MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT A SCIENCE FICTION-FANTASY STORY

WEREN’T THE 70s GREAT

By Milton Cust

            “What do 21st century 16 year old science prodigies do in their spare time?

            Why they make a time machine and travel back in time or take a trip into the future, of course.

            Nancy Pollson was still working on her time travel machine when her two best friends arrived.

            “You sure that thing’s ready to go?” asked 16 year old Susan Ward as she eyed the contraption with a dubious look on her face.

            It was sitting in a vacant field a perched on set of tracks at the top of a steep hill.  The long, narrow brightly colored machine was shaped like a bullet. It had a pointed tapered front to cut down on wind resistence because it needed to obtain a speed of more than 400 miles per hour in order for it to find the break in the earth’s time barrier. On Nancy’s first attempts she had been barely able to reach that speed even with the latest supersonic motor to propel it down the steepest hill she could find. As a result she had crashed it at a high rate of speed. Her friends had said it was only luck that saved her life. But undaunted by the failure, she had rebuilt it with lightest aluminum covering she could find and an even bigger motor. Now it worked. The girls had already successfully travelled in once and were now prepare to make their second trip.

            “You better believe it is,” replied Nancy as she finished up with some last minute tinkering and stowed her tools away. 

            “Yesterday you told us it was already to go so why are you still playing around with it?” questioned 15 year old Kelsey Coombs.

            “Just making last minute checks because it’s better to be safe than sorry,” the science genius answered.

            “Okay, so where we going this time?”  Kelsey asked as the girls began climbing into the machine.

Since it was long and narrow there was no room for dual seating. Instead the girls sat solo, one behind each other with Nancy, as chief operator and navigator in the front. Directly behind her sat Susan and the rear seat was Kelsey’s.

“Any preferences,” Nancy questioned her friends who were settling into their seats that were little more than bucket seats pulled out an old mini van.

“I don’t care,” replied Susan, an African American girl.  “As long as it’s not 1860 in the southern states. That was the first time we used this thing and I still have nightmares about almost being enslaved.”

“Yeah, and we were almost lynched and got run out of town trying to rescue you,” Nancy shuddered at the memory.  “The only thing that saved us was the fact we had our machine hidden in a place we managed to get to quickly.”

“So what about 1970 then,” Susan suggested as the trio made their way to the machine.

Her two friends stared at her.

“Why that year? What’s so special about it?” demanded Kelsey.

“Nothing special as far as I know but since my mom and dad keep exclaiming “oh those were the days” every time someone mentions the 70s, I thought we could check it out and see if it’s really true. According to them it was the best time ever. They keep saying the music was better, the kids were better and practically the whole word was better. According to them it must have been heaven or something”

Nancy nodded. “Good as any other time I guess. In fact, I think I can also remember my parents saying the same thing.”

“I think mine said that too so let’s go,” Kelsey agreed.

“Okay, 1970 here we come but we’ed better hurry because we only have a few minutes before the next time rupture appears and if we miss it we’ll have to wait hours before the next once arrives,”  announced Nancy.

“Explain to us again about these ruptures or whatever you call them,” Susan asked.

“It’s like I told you before. I’ve discovered that at certain times throughout the day a phenomenon occurs concerning the rules regarding time. It just collapses and if I hit it just right with my machine going the right speed we can sneak through this break and go backwards or forwards depending on how I set my clock,” Nancy tried to be patient as she explained the concept which her friends never seem to fully understand.

“Enough of this.  It’s all gabble gook to us and besides we have to go right now. That way we can see what the 70s were really like and be back in time for supper,” Kelsey interrupted.

Her friends nodded stopped their discussion and the trio made themselves as comfortable as they could for their journey.

Nancy pushed a button on the machine’s dash board and the canopy cover of her time travel machine moved into place.  Then she hit a couple more and the girls could feel the machine come to life. They could feel the throb of its super charged engines which increased as they warmed up.

“Final check. Let’s see, seat belts everybody. Helmets on, thermal suits buttoned right up and gloves on,” Nancy ran down the pre-flight safety list.

When she saw her friends nod after each item was mentioned, she moved to the next procedure.  She hit a couple more buttons and the specially built engines produced a great roar and the throbs increased until the two girls felt their teeth begin to rattle. They always complained this was the worst part of the trip because they always feared they would be shaken to death before they even left the hill.

