Nebula Chronicles – Mischief in Time

“I’m telling mom!” the little girl popped out of nowhere frightening her brother.

“What are you doing here?” he hissed at her keeping his voice down. “Go back inside!” He shoved her but she cleverly secreted a protective layer and stung him.

Recoiling, he released pincher-tentacles to charge at her. 

“As if…” she stood her ground showing no fear, all four arms crossed over her torso. “If you go to earth, I’m telling mom.”

He considered her a moment, knowing full well that she meant it.

“What do you want?” This would cost him dearly but he didn’t see any way out of it.

“They’re not your friends if they ask you to do something dangerous. And illegal.” Her skin turned white for a split second, showing she was scared more than angry.

He pretended he hadn’t noticed because he knew he wouldn’t do it if he cared about his sister just then. He had to do it. They were the cool kids and he was tired of being the outsider, the weirdo. He had to prove he could do something crazy.

“I have to do this,” he retracted the tentacles and turned himself pink to make her laugh. “I’ll give you anything if you don’t tell mom.”

At first, she resisted but he smiled when he saw her change into all the colours of the nebulas, unable to contain her excitement. He felt hopeful.

“I get all your lava cakes for the next three orbits.” She grinned from lug to lug as he went grey with distress.

“Oh you’re evil,” he loved those cakes. Their dad travelled to Jupiter twice an orbit and that was the treat he brought back for them. Three orbits was a long time to go without a lava cake but what if he became popular in that time too? 

“Fine,” he stretched out all four hands ready to shake on it. She hesitated, disappointment flashing orange on her skin. She had been sure he wouldn’t give up the lava cakes. Reluctantly she shook his hands and walked away grey with her head hung low and all her limbs dragging on the floor.

He felt sorry for upsetting her but he knew she would forgive him when those lava cakes came. When she slid down the last dune and out of sight, he steadied himself and opened a wormhole. He heard the alarm sound almost immediately but didn’t care. Under-age wormholing was forbidden but he had seen a couple of guys get away with it so he was hopeful he would too. Not wasting another moment, he dove head-first into it.

Within the blink of his eyes, he landed on something cold and hard. On all eights, he recognised it to be a stone floor, featured in his Earthling Studies textbook as a construction medium. He stood slowly, taking in his surroundings. The room was damp and dark and the walls were also made of stone. The only light came into the room from a high square hole in the wall. On the opposite side of the room, a dark doorway loomed. 

The dare was to bring something back from Earth to prove he had been there. With nothing in this room, he had to venture through that doorway.

Careful to not release his breath, knowing he would have limited time before he would run out, he crept into the darkness. He switched to infrared vision and saw more of the stone walls and floors but at the end of the dark hall stood a figure. A doorway opposite the figure kept it in silhouette, even unreadable with infrared. He froze. The figure didn’t move. He took a few steps closer and the figure didn’t seem to notice him. Finally, he was within tentacle reach of it and remembered it to be a suit of armour the ancient earthlings used in battle. He was in a castle. His favourite bedtime stories as a kid were about princes and kings in battle on Earth. He could grab a piece of that armour and go home but he wanted to see more.

He went through the well-lit doorway and found a room with a large wood desk in the middle surrounded by chairs also made of wood and Earth-animal skins. He shivered at the barbaric practice. He was in a study. He recognised the purpose because his dad had a room just like it where he would read the Galactic News and manage the family’s finances. He suspected his dad also went there to escape his mom’s wrath when she was cleaning.

Then he saw the perfect souvenir to take with him. Mounted on the wall in a wooden box was a timepiece, ticking away. He remembered learning about these in their technology class. Earth’s time worked on seconds that added up to minutes and then became hours and they kept track of it on clocks. He would be the coolest guy in the gang with an Earth clock still telling the time. 

Carefully he lifted the clock off a metal hook and was just about to open the wormhole to go back home when he sensed a presence. Short spikey hairs sprouted all over his body ready to defend him but it was too late. He watched as lightning erupted from what looked like the Earthling’s hand and paralysed him as it surged through his body.

Before he lost consciousness he managed to transform into the first human that came to mind. 

“Who’s Marty McFly?” he heard a voice say. Relieved that he was still holding his breath he took in his surroundings, without opening the Earthling eye flaps. 

“You GenZers,” another Earthling said, “You know nothing. Back to the Future. That’s who Marty McFly is.”

