The scene Hope found herself in was nothing like the one she had left moments ago after stepping into the rainbow her new displacement machine had created. Shards of glass lay glittering all over the ground, mixed with pieces of a world which no longer existed. Buildings lay crumbled and burned, and the chunk of sidewalk she was standing on was all that remained of her neighborhood.
She’d been working on her science fair project, which included complex quantum manipulations to the electromagnetic fields of objects, causing them to spontaneously move from one place to another. It had been working perfectly. In recalculating for herself, however, she might have made a few tiny mistakes. She was only supposed to move to the front yard, not across time to some video game post-apocalyptic world. Her machine sat humming beside her, a bright and shining reminder of everything she had just left behind.
Movement in the street grabbed her attention. Eyes wild, Hope scrambled to the nearest shelter and crouched, watching as her father gestured to her mother, who ran to him from behind a scorched and shattered wall. The two embraced briefly and ran toward Hope, her father leading her mother by the hand. Now that they were closer, she could see they were thin and lined as if they had aged twenty years in the space of a heartbeat.
“Over here!” she shouted, waving to them. Her father whipped his head back and forth, shooing her back, when something metallic bounced off the wall beside her and hit the ground nearby. Confusion gave way to dread as her mind scrolled through the possibilities. Instinctively turning to run, Hope was only able to take a few steps before the air around her erupted into flames. She fell and lay stunned on the broken concrete, every breath a struggle. The next thing she knew, she was being helped to her feet, supported on both sides by her parents, the burning street going by in a blur of sound and motion. A disconnected door leaned against a pile of rubble. Her father elbowed it open, disclosing a dark space beneath, and they maneuvered her inside. Head lolling, she clutched at her parent’s clothing, trying to get their attention.
“My machine!” she panted. “We have to go back!” Her father smiled and revealed the gleaming device behind him.
“Did you think I would leave it behind?”
“How did you know?” she asked, certain he’d been too busy to notice. He shrugged.
“I know a few things.” He sat close and took her hand. “When you disappeared twenty years ago, we knew what you were working on,” he said hoarsely, tears building in his timeworn eyes. “We waited a long time for you to return. About a week after you, um, left, some men in suits came and took all your stuff.” At her gasp, he nodded, sniffing. “They copied it but something must have gone wrong. They opened a doorway and these things came through and took over the planet.” He shuddered. “It’s been a nightmare.” Hope’s hand tightened over her father’s.
“Help me up.” She said firmly. “We need to make a plan…”
Deanna Salser is enamored with reading, drawing, sculpting and carving, but writing has become her newest passion. She has been entering writing contests, hoping to gain some recognition for her voice, which she has just discovered, due to her first writing project being accepted for publication.