Disclaimer: I do not own the premise of teleportation, nor Gould's terminology (jumping). This fanfiction is inspired by the work Steven Gould began in "Jumper" and "Reflex." However, several questions are left unanswered, which may justify a completely different story: how exactly does teleportation work and how do jumpers do it? I intend to answer those questions as well as follow-through with a handful of themes Gould did not. (I would name them, but that might be spoiling it.) I do not own those themes, but it'd be hard to say who exactly does.
The first time for me went like this.
I was crying on the drive home from school and probably speeding. I kept thinking about my friends back in Spokane when I should have been thinking about the road.
My first day at Antelope Valley High School could have gone worse. The math class was teaching geometry. Even though I was the math whiz at Shadle Park High School back in Washington, I hadn't ever taken geometry. The teacher said she would help if I stayed after-school. As if I didn't already feel dumb enough.
The drive home wasn't familiar. I had taken time driving to the school, partly because I didn't want to go. But now, the roads were twisting in different ways, taking me past different landmarks.
If Mom or Dad had known this place was known as "the bad school," they would have let me stay with a tutor or go to some alternative school on the air force base near Dad.
Mom let me drive the Tempo because I'd taken the new move really well. That probably was before some of the girls in the locker room took my memory book. I was lucky I left my purse with the car. My old friends – Janice and Terry and Mark – they made a book of memories we had since we were freshmen. They gave it to me in the tree house in my backyard in Spokane.
A second In-N-Out Burger passed me on my left. Did I even pass one of those on the way to school?
When I looked back at the road, it had turned to the right, very far to the right.
I tried to push the brake before I went into the oncoming lanes. Instead, the car picked up more speed. Something rocked the whole car – maybe the median. There was a long honk while everything spun to the left. The wheel spun out of my hands. I saw the tree on the edge of the road coming fast...
Then, I felt a small tap on the back of my head as my whole body kicked backward - against nothing. No tree, no steering wheel, no car. Instead, I heard rain outside my tree house in Spokane.
I knew it was my tree house, even though the tinsel and Christmas lights I used to decorate it were gone, packed in my room in Rosamond now.
I was shivering when I peeked out the tree house window. It wasn't the cold.
That was the first time.
I didn't remember whether Mom or Dad said the old house sold because I was too busy stressing out about moving. I climbed to the yard. The rain and cold kept me from thinking I was hallucinating or dreaming.
The back door was locked.
I felt at my hip for my purse, and it was gone. It was probably still in the Tempo. By the time the rain stopped, the afternoon was almost gone and I was still sitting by the back door.
"Who is it?"
"It's Maggie," I said.
Our old neighbor "Aunt Ruthie" opened the door to look. She wasn't really my aunt, but I got into the habit of calling her that. Mom and Dad didn't really discourage it.
"Maggie Turner?" Ruthie opened the door really wide. "I thought you and your folks had already moved." She ignored her implied question when she saw I had walked in the rain to her house. "Come on in."
Aunt Ruthie didn't broach the subject until later. She fixed me some soup, offered a change of clothes from her son's stored clothes. I always thought her house felt smaller than ours because she stored so much stuff. Not as much room to hide.
When Aunt Ruthie started washing the dishes, she said, "I didn't figure you for much of a runaway."
While I was still trying to figure out what to say, Aunt Ruthie said. "I guess we better call your parents."
I didn't tell Mom and Dad what happened. I didn't know what happened. But I think Dad suspected something.
Mom and Dad had called the police, but they didn't get to file a report. I'd only been gone for the afternoon.
One thing they couldn't get around was that I didn't have my car. Mom started to panic because they couldn't afford a plane ticket after the move. Dad bought a bus ticket, though, and e-mailed it to Aunt Ruthie's computer.
I spent most of the night fiddling with Aunt Ruthie's printer, making sure I could get home.
Aunt Ruthie drove me to the Plaza in Spokane, riding up the escalator with me and waiting until the bus came.
"You know your parents love you, right?" she asked once.
"And you know I love you, too, Maggie?"
I hugged her. Worries gnawed on my lips. I didn't want to cry here.
Aunt Ruthie patted my back. "I'm glad you came to me. And you'll be careful on that bus, understand?"
"It's dangerous out there, Maggie."
I had a seat to myself for most of the ride. Aunt Ruthie had given me a knapsack – a blanket, toothbrush and toothpaste, some hair bands, a small bottle of shampoo, and two $20 bills for food. I sat sideways, back to the window with the sack under my knees. For a while, I wore the blanket over me, but most of the people on the bus ignored me.
