Short Story Series
When Lisa’s unemployment runs out, she agrees to be part of an experiment bringing her 12-year-old daughter, Jennifer, and her 8-year-old son, Casey, back to the 80’s. The kids discover a world quite different from their own, with games like MASH, synthesizer songs, and of course, big hair. Will they love it or hate it? Lisa has fun reliving her glory days either way!
Lisa sighed quietly with the resolve of someone who had just made a huge decision—and was facing it head-on for the first time.
“Mom,” Casey asked, with his little 8-year-old voice, “Why are we here again?”
“Because,” said Lisa, stroking Casey’s hair, “We need to get our health checked before the experiment.”
She sat in a light gray lobby, her son Casey sitting in the chair beside her. It looked like a typical doctor’s office in a way—sterile, yet trying to be friendly and warm, with books and magazines set on a coffee table in front of them—but all the magazines were political or some type of news magazine. She sat still, yet an air of self-doubt twinged in her eye.
Yet Casey seemed to accept her explanation, bopping side to side in his chair, as if listening to music, clearly just trying to keep himself entertained. Lisa, however, stared again at the wall, thinking back to the phone call when her sister asked if she was interested in the experiment.
Am I doing the right thing? she thought. Am I really?
Suddenly, the door leading out from the back swung open—and Lisa’s oldest child, Jennifer, nearly stomped out. She plunked herself down in the seat beside Casey, a defiant 12-year-old pouting again—only this time, Lisa empathized with her.
Jennifer huffed and started twiddling her fingers away on her phone. “You could at least tell us what this is about,” she said, flipping back her long, stick-straight hair.
“You’ll know soon,” said Lisa.
The next room was more like a regular office. They had all finished their medical tests and had been driven to another building on government property, an unmarked section of the CIA; the kids had no idea where they truly were. Only Lisa knew—and she sat in the office at a round table in the center of the room, surrounded by two seemingly random desks. But there was only one government staff member there now, a short, round-faced man with glasses, and he sat with Lisa and her kids as she explained.
“You guys both know my unemployment ran out,” she said. “And you know Aunt Sally’s husband works for the government. So,” she sighed and leaned in closer. “She called and asked if I’d be interested in participating in an experiment—and it will pay a lot.”
“An experiment?” Casey asked, his eyes widening. “Like a mad scientist experiment?”
Lisa smiled a little. “Something like that,” she said.
Government guy chimed in. “This is a very precise experiment,” he said. “We need real people to test something we’ve been working on for years. I know you’re not going to believe this at first, but….It’s a time machine.”
“YEAH!” Casey yelled.
Jennifer gave him her “you’re-such-a-stupid-adult” look. “People can’t time travel,” she said.
“Well, we’ve tested it on some of our own staff,” said the government agent. “But our people are trained to deal with…different situations. We need to see how this time machine affects regular citizens both physically and mentally.”
“Wow, cool!” Casey yelped. “What kind of time machine? Like in ‘Star Trek?’”
“That’s a transporter, stupid,” said Jennifer. She turned to her mom and crossed her arms. “Did you say they’re gonna pay you for this?”
The agent looked at her very squarely. “We will pay her for this—and very generously.”
“Um….Even if it is possible, I don’t want to go to some old place!”
“We’ll just be there for two weeks,” said Lisa, with an encouraging tone.
The agent said, “Our staff has already secured you a house in the old time. It’s the end of summer both here and there—the seasons parallel, as we can’t seem to control that aspect of time travel. The benefit is that you won’t have to explain why you’re not at school in our time. But in their time and the area you’ll be in, they start a little earlier and actually are a week in.” He looked then over at Lisa. “To look legit, you’ll have to enroll your kids in school: No one can suspect you’re not there to stay.”
“And I s’pose we’re not supposed to tell anybody what we’re doing when we’re there,” said Jennifer.
“Not a word,” said the agent. “If you do, your family will not get paid.” Lisa looked over at Jennifer expectantly.
The agent continued, “I hate to drop this on you, but there is no preparation, as we agreed.” He looked over at Lisa and nodded, who nodded in return. “You leave only with what you have now—you’ll have clothes and everything else you’ll need at the house.” He looked over at Jennifer, who still had her cell phone out in front of her. “And I’ll need all your cell phones.”
“I don’t have one yet,” Casey explained.
Jennifer let out the hugest sigh Lisa had ever heard. “Are you kidding me?”
“They won’t have cell service there, anyway,” said Lisa.
“Are we going to the dinosaur days?” asked Casey, fidgeting around in excitement.
“No,” said the agent, gently sliding Jennifer’s phone over to his side of the table. “You’re going back to the 80’s.” ©Brenna Pierson