TT1.09: Present Tense

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PART 9: PRESENT TENSE

Carrie took a half step back as Frank opened the door. He looked… older. Which, she immediately reasoned, made perfect sense. The last time she’d spent any amount of time with him had been two years ago. Following that, she’d traveled forwards in time, and then spent Friday and Saturday in bed recovering from their experience in the woods. This meant that by her internal clock, he had aged two years in two days – certainly enough to fluster her momentarily.

“Carrie!” Frank greeted with a hesitant smile. “I’m glad you agreed to come over.”

“Yes, well, you made it sound important on the phone.” Carrie hefted the time machine at her side slightly, glancing quickly around the area outside Frank’s house. “Perhaps we could talk inside? I am taking a bit of a social risk in coming here, and I trust we can get this business over with quickly.”

***

Frank stared. Get the intricacies of time travel over with quickly? He didn’t hold high hopes of that, but decided not to push the point just yet. At least she’d agreed to come. Letting Carrie in, they proceeded towards Frank’s lab in the basement, passing Frank’s mother in the hall. “Hello Carrie! Nice to see you again,” Mrs. Dijora said with a smile. Carrie wheeled momentarily, opening her mouth in surprise but managing not to say anything until the both of them had retreated downstairs.

“Frank… what the hell was that about??” Carrie inquired, putting down the time machine and spinning to face her companion. “When has your mother ever seen me?!” She then went into a brief coughing fit.

Frank pursed his lips. Should he mention how a Carrie had visited him on Friday, asking him to make adjustments to the time machine so that she could return to Sunday, which was now the present…? No, that was this Carrie’s future. It would only complicate matters. “Let’s talk about that later. Suffice to say, I know you’re planning on traveling back in time to do something to the timeline. That’s why I called you here. As I said on the phone, we have some issues to discuss first.”

Carrie gestured vaguely with one hand. “Yes, yes. I am, in fact, aware of your theory concerning the past being unchangeable, and how that would impact my mother. Obviously I can’t accept that. In fact, the main reason I agreed to come was to tell you about a way I can disprove your theories.”

Frank rubbed his chin. He’d anticipated that reaction, given the attitude of the Carrie (Carries?) he’d seen on Friday. “Okay – so how exactly do you plan on disproving them?”

Carrie smiled. “Well, I take it that something weird happened on Friday during your chemistry class?”

Frank nodded slowly, wondering where she was going with this. “You could say that.”

“Then I will go back to delay that event until some time in our future! I trust that once I’ve accomplished that, we can make more formal preparations to the effect of saving my mother,” Carrie concluded.

Frank shook his head. “Hold on. This is exactly what I want to talk to you about. A trip to Friday isn’t going to change events any more than our trip to thirteen years ago did. I can explain exactly what–”

“No, you let ME explain something here, Frank,” Carrie retorted, jabbing a finger in his direction. “No matter what you’re about to say about changing and unchanging history, if it’s not going to bring my mama back, I simply cannot take your word for it! You of ALL people know how much she means to me!”

Chapter5a1

Carrie paused, coughing again…

Carrie paused, coughing again, but quickly continued on before Frank could speak. “And don’t you dare say I haven’t thought this through. It’s been on my mind for the last twenty-four hours. Lying in bed with my Dad coming in every so often and going through the motions of offering me soup or Tylenol or whatever it takes to make it look like he cares… before he wanders off to work in his study for hours at a time. Anything to keep from spending more time around me than he has to! Well, I’m tired of it. And at last, at LAST I can *DO* something about it!” Carrie swallowed. “So… is this test really necessary to convince you of my sincerity? Or will you help me save mama regardless?”

Frank felt a tightness in his chest. It had been two years since he had been witness to the unhappy girl lurking behind Carrie’s carefree exterior. Now that girl was back – making what he had to say that much more difficult. “Carrie…” Well, he shouldn’t lie to her. “Carrie, I’m sorry, but I can’t go along with any plans involving futile attempts at changing history. My research has shown that this would only result in unnecessary danger to us. And I can explain why if you’ll simply–”

***

“I don’t care why,” Carrie fired back, biting her lip to keep her emotions in check. She felt like hitting him. Futile attempts indeed! For some reason, when Frank had called her earlier, she’d thought maybe it was because, despite his theories, he’d truly wanted to help… like he had when he was fourteen. Instead he wanted to explain why things were impossible. No way – she would make them possible! Once Frank saw her proof, he would HAVE to become more open to the subject.

