A golden blur soared across the blue sky as Bree peered through the pine tree canopy. The sun warmed her brown skin. She turned her head and the world blurred into a haze of browns and greens. Pain shot through her temples as she shook her head. Nothing else was in the tree lined field ahead of her. The ground shook as she pushed herself to her feet, but she realized it was just her unsteady legs. Bree’s wavering balance stabilized as she stuck her arms out. She shut her eyes, but the dizziness persisted. To make it worse, an agonizing tingle charged through her body.
This couldn’t be the field she escaped into the night before as she ran for her life from the man pursuing her. Not that it mattered, she got away and then the lightning struck her. The strike wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. She wasn’t writhing on the ground having a seizure nor had any gross lesions. Sure, she’d passed out and the surging sensation refused to abate, but she was okay. For the most part.
Bree stumbled through the brush and trees of the forest, certain her home was just ahead. But with every grievous step, her fear heightened as nothing came into sight.
The dense trees thinned. Against every urge in her body, Bree sprinted out of the forest into a vast stretch of land with nothing more than a building with a fat circular tube sticking out from the arched roof. She slowed down to look at the building, which had to be a house because of a metal box resembling a mailbox in its front. Ribbed metal of assorted colors made up the siding and patches of the matching roof jutted out of alignment.
A bang reverberated through the air and Bree took off again. Her feet kicked up dirt behind her with every step. She spotted faint tire tracks on the dirt road. Tracks always led somewhere. Hopefully, it wasn’t the wrong end of somewhere. The beat of her heart started to overwhelm her as she struggled to bring air into her lungs. Giant reflective structures in the distance blinded her. Squinting, she spotted monochrome buildings, architected similar to the multicolored house. Small human-shaped figures milled about.
They could help her. Compelled to reach them, she struggled forward. Each step brought her closer to help, until her knees collapsed beneath her and her vision fogged as two people darted toward her. Pain caught up to her and flooded over her body; her splitting headache got worse by the second. Hands slid underneath her and picked her up. She tried to open her eyes to see her saviors, but they were only shadows. Her eyelids flickered shut and she let her mind rest. Despite the bumpy carrying, she drifted to sleep.
“What are you doing?” Bree asked as she pushed herself deeper into the plush couch. If she had a few more inches on the couch, breaking free might have been a possibility. Scratch that, if she had more energy she might have managed it. But Bree could hardly keep her head up without spinning. Instead, she glimpsed a faint reflection of her own brown eyes.
Staring back at her were big blue eyes magnified inside brassy goggles. She blinked, wondering if the man would stop examining her and answer her question.
The goggles clicked upward to rest on top of the man’s head. Bree stared at them. The brass shined and seemed to be extensible with each compacted layer having a set of carefully placed rivets. He had short, but slightly shaggy dark brown hair with streaks of white littered throughout the sides. His eyes were genial and appeared just as startled by her reaction as herself. He had a stubbly beard and mustache, grown to an awkward shadow that either needed a shave or few more days to lengthen.
He gripped his leather suspenders with brass clasps that held his pale blue shirt in place. A dark gray vest hung open as he leaned forward on a piece of furniture, still looking at Bree in shock and amusement. It was an odd way to dress, but even with the radically different style the clothes were dull from being worn too much.
Behind the man, a woman stood smiling at Bree. She wore a similarly styled blouse that hung loosely over her body and a dark corset that made her blouse ruffle. She wrung a wet cloth anxiously, while her eyes never left Bree. The woman raised her delicate hand to her head, adjusting a gray scarf resting on her light brown hair.
A wet cloth fell from Bree’s head to her lap. It was slightly warm as Bree picked it up and moved it off to the side. The woman rushed over, grabbing the cloth and handing her another.
“Thank you,” Bree said. The rasp of her voice startled her by how pained she actually sounded.
“It’s our pleasure dear,” he said. “We saw you fall and we brought you here. These aren’t the best parts of the city. Anything could have happened, if we let you stay out there. Especially in your state,” he said, motioning to her and adjusted his brass goggles. “I don’t know where you came from, and not to be rude, but you dress funny.”
Bree looked at the two people standing before her and their spectacular outfits, disregarding the possibility these people could be the terrible people they spoke of. No, she knew trustworthy people when she saw them. They could have left her out there, for all they knew she was the criminal. It was the comment of her clothes that boggled her. A young girl stumbles out of nowhere and they’re concerned about clothes; it was ludicrous. Before she could stop herself, she burst out laughing so loudly her stomach hurt. Her mother would have urged her to be polite and the pangs of mirth vanished.
“You don’t seriously think I dress funny? Do you?” She raised an eyebrow and waited for a response.
Their faces soured. “Sure, we can’t afford much, but we get what we can. We’re some of the people better off in these parts of town,” he said, while the woman kept her distance as she straightened her clothes out and stood taller.
“I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m clearly not from around here, like you are.” If she pissed off her saviors, she risked losing any future help from the pair. She may have been young, but she wasn’t a complete idiot. “My name’s Bree,” she said. Her mother would cringe at the nickname. “A lot happened last night and I’m not feeling well. I just want to get back to my home. I thought I lived around here, but I must be lost.”
The woman scurried over to Bree, the resentment vanished. “Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll take care of you until you’re good enough to be out and about. You can call me Elsa.”
The man shot Elsa a sharp glare. “And I’m Thomas,” he strained out. His stern face made Bree uncomfortable, but something about it seemed unnatural. “You can’t be from around here. We’d have known who you are.” He didn’t mention the clothing again, which she thought was best for everyone.
