The weekend of New Year’s was when I found the picture. It was in an old family photo album. It had all of my great-grandparents when they were near my age. The eight of them grew up in the same community and were friends. They fell in love, got married, and had children. Four of their kids grew up, fell in love, got married, and had children. Two of their kids met each other, fell in love, got married, and had a child – me! I don’t know what the chances are of that happening, but it’s a nice story when you hear it in full. Of course, I never listened to the full story. I had more important things to do when I was seventeen.
I found the photo in the album while killing time at the house. It was a Saturday, and it was the first day of the year 2005. My grandparents were at my house for the weekend. I wasn’t allowed to visit any friends, and I had nothing else to do. There was no one in my family that was my age. I flipped through the pages and found the previously mentioned picture of my great-grandparents. Instead of a standard black and white photo, it was a sepia-toned photo. I personally don’t care much for it. Everything’s kind of weird that doesn’t have color. However, I studied the photo with interest. They were in two rows, with the back row standing up and the front row kneeling.
The tallest and eldest, Jules, was smiling the widest. He looked the happiest out of all of them. My mother tells me he enjoyed life to its fullest. He could always be found laughing. Standing next to Jules was Henry. Henry was the most buff of all the men. He had the potential to be a champion weight lifter or wrestler. Beside Henry was Nicholas. Nicholas was a very thin, serious man with his hair parted to one side. He was a man of business and handled all of his family’s affairs. At the end of the row was Bertha. She was sort of tall for a woman. It looked like she had dirt on her face, but I remember Dad mentioning that Bertha loved to bake. She was probably baking when she got dragged outside for the picture.
Starting off the next row was Greta. She was the prettiest out of all the women. She had the makings for a fantastic movie star, but she found life on the family farm better. My family used to have a few farms, but only Theodore’s farm remains today. Theodore was a high-spirited, short man with great dedication to agriculture. One of my uncles takes after him and refuses to let the farm be sold. Christabel had her mouth open in the picture. I had heard she was a gossip that couldn’t stop talking. Ending the row was the youngest and smallest of them all, Annie. Her skin was darker than the others. She had a love for languages, and she could verse in six or seven of them quite well.
“Rodney!” Mom called out. I put the album back up on the shelf, but I put the picture in my back pocket without really knowing why.
“Yeah, Mom?” I walked into the kitchen.
“Will you go outside and feed Sprinkles?”
“Yeah, sure, Mom,” I picked up the bag of dog food next to the kitchen door and poured the dry food into a plastic bowl that was white. I opened the door and walked outside.
A problem arose when I left my kitchen. I was not in my backyard. My dog was not chained up to the fence. Her doghouse was missing. The rusty swing set from my childhood days was gone. My rival’s house was no longer next door to me. Not that I necessarily minded the idea of Anthony Pollack vanishing into nowhere. I turned around. My house had disappeared, too.
The grass wasn’t green. It looked like dead, brown grass. Looking around more, everything seemed to have lost its color. The sky was gray because of thick clouds, but they had a sick brown tint as well. The more I looked around, the more I noticed everything had a sepia tone. It was as if I had stepped directly into a photograph.
I pulled out the photograph from my back pocket. While I was doing so, I realized my jeans were still blue, and my skin retained its normal peach color. I looked at the photograph. To my horror, every person in the picture was a silhouette. I sat down on the grass, scared stiff. I had no idea where I was at, why I was here, or even if I was just dreaming. The air tasted very real, and the grass felt very real. I thought of many different things at once, but my train of thought was interrupted when a person in a dark cloak walked up to me. The figure removed its hood to reveal a lavishing young lady with black hair and dark eyes. The black was very brilliant and differed from the subtle black that was amongst the browns and whites. She had a bit more color than the rest of the environment, but not much. I dreaded she was a gothic teenager looking for someone to spill her angsty guts out to.
“Mister Pridemore, I have been waiting for you,” spoke the cloaked woman.
“Huh? What?” I fretted. I got up and took off running. I stopped after about twenty feet, realizing how foolish that was. I turned back around and walked sheepishly to the lady. She laughed.
“You’re so jumpy. Perfectly normal. You’re not in your right time,”
“Or right mind,” I muttered, looking around at my surroundings. I didn’t detect anything that resembled home. “Huh? Wait a minute. Right time?” I stared into her eyes. She cupped my chin with her hand and gazed at me.