“Carrie, wait,” Frank began again. “You don’t understand–”

“Damn it Frank, don’t you get it? I don’t WANT to understand!” Carrie almost shouted. She located her prearranged coin out and plunked it into the time machine, activating the circuits. “My mind was made up before I came here, and you haven’t changed it. This machine is still set for last Friday. You know what I plan to do. There’s nothing more to be said.” Carrie grabbed the lever to activate the time displacement.

“Wait!” Frank said, caught off guard. He reached out towards her.  “At least take provisions with–”

Carrie never heard the rest. There was that familiar sensation of a void sucking at her, and the next thing she knew… she was falling from a height of about six feet off the ground. Carrie instinctively tucked her body somewhat to cushion her fall. The landing was still a bit jarring, but it was also on grass, thus Carrie found herself none the worse for wear. She looked around. The time machine had fallen next to her. She was in her backyard. On what the readout said was Friday.

So, time for her to “make history”, in a manner of speaking! Scooping up the time machine, Carrie hurried over to the tree that would allow her to climb up into her room.

(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-3)

***

Julie leaned back against one of the many trees on Hickory Avenue, arms crossed, foot tapping on the ground, gaze fixed upon a house across the street. She’d bicycled over to Frank Dijora’s place immediately after learning that Carrie had left her own house after being called by someone named Frank. Because as far as Julie knew, this was the only Frank that Carrie would have any connection to. She wondered again whether there was a further link between Carrie and the failed chemistry plans against Frank on Friday.

Julie had been in time to catch sight of a blonde girl ducking into the house. Had it been Carrie? She’d been too far away to tell, but Julie knew that Frank had no siblings. She glanced at her watch. The girl had been inside for close to five minutes now. Could Julie could find someone to pay an unscheduled visit to Frank’s house and report on what was happening? Yet if this was nothing, that would be a waste, while if it was something, the selected someone could learn about the potential problem developing with Carrie.

Then Julie heard the sound of running footsteps. She turned to see Carrie herself running down the other side of the street. “Damn!” Julie hissed, ducking back behind the tree and out of sight. When she heard the runner turn at Frank’s driveway, she again peered discretely around the trunk. Yes, this was definitely Carrie, and she seemed to be toting some large black box, maybe a cash register. Julie proceeded to watch in astonishment as Carrie reached the front door and barged directly into Frank’s house as if she owned the place.

Julie shook her head to clear it. Maybe that hadn’t been Carrie. But it had sure looked like Carrie, even sprinted like Carrie would! Yet… if that HAD been Carrie, what about the blonde who had arrived before? “Maybe Frank has visiting cousins who look like Carrie?” Julie rationalized aloud to herself. Fat chance. Baffled, the brunette shook her head and resumed tapping her foot on the ground.

Something was definitely going on that she didn’t know about. It was time to call in some extra support. Julie reached into her bag and pulled out her cell phone.

***

Frank stared at the place where Carrie had been standing, his eyes wide. This had been his first look at a temporal shift in progress. There had been a bright light, forcing him to blink, and… maybe some sort of sucking sound? Hard to say. And then – no more Carrie. At last, that fact fully registered, and Frank smacked his palm against the lab table in frustration. Carrie was gone, and she hadn’t let him explain things!

“I should have prepared better for this talk,” Frank chided himself. Though to be fair, he had been going over what to say to her ever since he’d sent off the Carrie who had requested his help on Friday. The very same Carrie who had only now left for the past. In fact, now that he thought about it, if this had been the necessary sequence of events leading up to Carrie’s arrival in the past, this future couldn’t have been changed in the same way that Frank had reasoned that the past couldn’t be altered. Awkward. And of course now both events were in the past and out of his control!

Which was when Frank heard a bit of a commotion upstairs. He hurried to the bottom of the basement staircase even as the door at the top opened. Standing there was…

“Don’t travel into the past!” Carrie shouted, taking the steps two at a time.

“What?” was all Frank could think of to say.

Carrie hit the landing next to Frank and looked around the basement. Breathing heavily, she was still able to let out a sigh. “I missed myself then,” she stated sadly. Carrie moved to set down the time machine, in order to wipe some sweat off her forehead. “Well, as I said, I had to at least give it a try. Right?”

Frank frowned. “Yes. Of course,” he said, at something of a loss.

“Frank!” came a voice from the top of the stairs. “Did someone just run into the house??”

“Uh, it’s okay!” Frank called back up. “It was just Carrie! She needed to… check on something outside.”

“Oh,” the voice replied. “Carrie? Could you please make sure to close the front door next time?”

