Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...
Chapter Description: It's just a three-hour tour...
A small group of people is sitting on a mini-tour bus. Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Sister Marigold are being briefed by their tour guide/driver.
“Welcome to Pegasus Tours! We will be exploring the city and pointing out its rich history, followed by a quick lunch, and afterward, we will bring you back to your hotel. We hope you will enjoy your tour!” said Peggy as she sat down in the driver’s seat and started the bus's engine.
“The start of our tour will take us through Oldtown, this part of the city was built in the latter half of the last century. As the stone was more locally abundant then, most of the buildings are constructed from it.”
“This part of the city is mostly small offices. Due to the narrow streets, parking was at a minimum until they erected the parking garage you see on the right.”
“We’ll enter the Newtown part of the city through that tunnel, sometimes the lights go out after a rain so be prepared for a dark ride. It’s only a few hundred yards and goes fairly quick.”
As they exited the tunnel, Peggy was shocked to find that Newtown wasn’t there and pulled the bus over to the curb of the unfamiliar city.
“Ladies and Gentleman, I find myself at a loss,” said a baffled Peggy “This isn’t Newtown and I don’t recognize anything here.”
Where there should have been gleaming glass skyscrapers, more stone buildings similar to those in Oldtown stood. The city was clean, well cared for and prosperous businesses dotted the street. Peggy decided to go into a small bistro and ask for information and maybe a map. She asked her passengers to stay with the bus.
The bistro had a map and gave it to Peggy. She got back on the bus and pulled out a table on a swinging arm spreading the map out on top of it. As she familiarized herself with the map she discovered that Oldtown and the tunnel didn’t exist.
“It’s as if we crossed over to another dimension, but that only happens in the Twilight Zone TV shows, not in real life,” said Peggy.
“Let’s see” mused Peggy as she placed her finger on the map “We’re here and…” she trailed off as she noticed that her pants felt loose and were slipping down. She pulled them up and they were still loose. Nonplussed, she tightened her belt a notch and went back to the map. As she pointed to where they were, the cuffs on her shirt had slid down her hand and only the tips of her forefinger and thumb were visible. “What’s going on here?” said Peggy in a higher-pitched voice. She stood up and her pants started to fall again.
The customers looked at Peggy and the nun said, “Saints alive, child! It appears that you’re getting younger!”
Peggy tried to inspect her hands by bringing them up to her face but the fabric of the shirt had slipped past with the cuffs dangling from her obscured fingers. Peggy looked to be in her mid-teens and getting smaller. Her pants slipped down her legs as they were now too big for her hips and waist.
Her shirt wouldn’t have looked out of place had she borrowed it from a taller person to use as a nightshirt, but for everyday use, it looked ridiculous. Waves of fear washed over Peggy’s body as the process continued to manifest. A little girl of 10 years stood in a pile of clothing and started to cry. “Make it stop! I don’t want this! M-Mommy, mommy! Make it stop!” she blubbered out as the process came to its conclusion and left her at the age of 3.
“There, there now. You’re all better and don’t look to be getting any younger, dear.” Said Mrs. Smith as she crouched down hugged the child and comforted her. Mr. Smith stood by his wife with his hand on her shoulder. “Martha, you’re younger too! He said as he noticed that her wispy gray head of hair had been replaced with its formerly lustrous thick black mane.
“Why, Mr. Smith, You too appear to have lost a few yourself!” Said Sister Marigold. “I believe that you are in your early twenties! Quite handsome, too!”
“As are you, sister. You could pass for a teenager, yourself.” Observed Mr. Smith. Sister Marigold went to the front of the bus and examined her features in its large rearview mirror. “My gosh! I look like I did just before college. That was the dark time in my life where I was a party girl and hadn’t found the lord.”
Mrs. Smith picked up the little girl and sat her on her lap as she took a seat. “We should get back to the hotel. Can you drive, Harold?” She said.
Mr. Smith was more pragmatic. “We need to figure out if we did slip into the Twilight Zone and work out our situation from there. The hotel may not exist where we’re at.”
Mrs. Smith looked out the bus window and spotted a large thrift shop. “I’ll take Peggy to that thrift shop and get her some clothing while you do that, dear.” She stood up and held Peggy in her arms, gave him a kiss for luck, and Sister Marigold followed her. “I think I’ll find something better than this nun’s habit to wear and get around in as well,” She said.
Mr. Smith looked at the map, found the street of the hotel, and made a phone call from the local payphone. He confirmed that they were registered and went back to the bus.
Mrs. Smith eventually came back with a cute little moppet of a girl wearing a yellow play shirt, toddler overalls complete with snaps on the crotch, socks, and pink sneakers. The little girl wasn’t too happy but was playing along because it was no longer her show.
After a slightly longer period, sister Marigold came on the bus. She wore a black tube top with a pair of hands stenciled under the cups, black French terrycloth shorts that left nothing to the imagination, nylons, and a pair of docker-style slip-on shoes. She was also chewing gum and deliberately made little snapping sounds with it as she chewed.
