Eighty Years

Eighty years.

Take a huge step back eighty years and stop to look at your surroundings.

Your hometown is no longer a hustling, bustling suburbia. You can hardly recognize any of the buildings. In fact, all of the buildings you pass on the way to school are no longer standing. In their places, there are small shops and businesses, streets that never existed, and slow cars rolling down the street.

The people surrounding you look nothing like the others in your time. They are dressed strangely, wearing twice the amount of clothing you would wear on a typical fall afternoon. They stare at your jeans and short sleeves, their expressions filled with curiosity and disgust.

You are alien.

You walk down the street, and realize the names of the roads are still the same. There’s Maple Street, Pine Street, and Applewood Rowe. Your teacher once claimed the streets were named after the trees standing at the corners. You study the street corners with buildings crowded together, and notice there are no trees or foliage in sight. You’ll have to correct your teacher when you return.

You follow the flow of pedestrians, keeping an eye out for anything recognizable. The people talk strangely. Your slang and accent are foreign, and the clothes you wear are comical. People taunt you as you walk past, and you notice with disappointment that the politeness of strangers hasn’t improved much in eighty years.

You finally stop in front of a candy shop. You hardly see any stores like that in your time. You step inside and the bell chimes above your head. The interior is heavy with the scent of candy and artificial flavors, and your mouth waters.

A kind young man stands behind the glass counter. He smiles at you, and gestures at his selection. He asks you if you want a piece of his famous taffy. You smile politely and dig in your pocket. A little snack couldn’t hurt.

The man takes your change (pennies, you remind yourself. Giving the man a twenty and asking for change would not help you stay inconspicuous) and introduces himself. You recognize the name immediately.

Your great-grandfather.

Now this is an interesting situation. Here is the father of your father’s father, and judging by his appearance, your grandfather won’t even be born for another couple of years. So, what do you do?

The man obviously doesn’t know who you are. You are just a strangely dressed child in a candy shop. He could never guess in a million years who you are. You are reassured by the fact that he knows nothing, and you point to the green taffy. You always liked the color green.

The man- your great-grandfather- smiles, handing you the candy and saying it’s his favorite as well. Maybe you take after your great-grandfather. You study him closely and try to see any family resemblance. He looks nothing like you. You must have inherited your looks from the other side of your family.

You unwrap the taffy and chew it slowly. It’s better than you thought it would be. The man looks pleased as you mumble your appreciation, and he turns away to sort the rest of his wares.

As you chew the taffy, you watch your great-grandfather with interest. You have finally found who you are looking for. You never would have expected to find him in such a crowded city, yet here you are, standing right in front of him.

You continue to chew your taffy, inconspicuously sliding a hand into your pocket and grasping the hilt of the knife. An experiment, they said. Just a test. Nothing will happen, it’s just facts and data.

But as you watch the man essentially responsible for your birth, you can’t bring yourself to accept their claims. They think you’re stupid. They think you’ll fall for their plan and their fake evidence. If you kill this man, you will never be born. You consider this for a moment, rubbing your fingers along the hilt.

If you kill this man, you will never be born. But if you were never born, you would never be here in the first place. You would never have to carry out the experiment, because you would have never been born, because you killed him. But how could you kill him if you were never born?

Head aching and hand burning, you slowly slide your hand out of your pocket. Taking a step towards your grandfather, you outstretch your arm, hand extended towards him. You clear your throat, and he turns. Your great-grandfather looks surprised, and you merely inch your hand closer.

Now only a few feet away, you smile at your great-grandfather.

“Another piece of taffy, please,” you say, holding out another penny.

Your great-grandfather smiles, and accepts the payment, handing over another piece of green taffy. Giving your thanks, you walk out the door, the knife burning in your pocket.

How stupid do they think you are?

By Katey Allen, Grade 9

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