27 February 2009

"The More Things Change"

By Curtis C. Chen

Amanda sat down on the park bench, crossed her legs, and resisted the urge to scratch. She still couldn't get used to the nylon stockings. Did women in 1955 really wear these things all day?

She opened the paper bag next to her, enjoying the crinkling sounds it made. The sandwich inside was not so pleasant. She reminded herself that this was all for science, and washed down the sliced animal flesh with a mouthful of sickly sweet brown liquid. She couldn't decide whether the drink was worse than the food.

After she had choked down her lunch, Amanda inhaled deeply, enjoying the smell of green grass, then opened her purse. She had taken a maximum dose of anti-nausea meds earlier, and she was determined to get through this.

She managed three drags on the cigarette before she started coughing and retching. Her entire body seemed to know what awful chemicals she was forcing into it, and did its best to expel every molecule of tobacco.

The park around her shimmered and faded, and Amanda found herself sitting inside a featureless gray dome. A wedge-shaped opening appeared, and Supervisor Hadley walked into the hologram chamber.

"You're done," he said.

Amanda put out the cigarette and stood up. "Give me one more chance."

Hadley shook his head. "You've used all your allotted screenings."

"But I need this research for my thesis."

Hadley shrugged. "Try again next semester."

Amanda's fingernails dug into her palms. "My family can't afford another semester."

"Not my problem, missy," Hadley said, tapping at his datapad.

Amanda willed her hands to stop shaking. She thought of all the study and preparation she'd done. She couldn't let it go to waste.

Hadley was ignoring her completely now, continuing his hardware inspection as if Amanda wasn't even there. She knew she shouldn't have let it get to her, but she couldn't believe that she was powerless in this situation, in the present day.

Then she realized she wasn't.

"Please, Supervisor," Amanda said. "I almost passed, didn't I?"

"Close, but no cigar." Hadley sounded bored.

"Couldn't you just round up a little?"

Hadley turned to say something, but stopped when he saw where Amanda's hand was. She had opened her blouse and was running a finger along the support garment strapped to her chest.

"Well," he said, "maybe I have missed something in my evaluation."

"What can I do to convince you?"

Hadley licked his lips, and Amanda's stomach turned. "Why don't you start by getting naked."

That was all she needed. She slapped him hard across the face and closed up her shirt before running out of the chamber. She ran all the way to the administration building.

The footage Amanda had recorded on her eye-camera would only show Hadley leering at her. He would say she had goaded him into it, but it would be his word against hers, and the university was far more likely to settle than risk a lawsuit--especially since all Amanda wanted was one transit. She just needed the answer to one question.


Audio: "The More Things Change"


Music: "Wonderful right" by Spambox, licensed under Creative Commons from ccMixter.

This week's voice references: Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Vice Principal Van Clemmons (Duane Daniels), from Veronica Mars. (Yeah, I know: EWWW.) We've been watching the second season on DVD. It's not as coherent as the first season, but it's still fun.


The More They Stay the Same

If you're looking for a charming, lighthearted time travel story, read To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Better yet, listen to the audio book read by Steven Crossley. There's something about a British accent that makes every word so much more interesting.