“You’re late today,” Julie remarked to Carrie as the blonde sat down next to her on the cafeteria bench.
“There was someone I needed to talk to,” Carrie answered slowly. She felt her heart beating a bit faster in her chest. What she was doing here was practically treasonous. If Julie found out that she had a miniature recorder running in her shoulder bag there would be hell to pay.
But it would be the proof. For Frank. Of the change to his past. She’d just acquired the device from the audio-visual lab by way of Bill… Julie not being the only one at school with a circle of personal ‘admirers’. Of course, Carrie usually didn’t bother to exercise any aspect of her control unless she (or Julie for that matter) felt like it would gain them something.
“Was it to do with the game tonight?” Julie mused in response, before popping the last of her sandwich into her mouth.
Julie swallowed. “Okay Carrie, seriously, what day ARE you living today?”
Carrie bit down on her tongue. Football game, right, she was supposed to cheerlead for that after school… except she really didn’t want to hang around in this time period longer than she had to. Things were already dragging on longer than expected.
“Just kidding,” Carrie said to gloss over the prior remark. She lowered her voice. “Actually, I’m still thinking about the chemical lab switch.”
“Oh. That again,” Julie sighed, pursing her lips.
Carrie nodded. “Yes. You wanted to switch the labels on some of the containers, to get Frank in trouble?”
“We’ve been over this. That’s what’s going to happen.”
“Okay, but try this idea instead. Some of the chemicals go missing from the cabinet – and turn up elsewhere in the lab. Still pretty irresponsible, isn’t it?” Carrie proposed, hoping her recorder was getting all of this.
“Not as credible,” Julie said, gesturing dismissively. “Anyway, moot point, the lab’s empty right now and Joe’s already fiddling with things as we speak. If you’d wanted to propose something different you should have talked to me back at the start of lunch.”
“What??” Carrie’s subsequent cough nearly sent her into a choking fit. Her head spun briefly; she might need to lie down when this was all over.
“Problem?” Julie inquired.
“Ah, n-no… that is…” Carrie coughed again and fumbled for her water to gain time to think. Well, this had taken another turn for the worse. Could she now no longer postpone OR change the situation? She forced her brain to kick into high gear.
Okay… she could still alter the outcome. That is, keep the truth about the chemicals from being discovered today, or even keep Frank from being blamed outright. Though she’d have to figure out how to do that without provoking a lot of questions from Julie.
“Look,” Carrie’s companion spoke up again. “How about we stick to me handling the details on stuff, okay? At least today, since you don’t seem to be on top of your game.”
“Ah, sure,” Carrie responded, thinking furiously. “So how was the party last night?” she continued as a way of changing the subject and making small talk.
Julie launched into a mildly elaborate description, which Carrie listened to with half an ear. Of more concern now was how she’d manage this new alteration idea… in order to be sure, maybe she should attack the outcome from several angles at once? She stifled a sigh, hoping Frank would appreciate what she was doing here. At this point, he’d better.
“Mr. Fisk, call the office please, Mr. Fisk,” came the voice over the school’s public address system.
A tall man grabbed the phone in the science office. “Fisk here.”
“Ah, Larry, we’ve received a phone call from PARA Chemistry Supplies,” stated the office worker. “They said something about a mixup in labels on some of the chemical containers which were sent in to us at the start of the year.”
“What? Which containers are those?”
“They couldn’t be specific, they’re still following it up. At this point they’re contacting affected locations and indicating they’ll get back to us with more information when they know more.”
“I see. Thank you very much then, keep me informed,” the chemistry professor acknowledged with a grumble before hanging up.
“Troubles?” mused one of his colleagues from behind her desk.
“Possibly,” sighed Larry Fisk. “This would come up when I have a class to teach in ten minutes. But we haven’t had any problems so far this term, and all the chemicals we’re using today are ones we’ve used previously this September. I’m just going to go and verify that; left the lesson notes on my lab desk.”
His colleague acknowledged him with a nod before turning back to her paperwork. Then, about two minutes later, another announcement came on over the PA system: “Would a member of the custodial staff please report to room 212, custodial member to room 212.” Three minutes after that, Larry stormed back into the office.
