can’t believe you’re even on board with this, this is absolutely-”
“Honey,” she says firmly, “I was there.”
“I know. I know. I just-I don’t know, I feel like I’m out of my mind.” I confess, rubbing at my eyes until I see patterns in the darkness behind them.
“I think we could both use some sleep. Tomorrow we’ll look at this together.” For some reason, the reassurance in her voice makes me want to cry.
That’s the thing. I’ve never known someone who affected me so, drawing out this overwhelming joy. I’ve never felt so secure, in all aspects. The fact that she’s here alone is the only reason I haven’t spontaneously combusted through this whole ordeal. I’m still thinking this when I’m lying beside her and my eyes close.
In my sleep, I see many faces. The ones I clearly remember belong to Reggie and Selene. Reggie and I are back in the library again, Selene where we first found her. She’s trying to tell me something about the book. She looks distressed behind the small, circular lenses covering her eyes. Her hands are busy adjusting her hair every few minutes as she spoke, a nervous habit. In her afro are tiny white flowers, baby’s breath. I wonder if she put them there herself. They only enhance her beauty. I watch as she and Reggie speak, seemingly unable to do anything. There’s a tremendous pain running up my spine. Reggie looks over at me, worried. It is incredibly strange to see this woman, this unmovable force beside me, uncertain. Her hazel eyes are questioning me, and before I can think to answer, I’m pulled back to reality.
It takes me a moment to realize my phone is ringing and Reggie isn’t next to me.
I snatch it from the bedside table and hastily swipe my thumb over the answer button, slurring with sleep, “Hello?”
“Hi, sweetie. Sorry to wake you.”
I sigh with unexpected relief, “Hey mom.”
“How are you?”
My eyes skitter across the room as I think of how to answer. Wandering over the clothing strewn on furniture and pieces of Reggie’s half-finished art, I draw my breath. The sudden feeling of running out of time takes hold. It takes everything in me not to burst into hysterics. Ever since I was a kid, she’s always known when something is going on. I can’t share this with her, though.
“I’m alright. I had a late night last night.” So at least I wasn’t completely lying. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good, sweetie, good. My joints are a little stiffer today. Damn arthritis…I’m making dinner tonight. I was wondering if you and Reggie wanted to come over.” She sounds hopeful and it physically pains me because I know what I’m going to say.
“That sounds amazing, ma, but we can’t tonight. I’m sorry.”
The disappointment is barely there, but present nonetheless, “Oh, that’s fine, Ellis. Soon though. You have to promise.”
Smiling, I promise. After a few moments of other lovely idle talk, we hang up. I lay there a little while longer, allowing myself to stare into gentle space. It’s Sunday, after all. But, there’s a gnawing in my gut. I need to get back to work. I need to figure the book out and get things-
The book. Shit. Where did I leave the book last night? I catapult out of bed, falling over myself until I make it down the hall to the living room. The chair is the first thing I see, but no book. I was so tired last night, I have no idea where I put it. My hands immediately find my hair, pulling, pulling.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” and suddenly, she’s there. “I thought I heard you get up. Are you okay?”
“Reg, the book. Where-”
“It’s in the kitchen, Ellie.”
I roll my eyes at the nickname, and breathe.
“I was just trying to see if I could make sense of anything. I’m not even sure what you’re supposed to do with it.” she said, sympathy tinging her words. “But, I think what it’s describing is some sort of armor that’s wired through…”
“My mom called,” I said, changing the subject. “She wanted us to come for dinner tonight.”
“You said no, didn’t you?” Reggie sighed, turning and heading to the kitchen.
“Should I have said something else?” I can feel frustration bubbling beneath my skin, and try to stamp it down.
“I don’t know.” Reggie says, sitting at the little yellow table.
“Have you eaten yet?” I ask, grabbing cereal from the cupboard along with a bowl. When Reggie shakes her head, I grab a bowl for her, too.
Setting the bowls down, I sit across from her. It’s silent save for chewing for a few moments.
“You know, I’ve been looking at some stuff online.”
“Yeah?” I grin teasingly.
“No,” she rolls her eyes, “I mean about this particular situation.”
“Ah, okay,” I say, feigning disappointment, “Go on, buzzkill.”
“Shut up,” she says, smirking, attempting to kick me under the table. “Okay, first of all, there are way too many conspiracy theorists with time on their hands-”
“Right,” I agree.
“-and anyways, I came across this one theory that featured some of the same drawings in the book.”
Reggie was practically squealing at this point, “Yes, I know. I’m amazing. But that’s besides the point. I think there’s a reason why Selene appeared there when she arrived. The armor I mentioned earlier, it’s not exactly self-aware, but it seems to be programmed with sensors that pick up physical signs of emotion and memory. Wild, right?”
I take in her words, thinking back to the first time we met Selene. It was really only a few weeks ago.
Technically, we were not supposed to be there. The library had been familiar to us for some time. Well, the house in which it resides. The library itself, which is now confined to the lower levels of the building, has been closed down for years. It was somewhat an urban legend. Should you walk deep enough into the woods, you’ll find it. Supposedly it belonged to a widow who has since passed. The house itself was enormous; to call it a mansion would be more fitting. She was wealthy and all alone besides her one child, who no one recalls what happened to. Convenient. She took to purchasing thousands of volumes and storing them in her home. This was our main point of interest.
Reggie and I don’t usually make a habit of seeking out situations in which we could possibly lose our lives.
There was something, though, that both of us needed from that house, though we didn’t know at the time. So, after several hours of researching, we found that the house really did exist. We made plans to take a hike, and, should we come across the house, we would take a look.
It took surprisingly little time to find. Standing in a clearing in the woods, it looked oddly out of place: huge and discolored, overcome by plants. There were no signs of human life as the two of us stood, awestruck by this seemingly ancient structure.