He was lying on a bench in a metal-framed room and the men talking were sitting at desks just outside his room. He nearly breathed. He was in a cage. A cell. He was in a police station. Those two men were cops. He could not wormhole in Earthling form. And the clock was on the table in front of the fat cop.

He wondered why Earthlings looked so different. The fat cop was wrinkled like his skin was too big for him. He knew that meant he was old. His skin was pinkish and his hair was mostly grey with some orange specs. The skinny cop was smooth. This meant he was younger. His skin was dark like a shadow, his hair even darker. Where he came from everyone male or female looked the same – as adults at least. Kids were shorter. He couldn’t imagine looking different.

As he watched the men sit at their desks another cop came in. It was a woman cop curvy in the way Earthling movies wanted you to think she was attractive. He held back a gag. 

“Hasn’t he woken up yet?” she asked the two men, and when they shook their heads she approached the cell and went on, “That little old lady nailed him good.”

The three cops laughed.

“Of all the valuable things in that museum though,” she said walking back to desk and looking down at the clock he had tried to steal, “why would he want a clock? It’s not even an antique. It’s from the eighties.”

The fat cop then said, “Well he looks like Marty McFly, maybe he’s building a time machine.”

The female cop rolled her eyes and said, “So weird” and left the room.

He continued to lie there, on the outside looking asleep, but on the inside panicking. How long could he still hold his breath? How long would it take for the cops to leave him alone so he could change back? How dead would he be when his mom finds out?

He thought of the last time he got in trouble. She hung him up by all twenty-eight of his toes and left him in the dark for a whole moon cycle. She would skin him for sure this time.

A commotion drew his attention back to the cops. The female cop had returned with other Earthlings.

“This is Mr and Mrs Bundy,” she tells her colleagues. “They’re here for Marty McFly.” Then she left again.

The skinny young cop got up shook their hands and started explaining the charge. But the fat old cop interrupted them, “The Bundys?” he asked, “As in Al and Peggy Bundy?”

“That’s right,” said Peggy, flashing a toothy smile as her big red hair framed her face. 

The fat cop just stood staring at them, looking at Al, then Peggy, then back at Marty McFly. The skinny cop ignored him and focused on the Bundys.

“The museum curator found your son with this clock,” he pointed to it on the desk. “Unfortunately she tasered him for longer than is recommended and he hasn’t woken up yet. At this stage, we do not know what his intentions were, but for his safety, we thought it best to let him sleep it off here.” 

Peggy Bundy looked worried and turned to her husband as if to implore him to do something. “Do you mind if my wife speaks to him?” he asked the cops.

“Sure, if you can wake him,” the younger cop answered seeing his partner still staring blankly at them all. Al and the young cop continued their conversation.

Peggy Bundy approached the cell, “Marty, dear,” she said in a sugary sweet cooing voice for the cops to hear. Then telepathically she yelled, “What have you done? The whole neighbourhood is talking about this. If your sister didn’t come tell me where to look…”

He knew he was in trouble and no amount of pleading would save his skin, “Sorry Mom,” was all he could say back to her.

“Why did you have that clock?” she asked and even her telepathic voice’s teeth were clenched with anger.

“It was a dare Mom, and I thought the clock would be cool,” he admitted, sure that she wouldn’t understand.

Peggy Bundy turned back to the cops, and said in her outside voice, “Can we please have some water for him? I think he’s waking up.”

“You get the water,” the skinny cop said to the fat cop, “I’ll get the curator to sign off the release papers.”

When the Bundys were left alone with Marty McFly, all three transformed into their normal selves. “We’ll talk about this when we get home,” his mom said as she opened a wormhole and grabbed one of his arms through the bars.

Just as the wormhole was about to close, he could hear glass shattering and the fat cop said, “What the…”

Half an orbit later he was finally unstrung and allowed out of his pod. Most of his skin had grown back too. His dad had just returned from a business trip to Jupiter with the favoured lava cakes. He sat in greyness watching his sister devour both of them. He knew that had she not told on him, he would have suffered the worst death. 

“Here,” his mom’s voice said. She handed him the clock and he looked up at her realising she too was once a weird kid. “Go show those kids what you’re made of.”

This story was written as part of my YOU ChooseDay feature where YOU Choose the prompts for character, situation, object and setting. Then I write the story.

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