“Something has happened to you that caused you to get a closer link to your inner abilities,”
“Inner abilities?” I asked dryly. This was starting to sound like something from a video game.
“Yes. Within each of your family is a special characteristic. Your father plays banjo well, your mother can calculate any given algebra problem in her head. . . You can timetravel,”
“That sounds like a way different talent from my parents,” I pulled away from her. “Please just let me wake up from this dream.” She seized me by the arm then planted a firm kiss on my mouth. My cheeks got very hot.
“Did that feel like a dream?”
“N-No. . .” I stuttered, a little dazed.
“Then this is real. Now, let me continue!” She had a solemn look on her face. I nodded.
“Go right ahead, Miss. . . uh. . . .”
“My name does not matter, but if you feel better addressing me as something, Miss will do,”
“All right, Miss,”
“As I was saying. When you got that close link to your time traveling, someone took advantage of your powers and borrowed them temporarily to use them to get to this time. This happened very quickly, all in about a nanosecond. Your powers were returned, but an awful shift in time occurred. As a result, eight of your ancestors who lived in this region had something terrible to them! As for what those terrible occurrences were to each individual, I must leave that up to you,”
“You’ve got the photo in your hand as proof. Because something happened to your ancestors, they were unable to take that very picture, though it has not necessarily affected your existence,” She took the photo from me and pointed to each silhouette. I grabbed the picture back and pocketed it.
“So what do I do?” I still didn’t really believe this was reality, but I thought if I played along, then the dream would end sooner. Or maybe this was a nightmare.
“You must find each of your ancestors and fix them, for lack of better words,”
“Look at their problems and help them get out of those problems. If you can return each of your ancestors to the way they looked in that photograph, then the altered world should be shaped back to normal in your time, and you can return home,”
“Oh, why is it so dreadfully hard to speak with teenage males?”
“I don’t know, Miss. I don’t even know what’s going on,”
“Well, I suppose you’re handling this very well. Or maybe you’re still in denial,”
“Yeah, denial. That’s me,” I smiled a little bit. The woman kissed me again and pointed in a direction.
“Go that way. There’s a farm there that is in need of some workers. They can’t pay you, but they’ll give you a roof over your head and meals,”
“A. . . farm?” The idea agreed with me about as well a taco stuffed with jalapenos and no drink around for me to guzzle immediately after consuming the delicious taco.
“A farm. Yes, I realize you techno geeks cannot possibly comprehend the idea of labor, but. . .” Miss smirked at me.
“Very funny. I’m going, Miss. Good-bye! And I hope I fall on a rusty nail along the way and die! Then maybe I’ll wake up!” I walked off angrily. I was walking for about twenty miles when I finally found the farm that Miss told me about. I found the main house, anyway. I could see beyond the house some fields. One part of the fields looked like it had wheat growing. I walked up to the house and knocked on the door. A thin boy of about seventeen answered the door. I gasped with terror as I saw him. He gasped with horror as well, but not for the same reason as me.
“You look like Anthony!” I exclaimed. The boy did a double take.
“Who cares about some Anthony!” he cried. “What about you? You’re. . . You’re. . . You’re strange!” His mouth gaped with horror. I couldn’t understand at first what he meant until the rest of his family came. His mother, father, and younger sister all shrieked and mumbled how they couldn’t understand what was going on. When his sister mentioned my hair, it all clicked in.
In this world, they had never seen the colors that I brought with me to the past. Black hair might not have been so weird to them, but I’m sure my flaming red tips were something new. They had been living in a sepia world. They calmed down when I started speaking.
“My name is Rodney. I’d like to work here,”
“Rodney?” The father looked at me warily. “Have you no last name?”
“I prefer not to reveal it,” I wasn’t too sure which of my ancestors bore the Pridemore family name.
“Well. I can only give you a bed and food every day in return for your hard work,” The farmer looked guilty.
“That’s more than enough. Please, give me a job,” I never thought those words would ever leave my mouth.
“All right, then, Mr. Rodney!” The farmer was overjoyed. “I’m glad to have you here! I’m Farmer Pollack. I’ll expect you up at four in the morning!”
“Pollack. . . Four. . . Right,” I wasn’t too sure which I hated more. Getting up at four o’clock - the time that I normally go to bed at - or working for the ancestor of the dreadful Anthony Pollack.