“I can’t believe it’s still here. It’s weird that it’s been left this way, don’t you think?” Reggie said, just barely breaking the silence.
I nodded. “We should make it as quick as possible. There could be animals in there, or people. And who knows what shape the interior is in.” I told her, meeting her eyes.
She said nothing, but squeezed my hand.
We decided going through the front door was best. Briefly looking through room after room of the first level, we neared the basement’s entrance.
“Do you think we should split up?”
My grip on Reggie’s hand tightened, “No. Uh, no. Why did that thought come into your head? We are not about to white-people-in-a-horror-film this.”
We both laughed a little, releasing some tension, realizing there was probably no one in the house.
After retrieving flashlights from my backpack with shaking hands, we began to descend the elegant staircase into the basement. As it was daytime, light still peeked through here and there. Once we made it down, we were both speechless at the amount of books crowding the room. It was obvious the old house had had previous visitors, but many books remained. It was hard to remember that this was a potentially dangerous place and that we couldn’t spend the entire day looking. After a few moments of peering around, there was one in particular which caught my eye. It was open, cover-up, on a table not a few feet from me. The cover was partially torn and faded red. The title was hardly readable. I picked it up and began to thumb through the pages.
“Hey Reg,” I called over my shoulder.
“Yeah?” she answered, and I heard her footsteps behind me.
I turned to face her, but did not see Reggie. Standing directly behind me was a girl around my age with forget-me-nots woven through abundant curls going in every direction and skin a deep brown, darker than Reggie’s. The thought that struck me as I fell back, flat on my ass, was how beautiful she looked in the dim room. Though, the only thing that left my mouth was a startled, “Jesus!”
The commotion caused Reggie’s appearance from behind a shelf.
“Are you okay?” the girl asked sweetly.
Before I could answer, Reggie was helping me up and standing between me and this intruder. Well, we were intruding just as much as she.
She held her hands up in defense, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to frighten you. I’m glad you’re here though. I need your help.”
Reggie, albeit confused, visibly relaxed, “I’m sorry, what?”
“Not you, her.”
“Hey, we’re just here for some books, uh…” I said, trying to keep things calm.
“This is taking too long, I’ll just show you.” Her bluntness startled me a little.
Before either of us could inquire what she meant by that, she brought up her right forearm. I somehow hadn’t noticed the sleek midnight colored gauntlet she adorned on that arm. At first it just seemed like a large piece of jewelry. Only when it began to click and whir did I realize she was adjusting unseen settings. The look on my face must have been amusing, but the sight was something out of a storybook. The gauntlet seemed to shift, rearranging itself into a new pattern where it rested above the skin of her arm. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, retaining a slight glow as it went through the strange metamorphosis.
“We’re about to visit my home. Please hold hands.” Selene said, regaining my attention.
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this a bunch of times!” she flashed me a toothy grin, and the last thing I saw before the world was altered was her bring her hand up, palm facing me as if in intention of a high-five. Her fingers bent forward, pressing into her palm in the shape of a fist and the material of the gauntlet seemed to be activated. With a final flash, I closed my eyes.
It was over before I noticed what had happened. We were no longer in the library. As I looked out, Reggie to my right, and the girl on my left, I saw we stood in a scorched field. I could make out screaming in the distance. The sight of the sky made me sick.
“This,” she said, her voice solemn, “is only part of what we need to avoid.”
“What, exactly, is going on here?” It was Reggie who spoke first.
“We are where we were just standing in precisely fifty years.”
With those words, my knees buckled. Reggie called my name, reaching for me. Two sets of hands lifted me back to my feet.
“No, no. There’s no time for that. We have to go back now.” And, as quickly as she said it, we were back in the library.
“I know you both have many questions, but please listen: my name is Selene. Please disregard all cliches when I tell you what I am about to,” she paused, “I am from the near future. Our world as we know it is in grave danger. As I have already stated, I need your help.”
“Uh, Selene, I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure you’re talking to the wrong people.” I said, suddenly breaking out of my reverie.
“No, it’s you, Ellis. I’m sure of it. I was assigned to come specifically to you.”
“Assigned by who?”
Selene stepped away and grabbed the book from the table. She came back and placed it in my hands.
“The authors of this book. You are unaware of it now, but in a few years a society of people has formed, those who have discovered how to use these,” she held up her arm, “and to most of the world, we are unknown. You are apart of us.”
“It is not! You have to believe me. What I just showed you, that will become our fate. In the future, you are leading us.”
“So,” I couldn’t help but let out a laugh, though it was devoid of happiness, “what you’re telling me is my future self has sent you to make me change the course of the future. It somehow all rests on my shoulders?” I ask, incredulous.
“Well,” she starts, sheepishly, “you and my mother.”
“Why don’t you just involve her then?”
“Um, she doesn’t actually know I exist yet.” Selene said with nervous a nervous chuckle.
Reggie, who had been suspiciously quiet up until that point, once again came between us, “I hope you know what you’re talking about.”
“I do! I swear. Finding my mother will make more sense. She’ll have already developed the prototype of the Scintilla.”
“That’s what she named the device that lets us move through time.” she said, gesturing toward the gauntlet once more.
I hadn’t realized I’d been staring out the window for so long, not really seeing, until Reggie grabbed my attention.
“We’ve got an appointment with Dr. Stevens tomorrow.”
She nods. I let my eyes slip closed and breathe deeply. The whole understanding time travel thing is going to require copious amounts of caffeine.
Sheylah A. Silva
Sheylah Autumn Moon Silva is a Native American English major at Wilkes University. Her people are Chahta, Seminole, and Chiricahua Apache. All her life she has adored written word, and is devoted to including representation in the work she creates.