“I really just want to get back home. I’ve lived in a house not far from here for eight years or so. On Palmer Street.”
Thomas looked back at Elsa and exchanged worried glances. “What year is it?” Thomas asked.
Bree chuckled at the question, “2015”. The worried looks hadn’t lifted from their faces.
“And what country are we in right now?” Elsa chimed in.
Bree looked from Elsa to Thomas and back. “What’re you talking about? It’s the United States of America. What’s wrong?” The two stared at her and Bree began to panic. The electricity surging throughout her intensified, but instead of making her headache worse, it made it easier to focus.
“Well first off, the United States of America no longer exists. We live in the city of Granford in Threon. The United States hasn’t existed in eighty years,” Thomas said.
“No that’s impossible. I live in the US. I was born there,” Bree said. It all had to be lies.
Thomas moved closer to her, placing a hand on her shoulder to try to comfort her, but she batted it away. He could have walked away, but he didn’t back off. There were too much clutter in this small room. The air smelled warmer from Thomas’ proximity. “I think you may have lost your memory or maybe you’re delusional at the moment. It’ll be all right, things will come back to you.”
Bree looked around at everything in the house. Across from the couch she was sitting on was a large bronze box with a rectangular, glass screen inside. The table in front of her was made of sheet metal with the corners covered by leather. In the kitchen, a banged brass teakettle whistled that the water was done. Everywhere she looked things looked familiar, yet different from what she expected.
It began to dawn on her that all the differences she had been seeing were a confirmation of Thomas and Elsa’s suspicions; she really was some place entirely different. This wasn’t the world she knew. They would think she had gone mad if she claimed she was transported to this place. There had to be a more logical explanation, maybe she was in a separatist country. No, that wasn’t possible with the different technology. Everything seemed familiar, yet completely foreign as though she was in some parallel dimension. The concerned gazes of Thomas and Elsa bore into Bree as they watched her eyes move around the room from object to object.
“No. I promise you everything I say is true. Something must’ve happened. I’m not where I’m supposed to be. I don’t understand, but I’m telling you the truth.” She stopped. Putting up a fight would only make things worse for herself.
Even in this strange world, she was sure that they had mental hospitals. If she continued behaving as she was, that was exactly where she’d end up. These were just strangers that had taken her in to try to help. They weren’t going to nurse a young girl who had seemingly lost her mind back to health. No, she needed to find a way to prove the words coming out of her mouth weren’t flaming lies.
“I can prove it. Can you pass me my bag?” she asked. Elsa crossed the room holding the dark purple backpack and handed it to Bree. She rifled through her bag looking for the best item to prove her point. Usually, when she packed for a sleepover she brought everything she could think of, but she had been in such a rush the previous night she didn’t have much. If the world was as different as they were making it seem, this was certain to convince them. “Do you have a cell phone?” They continued to look at her strangely at the question. She stopped for a moment, thinking. “A mobile phone?”
Thomas strode to the corner of the room. “The only phone that we have is this here,” he said holding up a brass rotary with a navy leather handle. She used to play with old phones like that as a toys when she was little. “I’ve never even heard of these mobile or cell phones.”
Elsa nodded in agreement and suddenly stopped. It was as though something dawned on her. “You mean like the communication implants?” she asked. Bree’s face contorted and Elsa must have noticed because she continued, “We can’t afford them, but they’re small implants put in around here.” She pointed to her temple and rubbed around the area. “And then you can send and receive calls. It’s a transmitter of some sort.”
Bree nodded hastily. She could tell that they understood the concept of a cell phone. She pulled out her cell phone and hoped that it still had power. “Where I’m from this is a cell phone. We use it to call people or send them messages. Even go on the internet.” She tried to explain as she sprung to her feet and waved the phone around. The sudden movement reaped its toll as the blood rushed to her head. Holding steady, despite the world spinning, she pressed the power button and watched the phone light up. Thomas and Elsa stared transfixed at the device.
“It looks nothing like anything from here. It’s made from strange materials,” he said as he held the phone in his hands spinning it in amazement.
“Exactly. I told you I’m not from here. Well I am, just not this dimension, I suppose. I never would’ve thought there were other dimensions. I need to figure out how to get back.”
Elsa looked at Bree with confusion and concern. “I’m sorry sweetie. I don’t know how you got here in the first place, but I doubt there’s a way back. If you start digging for information, the government’s science division could come and take you for experiments. It’s too dangerous.”
“But maybe the government knows something about it. Maybe they can help me get back if I cooperate.” She could feel her headache starting to creep back.
Thomas shook his head. “My wife is right. You have to stay quiet. They’ll tear you apart. I don’t know what the government is like in your world, but here it’s the last place you want to be.”
Tears stung as they welled up in Bree’s eyes. Elsa walked over grabbing a tissue from a small container and dabbed at her eyes. “You don’t have to stay, but you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like.”
“I really appreciate all the help you’ve given me so far. If there’s anything you want me to do, I’ll do my best to help. Thank you so much,” Bree said, swaying on her feet. Her headache raged on.
Elsa eased Bree onto the couch and pulled the cover up over her. “Rest,” she said and patted Bree gently on the head.
Her cell phone rested on the small glass coffee table. She doubted making a call would work, but she’d have to try it later. Her head and heart beat pounded out of sync and it made her eyes difficult to keep open. If she had to be found by anyone, these were the right people. Bree could tell Thomas and Elsa already cared for her. Things could have been much worse.