The driver stopped the bus often. People got off to smoke around the bus door. I stayed on the bus, though, wishing I had a book to read. My ticket estimated we would get back to the Amtrak Station in Lancaster Thursday at 11 a.m. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and tried to sleep.
Instead, I stared at the blue-gray upholstery on the chair in front of me.
Would they find my driver's license in the crash?
Was anyone injured?
The biggest question for me was how I wound up in Spokane, instead of the hospital.
I felt the bus ease its speed. Another smoke break. I had to go to the bathroom this time. A Flying J truck stop slid into view as the bus pulled over.
I followed the crowd getting off. Only a few others went inside with me.
When I got out of the bathroom, my stomach churned. Lunchtime. I took out my first $20 and asked the cashier for one of the hot dogs in the rotisserie roller. While the big lady took it out, I noticed more people were sitting in the Flying J lounge. No one I recognized from the bus.
I started to panic.
The lady handed me back my change, and I took the hot dog, rushing out the door.
In the parking lot, there were a few more trucks. And, my bus was pulling out of the sloped parking lot onto the highway frontage road.
I ran into the cloud of dust. They were leaving me. After Dad paid for that ticket, I was getting dumped into the middle of nowhere.
I was waving my hot dog hand, trying to catch the driver's attention. My other hand kept pulling my knapsack back onto my shoulder. He wasn't slowing down.
I was thinking of the blue-gray upholstery on the chair in front of mine...
Then, something heavy started pushing me from behind. The pressure forward made me think it was another car, but it felt soft on my back. I sucked in my breath in shock – and the air wasn't dusty and warm.
It was cold, air-conditioned. I was back on the bus. My hot dog had significantly less mustard on it, but some of it was staining the bus seat. My knapsack was still on my shoulder.
In the seat across the aisle, a little Latino boy opened his eyes wide. His mother didn't see me; she was busy with an infant on her other side.
I put my finger to my lips, afraid of him shouting.
Even though his eyes didn't leave me, he nodded slowly.
That was the second time. I knew it wasn't an illusion.
One or two of the passengers in the back had noticed I was running after the bus. While I was running, they had shouted for the driver to stop, saying he had left somebody behind.
Even though I was back in my seat, the bus slowed to a stop. The driver got out. When the dust cleared and he saw nobody behind the bus, the driver got back on, took out a clipboard, and began checking people's names off his list as he walked down the aisle.
When he got to me, I was sitting underneath my blanket again – hair out of the ponytail and hot dog under the blanket. When he said, "Turner, Maggie," I nodded my head.
He did a double-take on his clipboard before checking off my name, like there was some mistake that he caught just in time.
By the time the driver reached the back of the bus, the passengers upfront were moaning.
"Who said we left somebody behind?"
None of the passengers in the back acknowledged it. The driver stormed back to the front of the bus, turned over the engine and kicked it into gear.
When I finished the hot dog, my stomach stopped growling. According to my ticket, I had the rest of today, tonight, and some of tomorrow morning to be on the bus.
I checked my pulse to see if there was something wrong with me. I couldn't remember if I was doing it right.
When the bus stopped again, I wasn't hungry or thirsty – and I was scared of being left behind a second time.
At this point, I didn't know how I'd wound up in Spokane to begin with.
I felt sure now that I had not blanked out the first time. When I landed in the bus, the people were still saying the driver had left someone behind. No time passed at all.
What if I was unconscious when I made it on the bus? I'd never been knocked unconscious before. Still, I was pretty sure a knocked-out person wouldn't have been able to get on the bus, woken up, and still heard people saying someone else was left behind.
I began to worry about the car wreck. The police or somebody would find my purse in the wreck – unless there was a fire or something.
What would Mom and Dad say, though? I wasn't injured in the car wreck. I was several hundred miles away. Anyone looking into the situation would figure I had run away – without my purse – before someone stole my car and wrecked it. As unlikely as it sounds, it's the only explanation they would be left with.
What was the truth, though? I wasn't sure I could say.
That I'd traveled hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye just by thinking of where I wanted to go?
I was the only one who would believe me, and I still didn't.
When I woke up from an afternoon nap, we were stopping again – this time at a bus station in Idaho Falls.
Most of the bus riders were either nodding off or quiet. The bus driver announced his part of the drive was ending. People going on to Salt Lake City would have to wait for the next bus to arrive in almost an hour.
Plenty of time.
After following everyone into the moderately busy station, I took a turn to the ladies room. I would later have to check in my ticket to show that I'd arrived and have my ticket stamped, ready to go on the next leg. But I could do that later.