“I do NOT believe this!” the teacher announced to no one in particular.
“More trouble?” his colleague asked, looking up once again.
“Definitely,” came the irate reply. “Not only can I no longer find my notes for today’s experiment, but someone left the water running in the sink. The drain was plugged, so now there’s a puddle on my classroom floor.”
Mr. Fisk began to sift through the papers on his desk. “Fortunately I noticed in time, though there may be a delay in starting class. And I’ll have to do this lesson from memory, borrowing a copy of the experiment from one of the students. I REALLY hope this isn’t some juvenile prank. It’s getting to the point where we may have to lock up more than just the chemicals in this school!”
“Oh, come now… surely you don’t think this was deliberate? The sink wasn’t on full blast or anything, was it?”
“Well, no, no, but at the very least it’s irresponsible,” Larry retorted, picking up his course textbook and shaking it in his associate’s direction. “Thank goodness it’s almost the weekend. I tell you Maureen, if one more idiotic thing happens this afternoon, I’m really going to get upset!”
It hadn’t worked. The water on the floor, the hidden notes, the faked call, none of it. Carrie swayed slightly on her feet from her position outside of Room 212; she was skipping her own afternoon class. Inside, she could hear Mr. Fisk requesting to borrow someone’s notes and giving no indication that he wasn’t going to proceed with their experiment of the day.
How was it possible that things weren’t changing? Could Frank have been right? Could she not change the past? Had she now run out of time?
“So, I’m going to provide a brief demonstration of what I want you to do,” Mr. Fisk stated. “Frank, bring me the sodium bicarbonate from the cupboard.”
‘No, no, no, NO!’ Carrie thought to herself, clenching and unclenching her fists at her sides. ‘It’s not supposed to happen this way. I have to be able to change things. I will NOT be denied this!’
A quick look showed that, other then her, the hallway was deserted. So, making a split second decision, Carrie dashed down the corridor, yanked down on the fire alarm, and ducked into the nearby washroom amid the loud clanging of bells.
It occurred to her ten minutes later, as she crept out of the now empty lab room 212, that time traveling back a few hours to take another run at things might have been a more prudent course of action. On the bright side, there were no cameras in this area that might identify her as the one who had triggered the alarm and broken the lock on the chemical cabinet. On the down side, she felt unbelievably guilty at her actions.
(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-6)
Julie leaned over the fence which enclosed both the track and the football field, observing the proceedings with a frown on her face. Not because their team was losing (although they were) but rather because Carrie was not out there, showing off with the rest of the cheerleaders.
Her friend had been acting decidedly weird today… not to mention missing her party last night too. There had to be a reason.
Julie began to drum her fingers idly on the fence. In just one day, Carrie had lost track of recent events, questioned Julie more than usual about her plans, shown up late for lunch and left early without an explanation, been one of the last students Julie had noticed departing the school after that big false fire alarm, and to top it off Carrie was now not taking the opportunity to flaunt her gymnastic abilities in front of an audience.
Any one thing Julie would have been able to simply write off as her being sick, but taken together… it was decidedly weird! Then there was the fact that their plan against Frank had failed, completely wasting the favour by Joe. Did that relate at all?
Part of the reason she had chosen Carrie as someone to hook up with two years ago was because she’d sensed in the girl a streak of self absorption and conceit. This, coupled with the fact that Carrie was good looking – enough to make any normal adolescent male turn their head – yet not so stupid as to hear an echo if you shouted into her ear, made her a perfect choice.
Julie could do things Carrie wanted, and in turn Carrie was bright enough to do what Julie needed, so that they would both come out on top. But was it possible that Julie had been mistaken about Carrie’s egotism? Was Carrie now developing more of a conscience? Or was Julie merely being paranoid, given that the next few months could well be the pivotal ones?
“Hey, Jewels,” came a voice from behind her. Julie didn’t even turn, as there was only one person who called her by that nickname.
“Phil,” she acknowledged curtly.