However Nancy, utterly fearless and totally confident when it came to her machine, felt no such intimation.  She ignored the frightened gasps from her friends and carefully watched the engine increase its revs. When she saw that it reached the maximum requirement she pulled a lever that acted as a brake for the roaring and eager to go machine and immediately she was forced back into her seat and held there. The g forces of such sudden speed as it suddenly shot forward on the tracks and down the steep hill were tremendous.  But fortunately it only lasted a few minutes.

They quickly reached the rupture which looked like a huge gash in the clouds. Nancy expertly steered her craft towards its entrance until they were sucked right into to. Seconds later they surpassed earth’s time travel limitations. Then all was quiet. Now the teenagers could barely feel the throbs of the giant motor as they floated through space. Nancy kept an eye on the speed as the years flashed by on an old fashioned alarm clock she had connected to a computer.  If they wanted to go to Europe, the United States or elsewhere in the world she would also have to pay attention to the navigation system but since today’s travels were limited to Canada, she just set it for a more local destination and the machine’s computers automatically looked after things.

“Here we are. 1972,” Nancy announced. “I tried to get us exactly to 1970 but my time was off and I slowed us down just a tad too fast so I guess this is close enough.”

Once the girls had taken off their homemade space suits and climbed out of the machine Susan asked. “Where are abouts’ are we?”

“Since I tried to make this as easy as possible this time I kept us in Edmonton and I put us down on the edge of the city so we won’t attract much attention” replied Nancy.

“Sure looks different,” Kelsey noted.  “So what we should do now? Should we look around and see if we can find out where we live or maybe visit West Edmonton Mall?”

“Impossible.  No can do ‘cause we don’t exist yet. Remember Nancy and me were born in 1999 and you’re a Y2K baby ‘cause you were born in 2000. Also, according to this, our parents haven’t even met yet. It says they still got to meet one another and they haven’t even decided to move here yet. Also this place we’re standing on is the West Edmonton Mall, or it’s gonna be in about 10 years,” Susan explained.

“Wow and now it’s still just a vacant field with nothing but bush and grass,” exclaimed Kelsey.

Nancy gasped in shock when she saw that her friend was getting all the information from her IPad.

“Hey, don’t you realize you can’t use that here,” Nancy yelled at her in alarm.

“What?” Susan innocently replied.

“Don’t you see? This is 1972 and computers haven’t even been invented yet, let alone personal IPads and since we don’t want to mess things up by having them arrive away too early you gotta put it away. Do it right now before somebody sees us and asks us what it is.” An exasperated Nancy urged.

“Okay, okay, no need to get so touchy about it. Does that make you happy?”  Susan snapped as she slipped the item back into her purse.

“No, no. I don’t think it can even be in your purse if we’re gonna do some exploring cause’ we can’t take the chance of it being lost and the Pad discovered that way. So we all gotta leave the Pads in the machine.” Nancy insisted.

To prove her point she took hers out of her purse and tossed it on the front seat of the time capsule. Then she waited with a stern look on her face as her two friends complied.

“Okay, that wasn’t so hard was it” Nancy smiled.

“Yes it was ‘cause I feel kind of like being naked without mine. Like how are we gonna do anything without it. I don’t even have a wrist watch anymore ‘cause my Pad tells me the time, where I am and just about everything I gotta know,” Kelsey pouted.

“She right as usual you know,” Susan admitted. “So let’s see if we can get along without them for a while. Nancy how long before the next rupture occurs?

“Let’s see. We have four hours so we better hurry if we want to do some exploring.” Nancy said.

With that the teenagers began tramping across the field until they reached a gravelled road. They were trudging along it towards the city when a half ton truck caught up with them. The driver, a pretty looking woman, stopped in a cloud of dust that had the girls choking. She stuck her head out of the window.

“Where are you girls going? Want a ride anywhere?’ she asked.

At first the girls were hesitant. Having just come from the 21st century where everyone had to be careful about who offered them a ride they eyed the woman with suspicion. However, they also realized they would get nowhere without a ride and since the woman’s smile was so nice they put aside their reservations.

“We’re going downtown, going that way? Nancy, the acknowledged spokesman replied.

“Sure am.  Got plenty of room in the back for you so hop in.”

Moments later, with the trio sitting in the box of the truck with their backs against the cab to steady themselves, the truck took off in another cloud of dust.

