Matter of Time

Jacob rummaged in between the couch cushions so loudly that Jennifer finally paused the TV and harrumphed.

“What are you even doing, Jake?”

“My pretzel fell down in there.”

“So? Get another one.”

“I don’t want another one. I want that one.” He rummaged some more. “I don’t get it. It should be right here.”

Jen sighed, stood up, and pulled the couch cushion off the couch.

The twins stood staring at the under-the-couch-cushion for a moment before exchanging a glance.

“Is that…?” Jen started.

“Hey look! It’s the remote Mom said I lost! It was right here the whole time!” Jake grabbed the remote and held it aloft in triumph, apparently forgetting the lost pretzel.

“It can’t be. We tore the couch apart looking for that thing.” Jen crossed her arms. “We didn’t get to watch TV for a week until the new remote came. There’s no way it was here the whole time.”

Jake shrugged, tossed the remote on the coffee table, then settled back down with his bowl of pretzels.

But Jen couldn’t settle. They’d lost that remote years ago. Two? Three? It was weird. How had it suddenly reappeared?

She picked up the found remote and put it in a drawer in her room.

The next day, Jake was shoving his toes in between the couch cushions, then made a little yipping sound.

“What?” Jen asked, annoyed.

“Something’s touching me.”

Jen rolled her eyes. “The couch?”

“It’s not the couch. It’s something else.” He got off the couch and eyed it suspiciously.

Jen sighed and took the cushions off, again. Out tumbled a pair of socks.

Jake narrowed his eyes at them. “Are those my socks?”

Jen plucked them up and threw them at him. “Sure are. Gross. Go put those in the laundry.”

Jake let the socks bounce off his chest. “But…I haven’t worn socks in months. It’s summer.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that they’re yours.”

“Whatever.” He put the cushions back on the couch and sat back down.

Jen picked up the dirty socks and puzzled over them. They were at least a couple sizes too small to fit her brother’s feet.

As gross as the socks were, she put them in the drawer with the remote.

A couple of days later, when Jake flopped on the couch, there was a startling squeaking noise.

“What the…”

“Language,” their mother said, and Jake looked up indignantly.

“I wasn’t going to say anything bad.”

Their mother looked at him over her spectacles with a raised eyebrow but didn’t say anything else.

Jake lifted the couch cushion to reveal a dog toy. “Hey! It’s Daisy’s squeaky chicken! I thought we’d lost it.”

He tossed it on the floor and replaced the cushion.

Jen glanced at her mother, whose face had gotten sad. Daisy had died a year ago. Once Jake had gotten in to his video game and her mother had gone back to reading the newspaper, Jen picked up the dog toy and added it to her drawer.

She was beginning to get concerned.

Over the next few weeks, Jen started checking the couch each day. It didn’t return something every day, but she found another old sock, several dog treats, plenty of human treats, a Lego minifig and several Lego blocks, a hair tie, and about six dollars’ worth of change.

Something very strange was definitely going on. And Jen was ready to figure out what.

She pulled out a calendar, colored pencils, and the graphing calculator she’d begged her mom for the previous Christmas and began noting down the days the couch returned things. In the margins, she noted approximate times she thought things might have gotten lost.

But in order to do the calculations she wanted to do, she needed a more specific data point.

Jen made her way to the kitchen, where their mother was sipping coffee and reading a book at the table.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Hey, honey.”

Jen sat in the chair across from her mom, setting the calendar and the calculator on the table.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Mmm?” She didn’t look up from her book.

“Remember when we lost the remote control for the TV?”

Jen’s mom glanced up at her, then back at her book, turning a page. “I remember.”

Jen bit her lip. “Do you remember when that was?”

“A few years ago, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Do you remember exactly when?”

Jen’s mother put down her book. “I have no idea, honey. Why so interested?”

Jen shrugged. “I’m doing a project.”

Jen’s mother smiled. Jen knew she liked it when she did projects, even if she didn’t always understand them.

“If it helps, I can look to see when I ordered the new remote. That’d give us a date within a day or two.”

“That’d be perfect.”

So, armed with the date the remote was lost, Jen began her calculations.

“What are you doing?” Jake asked as Jen checked the couch cushions that night.

“Testing a theory.”

Jake narrowed his eyes as she snatched up the head of one of her Polly Pocket toys.

“Hey. How’d that get there?” Jake’s eyes were too wide as he asked.

“You put it there, jerkface. I knew you took it. I just couldn’t prove it.”

“You still can’t prove it,” he said as he replaced the cushion and flopped down on the couch. “Besides, that was months ago. How come we didn’t find it when we found the remote? Or the socks, for that matter?”

Jen sat next to him. “Because of the wormhole.”

Jake frowned. “What does that mean?”

“It means, somehow the inside of our couch developed a stationary time wormhole.”

Jake stared at her blankly. “A what?”

“There’s a crease in space-time. Things fall into the hole, then come back in the future. But time is getting compressed somehow, so we’re getting things that we lost over the last three years within a few weeks.”

Jake looked from Jen to the couch back to Jen again. “You’re such a nerd. What does that even mean?”

Jen sighed. She was used to being called a nerd, especially by her brother. She usually tried to keep her big brain to herself, but this development was too fascinating. She squinted her eyes and tried to figure out how to explain it to Jake.

“All the things we lost? Weren’t really lost. They just traveled forward in time. We’re getting them back, now.”

Jake’s confused look turned into one of awe. “Our couch can time travel? That’s rad!”

“It’s a bit concerning, though. I don’t know how much radiation is getting through.”

Jake’s face fell. “Radiation?”

“Yeah. Duh. Space-time.”

“Oh.” Jake’s bemused expression almost made her laugh. “Should we tell Mom?” he whispered.

“No, I don’t want to worry her. It’s only a little crease. I don’t think it can hurt us too much.”

“A little rip. So, we can’t fall through it?”

Jen shook her head. “No. Nothing bigger than the remote has come through so far. I’ve tried to send bigger things through, but it doesn’t take them.”

Jake stared at her blankly. “But. What about my butt? Could it suck up my butt and send it forward in time?”

Jen rolled her eyes. “No. That’s not possible.”

Jake shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, but, time travel isn’t possible, either.”

Jen shrugged. “Turns out, it is.”

Jake stood up and sat in the chair. “Still. I don’t want to risk it. We’re going to have to get a new couch. Or, like, move to a new house.”

“Based on my calculations, the wormhole will probably close within the next week. So your butt should be safe by then.”

Jake shook his head. “No way. What if the next wormhole is big enough for a whole person? I don’t want to travel forward three years and still be twelve. That sounds awful! I don’t want you to be older than me.”

Jen couldn’t really argue. She didn’t know what the statistics of another wormhole opening where one had before might be. If space-time had creased somewhere once before, surely it was more susceptible to creasing again. She’d have to do some more calculations and watch the couch carefully.

“So you’re not sitting on the couch?”

Jake shook his head. “Never again.”

Jen smiled and stretched out, taking up the whole couch. Jake looked at her forlornly, and Jen almost felt bad.

“Hey, look at it this way. It’s only a matter of time before that pretzel you wanted to eat so bad comes back.”

That didn’t appear to make Jake feel any better.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.