Once I got to the bathroom, I locked myself into one of the stalls for the handicapped. Normally, I think those should be saved for the handicapped, but this time I needed the space.
I set down my knapsack on the tray tile with black grout. I thought the floor seemed clean enough, though I wasn't about to use my blanket. I stretched the cloth knapsack as far as it could go to create a barrier between me and the stall door. Then, I stepped beside the toilet, trying to get as much space between me and the far corner.
I took a breath and held it.
And I was on the other side of the stall. My nose bumped the door. The knapsack was undisturbed. I'm doing whatever this is on command.
Outside the stall, someone turned on the water, and a pair of voices began talking.
"When's the next bus come again?"
"In an hour. What's the ticket say?"
"I don't know. I left it with our bags."
"Can you believe what this trip is doing to my skin?"
"I know. I found the biggest pimple yesterday."
"I miss the Florida sun."
"Soon, it'll be Pacific sun."
If there was going to be any better way to see if I was losing time, I couldn't think of it.
"God, I hear the waves are giga-"
I went to the other side of the stall. This time, I was facing the knapsack – the opposite direction I had been facing.
"-antic on the West Coast."
"Can I borrow your skin cream?"
I tried to go outside the stall without opening the door.
"Sure, just don't use it all."
"I don't us-"
I didn't go anywhere.
"-se it all."
Maybe only to places I can see? That made no sense. Both times before, I went to places I couldn't see with my eyes. I was just thinking about each place. I thought I remembered the outside of the stall. I stepped over the knapsack to peer outside the stall.
"You use more than no-"
I was outside the stall, facing the wall.
"-ormal people do. Whoa."
One of the girls noticed me. They wore loose pajama-type clothes. One of them was drying their face with one of the paper towels while the other had her finger in a jar of skin cream.
"Oh, you been waiting long?" the girl with the skin cream said. She began applying a lot to her forehead.
"Yeah. Sorry we didn't notice you there," the girl drying her face said. She wore a shirt that said "Drama queen."
I didn't know what to say. They weren't acting odd about my appearance.
"I just forgot my bag and the stall's locked," I said. "I don't think there's anyone in there."
The drama queen threw away her paper towel and sauntered over. "Let me see."
She came over and started to climb beneath the door. She didn't even test the door.
"There you go," she said as she came back out. I picked up my knapsack.
On my way out of the bathroom, I heard behind me, "What a ditz. She locked herself out of a bathroom stall."
I sat down on one of the benches lining the Idaho Falls bus station. Maybe I couldn't figure out how this was happening to me. But I was tired of the bus ride.
I tried thinking of our new house in Rosamond.
The walls were blank – I hadn't put up any of my posters – and Mom said it would take some touching up.
"Are you okay, honey?"
I opened my eyes. An older woman, looking like a bag lady with three purses in her hands, was stooped beside me on my bench in the bus station.
"I'm fine," I said with a dismissive smile.
I leaned back in the chair with my knapsack on my stomach and closed my eyes. I hoped I looked like I was trying to nap. I kept trying to bring back the visual memory.
The door to my room turned in to the right— or was it the left?
There was a window, with blinds, and it was sunny.
I remembered (or imagined) my boxes on the wall.
When I squinted my eyes open, I still saw the bus station ceiling.
Suddenly worried, I thought of the women's bathroom.
The sound of running water echoed around me. I found myself standing outside the bathroom stall, clutching my knapsack to my stomach.
When I walked out, a small crowd was gathered around my former bench seat.
Instead of sitting back down, I went to the ticket changer to validate the ticket for the next stretch on the bus. There didn't seem to be anyway I could think of cutting this trip short.
After calling home, I found a comfortable seat on the bus and tried to go to sleep.
When you count up from zero, you jump though a lot of numbers. Between 1 and 2 is 1.5 and 1.78 and so on.
The bus was quiet, stopping much more rarely. The bus driver, an elderly man, was playing classical music near the front of the bus. Only the occasional violin interrupted my thoughts.
If I went forward two centimeters, would I be jumping all the millimeters and nanometers between 1 and 3?
What about when I normally move? I'm walking along, say, at about a foot a minute. Divide that by 12, and that's one inch per 5 seconds. Even further, that's one-fifth of an inch in one second. Breaking it down even further, I'm traveling over several measurements of distance almost instantaneously. Normal people (Am I not one of them any more?) do this all the time without knowing it. We jump from 1 nano-inch to 2 nano-inches away without even thinking about it.
If I jump from 1 foot to 2 feet, I'm hardly doing anything different; it's just on a bigger scale. California to Washington – that's a much bigger scale.
I slept on the bus. Passing images of scenery jumped past me in my dreams.