“Isn’t riding in the back of a truck against the law or something,” Kelsey said.

The trio looked at another one and shrugged.

A short time later the truck was making its way up Jasper Avenue from 124 Street.

“Anyplace in particular you girls want to go?” the driver poked her head out the window and looked back at them when she stopped for a red light.

“No, anywhere around here is good,” Susan announced.

She had just seen street signs indicating they were at the intersection of 101Street and Jasper.

While the driver was still idling at the lights, the girls took the opportunity to climb out of the truck box and dash over to the curb. They stared in amazement at what they saw. Jasper was a wide thoroughfare and so was 101 Street. There were lots of pedestrians waiting for the lights to change while cars zipped up and down the street. However, the first thing they noticed was the lack of high buildings. There were no high rises at all yet.

“So this is 1972. Doesn’t look that interesting to me,” Kelsey sniffed in dissatisfaction. 

The trio crossed the street along with a bunch of other pedestrians when the light changed.  Half a block down they found the entrance to the Hudson Bay store so they decided to have a look around.

“What are those and what are those people doing?” Susan asked.

She was staring at several people who were leaning up against a wall with black telephone receivers pushed up against their ears. Waiting patiently in line for their turn to use them were a couple other people.

The girls looked on with interest. When one of the people finished and hung up the receiver with a clang, he dug his fingers into a slot before leaving. They watched as he shoved some change into his pockets another person took his place.

“Unreal. Totally unreal,” Nancy giggled.

“I think those are pay phones,” Susan exclaimed with a laugh.

“And our parents keep saying the 70s were the best. I wonder why? She rolled her eyes.

“If only those people knew what we had in our machines. It would put those things to shame.” Kelsey giggled.

“Don’t you dare, don’t even think about it.  Remember the problems with time if that happens,” Nancy warned.

The girls, still laughing and snickering, made their way into the store. After a little wandering they found themselves in the music department. 

“Do you believe what we’re seeing? Those are like… so old….. like their absolutely ancient,” Nancy whispered to her friends.

 “I think they’re called LPs or Long Playing Albums. I remember seeing some in the attic of our house. My parents say the music was the best then,” Susan announced as they watched customers rifle through the bins.

They watched one of the customers pick one and walk over to a sales clerk. After a short conversation the clerk nodded, opened up the cardboard folder and pulled out its contents.

“Wow, look at the size of it,” Nancy whispered to her friends.

They continued to watch with amused interest as the clerk placed the album on a turntable and placed the stylus down on it.  The customer and clerk listened for a moment and then, when the customer nodded in satisfaction, the clerk put the album back in its container and took her back to his cash register.

Nancy snickered to her friends when the woman payed for her purchase in cash. When the clerk dutifully gave her back her change, she snickered again.

“Wow, I guess there were no debit cards back then. You mean our parents carried around bundles of cash and still believe the 70s were the best,” Nancy finally burst out laughing.

“You ready for some fun?’ Susan asked.

She had a mischievous look on her face as she suddenly seized an album and took it over to the clerk.

“Can I hear what this sounds like before I buy it?”

As she asked she was barely able to keep a straight face. Kelsey and Nancy stood close behind her and watched in amazement as the clerk took the album looked at it.

“Oh, yeah, The Rolling Stones. It’s their latest album.  This one’s still sealed so I can’t use that one but I believe I do have a demo we can use,” he stated.

Because he was acting so serious the girls thought he was hilarious but somehow managed to contain them selves.  The clerk, still totally serious and intent on making another sale, of course had no idea what the girls were up to.

He put the album on the turntable and then placed the needle down.

“Sounds great, doesn’t it?” he asked with practiced ease since it was a well-rehearsed line he used on all his customers. 

It would be about the 10th Stones album he sold today. Since the band was so popular the only problem he had was keeping enough of them in stock. With teenage girls being his best customers he knew he would have no trouble selling yet another one even though this trio seemed a bit strange.  But then most teenagers always acted a bit strange at times and these girls seemed no different, he mused.

Susan made a big show of it. She cocked her ear and appeared to listen intently for a few minutes before announcing with a sigh. “Yes they sound wonderful but how many songs do I get with this one?”

The clerk, well familiar with the album, promptly replied with a bit of triumphant in his voice, replied “oh this one has 12 songs. Six on each side. Isn’t that great?”

