During Covid, everyone was seeking something to do, especially the children...
The sun was well and truly up now, beating down with a hammering intensity that melted the tar squiggles on the street and stuck to her shoes with each step. Caroline had waited a bit too long to take her morning walk.
A hazy shimmer on the horizon made the air quiver in that way that reminds you of desert wanderers who see an oasis. In that haze, Caroline was sure she saw something in the middle of the roadway. As she came nearer, she made out its shape and purpose. A remote, out in the middle of the roadway? An object could not be more out of place than this. Caroline began to imagine scenarios for it being here: A wife fed up with her husband’s constant channel surfing? A father at the end of his wits by children arguing over the remote? A child pretending to beam himself up to outer space?
In this age of social distancing and extreme sanitation measures, should she pick it up? She wasn’t wearing gloves. Her mask was in her pocket in case she should encounter another human being coming too close. The remote appeared to be intact. In fact, a green light on the front was pulsing.
It’s turned on? What the heck? How could it be picking up a signal?
Caroline looked around. The nearest house was a few hundred feet away.
I guess it’s possible, she thought absentmindedly. She kicked it over. The back of the remote appeared in fact to have been dropped several times from some height as there were cracks and scratches and a well-worn piece of tape, pealed half off, coated with tar, gravel and debris. Her curiosity got the better of her and she picked it up.
The label turned out to be a humorous message written in a child’s scrawl: “If you want to see the future, press the green light.”
She laughed out loud at the prank an industrious neighbor’s child had obviously planted on the street.
I’d love to see my future. Who wouldn’t? It’s got to be better than what we’re going through now, every day the same as the last, quarantined or sequestered for who knew how much longer.
She pressed the button. Instantly she was gone. Seconds later the remote fell to the street.
Brenda turned from the window and said to no one in particular, “Well, that was strange.”
“What?” answered her long suffering husband as he reluctantly looked in from the kitchen. Brenda and Ralph had been married 12 years, and by now he was numb and quite honestly bored with her constant people watching habit from their living room window.
“Caroline was standing there, looking at something in the street”
“I said she was looking at something in the street!” she shouted.
“I heard you the first time. Why is that so unusual?”
“Well, one second she was there and the next, she was gone.”
“No kidding!” he chided her and returned to the kitchen where he was slathering mayo on brown bread in preparation for his lunch.
Brenda hated that he was always ignoring her; always finding ways to dismiss her curiosity about the goings on in their neighborhood. When she bought binoculars, he practically guffawed in her face. She’d had enough of his dismissive attitude toward her and would gladly make him disappear if she could. Still, she was curious about what had happened to Caroline. Maybe she fell down and needs our help? Brenda wandered into the kitchen and snatched the sandwich from his hand.
“One of us should go out there and see if she fell or something.”
“Well, be my guest,” he snorted snatching the sandwich back again.
Upstairs, they could hear their 12 year old son, Danny, moving his desk chair to the window. Like his mother, he was a curious child. Always watching. Always observing. He hated to hear his mother constantly picking at his father, and berating him for any perceived misdeed, and he longed for peace and quiet. Most days he would escape her constant nagging and retreat to his room, where he would disassemble and reassemble random pieces of electronic equipment he picked up at the dump.
Danny could re-engineer a circuit board, but he couldn’t tie his shoes. His mother referred to him as the idiot savant and berated him for bringing home that filthy detritus.
With the help of online research and how-to videos, he had become quite the engineer and had several theories he was working on. One was whether the human body could really be broken into its component parts, teleported and reassembled elsewhere? “Beamed up” as Captain Kirk so often commanded? Downstairs, Brenda stomped from the kitchen and out the door to where she had last seen Caroline.
Danny was looking out his window, watching his mother pick up the remote, turn it over and read the message written in a child’s script on the back. She immediately recognized her son’s awkward hand. She looked quizzically up to his bedroom window and saw him watching her, motioning for her to press the button.
The last thing Brenda saw was her son gleefully waving goodbye.