Friday, May 20, 2022

Dawn of Time • Episode 7: “The dreadful secret of McDonald’s”

Written by Cécile Cristofari

Continued from Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6

The story thus far: 32nd Century high school student Dawn Anderson is having a really bad day. Needing a better grade in History, she “borrowed” her father’s TimePak to take a short jaunt back to the 20th Century, only to make a perfectly innocent mistake involving a stolen handgun and a too-hot McDonald’s cherry pie. Now, instead of returning home, she is bouncing from disaster to catastrophe, each one worse than the one before. After being chased by clowns, narrowly avoiding becoming a tyrannosaur’s snack, jumping out mere moments before the Chicxulub extinction event, making a new friend (Stella) and rescuing her from the Titanic, being found by her worst enemy (Becky) and being forced to rescue her, too, from a robot uprising, the three of them have barely escaped with their souls, but not Becky’s soles, because time itself is melting…

“Time can’t be melting!” I said.

Becky was clutching her stomach, but Stella just sighed.

“Cheerleaders in 3204? Speaking 21st century English? What’s that if not time melting?”

The “errr” sound with which I answered was almost as undignified as Becky’s. Stella gave a patient look in answer.

“I’m a time agent,” she said. “Sent to retrieve a couple of devices that were causing irreparable damage to the space-time continuum. Luckily, I located yours on the Titanic.”

I started. “I thought time was melting because I saved you. Altering the continuum and all?”

“You didn’t save me!” She rolled her eyes. “Fine. My own device may have overheated when I jumped to the Titanic. I was just sitting under this table for some peace and quiet while I figured out how to get away.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“All right, thank you!” she said. “But that doesn’t change the problem. Have you drawn no lessons from the Great Climate Shift? Always investigate side effects of fuel before using it!”

“McDonald’s pies…?”

“Make time melt,” Stella said.

“And give you diabetes, and taste awful,” Becky added. Then she looked down at my jacket and her face lit up. “Hey, I have the only functioning time machine now! I won’t let you use it unless you take me home and lend a hand with that History assignment.”

I stared at her in horror. Then I remembered. I still had the gun!

“You’re not going anywhere with my jacket,” I shouted, drawing it and praying I wouldn’t have to do anything but wave it around. “And since when do cheerleaders care about History grades anyway?”

Becky’s mouth widened in shock, but Stella sighed. Again.

“Don’t be dramatic,” Stella said. “We’re not leaving anyone here. Put that down. Both of you!” she snapped at Becky, who had taken the jacket off and was waving it in front of her as if she couldn’t decide whether it looked more like a shield or like something to taunt an angry bull with. “We’ll just go to 1955 and stop McDonald’s from existing,” Stella added. “Hopefully the space-time continuum will start behaving logically again afterward.”

“But then I won’t be able to go back home!” I cried.

A polite cough interrupted me.

“Ladies, I hate to intrude, but…” the cat-spider said.

I looked back.

A flow of melting clocks, hourglasses, and dinosaur bones thundered toward us. Stella swore and pulled us onto a drifting picture frame. Reeling, we held on to one another, as years raced by.

“Rapids!” Becky shouted.

“1955! Jump!” Stella yelled.

“MIAAAAOWWW!” the cat-spider screamed.

I closed my eyes, and leaped.

Next week: “Episode 8: When things look dark…”



After working in Canada for two years, Cécile Cristofari settled in her native South France, where she teaches English literature and writes stories when her son is asleep. Her stories have appeared in Interzone, Daily Science Fiction and Reckoning, among other places. She can be found on Twitter @c_cristofari, or on her website: