THE WAY BACK MACHINE
"I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date." Those words kept echoing through Heather's head as she approached the weird attraction at the local fair. She had been coming to the traveling carnival every summer for as long as she could remember, first coming with her parents, and now at the age of 15 with a gaggle of her school friends.
The difference between school friends and best friends is the difference between junk food from McDonalds and a home cooked meal from your grandmother - one is surface friendship and the other goes deep into your soul. Heather had been a loner for most of her life, never acquiring that one special friend she could share her deepest darkest secrets with.
She did have a wide range of school friends and on the surface she seemed to be a popular teenager. She was never the butt of cruel jokes like poor little Isabella from her gym class. Isabella was from a poor family and couldn't afford to buy deodorant on a regular basis, so many times after class she was "ripe" from her workout, making her an obvious target. Heather would never admit she felt sorry for Isabella - to do so would make her as much a victim as Isabella.
Nor was Heather the target of nerd cruelty like Edgar. Edgar couldn't help it because he was the smartest kid at Conover High School, not just the smartest freshman, but the smartest in the entire school. Secretly, Heather admired the intelligence of Edgar, but again, she would never admit this, fearing retaliation from her so-called friends.
Standing before the carnival attraction, Heather was mesmerized with the vivid colors and jovial music coming from deep inside the structure. "Back in Time" - what Heather wouldn't do to go back in time and relive her early childhood. She would not make the mistake of falling in with the "IN" crowd, not even if it meant she would be teased and ridiculed mercilessly.
"Come on, Heather! We're all going in. This should be fun!" Marci, Queen Bee of the "IN" kids was beckoning for Heather to join them as they started into the "Way Back Machine."
"I'm coming, Marci. You go on, I'll be right behind you." Heather took a few tentative steps toward the entrance of the attraction.
"Suit yourself. But if you don't come on, everyone will know you're a 'fraidy cat," teased Marci, and with a flip of her long blond curls she ran into the "Way Back Machine."
"I am not a 'fraidy cat," mumbled Heather. She stepped up the door and looked at the numerous clocks adorning the front of the attraction.
"Back in time," she whispered. "Back in time. I wish to send my friends back in time." Heather closed her eyes and repeated these words over and over again, reaching into her jean's pocket and finding the purple crystal she always carried there. Taking the crystal into her tiny hand, she continued whispering, "Back in time, back in time ..."
When Heather opened her eyes, the clock faces near the attraction door were different and the clock hands were rapidly moving counter clockwise. Suddenly, from deep inside the traveling carnival's "Way Back Machine," screams could be heard. Heather jumped back as the carnival workers started running around.
"Did you hear that? Did it come from the machine? Did anyone see what happened?" Heather was ordered to back away from the attraction and she dutifully filed out with other customers in line.
For a long time, nothing seemed to be happening, so Heather walked over to the cotton candy booth next door to the "Way Back Machine" and bought a bright pink fluff of candy. As she stood within eyesight of the entrance to the attraction, she couldn't help but chuckle under her breath as the carnival workers emerged with five young children in tow.
"Who let these kids into the ride?" shrieked the grizzly man in front of her. "Gunter, so find the Constable or the police or someone. These kids are too young to have been left alone. They're not even tall enough to enter the machine even with an adult!" The grizzly man ushered the five kids to the bench near the tiny ticket booth.
The kids looked to be about three years old and all five were crying. Heather stared at them and then started to laugh. At first the laugh was a tiny chuckle from deep inside, but soon it spilled out of her and danced along the hot breeze blowing through the carnival. She turned to walk away, licking her pink fingers after another bite of cotton candy.
From the bench behind her, the little girl with long blond curls began to cry even harder.