Which, she reflected briefly, was also a nickname of sorts, despite being his name. After all, most people referred to Phil Clarke by his last name – as he preferred. But Julie was a special case. Clarke had indicated having some feelings for her last year, which had resulted in their current… ‘relationship’.
In other words, a barely official hands-off one, Julie not allowing herself to succumb to rampant emotionalism. Still, Clarke was a refreshingly simple person at times, a quality she appreciated, and neither of them were currently seeing anyone else.
“Troubles?” Clarke inquired as he reached her position.
“I’m not sure,” Julie admitted. There was a pause before she finally turned her head to look up at her blond classmate. Looking up being a necessity, as Clarke was one of the taller boys in class. But despite this, and his rebellious style of shoulder length hair, he looked a lot more imposing than he actually was.
“Did Carrie strike you as being particularly… weird today?” the brunette asked.
Clarke blinked back down at her. “Weird? I dunno. Yeah, I guess so, given how she looked and ran off and all that.”
“You mean the way she left the school grounds after the fire alarm went off?”
“Huh? No, no, never saw her then. Meant at lunch, in the drug store.”
Julie stared at Clarke. “Carrie was in the drug store during lunch? What was she doing there?”
The tall blond shrugged. “Buying cough medicine, I think? I said ‘hi’, she sort of blinked at me then hurried away without a word. Looked a sight worse than in homeroom too, guess the math test took a lot out of her.”
“Really? That’s funny,” Julie mused, her forehead creasing. “Carrie’s condition seemed to have improved when we were talking in the cafeteria. What time did you see her?”
“Time? Dunno… slightly after noon I guess. 12:15?”
Julie shook her head. “That can’t be right, she was talking with me about then,” Julie refuted. “And, athlete or not, even Carrie’s not fast enough to get from the school to the drugstore in mere minutes.”
“Yeah? But I’m pretty sure it’s right,” Clarke countered, scratching his head. “Met up with some of the other guys from the basketball team about 12:30, so couldn’t be later than that.”
“Phil, Carrie couldn’t be in two places at the same time,” Julie explained patiently. “Are you sure it was her?”
“Pretty sure? Looked like her, blonde hair, blue hairband and all. Different shirt from the morning though. And I guess I was a few metres away. Plus she ran off without even a wave. So, yeah, maybe not.”
Julie looked at Clarke for another couple seconds before turning her attention back to the game field. “You think she’s got a long lost sister she’s never mentioned before?” Julie wondered aloud. Heck, if the person in school today hadn’t really been Carrie, it could explain the weirdness.
“What, you mean twins like Laurie and Corry or something?” Clarke said in confusion.
“I don’t know,” Julie said, drumming her fingers on the fence again. She was reaching now, wasn’t she. “Maybe I’m overreacting. But I have the feeling that there’s something going on here that I don’t know about. You know I don’t like that.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll figure it out. You always do,” Clarke reassured her. “I can ask around if you like.”
“No, no,” Julie said, gesturing dismissively. “After all, this could be nothing, so I’ll handle it myself. But not a word of these suspicions getting back to Carrie, all right?”
Clarke shrugged. “Sure, Jewels. Uh, why not?”
Julie pushed herself away from the fence, turning to lean back against it as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Because. If I’m wrong about there being something up with Carrie, I don’t want to have jeopardized what it is we have.” Her eyes narrowed. “While if I’m right? I don’t want her to be prepared for my reaction.”
Frank walked up the street towards his house, rubbing his forehead with one hand. The day hadn’t gone how he’d expected. Then again, what had he expected? Carrie to run up to him before first period and ask for his help in learning more about the time machine? That wasn’t her style, and he knew it.
Still, he’d figured on some reaction from her, after she presumably discovered that she still didn’t have a mother. Something more than just turning up at school as if everything was normal. Was it possible that Carrie was trying to forget all about the device and continue on with her life as if nothing had happened?
Frank paused in his walking. Boy, he hoped that wasn’t the case. After two years of research, it would be nice to see it actually pay off somehow!
