-by Acacia M.
I sit, chewing on the end of my favourite blue pen. I had an idea just moments ago—where did it go?
Unable to put words to the page, I hesitate. I shouldn’t need inspiration to write. I know I’m alright at it, but nothing comes to me today.
I write a few more words: “The sun broke out from behind…”
No. That’s not how I meant to start. I cross everything out and tear the page from my notebook.
“Writer’s block?” The sympathetic voice comes from just over my shoulder.
“You could say so.” I crumple up the page and twist around to throw it in the trash can. Then it hits me. I freeze.
I slowly look up at the figure behind me. “Who— what—how…?”
It isn’t my brother, or even my dad. The guy grins. “Acacia Michaels, is it?”
I stare up at him, dumbstruck. “Do… do I know you?”
His smile broadens. “I highly doubt it. My name’s Adam.”
“Nice to meet you… Adam.” Still frowning, I drop the notepaper into the trash. “Um, and how did you get in here, anyway?”
Remembering something, I get up and check the door. It’s still locked. I don’t like being disturbed when I’m writing—but then how did he get in?
Adam waves a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry. I’ll only take a couple of minutes. Can I ask you some questions, Acacia? Or d’you want me to call you—”
“Yep.” He plops down on the end of my bed, pulling out a silvery notebook. “Can I borrow a peen?”
I stare at him uncomprehendingly. “A…what?”
He frowns, tries again. “Peen, pane… er— you know, that thing you’re holding.”
I glance down. “Pen?”
“Yeah! That’s it.” Adam looks relieved, but not in the least embarrassed. “Easy enough to mix up—we don’t use ink anymore.”
I hand him a pen, slightly confused. “You… don’t use ink?”
“Nah. Doesn’t work as well with the newer tinpads.” Adam says, glancing up. “So—first question. What was the title of your first published work?”
He grins. “Is that all you can do? Copy what I say?”
I flush, losing my temper. “Well, if you said anything that made sense, I could answer you properly! You keep calling me Acacia, and I haven’t told anyone my pen name. Then you ask me about my published works – I’ve never published anything! I’m only sixteen. And how do you even know me?”
Adam stares, his jaw hanging open. “Wait—you’re sixteen? I didn’t type in—sixteen…that’s not right.” He pulls out another silvery object. This one looks more like a smartphone than a notepad, but they’re both made of the same glimmery material.
He mutters to himself, swiping at the surface. “Goes to show… lousy old technology…”
“What. Is. That?” I mean my voice to sound firm and insistent on answers, but it comes out more whiny than anything else. I wince, but Adam doesn’t notice.
“Stupid piece of junk. This is why no one does time travel anymore.” He finally seems to realize that I’m watching him. “Sorry. The Gen-3000 is pretty touchy on the takeoff. I guess I’m off by several years.”
Off by several years? I don’t echo him aloud but I can’t help thinking it. This is nuts.
Adam drops the Gen-3000 next to him on my bed. “We don’t time-travel that often anymore, but I figured it’d be a nice touch on my report. I even dressed up for it,” he says proudly.
I look him up and down. From high-top sneakers to smiley-face print bandanna, I can’t believe I didn’t notice his outfit before now. Between that, he’s wearing bell-bottom jeans, a pink T-shirt with a peace sign emblazoned across the front, and a striped blue-and-silver necktie. All his clothes have the same silvery undertone as the notebook.
“What do you think?” He beams.
I grimace. “I think you’re a couple of decades behind with that outfit.”
“You mean like the 1980s?” Adam’s grin gets even wider, if possible. “Oh, I know—but the library said that in the 2010s the 1980s are totally coming back.”
“Not all of the eighties.” I make a face at his jeans. “I think society as a whole has decided that bell-bottoms should never have happened in the first place.”
His face falls. “But the tie’s okay, right?”
I stare at the striped monstrosity. “Yeah, sure. Just… not with that shirt.”
“Okay.” Adam fumbles for his notebook. “I gotta write this down. Ten minutes with Acacia Michaels, and she’s giving me fashion tips!”
I shake my head. “I still don’t get this. You’re doing a report on me. I’m… famous?”
“Uh-huh,” he says (clicking the pen and looking extremely proud of himself). “You’ve written “The Last Hero,” “The Muse’s Flame”…which by the way no one understood the Pegasus reference in until they went way back and talked to what’s-his-name Tennyson.”
Adam waves a hand dramatically. “This is crazy! It’s like talking to Einstein and having him ask you what relativity is! Or to Ms. Chase before she perfected time travel! You’re legendary—I mean, how could… This is even better than a normal interview.”
He starts scribbling. “Ugh, this stuff smudges like crazy. I can’t believe you haven’t invented anything better than ink yet.”
I lean over to see. “It works okay on paper. What is that, anyway?”
“Tinpad.” Adam hesitates. “Well, it’s not actually tin, but that’s what everyone called it when the first version came out a couple hundred years ago or so… It’s make of syncrolite.”
Seeing my blank look, he attempts to clarify: “Two hundred and fourth element on Malcolm’s new periodic table. Discovered like ages ago on the planet Thallius. It’s what we make pretty much everything out of nowadays—a renewable resource, and found on at least seventeen planets in the galaxy closest to us.” Adam gestures to his clothing.
“If you say so.” Still skeptical, I roll my eyes.
He looks offended. “Hey, I’m no scientist. I study history.”
I open my mouth to reply, but Adam cuts me off.
“Oh, no!” He glances at his bare wrist. “I’m already five minutes late—I’ve got to go. Can I call back in, say, 20 years or so?”
“Could you be a little more specific?”
“Nah.” Adam looks a little sheepish. “The Inter-Temporal Law of Information—I’ve already said too much. But it’s okay—you’re a writer. No one will believe you.”
“Excuse me?” I sputter, highly offended. “That’s—you can’t just—”
“Now, now.” Adam grins again. “You don’t have to get all worked up about it.”
My mouth is open. “You—you—”
“See you when I see you, Acacia.”
And then he’s gone.
Exasperated, I turn back to my desk and find myself facing the same blank page again. At least now I know what to write about.
I drop into my chair and wonder vaguely if I’ll ever see him again. “20 years or so,” he’d said. I smooth out the page and let out a groan as the realization hits me.
Somewhere in the future, a guy named Adam still has my favourite pen.