I’m going to tell you a story. I’m going to tell it slowly. So you remember it and pass it through time. I’m going to trick you. But you need to wait until the end to find out how.
This is the first part of a young adult fantasy story – ‘If and When’. The chapters will be released monthly here.
Ife walked quickly along pavement. Dodging commuters and tourists, chewing gum and puddles of piss, her feet floated over the ground. She made her way past Soho Theatre, skirted around Pizza Pilgrims and rushed through the cloud of stale beer stench wafting out of the Toucan. She hesitated as she reached the square but her brain made each foot plant itself in front of the other.
There’s no turning back now, she thought. She stood opposite a shiny black door with large glass windows on either side. Inscribed in neat gold italics above the doorbell read: the past is only a moment away. A moment and thousands of pounds, Ife muttered as she pressed her finger down on the buzzer.
The receptionist was expecting Ife and led her down to a white room. Walls, floor, door – everything was a shiny, plastic, newly mopped white. Squinting, Ife moved toward the large white leather chair that was bang in the middle of the room. At first she perched on its edge but as the receptionist left, Ife got bored of waiting and sank into the seat, taking out her ponytail so she could use the headrest comfortably.
Looking up, she could see herself reflected in the dazzling ceiling. She automatically patted her hair into shape, trying to smooth out the fuzzy curls.
“Welcome darling,” a voice startled Ife, who stopped preening to find the source.
“We haven’t met yet – though I’m sure front of house put you through your paces. I’m the technician. I actually operate it all,” the woman grinned and waved her arm towards the machines tucked away in the corner.
Striding over to a big fridge-looking-thing, the woman started making a clanking and tinkering noise, with a side order of tutting, as she helped the machine’s vibrate into life. Suddenly, Ife was thrown backwards and lying horizontal in the chair.
“Sorry.. it doesn’t give a warning,” the technician said.
“No problem, I was just startled. This feels a bit like the dentist,” Ife said, failing to sound light hearted.
“Just relax darling. The procedure is completely painless and only lasts 6 hours,” said the technician. She connected various white straps and wires to Ife’s arms and legs as she continued, “you’ll need to count backwards from ten once I place the head gear on.”
“Yes, I know,” said Ife.
“Right, remember the rules. Keep out of the way yet try to blend in. Firstly, you’ll need to….”
“Get the clothes and the right currency,” Ife interrupted.
“It’s all at the checkpoint.”
“I know,” Ife sighed. “I’ve read all of the forms and gone through the briefing.”
“Well it’s good to know you’re well prepared. You’re rather young for this but I guess we must test a variety of ages. Just don’t try to kill Hitler,” the technician giggled.
It doesn’t matter if I try, Ife thought. You can’t change the past, everyone knows that.