Then again, Frank mused, as he continued on his way, Carrie pretending nothing had happened wasn’t terribly likely either. And given the glance they had exchanged that morning in class, she now knew that he still knew about her trip, so they’d have to face off some time. Right? Though there had been something else in her expression, something Frank couldn’t quite put his finger on… something that had seemed out of place.
He shook his head. Oh well. As he had conjectured yesterday, it was looking like any discussion between him and Carrie about the issues surrounding time travel might have to be initiated by him. Not something he was particularly looking forward to, but something he should do before Carrie got any wild ideas in her head. Perhaps this weekend.
Walking up his driveway, Frank noticed his mother’s car was there. She must have gotten away from work early. “Hello?” Frank called out as he opened the door and dropped his bookbag by the stairs. “Mom?”
Frank blinked. Guest? He never had guests. The only person he could think of who might have come over would be Luci, to ask about math problems or something.
“Hello?” Frank repeated, advancing forward a few steps to look into their living room. “What’s…” His voice trailed off in surprise.
Frank’s guest stood there, a vexed look on her face. “I…” She cleared her throat and spun away from him to face the window. “You have to reset the damned device so that I can travel back to my present, this Sunday,” Carrie stated crossly.
(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-7)
At that moment, some blocks away, Carrie stumbled back into her bedroom and, almost as an afterthought, glanced underneath her bed. There was only one time machine there. Her double from the future must have picked up the second one at some point during the day.
Who knows when though… could have been after her father went out, allowing her to shower and sneak down into the kitchen to make soup. Or while she’d been asleep that afternoon. Or perhaps it had been around lunchtime when she’d mustered up the strength to go out and buy cough syrup. She supposed it didn’t really matter. Though, crawling back into bed, Carrie decided she felt well enough now to really think things through without the thoughts making her head spin.
It seemed like Frank would have some notions regarding how the past could change, which impacted on her attempt to save her mother. Hence Carrie herself would come back to change something at school and disprove his theories. Sensible enough. But what was it she had decided to change then? What had been due to happen at school on Friday?
It would need to be something Frank would take notice of, and recognize as having been changed. So what was he likely to be involved with? The lightbulb clicked on. Wasn’t Friday the day that Julie was going to do something with chemicals to get Frank in trouble? As payback for his spying on her?
Carrie winced slightly. Now knowing what she did, doing something that mean… it didn’t feel right. But this was perfect!
When Carrie felt better, she’d travel back to sometime this morning, and get Julie to postpone – or even call off – the whole affair. Which, knowing Julie, might be more difficult to do than it sounded… but she could work out the details later. Nodding to herself, and letting out one more series of coughs, Carrie pulled the covers back up over her head to get some more rest.
(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-2)
A short time later, a young asian girl with relatively short hair done up in two ponytails picked up her phone, dialled a number and waited for someone on the other end to pick up.
“Hello, Mrs. Dijora? It’s Luci. I was just wondering, is Frank home yet?” A pause, during which Luci raised one of her eyebrows. “Oh, no, don’t bother him then. If I might ask though, who’s down in his lab with him?”
Luci almost dropped her phone in shock. She quickly recovered. “Did this Carrie have a blue hairband on?” Another pause. “Oh, no, nothing’s wrong. I’ll call back later. No message.”
Luci hung up the phone, frowning. Then, after a minute of thought, she dialled another number.
Two days later, early on Sunday morning, a girl with long naturally curly brown hair picked up her phone, dialled a number and waited for someone on the other end to pick up.
“Hello, Mr. Waterson? It’s Julie. I was just wondering, is Carrie feeling better yet?” A pause, during which Julie raised one of her eyebrows. “Oh, I just missed her? If I might ask then, where was she was headed?”
Julie almost dropped her phone in shock. She quickly recovered. “You’re sure it was someone named Frank who called?” Another pause. “Oh, no, nothing’s wrong. I’ll call back later. No message.”
Julie hung up the phone, frowning. Then, after a minute of thought, she grabbed her bag and ran for the front door.
ASIDE: Link to Commentary 4