Susan, already thinking of the more than 100 tunes she got from her IPod which was about the size of her thumb, could only nod because she knew if she spoke she would break into laughter.

After a moment to control her composure , she looked back at her friends.

“You girls got enough to help me out? He probably wants strictly cash you know.

Nancy and Kelsey looked at her in disbelief.

Kelsey was about to blurt out with. “You really want to buy that for $10. Why do that when you can find it on I Tunes for a buck or less when we get back home?” but Nancy, as if reading her mind, nudged her in her ribs to avoid a disaster.

Then before the startled girl could say anything, she replied. “Sure, let’s chip in and buy it.” 

Moments later, with Susan proudly carrying the album, they collapsed in giggles and laughter as they made their way out of the store and back onto the street’

“And our parents keep saying how great the 70s were. Did you see how serious that clerk looked as he tried to explain how great the album was? He’s like…. Totally clueless,” Susan said between gales of laughter.

“My God, look at the time,” Nancy suddenly yelped as she looked down at her watch.

“We spent a way too much time in there and now we gotta start thinking of getting back to our ship before we lose the next time rupture. Come on girls let’s try and find our way back to our machine.”

“I guess there’s no train to take us to the west end yet,” sighed Kelsey as the trio boarded a bus that said “West End, Jasper Place.”

Being used to paying for everything with a debit card they barely managed to scrape up enough cash for the fare. Fortunately it was only a dollar apiece which they managed to find in the bottom of their purses.

“How far will take us?” Nancy asked as the bus pulled away from the curb.

When the bus driver told her she realized that it would still leave them a few miles from their machine. Oh well I guess with luck we can hitch another ride, she thought as she sat down beside her friends.

The bus driver looked puzzled when he let them off at the furthest end of his route which left them in the middle of nowhere but the girls assured him they’d be okay.

“We live on a farm over there.”  Walk to it all the time,” Nancy vaguely pointed across the field to allay the driver’s fears.

Once the bus departed, the trio started walking down the road. Although it was the same gravelled one they had been on earlier they were still several miles from their destination.

“Can we make it?” How much time we got?” demanded Susan.

“Still lots of time but it would help if we got a ride,” Nancy assured her.

Then as if somebody knew about their plight, another half-ton truck  roared up behind them.

“How far are you gals going?” a bearded middle aged man in coveralls and dusty baseball cap asked.

“Not far, just a couple of miles up the road,” Susan replied.

Again the girls piled into the back of the pickup truck. They rode in its box until Nancy began to recognize signs that they were getting close to their machine. She turned and pounded on the truck’s rear window.

When the driver skidded to a stop, the girls quickly scrambled out of the truck.

“You sure you wanta get out here?” the man asked.

“Yeah, we’re gonna go across the field. My dad’s working in there today.” Nancy lied to the farmer.

As soon as the truck was lost in a cloud of dust, the girls quickly began making their way across the field. The machine was right where they had left it.

“No hill this time for added speed so I’m really gonna have to get the max of the engine so it might be a bit rougher than normal.” Nancy announced.

As soon as the canopy covered their heads, she did a quick countdown and she was right. The beginning of the ride was really rough, even worse than the earlier teeth rattling take off but Nancy managed to coax enough speed out of her machine to hit the time rupture at the perfect time. As before, they coasted through space with Nancy watching her clock. This time it ran forward and when it was at the exact time she wanted she hit its stop button.

After the machine coasted to a stop, Nancy parked it in its usual spot.  When the trio climbed out of it, Susan was first out and clutching her IPad tightly in her hands.

“You know I don’t care what my parents say. I don’t think the 70s were all that great and I can’t believe that they managed to exist at all without IPads, IPods, debit cards and cell phones” she announced.

“Me too,” Stated  Kelsey.  “I definitely need my IPad. How can I possibly be home in time for supper without it telling me the time?”

Nancy laughed and said, “I agree so next time let’s go to a more civilized time.  It would be almost impossible to live in the 70s. Everything is like… so… far behind. It’s ancient.

“By the way, what are you going to do with The Rolling Stone album you bought?” Kelsey asked with a snicker as she recalled the encounter with the sales clerk.

Susan was silent for a moment before she spoke.

“Since my dad likes the 70s so much I’m gonna give it to him for a birthday present. Then I’ll sit back and listen to my rap music through ITunes. I’m just so glad I didn’t live back then.”