“Certainly, Mrs. Dijora!” Carrie called out. The blonde shook her head, turning to look back at Frank. “That’s it? You know, your mother is pretty trusting of me being down here, given only our initial encounter on Friday. Heck, I wouldn’t have even met her then if she hadn’t been driving up as I was seeing if you’d arrived home yet.”

Frank made a little shrugging motion. “My parents are often pleased when it looks like I’m doing something sociable. But… and forgive the question… where and when did you come from?”

Carrie blinked. “Oh right! Later today. Sorry about barging in, I didn’t think I had much time.” She exhaled. “Which I didn’t. Damn it. Damn it all.” She leaned on table, shaking her head. “I won’t bother trying again, at least not right now. I’m out of coins, and tired out after that sprint. Actually, I’ve been awake most of Friday as well as the afternoon here talking with you… I’m due for a rest.”

Things started to click. “We’re going to have a talk in a little while,” he ventured.

Chapter5apple

“I’ll eat when I get home.”

“Sure. Oh, right. I should have known you wouldn’t know, even though you did know when I left.” Carrie shook her head. “This time traveling will take some getting used to, huh?” She took a deep breath and wiped off her forehead one last time, completely regaining her composure. “No point talking more until you’re caught up then. If it’s at all important, when I arrived I was about a block away from here. Good luck figuring out the machine! You might as well keep your apple too, I’ll eat when I get home.” She tossed the piece of fruit onto the lab table.

“I’m sure this will make more sense at the end of the day,” Frank decided.

“Probably,” Carrie answered with a shrug and smile. “Oh, and Frank… I really am sorry about hitting you like that. But you need to avoid pushing my buttons that way. Okay?” Then, with a quick wave, Carrie was off up the stairs again. She departed the house moments later.

Frank continued to stand where he was for a couple of minutes, running back through that conversation in his mind. “This must be some discussion we’re going to have,” he concluded aloud. Then he glanced over at the newly arrived apple on his table. “And since when do I start giving out fruit?”

(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-10)

***

Julie slipped behind the tree again. Carrie was now leaving Frank’s place! And this definitely looked like Carrie, be it the running girl (which seemed most likely), or the blonde from before. Julie watched discretely as Carrie turned and headed back in the direction of her own house. She didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Julie pursed her lips. So should she track this departing Carrie or maintain surveillance on Frank’s house? Was it possible that there was still a second Carrie inside, just as Clarke had supposedly seen a second Carrie in the pharmacy the other day? What about that black box, where was it? Even as Julie contemplated her options, she saw the person she had called minutes ago turn the corner a block away. She smiled, quickly deciding on how best to proceed.

***

“Carrie!”

The blonde cheerleader turned upon hearing her name to see Julie riding up on her bicycle. “Julie!” she greeted with a slight wave. “No one driving you about town today?”

Julie shook her head as she pulled up alongside her friend. “Nope. Have to keep fit somehow after all,” she remarked with a smile. “Good to see you’ve recovered from your illness. Out doing anything in particular?”

Carrie’s hesitation was brief. “Not at the moment,” she answered with a shake of her head. “I was just taking a walk. Actually I’m heading back home now to take a nap… not quite feeling a hundred percent yet.”

“I see,” Julie responded. “I ask because I called your house earlier. Your father said I’d just missed you, but also mentioned something about Frank calling you too. Now, if that geek is still bothering you, I have been considering alternate ways of dealing with him in the coming week…” Her voice trailed off.

“Oh! Well… I’m not sure that’s altogether necessary,” Carrie replied uneasily.

“Really?” Julie mused, raising an eyebrow.

‘She knows I was at his place!’ Carrie thought to herself. ‘How can I explain this? Think, Carrie, think!’

“Yes, everything was a big misunderstanding,” Carrie assured her friend. “See, Frank was actually researching physical education. And as I am the head cheerleader, he was trying to get a sense of where my abilities come from. He simply sucks at being discrete.”

Julie’s raised eyebrow twitched. “Are you telling me that you’re fine with him looking at you now?”

“Oh, hell no! But he’s going to stop. I even got him to agree to give me some pointers in math, to make everything up to me. I know I did badly on Friday’s test,” Carrie added with a grimace.

“If you’re having trouble with a subject, you know I could have found someone to help you,” Julie observed.

“I didn’t see any need to trouble you. Besides, Frank is getting top marks in our class.”

“True, he is.” There was a momentary silence, then Julie smiled again. “Okay, don’t let me keep you here talking if you’re still not well. I’ll see you tomorrow in school?”

