“What the…?” Madeleine thought, “Where is my night lamp?” She groped around in the dark for the bed stand, but felt nothing. Madeleine started to wake up for real. It was still dark outside and everything was quiet. The room smelt like her grandmother’s closet. And stranger still, the bed didn’t feel like her bed!
She sat up and tried to flip the switch, which was supposed to be on the left by the foot of her bed. But it wasn’t there. She got out of bed and felt for the switch, meanwhile stubbing her toe on a chair that shouldn’t have been there. Madeleine felt heavy curtains, “Is this velvet?” and groped on. When she finally flipped the switch, and her eyes had gotten used to the bright light flooding the room, she was astonished at what she saw: this wasn’t her room! Where was she?
She stood next to the light switch facing the door. She should turn around slowly now to take a look at the room. Madeleine looked down. The white long pile carpet cushioned her feet. The young girl felt she couldn’t dawdle anymore. She straightened her back and turned around to look at the room.
The room where Madeleine had woken up, was twice as large as hers. She looked across the room. Her first guess about the curtains was correct. They were made of heavy velvet. To the left of her was the bed she had woken up in and to the right was a big closet and the chair she had hurt her toe on, was in front of a dresser with a big round mirror. On the door of the closet Madeleine saw a gown. It was purple, her favourite colour.
Another question had popped up in her head. One that scared her more than waking up in a strange room: “Who else was here that knew her favourite colour and dress size?”
Madeleine looked at the dress. It was quite beautiful and she didn’t want to walk around in her nightwear when she went exploring. Because that was what she was going to do. Explore the house. And even though a dress might be inconvenient if she had to run, the nightgown was even more inconvenient. So she changed into the dress and went to the door.
Madeleine tried to open it and found that it wasn’t locked. Carefully she looked around outside and started to go down the hall. It was dark so Madeleine walked cautiously to avoid being heard or caught. She put her hand against the wall to have some sort of guidance and she was glad she did. Suddenly there was no more wall. Madeleine strained her eyes and through the gloom she thought she could make out some sort of staircase. She decided to go down the stairs. Step by step she went down and at the bottom of the stairs she looked to the left and then to the right.
On her right there was a small light. She decided to go to it. The young woman walked further and the light became bigger. And then, there were voices. One male, one female. They were shouting. “I told you, we should have just left her were she was!” the woman’s voice yelled. The low male voice responded: “Muhnam muhna muhna”.
Madeleine couldn’t understand what he said. She walked closer to the door and listened. “You are such a loser!” the woman yelled again. This time Madeleine could understand what the man was saying: “She was going to tell everyone.”
Madeleine was shocked. Were they talking about her? What was she going to tell? To whom? Who were those people? Heavy footsteps were coming to the door. Madeleine was still standing there. So shocked, she didn’t register the footsteps.
The door opening slightly, brought Madeleine back to some sort of reality. The woman yelled: “Where are you going?” which probably made the man stop, because the door didn’t open any further. This gave Madeleine the chance to come to her senses and look around quickly for some sort of hiding place. She found another door, listened for a moment and got inside. It turned out to be a walk-in closet for coats and the like.
“Outside,” she heard the man say. The man walked into the hallway, slammed the door behind him and stamped down the hall. Madeleine decided to follow him. Quickly she left the wardrobe and on her tiptoes she followed the man to what she expected to be the exit. She hoped she could slip outside before she was seen.
The man reached the door, put his hand on the handle and twisted it. He opened it only halfway and then he turned around.
“Did you think you could sneak up on me unheard, dear?”
Even though Madeleine was terribly scared, she noticed that the low baritone of the man was not unpleasant to hear. Behind his back he closed the door slowly and took a step towards Madeleine.
“Don’t come any closer!” she said placing her feet firmly on the ground. Her voice didn’t tremble, to her relief but her hands were shaking. She balled her fists next to her sides. He laughed.
“What are you laughing at?” The shrill woman’s voice came from behind Madeleine’s back.
She was trapped. Her way to the door was blocked by the man and behind her was the woman. Madeleine hung her shoulders. What could she do?