“Aren’t you a little cold in that?” Asked Mrs. Smith.
“Nah! I got a pullover and a pair of jogging pants in this bag if it gets too cold” Mrs. Smith also noticed that her nun’s habit was nowhere to be seen.
Mr. Smith related the information that he’d gathered and another little tidbit. The year here is 50 years in our past. Peggy was 53, and we were 73, so that makes sister Marigold 67. Wherever we are, it’s definitely not home.”
Mr. Smith went up to the driver’s seat and adjusted it for his height. He then asked “Everyone ready to go? Margaret, Peggy, sister Marigold?” The trio confirmed it and sister Marigold added “Call me Evelyn. That was my name before I joined the convent”.
“Okay, Evelyn!” confirmed Mr. Smith and drove the bus through traffic to end up back at their hotel.
At the front desk, Mr. Smith asked the concierge for a crib for their room as they had taken over the care of their “niece” Peggy due to unforeseen family circumstances. “Oh, dear!” sympathized the concierge, “I hope everything works out all right for your family!” Mr. Smith thanked him for his concern and they went to their room to gather information on their situation.
After making a few phone calls, Mr. Smith decided to go to the library and see if that could clear up some of the niggling questions that couldn’t be answered. “Without a convenient internet connection, we’ll just have to get the information the hard way.
Evelyn was bored throughout the conversation and offered little input. She pulled out a pack of smokes and lit one. Her annoying habits of gum chewing and smoking around little Peggy grated against Mrs. Smith’s nerves and she asked her to stop smoking inside or to take breaks and do it outside. Evelyn left on a smoke break and didn’t come back much later.
Peggy was having problems understanding the more complex aspects of their situation. She seemed to act grown up enough but was slowly slipping mentally backward as the day wore on and she became more tired.
“I think you need a nap, Peggy” suggested Mrs. Smith. “I’m not tired,” she said while rubbing her tired eyes “I’m a big girl, and big girls don’t need no naps!” After a diaper change and some coaxing, the little girl was fast asleep in her crib. Mrs. Smith consulted the Yellow Pages and made some more phone calls while she slept.
The next day, Evelyn came to Smith’s room at 9 o’clock. She grabbed a cup of coffee and put lots of sugar and cream in it and joined the conversation. Little Peggy was in a high chair, doing her best to keep up, but slipped in and out of adult mode and toddler mode with increasing regularity.
Evelyn looked like 5 miles of bad road with bloodshot eyes, dark bags under her eyelids, and a raging hangover. “S’nothing I can’t handle” she assured all present. “Maybe you need a nap?” asked Peggy to which Evelyn laughed and replied with snarky overtones “Maybe later, kid. We grown-ups need to get some information shared first.”
Mr. Smith opened the conversation “Well, Peggy, it looks like we’ve slipped into the Twilight Zone. This place has some of the conveniences we’re used to where we come from and others haven’t been discovered yet or are in their infancy. We have advanced automobiles and buses, but no internet. We have advanced telephone technology, mass production, and the culture jibes with where we came from”.
He continued “Medicine is about the same, and they’re using propellers instead of jet engines. They just got over a second world war and use drafting tables instead of computers to design things. I was able to verify that the missus and I exist in this world by the phone books in the library. Whether or not we’re existing simultaneously or our other selves were bumped out of this place is yet to be determined.”
He paused. Mrs. Smith took up the conversation “Peggy, your parents don’t exist in this dimension. I think you’ll have to stay with us until we can get something worked out for you.” Peggy looked sad and then slipped into toddler mode “I love you, mommy! Don’t make me go away, please!” Mrs. Smith took her hand and gave it a little squeeze, then consoled her “Aww, I wouldn’t do that, honey, daddy and I love you very much!” Peggy took that with all her heart and then slipped back into grown-up mode “Could you check my diaper, I think it’s wet.”
Evelyn butted in “The money here’s the same and you can get a lot more for your buck. I, um, met up with some girls my age last night and they filled me in on some social stuff. They don’t have pregnancy testing kits, did you know that?” She excused herself from the conversation for a smoke break and said that she would be in her room afterward.
“Thank you for that info, Evelyn,” said Mr. Smith. “I think our next item on the agenda is to see if our counterparts exist or if we’ve replaced them.” Mrs. Smith agreed and Mr. Smith went to the library for more research.
Mrs. Smith took Peggy out to a local park to play and let her run around the play area for a few hours. After Peggy got tired, they went back to the hotel for Peggy’s lunch and a nap.
Evelyn didn’t come back to the hotel until 3 AM the next day. She wore a new outfit that emphasized her petite curves, was coming down from a wild teen rager and fell into bed passed out.
The Smiths, Peggy, and Evelyn took Peggy’s bus back to their home. They would have flown but Evelyn would have had to buy an expensive ticket that would have been more than the cost of gas and food.