Carrie nodded. “Sure, talk to you then!” The two girls waved and Carrie resumed walking down the street.

The blonde didn’t see Julie’s eyes narrow behind her. “I’d better not find out that you’re lying,” Julie whispered to Carrie’s retreating form. She then turned away to head back home herself – she had some serious thinking to do before checking up on the surveillance at Frank’s house.

(Carrie Time Tracker ENDS. Go to Part 13.)

***

Luci glanced at her watch. Two o’clock in the afternoon. She could be at home, getting a head start on the next unit in one of her courses, but instead she was here on Hickory Avenue. By Frank’s house. Were her priorities really in the right order?

“Fancy meeting you here,” came a voice intruding into her thoughts. Luci looked up to see Clarke approaching her.

Luci half smiled. “I could say the same,” she remarked idly. She glanced over towards Frank’s house then back at Clarke. “Though contrary to what you may be thinking, I’m just passing by.”

“I’m not thinking anything,” Clarke assured her.

“Mmm hmmm.” Luci eyed the tall blonde boy. “You being around has nothing to do with Julie then?” she ventured.

Clarke hesitated. “Should it have something to do with her?”

Luci pursed her lips. “Julie does occasionally have this need to check up on people is all.” Again the short haired girl glanced towards the house before her gaze returned to Clarke. “Speaking of, do you know of any specific reason why Julie might want to check up on Frank?”

Clarke crossed his arms. “None of this is for me to say.”

They both stood there in silence for another few minutes. “Julie’s just using you, you know,” Luci finally said. “So you should never feel obligated to do things for her.”

“Perhaps,” Clarke responded slowly. “But you really don’t know Julie like I do.”

The two teenagers continued to regard each other. Their staring match was only broken when Clarke spotted Carrie hurrying around the street corner two blocks away, headed towards them.

(Carrie Time Tracker: To Carrie-8)

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11 comments

  1. Okay, a few links I clicked jumped me about the previous post, then I ended up here, without reading all the previous post. I’m fairly certain I’m going to finish this series having missed chunks of it, but the story is enjoyable and I can see why it’s not a novel.

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    1. It totally CAN be a novel… I’m starting to think the problem is that you’re automatically scrolling back up to the top of a post? You should either:
      1) Read this like a novel, from top to bottom, post by post, as it was originally posted.
      2) Click a link, read down, click a link, read down, etc as if this was a web interactive. Never scroll up! Anchor tags are anchored for a reason! (And yes, you will miss anything that isn’t Carrie centric by doing that. But if I’m doing my job right, anything critical gets restated later.)

      Thank heavens you’re saying you’re enjoying it, I had no idea it was this complicated. *^_^*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It could only be a novel if you either removed all the jumps or the non Carrie centric stuff though. You can’t give alternative reading formats in a novel, not a paper one anyway 🙂

        No, I’ve been reading down from wherever I navigate in. It’s okay, I’m having fun.

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      2. Removing the jumps/links is easy. They’re an enhancement, not a requirement. All the problems are solved! Still, it’s weird, maybe it’s a browser or mobile issue?? (I’m still awake because I’m watching Nash, and I’m tempted to shout “live, everybody!”) Ah well, as long as you’re okay with it.

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  2. 4. Apparently I’ve been here before too. Its 5 am and I’m getting tired because I’ve been at work for 12 hours so far.

    I have no idea why Frank meeting Carrie in his living room led to with Lucy and Clarke seeing Carrie head towards them, but this is making me want to write a time travel story, ha. I also don’t know which the Carrie heading towards Lucy and Clarke is, but I shall persevere 🙂

    I am enjoying this though.

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  3. 6. Been here before too. Definitely a spontaneously created apple. If I was Frank, I’d be worried about this conversation. And if I was the guy in the forest with the nickel I wouldn’t have given my time machine to Carrie.

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  4. I seem to have wandered out of the weird time jumpy bits because now I’m reading full posts about them. In the library.

    Its good. Julie really intrigues me.

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  5. Oh, you’ve got a couple of extra breaks between your paragraphs! There’s a few in the first section and one in the fourth. It’s like an nbsp; tag got stuck there. 🙂

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    1. Heh. You’re not wrong. I will say Julie rides the train all the way into Book 2 – this book (to Part 24) is more about Carrie, Julie’s arc is completed in the next one. Though being friends, they are tied together.

      Thanks for the info about the extra breaks, they were meant to be “***” separations, indicating a point of view shift. I didn’t have them there originally, and put them in later because as you pointed out, the extra spacing looks confusing. Looks like I missed a few.

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