“Come with us to the living room, dear,” the man said. “We’ve got something to tell you.” This was not what she had expected. Madeleine thought they would take her back to her room and chain her to the bed, or something. Especially that ‘or something’ frightened her more than she held possible. The woman had grabbed her near the elbow and steered her to the door she had just come through. “Sit,” she commanded and pushed Madeleine down in the chair.
It was a very comfortable chair, with soft cushions. Madeleine’s eyes adjusted to the gloomy living room. There was a warm fire, crackling merrily in the fire place and a grate was in front of it. In front of the grate there was what looked like a Persian rug. The curtains, also velvet, were closed. There were lots of pillows on the floor, two other chairs like hers were standing around the coffee table. Madeleine heard a click. It was the door being closed by the man who had come in behind her and the woman.
“My name is Richard,” he said, and I am your…”
“Shut up!” the woman cut across him angrily. “Don’t tell her! You’ll make things worse!” Madeleine looked from the one to the other. What was going on here?
“We have to tell her, otherwise she won’t understand any of the things she has to do,” Richard protested. “And we do need her to complete the task.”
Madeleine looked at the man in astonishment. “They were completely insane,” she thought.
“You’re insane,” she said. “I’m not going to do anything for you. I’m not gonna help you in any way. Now, let me go!”
“You see,” Richard said to the woman, “She has to know why, we really need to tell her everything!”
“On your head it’ll be,” the woman conceded after a long moment. She folded her arms and leant back in her chair.
The man turned to face Madeleine. “We owe it to you to explain what we’re doing here, who we are and what we need from you.”
“And why you are keeping me here against my will,” added Madeleine.
“Yes, that too,” Richard said. “The woman’s name is Joyce. She’s my wife and your daughter-in-law. Which means of course, that I am your son. We are from the future.”
Madeleine looked at Richard, then at Joyce. They were absolutely crazy! They’ve probably escaped from some mental institution. “The future?” Madeleine gasped and then started to laugh, somewhat hysterically. “You’re insane,” she repeated.
“You see,” Joyce said, unfolding her arms and putting them on the armrests, “I told you she wouldn’t believe us. You have to explain better.”
Richard continued: “We are from 2051 and right about now, you are supposed to get pregnant with me. Because this has happened yet, I am starting to disappear.” He held up one hand and showed it to Madeleine. Madeleine was on the edge of her seat and looked, amazed at Richard’s hand. It was almost transparent.
It must be a trick of the light. This wasn’t possible. She had been out for quite some time. Who knows what kind of hallucinogenic drug they had given her? Richard and Joyce both looked at her. Were they expecting her to say something?
“How is that possible?” Madeleine asked, partly out of curiosity, partly because she wanted to say something.
“I’m seizing to exist.” Richard answered.
“And you need to get pregnant soon, or my husband will be gone,” Joyce added. “And I don’t want that to happen.”
“You never told me who my father was, so I can’t help you there,” Richard said. “Will you please help me? Be my mom?”
Madeleine looked at him, for some trace of a joke or a laugh in his eyes. But there wasn’t. Joyce wasn’t smiling either, although Madeleine wasn’t completely sure Joyce could smile at all. “You are barking mad. Both of you! This has gone on long enough. Are there any hidden cameras here? Come out, come out wherever you are! I have had enough, I wanna go home, right now!”
Somewhere in her tirade, Madeleine had gotten to her feet and was running towards the door. She was going home. No matter what. She jerked the living room door open and in a few paces she was near the front door. It wasn’t locked. Madeleine started to run for real now. Without looking, she just ran. Trees went by, the pebbles on the road hurt her bare feet. The skirt of her dress flapped around her legs. Got tangled in the bushes. But she had to run. She. Mustn’t. Stop.
Her breath was coming in short gasps now. Madeleine kept running. Richard was following her. She heard his footsteps behind her. If only she could reach another house. If someone could just be on the same road as they. If only….
She focussed on the footsteps behind her. They were coming closer. She couldn’t run any faster. She must run. Keep running. Keep. Going.