After a few days, they rolled up into the Smith’s driveway and Mr. Smith pulled his hidden key out of a flower pot and they all went into the two-story, 3 bedrooms, two-bathroom dwelling. Their counterpart selves weren’t present, and the mail stacked up in the entranceway confirmed that their counterparts had left on vacation on the same day that they had.
Mr. Smith called into his workplace and informed the receptionist that he’d returned from vacation. The receptionist informed him that there was no pressing business, asked him if he’d had a good time, and filled out a memo to Mr. Smith’s boss informing him that Mr. Smith would be back on the job in a few days.
Mrs. Smith contacted a few people she knew at the local university and made appointments to visit them to ask if they had some idea about what had happened to them. Peggy was settled into her own room. Mr. Smith pulled out a crib and other baby things from storage that had been passed down from his parents and set it up. A happy Peggy was left playing in her room while they set up Evelyn with her own room until she could come up with other arrangements.
“Wow, this place is big!” Said Evelyn, “are you guys rich or something like that?” The Smiths were people of conservative means who had a dowry from Mrs. Smith’s side and a trust fund from Mr. Smith’s side. Combined with a college degree in business and some smart investing, they weren’t rich, but they were well off. Mr. Smith answered, “Yes, something like that.”
Evelyn asked for a spare key and Mr. Smith gave her one with the caveat “Be back here before midnight. As you’re our guest, we’d like you to follow a few ground rules.” Evelyn didn’t argue, but Mr. Smith could see some rebellious gears visibly turning in her head and braced himself mentally for a later confrontation or two.
The next day, the group got together to decide on a plan for getting more information about the world they found themselves in. Mrs. Smith inputted that she’d be working on the science side through her contacts and Mr. Smith said that he’d go to the library for more information between workdays. Peggy said that her dolly’s name was Maggy and she and her teddy bear were dating. She required a clean-up and a diaper change which Mrs. Smith tended to.
Evelyn said that she didn’t want to contact her parents as at this stage of her life, she had gone on the road before college. Mr. Smith asked if she had any friends she could contact and pump for information. Evelyn said that she’d try and went to the rotary phone in the den, dialed an operator, and asked for the numbers to her friend’s parent’s houses.
Mrs. Smith stocked a diaper bag and took Peggy with her to visit her contacts.
Evelyn found out that her parents, while they existed, never had any children. It didn’t seem to faze her and later that evening, she left to wait at a bus stop that went downtown “so that she could familiarize herself with the neighborhood”. Mr. Smith had his doubts about that.
Mrs. Smith came back from her contacts with one in tow. His name was Jeff Peters, a bit of a polyglot but specializing in astrophysics. Jeff was very interested to get information on what they had experienced and asked for some samples of their vacation clothing so that he could analyze them and see if there were any differences between where they were and here on a subatomic level. As he asked questions, he ran figures on a slide rule and jotted them down on a notepad. He left a little later and said that he’d keep them informed.
Evelyn came back half in the bag and high on several illegal substances. Mr. Smith told her to go to bed and they’d talk about her behavior when she was sober in the morning. She went without a word and Mr. Smith wondered if he could smell lovemaking under all the other smells of partying that she exuded.
Evelyn was so far out of it when the cocktail of drugs she had previously consumed hit her that she wet the bed. Oblivious to it, she slept in it and woke up the next morning very embarrassed. The Smiths took it all in stride, changed out her sheets, cleaned the mattress, and put a rubber cover over it after it dried out.
They had a meeting with their guest and discussed her destructive behavior. Evelyn said that even though they made good sense, the party girl in her often took over and made it hard for her to comply. She had joined the convent only after years of destroying her body with drugs, alcohol, sex and almost ending her life wanting a fresh start. Mr. Smith reasoned that if she knew where she was going, couldn’t she just pretend she’d already hit rock bottom and go from there? Evelyn said she’d think about it.
Mr. Peters came by a few days later and said that he’d talked to friends and acquaintances about what they’d experience as a theoretical exercise. No one had any answers but many had pet theories. The clothing samples yielded no clues as the fibers didn’t show any differences from what was available locally. Even a scanning electron microscope didn’t show any departure from the norm. They thanked him for his time and he departed, still running calculations on his slide rule.
Evelyn stopped going out to party. She had compulsions and many demons to fight, but she was working through her problems and considered seeing a therapist or counselor to help her with the angles she couldn’t see.
After a few weeks had gone by with no new leads and Peggy reverting to toddler mode 24/7. The Smiths worked with their contacts to adopt the little girl. It took a few forged documents and some grease applied to a few palms, but they were able to adopt her and gave her the official title of Peggy Smith, no middle initial.
The family settled down to their new life. Evelyn joined shortly thereafter. She didn’t have a choice as she started to regress after she sobered up. One night she went to bed as a 17-year-old, the next morning she woke up as a 10-year-old. The process didn’t stop until she reached 5. Like Peggy, her mental state took a while to catch up with her, but she ended up as a bubbly, active, cheerful little girl and sister to Peggy. She also was adopted by the Smiths and now has the name Evelyn Smith, no middle initial.