Friday, June 10, 2022

Dawn of Time • Episode 10: “Meanwhile, in Act III”


Written by Roxana Arama

Continued from Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9

The story thus far: 32nd Century high school student Dawn Anderson has just had the worst day ever. 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. Instead of returning home, she ended up 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 barely escaped with their souls, but not Becky’s soles, as things truly went to Hell…or more accurately, to the Time Recycling Plant, where changes to the timeline are fixed by melting down reality and recasting the space-time continuum. Now, at last, it looks like Dawn has finally managed to leap back to her own time and place… 

Or has she?

Those were Becky’s cheerleading shoes from before Cthulhu. They were undamaged, but I wouldn’t wear them to save my life. Unless my timeline had shifted. I looked around. The front yard under that pale streetlamp was Becky’s house, so I hadn’t strayed far. Mine would be just blocks away. I hoped she’d made it back.

“Where’s my cheeseburger?” the cat-spider said.

“It’s, like, three a.m.,” I said, and felt it in my tired bones. “It might be 3204, but burgers still need a loving human’s touch. And humans need to sleep. Tomorrow after school.”

I checked the date. Oh, great. It was the morning of my big History test.


The cat-spider saw me to school. “I’ll listen from the garage with my ultrasonic microphone. Just making sure my cheeseburger doesn’t go on a trip of its own.”

I spotted Becky heading to class, wearing shoes that were also in my closet at home. How badly had I messed up my timeline? Of course, I couldn’t tell, because I was part of it—all those time-travel stories I’d read said so. She glanced at me with disdain. Same old Becky? Newer Becky with a pie-chip on her shoulder? Before I could sort it out, our History teacher, Mx. Helix, entered the classroom.

Soon, I stood up from my desk as the teacher said, “Tell us about the Interplanetary Wars, Dawn.”

Never heard of them. Either I’d introduced them to my timeline or they’d always been in the textbook I hadn’t opened because I was too busy time-traveling. Still, I couldn’t fail History. Not after surviving the Titanic.

I peeked at the map of the solar system on the wall. No answers there. “The IW are similar to the robot uprisings of 2347,” I said, improvising.

Mx. Helix raised an eyebrow. “How so?”

“Sooo… many factions.” I thought of Becky—my enemy, my ally. “Helping and betraying one another.”

Mx. Helix nodded.

I felt emboldened. “The IW teach us that the oppressed sometimes turn into the oppressors they replaced, like the small apes and the T-Rex after the asteroid hit.”

“True,” Mx. Helix said. “When did the wars happen?”

I was stumped. The cat-spider’s voice projected inside my ear, “If you add fries…”

I agreed to fries and received the correct answer. Mx. Helix was pleased. The rest went on like that for another five excruciating minutes. Then came the question about the weapons used in the wars.

“Here’s a weapon they didn’t use,” I said, and pulled the .38 from my backpack. The cylinder was empty. I must have fired my last bullet on an alternate timeline in the Time Recycling Plant, where Grandma’s wisdom hadn’t stopped me from using the gun’s recoil to escape the flames. I handed the revolver to the teacher, holding it by its short barrel, like scissors.

Mx. Helix gaped at it. “What a precious antique! Wait, I know!” They took down the solar-system map and hung the gun on the wall, then turned to the class as if expecting applause. When none came, they said, “Really?” and shook their head. “Just ask your Drama teacher.”

I wanted to tell Mx. Helix that we were definitely not in Act I, but then I thought, what if we were? What if my little adventure had twisted time into a pretzel? I would have stared more into that existential abyss, but the teacher spoke to me again.

“I’m so impressed with you, Dawn. Your grasp of historical themes and undercurrents is outstanding. Class, I’ll expect the same from each and every one of you.”

My smile vanished under my classmates’ glares. I’d outsmarted the Halloween Dads but could I face that angry mob at recess? They didn’t look as scary as melting space-time. Close enough, though.

Inside my ear, the cat-spider whispered, “If you add milkshake…”

I sat down, groaning. I’d rescued my History grade but tanked my popularity with that crowd. Time-traveling Becky would make me pay dearly before returning my TimePak. I had a ton of junk food to buy for the cat-spider and no creds, unless I did extra chores for my parents.

But if I’d learned one thing from all that time-hopping, it was that most rules could be bent, broken, nuked. Obliterated. Like, why should I be stuck here for recess? And why would I still care about what people like Becky Heston thought of me?

I raised my hand. “Mx. Helix, I don’t feel so good. Can I go home?”

“Sure, Dawn, you’ve earned it.”

I grabbed my bookbag and scooted. Still, some rules would always apply. Like paying your debts.

In the garage, the cat-spider was waiting for me under a spotlight, prima donna style. In my ear, I heard mutterings of apple pies topped with pumpkin ice cream and sprinkles.

“Ew,” I whispered. “Plus, I’d have to do more chores.”

“The cat-spider must go back to its time,” a familiar voice said. Stella now stood in front of me. “All that sugar might change history.” She motioned at the cat-spider with the authority of a true Time Agent. “Space-time continuum unraveling and all.”

The cat-spider jumped into her arms without argument. Apparently, it understood the space-time continuum.

“Okay.” I turned to leave, sad to see them go. But at least I was off the hook for that huge McDonald’s bill.

“You got good stuff, kid,” Stella called out.

“Thanks.” I paused. “Were you really stuck on the Titanic?”

Stella shrugged. “What do you think?”

“I think I’m sick of high school.”

“You’re good at tests,” Stella said.

“I passed History,” I said. “Big deal.”

“I wasn’t talking about that test. Want to go for a little ride?”

“You serious?” I said. “Anything’s better than high school!”






Roxana Arama is a Romanian-American writer and a member of Codex Writers’ Group. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, her work has been acknowledged in several literary contests and magazines, and her website is She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter at @RoxanaArama.