A sharp pain in her left foot made her fall. She tumbled through some leaves and undergrowth and was stopped painfully by a tree that didn’t feel like getting out of her way. Her right shoulder hurt and she thought she heard something snap. Madeleine lay quite still, hoping Richard hadn’t seen her and would run past.
“Mom, what happened?” Richard looked frightened. With one sweep he lifted her from the ground and held her gently in his arms. For someone with a transparent hand, he was quite strong, Madeleine thought and then passed out.
When she woke up again, Madeleine’s foot was bandaged and her arm was in a sling. She was back in the bedroom she woke up in. “Why did you run?” Joyce asked. Was it anger Madeleine saw in her eyes or concern? “You had no shoes on and could have hurt yourself!”
Joyce was hovering over her with a wet cloth, dabbing her, Madeleine’s, forehead. “Like this?” Madeleine asked, a bit groggily. And for the first time, she thought she noticed a brief smile around her, Joyce’s, lips. “You haven’t lost your sense of humour. Or, you still have it?” Joyce looked confused. “Richard! I can’t keep the tenses straight, we need to settle this quickly!”
“Yes dear,” Richard’s voice was muffled. “Very quickly.” Richard walked out in to the bedroom from the bathroom. He had taken off his shirt. His whole left arm was transparent now. Madeleine saw Joyce looking at Richard, her hand covering her mouth. Then Joyce turned to Madeleine: “You made it worse!”
“How did I make it worse?” Madeleine asked.
Joyce looked at her. “Don’t you understand? The longer you resist the truth of this story, the more Richie vanishes. You have to start believing what we are saying!”
Madeleine looked at her face. Joyce’s face was white as snow, except for two red, angry patches on her cheeks. “She must be really angry,” Madeleine thought. And then, in a moment of clarity, she realized: Joyce was really scared! You cannot fake that emotion. Madeleine knew that from experience. If Joyce was really that scared, then the story they told her must have been the truth. And Richard had called her ‘mom’ when she fell. That was also something that was hard to fake when you were worried or stressed out.
“Why are you so quiet?” Richard, his one arm getting more transparent by the minute, looked at Madeleine. She looked at Richard, then at Joyce. These people came from the future, from 2050, no 2051 and they claimed to be her son and daughter-in-law. If she really did believe it, she was certifiably insane herself. But she had also seen the fear in Joyce’s eyes. Richard’s arm was really disappearing. She had seen that herself.
Madeleine pushed herself up higher in the cushions. Joyce was immediately beside her helping her, supporting her, and putting some more pillows behind her back to help her sit up straight. Madeleine looked at her. “I am a registered nurse and you are my mother-in-law.”
Madeleine sighed. “Okay, tell me everything.”
Richard and Joyce sat down on either side of the bed. “Well, actually, we don’t know,” Joyce began. “Richard said you never told him who his father was.”
Madeleine looked at Richard: “I didn’t? I must have had a good reason then.” Richard nodded. “We think so too. It probably has something to do with us being here now, that you never said anything.”
“Don’t try, you will hurt your head as well,” Joyce smiled at her. That was the second time Joyce smiled. “I’ve given up. Time travel can be bitch to your use of tenses.”
The two women looked at each other and started to giggle which turned into laughing uncontrollably, almost hysterically. Madeleine saw Richard looking at her, his eyebrow raised, and she realized the seriousness of the situation. Her son was seizing to exist if she didn’t act. That really sounded weird: ‘her son’.
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Madeleine asked before she could stop herself.
Richard ignored the question. “So, we really need to find my father, before I fade away completely. But I have a plan. If we…”
A stair creaked. All three of them fell silent. There was someone outside the bedroom in the hallway. They held their breath and listened. Then another floorboard just outside the door creaked again. The handle of the door turned slowly and then the door opened. Someone walked in. A man.
They all looked at them, but Madeleine was outraged: “What are you doing here?”
This is the first ten days of writing. I’m training to write a story in twenty days. In ten days time, I will post part two. But if you can’t wait that long, follow the hashtag #twentydaystory on my Facebook page. You can read part two here.