Last night I read out this story, at another writing event on Zoom.
It was my favourite computer game. I loved it. At the end, two girls from different time periods swap places and go to live in one another’s time, and they both feel more at home in the time they swap into.
Now, at last, I had found a way of doing it in real life. As I was getting out of bed I felt very excited because my time experiment was about to begin, that very afternoon.
I had a quick bath, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. When I opened the kitchen door I noticed to my surprise that my mother was wearing a long, thick brown dress instead of her usual t-shirt and jeans. She was standing with her back to me, leaning over the cooker. I could smell bacon and eggs. A cooked breakfast would be lovely; usually I just had cornflakes.
“Morning, Mum!” I called cheerfully. “How come you’re doing all this cooking?”
As I moved towards her Mum turned around and I got a big shock. What she had been leaning over wasn’t the cooker. The cooker had gone, and instead there was a heavy copper range with a huge pot at the top and an open fire in the middle. The bacon and eggs were in a pan on one side, and there was water boiling in the pot. “Mum, what on earth is that?” I exclaimed, pointing at it.
When Mum replied, her tone was a little slow and formal. “The new range has been here for a week now. Where have you been, Jackie? You can’t have been so much occupied that you didn’t notice. My life is already much better- we have hot water all the time, and a good oven for baking.”
She peered at me closely and added, “and what about you? You are dressed very strangely this morning, Jackie. And you look like you have just washed. How did you manage to wash when I have only just heated the water? Did you use cold water?”
I was about to say that of course the hot tap was working, as it always is. But then I stopped and looked around the room. It had completely changed into a Victorian kitchen. There was a plain wooden table and chairs, and a washboard propped against one of the table legs. All our modern machines had vanished, and there were paraffin lamps standing on shelves instead of electric lights.
My time experiment must have already happened, and Mum had swapped times. I didn’t know what to say to her without her realizing something was wrong. In the end I said, “well, never mind the hot water, let’s just have breakfast”, and I put on an act of being too busy eating to talk any more.
Mum laughed and said, “You’re always hungry.”
The plate onto which she had ladled my bacon and eggs was flowery and made of an unfamiliar kind of pottery. While I was eating, Mum made tea and set a brown teapot on the table. Then she ate her own breakfast with me. I was glad it was a large helping in case I got lost time travelling and didn’t get any more chances to eat that day.
“I would like you to polish the range later on, Jackie,” said Mum. “You’ll never forget it is there again once you take responsibility for that.”
What horrible task was this? She must be joking. I didn’t know how I was going to escape being down on my knees polishing all that copper, and indeed how I could escape from this entire time zone. Then I suddenly had an idea. Maybe if I was to go back upstairs, the bedroom and bathroom might still be normal, and I might be able to get back into my own time.
“Excuse me, Mum,” I said, “I’m just going upstairs to fetch my handkerchief.” I didn’t have one really, I just used tissues, but I remembered that in Victorian times everyone had a handkerchief. I jumped up and hurried up the stairs.
Sure enough, the bedroom and bathroom were still the ones from the present day. I looked out of the window, and the front door was the present day one. But the only way to reach it from inside the house was through the kitchen.
Quickly I crawled out of the bedroom window and climbed down the ivy-covered ledges at the front of the house. I would have to be so very careful with that time experiment this afternoon, or better still not do it at all. Good job I didn’t live in a high rise flat.